September 25, 2014

Another awesome wave, but This Is All Yours.

Ah, it's been awhile. However, I like to come out of the woodwork to talk about great things or things that hold importance to me. Alt-J's latest release of This Is All Yours definitely makes that list.


After seeing them in March 2013 over at The Metro, having the lucky encounter of meeting Gus afterwards, and then seeing them again at Lollapalooza that year, I was all about Alt-J. Seeing how much they have grown, not only musically, but also in terms of their fan-base, is awesome. I was over the moon about An Awesome Wave (and I still am), and while I like so many of the songs on their own, I still believe the album is better listened to in full. It seems it was completely intended that way, and rightfully so. This Is All Yours definitely holds that same effect. Like their first album, which remember, snagged the Mercury Prize, there are some parts that are scary slow, almost like a melodic dream sequence. I like that effect in albums, as long as there is some sort of nice variation throughout. I feel like Alt-J knows what they're doing with this. If you recall, An Awesome Wave was loaded with small interludes (three of them to be exact), all contrasting between the heavier jams, like 'Fitzpleasure', 'Breezeblocks', and 'Tessellate', which were all absolute works of art and are some of my favorites. Trying to pick an favorite off of that album is like trying to pick the best kind of pizza- they're ALL good. I highly recommend just buying their first album, but if you can't do that, check it out HERE.

What I really enjoy about Alt-J is their ability to have such a cathartic effect. The range of emotions that their songs are able to cover is absolutely astounding. You get that feeling of grit it one song, and then float away on the melody of another. On their latest, they are down a member. Gwil had left the band, and the three that were left created a musical journey. On This Is All Yours, like the former, 'Intro', kicks this one off. I absolutely love the later version, perhaps even more than I liked the initial. It feels like a destination whenever I listen to it. It offers some sort of vibe that I cannot quite fully explain, perhaps the figurative feeling of someone unscrewing your capsule of inhibitions and thoughts and letting them swirl around in some other setting in some other place. 'Arrival In Nara' is one of those "scary slow" songs that almost acts as an interlude, however, it allocates you to have some sort of escapism within the flow of the song. The lyrics are beautiful and falls upon such a glowing harmony of notes. It makes me think of a million things at once, and the song seems to become my backdrop for all of those thoughts and emotions I'm currently feeling. It's nice to have songs that are this gentle, it's just unfortunate that most of the time I prefer some sort of groove to my jams. As I stated before, it's one of those songs that works when sampling the entire album. Then you have 'Left Hand Free' which sounds like something that The Black Keys and Tom Petty had a say-so on; it's got that freedom to it, that scratch of twang and pop. It's the obvious choice for the single off of this album, but there's so much more to explore, since most of the album doesn't sound like this. You can most likely find me going crazy to 'Hunger of The Pine' or 'The Gospel of John Hurt', which both have an excellent vibe to them. A little bit groovy, a little bit dark, but definitely lay the vibe down thick. 'Bloodflood P II' is a rad follow up for sure. A relaxing and beautiful add-on to the awesome 'Bloodflood' from An Awesome Wave. Again, it's hard to choose just one song that hits me the right way, because so many of them do. This album just has this earthy vibe, a tribal effect; some songs just make you feel this awesome sense of connection. Maybe that's just me, but I feel that it is a truly beautiful album. Alt-J knows how to put some exquisite sounds together and merge some of the most magical things into musical perfection, there are so many parts that are so emotional and so gentle...

Needless to say, it is absolutely worth your time. I wish I had an open field surrounded by forests, a phenomenal pair of headphones, and a warm breeze to properly listen to this album, to fully let it sink in.  However, any other way works, I promise.

April 10, 2014

Time To Burn: A Smoker's Opinion on Cigarettes.

Alright, now I'm hoping this post won't be a drag, but I've been wanting to conjure up a few thoughts on something that I've been doing for roughly three and a half years. That "thing" would be smoking cigarettes. Now, I'd like to say I know what you're thinking, but it's not like that. I don't even know how I feel about it. Still. I knew when I started occasionally bumming cigarettes that I would likely become hooked, or have some desire to carry out that lifestyle full-time, but it wasn't like that, and then again, it sort of was.

I made a conscious decision that if I was going to smoke cigarettes, I would act as if I had some conscious idea about what I was doing...and I did.

