July 2013 Update

Holy Hell, 2013 is more than half over already. How did that happen?! I guess time sort of passes without my noticing since i’ve always got my nose buried in one book or another. Currently it’s The Once and Future King, by the way. Here are some recent goings-on from the past month or so:

The 4th was good fun; we finally got to see a good fireworks display this year and hang out with family at the same time. My cousin Amanda’s brand-spanking-new house has a prime view of the Des Moines Golf & Country Club’s not-entirely-private show. There was a keg and a volleyball game and lots of food and a stunning array of booze and a good time was had by many.

On the 5th i went to 80/35 once again with my dear friends Emily & Sara. We got to see Annalibera, who were very decent, The Emperors Club which didn’t sound a thing like their YouTube video, Yeasayer (left; Photo: Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily) which was our very favorite act and excellent to dance to, Menomena—briefly—whose newest tracks are IMO just no fun, and David Byrne + a surprisingly blond St. Vincent. That duo’s collaborative work is rather odd, but they also performed a few other songs including a few of St. Vincent’s own, which i quite enjoyed, and at the end of the night “Burnin’ Down the House.” What a kickass sendoff for we delicate ladies who had to leave before the encore.

St Vincent at 80/35
Beautiful blond St. Vincent; Photo by Zach Boyden-Holmes and/or Michael Watson

I borrowed my sister-in-law’s ice cream maker recently because i needed something to do with all the mint that’s growing happily by the side of the house. My first-ever ice cream turned out so well that we decided to buy our very own ice cream maker and have been dreaming up all kinds of exciting flavors (like Kentucky Brunch, blackberry + sage, and Horchata) to busy ourselves with making in the months to come.

mint ice cream
My first ice cream: vanilla / honey / mint

At some point a while back, probably when i was planning our wedding and learning the names of all sorts of flowers i’d never bothered to care had names before, i fell in love with the big white mophead hydrangeas like this one at the August Home test garden, and i finally bought one last weekend to adorn the front of our house. I’m pretty happy about it.

I think i’ve decided that i don’t hate summer after all. Last year it was offensively hot and i was angry about the world in general, and i’m a little angry this year that i can’t go outside without being awarded a new itchy mosquito bite, but it’s significantly cooler and the flowers are beautiful and the fireflies are abundant and the cicadas are starting to sing and the air in the evenings smells like fond memories and good times. So Summer has redeemed herself a bit in my estimation this year (but i’m still secretly dreaming of Fall).


Sounds of September

Nathan’s birthday happened recently, so we took a weekend trip to Iowa City and Chicago to celebrate. Some of Nathan’s friends and family joined us in Iowa City, and his sister even came along to Chicago with us. There was a lot of beer to be sampled in Chicago but i didn’t get to do more than taste each one since i’d had about four whole drinks in Iowa City the night before (stein o’ beer + cup o’ wine) and have a tendency now to experience long, painful hangovers. No more steins for me. 😦 It’s possible the late-night trip to Red Poppy worsened the ensuing situation. Either way, Iowa City was fun but i wound up paying for it.

Chicago skyline

We tried out airbnb.com for the first time and stayed in a stranger’s apartment on the Near West Side. Pros: he’s a super nice guy with a sweet dog and a pretty swanky place in a great location. Awesome view from the balcony, too. Cons: walls are considerably thinner in an apartment than in a hotel, and we had trouble getting the shower hot enough. We’re pretty private people, so if we use airbnb.com again, we’ll look to rent an entire apartment rather than just a room.

Ladyhawke at Bottom Lounge; rubenwashere.comBy the second evening in Chicago i had fully recovered from Iowa City and was able to thoroughly enjoy dinner and a show. We ate at The Publican, and it was heavenly. We sampled several forms of pork: pork rinds, sliced ham, and pork belly. They were all fantastic, and the sides and desserts were delightful as well. I even had a beer, yay! Then we walked to Bottom Lounge to see Ladyhawke. The show started at 9 and i was dismayed to see three openers listed on the chalkboard. The first duo was alright, the second one had their show cut very short by a rogue beach ball knocking over (and breaking) the third member of their band—the Mac Book. And the third opener for some reason didn’t actually exist (maybe it was the DJ?) because we were relieved to see Ladyhawke take the stage next. It was a really, really fun show. Chicago hipsters clearly care more about music than the Des Moines breed does, because they were a lot less douchey and danced more. I had a really great time, and i managed to make it back to the apartment without my feet quite falling off, thanks to a helpful piggyback ride from Nathan.

