Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Best Songs of 2014

Today I am linking up with Helene in Between to write about the best songs of the year. I don't participate in link-ups very often, but I love music and I love giving my opinion so this seemed like a no brainer.

Now, I am not a music buff. I love music, but my music taste is a bit sporadic. For years, I gave up on the radio and couldn't tell the difference between Capital Cities and Bruno Mars. Yes, these are two artists that I actually got confused once. This year, though, I started listening to the radio a bit more and found that I did enjoy some contemporary Top 40.

So here are my top 10 songs of the year... all of which are radio songs. There were a lot of non-single tracks that I've liked and songs by artists who never crack the Top 40, but I'm choosing songs that most people have heard just to make it more accessible. 

Here we go:

I know, I know... it's overplayed. But I really like it! I think the thing I really like about this song is how much you can actually feel her pain when you listen to.

It's a catchy enough song to be a radio hit, but it's also got depth to it. If you don't know the song, it's basically about a woman who has lost the love of her life and is now trying to cover up her pain by partying. Obviously, it isn't working very well and the lifestyle she's picked it just causing her to spiral even more.

I love Neon Trees. They very consistently release catchy pop songs that -- while not really contributing anything new to the genre -- have a good hook and a fun beat.
It made me sad that this song didn't do as well as "Everybody Talks" or "Animal."

This wouldn't be my list if Fall Out Boy didn't appear somewhere. Although I do really like their older stuff (especially the album Infinity on High), Fall Out Boy came back better than ever in 2013 when Save Rock and Roll came out.

"Centuries" is the first song to be released from their upcoming 2015 album American Beauty/American Psycho. The title alone gets me pumped.

Yes, I'm a 24-year-old who likes Ariana Grande. I can't help it. Her music is too damn catchy. And she can really wail.
This song makes me feel empowered. Anytime it comes on the radio, I blast the volume and sing it at the top of my lungs.

The first time I heard this song, I hated it.
Then I started listening to it ironically. I would make fun of the lyrics and sing it in a stupid voice.

Somewhere down the line, hatred turned into actual enjoyment. They say there's a fine line between love and hate.. this song is my proof that that's a true statement.

I'm ashamed to admit that I find One Direction charming. I tried for so long to deny it, but last year's "Story of my Life" converted me.

This song is a ballad and the lyrics really make me nostalgic. It's basically about how fast time moves as you get older, but how he's always going to be there for the girl he's talking about in the song. It makes me emotional. It's ok -- I laugh at myself.

I wrote a whole post about Taylor Swift's new album 1989 here, so check that out if you want my more detailed opinion of Taylor Swift and her new music.

But the basic idea is this: I love it. This album is her best yet and this song is one of her most clever singles. The video is also really insanely good. I want to own every outfit she wears in this thing.

Jessie J and Ariana Grande both have huge, incredible voices. The two of them showing off their range combined with Nick Minaj rapping during the bridge make this song what it is.

It's not exactly an intelligent song, but it's fun and it's loud and I love it. 

Now I know the album came out in 2013, but this song wasn't technically released as a single until 2014. So I'm still counting it.
Paramore is great. This song is a lot of fun, but it also says something. The world doesn't revolve on you and it's up to you to take responsibility for your own destiny... at least that's how I see it. Don't go crying to your mama -- grow the hell up! You tell 'em, Hayley Williams.

It was tough, but this is the song I chose for number one.

Thinking about it now, the song is actually kind of similar to "Habits," my number ten song.

Basically, it's about a girl who parties all the time but she isn't really happy. It's a little less... graphic... lyrically than "Habits" and I find the metaphor of "swinging from the chandelier" really beautiful.

Idk, man. It's just good. 

So those are my picks. Please feel free to tell me what you think of my choices and let me know your top songs for the year as well! 

The Best Songs Of 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DIY: How to Create a Cat Shelter for Winter

I don't know how many of you have seen these floating around the internet, but it is very easy and inexpensive to create a little shelter for stray/feral cats. It's a great thing to do for the winter since so many of these homeless cats don't actually have anywhere to take shelter.

My mom posted a link to the directions on Facebook and I thought it would be a cool thing to do. Here's a link to the website where the directions and materials list can be found. 

We do have a cat who lives outside our house and, if you remember this post, he and I are buddies. We've taken to calling him King Tut and my roommate and I sometimes give him treats and cuddles. Since we can't give him a home, I figure it was the least I could do to try and offer him some kind of shelter.

