My Summer vs. My kids’ Summer

I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s writers workshop again this week. Her 5th prompt jumped out at me pretty much right away: Your summer vs. Your kids summer. I’m probably not alone in thinking that my summer looks pretty different from my kids’ summer. Not in a bad way, just different.

Their summer so far has looked like this:

copious photo ops at the zoo, camping  trips, swim lessons, backgammon at Grammy’s, boundless energy, ice cream everywhere, Icees and bowling with friends, video games for days and watermelon as big as your face (or dress)

My summer meanwhile has looked more like this…

Reading in the in between moments, watching swim lessons from the comfort of a beach chair in the shade, finding the perfect Moscato, eight million selfies with my fashionista soon to be eight year old, driving literally everywhere and making homemade pickles

Honestly, both summers look pretty awesome. I don’t even think I’m jealous of all the fun my kids are having because my summer has been pretty great all on its own. What about you?

What is your summer looking like this year? 

What I’m Into: June 2017

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I swear June flew by at warp speed. This month had a little bit of everything: visiting relatives, playing cribbage and backgammon, a camping trip, swim lessons, bowling, lots of ice cream, hair cuts, summer reading, doctor’s visits, epic thunderstorms, double rainbows and more. I’m linking up with the lovely Leigh Kramer again to share some of the things I’ve been into when I wasn’t here.

Read & Reading

This month I finished two books:

10134852Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe by Jenny ColganFinished 6/7 – Another great story by Jenny Colgan, who is quickly becoming a favorite author. This is another sweet love story set in the UK – this time the book’s heroine decides to open up a cupcake shop after losing her job and her boyfriend on the same rotten day. The book follows all the ins and outs of starting the business but also delves into the inner lives of nearly every character that our MC comes into contact with. Sometimes I liked this, other times it felt distracting from the story but on the whole I really enjoyed the book and fully plan to read more Jenny Colgan soon!

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The Underground Railroad by Colson WhiteheadFinished 6/21 – This book took me awhile to get into initially but I did end up enjoying it for the most part. It’s not an easy book to read – between the rather heaviness of the subject matter and the frequent narrator changes – but it definitely held my attention once the story got going. It was hard to keep reading sometimes as the main character just could not catch a break and often the outcome looked so grim that I could barely keep going but I’m glad I stuck with it. BC

I’m nearly finished reading A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro and about halfway through reading A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L’Engle.

TV & Movies

Wonder Woman was our Big Screen Flick of the month. The whole family enjoyed this one. Between the hotness of Chris Pine, the epic girl power of Gal Gadot and the perfect blend of humor, action and heart. My favorite line of the whole movie was: “Beware the world of men, they don’t deserve you.” I kind of want to tattoo this sentiment on the hearts of all the young girls in my life, especially my own little Wonder Woman.

I Love Lucy reruns have been on constant rotation since visiting grammy and papa at the beginning of the month. My son is hooked and Hulu is very accommodating.

Beat Shazam is another show I’ve been watching with the kids. I love Jamie Foxx and the kids are always impressed when I know the songs, too. I’ve played along on the Shazam app a little and man the contestants are fast! I can never guess a song in fewer than 3 seconds which is considered slow on this show.

Jeopardy is also a common occurrence in our house. I’ve been DVRing all the episodes so that I can binge a few on slow afternoons while we wait for Dan to get home. Another opportunity to wow the kids with my random bits of knowledge.

The Handmaid’s Tale has been harder to keep up with now that the kids are home for summer. I’m an episode behind so no spoilers but I think in general OMG seems to apply to every episode. If you haven’t watched this one yet, get thee to Hulu immediately.

Rick and Morty has been the tv show before bed pick for Dan and I lately but we just finished the last episode of last season so now we are stuck waiting until the end of July for more episodes.

We really need a few new 30 minute comedies to add to our rotation. We’ve enjoyed Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, The Good Place, Futurama and the like in the past. What would you recommend next?

