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Fiat 500L, Kia Soul Make Fun Family Car Short List

It seems like yesterday that my husband and I leased a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta to accommodate our new family, but recently the lease came up and I was ready for a new car. Now that our daughter is entering preschool, our priorities have changed a bit, which made the new-car search more exciting this time around.

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Fangirl

The last few weeks have been very exciting for an old gal like me — there have been three significant events all revolving around music I love, and the thrill of them all have taken me back to days when I tape recorded my favorite bands being interviewed on the radio or poured over music magazines on the floor of Tower Records.

I’ve never been able to play an instrument, but I sure have spent hours obsessing and idolizing those who can. I’ve pondered over the possible meaning of liner notes printed on the inside of a cassette tape, I’ve memorized discographies and argued over release dates. I’ve crushed on guitar players, tried to copy the style of lead singers and choked when I’ve had the opportunity to meet them in person. I’ve seen big bands play small venues, small bands play big festivals and I plan weekends around live video feeds from Coachella (Viva COUCHella!).

Viva, Couchella!
At home for Couchella. on left: Wild Flag, 2012; on right: Jack White, 2015.

So after Couchella 2015 came to a close, Record Store Day came and went, and I stood in line for 2 hours just to buy merch from the Third Man Rolling Record Store, I was about as high as I thought I could get. And then like she was completely reading my mind, I saw an Instagram post by one of my idols, Carrie Brownstein, talking about the beauty of being a fan. Her post was so charming and I just couldn’t stop going back to it. And after about the 14th time I realized where she just summed it all up perfectly — “Fandom keeps me hopeful and engaged, a participant.”

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Repost from Carrie Brownstein (@carrie_rachel), 4/22/15

I wanted to post what is one of the nerdiest, most all-out dork pictures I’ve taken in a long while. This is me in Atlanta, GA last night meeting one of my music idols, Cindy Wilson from The B-52’s. The look on my face is one of pure glee and excitement. In high school, a friend of mine made me a mix tape of the first three B-52’s albums: s/t, Wild Planet and Whammy. I immediately became obsessed…
… I saw the band on their Cosmic Thing tour. That night, at age 15, I pressed to the front of the stage, sang at the top of my lungs, and went home with bruises on my ribs and a heart filled-up and transformed, like it was pumping a whole new kind of blood into my veins. This is what it is to be a fan: curious, open, desiring for connection, to feel like art has chosen you, claimed you as its witness. To this day I still am a fan, of many, many things. Fandom keeps me hopeful and engaged, a participant. And I was a fan last night in front of Cindy, rattling off a whole bunch of incoherent, half-strung together thoughts about her songs, her voice, her band, her brother. And it felt, well, awesome.

collage-RSD15This year thanks to Couchella, I am a newly obsessed fan of Brittany Howard — the Alabama Shakes set was magical (and I’m pretty sure I’ll never get over her voice). Waking up at 5:00am to get down to Fingerprints Music on Record Store Day was something I had to do. (Not only was I trying to get my hands on a re-issue of Elvis’ first recording, thanks to Jack White — I also needed the White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan double-LP, on red and white vinyl especially for Record Store Day.) As I stood there, probably 100th in the line going down the street and curving around the block, I felt connected to other music fans, giddy over the prospects I was looking to score and most of all — alive, just from the thrill of the hunt! (I did get my hands on that White Stripes wax that morning, but no Elvis, unfortunately.)sunSo thanks Carrie Brownstein, for putting into words what I didn’t know how to say. I’m proud to be a fangirl and I hope I’ll always stay that way.

Can the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class Pull Family Duty?

2015 Mercedes Benz GLA-classI’ve been trying to get a Mercedes-Benz into my family’s fleet for some time, but the luxury brand’s offerings usually come in a little higher than our budget allows. I tested the 2014 CLA-Class with the hopes that this sub-$30,000 sedan could work for my family of three, but quickly determined the four-door “coupe” was not intended for families, even small ones. My scheming started again with the 2015 GLA-Class. I wondered if the three of us would fare better in the subcompact crossover, which starts at $32,225 including a destination charge, than in the CLA-Class.

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How I became “a cat person”.

