Music as Memory

On Wednesday night I got to see a band that is dearly connected to some of my oldest memories, for the third year in a row.  That band is The Mavericks, and I’m not going to stop seeing them until they agree to play at my wedding (whenever that may be).  The back story to the Mavericks is…


When I was growing up, my family went on yearly ski vacations to Colorado, and each time we went we would rent a car in Denver and spend an afternoon driving out to the mountains.  I still remember the assortment of CDs that my dad would select so that we would not be without good music while driving through the Rockies.  Alan Parsons, Dire Straits, The Eagles, John Denver, and The Mavericks, those were our essentials.  As I took in the mountainous Colorado landscape as a fearless skiing 5 year old (looking forward to racing my dad down a black diamond the next day, to be sure), these songs played in the background.

Two years ago, when I had been in Chicago for just about a year and a half, I was going through a rough patch.  Determined to turn a gloomy day around, I signed up for a yoga class I had never been to (I hadn’t even been doing yoga), and showed up with no idea of what to expect.  I thoroughly enjoyed the class – enough to take up yoga on a regular basis for a while – but what really stuck with me was a song that I couldn’t get out of my head.  It sounded like a Roy Orbison song, and I googled the only words I could remember “There is nothing that anyone can say to me.” Google told me I was looking for the lyrics to a song called “Come Unto Me” by a band called The Mavericks.  It didn’t ring a bell, but I pressed play, and sure enough that was it.

I couldn’t get enough of the song, and started to listen to the whole album on Spotify, when it dawned on me that The Mavericks was a name I had heard before, albeit not in a while.  Little by little, it all came back.  The image of the CD cover – a man on a ladder pouring water on a woman holding an umbrella.  The mountains, the rental cars, Raul Malo’s voice, “Here Comes the Rain” – all of it.  I scrolled down to The Mavericks’ oldest work, and there it was – Music For All Occasions.

I excitedly called my dad, “You’ll never guess – do you remember The Mavericks? They have a new album!” It turned out my dad was already aware, and going to see them in Minneapolis on their upcoming tour.  This kind of thing tends to happen with us.

As the days passed and I covered their new and old music on Spotify, I was surprised to find there was a whole middle section I had missed – two albums before Music For All Occasions, 1 studio album, 1 live album and 3 Best Of albums after MFAO, and before In Time.  It’s funny to think that while I was growing up and discovering my own tastes in music, The Mavericks were doing some growing up too, and like all things meant to be, we crossed paths when the time was right.  Me, as a 23 year old finding her way in the world, and the Mavs, taking new risks with their sound, and playing with different genres in each new album they released.

Now we are both 25, a quarter of a century old.  A lot has happened since those days spent in Colorado, but those songs still bring me back to the wide-eyed but fearless little girl I once was, and still am.  I am assured that she is still there when I hear these songs, and get immersed in the world they create just as they did when I was 5.  It’s a memory that I will hold onto for a long time.


What We Read: Kirsten

One of my favorite parts of living in a city that has very defined seasons is the natural division of life into phases.  Summer days filled with running and biking along the lakeshore give way to fall days spent in a pub with a crisp beer and a mass of college sweatshirts, which gives way to the cozy days of winter – when staying home becomes a necessity and a comfort.  While I’m usually found plowing through my Netflix queue when the temperatures dip below zero, this winter I got really into reading.  Once one ended I got right on its replacement, and couldn’t wait to get home from work to continue on each night.  Here are a few of my favorites from this winter’s reading:

1) All the Light We Cannot See –


This book took a good while to get going, but once I got about 100 pages in, I was hooked.  The author’s ability to build imagery is amazing – I caught myself closing my eyes and imagining myself in France more than once.  I’m a sucker for a good WWII novel that sees things from a slightly different perspective (The Book Thief) so I loved getting to know the world of Werner, the young German anti-hero.  Definitely recommend getting through the first 100 pages of this one – it tells an important story in a lovely way, and ties an ugly and violent era into a context that all people can relate to.

“All the next day the pleasure of his success lingers in Werner’s blood, the memory of how it seemed almost holy to him to walk beside big Volkheimer back to the castle, down through the frozen trees, past the rooms of sleeping boys ranked like gold bars in strongrooms – Werner felt an almost fatherly protectiveness for the others as he undressed beside his bunk, as lumbering Volkheimer continued on toward the dormitories of the upperclassmen, an ogre among angels, a keeper crossing a field of gravestones at night.”

2) Wild –


A little behind on this one, but wow is this book amazing! Cheryl has such an amazing voice and I kept thinking how all the bad things that happened to her were made somewhat worthwhile in that they allowed her to write this incredible story.  The book is an interesting mix of confessional memoir and adventure tale, and both parts matured and kept me entertained as the book progressed.  I highlighted multiple passages – wise insights that Cheryl had into life as a result of this experience.  Like the quote “Finishing a good book is like losing a good friend” says, I miss Cheryl.

“Each night the black sky and the bright stars were my stunning companions; occasionally I’d see their beauty and solemnity so plainly that I’d realize in a piercing way that my mother was right.  That someday I would be grateful and that in fact I was grateful now, that I felt something growing in me that was strong and real.”