Cooking & Eating

 

I’m taking my first crack at pickling with Krissy’s recipe for easy refrigerator dill pickles at Self Proclaimed Foodie. I’m waiting for the brine to cool down as I type this – wish me luck!

This meatloaf recipe from Hello Fresh continues to be in regular rotation around these parts. I’ve somehow managed to convince my family that all credit for its deliciousness goes to me but honestly it’s just a fool proof recipe. The big secret is the tiny individual “loaves” rather than one big loaf. So easy and so delicious!

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I’m minorly in love with this white Moscato from South Africa right now. Found it at the wine cellar where I pick up our weekly CSA. Might be counting the minutes until I pick up our next box of veggies. Excepting the fact that my refrigerator cannot handle any more vegetables right now.

What have you been up to lately?

10 Best Books I’ve Read This Year (So Far)

Because we are now halfway through the year (craziness), this week’s prompt for Top 10 Tuesday is the 10 Best Books You’ve Read This Year (so far). I have only read 15 books so far this year but most of them have been pretty terrific. Here are the creams of the crop, two of which I haven’t technically finished yet but I’m far enough in to know they deserve a place in this grouping.

It’s an eclectic mix: poetry, graphic novels, mysteries, young adult, historical fiction, essays, light and fluffy love stories, science fiction… Whatever you are in the mood to read, it’s quite possibly on this list:

 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – This timely novel is going to force you to think about uncomfortable things but you’ll be glad you did.

Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling – A commencement speech by JK Rowling – a quick read that will leave you feeling inspired.

A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L’Engle – My favorite book to read by the pool. Essays on her life, writing and society that make me feel like a better person (and a better writer) just for my proximity to her words.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – Historical fiction that brings you to the front and center of the underground railroad but with an added twist.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – A science fiction story about multiverses that will make your head hurt in a good way.

 

Wires & Nerve Vol. 1 by Marissa Meyer – Fans of The Lunar Chronicles especially need to check out this graphic novel continuation starring Iko. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read this. NOW.

Envelope Poems by Emily Dickinson – Scraps of poetry written, literally, on envelopes. Enjoy hidden gems and the inside mind of one of the world’s most famous poets. Then go write some of your own.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro – This is like Sherlock Holmes meets John Green. Extremely readable and fans of Sherlock will especially enjoy this take on the world of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon – A love story starring a girl who is allergic to literally everything. You won’t guess where this one is going.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan – Part love story, part finding yourself. This one is for the ladies with wanderlust who kind of want to drop everything, move to Scotland and open a bookstore.

Have you read any from this list? What is the best book you’ve read so far this year?

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Top 10 Tuesday is hosted by The Broke & The Bookish

7 Brilliant Quotes from Margaret Atwood.

I first read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood in college. Okay fine, I read part of it – the whole novel wasn’t required for the class I read it in and then I got busy and didn’t get back to it even though I was seriously enjoying it at the time. Then I kept being busy and then I graduated, had babies, got married and got busier.

Spring forward to the Spring of 2017 and The Handmaid’s Tale has been turned into a tv series on Hulu!!! I finally get to go back to Offred’s world and hear her whole story and see it with my eyeballs. It’s heartbreaking and wonderful and has me feeling like all kinds of a Margaret Atwood fangirl. Somehow I fell down a spiral of looking up her other books on Amazon and then looking at famous quotes that she has said or written. And oh my goodness, they are good.

Here are 7 of my favorite quotes that make me wish I was into crocheting things on pillows.

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“Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” is one of many awesome quotes from The Handmaid’s Tale.

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“A word after a word after a word is power.” This is a line from Spelling – Poem.

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“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” – from Cat’s Eye, 1988

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“You may not be able to alter reality, but you can alter your attitude towards it, and this, paradoxically, alters reality. Try it and see.” – This is a quote from a commencement speech given to graduating students at the University of Toronto in 1983.

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“We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.” – Margaret Atwood

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“War is what happens when language fails.” – The Robber Bride, 1993

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“I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed, and that necessary.” – Variation on the Word Sleep, from Selected Poems II: 1976-1986 by Margaret Atwood

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I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop this week.