Silversun Pickups Neck Of The Woods PosterTwo days later, back in Des Moines, i dragged Nathan to another rock show. This time it was Silversun Pickups. Their newest album isn’t as wonderful as their first, but i missed them last time they came to DSM for absolutely no good reason, so i wasn’t about to skip this show as well. Their first opener was a cute little indie band from Australia with a dumb name, Atlas Genius. The second opener was just god-awful. I haven’t seen a band that terrible in a long time… But it gave us an excuse to wander around Hoyt Sherman a bit, which is a beautiful old venue. And i discovered and bought a cool SSPU poster, so it wasn’t all bad. Then SSPU played and it was a pretty fun show. The bassist seemed overly excited about performing, and we were informed several songs in that she wasn’t their actual bassist but a substitute on tour with them for Nikki’s maternity leave.

I was pretty happy with the crowd at Hoyt Sherman. They were older and less hipstery than the 80/35 crowd, and i only saw phones in the air a couple of times. It’s a little harder to get into the music in a seated venue, but the front man mentioned that fact and praised us for dancing anyway. One woman in the front row even got full acknowledgement and a kiss on the hand for her no-holds-barred enjoyment of the show. Rachel, you are the heart of Des Moines.

80/35 2012: Death Cab For Cutie

Image courtesy of Death Cab For Cutie

I went to the last little bit of the 80/35 music festival with my friend Emily this Saturday. I bought tickets solely to see Death Cab For Cutie, because i loved them so hard during my college years and always wanted to see them play a live show. I bought my favorite of their albums, Transatlanticism, during my freshman year when it was still very new, and other students in the College of Design and at Stomping Grounds cafe (unwittingly) shared all of their previous albums with me as well. So Death Cab was basically the soundtrack to countless hours of my four years at Iowa State, as well as the additional year i spent working in Ames after college. (And then i met Nathan, who doesn’t care for Death Cab For Cutie. :))

Emily and i skipped most of the music festival because it was so very hot outside. We arrived after 8 p.m., and even then we could feel the sweat rolling down our backs as we watched Dan Deacon perform at the freebie stage. But soon the sun went down, and i don’t remember feeling hot after Death Cab took the stage at exactly nine o’ clock.

Immediately i was reminded of why i don’t go to a lot of shows anymore: the other patrons are assholes. Here’s a quick list of the type of douchebaggery that goes on at any given general-admission show:

  1. Needlessly violent dancing
  2. Smoking of illicit and smelly substances
  3. Flinging various beverages on fellow patrons
  4. Pushing & shoving, coming & going
  6. Holding cell phones up to take photos and/or videos
  7. Excessively loud cheering, just to get attention
  8. Choosing new spots halfway through the show to block what was once someone’s perfectly good view
  9. Minors attending just for the chance to sneak alcohol, meanwhile doing all of the above

But after a while i realized that Emily was taking it in stride and there was nowhere for us to go anyway, and i accepted the fact that this is just part of the concert experience. And it’s worth it. Being out in the warm summer night, dancing and singing along with the artist who gave me some of my favorite songs, feeling the music all around, soaking in the moment… All good things. Things i don’t get to do very often at all. So i reveled in it. And to my surprise, they played four tracks from my favorite album and one from an even older album, despite the fact that they’ve released four (Edit: three) additional very popular studio albums since then. They didn’t happen to play my very favorite song, Title and Registration (the only song i ever got close to being able to play on the guitar), but they did end the night with the title track of Transatlanticism, which i love almost as much.

I’m glad i went.

August Adventures

I was going to write two separate posts about my birthday and the Iowa State Fair, but once again i’ve procrastinated too long and so i’m just going to post photos and talk a little bit about them.

For my birthday Nathan got me tickets to three different shows that happened here in Des Moines right around my birthday: Rooney, Phoenix and Tegan & Sara. Rooney was first, and it was a really fun little show in an intimate venue, and it was early in the day which turned out to be nice for us working types. Phoenix was the very next day, and their show was a little too loud and a little too packed and a little too blinding as far as the light show, but it was still fun.

Next came my actual b-day, which i spent trying on wedding dresses, watching Eat, Pray, Love and playing Apples to Apples with a handful of my lovely friends.

A few days later we saw Tegan & Sara, which was definitely an interesting show. They performed at Hoyt Sherman which is a really lovely old venue here in Des Moines. There was no opening band, and T&S played two sets: an acoustic set and one with the full band. During the first set they did some Q&A sessions which got to be a little long-winded, but they’re funny people so it was interesting to hear them talk about some adventures they’ve had both in the recording studio and on the road. We had to cut out of the second set a little early, but i still got to hear all of my favorite T&S songs.

