Things to Do - Margaritas After the Playground (My New "Mixtape")

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As a kid I made mixtapes all the time - cassettes all over the floor, obsessing like crazy over song placement. And now that new music has become easier than ever to find my own personal faves are often in disarray, stuck in weird Spotify playlists full of random songs that in no way play well with each other. So I decided to make a good mix, full of my absolute favorite tunes, old and new. Because the Avetts and the Pixies were meant to be friends. Or at least that's how I see the world.

Click here to download Spotify and check it out.

Happy Wednesday everyone!!


1. Betty's a Bombshell/ Grouplove
2. Home By Now/ Bombay Bicycle Club
3. This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)/ The Lumineers
4. Joy to You Baby/ Josh Ritter
5. Hang Loose/ Alabama Shakes
6. Chocolate/ The 1975
7. Kick Drum Heart/ The Avett Brothers
8. Hey Hey Girl/ The Virgins
9. Better Days/ Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
10. Obvious Bicyle/ Vampire Weekend
11. Here Comes Your Man/ Pixies
12. Against the Grain/ Hudson and Troop
13. Saint Valentine/ Gregory Alan Isakov
14. Cooling/ Tori Amos
15. Furr/ Blitzen Trapper
16. Last Night of the World/ Bruce Cockburn
17. Eyes/ Rogue Wave
18. We Used to Wait/ Arcade Fire
19. The Writing's on the Wall/ OK Go
20. Big Black Car/ Gregory Alan Isakov
21. Hey/ Pixies
22. Everest/ Public Service Broadcasting
23. 1998/ Chet Faker
24. Cherokee/ Cat Power
25. Under The Pressure/ The War on Drugs
26. Into The Wild/ LP
27. Lost in the Light/ Bahamas
28. Don't You Give Up on Me/ Milo Greene
29. Bright Lanterns/ The Tallest Man on Earth
30. Sideshow by the Seashore/ Luna
31. Sweetest Kill/ Broken Social Scene
32. Talking Backwards/ Real Estate
33. Put the Message in the Box/ World Party
34. Fire Door/ Ani Difranco
35. Whole Wide World/ Bahamas


Things to Do - This Untamed Life, Dinnertime

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This week's theme for This Untamed Life is dinnertime, so a trip to T's absolutely favorite restaurant - Silver Diner - seemed necessary. T loves waffles for dinner. I love their locavore menu, esp. quinoa with veggies (so so yummy). Dan likes the beer menu. Both the girls can't stop drinking the free milkshakes on Tuesdays.

During the school year we rarely go out to dinner as a family, but this summer has us eating out at least once a week (lazy mom). And each restaurant the kids follow their usual patterns - F ignoring us all while she settles in with a book; T pretending to be our waiter, thus taking orders over and over again; and wild card P - sometimes telling us awesome stories, sometimes begging (as in PLEADING) for our iphones.

And somewhere along the way, all the children manage to talk with Siri for awhile, asking her random unanswerable questions about the wonders of the world.

Now click on over to This Untamed Life to see everyone else's dinnertime awesomeness!


Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links

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Happy Friday everyone! Don't forget to click on over to Cherish This Day to see everyone else's weekly shot.


* 11 fun fashion moments of the 90s. Oh, the little white tee.

* A list of summer picnic bowls.

* Ikea this is just too awesome. If we didn't already have two dogs, you would convince us to adopt one more.

* 35 skinny zucchini recipes (can you tell I'm hungry lately)?

* What do you think of Blake Lively's new Goop-ish website, Preserve? The haters are hating, but I think it's still too early to say.

* 14 random things that look like other things.

* The perfect marriage of margarita and mojito - I NEED to try one.


Things to Read - Five Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on Fitbit, Reading in Jail, Crappy Seafood, Breastfeeding/Boredom, and Dude Culture)

1. (Fitbit) - I'm completely obsessed with my fitbit, so when I read David Sedaris's New Yorker article I both laughed and felt jealous - does he really walk 50,000 steps a day? Because that's my dream.