3) Story of a Soul


I had heard of this book but hadn’t thought to pick it up until a friend recommended it for a good Lent read.  I can honestly say it is like nothing I have ever read before, and I am usually of the belief that most of what we say, read and write is recycled content.  To back up, it is the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897), as she recorded it shortly before her early death.  Although St. Therese was a nun living in the 19th century, her story is one that draws you in regardless of era or background. St. Therese’s contemplations on her life invoke the mysteriousness of faith without getting lost in mysticism, and her purity provides a graceful perspective on many of life’s common challenges.

“To Him alone could I open my heart; all conversation with creatures, even on holy subjects, wearied me.  It is true that in these periods of loneliness I sometimes felt sad, and I used often to console myself by repeating this line of a beautiful poem Papa had taught me: “Time is thy barque, and not thy dwelling-place.”

Happy Reading!

Camille Cooks: Raspberry gratins and peanut butter cups

Cold and dreary days call for baking. So over the weekend my friend and fellow blogger, Allie, and I got together to bake. (Check out Allie’s travel blog!) Continue reading

Yesterday I went shufflin’: Shamrock Shuffle Recap

This year’s Shamrock Shuffle could have been renamed the Santa Shuffle considering that the weather for the race was closer to what one might expect in December. These less than ideal weather conditions did not deter tens of thousands of runners, including myself, from taking to the streets of Chicago for this annual event.

The Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle is the world’s largest 8k with nearly 40,000 participants and it is the kick-off to race season in Chicago. Since it is just 4.9 miles walkers, kids, casual runners, intense amateur runners  and professionals all take to the course which offers a scenic view of downtown Chicago. 
On a typical Spring day, running the Shamrock Shuffle would be a walk in the park for me, but after standing outside for an hour and a half prior to the race, the bitter cold made the race a challenge. By the time the race started, my feet were completely numb as I shuffled down the streets, my hands were so cold they hurt and I wondered how on earth I was going to finish. About halfway through the race, I was finally able to feel my feet and get into a bit of a groove. A gust of wind came just as I was crossing the finish line which reminded me that it was still bitterly cold. This left me with one goal-to be warm. I quickly walked to pick up my winter coat before heading to Yolk for a piping hot cup of coffee and tasty omelette.

So would I encourage others to run the Shamrock Shuffle? For casual runners or those just looking for a race it is perfect. It’s very well-organized with everything from bag checks to water stations running seamlessly. It’s also huge which creates a fun atmosphere on race day and the expo is very impressive with lots of products to try. The only drawback to short races like this is that you can run an 8k any day of the week and not pay a dime.

final results

Here are a few other races to check out during the next few months:

Friday Five 

st. gertrude’s -the prettiest church in chicago


dressing up is fun



 The cowboy transformation continues with these Korkease boots -K 


How many spring catalogues does it take to make spring arrive? -K


Pour over for 2 @ intelligentsia – K

Organizing with a shoe box

It’s Spring Cleaning time and while I’d love to share some methods for getting the terrible stain off the couch or how to make your kitchen sink shine like new, I can’t. My sink is far from shiny and the thought of scrubbing a stain off a couch makes me want to cry, but if asked to organize a closet I might shed tears of joy.

As a child I used to compulsively organize (and reorganize) my mom’s kitchen cabinets, placing all the boxes in perfect rows and yelling when things were put back in the wrong “spot.” Over the past few years, city living has taught me that fancy closet organizers and organizing products can be replaced with a simple shoe box.

So here it is, how I organize my life with shoe boxes:

1)      Under the bathroom sink

If you open up the cabinet below my bathroom sink, you will find something like the Island of Lost Toys  – an almost empty lotion, a few free samples I did not want in the first place and products I tried and did not like. However, I’ve managed to rectify the situation a bit with boxes. One for my blow dryer, curling iron and straightener, one for various beauty products, and then I cheated and found an old clay pot for my hair ties.

2)      The closet

Yep there are boxes for that too. I use a box from boots for all my leggings and tights. Then scarves in one, baseball hats in another and flip-flops in a third. This also makes storage in the off-seasons a bit easier.

3)      Odds and ends

Once a shoe box, now a toolkit filled with a hammer, string, tape, checkbooks, birthday cards, band-aids and so much more. At one point these items could be in my bedroom, bathroom, closet or under the sink, but now I have one go-to location for everything.

4)       Tea

Boxes of half empty tea just take up too much space, so I’ve combined the tea bags into one cute little box.

5)       Bracelets

I’ve tried jewelry organizers but found that many of them are too small for chunky bracelets. So now I drop some of my costume jewelry in a shoe box at the end of the day.

 There you have it, an excuse to buy more shoes.

The Coat That Launched A Thousand Blog Posts (getting there)

Despite the brutal cold, one thing kept me cheery and positive this winter – this coat.  Having spent six winters in a black down-comforter-style coat, I told myself that this winter I was going to brave the cold with nothing but neon electric wool as my shield.  This coat is surprisingly really warm, and the color kept me feeling refreshed even when my skin was dry and my spirit depleted.  My co-worker keeps giving me a hard time about when I’m going to officially retire the “red coat”, and the truth is, this is the one part of winter I’m not ready to say goodbye to!  I would recommend it to anyone and everyone (although it’d be nice if people got different colors because when you pass someone else in the street wearing the same neon coat it’s just a little too obvious.  I feel the need to acknowledge and then it’s just embarrassing for both parties.  Anyways…)


J. Crew coat // Gap leggings // Gap tee



J. Crew baubles – Similar here & here & LOVE THIS