Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Month in Music: March 2015

It's cliche, but I'm not completely sure when it became the middle of April. I've been letting writing fall by the wayside a bit, and I don't like it. I find myself thinking of tons of ideas for blog posts (some involve dressing up the Chihuahua or baking, of course) and just not having the time or energy to write them. However, some of that is for April. Let's talk about last month.

March did it's typical lion-lamb thing, but it definitely leaned over the lion side of the line a little more. Between that and finding myself stuck on a bus and train for over two hours each day, I found that my music in March was more of an escape than usual. Instead of using music as my background noise last month, I needed it to surround me and transport my mind.

A lot of these songs did just that. This is a huge departure from the fun and upbeat tunes of February. And honestly, April will be a departure from this. That's why I make monthly playlists, after all.

In My Train Space
Take Me to Church - Hozier
Young & Beautiful - Lana Del Ray
Technicolour Beat - Oh Wonder
Shine - Benjamin Francis Leftwich
Globes & Maps - Something Corporate
I'm a pagan of the good times. My lover's the sunlight. - Hozier

Having a job is good, since I wasn't really enjoying the lack of income that unemployed lifestyle tends to bring. But the commute is nothing short of awful. Walk-bus-train-190 foot escalator and then the whole thing in reverse 8 hours later. These tunes took my head somewhere else. I'd turn them up loud, and the crowds would just fade away into blurs.

Work Day Jams
Dream a Little Crazy - Architecture in Helsinki
Celeste - Ezra Vine
Cecilia and the Satellite - Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Lightning Bolt - Jake Bugg
Heaven Sent - Best Coast

For all the things my hands have held, the best by far is you - Andrew McMahon
At work, I don't listen to music all day, but sometimes when I'm doing tedious tasks, I need it. While those fantasy-inducing slow tunes are good for disappearing on the train, at work I need to stay awake, but still get that transported effect. These songs are a bit more on the upbeat side, but still bring me into my own little world.

New Favorites
Roll Up Your Sleeves - Meg Mac
Lover of the Light - Mumford & Sons
Jesus Christ - Brand New
Do you believe you're missing out? That everything good is happening somewhere else? - Brand New

Sometimes, a song just gets me. These are the ones you just need to listen to. You are truly missing out if you don't. Trust me.

As always, there are many more on the playlist. Enjoy!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Fantasy Gymnastics Recap: Regular Season

It was an extremely close race in my conference, but at the end of the regular season, I just barely edged out Flipflopologist, 197.694 to 197.693. One one-thousandth of a point! Luckily, my worthy competitor is also moving on to the post-season in one of the ten wild card sports across the league! It's still on.

This past weekend was a break while the NCAA gets ready for regionals. The seeding is all set, and it's time for me to build my post-season line-ups. After all, I have to be in the top fifteen players this week in order to move on to Nationals. So let's take a look at my regular season ups and downs:

Road to Regionals

Last year, I did most of my line-ups based on season averages, but it was when I introduced Hit Percentage and Hit Average into my calculations that I noticed a lower discrepancy between my score and highest potential score on each event.

This year, I took that one step further and calculated what I called "Expected Score." This number took into account season average, hit average, last year's average, standard deviation, hit percentage, to calculate the number I could expect each girl to score on each event.

When I took only the math into account, I did extremely well, usually within only a few tenths, and in week 6, I performed perfectly. However, sometimes I let my heart help with my line-ups: this is where I faltered. I kept putting Austin Sheppard into my Bar line-up before she was ready, and this cost me. In week 8, I scored only a 197.3 out of a possible 197.825, my biggest difference of the second half of the season. I definitely learned to trust the statistics.

Seasonal Superstars

My season MVP has to be none other than the amazing Georgia Dabritz (Utah). Georgia competed All-Around for my team for most of the season, with a break on Beam for only a couple weeks. However, she came back to that event on fire, and was the anchor of my entire team. Georgia's calculated expected scores on her three best events were 9.915 on Floor, 9.925 on Vault, and a crazy 9.948 on Bars!

