Dear Hawaii–I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine the terror you must have felt yesterday. Dear Oprah–nice speech, but please do not run for president. Dear everyone else–hey, we’re already halfway through January!
SOMETHING I’M LISTENING TO: BROCKHAMPTON
Let’s just say I don’t exactly fit in with the general audience demographic for this band.
It was last summer when my 18-year-old daughter started listening to and talking about Brockhampton. Officially old and turning into my parents, I mistakenly understood it to be a guy–like, you know, Brock Hampton. Who is this Brock guy? I asked and she laughed and laughed and rolled her eyes and corrected me. It’s not a guy, mom–it’s a “they”. Brockhampton is a band. They call themselves an American boy band.
Having logged years of One Direction fandom with my daughter, I get the whole “boy band” thing. But Brockhampton is not that kind of boy band. Brockhampton is redefining what a boy band is, in the most fantastic way.
Brockhampton is a completely collaborative project spearheaded by visionary artist, Kevin Abstract, and built entirely from the internet. Its members number right around 14 and include rappers, producers, musicians and visual artists. Best defined as a hip-hop, alternative R&B group, they released three–THREE!–studio albums in 2017. The trilogy–Saturation, Saturation II and Saturation III–does an exceptional job at showcasing the unique talents of each member. Full of gritty, gutsy lyrics that challenge stereotypes and mash genres, all three releases stand on their own. Together, they are an impressive documentation of Brockhampton’s DIY approach and resulting meteoric rise.
I’ve always had a sweet spot for hip-hop, R&B and anything with a catchy-poppy-hook. I also love anyone who is innovative enough to dare to do things differently. Now more than ever, the music business needs innovators and risk takers like Brockhampton. Artists like these are the future of pop, rock and hip-hop. I may not fit the stereotype of your typical Brockhampton fan, but that won’t keep me from streaming their stuff non-stop.
And if you have any leads for tickets to either of their two sold-out shows in Seattle at the end of February, hit me up. Please.
SOMETHING I’M COOKING: BANANA BREAD
I know. Banana bread? Yep. Before you’re bored to tears, though, stay with me.
Brown, overripe bananas seem to be ubiquitous in any kitchen that has kids in it and ours was no exception. As much as I baked, banana bread was never a favorite here in my house. Most of my overripe bananas went into the freezer for smoothies or the compost bin and garbage can. Zucchini bread was what the hometown crowds clamored for and I was happy to oblige. But I was always in search of that one banana bread recipe that would win them over. I made banana cake and black-bottomed banana bars. Exotic, coconut and macadamia nut filled loaves. Marbly-chocolate banana bread and my most recent favorite version with peanut butter. A few of them got close, but none was a clear winner.
Anytime my favorite baking website splashes proclamations of “Recipe Of The Year!” across all my social media feeds, I sit up and take notice. When I read that King Arthur Flour’s Recipe Of The Year was a humble banana bread, I was skeptical. Just skeptical enough to give it a try.
A few things stand out in the KAF recipe, not the least of which is more bananas. While most banana bread recipes call for anywhere from two to three bananas, or roughly a cup of mashed fruit, this one has two cups. I used five reasonably sized bananas. The result is a super-moist bread with lots of banana flavor. Using brown sugar rather than white and adding whole wheat flour to the mix also elevates the final product. And because I can never leave well enough alone, I added a bit of cardamom to the batter and used a crunchy, raw, turbinado sugar for the cinnamon-sugar topping. You can find my slightly-modified version of the recipe here.
Upon sampling, my non-banana-bread-loving son commented that perhaps I had finally hit the banana bread lottery. It is truly delicious and a great recipe to have in your back pocket on those days you’re left staring at the bunch of darkening bananas on your counter.
SOMETHING I’M DOING: RELEASE AND REPEAT
I recently dreamed that I was suffocating under a mountain of clothes in my closet.
It’s not a stretch to imagine where that came from. For the past year, I’ve accumulated far more than I’ve discarded and the result is, well, something akin to a mountain in my closet, complete with the occasional avalanche of slippery yoga pants now and then. Each time I carry a stack of folded laundry upstairs to put away, my anxiety level rises. I stuff things on shelves and squeeze in one more hanger with the rest. And the shoes–oh my. So many shoes. The irony is I have a job where I don’t wear shoes at all.
My mom liked to hold onto things. Lots and lots of things. Things brought her comfort. I imagine if you logged a lifetime in which so many people you loved died or constantly disappointed you, things might hold more promise than just about anything else. I used to occasionally watch those reality TV shows about hoarders and was often struck by the fact that underlying all the accumulation and hoarding was usually some pretty hefty emotional trauma. My mom lost a lot of people she loved. In the end, she collected dolls and cars and bears.
I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping a few garbage bags stashed upstairs and when I’m feeling especially stressed, I commit to filling at least one big bag with clothing or shoes I haven’t worn in a year or more. Once it’s filled, I carry it directly to my car and deposit it in a neighborhood collection bin. What always seems so difficult at first–letting go–becomes almost exhilarating in the end.
I feel lighter, more free.
As the kids have grown and flown, I’ve done the same thing in my pantry, unearthing decade-old cans of chicken soup and bags of expired fruit snacks. I recently cleared out a cabinet in my kitchen that housed teetering towers of old, sticky Tupperware with missing lids and cracked sides. And yet I still have miles to go with laundry room shelves filled with cleaning products I never use and junk drawers stuck with old takeout menus and little rubber bouncy balls. It is a process that can be tenuous at times.
I’ve begun to notice a similar anxiety rising up in me with digital clutter. Junk mail, solicitations, newsletters. Click. Delete. Unsubscribe.
Someone recently suggested tuning in to the emotions I feel when scrolling my social media feeds. Anxiety? Envy? Inadequacy? Disgust? Click. Unfollow. Done.
Sometimes we don’t realize the negative effect that something or someone has on our emotions until it’s gone.
The Mister spent most of last summer working on a movie that was shooting in Puerto Rico. After living out of a suitcase for nearly two months, he came home and reflected on the freedom that came with only having the necessities of life around him. He talked about how having less made him realize how things can weigh us down in more ways than we imagine. Although I agreed with much of what he said, I’m not quite ready to discard my grandmother’s antique china cabinet or my mother’s watercolor paintings or even my favorite spatula.
It’s a process.
I am ridiculously sentimental and I am my mother’s daughter. While I don’t sport the array of collections and clutter that she did, I clearly see my tendencies to hold on to things that carry memory and love and possibility. I understand that there’s a thin line between comfort and anxiety, though, and I’m getting better at recognizing where it is.
One bag at a time. One click. One mindful decision at a time. Let go. Set free.
Release and repeat.