Category Archives: holidays

everybody, put your best suit or dress on


While not technically the new year yet, I couldn’t resist the Death Cab reference. This time of year always brings out the nostalgia in me — as I’m sure it does in just about everyone else, too — and what better time to get sappy and reflective than at the end of this year and on the cusp of the next? I’m pretty sure it’s what the holiday was designed for. (Nevermind the whole changing of the calendar thing.)

Aside from a few mishaps along the way, 2011 was a pretty kickass year, at least in my personal life. My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary in May. My brother got married in June and shortly after found out he and his wife are expecting their first child (baby Claire is due in March, and Aunt Katie can’t wait). My adorable nephew, Dante, turned 1 in November, and after spending some time with him around Christmas I can already tell he’s a brilliant child, if his ability to figure out a toy basketball and hoop after one attempt is any indication. (Scholarship, anyone?)

And of course, the best thing happened in August. After months of planning and planning-related headaches, I married my fantastic, goofy best friend, and four months in, we’re as happy as ever. I don’t want to gush too much (my Facebook friends are more than familiar with my ability to wax poetic about my happiness, sometimes to the detriment of others — apologies for that), but suffice it to say, the day itself was wonderful, and so far, the life we’re building together is pretty great. I’m looking forward to many more years of this fabulous existence with my husband by my side.

I hope to write a more exhaustive end-of-year pop culture recap in the coming days/weeks (I’m currently working on a retrospective music mix, which is taking much longer than anticipated, mostly because I keep coming across new tunes to add to the pile), but for now, let me end this one with a few of the things I enjoyed in 2011:

This commercial • Spontaneous trips to Boston & NYC to visit much-missed friends • Seeing “Starry Night” in person • Bossypants • My first iPod • Dancing to Lady Gaga with my father- and mother-in-law at my brother’s wedding • 50/50 • Randomly discovering new music • Repeatedly singing the chorus of LCD Soundsytem’s “Drunk Girls” with my husband apropos of nothing • Leslie and Ben’s coupling and Ron Swanson’s wisdom & ‘stache on Parks and Recreation • The first half of Mindy Kaling’s book, which I started yesterday and absolutely love already • WEQX • Sam Roberts Band • “Internet Killed the Video Star” • Continuing my obsession with Chris Jones and Esquire, especially this piece • Honeymooning in Maine and everything that went along with it, especially the copious amounts of seafood and Dark & Stormies • Mike and Tom Eat Snacks • The Muppets and its fantastic soundtrack • Buying way too much music on Amazon • Inadvertently becoming a USC fan (sorry, Dad), to the delight of my husband and his college friends • Giant teacups filled with Strongbow • My teal skirt from H&M • Big metal chickens • To-die-for dessert at New World Bistro • The soups/sandwiches/smells at Placid Baker in Troy • The “New Girl” theme song • A signed copy of Simon Pegg’s book with a personalized wedding message (thanks, Jaime!) • Hilarious and heartfelt presents/cards/speeches from our wedding, and our sunglasses favors • Having a husband and becoming a wife •

…and Mondoro champagne, which Nick and I drank on one of our first dates, at our wedding, and many times in between, and what we’ll toast with tonight to ring in the new year.

Cheers to 2011; bring on 2012.

the lights & buzz

The last few weeks have been a furious flurry of shopping, wrapping, planning, packing, traveling, cooking, baking, eating, and, oh yes, drinking.

With another sojourn home looming, a mini family reunion with Papa Nowak’s cousins next weekend, and the end of the Christmas season not slated to end chez moi until sometime in early February, I’m hunkering down for even more exhaustion in the days and weeks to come.

Having said all that, there really is something special about the holiday season, if only for its ability to provide us with endless photo opps. Minor White, one of my favorite photographers, once said: “When gifts are given to me through my camera, I accept them graciously.”

Thanks to the lights from the tree and Nick’s glasses for this one.

Merry Happy, everyone!

the post-birthday world

a selection of cards from my lovely friends.

Yesterday was a big day: Beethoven’s birthday!* Okay, so it was also my 24th. As I contemplate turning another year older, and inching further and further (farther and farther?) into my twenties, I think about all the things I’ve accomplished, and all the things I have yet to achieve.

(*Though I have to say I was disappointed with Peanuts‘ lack of recognition, considering all the build-up.)

At 23 I got a master’s degree, met the love of my life, finally started this long-gestating blog, and interviewed at my dream magazine. I still need to secure a job using said degree, move closer to the BF, update waaaaay more, and try to break my unofficial boycott of The Title That Shall Not Be Named.

Oh yeah, and read more books.

I used to read a book a week, sometimes more, but with school, the soul-suck of the job search, and endless traveling, it’s been hard to fit it in. Birthday to the rescue! I received three new books as presents, and I can’t wait to dive in: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, and About a Boy and Songbook by Nick Hornby.

I’ve wanted to read all three for ages, especially Songbook, and I’m positively giddy that now I can enjoy them at my leisure. And since I seem to have a lot of leisure time lately, that will hopefully be sooner rather than later.

the birthday book haul. (with bonus bananagrams gift in the background!)