So I made one of these "Roughneck Homes" and I filmed it. As you can see, it was a pretty easy project. Here is a video chronicling the creation of the shelter:

And here's a picture of the end result:

So far, I haven't noticed if King Tut has used it. I've tried to show it to him a couple of times but I'm not sure he understands that it's something he can actually get inside. Hopefully he'll figure it out for himself soon.
Also -- on an unrelated note -- I want to thank everyone who was so encouraging on my last post. It's really gratifying that there are people who enjoy what I write. Your words have definitely given me hope that I could still do something with it yet. That's sappy and lame, I know. But I wanted you to know that I appreciate it!

Friday, December 12, 2014

On Writing: Professionally vs. Personally vs. Period

Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to be a writer. I didn't know exactly what it meant for a long time, but I was a very imaginative child. I didn't necessarily have imaginary friends, but I did "play pretend" by myself often. I would pretend that I was on a TV show like Full House or 7th Heaven where I had a house full of family members and had the resolve any issues going on in their lives. Because I was the only kid in the house growing up (I have half siblings, but they are all older and none lived with us), I would sometimes rope my mom into it too. With her, I would have characters from TV shows I watched or members of bands that I liked "come over" and my mom would talk to me as if I were those characters. 

An excerpt from my semi-plagiarized writing debut
When I got a bit older, I started writing stories. The earliest one I remember was a series that I wrote about a bird (her name was Graily Grayjay -- she was a gray jay, go figure) who lived in Montana. I'd just read the book "Out of the Dust" by Karen Hesse and I borrowed - liberally - some of the plots from that book into my own story. I didn't realize it was kind of plagiarism at the time. 

I continued to write into my teen years. When I was between 12 and 16, a lot of what I wrote was fan fiction. I had started writing original fiction with my only story lines and my own characters, but none of it ever amounted to much until I was about 16. Since I was 16, I've written four pieces of fiction that are over 55,000 words. Two of these pieces are finished; two are unfinished and will likely never be resumed. One of my longer pieces is a finished novel and, although I know it's not perfect, it's probably my favorite thing I've ever written. I finished it in early 2013 but I haven't done anything with it since. 

During college, I also realized that I wouldn't mind writing for a living. I minored in print journalism and had some articles published in both our student newspaper and our yearbook. It was during my last year of college that I started this blog. 

Writing is an interesting thing. I don't think I'll ever stop doing it, but I don't know that I'll ever do it and get paid for doing it -- as much as I'd love that. The problem is timing. In college, I was so burnt out with all my classes and my part time job that I didn't worry about going above and beyond to ensure that I had something good going for me when college ended. When that time came, I was exhausted and living at home and wanted a break. So I took a break. For the better part of a year, I worked about 35 hours a week at Pizza Hut with very few bills and a lot of time to sleep. 

When I was ready to start looking for a job, nothing was there. I ended up having to take a dead end job in customer service for an insurance company in order to make enough money to move out of my parents' house and take responsibility for my own insurance, my student loans, etc. I'm proud to say that I'm not dependent on my parents for any bills now and I make enough money to live a comfortable life. I can go out and buy something I don't need or take a vacation every once in awhile without breaking the budget. But it feels like something is missing, and I think it's the fact that I'm not writing very much anymore. The exception is, of course, this blog.

I work between 50 and 55 hours a week at two different jobs. I know this isn't as much as some people work, but I am very often exhausted -- mentally, socially, and sometimes physically. I try to blog as much as I can during my free time, but sometimes I'm just too tired. And even when I do blog, it doesn't feel like enough. It's great and I enjoy it. I love sharing my life with others and interacting with the people who read this blog. I love reading posts by fellow bloggers. The whole blogging community is a wonderful place and I'm so happy to be a part of it. 

But sometimes I wish I'd taken a chance and tried to write professionally. It could be a "grass is always greener" situation, but I wonder what would have happened if I'd really pursued journalism instead of just minoring in it and doing the bare minimum in some of my classes. I wonder what would have happened if I'd taken a chance and tried to find some way of publishing my fiction -- or at least taking the chance to see if it was good enough. 

These are, of course, unanswered questions as of right now. Maybe one day I'll get the chance to write professionally, but until then I'll have to try and find the time to write personally. Even though I know that, with my schedule, sometimes I won't write anything -- period. And those are the periods of time I dread the most.

This is my "author bio" from Dust in Montana... I was an imaginative little 9-year-old

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Black Friday DVD Haul... a little late

Today's post is a video. I'm not exactly a professional YouTuber or anything, but I am going to try to do a video every once in awhile just for something new.

Here's my first attempt. On this video, I go through the DVDs I bought for cheap during the Black Friday sales and I quickly review/summarize each one. Also, since I am trying to be more YouTube legit, I'd appreciate anyone who likes the video or subscribes to my channel. It would mean a lot!