I rescued Ricki the rockin’ kitty in 2001. At that time she was already 5 years old, and the rescue group told me they’d picked her up in an alley behind a seafood restaurant in Long Beach where she’d been living off scraps the workers would leave out for her. It had taken them over a year to find her a home, and she found that home with me. I had just recently moved into an apartment of my own, and for the 1st time it was just me. I really wanted a “mellow, lazy cat” that would just hang out. I had no idea what I was in store for.


The first three months I had Ricki, I barely ever saw her. She’d hide all day, and the only proof I had that she hadn’t vacated the premises was that her food bowl was empty each morning. She was very skiddish and she got spooked by any noise — and she did not want to be held, ever. I had even gone back to the man I’d adopted her from and shared my concerns that maybe I wasn’t the right fit for her. He advised me to be patient (not a virtue of mine), be gentle (also not my biggest strength) and to just try talking to her while I was in the house so she’d get used to hearing my voice and not be startled by it.

His advice worked. I would come home from work and just start talking a little bit, and sometimes I’d put on a little music. I’d open up a bag of cat treats or wet food and place it just within poking reach of the furniture or shelf she’d be hiding under. I started to increase the distance, and she’d slither out, look at me, gulp it down and retreat. But after a month or so, one night she decided to venture out — and she stayed.

It sounds crazy, but I remember the evening vividly. I was in my room, typing away (probably writing some live journal entry, ’cause this was back in the day). I had my back to the bed. I heard this gentle sound behind, so I turned and found Ricki just sitting there. I tried to not move abruptly and not get too excited … I was thrilled to find my invisible companion had come out to hang! Her eyes were humongous and she looked like she could bolt at any second. I wanted to pet her and pick her up, but I just said hello and turned back around, trying to contain myself and ensure she’d stay. She did, and from that point on, she became the most loyal and devoted cat I could’ve ever imagined.

Ricki lived with me for 13 years. She lived with me in 7 different places. She used to curl up above my head every night after I’d fallen asleep and she loved snoozing during the day on my red office chair. She had a purr louder than a lawn mower and she used to talk loud after I’d get home every night. After a long night of drinking, she’d sit and and not judge while I ate out of a bag from Del Taco at 2am. She had the plushest fur of any cat I knew. The pads of her feet were grey, not pink. She was affectionate and loyal, but not a lap cat.

After I had my baby, we were amazed at how tolerant she was. She never showed any resentment towards our daughter and she often hung out right by her side when she was an infant, keeping watch. She stayed calm when her tail was pulled, her fur was grabbed or chubby cheeks were curiously crammed next to her face.

Today, at age 17, we said goodbye to Ricki. Our trusty veterinarian, Dr. Toledo (who has seen us through three cats and performed not one — but two! — knee surgeries for Ricki) warned us that we could make her comfortable, but her failing kidneys and thyroid were just something we could not cure. Her kidney infection was too brutal to beat, and we wanted to let her go in peace.

I am grateful that we could all go and say one last goodbye to Ricki as a family before we let her go. It’s a strange feeling to return to a house with no purring in it. But no matter how sad I may be, I love that I watched her change from a scared, skiddish feline to a sweet, loving kitty. After 13 years, she made a change in me; Ricki was the one who made me a “cat person.”

Soul vs. Soul-less.

Things seem to be awfully serious for me lately. My “return” to the working world after a three-year hiatus has me tethered to my office chair these days. In-between digging out of my inbox, managing deadlines and keeping up with some serious big-leaguers, my biggest boss (AKA My Three Year Old) also has me logging significant OT. As I trudge through the internet searching for the answers to surviving back-to-back tantrums each morning and discipline tactics not involving life-long damage, I yearn for times more carefree.

IMG_6141Enter the 2014 Kia Soul. The “Solar Yellow” toaster-on-wheels (whom I’d affectionately named “Bumblebee”) was delivered for my one-week test drive, and we were headed for Vegas just two days later. Things were anything but serious as soon as I depressed the push button start (because really, once you go push button you can never go back and be bothered to actually turn a key). With the panoramic sunroof rolled back and Random Access Memories soaring from the speakers, the mini-road trip commenced. My grin grew wider and my heart got lighter with each sad, lifeless rental car I passed on the 15 North.