I told myself that if I did decide to ever buy a pack, it would be something that wouldn't kill me quite as fast. That for me was American Spirits. Perhaps it was a throwback to when I obsessively read Gossip Girl in Freshman year of high school...

"She sat down next to Blair and pulled a crumpled turquoise-colored pack of American Spirits out of her
pocket. She’d started smoking them when she and Aaron had gotten together, because they were
supposed to be all natural and additive-free." ...okay excuse that.

When I first started picking up packs, one would last me a little over a week and that smoking lifestyle lasted for quite awhile. I guess you don't really remember what makes you gradually smoke more and more as time goes on, but I'm guessing it's attributed to the smoker's environment and playbook...oh and stress level? Once people know you smoke, you're more likely to end up smoking, even when you don't even have the desire, because at this point, it becomes a social habit. It's still odd to me, because I went from being indifferent to cigarettes, to absolutely hating them and finding them pointless, to acceptance, to actually becoming a smoker. It's been quite the journey.

Despite all of the facts about smoking; how addicting it is, the destruction it leads to, the toxins you're adding to your body, the need, the's not like that for me..but then again, it sort of is. I DO feel cooler when I smoke, but I'm sure it's all in my head. In my short three years of smoking (yeah, I know, in the scheme of anything, that's not a long period of time for such a habit), I can't say I've ever "craved" a cigarette. I have never found a cigarette so dire that it comes before anything else. I always try to figure out WHY I smoke. I used to be so against smoking something that really gave you little added benefits, besides temporary stress relief (which smokers know is a vital reason), but then I guess I sort of came to this minor understanding that for ME, it's about taking a moment to focus on breathing and to just do something so mindless and simplistic that gives you a reason to be outside. While I have committed to American Spirits for the most part, there have been other brands that I have fallen in love with over my smoky little journey, those would be Nat Sherman, Dunhill, and Hestia. I guess you can say that I go for higher quality tobacco, or a "lighter" smoke. I like the idea of American Spirits, but I hate the idea that they are still owned under big tobacco, R.J. Reynolds, who doesn't seem so pleased with other companies having the ability to call their tobacco "all natural and additive free"...

I've even saved empty packs of nights that held importance.
The night I smoked from on December 4, 2012 (Florence show)
and the pack I smoked on my 24th birthday.

Fantasias, hands down, have to be one of my favourite things to smoke.
They are such a wonderful conversation starter and they smoke super light.
I don't like overpowering tobacco, so sipping on these in the summertime is perfect.
Of course, I still flip a lucky even in these packs. Got to!

red on red, baby.

However, for the daily smoke or for the night out, Naturals and Black and Golds are the way to go.
I love the box for these and they smoke like the Fantasias. I'd LOVE if they came out with an
"Ice Pack" and it contained menthol cigarettes wrapped in different shades of blue.

I've never been a big fan of the mainstream cigarette brands; Marlboro, Camel, Parliaments...none of those seemed like the right choice for me. I knew better than that. I have never bought a pack of these, have I bummed them, sure, but even in desperation, I will pass up the cheaper, shittier smoke to find what won't leave me feeling nauseous when I get midway through. To each their own, I know people that absolutely disdain what I smoke, so it just depends what you start with, the amount of effort you're used to exerting for your drag, and how long it lingers for. Cigarettes, although all there for the same purpose, have such particular tastes for particular people. It's all about preference.

For me, cigarette smoking has always been built on a social occasion. I prefer puffing a cigarette with the company of someone else. I believe that smoking should be a leisurely thing; a moment in your day where you pause, inhale, and sort your thoughts and chit chat. I disdain the smoking happenstance where you throw on your coat and kick back puffs until you're no longer freezing and you become relieved once your cig is too short to puff. With this brutal winter, smoking was a real pain for people like me. I didn't WANT to make it something that lasted a short period of time, because that's not why I smoke cigarettes. It almost became a "Hey, let's go smoke for some reason for us to get out of this house", but needless to say, I survived.

