April 24, 2015

7 Albums That Defined Me

I've written before about books that have stuck with me or defined parts of my life, but music is just as important to me as literature, so I thought I'd catalog some of the (various) albums that have really defined a certain era of my life. It was really really hard to pick just 8, as well as picking only 3 favorite songs from each one.

*All the song titles have links to Youtube videos in case you're curious!

>> Riot! by Paramore - So it's no secret that Paramore has been one of my favorite bands since I was like 12 years old. I picked Riot! because it was one their first album I ever heard, and I adored it. I got the CD for my 13th birthday, and I pretty much wore my 1st gen iPod Nano out listening to it on repeat. In fact I found a pair of pink Converse in my closet that still had the words to That's What You Get scribbled on them in Sharpie.

Top Tracks:

1. That's What You Get
2. For a Pessimest I'm Pretty Optimistic
3. Miracle 

>> Red by Taylor Swift - Another artist I've been a fan of since I was literally 11 or 12 is T-Swift. This album came out my freshman year of college, and really defined it for me in a lot of strange and wonderful ways. I still can't listen to Begin Again or Holy Ground without immediately being brought back to walking down the sidewalks to my first college classes that September, feeling all at once lost and completely at home.

Top Tracks:

1. All Too Well 
2. State of Grace
3. Treacherous

>> Wicked Soundtrack - Having been a theatre nerd since about 9th grade, it's imperative for me to add this soundtrack to the list. Seriously, this cast recording was my life blood for like 2 years. I know my memory probably isn't serving me correctly, but I swear this was the only thing I listened to for like 8 months on end. I still know every line, pause, and note (even if I can't hit them). Finally getting to see the show live in 2011 was pretty much the most amazing thing ever.

Top Tracks:

1. For Good
2. Popular
3. Defying Gravity

>> Lungs by Florence + the Machine - I first heard Dog Days Are Over in my freshman or sophomore year of high school, and I fell completely in love immediately. I downloaded the rest of her album and she instantly became one of my favorite artists. The tattoo I'm planning on getting this summer incorporates lyrics from Rabbit Heart, which sort of became one of my top 5 most important songs without me realizing it. 

Top Tracks:

1. Dog Days Are Over
2. Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)
3. Cosmic Love

>> 1989 by Taylor Swift - Similarly to how Red came out my freshman year of college, 1989 came out in October of 2014, my third year of college. I'm two weeks out from finishing up what has been the most difficult school year of my college career, and this album is as relevant now as it was when I heard it for the first time. 

Top Tracks:

1. New Romantics
2. You Are In Love
3. Welcome to New York

>> Self Titled by Paramore - The latest Paramore album came out at the tail end of my freshman year of college, defining the latter half of it and that summer much the same way that Taylor Swift's album defined the first half of the year. It's duly important to me, as it was the album the band was touring last summer when I finally (finally finally finally) got to see them in concert.

Top Tracks:

1. Ain't it Fun
2. Last Hope
3. Future

>> The Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack - Oh Lord, where would I be without Rocky Horror? I'd been completely obsessed with the idea since I'd read Perks of Being a Wallflower in 10th grade, but it wasn't until freshman year of college that I was finally able to attend a live screening. Now we go every single year and it's one of my absolute favorite things ever. Like ever ever. One of my best friends got me this amazing red vinyl copy for Christmas this past year and it's probably one of my most prized possessions. 

Top Tracks:

1. Sweet Transvestite
2. Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me
3. Time Warp

Honorable mentions: 
-Made of Bricks by Kate Nash
-Speak Now by Taylor Swift
-All We Know is Falling by Paramore
-Brand New Eyes by Paramore
-Save Rock and Roll by Fall Out Boy
-Metamorphosis by Hilary Duff (yeah, you know)
-Speed of Life by Sugarland

What are your favorite albums? I would love to read about it! If you're inspired to do a similar post, send me a link in the comments. 

April 19, 2015

Barista Basics: Cold Brew Coffee (at Home!)

So I've been a barista for nearly three years now. Yikes. And in that time, I've come to realize exactly how much I love iced coffee. I prefer all of my coffee drinks iced, even in the dead of winter. 

