On occasion, it’s appropriate to step back from raptor questions, book reviews, and opinions about movies and just talk about a random assortment of things we really love. All the odds and ends that don’t quite fit into a properly themed post, but are worthy of mention all the same. So here, in no particular order, are some things that are making me happy lately – maybe they’ll make you happy, too!
I’ve written a bit before about my love of running – it’s been a passion of mine for about a decade now. For years I focused my training on increasing my distance, but after running more than one marathon it was time for a new challenge, so I’ve been working on getting faster. There are many tools out there for tracking your progress, but Smashrun is the one I like the best. It syncs with whatever fitness tracker you use – I have a Garmin watch – so you don’t need a new piece of hardware or even to download an app. You just connect whatever you already use to the website, and it will import all of your data. Then you can look at what pace, cadence, mileage, and elevation you did for any particular run – but also over time. That information lets you know what conditions work best for you and what you need to do to get faster. It also rewards you with badges for certain distances or goals that accumulate from the date you sign up. They’re silly and fun but oddly satisfying to achieve – I recently accumulated the total miles from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia. Who knew?
Finally, it breaks down the calories burned for each run by telling you the equivalent in both a healthy and unhealthy food, which is a great, tangible way to really understand what you burned, since most folks overestimate. Last night’s track workout got me the equivalent of a bagel with cream cheese, not shabby!
I guess a lot of people get happiness from homemade bread, but my joy has been coming from baking it, rather than eating it. For the past two years I’ve baked a loaf or so every single week. It started as a way to use up a pound of yeast I’d ordered by mistake, but it’s become so much more. It does all of the things you’d expect – provides food for my family, and is a healthier alternative to commercial bread, which is full of chemicals and sugar – but it’s also been a rewarding personal project. Much like my running, baking has provided a routine that allows me to grow in skill, to get better at each week. The early efforts were still useful, but I can track how far I’ve come, and see how far I can still go. At the same time, unlike some of my other hobbies, the product has a short life span. We’re not accumulating more stuff with this project, and in fact have been able to reduce the amount of bread we buy. If you’re interested in trying your hand at bread, I recommend this English muffin recipe from King Arthur (my flour brand of choice.) It’s pretty easy, and so much better than Thomas’ that you’ll wonder why you never tried it before.
The tagline for their website is “A New Boogie for All Mankind” and I am here to tell you, darlings, that the hype is real. I first discovered this band through the tune-yards – Merrill Garbus performed backing vocals on “Little Queen of New Orleans” and shared the video on ye olde Facebook. I gave it a listen and was instantly smitten. I bought Hi Honey, the album it came from – the band’s third. This was quickly followed by the entire back catalog and waiting obsessively for the band to come to Boston, then dragging Mr. Menace to one of the most heartfelt live shows I’ve ever been to. This is old-fashioned rock and roll at its finest, complete with saucy lyrics and co-founder Adam Weiner’s forceful piano. The keys haven’t been played this hard since Jerry Lee Lewis, and the result is the perfect soundtrack for some summer fun. Grab the tunes and bring ’em to your next barbecue – you won’t be sorry.
I’ve written about the works of Patrick Ness before , and he’s gaining some recognition in the larger fantasy/sci-fi circles as the man behind the upcoming Doctor Who spinoff, Class. Since that show will be set at the Coal Hill School, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which revolves around a group of friends in their senior year of high school, is the perfect introduction if you’re curious about his work. Lighter in tone than A Monster Calls (the crying book) or his fantastic Chaos Walking trilogy, The Rest of Us still brings plenty of depth. It’s about the kids who aren’t the chosen ones, but who are surrounded by those who are. While the indie kids are battling vampires, zombies, and fairy queens, Mikey and his friends are just trying to survive the madness they bring, go to prom, graduate, and maybe get a date. I loved reading a story about what happens to everyone else while someone is saving the world, and I loved the little snippets of the chosen ones’ story that were the intro to each chapter. If you’ve ever had to find the extraordinary in being ordinary, you’ll get a kick out of this.