"To people like Dawn and me, people who are obsessive to begin with, the Fitbit is a digital trainer, perpetually egging us on. During the first few weeks that I had it, I’d return to my hotel at the end of the day, and when I discovered that I’d taken a total of, say, twelve thousand steps, I’d go out for another three thousand.

“But why?” Hugh asked when I told him about it. “Why isn’t twelve thousand enough?”

“Because,” I told him, “my Fitbit thinks I can do better.”

I look back at that time and laugh—fifteen thousand steps—Ha! That’s only about seven miles! Not bad if you’re on a business trip or you’re just getting used to a new prosthetic leg.

. . . .

At the end of my first sixty-thousand-step day, I staggered home with my flashlight knowing that I’d advance to sixty-five thousand, and that there will be no end to it until my feet snap off at the ankles. Then it’ll just be my jagged bones stabbing into the soft ground. Why is it some people can manage a thing like a Fitbit, while others go off the rails and allow it to rule, and perhaps even ruin, their lives? While marching along the roadside, I often think of a TV show that I watched a few years back—“Obsessed,” it was called. One of the episodes was devoted to a woman who owned two treadmills, and walked like a hamster on a wheel from the moment she got up until she went to bed. Her family would eat dinner, and she’d observe them from her vantage point beside the table, panting as she asked her children about their day. I knew that I was supposed to scoff at this woman, to be, at the very least, entertainingly disgusted, the way I am with the people on “Hoarders,” but instead I saw something of myself in her. Of course, she did her walking on a treadmill, where it served no greater purpose. So it’s not like we’re really that much alike. Is it?"

2. (Reading in Jail) - A bibliophile goes to prison - what would you read?

"The seven volumes of Proust took Genis a year to finish. Much of it was spent in solitary confinement—he had been charged with “unauthorized exchange” after several prisoners “sold [him] their souls” for cups of coffee (“some Christian guards didn’t care for my sense of humor”). He read “In Search of Lost Time” alongside two academic guidebooks, full of notations in French, and a dictionary. He said that no other novel gave him as much appreciation for his time in prison. “Of course, we are memory artists as well…,” he wrote of prisoners in his journal, in the entry on “Time Regained.” “Everyone inside tries to make their time go by as quickly as possible and live entirely in the past,” he said. “But to kill your days is essentially to shorten your own life.” In prison, time was both an enemy and a resource, and Genis said that Proust convinced him that the only way to exist outside of it, however briefly, was to become a writer himself. He finished a novel, a piece of speculative fiction about a society where drugs have never been criminalized, titled “Narcotica.” Later, when he came across a character in a Murakami novel who says that one really has to be in jail to read Proust, Genis said that he laughed louder than he had in ten years."


3. (Crappy Seafood) - The Great Fish Swap - why are we exporting the best and eating crap instead?

"We only eat about 15 pounds of seafood per year per capita. That's half of the global average, so there's that. The other thing is that other countries really are hip to seafood. The Chinese love seafood; the Japanese, the Koreans — they love seafood. They're willing to pay top dollar for it. We just aren't willing to do so. We want our food cheap and easy."


4. (Breastfeeding and Boredom) - Notes from the Milk Cave - a lovely article on breastfeeding and what it means to be bored.

”When I’m not writing, when I’m not multitasking, when I’m not consciously constructing new material, I don’t know myself. But in breastfeeding, I have found that not knowing myself brings its own satisfaction. Or perhaps it’s simply a way to be more present in the world at a time when just being without interpretation or justification or representation seems increasingly rare. The difficulty, I discover in writing, is in seeing boredom not as a gimmick, but rather as a state of being to be explored, productive or not productive."


5. ("Dude" Culture) - Are women tired of being judged by the Esquire metric? Did you read the piece on sexy 42 year old women?