I’m also going to try to write more here, and hope to bring you reviews of each title. I haven’t written a straight-up book review since about the sixth grade, when I’d complete countless fill-in-the-blank worksheets asking for characters, plot details, and my overall thoughts and grades of books I read in my spare time. I found a whole bunch of these reports recently, and they generally involved copious exclamation points and grades in the A+++ range. I’d like to think my tastes have become more discerning since then.

Also in the spirit of growing up, I’m attempting to make my baby blog a more real part of the ‘sphere by featuring some guest posts in the coming weeks. The first should be up today, with at least one more to follow. (Ahem, Mark.) If you’re interested in writing one, or have suggestions for something you think I should write, drop me a line at catchthesparks.blog@gmail.com.

I even have a blog email now — how’s that for adult?

PS: Check out the site my flatmate Jaime made for me. This girl is talented (and thoughtful), no?

[insert witty headline mimicking ‘the onion’ here]

At this point, saying The Onion is funny is like saying “Party in the USA” is the worst song ever recorded: most people will vehemently agree. Still, as 2009 comes to a close, signaling not only the end of the year but the end of the decade, it bears repeating: The Onion is awesome.

While most newsmagazines and websites have been busy counting down the biggest and best newsmakers and entertainment from the last ten years, the Onion folks thumb their noses at such confining parameters, instead recognizing The Top 10 Stories of the Last 4.5 Billion Years.

image and caption courtesy of the onion: "Clockwise from left: da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo, and Shakespeare. Theirs are among the best-known names of the Renaissance, which stands to reason, because everyone else basically did dick-all to make it happen."

But it was another story that made me laugh the most (aside from the headline “Rod Stewart Mistaken for Elderly Aunt“) and seem especially relevant to my annual dilemma of finding new and exciting music to add to my holiday playlist: “Holiday Music Aficionado Urges Friends To Check Out ‘Frosty The Snowman’.” Because nothing says “mix CD” quite like some douchey suggestions from that ubiquitous music snob down the street.

Keep checking back to see the rest of the Top 10 — along with hilarious “honorable mentions” and other bonus content — revealed.

Tell me, readers, what’s YOUR favorite Onion story from recent memory? Has this post been too much of a shameless love fest for you to even consider responding? And does anyone have a clever way for me to work the Shrek-Donkey exchange about onions and layers into this post somehow? I tried and failed.

just in case you were wondering…

Peanuts

a tale of two say anythings, pt. 1: you soothe my wounds and drain my bile

say anythingThis Halloween, I went to where the people were on a Saturday night: the Webster Theater in Hartford, Connecticut, where one of my newly-christened favorite bands, Say Anything, performed to a delighted, rabid crowd.

I’ve liked SA since their debut, …Is a Real Boy, featuring the phenominal “Alive with the Glory of Love,” but it wasn’t until I started dating my boyfriend, an SA superfan, that I fell in love with the band. Since then, their songs have been permanently stuck in my head, and as news spread that they were working on a new album, my excitement grew.

Despite my lingering illness, the BF and I journeyed to Connecticut, eager to see SA rock out. And rock they did. Among multiple costumed concert-goers, we bounced and bopped (well, okay, that was mostly left to me) to tunes new and old, while Max Bemis and co. played — and sweated — their hearts out. Suddenly my runny nose and pressure-filled head didn’t matter.

I was pumped to hear sentimental favorite “Shiksa (Girlfriend),” as well as “Baby Girl, I’m a Blur” and “Woe,” among many, many others. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed that they didn’t play “A Walk Through Hell,” but I’ll live.

The highlight of the night, though, came during the encore, when Max played an acoustic version of new track “Crush’d,” an ode to his wife, Sherri DuPree, whose band Eisley was one of the openers.

I am absolutely in love with this song. Aside from liking it because I’m a sucker for anything acoustic, “Crush’d” is just adorable, period. And as evidenced by the numerous “awwww”s Max’s dedication of the song to Sherri elicited from the audience, I’m not alone in this feeling. How can lyrics like these not make you smile?

Quite sure you love me, Sherri / Quite sure I love you, too / We should make a verbal agreement to only kiss each other.

While trying to describe Say Anything’s sound to some friends, I found myself unsure of how to categorize them, and I think that’s because they really do defy categorization. All I know is I love their old stuff, I’m really digging their new stuff, and they rocked my face off — and my cold away — this weekend.

Amen, indeed.

it’s the final countdown

I’ve always loved reading Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz’s classic comic depicting Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts Gang. One of my favorite characters is Schroeder, the precocious, piano-playing Beethoven worshipper, and Lucy’s unrequited love.

Schroeder’s connection to Beethoven always brought me immense joy, and not just because I count myself as one of the great composer’s fans. Beethoven and I share a birthday — December 16 — and just about every year, Peanuts and Schroeder mark the occasion.

You can understand my delight, then, when I read today’s comics and came upon this:

Peanuts

The countdown to my/Beethoven’s birthday has officially begun! But you probably already knew that.

Do you share your birthday with someone famous? Leave their names — and your gift ideas for me — in the comments.