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Cut to the chase — what did you actually think of the car?
I was pleased to discover new-found pep in the Soul’s step and I enjoyed the firmer steering once I activated Sport mode. Frankly, the drive experience all-around was leaps and bounds better than the previous generation (click here for that review on cars.com). The luxuries available inside the car were more mature than its exterior looks would imply. I loved that in spite of the car’s compact dimensions, the glove box was large enough to swallow my huge purse and packing luggage for two in the back was a non-issue. Cooled seats kept us fresh throughout our trek across the desert and a heated steering wheel came to the rescue after my hands were chilled by big gulps filled with crushed ice and Diet Coke. Both my husband and I took turns streaming music seamlessly since both our smartphones were connected via Bluetooth. But most importantly, it stayed fun and competent when handling family duty, post-Vegas — to say it was kid-approved would be an understatement.

So what?
While I can concede that you shouldn’t base your car purchase on the feeling your car gives you (no matter what those slick advertisers may say), I will say that driving the Soul gave something back to me. After feeling completely Soul-less, a week with the Kia Soul seemed to have my chakras aligned again. Dramatic? Yes. But true nonetheless.

Personality matters … to me.
These days, when it’s tough to differentiate between fuel-efficient commuters and monotonous family SUVs (unless you’ve got a dead-on view of the badge on the front grille), I think the fact that the Soul says something out there on the road matters. It’s the same reason I applaud when others groan over the Nissan Juke or the BMW X6; some find them ugly, but I’m just glad that they tried to be different than all the other soul-less appliances out on the road.

Back in the day, when people drove those big boats with flashy colors — and even flashier tail fins — a car reflected a personality. Cars were fun, whimsical, aspirational and they said something about the driver. After a week, I was convinced: I could let the Soul start doing a little talking for me (once I shushed those concerns about its age-appropriateness). One thing I do know, it sure was a bummer at the end of the week when I found myself Soul-less again.

Sharp coats, Swizzle sticks and a Super-cool record collection

1971_navy_apt_4Judging from everything I’ve ever heard about my Grandfather and all the pictures I’ve ever seen, he was one seriously stylin’ and dapper man. He was either sporting a fedora or his hair was perfectly styled and glossy. There was either a cigarette between his fingers or a pack in his front pocket. I’ve seen him pictured wearing sharp coats, flashy bow ties and behind the wheel of classic American automobiles. He had a huge collection of swizzle sticks from very swanky lounges and I know that the set of tiki mugs I inherited were his. Unfortunately, these artifacts and photos are all I have to go on, since I was just 3 years old when he died.

Fast forward thirty-something years, and almost everything I love and cherish has a “retro” or “vintage” slant to it. I swear I was born in the wrong decade. I love making old-school treats like popcorn balls and fudge, and of course — I’m obsessed with a lot of vintage music. And in the most perfect timing there could’ve ever been, my newly-retired father has decided to clean out the garage and give me access to boxes of vintage vinyl, just a month after receiving my record player.

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To say that I am amazed by all of the records I keep finding in these boxes would be an understatement. They are not all my Grandfather’s — there’s a huge collection of gospel that undoubtedly belonged to my Grandmother, a smattering of ’70s easy listening which appears to be my Mom’s, and of course, the extensive Barbra Streisand catalog that absolutely belonged to my Dad. But all the records that keep catching my eye and have me anxious to play all have my Grandfather’s name on them. Yes, even the prized Johnny Cash record found deep in that box has an address label stuck to the center declaring it owned by Mr. E.A. Facey.

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Skeeter Davis, Johnny Cash, Petula Clark … 45s, 78s and LP’s … so much stuff  I love and so much stuff that would’ve been amazing to talk with him about. Right now, its all of his records that seem to be what I’m interested in collecting. It’s hard to explain the feeling, but I do know I’m finding out so much more about my Grandpa through these boxes of records. To think that decades later, I am appreciating the very same music he appreciated enough to curate such an impressive collection of is not only super cool — its pretty moving.