"[N]o matter how gigantically separated an Esquire puff piece and a Tennessee mother’s jailing for meth may seem, reflect back at us: How, in this country, every barometer by which female worth is measured—from the superficial to the life-altering, the appreciative to the punitive—has long been calibrated to “dude,” whether or not those measurements are actually being taken by dudes. Men still run, or at bare minimum have shaped and codified the attitudes of, the churches, the courts, the universities, the police departments, the corporations that so freely determine women’s worth. As BeyoncĂ© observed last year, “Money gives men power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.”


6. And finally, the New Yorker has opened up their entire online archive for free for the next few (weeks? months?), including these 20 classic stories by the New Yorker women.


Places to Go - Cabin Camping & Swimming at Cunningham Falls State Park (Thurmont, MD)

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A few weekends ago, we spent the weekend with friends at Maryland's Cunningham Falls State Park (located approximately 1.25 hours from DC). We visited a few years ago (click here for past posts), but this time felt extra lucky as we reserved two of the campground's rustic cabins. As much as I love camping, sleeping on a bed (even a super hard "rustic" bed) really trumps sleeping on the cold, hard ground.

The cabins are pretty basic - two SMALL single bunkbeds and a a double mattress for adults (or in our case, for adults plus T). The kids had a great time "decorating" the few shelves and quaintly unpacking their few belongings. And then (of course) we ate smores over a campfire while all the children made a super detailed fairy home (honestly, hours were spent on this fairy dwelling, making me hope they really are real) and playing flashlight tag with all the other children in the campground. Without an ipod in site. Pure magic.

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A small man made lake resides within a quick drive of the campground, with plenty of shade to lounge under. The water is pretty shallow but the kids still swam and swam, despite the fact that the lake looked rather, um, murky. Two days later F caught a hell of an ear infection. Coincidence? I think not. Oh well, still a nice way to spend an afternoon.

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We spent Sunday morning hiking to Cunningham Falls. The state park offers a few alternate trails to the waterfall; we chose the one with boulders to climb. So. many. boulders.

All in all a great weekend (despite the lake's icky water), click here for more info.


Things to Do - Turn Your Mailbox Into an Art Gallery - 10% Off Papirmass's Amazing Prints


I'm always looking for new art to hang on our walls, so I was over the moon when I discovered Papirmass - an absolutely gorgeous subscription art service. For just $69 a year ($99 outside of the US) every month you receive a print with art on the front and writing on the back. Basically a gift to yourself. Papirmass finds incredible writers and artists to collaborate with, so each delivery brings something exciting.

And for those of you who hate surprises, Papirmass also sells former subscription prints for only $10 each (though they often sell out). Click here to see the selection. You can also buy folios of all their 2012 and 2013 prints.

As soon as I learned about Papirmass I emailed to see if they'd be interested in working with the blog. Luckily, they said yes. All you have to do is enter the code NOMONSTERS at checkout and you'll receive 10% off. So hurry up and buy some art!!


Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links

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Sorry for the lack of substantive posts lately, I'm currently immersed in Colie James' Telling Stories with Lifestyle Photography Online Workshop, which is by far the best photography course I've ever participated in (I HIGHLY recommend it), but like all wonderful classes, it is A LOT of work.

I have some great posts in the pipeline, so please keep checking in.

HAVE A FANTASTIC WEEKEND EVERYONE!! And don't forget to click on over to Cherish This Day to see this week's awesomeness.

* I want to go here.

* I love it when you call me big pop-pa. I really want this one in my living room.

* I can't stop listening to this song.

* Parenting in China. I'm not sure how I feel about buttless baby pants.

* Clever.

* I want to see this movie.

* A man planted a forest bigger than Central Park, one tree at a time.

* Motherhood in photos. I love these.

* 51 things everyone should experience at least once in DC - okay, so what's missing?


Things to Read - What We've Been Reading Lately . . .