Then, thanks to social networking, Hestia got at me when I posted a picture of a convenient store haul that included to packs of American Spirits. They told me a bit about them and encouraged me to give 'em a try. I went to their website, and ordered "just two packs", which is just $12. Here's the thing; as I said, I like natural tobacco, and choosing a smarter vice. I prefer to give my money to small business and something I believe in, versus something of less quality that will ultimately have worse consequences. So Hestia's thing is that they sell only online in order to keep costs down, which is smart. I like their whole idea, I like what they're striving for, and it's a company I feel comfortable promoting and telling people about (if you only knew how many people I've actually talked about them god). The company has also been fabulous in their social marketing/networking and I always respect a company who's equipped with proper social skills via online interactions. They respected the fact I was promoting them, and regardless of the fact I had put my order in, they left a pack for me to pick up and enjoy for free at the Lincoln Hotel so I could start enjoying them sooner. This was a super swell move on their end. While hopefully this wasn't a huge inconvenience for them, it definitely made me feel like a valued customer.

Photo: Me and my new @hestiatobacco swag!
Here's me outside the hotel with my Hestia swag

So my opinions on the actual smoke? Hestia's are awesome, however, they would not necessarily replace my daily cigarette consumption. They're definitely a more reserved smoke that shouldn't be sucked down 6 times a day, in my opinion. Perfect for the summer nights. The tobacco in there is fantastic, it's the paper that may give it the biggest difference. Since it is cigar paper, it definitely has that cigar taste. I enjoy cigars, but I can't smoke them anywhere near a daily basis. They burn slower, so you have your 6-8 minute burn with one of these bad boys. I love the packaging design, although, with the way I shove things around in my pocket, I'd need to muster up one of those cigarette holders to slide inside the package, because the package itself is a great little conversation stater, much like the Nat Shermans. Like I said, I've told a ton of people about this product and have given them out to share and have people try them. That's what I like doing most, is finding something new and different, and spreading the word like wildfire (not that I would start any wildfires...). I really like being that person that shares that new product with people in order to have them try something that they're not familiar with. So do I recommend smokers ordering a couple packs from their site? Absolutely, because even though I don't use them as a daily smoke, others might. Others might enjoy them much more than their cigarettes their consuming now. Plus, as stated above, two packs cost LESS than one of the packs you're grabbing from the shelves now, IF you're a city dweller, but you suburb folks can afford to switch it up a bit for a new breed of smoking. You won't regret it trying something different!

I mean, awesome, right?

I'd love to hear any opinions on what you smoke now or what you think about any of these brands listed. These companies are great about social networking as well if you want to give them a little love; Nat Shermans: @Nat42nd and Hestia: @HestiaTobacco.

All in all, I smoke cigarettes with the twinge of regret and pure joy. I enjoy stepping out and taking a moment to puff on something with good flavor, but I am conscious of what I'm doing to my body; lungs, skin, teeth, etc, so I do try to do what I can to make up for my habits. I will also say, that if I ever noticed any effect on my aerobic activity, I would have cut back, because that's motivation enough. For being a smoker, I am very active and do not have the struggle of coughing or gasping for breath after a solid amount of cardiovascular activity. It scares me that this won't always be the case. While I enjoy smoking, and I'll support these brands no matter what, there will eventually naturally come a time where I will hang up the habit. That time is not now, but it is in the eventual horizon. My opinion? If you're going to smoke, make it the good stuff.

.    .    .


February 3, 2014

The Art of Make-Up // Lessons Learned

Finally. A chance to sit down and write about this topic that's been bouncing around in my head for the past year. Yeah, it's make-up related, okay, well it's only about make-up, but it's the journey that I've been on with it that makes it seem worthy of talking about. As of right now, I would consider myself a pretty big fan of make-up. I wear it every day, I get way too excited about new palettes, and hell, even old palettes, and it's something that always has the ability to vary depending on the day and the mood. If you would have pulled me aside, say, I don't know, 12 months ago and asked me where I stood on make-up, there probably would have been no definitive answer. Sure, I wore it and had a pretty good selection of random drug-store products from the past years, with a few higher-end GWPs my mom would pass on to me, but I hadn't come to appreciate it yet.

