Moody Monday: How to beat a bad mood, part 2

Change your commute, change your mood?

This summer I started riding my bike to work. I find that I am much more energized when I get to the office, and far more energized when I get home. The physical effort wakes me up and my urban commute requires a degree of focus and concentration that distracts from the petty annoyances that I would mull about if were driving or riding the bus.

Aside from putting me in a better mood the other big benefit of bike commuting is efficiency: my workout time and my commuting time are merged into one, which means I can sleep in a bit. Also it saves a few hundred bucks a week in gas, parking, bus fare, etc. When I was researching this blog post, I found out you can deduct $20 of biking expenses for every month you commute  on your bike from your taxes. Also, some people might feel smug and virtuous because they are saving the planet and all that, but that’s not me. If anything, I worry that people might peg me as an insufferable hipster, or more likely and worse yet, a wannabe insufferable hipster. But I am a bit too old and bit too busy let what people think keep me from going about my business. But I digress.

Luckily, this was a fairly easy transition because: a) I live 3 miles from my office; b) I already owned the essentials: a bike, helmet, bike lock, backpack for my laptop, and c) I have a rather casual workplace–it’s not dressy and the hours are pretty flexible, so I can keep my eye on the weather and traffic and pick a good time to make the trek.

The big challenges I encountered have been a) clothes and shoes that I feel comfortable wearing on the bike and wearing into the office, b) hair – yes, arriving at the office with sweat/wet/helmet head is not the best, and c) make-up.

At this point my post is going to get fairly girl-specific but I found that the best look so far is kind of a french girl vibe that consists of (from the ground up): Scrunch ballet flats with elastic so they don’t fall off your feet, black  “pixie pants” these are cooler than jeans and more work appropriate if you can take yourself seriously as a professional while wearing a garment called “pixie pants”, a tank top, a lightweight cardi (it’s hard to find a quality cardigan that doesn’t just make you look frumpy, but I have had good luck with Halogen brand from Nordstroms), and a gauze cotton scarf.  Aside from the cardigan, which should last for years, most pieces can be had inexpensively from Old Navy, and won’t show grease stains from your bike chain or sweat. The idea is to stash the cardi and the scarf in your bag and put it on when you get to work. I suppose that you could even put an extra and or nicer sleeveless shell  in the bag and change if you need to look a bit more presentable or you get extra sweaty.

I have read and can confirm that you need to wait about 10 minutes until you stop sweating to hit the ladies room, freshen up make the switch, and do your hair and make up. I just do my regular make-up for work. The hair, the hair now that leaves me flummoxed … I can’t say I have a solution … I am due for a trim and a will consult the hair dresser to see if she has any ideas because I sure don’t.

I put together a playlist for commuting for people who can’t commute by bike. I see people riding with earbuds, but yeah, no, because safety.

Anyway I listened to said playlist several times, trying to fine tune it as I do, and it make me sad, so I deleted it but didn’t have the time to come up with something new, so I am reviving an old playlist, called “Roadkill Romance”







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Moody Monday: How to beat a bad mood, part 1

Crappy moods. They happen to the best of us. Sometimes it’s because we are fixated on something, and that something is bad. This is called variously: brooding, ruminating, or stewing. In my family, we call this being a “worrier” and what it means is that you have the unfortunate habit of ceaselessly reflecting on painful experiences and fears about the future. Or mostly just petty annoyances. Now, full disclosure. I am a worrier and I come from a long line of worriers. My father was a worrier, his father was worrier before him, and probably the chain of worry goes back to the dawn of time and is somehow encoded in my DNA.There is nothing good about brooding, ruminating or worrying. According to people who should know, brooding actually stressful, paralyzing, addictive and fosters other negative behavior like drinking too much and eating disorders. Nothing good comes of it.

So how not to brood?  I guess if you are aware that you are doing it you can just force yourself to think about something else. But for me that’s like saying, “Don’t think about elephants.” which just makes it impossible to think about anything but elephants.

Recently, the NYT published a study that showed taking a pleasant walk in nature actually stops brooding. By this they mean it actually changes what is going on in your brain when you brood. I decided to try this out the last time I was particularly annoyed. I’m looking at you, American Airlines.  You, and your crazy carrier fees on BA.

Results, well, as a way to alleviate acute brooding, I would give the nature walk two stars out of five. It’s probably something that might be a good idea to do habitually to make your disposition sunnier — not as a way to alleviate acute annoyances. And, it’s not that I don’t love nature–nothing relaxes me like camping. And people who like camping as much as I do are a pretty small club.

But anyway a good playlist for walking. I think it’s upbeat, and quirky and interesting and has plenty of slightly weird stuff that should distract the average person from their internal monologue and help beat a bad mood.

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Pluto Playlist: Let’s talk about spaceships…

Reddit Toy Pluto

For me, this week’s awesomeness had everything to do with the Pluto flyby. I was in the Astronomy Club back in college and I have a passing familiarity with the Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn, oh yeah. But, Pluto, man, no clue. People were even waffling about Pluto being a mistake, not really a planet. Recently discovered in 1930, scientists decided to demote Pluto to a dwarf planet in 2006.

pluto dumped me

As I recall, people were generally not too happy about the change; it seemed kind of mean, and the revision seemed to make things unnecessarily complicated for everyone.

But it turns out that tiny Pluto with it’s heart-shaped patch, is the most ADORABLE plant ever. Maybe we should just start calling it a BABY planet, not a dwarf planet (no offense, dwarfs, btw.)