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I haven't posted on children's books in awhile, mainly because the girls pick out their own books now, leaving T and me alone to "review" picture books on the couch. And often P reads books to T, so I really don't know what's going on. Thus, I decided to interview everyone in our family to learn what we're all reading. Here goes:

T (age 5):

Papa's Mechanical Fish
- For about a week, T insisted we read this all the time and then he decided he was sick of it. When I asked him why he loved it so much he said "I liked when the dad finally made a fish that didn't sink", which is good because the book describes A LOT of sinking mechanical fish. The moral being, "if at first you don't succeed . . ."

Mr. Snow - We bought T the Mr. Men box set and this is his favorite "because it's Xmas and I love Xmas." I actually hate reading Xmas books in July and I find this book somewhat random, so I keep trying to hide it but he finds it everywhere.

P (age 7.5):

Harry Potter - "I like that they're all so smart and I like the magic. I like Hermione best because she's smart and she's good at stuff, plus she's a girl."

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Hard Luck - "I like that these are so funny. This book is about a boy named Greg and he has bad luck because his friend stopped playing with him because the friend got a girlfriend. In the end you learn that the girl was only using his friend to make another boy jealous."

F (age 8.5):

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book II: The Hidden Gallery - "These books have a lot of adventure and mystery. They're about a woman who takes care of three children who were raised by wolves, she also tries to solve mysteries. I like the little girl who is good at math and makes the books funny."

The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events #8) - "This has adventure and suspense. I like Klaus because he reads so much, but I also like Violet because she made them survive by using alphabet soup and rubber bands. This was my favorite Lemony Snicket so far."

Dan (age 36):

The Happiness Hypothesis - "It was Father's Day, so I made the kids listen to NPR in the morning, and in the Katy Perry vacuum we happened across a fascinating interview of Jonathan Haidt. He delivered a compelling summary of his recent book (The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion) which rather delightfully appears to confirm everything I already think to be true about the world, adding precise categorization - that's why he's a professor. All of the copies were checked out at the library, so I picked up Haidt's first book - The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. The premise is to evaluate some of the key propositions of the major religions/philosophies in light of recent psychological research. Again, bingo! Confirms everything I think about the world. There is a bit more to the book that makes it worth reading, but a few key takeaways for me: people decide what they believe before they "think" about it and then proceed to make up a bunch of reasons justifying their conclusions; human beings desire to experience a sense of elevation; and some expenditures of effort/time/money can "buy" happiness, while most cannot."

Trying Cases to Win (Herbert J. Stern) - "Based on the author's decades as a trial lawyer/judge, he starts from the premise that no one really evaluates facts before they reach a decision, they just decide what they want to believe and then look for excuses. (Bingo, Prof. Haidt!) Perhaps this won't be the most gripping read for those who are not thinking about the logistics of presenting a case to a jury, but to those of us in that boat the author seems both insightful and hilarious. (Hard to believe an 80-year-old prosecutor who put away the NJ mob is hilarious? Before he wrote the book the guy was a federal judge and his name is Herbert Stern. Considering his writing style I'm convinced he went through the whole thing just to scowl down from the bench and say - "are you aware you are addressing The Honorable Judge Stern," while he giggled on the inside. Anyway, that would crack me up every time if I were him.)"

Me (age 38):

Redeployment - This short story collection focuses on Marines during the Iraq war or, more particularly, the stories focus on the experience of being at war. Klay writes extremely well, using a sparse style similar to Raymond Carver. Even though each story makes me sad, I can't seem to put this book down.

The Little Friend - Lately everyone seems to be gushing over Donna Tartt, so I (of course) NEEDED to read at least one of her books, though The Little Friend is so large that I find it hard to carry with me most places, thus it is taking me awhile to finish. The plot centers on a 9 year old girl's determination to figure out the mystery behind her brother's death. So far the writing is wonderful, but the plot moves SLOWLY.


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