This makes me think of the time where my dad took me out shopping when I was in the eighth grade and I wanted to browse around Sephora. He let me have one of those whole make-over deals where they make you look all natural even though they use 15 different things, and was so sweet and bought me most of the things she used on me. This was a rare event for my dad and I. First enough to be out shopping, and then him footing the bill for this make-up regime that would hopefully make me look a bit better. I brought all this stuff home and hardly used it. However, I realized its worth, kept it over the years, and made sure to dabble in it over time. I was never one for taking longer to get ready than really necessary. I always tried to have my outfits picked out in advance and my makeup kept to the same products in order to necessitate pretty much the same look each day. I also never really understood how someone could spend so much money on something like make-up. I always kind of stuck to that whole you-can-get-more-for-less when it came to buying new stuff and always stayed within conventional brands. I loved the idea of toying with outrageous colors and looks, but could never quite get it right and it always seemed a bit intimidating. Oh, I'm sorry, I mean really intimidating. 

I was never really "shown" how to do my make-up. Okay, I probably was, and my mom is reading this with her head in her hands because I can't remember the time she taught me the proper way to apply blush. I did however spend a large amount of time sporting a decent bit when I was a kid,due to skating competitions, but I wasn't a make-up prodigy at a young age...or at any age really. I mean, I cared about how I looked and I did my face up well for having the tools at hand that I did. Now it's a bit of a different story.

Cue up to last February, ha, actually, a year ago TODAY, where I got recruited to work at Ulta. The three current managers had pranced into my restaurant where they were greeted by me, their hostess. There I was, chatting them up whilst seating them, and upon the ring-out, they had asked me if I was interested in a position.

This is actually me on THAT day last year.
This was the very thing I was wearing. I was in support
of the Ravens who had won the Superbowl the night before,
and was wearing as much purple and gold as I could muster.
I mean, I knew how to do my make-up, I had
the cat-eye going in this picture, but it just seems like a forgery now...

I had taken them up on their offer and was kind of over-the-moon about the whole thing. First off, I will say, that I was recruited for sure on my personality. I connected really well with this group of gals. It definitely was not for my skills in the application department. So I started working there and I could tell there was a lot to learn. A LOT. Like I said, I had never really CARED about HOW make-up was applied, I just went for it and hoped for the best. I had such a small clue about what thing was better than the other, and how a different brush could make a world of difference. I asked the girls so many questions about products, especially during 28 Days of Beauty and other campaigns with large sales on certain items, and ended up building up my inventory beautifully. I got some great items for some great prices, and I even got things that I had no real idea what they were for, but found out how to use them, and became attached. We had a lovely little discount there and such a rad group of girls who knew their stuff when it came to all things beauty. It was such an awesome experience to be thrown into an environment like that, where people come to you for questions and opinions. You're forced to learn it really quick and get your recommendations straight. What you always end up learning in life, some things at different points depending on the product at hand, is that you're going to have to pay more for quality. Quality often does not come cheap and requires a bit of investing and brand loyalty. Did I feel bad recommending the $22 mascara over the $8? No, because you're going to use less at a time and be happier with your turnout. It's hard to say that though, because even though I KNOW high-end products and cosmetics have a better turnout, it can be hard to justify spending certain amounts on certain items. It's about knowing what products are worth the money, and what products can be supplemented. I became attached to quite a few brands over the course of working there, specifically Urban Decay, Benefit, LORAC, and Smashbox. I recommended these brands often and tried to learn as much as I could about various products. Even for the six months I did work at Ulta, I still couldn't fully nail it, I still wasn't fully armed with a proper make-up stash.

What was funny, was that even though I bought so much when I worked there, ever since I've left, I've been able to buy more, even without my discount. When my transfer fell through when I moved and I came to terms with the fact that I'd no longer be an Ulta girl, I still found myself turning to that store when it came to my beauty needs. I had fallen in love with the aspect of high-end makeup, bright colors, contouring, brush sets, palettes, and of course, $22 mascara. Some real stellar coupons came my way, gift cards from Christmas, and of course a small influx of money, which led to some real awesome purchases over the past couple months. With what I'm currently equipped with, and having my experiences working at Ulta and recommending products and inspiring beauty, I honesty feel I have such a large appreciation for make-up. I know, that sounds exceptionally lame, but hear me out.