You may be wondering why I’m recommending the Instagram feed of a library located in Rochester, NY, a city 8 hours away from where I currently reside. And to be honest, if a very dear friend didn’t work there, I’d probably never have stumbled on this particular gem. But luckily for me and you, she does and I did and now I’m sharing the good fortune with you. This is a list of things that spark happiness and this feed has it in spades. Do you like our Fashion Raptor posts? Check out Henrietta’s whole Dinovember series (which we are totally doing this year.) Like a bit of whimsy? (and what are you doing here if you don’t?) Look for the photos of the Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, who swallows various resources around the library (cleverly letting you know that they exist.) The feed makes me happy with its content, which is funny and charming and sweet, but also because it’s such a stellar example of a library showcasing its relevance in the modern world. It’s also a great example of the power of social media when it’s done well – the folks behind it also run workshops for other libraries on how to use Instagram effectively. And they have a turtle named Cooper wearing a Batman balloon, which I think is pretty great.
So that’s what’s been bringing a smile to my face lately – what makes you all happy?
In which our agony aunts, the Fashion Raptors (or Fraptors, as I like to call them) answer your questions on fashion, etiquette, and life in general. If you’ve got questions for our saurian sages, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass ’em along.
Ah, New Years Eve. That time where we reflect on the past year, usually happy to see it in the rear view mirror, and think about all the things we will do differently next year. “I’m going to get more organized,” “I’m going to lose that 10 pounds”, “I’m going to get my hair cut in a timely manner” (maybe that’s just me). Officially, I’m not a resolution girl, I don’t tend to make them, but there are times when self-improvement or preservation need to be on the table. For example, there was a time about 3 or so years ago when I really fell out of out of being physically active beyond my walks to work (about 4 miles a day). That might sound like a lot of walking, and it’s ok, but it’s not enough when you just moved across the street from a bakery, an awesome Chinese food restaurant, and like food. I like food you guys. Let’s just say Tiny Doom was heading towards medium or even a little large Doom. As tiny people know, a few pounds can make a big difference in how you look and feel. I thought, “I’ll just start running! Easy peasy, no gym membership needed!” I had run before, but I would never consider myself a runner, it never stuck. I needed help. Friends are great for this, especially if they are more seasoned runners who can coach and motivate (shout-out to The Red Menace, Marathon Maven), but friends can’t be with you all the time. You need to be able to find your own motivation. And for some folks, this is where running apps come in.
Today’s post is inspired by a feature in B*tch Magazine called Love It/Shove It. It’s a quickie round up of what the editors are particularly digging or hating on at the moment. I haven’t thought of a better title for this feature than the delightful rhyme of the original, so I’m taking their titles this time around, until inspiration strikes. If any of you have any amazing ideas, leave ’em in the comments! I am, however, going to flip the order and tell you what’s irking me first – I’d rather end on a note of positivity. Here we go!
Raining On Other People’s Parades: I couldn’t think of a pithy, one-word phrase for this, unfortunately. What I mean by it is bashing the things that other people like, often on social media. (Yes, I’m aware of the irony of putting this on a list of things I dislike, but we’ll work through the cognitive dissonance, I promise!) Examples include but aren’t limited to: making snarky comments about sports when everyone is cheering their team, making fun of bands, movies, or comics that everyone else you know likes, most grumping about pop culture. It bugs me because it’s a basically negative mindset, moving from what someone loves to what the person doing it dislikes. Additionally, it seems to be the way of centering attention back on yourself – if everyone’s talking about The Sports, and you don’t like The Sports, this is your way of jumping into the conversation anyway. It’s important to have your opinion, of course – this is more about timing. In preschool it’s called “yucking someone’s yum;” basically, it’s not cool to shout “ew, disgusting” just as someone is tucking into their metaphorical lunch.