Answering the prompt: 6. Share a quote you love.

Let me know if you are playing along in the comments section!

3 Little Things.

I keep meaning to hop on this bandwagon of sharing some things each week that are filling my heart up. It’s easy to focus on the things stressing us out and giving us grief. Here are three things making me happy this week.

  1. IMG_20170409_121328Warmer weather! The sun is finally starting to come out for us more and more. That means spending time outside, feeling so swag in our big sunnies and NO JACKET life. I love this season in between hot and cold when we are just comfortable, enjoying a cool breeze without shivering or sweating. Bring. it. on.
  2. The Handmaid’s Tale just premiered on Hulu and just one episode in I am hooked. I read some of the book in college and loved it but never got around to finishing it because homework and stuff. I’m excited to finally see how it ends and loving seeing the story brought to life. It’s heartbreaking but funny, suspenseful but kind of beautiful? Also Alexis Bledel is in it so really life does not get much better than this.
  3. 18157465_10101213019281846_287970143802244514_nCoffee with friends. I spent the morning having coffee with some of my mom friends from the kids’ school and it was so lovely to catch up and frankly get to know each other better. Sometimes I get in my own head and find myself cocooning and home instead of putting myself out there. So I’m a little too proud of myself for putting on real clothes today and being a friendly social person even though I woke up this morning fully intending to hide inside. Bonus points, I got there a little early and got to spend some time with E.E. Cummings, too.

What’s making your Happy List today?

Insta Recap: 4.27.17

One of Mama Kat’s prompts for this week’s Writers Workshop was to share a recent picture you shared on Instagram and tell us what you love about it. I have been posting to Instagram a lot lately and had a hard time narrowing it down so you get 5 recent stories inspired by my Instagram feed. Woohoo!!!

1 – A recent illustrated story by my 7 year old:

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I love this – it’s like a mix between Snow White and Belinda the Ballerina. I’d read that book.

2 – We bought a Purple mattress last week and it arrived on my doorstep…

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I mean it literally took up my entire doorstep so I decided to drag it inside before leaving to meet my husband for lunch – no easy feat! This thing weighs like a lot. But once I had it halfway through the door I pretty much had to suck it up and commit to the task. How proud did I feel afterwards? Like ridiculously so. I’ll write more about the mattress later, promise.

3 – I started taking a laptop to the coffee shop to write.

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I’m the one millionth person to find out that working in a coffee shop actually decreases my distractions – I feel less guilt about chores I could be working on and my little Chrome book is too slow to browse the internet but fast enough to load my one tab and let me write. Also the perk of a snack outside the house doesn’t hurt. I’m going to write over lunch today.

4 – I dyed my hair by myself and I love it.

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My last salon color was more subtle than I was expecting and I didn’t want to ask my husband for help again to fix it. I had a free couple of hours to kill the other day and splurged on this box of L’Oreal Colorista at Target that said I didn’t have to mix anything and that there were no ammonia fumes. Sold. 30 minutes and a slightly stained shower later and I have to say I’m loving it. It’s slightly subtle but way more noticeable. Exactly what I wanted and for the right price.

5 – Look what I found at Walmart the other day??

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Ree (aka The Pioneer Woman) wrote a new children’s book called Little Ree about her experience moving from the big city to a ranch farm but reimagined the story through the eyes of her childhood self. The end result is adorable. It’s similar in tone to her books about Charlie the ranch dog. I read it to my daughter’s class for library story time and they ate up the antics of Little Ree.

5 Apps To Hide in the Bathroom With.

 

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I know a lot of you are home with your kids on spring break right now and maybe you are nearing your breaking point. I mean, maybe you are off on a grand adventure and achieving pure bliss in between hair braiding and picture perfect family picnics – but just in case you are feeling the heavy weight of “when will I be able to watch my shows again and how are you still here???” I’m just saying if you are thinking about going to hide in the bathroom for seventy two hours…

How about a new game on your phone to get addicted to instead? I know we’re supposed to be patient and present and in the moment and smart phones are the worst or something, but whatever. Sometimes a mom needs five minutes with Solitaire to get the skip back in her step.