An artist sits down at an easel and pulls out brushes and paints, and lays them out around them. Depending on the mood or the vision for that day, they'll pick up a brush, dabble it in color, and begin to create. They'll grab another brush and accent whatever it is they've just applied to the page, and they'll continually build and add on and modify. This is what putting on make-up feels like each day for me, and for so many other people. The options seem endless, the looks you can create have little limit. The brushes you choose to use will create the effect, and how you wish to apply it can make all the difference. It's fascinating to me how much I learned in the past year about something I've been doing for the past 12 years. There are certain things you realize you simply do not need, but you also discover those products that make your life just that much better. People constantly knock make-up as something one uses to cover up true personality or call it a form of deception. Many are there for the expression, accentuation, and art aspects. For years I did my make-up in such a boring way to satisfy the fact I was wearing it and getting by. Now that I have the tools and the means, I'm given so many more options.

 The daily mashup: Napoleon Perdis Primer, Neutrogena or Benefit foundation, Physician's Formula minearl powder, Hoola Bronzer by Benefit, High Beam by Benefit, Erase Paste by Benefit, LORAC eye primer, Inika loose powder, Laura Gellar baked marble eyeshadow, Smashbox Sparks wondervision palette, & NYX brow powder.

I ordered this mother of all brush sets on BHCosmetics. I initially got it to add in a few brushes
as gifts, and then took my functioning brushes and added them in with the set and kept the rest of them.

Ahh. My mascara/eye liner bag. This is chocked full of goodies. My mom scored me this set;
that allowed me to boost up on certain products. Smashbox, CK One, and Benefit
have to make some of the best mascaras and I'm stoked they were all in this kit.
 I use the liquid liner by LORAC and I think it's just the bee's knees.
I love it and it was such a remarkable change switching from Revlon to Front of The Line in terms of look and application ability. I honestly shuffle between mascara all the time because I have so many
lurking in the bag. I absolutely adore colored lashes, so I have purple, turquoise, and blue mascara all on lock, but green mascara would be pretty righteous as well...

Confessions of a Concealaholic was also another must-have for me.
It came equipped with a mini primer and erase paste that I use often. I love
this concealer and recommend it for sure.

Stila's self-adjusting blush is Coral is pretty rad and always a part of the daily game.
....yeah I dropped it. :(

 The choices! Some days are harder than others on trying to pick a look to go for. These palettes pretty much sum-up what you need to have in terms of shadow colors. I adore these palettes and recommend them any chance I get. Lorac Glo-Getter & Pro Palette, Urban Decay's Naked 3, Vice 2, and Ammo Palette. Smashbox's Wondervision Mega palette. They all have awesome pigment and a great range of colors within each palette, which makes them all pretty worthy of owning.

Here's some recent & decent shots that show off the make-up.


So all-in-all, the whole process felt like a journey. Not having any clue and wanting to spend very little time on these things transformed into me being able to recommend products and likely spend up to 25+ minutes on my makeup. I'm just glad that I had motivation that gave me that opportunity to learn more about something that seemed so frivolous before. It's time well spent; it does dive right into that artistic tone and gives you the freedom to accentuate and create what you'd like upon your face. It's not deception, it's an art form.

x x

December 31, 2013

[lifestyle] The end of the year shakedown.

If you keep up with this blog well enough, or at all, you know how I fall into the trap of completely forgetting about it. That's not entirely true, I've been jonesin' to do some writing for awhile, but I figured I'd wait until I had some sort of content that would intrigue you. However, don't get too excited...

The last time I wrote anything was in August. How could I not? There were too many pivotal things occurring in my life, i.e; summertime, Lana Del Rey, hitting the road to see my man, and of course, Lollapalooza. August was also filled with apartment hunting in the city of Chicago. There's hardly time to write accurately when you're frazzled deciding on your next living space, or while trying to pack up your own. So edge up to September 1st, where we pulled our moving truck into the Lakeview neighborhood and set up camp in a groovy little apartment in the heart of it.

There had been so much personal and outward debate of whether or not this whole city-living thing was going to work for me. I was born a to be city girl, but raised in the burbs, so while I loved Chicago, I was anxious about calling it my home. Once we were moved in, I did however, settle in real nicely. Of course, I had no "real" plan for the city. My job transfer had fallen through, and it was all about me trying to make it happen. I ordered a surge of new business cards, built up some resumes, and hit the pavement, walking up and down around blocks I lived to score a new gig. At this point, I sort of felt like I knew the difference between a "suburb job" and a "city job". Working at certain places, like ones you could actually find in the burbs, were not going to work for me. I needed something with a bit of edge, a job where I could interact with the people of Chicago. In my exploring, I found that the local bar, Will's Northwoods Inn, was a huge Wisconsin/Packers/Badgers supporter, so I drummed up the little idea of whipping some hats up for them and try to sell them there for a little side profit while I figured it out. The owner loved the idea and decided to make it a part of his weekly raffle during the college games. He commissioned me to make him quite a few of hats in different styles.