And in that time, I've struggled and experimented and failed to make iced coffee concentrate that tasted as good as the in-store stuff at home. It seems simple enough: make coffee, add ice, voila. But see, the problem then becomes that the regular coffee becomes weak and watered down with the ice cubes. And sure, you can make it extra strong, but it then becomes bitter and acidic.

So, after a lot of trial and error and research, I think I've finally found the perfect way to make cold brew coffee concentrate at home, allowing it to be poured over ice without becoming acidic or losing its rich coffee taste (or potency, let's be real here). 

1// Get a dark roast. You'll want a robust, medium to dark roast coffee to help keep the potency. Blonde roast just isn't going to cut it this time.

2// Grind the beans to a medium-large course grind. Ideally, you should grind them fresh at home, but if you don't have a coffee grinder, any regular ground coffee will do - just make sure it's not finely ground.

3// Add 1 cup of ground coffee to 4 cups of cool water (cold brew coffee actually means room temperature, go figure). If you want to make enough to last a while (or if you have a big brunch crowd) I would double or even triple the recipe - you'll just need to get a bigger container than I did!

4// Stir vigorously until the water and grounds are all mixed together. Don't worry, the grounds will float to the top after a moment, but they're still working their magic!

5// Now let the concoction sit and steep overnight, for up to 12 hours (but at least 6 for maximum steepage). Don't put it in the ridge, just set it somewhere on your kitchen table or counter and, as John Lennon once said, let it be. 

6// After it's been steeping for an adequate amount of time, you'll want to strain the grounds out of the concentrate (unless you like your coffee with a bit of crunch). The easiest way for me was to pour the whole mixture into our french press and push down the lever to separate the grounds. If you don't have a french press, you can use a coffee filter and a funnel, a very fine mesh strainer, or if you're really in a pinch, a paper towel.

7// And serve! Important note: this is meant to be mixed with equal amounts of water and then poured over ice. If you don't mix the water you will be in for quite the intense coffee experience but hey, more power to you. Add cream or sugar to your liking and enjoy!

How do you take your coffee? Keep an eye out for more Barista Basics coming your way, including latte art 101, a DIY home coffee bar, and more! Got a specific coffee-related question you'd like answered in a future post? Comment, tweet me, or shoot me an email at octoberjuneblog@gmail.com. 

April 9, 2015

Blogger Diaries: A Moment of Reflection

A little under three months ago, my blog turned two years old. I let the occasion slip by quietly; there was way too much going on at the time to orchestrate any elaborate projects.

However, the other day I came across something on Pinterest that pondered how a person's 2010 self would relate to their 2015 self. It made me stop and think, more specifically, about how much I had changed in the nearly three years since I've been in college, and in the two years since I began this blog. 

From a blogging standpoint, I've taught myself how to code and design things, and have improved DRAMATICALLY from when I first started. 

For instance, this was one of my first designs I did for my blog, back in February of 2013:

And this is now, April of 2015:

In my opinion? Leagues better. Not to mention that I know how much more coding work was involved for this one and... yeah, much more impressive.

And while we're on the subject, let's look at how much my photography skills have improved. An "outfit post" from 2013:

Whatcha thinkin' about there, li'l me? Also, ugh, dorms. And ugh, this crappy $20 "camera" I tried to use. I should have just used my iPhone, duh.

I've gotten a bit better at taking moody, don't-look-at-the-camera photos with a "tripod" (stack of boxes).

As far as personal appearance goes, I've had about 156 different hair colors and styles, give or take a few:

But mostly I'm astounded by how much I've accomplished in the past three years. In 2012, I was 18, I had just graduated high school, I had a trendy but overall regrettable pixie cut, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, and I was basically terrified of everything.

Now, four months into 2015, I'm 21 years old, I'm about to finish my third year of college. I'm looking into graduate programs across the country, and I've moved into my first apartment. 

I've worked with companies such as Macy's, Capital One, Lindt, and Warby Parker to create content for my blog. I've had something that I've written be shared over 18,000 times, once by Zooey Deschanel. I've taught myself the basics of HTML and graphic design, and I've started two different Etsy shops.

I've lived and laughed and loved and learned. I've lost things, and found plenty more. I've gone to concerts and road trips and festivals and service trips. I've written and read and erased and revised, I've learned how to let things go and how to get things back. I've finally finished The X Files and figured out why everyone loves Lush bath bombs.

