New year.

I’m not sure what happened to the first quarter of 2012. It went by quickly, I do recall some painful moments, and it mostly smelled like the bike trail south of town just a few blocks from my old apartment (that smell is a mixture of river mud, tall grass and paper/cereal factories). The second segment was all China and 5:30 a.m. wake-ups and weekend trips. The third, walks to the downtown farmers market, bike rides, Knoxville and weddings. And the fourth, hikes and baking, a new apartment and C.

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In 2013, I’m only going to resolve to do fun stuff — the stuff that makes my life more interesting and ups my appreciation for the world and people.

I resolve to take nothing for granted, big and small, and to try to return all this goodness of the last year to other people. To appreciate warm feet. Employment. Runny watercolors. Home and away. To tell all of you how much I love you (too much to tell) or brighten strangers’ days with compliments .

To read to my new niece or nephew this summer and teach her to dance like crazy to Hall & Oates (after a few months in the world) and help my sister in whatever way I can.

To knit a lot of scarves after Mom teaches me (her Aunt Ona taught her, and it’s about time the next generation learned).

To wear those scarves in Iceland and give this sheep the biggest hug. Tickets booked for September!

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Happy New Year, Auld Lang Syne and all that stuff! I’ve got a good feeling about lucky ’13.

#MM.

2012 is the Year I Listened to Music in Unusual Places, like mid-13-hour-plane-ride over Siberia, on the beach in Mexico, driving across the  state for interviews, at a casino somewhere near South Dakota, during so many laps around Cedar Lake, in a cold and misty field in October, the lobby of a haunted house, a rollerskating rink and several questionable bars.

In no particular order, my favorite albums/songs out this year. Listen in any place or state of mind you find yourself:

Chairlift made an album that’s just plain fun, in a last day of high school before the summer of 1987 kind of way. And Purity Ring put out a handful of songs that sound like biology class dissection transcripts as love letters. Cat Power made one surprise-ass album — these songs feel like driving through the Southwest looking at monolithic stones, and “Nothin’ But Time” is exactly what I want to tell my 15-year-old self (or, really, my 24-year-old self). Passion Pit totally trashed my one-album-wonder expectations and David Byrne and St. Vincent put on one wonderful show in Minneapolis for “Love this Giant.”

First snow.

It’s a wonderful day to breathe deep and drive into snow banks (following my dad’s sage advice to “just let everything go” when you feel a skid coming on). No harm done. Whatever momentary frustration is caused by creeping commutes and runny noses is more than made up for with magic monochromatic lunch hikes and two layers of pants.

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Exposure.

Something about this season time-machines me back to 1955 or 1967 or 1974. Same goes for blown-out photos of dark streets. The holiday lights have switched from tungsten to LED, but beyond that, December’s just the same when you get deep into the old neighborhoods around CR. Compact homes spilling amber light out onto the deserted lawns, setting up a tripod on roads less traveled to test my holiday-light camera skillz before a work assignment.

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Macaroni art.

CJM.

CJM.

C made me art. A collaboration with a friend he met through record-collecting. How cool is that? It makes you want to go to camp with a bunch of creative people and craft things out of pine cones and the black mud from the bottom of the lake.

It’s a gorgeous, geometric pencil drawing slapped (gracefully) onto varnished wood. Good enough to eat.

And it/he inspire me to be more of a maker, whatever that means on any given day — whether it’s long-winded memoir blogging like this, watercolor paintings of sloths (true story), chocolate gingerbread cookies or the brilliant pressed leaves and feathers gathered during this autumn’s meanderings.

I’m feeling spoiled and antsy like a kindergartner on Finger-paint Day ready to DO some things. Lock up your pottery wheels and knitting needles, dear residents of Cedar Rapids.

#MM.

East-Central Iowa got its first snow this Friday evening/Sunday morning. Not much to speak of, but enough to warrant despondent winter holiday tunes, sitting around gazing at the Christmas tree and baking this Lemon Lavender Cake, which is basically pure sugar and lovely lemons and tiny-but-pungent purple flowers. I think that’s what heaven’s made of. Look it up in the Bible’s chapter on desserts.