 I was extremely grateful for the opportunity and felt like it was something that truly worked out for the both of us. In the end, when it came down to actually getting a job, I guess it works that I fell into the lap of one of the oldest and biggest bakeries around, who makes its way onto national lists for it's, it really works.

Luckily, work is going well, but CrochetBeat has thrived. Okay, I guess "thrived" is overdoing the description, but I think that I have a rad little thing going there. My sales have increased due to the factor of people just finding more of my stuff, but Will's had a big hand in helping me out because my products now met a new group of people, they were great about promoting my stuff.

here's a few recent sales; Jayne Cobb hats, 'Grey Street' scarf, and 'Gold Lion'

visual recap:

from my favourite bar; HEADQUARTERS! This is one of our usual spots. Free play pinball + arcade.
this bar truly works for me. I cannot quite drum up how it became so popular to go to packed bars and just
stand around whilst trying to have conversation. This place eliminates that issue with giving you something to DO.
 They play fantastic music, shows American Gladiator, football, hockey, wrestling, and random music videos and is chocked full of pinball and old school arcade games. Free to get in, you just pay for the quality craft beers and delicious cocktails. If you're in Chicago, you gotta get over here! I have to make my way over at least three times a week. should you!

I did have to say goodbye to some awesome people in the burbs...

But being in the city brings me closer to other ones!
Here's Dan and I with Lin Brehmer, he was hosting an event two blocks over.

Oh, and then I was asked to jump out of a cake whilst singing Happy Birthday. So I did that at an event...
seriously, how does one pass up such an opportunity?!

Dirk and I posing in Hollywood Mirror after I bought my pizza hat.
Then a few days later I saw these guys on the brown line. I mean, adorable, right?

and one time, I actually acquired a high score on pinball...

For Dan's 30th, we had made plans with Dirk and Sara to head to Cleveland to see NIN and hit up the Rock and Roll hall of fame. Both things were fantastic and it was a nice little roadtrip and weekend trip. We had all day to roam around the museum and anticipated the show later in the night. 

They had a piano outside the museum to play as you wanted. Apparently, they have an exhibit and have 18 place around in Cleveland for you to make some music around town.

Walking around and seeing music's history displayed before you was an awesome experience.
It gave you a better insight to artists and bands and made it personal. I am so grateful we had
the day to spend there. Seeing Stevie's outfits and things that David Bowie used to sport were
beautiful, and that was probably my favourite aspect of the whole place, was seeing the outfits
that were displayed. It was loaded with inspiration and history and I can only hope I can roam
the hall of fame once again.

Here's a few shots from the day. There was so much to see and so much to look forward to later in the night. It's always nice to see a band play where they got their initial start in music and made a mark.

 1). Copy of A 2). 1,000,000  3). Terrible Lie 4). March of The Pigs 5) Piggy 6). All Time Low
7). Disappointed 8). Came Back Haunted 9). Find My Way 10). The Frail/The Wretched
11). Into The Void 12). Survivalism 13). Running 14). A Warm Place 15). Somewhat Damaged
16) Wish 17). Burn 18). The Hand That Feeds 19). Head Like A Hole 
Encore: 20). Even Deeper 21). In This Twilight 22). While I'm Still Here 23). Hurt

 This was the second time we saw NIN this year.

I whipped up a monster hat this year, was out and about in festive wear, and hit the lakeside while the temperatures were still appropriate to do so.

HQ... ALL the time. It's so close to our apartment and such a wonderful environment.
As previously mentioned...

this was another high score round!

..and you KNOW that if I'm in charge of some decorating, that they're going to be some
Heisen-boo's around Halloween time!

Halloween at work came around twice, one over the weekend, one on the actual holiday. I was a figure skater for Saturday, and Princess Peach on Halloween. But seriously, how cute is the work crew?
But of course, by night I was a pinball princess.

THEN IT WAS TIME TO GO TO L.A. out of nowhere.

