Dietrich Strause: The Perfect End of Year Hello

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of seeing Tall Heights (for the third, and favorite, time) at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA. It was a fantastic show in an intimate space, full of the usual swoons and sing-alongs, and I went with one of my best friends on the planet who makes everything that much better. It was my first real experience of fandom—powerful enough that I think I actually batted my eyes and cried. I even managed to swipe the set list. I’d be embarrassed if I wasn’t so excited that it happened! See photo below for the extent of my smile.

BEST DAY OF MY LIFE. (Hey, Paul).

BEST DAY OF MY LIFE. (Hey, Paul).

In any case, before Paul and Tim—the duo that makes up Tall Heights—began their set, The Sinclair surprised us with opener Dietrich Strause. Normally, I’d be angry. More waiting? For my favorite band that I never get to see? Rude. But this…this was something different. Dietrich was the best kind of surprise, and a pleasure to watch perform. He’s exceptionally talented, charming, and visibly comfortable on stage. When he responded to my tweet after the set, I was pleasantly surprised, since having star potential and remaining approachable are generally mutually exclusive. He offered a copy of his debut album, Little Stones to Break the Giant’s Heart, and I was hooked.

Dietrich’s voice is reminiscent of Amos Lee, but his sound is like Dave Matthews’ “Baby Blue” meets Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather” and Mumford & Sons’ “Ghosts That We Knew.” It’s a soft, folky album, full of southern memories and country visions, and it never fails to tug on all the right heartstrings.

My favorite, by far, is Little Stones’ “Annie Dear.” Maybe it’s the seamless combination of acoustic guitar, piano, violin, and percussion, but I can’t turn it off. It’s sweet, sad, but not too soft. “I told her in the pasture, I’m afraid of growing old,” Dietrich croons, and I’m suddenly teary-eyed, thinking of graduation days to come and the bittersweet changes the real world promises to bring. “The sky feels as big as it did when we were young,” he says. Bigger, I think, and how simultaneously paralyzing and reassuring it is to hear someone else say it. This song is, little by little, helping me face my fear of the coming months and embrace the end of my time at Wheaton.

A close second comes in “In the Well,” which is conveniently placed at number two on the track list. It’s the kind of song you reach for when you’re driving on familiar back roads in the lazy afternoon, and you’re silently reflecting on what you love about your life. “I love my home,” is always a go-to of mine, but also, “the earth is a beautiful place,” “music is a beautiful skill,” and “love is a beautiful thing.” It’s slightly more upbeat than “Annie Dear,” but equally evocative in a grateful way.

Dietrich making an impression.

Dietrich making an impression.

“Unsinkable” comically laments an unrequited love. The intro reminds me of the intro to “Story of My Life” by One Direction, which I find incredibly catchy and exciting, and “she’s unsinkable, unbreakable; it’s unbearable, unthinkable, how unlovable I am to her,” is probably the best-humored way anyone has ever been rejected. He even makes a joke about his height (which is admittedly not much taller than me). A solid anthem when you’re looking for a “his/her loss” mentality.

Track 4 is “Lady Ponderosa,” which is really, really great, but I cannot take is seriously because of a viewing experience with “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” If you watch the show, you know what I’m talking about, but I hope you don’t and that you can enjoy this for me.

“Lemonade Springs” is the longest song of Little Stones by a full 30 seconds. From what I can tell, it’s all guitar and vocals, which effectively lends itself to being one of the most emotionally-charged pieces I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear. Dietrich “oohs,” he coos, singing of haunting memories and tragic loss. “I watched my girl be pulled into the earth, and I’m haunted by my breath when I sing. And at night I hear her shouts in the running river’s mouth, in the bluebird and the lemony spring.” I don’t know what happened exactly, but I shed a silent tear as I watched him remember. Truly beautiful.

Halfway through the album is a 52 second interlude of what sound like trumpets and french horns, titled “The Sleeping Wilderness.” It’s a peaceful, quiet respite and mimics “Lady Ponderosa” just in time to move on to “Bootlegger.”

“Bootlegger” is a goodbye song to a love who never returned. “I thought I’d be fine waiting, just be a little shaken, a bottle only breaks if you drop it.” This resonated with me three times through, and made me uncomfortable enough (in a good way), that I turned it off after the second listen. And the entire rest of the album digs just as deep, never disappointing in momentum or effect. Without giving away the rest of the playlist, I’ll leave you with this: Dietrich is not to be missed. His talent is evident, but his raw grasp on love and loss is what makes him truly unique.

Stay musical, my friends.

Italian Done Different: North vs. South

So it might have been obvious to you guys a little while ago, but I just realized my writing transition from fashionite to foodie. Maybe not a total transition…probably just combination (gotta look nice to eat nice!)…but all I’ve done is eat. And, occasionally, write about eating. No wonder my clothes have been a little tight this season! It seems like every time I run into friends and family, I’m at a new restaurant or trying a new dish. Most recently, I had the absolute delight of trying two versions of incredible Italian food: La Tavola in Waterbury, Connecticut (website currently being revamped), and Renato’s in West Palm Beach, Florida.