I've sought help for things I can't control and found the courage to do things I never believed I would (examples include: singing karaoke, driving on the freeway, falling in love). 

Most importantly I've learned that, as Ferris Beuller once said, life moves pretty fast. And some people think that high school, or college, or adolescence, or your twenties is somehow a dress rehearsal for the "real world" but here's the thing - this ain't the Matrix. You've been living in the real world since day one, so go ahead and do everything you possibly can when you get a chance. You never know if that chance will come around again.

How have you changed in the past few years?

April 7, 2015

3 Feats 3 Weeks: A Fitness Challenge + Giveaway

So, one thing that I don't talk about a lot on here is fitness and exercise. Reason? I really hate exercise. Like, people that are addicted to exercise clearly have never sat on the couch and watched two entire seasons of a television show in one go because trust me that's WAY MORE FUN.

However, last semester when I had both a Yoga and a Ballet class, I was in the best shape of my life (probably) and I had to admit... it felt really amazing. I swore to myself after the semester was over, I'd still do the yoga, pilates, and ballet routines that I'd gotten used to doing everyday but somehow I didn't, and I've really been able to tell the difference in my overall level of fitness and flexibility.

So when Lena of Tiny Painter (a fellow Michigan blogger and a really lovely person) emailed me about her new fitness challenge, and wanted to know if I wanted to help out, I was really excited. She's designed a lovely three week challenge meant to build strength and endurance without overwhelming anyone. We wanted to make a community that was supportive, not competitive or judgmental, like going to the gym can sometimes be. 

These exercises are super easy, can be done at home without any extra equipment, and are great for any skill level. As Lena so beautifully put it:

"The point of this series is for us to build up our confidence in ourselves. There are so many fitness programs out there with a negative message, making us feel like we shouldn't like our bodies the way they are. I don't think we need to listen to messages like that!"

Here are the weekly challenges, to be done everyday each week:


Week 1 - 5 push ups, 50 crunches, 30 second wall-sit, 1 rest day
Week 2 - 10 push ups, 75 crunches, 60 second wall-sit, 1 rest day
Week 3 - 15 push ups, 100 crunches, 90 second wall-sit, 1 rest day

At the end of the three weeks, we'll have a short break, and then be back with another challenge! And for an extra lovely incentive, we're giving away this beautiful yoga mat, courtesy of YogaOutlet - see details below!

You can follow along and chart your progress on social media with the hasthag #3Feats3Weeks - I can't wait to get started!

Important Disclaimer: 

1. These routines are complied and designed based on challenges that I have followed in the past from sources such as #30DayChallenge and LaurenConrad.com.

2. We are not doctors or personal trainers. Always keep your personal health in mind. Adapt the challenges however you must to best suit your needs!

3. Always listen to your body. It will let you know if something hurts in a good way or a bad way. Do not push yourself further than you feel comfortable. Add in more rest days and modifications if need be!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

April 2, 2015

3 Ways to Use Eucalyptus Oil

Last weekend I came down with a particularly nasty head cold - my sinuses have been stuffed up since then and I went looking for ways to relieve the pressure. I came across something that I'd totally forgotten about, and purchased a bottle of eucalyptus oil. 

Eucalyptus is used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation, stress relief, and mental clarity, but its strong menthol-like scent is great for clearing sinuses and helping you to breathe better. 

So today I thought I'd share my three favorite ways to use this lovely concoction.

1// Put a few drops of oil into a spray bottle of water for a calming aromatherapy mist.

You can spray it on yourself when you're feeling particularly anxious, and after a few deep inhales, you'll be feeling much more focused and calm.

Or, if you have trouble unwinding before bed, spritz a little onto your pillow before you go to sleep so you can rest and relax.

2// Add a few drops to a bath or shower. The steam from the warm water will create a lovely spa-like experience, and you'll be feeling more relaxed and rejuvenated in no time. 

3// Make a sachet or air freshener. Simply cut out a shape from felt, attach some string if desired, and soak with Eucalyptus oil (remember, a little goes a long way!) then hang in a room, car, or closet that needs a little freshening up!

I've been really trying to get into using more holistic approaches to things like this, including essential oils. What are your favorites?

Please excuse the mess! You might notice a few changes in the layout of the blog - I'm in the process of re-designing! If you notice any little bugs or quirks, don't worry, I'm far from done, and I plan to finish it tonight!