Another All-Arounder that made line-ups easy to orchestrate each week was Lauren Beers (Alabama). Although her misses were harsh, her hits were incredible contributions to my scores each week. Her expected scores were higher than a 9.85 on all events, but Floor was clearly where she shined with an expected 9.907.

My event specialists included Ciera Perkins on Vault, with an expected 9.894; Chelsea Davis on Bars with 9.881; Sunny Kato on Beam with a 9.876; and Carley Sims on Floor with 9.884.

Trades of Change

Trades were a huge twist this season, and they brought a lot of dynamic to not only my team, but the entire league. Suddenly, injured gymnasts or those not performing up to expectations could be dropped and replaced with a potential 9.9. This was huge for me. Over the course of the season I made the following trades:

  • Dropped torn achilles Serena Leong (Cal) for Vault star and all-arounder Camille Drouin-Allaire (GWU)
  • Dropped injured Kristen Klarenbach (Arizona) for Floor specialist Chantelle Loehner (EMU)
  • Dropped injured Taylor Noonan (CMU) for Bars anchor Jaime Armijo (Southern Utah)
  • Dropped low scoring Jordan Hardison (Kent St) for Beam star Laura Mitchell (BGSU)
  • Dropped low scoring Taylor Bolender (CMU) to grab healed Taylor Noonan back for Beam
All of these girls made huge contributions to my line-ups on their specialized events, and definitely helped me edge out the competition. While I was sad to see Serena Leong and Kristen Klarenbach go, as they are two gymnasts I love watching, their injuries meant they wouldn't be competing at all. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Pet Photography: Nikolai in Natural Light

When I was in Florida, I got the chance to photograph someone else's dog, my sister E's Nikolai! So if you were getting tired of my Tessa, this post is for you. If you were getting tired of Chihuahua's, well, I can't help you. You'll just have to wait until I get to photograph M & W's pug.

Nikolai was rescued by E and her boyfriend, after he wandered into her mom's yard. The pup had been abused by his previous owner, and left outside all hours of the day. He's technically a long-haired Chihuahua, but most of the hair on his back is gone. Hopefully with E's love and care some of that will grow back.

I loved shooting Nikolai because of his wild and expressive eyes, crazy mane, and loving personality. Enjoy these pictures of this cutie pie!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fantasy Gymnastics Recap Week 8: What Goes Up

Thanks LemonJenny for the picture of Utah Gymnastics!

Wow. What a rough week for me, and it's going to be tough to recover from it this late in the season. With a low score on Bars, my team only managed to rustle up a 197.3. This doesn't sound too terrible, but it was enough of a drop that it let me fall into second place in my division and 18th overall. Let's talk a little bit about what went wrong.

Too Much Depth

I've had a little bit of trouble with Jennifer Lauer (Nebraska) this entire season. The line-ups for the Huskers just keep changing, and that means that it's becoming extremely difficult to predict whether the senior is going to compete on Bars each week. However, when she does compete, she gets a pretty good score -- one that I don't want to miss.

Another NCAA team with a ton of depth is Alabama. Lauren Beers tends to compete All Around, which had been pretty dependable since week 3 when she was put into the Floor line-up. However, this week, Carley Sims was taken out of the Beam line-up after making it last week and placed into Bars for only the second time this season.

It All Falls Down

Bars and Beam were a mess of splats this week for me. While the lowest score I counted (a 9.525 on Bars) was not a fall, it's definitely not what I would consider a hit routine. In addition to a 0 from Jennifer Lauer, my Bars crew dropped a 9.25 from Austin Sheppard (Michigan) and a 9.175 from Beers. On Beam, I dropped a 0 from Sims, 9.625 from specialist Lauren Mitchell (BGSU), a 9.7 from either Jennie Laeng (Nebraska) or Halle Moraw (CMU), having to count the other 9.7.