La Tavola was a first for Jake and me, having heard about it for years from various family members, friends, employers, etc. The name was everywhere and its reputation was outstanding. La Tavola is known for its comfortable (yet glamorous) ambiance, extensive wine list, and never less-than-perfect menu. We splurged and made it our only dressed-up date night of the semester…and it was worth every penny.

Under recommendation from Jake’s mother, we started with the carpaccio appetizer – finely sliced, delicately seasoned, and drizzled with dressed greens and oil. We ate it too fast for me to remember to take a photo, obviously. We then split two entrees, both specials: a house-made fusilli pasta with bolognese sauce and ricotta cheese, and lamb with pureed garlic mashed potatoes and green beans. I’m a pasta buff, so I preferred the former dish, but both were truly delicious. The entire meal was paired with Little Black Dress Moscato for me, and Josh Cellars Cabernet for Jake. We finished with two desserts: their famous warm nutella cake and seasonal eggnog cheesecake with rum raisin sauce. I swore I was so full that I’d never eat again. My only and very minor complaint is that we were seated in the middle of the dining room, at a small, two-person table, so that all the other tables were surrounding ours and it felt like everyone was looking at us. Not the case, of course, but still. Would’ve preferred something more secluded for a romantic date.

Amazing handmade pasta

Amazing handmade pasta

Delicious dessert

Delicious dessert

In any case, remember how I said that thing about never eating again? I said it again a week later at Renato’s, after stuffing my face with their house-made linguini with marinated filet mignon tips and grilled vegetables. This meal was a little more rushed since we were trying to make a symphony performance (tough life, right?) but I’ll still happily rave about the 60 minutes I spent there. From the moment we walked in until the moment we left, we were treated like royalty. Fantastic house wine, fresh and warm rolls, candlelight…the works. I should mention that I was there with my mom, so I don’t know what the experience would be like for a bigger party or a date, but we had a great time and will definitely be returning.

IMG_4028

I had my doubts about Floridian Italian food, I’ll admit, but I was happy to find myself completely and totally judging a book by it’s cover (and doing it wrong). Can’t wait to go back to either/both ASAP! What about you guys? Any favorite restaurants in unlikely locations? Sound off in the comments, and stay hungry, my friends.

What Am I Grateful For?

As we celebrate the Holiday season, it’s universally encouraged to take time and appreciate. Appreciate family, friends, good health, personal passions, and fond memories of moments passed. I’ve been blessed with all of the above. But, in accordance with unspoken blogger law, I must post my most loved online. So here’s what I’ve loved most about 2013:

1. My family.

For those of you that know them, you know that they’re a quirky, lovable bunch. My sisters are my soulmates; my father is my hero; my extended family–boyfriend’s family included–is a group with enough compassion, intellect, affection, and support that I wake up grateful for their presence every single day. They’re not afraid to push my buttons (“What could you possibly do with a film and new media degree?“), or to make me push myself (“Finish your programming assignment, and then you can have the rest of the bacon.”) I only wish that excuses to travel cross-country were easier to come by than occasional holidays.

Katie, Emily and me at Dave Matthews 2013

Katie, Emily and me at Dave Matthews 2013

2. Jake.

Alright, fine, it’s nauseating, I know. But having someone in your life for 12 years an annoyance, nine years a friend, and seven years a partner accumulates an awful lot of appreciation. He knows how to sooth my anxious tendencies and tolerate my juvenile sense of humor when I’m overtired. He’ll send surprise flowers when I’m having a rough day, remind me to avoid apples on an empty stomach (even though I love them and citric acid allergies are dumb), and frame my published bylines out of his own pride alone. Truly a keeper, I think.

Jake and me at a wedding this summer!

Jake and me at a wedding this summer!

3. The Girls in my life.

Girls is capitalized for a reason. They indulge in my high-maintenance wardrobe orchestration, never judge my affection for Qdoba or Five Guys, happily watch as I swoon over the latest nice thing that Jake did, and they listen to me talk about the same dumb stuff all the time. All the time! I don’t know how I got so lucky, but through thick and thin, no matter how many times I listen to the same 10 songs on repeat, they’re in the car singing along.

Christina, me, Jenn, and Savannah this Halloween.

Christina, me, Jenn, and Savannah this Halloween.

4. My education.

Everyone has ups and downs with their undergraduate experience, but I’ll be graduating in May with an indescribable appreciation. Wheaton has afforded me incredible instruction in a liberal arts curriculum, particularly in my major and minor departments (Film & New Media Studies, Journalism Studies, and Hispanic Studies). My advisors–Professor Josh Stenger and Professor Talitha Espiritu–are fantastic professional mentors, my courses are challenging and exciting, and my extracurricular experiences with the preceptor program, wind symphony, and school newspaper have been life-changing…not to mention the internship experience I’ve gained with Passport Magazine, The Celebrity Cafe, Teen Vogue, Dering Hall, Oribe Hair Care, and JAYE Magazine. Couldn’t have done it without you, Wheaton.

Wheaton College Preceptors & Deans Interns 2013-2014

Wheaton College Preceptors & Deans Interns 2013-2014

For now,  I’m closing my laptop for nap and family time. We’ll be doing our annual cousins movie date soon (though without a new Twilight movie, I’m not sure what we’ll be watching). What are you all most thankful for today?

Stay gracious, dear readers.