My Ode to the Pumpkin Spice Latte

I love how when something becomes too cool, we have to start hating on it. Because hating on things is its own kind of cool. Like smoking-in-the-bathroom-at-school cool. Remember when we all loved Gwyneth Paltrow? I distinctly remember the phrase “She’s so Gwyneth” being a phrase that people would say. And it was a compliment. How about when Tae Bo was cool? And let’s not forget bangs. (Or wait, are those cool again? I can’t keep up.) Fads are obviously going to happen. We’re going to gradually move from one thing to the next when it comes to hair and music and fashion. (I”m looking at you, wide-legged jeans and chunky platform shoes of the 90s.) Times changes, tastes change. But I can’t help but be amused when we act like our own sense of self worth and cool points on the cool-o-meter are directly correlated with how much we distance ourselves from the things other people like. “Oh, you like that movie/that actress/that drink/that shirt? I’m more of a this obscure movie/this indie actress/this pretentious drink/this hipster shirt kind of person myself.”

So you can see how I might feel a little bad for the #PSL. Yes, it has its own hashtag now. You know you’ve arrived when you get a hashtag. Before you start yelling at me that I shouldn’t feel bad for the Pumpkin Spice Latte or for Starbucks, because hey Starbucks owns us all, let me rephase. I don’t feel bad for the PSL. I guess I feel bad for people who like it. I feel bad for me. Once again, something got too cool, too prevalent. Now, everywhere I turn, I’m reading something about how the Pumpkin Spice Latte is what’s wrong with the world. It’s corporate. It comes out too early in the season (It’s not even cold yet!). It doesn’t event (GASP!) contain pumpkin in it. It’s a dumb thing that white girls in yoga pants like and it makes them all alike, like robots and sheep.

What if I just think it tastes really freaking good? And what if I just want to drink my 16,000-calorie drink in peace? Can that happen?

Look, I get that Starbucks is taking over the world and that’s sort of terrible. I make a point to go to my smaller, local coffee shops. I’m also not a generic white girl in yoga pants. So stop judging me. Ok, I have yoga pants and I wear them sometimes. But I’m more than my Pumpkin Spice Latte. I’ll never be cool enough to like the obscurest, indie-est, most pretentious, hipsterish stuff. Can you let me drink my everything-that’s-wrong-with-the-wrold-and-utterly-delicious-drink in peace?

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My Place in the World

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As a kid, moving from town to town and state to state was my normal, my sense of familiar – like lollipops from a bank teller or the sound of the ice cream truck in summer. We moved dozens of times. From Alabama to Tennessee. From Tennessee to Arizona. From Arizona to Tennessee. To somewhere else in Tennessee. To yet another tiny Tennessee town. To the Netherlands. Back to Tennessee. To South Carolina. And so on. And so on. And so on…

I envied kids who grew up with the same group of friends, going through life together. Riding bikes and skinning knees. Acne and first kisses. Getting older, growing into long limbs. Becoming who they were meant to be and remembering what one another looked like when they were awkward and pimply and wearing braces.

Somewhere along the line, something shifted in me though. And while a large part of me still loves the idea of stability, of an unwavering, unchanging day-to-day, an even larger part of me loves a new setting. A new challenge. New faces and places.

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My absolute favorite thing in the world is going somewhere new for the first time and meeting the people who call that place home. Whether it’s a quaint village nestled on the hilly Italian coastline or a one-stoplight town smack dab in the middle of Wisconsin. There’s just something exhilarating about discovering, about being my own brand of diplomat, bringing stories of where I’ve been and looking to meet people who can tell me their own.

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This wanderlust is why I thought I might never want to put down roots somewhere. I mean, putting down roots just sounds so permanent, right? A plant, a tree, a shrub with roots digging deep into the soil and keeping it grounded, keeping it in place. Being kept in one place is a notion that frightens me. What if I can’t fit this place? What if this place can’t fit me? What if my leaves don’t flower and bloom?

But planting roots is exactly what I did. What we did. What I couldn’t have done had it not been for the other part of that “we.” Because I finally decided that wherever my husband is, well, that’s really my home. That’s really where my roots are. And, if I’m being honest, Wisconsin has grown on me.

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Milwaukee’s become a place I can’t imagine not knowing. A place I love being a young professional. A place I feel like I just might matter. Plus, I really like the beer and cheese here. And the people aren’t so bad either.

Here’s to one month in a house, planting my roots.

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South Carolina in January is a beautiful place to be

Not sure why I didn’t post this back in January…

So thankful for a chance to visit with some of my nearest and dearest. I cherish these visits back to Carolina.