It was my fault for not trusting the numbers, however. Sheppard, for example, didn't show up in the line-up according to my calculation of expected score. However, I decided to put her in over Sunny Kato (Illinois), who earned a 9.85 this week. Next week, I'm going to try listening to the statistics. My highest possible score this week was a 197.85, .55 higher than I scored, making this my worst line-up since week 2.

Some Bright Spots

Georgia Dabritz continues to shine on Bars with a 9.95 and Floor with a 9.9. Although her 9.875 on Vault was the lowest score I counted on that event. Ciera Perkins (Boise State) is my specialist of the week, earning a 9.95 on Vault and a 9.9 on Bars. Lindsay Offutt (Pittsburgh) pulled in two 9.9's on Beam and Floor. Unfortunately, she wasn't in my Beam line-up.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins with Strawberry Butter

This morning, I made a choice between hiking through half a mile of snow or paying almost $2 to ride a bus. This afternoon, I had to make the same decision again. In fact, because my town doesn't salt or plow some of the sidewalks I use, I'll have to make this choice each and every day until the snow melts.

However, in some places, the weather in early March is a little bit more desirable, and luckily there are some ways to enjoy the perks of those warmer climates even if you find yourself under Punxatawny Phil's curse for a few more weeks.

The trick? Strawberries. Right now, in Florida, it's strawberry season. That means east coasters can get the juicy, red fruits shipped from down south instead of out west. For those of us in the mid-Atlantic, this means fresher, sweeter, and cheaper berries than we could get earlier in the winter. 

Next time you're in your grocery store, look for strawberry labels from Plant City, FL. These berries may be a little smaller than the California variety, but trust me, they are so worth it. Rinse them and eat them for breakfast. Put some in your cereal or a spinach salad. Or, blend them up into a sweet strawberry butter, perfect for these oatmeal chocolate chip muffins.

Plant City strawberries are basically all the best parts of the weird Florida seasons, without having to actually move there and deal with summer.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/4 c Quick oats
1 c Whole wheat flour
1 tsp Salt
1 Egg
1 1/4 c Milk
1/2 c Vegetable oil
3/4 c Brown sugar, packed
2 tsp Baking soda
2 tsp Cornstarch
3/4 c Chocolate chips

1. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking soda, cornstarch and salt, and mix thoroughly.
2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, milk, and egg. Once mixed well, gradually stir in the dry ingredients.
3. Stir until just mixed, and then let sit for about 10 minutes.
4. Fold in the chocolate chips and separate into a greased or lined muffin pan.
5. Bake at 400 F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Remove from pan and cool on a rack. Serve with strawberry butter.

Strawberry Butter

1/2 c Butter, unsalted, softened (one stick)
3/4 c (about 5-6) Strawberries, chopped
2 Tbsp Powdered sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
Splash of heavy cream

1. In a small bowl, place the chopped strawberries and the sugar. Mash the berries and mix using a fork, pastry blender, or potato masher.
2. Add the butter to a large bowl with a splash of cream and the salt. Mix using an electric mixer on medium.
3. Add the strawberry mixture and continue mixing until fully incorporated.
4. Transfer to a small bowl or ramekin and chill in the fridge until ready to use. Or freeze for longer storage

Monday, March 2, 2015

Month in Music: February 2015

Each month, I make a Spotify playlist with songs that I'm feeling for the month. Follow me on Spotify to see these lists as they are made. At the end of the month, I'll post the playlist here, with some explanation for the songs that have been filling my speakers, and how they relate to my life.

Wake up, it's March! This year is one sixth over; this is no time to be slacking. February was a short month, which means it's so much more motivating to set February goals than New Year's resolutions. For me, the second month of the year is when I set my goals. You saw my post about my blog goals, and I had also been trying to get a job like a madwoman. So my music needs to help me out -- by pumping me up and making me sing out loud.

Let's have some fun this month with my February playlist!

Hitting That High
Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons - Stay
Misterwives - Reflections
Borns - Electric Love

Baby you're like lightning in a bottle. I can't let you go now that I've got it. - Borns

Hitting super high notes is kind of a challenge, but these songs are just way to much fun to not sing along to. Singing gets my mind off whatever challenges I'm facing, and this month these songs definitely distracted me from my job hunt and a rough ground delay before flying to Florida.