Also, I know it's not super smooth but it was my first time trying to edit with Adobe Premiere Pro and my computer didn't want to cooperate. Regardless, enjoy!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Elementary: My First Love, aka The First Time I Was a Creeper

This post is the second in a series about my elementary school experiences. Please click here for the full series.

My First Love

My mother was probably concerned about me becoming potentially boy crazy from a very early age.

The first time I ever had a crush on a boy was in Kindergarten. And I'm pretty sure the crush developed sometime within the first few weeks of school.

His name was Chris. He was a small, quiet boy with longish dark hair that could probably be considered a mullet. Today, I'm not sure what it was about Chris that made him so irresistible to my five-year-old self, but I was smitten.

My friends and I joke that I'm a "stalker." This comes from my sometimes slightly creepy habit of becoming completely enamored with things and doing whatever I can to learn everything about them. To put it into one word, I'm basically a fangirl when it comes to things I like. It's harmless and just means that I will learn a lot of random details about certain celebrities, bands, movies, etc.

Apparently this "stalking" started early for me. I didn't really think about it until recently when I was visiting these distant, elementary school memories, but Chris would have had every right to be weirded out by me.

I would do whatever I could to be near him. In our class photo, I tried to sit as close to him as possible. Exhibit A:

For Christmas, my teacher had each student bring in an ornament for an ornament exchange. I was determined to get Chris's ornament to take home. Since this was 19 years ago, I don't remember the exact details but I'm pretty sure that once all the ornaments were sitting out and, when my teacher gave us the go-ahead, we could go up and get whichever one we wanted.

Chris had brought in this cute little gingerbread house ornament. Needless to say, I concentrated all my kindergartner stalking energy and scored it. Here's the ornament. Yes, I still have it. Or, more accurately, my mom still has it and she found it for this picture:

Lastly, my obsession with Chris even carried over into my home life. I don't remember doing this (again, 19 years ago), but there's a picture of me that one of my parents took. I'm in my pajamas and I'm drawing on a piece of paper. On the paper, I've written "Chris is loving" and "Chris is nice." Here's the picture in all its glory... complete with my trademark Kool-Aid mustache:

At least I can take comfort in the fact that I've had issues from the very beginning.

I don't think Chris discovered the affection I had for him, even though I'm sure I thought we'd get married at that point. I moved to a different town in May of my kindergarten year and I never saw Chris again.

One time, when I was fifth grade, I did find out that were probably in the same place at the same time. It was around Valentine's Day and our elementary school football team was playing the football team from my old school. I was a cheerleader at the time. My mom saw the roster for the football team from my old school and noticed that Chris's name was on there. He had come to my town to play football against my school.

When my parents and I went out for dinner on Valentine's Day that year, I got caught up in my own fantasies. I wondered if it was just a coincidence that Chris and I happened to be in the same place on Valentine's Day. I had hopes that we'd find each other, catch up, and that we'd realize we were meant to be together...

None of this ended up happening and I don't even really know if he played in the game that day. I'm sure not every kid traveled for fifth grade football. But needless to say, my first crush haunted me even into fifth grade.

I'll never forget Chris, but I'm sure he doesn't remember me at all. And if I ever get blog famous and he somehow finds this post: I'm sorry for being so creepy.

Do you have any good first crush/love stories?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cats and Christmas and Bad Jokes, Oh My!: Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever

Last night, I waited on my couch with bated breath for the world premiere of Lifetime's new movie: Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever. Yes, this is a thing that exists. For a quick idea of what the movie was like, watch this short clip:

It was pretty much like that.

I've been reading other people's reactions on the internet and it really astounds me how many people are complaining about the script and saying it was a terrible movie. That's not because I think it was a great piece of cinematic history, it's because it was not intended to be. This movie knows it's a bad movie. It makes fun of itself. Whoever was the brains behind this film made sure to keep tongues firmly planted in cheeks.

The best thing about the movie is Grumpy Cat herself. Now, Grumpy Cat is actually her stage name. Her real name is Tardar Sauce and I think she needs no introduction. She's that cute little cat with the bright blue eyes and a winning smi -- er, frown -- that took the internet by storm. Now, she's moved on to the small screen.

The plot is ridiculous. Basically, Grumpy is a cat who no one wants to buy from the pet store in the mall because she's grumpy. The pet store isn't doing well and they're planning to make this one really cool looking dog into a star in order to generate more business (I think they're trying to sell him for $1 million or something -- I missed that part).