A year full of awesome

Man, another year has done its thing. Started out full of promise and unknowns and went on to deliver lots of good, bad, ugly, wonderful and everything in between. And zipped by so quickly it seems scarcely possible it consisted of 12 complete months.

I have to say, I’m pretty thankful for 2013. I traveled to Florida, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, California, Illinois and Indiana. I got a new job – a job I’ve been dreaming of for years. I learned how to ski. I saw Chicago on Broadway and was left humming “All That Jazz” for weeks. I sipped wine in Napa. I read incredible books that left me breathless and speechless. I continued to fall even more in love with social media, meeting a number of fascinating new people because of it. I completed a 50-mile bike ride. And, I celebrated turning 30 with one of my best friends in the world. I am one lucky, lucky girl.

Hey there, 2014. Let’s do this thing.

The time Matt Nathanson let me down

I’m not used to feeling conflicted after a concert.

I’m used to feeling conflicted about when to decorate for Christmas. Do I listen to my inner choir of carolers singing, “Deck the Halls As Soon As Humanly Possible?” Or do I hold fast to reason and wait until after Thanksgiving? I’m used to feeling conflicted about cookies. Do I give in to my innermost desire and eat every cookie in a half-mile radius? Or do I continue to remind myself that a person can’t exist on a diet of cookies alone?

I’m not used to feeling conflicted after a concert. When I go to a concert, I’m deciding to spend hard-earned money, and a chunk of time carved out of my day, with one of my favorite musicians. I’m seeing them in concert because I know in my heart it will be worth it. And, really, it almost always is. Yet, after seeing Matt Nathanson perform in Chicago, I’m conflicted. I’m happy and sad and frustrated all at the same time.

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I am a lover of 99.9 percent of the shows I’ve been to. Green Day kicked ass live when I saw them a dozen years ago. Bush, Tim McGraw, Jimmy Eat World rocked it. The Barenaked Ladies were amazing. Incubus, Elton John, and Brandi Carlile were incredible. I went to see Dave Matthews Band instead of attending my senior prom, which was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions of my young life. My favorite shows ever? Butch Walker, Keith Urban, Sugarland, Bon Jovi, Will Hoge and needtobreathe.

The musicians I love typically make me fall in love with them even more when I see them live. And Matt provided some amazing moments that I’m so thankful I experienced. First of all, he sounds incredible live. His voice is strong and clear, his band is talented, and together, they sound really big, crisp and wonderful. Additionally, it was ah-mazing to hear Car Crash and Bulletproof Weeks live. I love those songs, and he delivered beautiful renditions of these. But, Matt broke my music-loving heart, because he committed the 3 cardinal concert sins:

1) He played a short set.
2) He let his ego overtake the stage and overpower the performance.
3) He bashed another musician.

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1) It’s rare I’ve seen anyone play less than an hour and a half. In fact, most every headliner I’ve seen plays close to two hours. At The Rave in Milwaukee recently, Will Hoge played an energetic set that lasted nearly two and a half hours and left my feet sore and my throat sore and my heart filled to bursting. Flash forward to The Riveria in Chicago.

Because of terrible traffic issues caused by a nearby fire, we got to Matt Nathanson’s show after his set had already started. I was a bit surprised he’d already started, because we arrived at 9; but based on his comments, he had already played one or two songs before we got there. He ultimately went on to play for about an hour more, wrapping up one of the shortest sets I’ve ever seen. He then ended what had turned out to be a pretty predictable set with an equally  predictable two-song encore of his two biggest commercial hits: Faster and Come On Get Higher.

2) And then, there was his ego. Matt’s ego ballooned every time he told another witty little anecdote that was intended to be endearing. He talked nearly as much as he played. And, to be fair, I think that’s what a lot of the audience came for. I guess it’s part of his appeal for many. He’s cute, he’s goofy, he writes coffeehouse ballads girls love, and he tells lots of jokes that are intended to make him seem relatable and fun and like someone you’d want to have a beer with. I get that. But that’s not why I go to concerts. I go to hear music until my eardrums are vibrating and my toes are going numb and my face feels like it’s going to break from smiling and shouting and singing.

3) Matt made me the saddest, I think, when he made a jab at another band. Not just any band, mind you, but Bon-Freakin’-Jovi. Having seen Bon Jovi in concert three times, I can tell you, they’re stellar musicians and performers. Matt was prefacing a song with a long-winded intro – which turned out to be a common practice of his – about how he wrote the song as an homage to up-by-your-bootstraps, young, star-crossed lovers a-la Bruce Springsteen, not to be confused with his lesser musical compatriots from New Jersey, Bon Jovi. He posited that Bon Jovi has two good songs and that the band really just isn’t all that great in comparison to The Boss. No matter your personal opinion, I’m not quite sure what the point of this statement was. You don’t talk shit about other musicians. You just don’t. It makes you look small and petty. And really, nobody cares about your opinion.