Sexism Apologists: (Also applies to racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.) – this person is always out there. You know the ones – they’re not making the rape joke, or designing the creepy pillow, or hitting on ladies at conferences. They’re the ones who come in after the fact and say things like “You really just need to know the context of that joke,” or “what did you expect, dressing up in that costume?” or “what are you complaining about, there are bigger problems in the world?” At their worst, these are the guys and gals are more insidious than the actual sexists, because they make you doubt the things you know in your heart are wrong. They tell you that you just need to lighten up, to stop seeing things in those terms, that with how women are treated in other countries you are just being petty for being upset that some dude hit on you. Don’t listen to them! Micro-aggressions matter, too, and it’s okay to call ’em like you see ’em.
“No Offense”: Why does this phrase even exist? If you feel the need to follow up a statement with one telling me I shouldn’t be offended, that means you know damn well that I will be. So why did you say it? Simply asking me to ignore my rational reaction to your bad manners doesn’t negate them. Either keep it to yourself or fully own your statement – and then be prepared to deal with the consequences of my offense!
The Ladies Night Out Run: Oh man, this makes me crazy. Why should a woman want to run a 5K more because wine, flowers, chocolate and a theoretically handsome man are involved? Have ladies “everywhere” been waiting for this, not running races because they didn’t offer these things? I mean, I like all of them well enough, but they sure aren’t motivating me to run. Flowers give me asthma attacks, wine and chocolate after a race would make me throw up, and I have a perfectly handsome man at home. I’m not really into gender-separated races, period – and I especially don’t like the idea of separation based on some weird 1950’s idea of what women want. (I love the Tufts 10K for Women, but men are still allowed to race that and they have a really inspiring slogan.) Ladies, like fellas, run races to challenge themselves, to be fit, because they love it. If you’re into this idea I don’t mean to rain on your parade, as it were, but it seems unnecessarily silly to me.
And now the fun part – things that increase my joy lately, and that I want everyone to know about so that they can make you happy too!
I’ll admit, I’m a little obsessed with this polish, and I’ve drawn all of the other Ladies into my madness. The colors are just too good, and they have great staying power. Lately, they’ve been putting out these wax-finish colors 0 not shiny but not quite matte – that are just stunning. The company is pretty cool, too – it’s mostly just one woman, Maria, living her dream and making great nail polish, although her whole family seems to be part of the act. They have great sales and promotions and really promote a feeling of community. Besides, how can you not love that this perfect Tardis blue is called “Time Traveler?”
Sriracha Popcorn: I made this for the first time just this past weekend, for a very impromptu gathering. I am ashamed and delighted to admit that I probably ate most of the bowl. It was fast, easy, and at least for me, involved ingredients that I always have on hand. Spicy, garlicky, and a tiny bit sweet, it’s pretty addictive and would be appropriate at all but the most formal occasions. Or, you know, if you were in a room full of people who hate popcorn or spicy things. But when would that ever happen?
Even though these two places aren’t that close together, I’ve been running a lot on both of them lately and so they’re linked in my mind. They’re a nice change in routine – I’ve been running seriously for seven years and had been stuck in a rut on my routes – the Minuteman Bike Path, the Charles River, Fresh Pond – I’ve done them all so many times that they’ve become dull. What’s nice about the Mystic Valley Parkway (besides being right behind my house – I have lived in the area for 6 years and never run it!) is that it provides a bit of nature without being too woodsy – there’s only a few tree roots to keep an eye on. Minuteman, in Lexington, has more curated, sandy paths -it’s designed more with the history of the area in mind – but the fields and woods it winds through are gorgeous. Both paths are a truly lovely way to find the more contemplative side to running.
My Friends: Oh, sure, it’s a little sappy, but I really have just been appreciating the amazing community of people I’m surrounded by. I know folks through so many different hobbies and activities in my life, from running to work to Comicazi to college to high school and more, but they all feel like part of one huge, wonderful network. They support my crazy projects, like this blog, donate money to my causes, share my outrages & delights, and are always up for an adventure. In just the past week, I’ve trekked to visit Bigfoot, run track in the pouring rain, painted sailboats, had crazy phone messages, and watched cartoons with some of the best people on the planet. It’s a lot easier to focus on the love it side of things with a community like this one.
So now you tell me, what are you shoving/loving lately?