Nathan’s gifts (comic books & concert tickets!)

Nathan made me tacos and fresh tortilla chips, french toast, and strawberry shortcake for my b-day. It was all AWESOME.

Happy Birthday "Stephanie"
First thing i saw when i got to work Monday. Love it.

The day after Tegan & Sara, we went to the Iowa State Fair. If you haven’t been to our fair, it’s pretty much the best one in the country. And i say that because i think Martha Stewart said it, or something. It’s all about excess: who grows the fattest pig, the biggest pumpkin, the most enormous stalk of corn; how many calories can we pack into a single $6 fried-on-a-stick commodity; how many big ol’ corn-fed Iowans can you pack into a few hundred acres? I used to absolutely hate it and now i think it’s great fun.

I really wanted to steal a little chickie. They’re SO CUTE.

The calf looked a little sad.

Our famous Butter Cow. Life-size, all butter.

The biggest pumpkin weighed over 1,000 lbs.

So *that’s* why they call it eggplant.

That cabbage in the back was the size of a beach ball.

…And these were tiny! I like photographing produce…

Star Boars
“Star Boars” sand sculpture


A sampling of the many, many pretty quilts

This year we ate: mini doughnuts, some rootbeer, a couple of exorbitantly priced brewskis, fried cheese curds (a must), i had 2/3 of a tenderloin (it took a while to find one that wasn’t the size of a dinner plate), and a turkey leg which we took home and made stock with. Have i mentioned that we’re getting really into the whole “domestic” thing?


First of all, thanks for leaving so many wonderful comments on my last post. It meant a lot to me.

My sister Amy and her son Harper are visiting from Oregon right now. They arrived on Wednesday and the three of us and Mom had fun shopping around the East Village of Des Moines, going to see WALL-E, reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and generally hanging out. Friday evening Uncle Doug and Aunt Vicki had a little BBQ to celebrate, and of course their whole branch of the family was there. Saturday we drove out to Uncle Dave’s and visited with that bunch and Harper had fun playing with his second cousins. It had been a couple years since most of us had seen each other, and it was nice to be able to catch up.

That evening Mom, Amy and I went to see Ani DiFranco at The Capitol Theater in Davenport. I never cease to be amazed by how much she rocks. She was a little less talkative than the last time i saw her over in Iowa City with Emily last summer, but that’s okay.

I wish i’d taken pictures of all this stuff. 😦 Next time.

Yesterday Amy & Harps headed for Cedar Rapids and Mom & I came back to DM. On our way we stopped at the Amana colonies for lunch and picked up some blueberry wine. I hadn’t been around there in quite a few years. It’s really well-maintained and cute, but it was so hot that we didn’t stick around for long.

My Mama in Amana

Bumble Bee

I saw some paintings by this Chicago artist Laura Lee Junge in a little gallery there, and i thought they were really neat:

On an unrelated note, my current goal in life is to decide on an apartment to move to in Des Moines, which is proving to be a major headache. But i got my new camera phone today, so playing with that should relieve some stress for sure.

Rainbows and Darkness

I have been in the presence of gods, my friends. Gods whom some refer to as Radiohead. Yesterday we made our pilgrimage to the holy land of St Louis, where Radiohead descended to the earth to bestow upon us their glorious sounds. And thus they spake:

“Do i smell doughnuts? Who could eat a doughnut at a time like this?”
(imagine the Geiko gecko saying it–that’s what Thom Yorke sounds like.)

They didn’t say much more than that, but they played probably every In Rainbows song and most of Kid A, along with a few older songs. Fake Plastic Trees was my favorite. I can die happy now, i told Dan.

It was worth the twelve hours in my tiny car, especially since Dan drove the whole way home through the night and let me sleep. Not worth the effort, though, was getting my ass out of bed and to work this morning, only to be promptly canned. Given the pink slip. Laid off. Not fired, exactly, they didn’t want to have to let me go (quote unquote) but times are hard and there’s this block and well, someone had to get chopped.

Whew. Just like that. Two weeks severance pay and then i’m on my own. I’m a full-time job seeker now, and i don’t figure i can be picky anymore. I’ll be pretty much applying all over the country, i think, and let my career take me where it will.

I’m scared, but this is probably the kick in the ass i needed to really make a change. And–hey, at least i get to sleep in. A LOT.