And I’m sure Matt doesn’t care about my opinion. But while I heard some songs I love and experienced a few moments of musical bliss, I was mostly just let down. It’s safe to say, I won’t be going out of my way to see Matt Nathanson again, since he didn’t go out of his way for me.

New chapters

Chances to start fresh don’t come along very often.

We sign up for cable/satellite/cell phone/cool-stuff-in-a-box-that-gets-delivered-monthly service. And, even though we don’t get the love, comfort and reassurance we were certain we would from Storage Wars/Instagram/Barkbox (how is that a thing?), we’re seemingly stuck in this soul-sucking relationship forever. It’s like a boyfriend we’ve grown comfortable with; we just stick it out, because, you know, it could be worse, right?

Maybe it’s a food thing. Like, we eat spaghetti for dinner every Friday night. Because we’ve done it ever since mom declared Friday night Spaghetti Night (“Spaghetti Night: Coming to theaters near you! A tale of love and longing on a plate!”) when we were kids. We can’t possibly change that up. Our stomachs would surely retaliate. Or, hey, how about the gym. You know, the place that perpetually smells like sweaty socks and makes us feel like crying in our water bottles because we’re not thin enough, muscular enough, rich enough, cool enough? But yeah, we keep going. Because, hey, maybe one day, bro.

And yet, despite the comfort of spaghetti and exorbitantly-priced cable, sometimes – once in a while – we have to change the routine. We have to make the choice to reach for something bigger, better. (And hasn’t all that exercise at the gym prepared us fabulously for said reach?)

Every time I’ve ever tried something new or opened a door to a new possibility, I’ve been rewarded. Inevitably at first I have to deal with feelings of queasiness like I’ve just downed a bad Mickey D’s meal (is there such thing as a good one?). I have to face down enough feelings of self-doubt to give any lovesick, swooning teenage girl a run for her money. I have to convince my routine-loving, change-wary self that sometimes, sometimes change is good. (Pizza on Fridays? Why, that sounds delicious and equally marinara-y.)

I’ve left the job I’ve held for the last two years in PR, and I’m returning to my first love: editorial. And I can’t wait to embrace this shiny new change with all my might. I might have to have something covered in marinara to celebrate.

These are a few of my favorite things. Milwaukee style.

City Hall, you’re a gorgeous broad.

It’s almost the time of year during which I like to belt holiday tunes, like “My Favorite Things.” Which, really, how did that make the transition from “The Sound of Music ” to being a holiday tune? I mean, I don’t mind, but it’s just weird, right? ANYWAY, in the spirit of giving (Yes, I realize it’s not even Halloween yet. BACK OFF.), I give you a list of some of My Favorite [Milwaukee] Things. Go to these places. Do these things. You’ll be happy, I promise.

Milwaukee Public Market: Where else can you get a delicious salad, sip a glass of wine, get Kehr’s chocolate and score some fresh flowers and equally fresh cheese?

Milwaukee Art Museum: Seriously can’t say enough good things about this place. Getting a membership was one of the best decisions we ever made. We check out every special exhibit and love lingering over favorite pieces in the permanent collection as well. I could stare at the Gabriele Münter paintings for hours.

Splash: Wine meets artistic endeavors? I’m in! Sip a glass of wine and paint a pretty picture. If that doesn’t sound fun to you, well, I’m just not quite sure what to think.

Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

Pedal Tavern: Pedal your way from bar to bar in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, Fifth Ward and Walker’s Point. You’ll discover some amazing bars and have a ridiculously good time in the process.

The Cheese Mart/Bar: Hello. This should be an obvious one. It’s cheese. ALL THE CHEESE.

The Spice House: Spices galore. My kitchen is stocked with their Old World Third Street spice, Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle and many other delightfully-named and delicious seasonings.

Oak Leaf Trail: Fantastic biking opportunities. Downtown. The burbs. All over the place.

Lakefront Brewery: Long live Riverwest Stein.

Jing’s Chinese: Best. Chinese. Food. Ever. Seriously my favorite Chinese.

Did you notice these pictures don’t match the things I’m talking about? You caught me red-handed. In my defense, these pictures are all of Milwaukee lovelies though.

Blu, at the top of the Pfister: Went here to celebrate after getting engaged. It has dazzling views of Milwaukee, and the raspberry mojitos, well, they’re just a bonus.

The Riverwalk: Best way to see Milwaukee up close and personal.

Smoke Shack/AJ Bombers: My mouth waters just thinking about both of these places.

Lake Michigan, you’re lovely. Don’t ever forget it.