Here are 5 games on my phone* that I like to turn to when my daughter has been singing the same Moana song for eighteen hours / my son has literally not stopped talking about Minecraft since he woke up.

*I’m an Android girl so my apologies if you are living that Apple life and these games aren’t available — but usually they are on both stores, so definitely check!

We all have different game preferences and different situations call for a different fix.

If you want an artsy kind of puzzle:

Hungry Cat Picross is literally the best picross game you are going to find on your phone. I’m not trying to be Eleanore Exaggeration here. I literally downloaded all of them when I was running out of puzzles and they were all terrible. So save yourself the struggle / data usage and skip straight to this one. I’ve gotten several people hooked on this game. I’m not proud.

If you want to redecorate every day but like for free:

Design Home is the game I never knew I wanted to play. It’s literally designing rooms and then voting your favorite designs, buying virtual couches and potted plants and competing in design challenges. I am way too addicted.

If you are feeling nostaligic for middle school:

MASH is seriously an Android Game now and I won’t like, I made my 7 year old play with me – multiple times. I do wish there were less ads and more varied games but you know – nostalgia for the win. Break this one out when your little girls are getting antsy and need a distraction. Maybe your boys would like it, too, but I’m pretty sure my 11 year old would just roll his eyes at me like my husband did.

If you like hidden picture games:

Fantastic Beasts: Cases has two things going for it – the nerdgasm of Harry Potter universe references and a fun and unique game in its own right that is kind of somewhere between a hidden picture game and a mystery detective game. It may even help to tide you over until the next Fantastic Beasts movie.

 

If you want to take Solitaire to the next level:

Fairway Solitaire is probably the game I open the most frequently right now. It seriously takes Solitaire to new places and has just enough little goals and tasks to keep you checking back in throughout the day. Cute graphics, relatively speedy load times and not too many ads. Plus there is a sneaky gopher causing trouble, so.

What phone apps have you been hooked on lately?

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I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop again. Let me know if you are playing along, too!

 

 

UN-Planning an 11th Birthday Party.

My son turns eleven tomorrow – hold on

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Sorry about that – and we’re throwing him a small party. I’m not sure if party is even the right word. He’s having two friends over for a sleepover that will mostly involve video games and eating food.

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The hardest part of planning this party is reminding myself I don’t really have anything to plan other than buying enough food for 3 tweenage boys.

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I’m not saying I have a record for throwing amazing, Pinterest-worthy birthday parties. ‘Cause no. But I do enjoy running with a good theme and picking out a corresponding menu and party favors, paper goods, etc.

Some moments from the highlight reel of MM’s birthday parties past:

The 5th Birthday Race Car Dinosaur Party. He really put us through our paces that year but with a minimalist bent, I pulled it off. This was his first birthday party in our current house and we made full use of our gigantic back yard.

The 7th Birthday Little Big Planet Party. In which he helped me make his birthday cake using a recipe that apparently all French children learn to bake cakes with. Which we then decorated with blue and green frosting in an attempt to make it look sort of like Earth. The kids made their own Sackboys and played lots of video games.

The 8th Birthday Doctor Who Party. Which I might have been more excited about than anyone else. I worked magic on invitations, I made TARDIS goodie bags and bought blue everything.

But now he’s turning Eleven.

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No, not that kind Eleven. Just the oh so grown up, this doesn’t really include you mom kind of Eleven. This year there is no theme except “we will play video games as late as humanly possible and maybe watch a movie and I want cake.” Hopefully I’m allowed in the room for some of it.

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Here are my ingredients for a sleepover for eleven year old boys:

  • Walking tacos – small bags of Doritos with taco fixings tossed on top and a salad so I feel like a mother.
  •  The most chocolatey of chocolate cakes – and I might put cherry pie filling between the cake layers because I’m craving cherries.
  • My step mom’s rotel cheese dip – with tortilla chips and probably some salsa, too.
  • Paper plates and napkins – actual color / pattern to be determined aka doesn’t matter.
  • Video games, movies, board games, sleeping bags, go away mom.