Girl Power
Kelly Clarkson - Heartbeat Song
Katy Perry - Firework
Florence and the Machine - Shake it Out

I can feel it rising, temperature inside of me. Haven't felt for a long time. - Kelly Clarkson

Motivation! This month was all about buckling down and really setting my mind to getting things done when it came to job searching. And guess what? It paid off! I start a new job next week. What better place for that motivation to come from than some fellow women who are really showing us all how it's done?

Get Up & Dance
Mark Ronson - Uptown Funk
Simon & Garfunkel - Cecilia
Michael Franti & Spearhead - I'm Alive (Life Sound Like)
New Politics - Harlem

Everybody wants me to who they want me to be except you. All I wanna do is be with you. - Michael Franti

Most of the time, I listen to songs that I like to sing along to. This month, with the chilling temperatures and crazy cabin fever, I picked some songs that really made me want to grab my puppy's little paws and dance with her! So put these tunes on and really jam out.

Lighthearted Love
Us the Duo - No Matter Where You Are
Thurston Harris - Little Bitty Pretty One
Betty Who - Somebody Loves You

Somebody misses you when you're away. They want to wake up with you everyday. - Betty Who

The relationship between me and The Boy has been taking a slight hit with my unemployment. We're not sure how my new job is going to affect things, especially with his weird hours. In February, these songs reminded me of The Boy when he was out of the house working or we were traveling separately. However, the happy and upbeat nature of these particular love songs kept my head in a good mood, even when we had to be apart.

Calm & Happy
The Avett Brothers - Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
Corinne Bailey Rae - Put Your Records On
Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox - Shake it Off

If you're loved by someone you're never rejected. Decide whatt to be and go be it. - The Avett Brothers

After long days of job searching, cover letters, resume editing, and interviews, I just wanted to relax and unwind. These slower jams definitely helped me do that, but their positive nature sent me some good vibes. Now, I don't know if it was the music, but I did get offered that job, so it certainly didn't hurt!

Full Playlist

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My Blog Goals


I hate writing down goals. I know, I know, you're supposed to, and make them something measurable and all that. But I've never been able to do that. I don't like tangible goals, because then you can fail so easily. I'm the type of person that once I start failing on a goal, it's a slippery downward spiral.

For example, I don't diet (because I honestly can't be bothered, and I think I live a moderately healthy lifestyle already) because if I did, one cheat day would turn into all the cheat days. And after a week that diet would be a goner.

But despite myself, I've decided to write down my blog goals, and maybe try to actually achieve them. Baby steps. These goals aren't perfect. They don't have numbers and percentage increases. But they do exist now somewhere other than my mind, and that means you can hold me accountable. You can say, "Hey, Kait, have you worked on achieving X goal lately?" and I can shrink down and avoid eye contact. Or (big hopefully here) I can smile and say "Yep, I've totally been doing A, B, and C this past week!"

Without further ado, here they are:

1. Organize my blogging schedule better

Why: Other than to appease my obsessive compulsion, it might make me a little more accountable to post on time. Also, scheduling will make it easier to post time-sensitive material.

  • Project management software
  • Redefine my blog post workflow
  • Stop leaving half finished drafts around!

2. Connect with other bloggers to build a community

Why: A lot of people I know in real life just don't "get" blogging. It's nice to have a group of people to bounce ideas off and lean on when I need support for things like writer's block.

  • #Twitterchats!
  • Be more active in SoFab and 20sb, my blogging networks
  • Promoting real discussions by commenting instead of liking things

3. Promote my blog better

Why: I don't just write for my own health, although that is a big reason. I also want my words out there, and I want acknowledgement that what I do and say could actually be important.

  • Be more active with promotions on social media
  • Learn about SEO techniques and utilize them
  • Discover new social networks and figure out how to use them properly
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