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I’m enjoying getting to know my Grandpa better through these records, and I smile when I think he might get a kick out of all this old stuff I keep finding — especially the honky-tonk! I’m pretty sure if he were alive today, I’d be hanging out with him. But even though he’s not here, I still think he’s one of the coolest guys ever.

I wonder what he’d think of me?

Bad Californian

I’m just not a beach person. I’ve always hated the way that the sand finds its way into everything. The wind is never nice to my hair and my lipstick gets crusty after only five minutes. My skin is sooo pale and I’m too fidgety to just “lay out”. It’s crowded, it’s hard to park and don’t even get me started on those bathrooms …

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But late in the afternoon today, the beach sounded right. My daughter was restless, I was on edge, and my husband has been dying to be outdoors after being cooped up in office for almost 14 days straight. Today, parking was actually easy and my lipstick was long gone, so I figured — what the heck? We headed toward the sand, each of us eager to get our feet wet.

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These two twirled and waded and jumped and laughed, and pretty soon, I just sat down to watch. I started thinking to myself, Why do I never come to the beach? The mood instantly changed the moment we felt the ocean tickle our toes.

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I stopped caring about my hair, and I just started thinking about all I had to be grateful for. Yes — right then and there, I turned into a living, breathing Hallmark card. I was sentimental, I was emotional, and I definitely was feeling cheesy. My heart started feeling just as warm as that sand under my butt did, and I was temped to lie down, put the iPhone away and maybe even camp out there for the rest of the evening.

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I suppose there’s a reason that artists can’t stop painting the shoreline and collectors traipse for miles across the sand in search of that perfect shell. I know that countless surfers find their escape in the tumbling waves and love songs and the ocean go hand in hand. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a meaningful relationship with the beach or the ocean, but I will say that today, I caught a glimpse of what it could be like to enjoy it. I’m inspired to stop being a bad Californian. I want to buy a sunhat and I don’t care how white my legs are — I think I just might get to know the beach a little better this summer after all.

A new obsession begins

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I am the most excited girl ever. Look what I got today! The mister totally surprised me with an awesome turntable and a set of 3 re-issued Sun Records 45s by Third Man Records. I was completely stunned and speechless after receiving this gift for our self-proclaimed “Parents Day”. I had NO IDEA this was coming (he told me no gifts!) and I am so incredibly excited to finally start a vinyl collection! It’s going to be pretty cool that the kiddo will grow up knowing what a record is, too.

Me, at v6.0

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Here I am, working my next blog redux, v6.0. Seriously — it’s hard to believe I started a blog before we even knew what “blog” meant. Those were LiveJournal days, and I not only had one LiveJournal, I had three. I realize how excessive that sounds now, but looking back, it makes perfect sense. I mean, I obviously needed three journals to make a distinction between those three periods of time between my 20s to 30s, right?  Ugh. I considered linking them all here, but they’re way too embarrassing.

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By v4.0, I had broken up with LiveJournal and headed off to the big leagues of Blogger. I’ve gotta say, me at v4.0 was a good one. There I was, confidently owning my 30th year, with an engagement ring on my finger and living with the love of my life. My job was challenging, but I still didn’t have a ton of responsibility, so I could just sit at my desk and blog all day long. Read my entire group of friends’ blogs all day long. Think up great google image search perimeters to yield awesome photo posts all day long. Those were good days. Wow, I  just remembered there were no memes back then. Remember that?!? Nice, clean, meme-free images. Those really were simpler times.

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v5.0 is all about married life. We walked down the aisle and before you knew it, two blogger accounts became one. Then baby came, and v5.0 became all about baby — I mean, family — life. I actually love v5.0 and always will. What’s alive in v5.0 hasn’t died; it’s still thriving.

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But v6.0 is definitely here. v6.0 is all-new for 2013. It’s about a voice I’ve always had that doesn’t get heard as much as it used to, because I’ve been reading “Goodnight Moon” and cutting grapes in half all day. And I really don’t mean for that to be as negative as it probably sounds. I just like to talk, I just like to write. So I’m going to blog. I’m gonna blog as myself, under no quirky or clever handles, not on a shared blog, just me.  v6.0 is going old school — just saying what I wanna say, just ’cause I wanted to say it.