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PS: I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop today. One of her prompts this week was a post inspired by the word party and well… yeah. Let me know if you are playing along on your blog. It’s a lot of fun and there are multiple writing prompts to choose from so even if you don’t have parties on the brain, she can hook you up.

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LIVE | LOVE | LEARN | march 2017

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I’m trying out a new idea so bear with me. Towards the end of the month I tend to fall into a rabbit hole of monthly wrap ups: things I loved and the things I learned and what I’ve been up to. I thought I’d tidy up my thoughts and combine all of these wrap ups under one post. I’m calling it LIVE | LOVE | LEARN – and it pretty much is exactly what it sounds like.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this month.

LIVE

  • My dog finally switched to his new vet officially and it feels good to make the change. We’ve been really happy with this new pet clinic and the staff there and everything just feels easy and obvious. More importantly, my pet’s well being feels important and worth consideration. Yay!
  • 17190656_10101162899347596_4082153154445714967_nMy son officially started Boy Scouts this month after graduating from Cub Scouts last month. It’s been tough for me to get used to the transition (namely because I’m a control freak but I’m attempting to not be one) but he’s doing fantastic and diving right in.
  • Last week was my kids’ spring break and we took them to the Great Wolf Lodge for a few days of fun in their giant indoor waterpark. In between being fishes, they also enjoyed paintball target practice, another trip to WizardQuest, a very kooky lost temple attraction and lots of delicious food.
  • I pampered myself with a haircut and color at a new to me salon. It’s such a subtle change that I’m guessing most people wouldn’t notice if I didn’t say something but my head feels a million pounds lighter and I’m loving it.
  • 17425021_10101178107550236_2082075320835481217_nMy daughter started gymnastics again this month. She did sort of toddler gymnastics a million years ago and this is a different world. I’m proud of her because I can tell the skills she is learning don’t necessarily come to her easily but she’s rising to the occasion and comes out of each class with a grin on her face. What more can you ask for?
  • We went on a terrifically awesome date night / afternoon to a local winery for wine tasting and cheese. I’m kind of the worst wine drinker ever – I like my wine to taste roughly like Juicy Juice if we’re going to be honest. But I had so much fun trying different varieties and judging their flavors and aromas and just experiencing something new with my husband. It was a nice change of pace from our usual dinner and a movie.

LOVE

  • Lemon Zinger Tea by Celestial Seasonings is one of my new favorite warm beverages. I’m trying to cut back on my latte life and tea has been a nice diversion. I have found that herbal / fruity teas work the best because they never need milk and I can get by with a small amount of sugar.
  • MV5BNjUxNjQ5NjgwNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzQzMDA1ODE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_When Calls the Heart is my latest binge watch on Netflix. I’ve been ignoring it for ages but I hit a dry spell and decided to give it a shot because Lori Laughlin is in it. Oh my word, it is so good guys. My husband has deemed it completely cheesy but I am hooked. It’s a little bit costume drama / a little bit love story / a little bit it takes a villiage. It drew me in so quickly and now I’m in danger of running out of episodes before the next season comes to Netflix. Hallmark should totally get in bed with Hulu, I’m just saying. Bonus points: It’s totally PG so the kids can watch it with me when I need to binge but they happen to be home.
  • People are photoshopping Mr. Bean into hilarious images and it’s one of the best thing I saw online this week.
  • 17309420_10101172554723146_7428601629282740298_nThe new Beauty and the Beast was, oh my lord, all the things. My husband had issues with the Beast and some of the changed storylines, but I loved it. I felt like it fleshed out my favorite story and breathed new life into it. It was like seeing your favorite work of fiction come to life. Emma Watson was perfection and I loved getting more of her back story and any backstory at all on the Beast.
  • Speaking of Beauty and the Beast, I greatly enjoyed this power point presentation on why Belle should have chosen Gaston. Agree to disagree, but the argument was surprisingly compelling!
  • 81aN-jZM6yL._SX466_Dan and I watched Passengers this weekend and it was everything you would expect a space adventure movie starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence to be. Funny, thrilling and kind of heartbreaking. I love when we find movies that are a perfect marriage of our interests.
  • I finished three books this month. My book club discussed Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner – the first in a new series about a British detective who is trying to track down a missing girl. It features revolving narrators and a complex narrative. Before diving into that book, I finished reading The Crown by Kiera Cass, the last book in the selection series. Last night I finally finished reading The Cozy Life by Pia Edberg, a short nonfiction book about Hygge which the Internet has been obsessed with lately. I love the idea of Hygge and definitely highlighted some ideas, but as a book I felt it was longer than it needed to be. It was still a quick read all told and a great resource for anyone who wants to know more about Hygge.
  • This video:

LEARN

What have you been up to this month? If you want to play along, feel free to write about the things you learned, loved and lived this month on your own blog and let me know in the comments!

5 Favorite Musicians… Then and Now.

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This week for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop I’ve decided to answer the following prompt:

Write a list of your 5 favorite singers growing up…do they still make your top 5 list?

I grew up in the Oregon Trail generation – I probably first started noticing music in the late eighties and started forming real opinions on the subject in the early nineties. The first CD I remember playing on repeat was Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl. I probably started listening to her because my father liked her music, but I quickly became hooked and would play the songs over and over until I’d memorized every line of every song.

Some other musicians that I adored growing up, in addition to Paula Abdul, include:

  • The Backstreet Boys: We all chose a side in the war of the Boy Bands in the nineties. I was firmly on team Backstreet and remain an ardent fan. It is a bitter pill to swallow to admit that the lead singer of NSYNC clearly made out with the best music career.
  • Matchbox 20: I loved this group more for the music than the love sick obsession. I can’t name a single member of the band but I still know basically every word to every song on Yourself or Someone Like You. I don’t know that I’d call them a favorite band today but that album is still heavily present on my Best Of playlist on my phone, unlike most of the other musicians in this list.
  • New Kids on The Block honestly came out a little early for me. I was on the young end of their fan spectrum, but I loved them. When they appeared on Fuller House this season I was shocked at how much they have aged and had a hard time mustering enthusiasm at their cameos on the episode UNTIL they started singing one of their songs in the concert at the end of the episode and I audibly squealed and had the world’s tiniest conniption fit.
  • John Mayer: The love affair began in college which is a little bit on the end of the growing up spectrum, but I still maintain that it counts because of the level of enthusiasm that my fandom took. This was my last Backstreet Boys Level Obsession and anyone who knows me well knows that it hasn’t actually ended. I still buy all of his music, no questions asked. His concert that I attended back in 2005 or so continues to be one of my favorite concerts that I’ve ever attended. I put up with a lot of Rock Star Personality and let all the antics slide because he is still probably my favorite musician.

Honorable mentions must go to LL Cool J, The Goo Goo Dolls, Barenaked Ladies, Ani Difranco, Usher, Britney Spears, Boys II Men, No Doubt, Sublime, J Lo, Maroon 5, Snoop Dogg and Sugar Ray.

My current list of Top 5 Musicians would be…

  1. John Mayer – see, even now as a grown ass woman he continues to hold that #1 spot.
  2. Rebecca Loebe – she was on The Voice very briefly but I’ve known her since college when she came to sing at my school’s coffee house.
  3. Taylor Swift – we’re big Swifties here – my daughter and I are especially obsessed with 1989.
  4. Adele because that voice. She’s basically my Paula Abdul of the 2000s.
  5. The Beatles because they are timeless and it feels wrong for them not to be on this list, honestly. There is never a bad moment to listen to a Beatles song.

Of course I could go on, my music taste continues to be eclectic and vast. But I think this is a pretty solid representation of my music habits.