 So I came home from work one night and Dan informed me that he had entered our emails in a NIN contest to see them taped on Jimmy Kimmel. Forgetting about it completely three days later, I opened my inbox and found out I had won! So, since it was so spontaneous and didn't include airfare or any extra goodies, we did the math and made it work. We would have less than a day in L.A., but it seemed too neat to pass up, so we did the four flights in two days. 

we had our friend Ashley come scoop us up for some beach time and lunch in Venice before our night
back in downtown Hollywood. It was really nice to take the drive on the highway, be beach-side
and play in the ocean a bit. By sunset, my body was running strong on Mimosa's and I was ready to hit the line for the outdoor stage.
so the funny thing is that there was really no special privilege. The raffle is essentially free to everyone, you just have to get them in time. First come, first serve. I mean, it was a little ridiculous to fly out after we had seen them twice this year, along with How To Destroy Angels in March, but there are some things that simply cannot be resisted. So we went and enjoyed California and some NIN. We met some cool people in line and I got to meet up with a twitter buddy in person!

Michael and I in the NIN crowd!

Although we hated leaving after such short time, it was spectacular to have a change of scenery, and L.A. was just what we needed!

...the unfortunate fly-home.
There is something so calming about flying, yet something so maddening about it.
I love taking off, and then as soon as we do, I pretty much snap into
"Okay, good talk, when does this thing land?" mode.

So then it was back to Chicagoland where life would continue as normal...

I whipped up the hat on the left, which I call "epic hat" and of course
always save some time for 10,000 Maniacs, because, how could you not?

Work had me in charge of cutting out the houses this year.
What a terrifying process. However, the decorators turned it into the real art.
I just pretended I knew what I was doing with some dough and a straight edge.
These were displayed in the window of the bakery.

I have only gone here one other time and it was when I was standing shoulder to shoulder
with half of the city trying to eat a damn bratwurst. This time, I was a smart kitten and went on a Tuesday.
Not just any Tuesday, this was one of those random 50º days you get smack dab at the beginning of December. So I went, I ate, and I bought some German goods.

Here we are by the tree, which basically just looks like a Christmas galaxy.
We're with our good friends Mike and Karen, they wanted to play German, too.

So then I got all inspired by the Sound of Music and did up my hair Bavarian style
and then a couple weeks later hopped in a bag for some photo worthy shots.
All in all, December has been busy.

yes. we pulled out the catholic wafers....
and then pretended to feed them to each other.
it was cute. or something.
Getting together with these girls = non-stop laughing. What a group.

This is how work went down on Christmas Eve...

I got this banner from an event I went to, where I actually met Marc Alghini
for the first time, not to mention that it was my only point of going to said event.

My uncles rockin' the hats I made for them for Christmas! 

And I'll close the visual recap chapter there...
That's been what's going on since the last time I posted, but it's time to take a little time to talk
about 2014...

All in all, as the new year is literally hours away, I can say I'm pretty excited to ease into 2014. I know there's a ton to look forward to. I know that I still have a lot to learn, but I also realize that I did learn a lot in 2013. I'm assured with the fact that I'm not running from this past year. I can comfortably glide into a new set of time. I am so glad that I was able to make this the year I made a big change in my life, a change that I'm really happy with. I'm well aware there's a lot of areas I need to improve in, but I'm really happy with who I am at this point in my life. I'm grateful for the people I've chosen to surround myself with. I can say that 2013 brought me a lot of opportunity. I worked at three different places, and have enjoyed them all and learned different things from each one. I met amazing people at those places and have continued to meet new people as my life in the city here rolls on. I moved to a new area, started my Etsy shop last January, and settled in with my counterpart. There has been so many different aspects of life and culture that have influenced me over this past year, and the music! 

Oh, the music!...

There have been so many amazing albums dropped this year. I'm so over the moon that I got to enjoy yet another Lollapalooza this year, and see so many remarkable artists throughout the past 12 months. I hardly doubt I could name them all, but I have my sights set on seeking out the new music that 2014 has to offer. I can only hope that things go as well for me as they can in the new year. I'd like to think I put out an unreasonable amount of good karma in 2013, so hopefully that will swing back around. I know that things will change, but I'm hoping that everything that happens, happens for the best. Here's to it! Here's to an incredible 2014, with love, laughter, charm, and A WHOOLLLLLE LOTTA WIT!