Of course, we have some bumbling villains who end up kidnapping the dog so they can sell him for riches... or something. Anyway, in the middle of all that we have our heroine (well, our human heroine), a 12-year-old girl named Chrystal. Chrystal's mom works at the mall where the pet store is, so she spends a lot of time there.

Chrystal makes a Christmas wish to find a best friend and she ends up befriending Grumpy. You see, Grumpy and the other animals can talk but Chrystal can only communicate with Grumpy. Chrystal and Grumpy end up on this nighttime, after hours mall chase with the bad guys and things happen.

Grumpy and her rag tag team of fellow pet store misfits (including a snake who had the line "I like long slithers on the beach.") end up helping Chrystal save the day from aforementioned bumbling villains who kidnapped the dog.

Meanwhile, Chrystal's mother and her love interest are attending an ugly Christmas sweater party.

The movie makes fun of itself a lot -- including the ridiculousness of Grumpy Cat's popularity, a few merchandise plugs, and of course Aubrey Plaza's thoroughly bored voice as Grumpy Cat.

Here's a gif of an actual scene:
So if you're looking for a Christmas adventure starring a famous cat that includes lines such as "Life is like a soft taco" and "He's petting me way too diabolically!" -- this is the movie for you.

If you're really upset that this movie wasn't anything more than mindless entertainment, then I have something for you:

Because really, were you expecting Schindler's List?

Friday, November 28, 2014

How to Have Fun in Tennessee

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. I spent mine working. Since I don't have family in town (or even in state) anymore, I didn't have any reason to turn down an opportunity to make more money than I usually do on a slow day.

Plus, I got to go see my mom in her new Tennessee home last week.

When I was a preteen and surly teenager, I didn't really enjoy the trips my parents would drag me on to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. If you're not familiar with the area, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are tourist destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

There were things I liked about it -- some of the shops where you could try free samples were good and they have this music store that looks like it came right out of the 1980s -- but overall, it bored me and I would spend most of my time wishing I was on the internet. Much of the appeal of this area is the scenery (the mountains are beautiful and there are miles and miles of walking trails in the national park) and its rustic, down home charm. As a teenager, I didn't like that kind of thing.

However, my trip proved to be very relaxing and fun.

Mostly, because I got hang out with this crazy woman:

That's my mother in sheep pajamas and slippers that don't match. She gave me permission to post this, although I'm sure she thought I was bluffing.

Anyway, we ate a lot of food. We made buckeyes, which was basically Reese cups. And then she made oatmeal scotchies (oatmeal cookies with butterscotch, aka heaven). And I got to eat home cooked food for the first time in seemingly forever.

We also watched a lot of movies. I brought some movies that I hadn't seen in awhile that I thought she'd enjoy: State of Grace, The Professional, and Ordinary People. We also watched a movie of hers, Coal Miner's Daughter, which is the story of Loretta Lynn. I surprised myself and actually enjoyed it.

And, of course, we went to see Mockingjay on opening day. It's become kind of a mother-daughter thing that we do. After I read The Hunger Games books back in 2012, my mom read them. We both really enjoyed them and have gone to see each movie together. Hopefully I'll be able to go out there when the second installment comes out next year.

Other than stuffing our faces and sitting in front of screens, we did get out and do stuff. Pigeon Forge has this really cool outlet mall called Tanger. Apparently it's a thing, but I'd never been to one. They had so. many. stores. I ended up buying some sweatpants at the Gap, a Bare Minerals starter kit, and a really discounted shirt at Loft. 

There's also this district called Old Mill:

It has this gorgeous, working mill (see above) right beside a park. There's also a restaurant (we didn't eat there) and a bunch of cool shops... including the best. shop. ever...

The Smoky Mountain Cat House is my new favorite place ever. It's a shop for cat lovers... including cat apparel (I got a pair of cat pajama pants.. no shame), accessories, mugs (I got a mug as well), clocks, etc etc. 

They also have some cute employees:

They have three in house cats that just hang out there. It was really the best place I've ever been. I would live there if I could.

On my last day there, my mom, stepdad, and I went to Dollywood. If you're unfamiliar with Dollywood, it's basically a theme park owned by Dolly Parton that includes Dolly Parton things. Including a Dolly Parton museum. Exhibit A:

The great thing is that the bust on the Dolly mannequins were huge.

Anyway, we didn't expect Dollywood to be too crowded since is was November, but it was packed! It was really pretty this time of year, though we didn't do many rides because of the cold. They did have a lot of Christmas lights and even a silly parade at night:

 So anyway, that was essentially my trip. I know people don't tend to enjoy vacation overview posts, but I like writing them so everyone can deal with it! Yeah!

Anyway, has anyone else been to this area? What's your favorite relaxing getaway?



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