So to celebrate this week’s astronomical awesomeness and adorability. I made a playlist. In honor of Pluto, this playlist includes all of my favorite songs about our solar system (and even some new ones I discovered to fill in the gaps) IN PLANET ORDER. Enjoy!

Also, will someone start selling those pluto felt toys on Etsy, please? I want to buy one for everyone I know.


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2015 Live Shows: Courtney Barnett, B&S, NMH

Courtney Barnett B&S-StevieJackon

This here is a wrap-up of concerts I’ve seen recently, and what that means for you, dear reader. First, Courtney Barnett. She is at Pitchfork this weekend! She reminds me of a cross between Lou Reed and Pavement. We drove up to Milwaukee a while back to see her open for Belle and Sebastian.

Honestly we just saw B&S at the Riv in April, and I was thinking that I probably would not have hauled up to Milwaukee just to see B&S. That would have been a mistake because the B&S show was fantastic and I would have been an idiot to miss it. Stevie Jackson, in particular, seemed amused to be in Milwaukee – a fan of “The Fonz” from way back, perhaps?

But back to Courtney Barnett, I got the strong sense that many in crowd at the Pabst, like me, were really there at out of excitement for her opening set, which was quite brief but awesome, more impressive than either of Barnett’s albums that I own on vinyl (Sometimes I Sits and The Double EP) which are both already super impressive.

We have been going to Milwaukee for shows a lot lately, we went to see Neutral Milk Hotel towards the end of April, and I tried to write about them but I couldn’t write anything that didn’t seem horrible. Don’t get me wrong, the musicality was totally THERE, and the songs still inspire. I read once that NMH thought they were out to change the world and thought they failed. I don’t know about that. When I saw Neutral Milk Hotel in the late 90’s (twice, at Lounge Ax – first opening for Superchunk, and then as headliners), I was on track to a corporate career and suburban motherhood. Now years later, after listing to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea maybe several thousand times, I am a corporate careerist and a suburban mom whose inner life is profoundly influenced by Neutral Milk Hotel. Now that’s a world of difference.

When I heard they were coming back after all this time, I was skeptical. I found the experience of seeing them live very uncomfortable. Lounge Ax was a small venue, and I was close enough to see everyone in the band’s nose hair. My first instinct was to excuse myself and go stand in the corner of the ladies room. Like the club, the ladies room was also really small, and no corners to stand in. So I came upstairs and watched the show. Those guys were weird, weirdly intense, weirdly authentic and weirdly driven. Earth-shaking, but not exactly cool. I wondered if the current audience who mostly missed them the first time around would be put off. But no, the audience seemed more concerned about reassuring and supporting Jeff Mangum and the band–one guy from the audience yelled our “we love you” early in the show–than making any judgments, or even being entertained. The Riverside is a big venue, but I could see the band, The weird intensity was gone, they just seemed happy, with Jeff Mangum often rocking back and forth on his heels like a little kid.

Anyway, the moral of the story is GO SEE COURTNEY BARNETT. And write back and tell me about it, ‘cause Pitchfork ain’t in the cards for me this year.
If you want to learn more about this bands read up on them with my Pinterest Pages: Courtney Barnett, Belle and Sebastian, and Neutral Milk Hotel.

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Music for Mornings – An Everyday Playlist


So tell me the truth: do you lie bed in to the last possible moment, then leap up and run around in a panicked fashion, leaving a path of destruction in your wake, and barely catching the bus to work? Some people think that getting up a little early is a better way to live. I am not over-ambitious in the morning, but I have found that turning on a great playlist in the morning makes the whole day better.

These days I usually get up about 6:30 and drink some coffee. I sit quietly and stare into the darkness until it’s time to rouse the family and get the Owlets off to school. Then I crank up this Spotify playlist. It’s mostly dreamy songs about love, just to set a happy tone for the day.

Owl Muse Wake Up! Love < Listen on Spotify

1. Robot – Cue Fanfare

2. Lovefool – The Cardigans

3. Lovers Who Uncover – The Little Ones

4. New Years – Asobi Seksu

5. No Spare Key – Honeyblood

6. Beast – Ex Hex

7. Bedroom Eyes – Dum Dum Girls

8. I Turn My Camera On – Spoon

9. Violent Shiver – Benjamin Booker

10. Bang A Gong – T. Rex

11. Just One Drink – Jack White

12. Phantom Limb – The Shins

13. Up With People – Lambchop

I start my daily chant: breakfast-breakfast-breakfast-clothes-clothes-clothes-socks-socks-socks-comb-your-hair-hair-hair-brush-your-teeth-teeth-teeth-put-on-your-shoes-shoes-shoes–boots!!!! No flip flops please! It’s 5 degrees out!!! homework-homework-homework-coat-coat-coat-hat-hat-hat-gloves-gloves-gloves.GO GO GO GET OUT GET OUT OF MY HOUSE NOW NOW NOW. REALLY NOW. DOOR SLAMMED AND LOCKED. Haha, you aren’t getting back in here, babies! I don’t care what you forgot.

I have tried various approaches to get the Owlets out of the house–begging, bribing, shouting, crying, making elaborate posters, charts and multi-media presentations; dramatic re-enactments with stuffed animals, etc. Did that work? Yeah…Not so much. The best solution so far was a simple backpack checklist.

“I’m made you a list,” I said to the Owlets.

“Are there pictures on it, mama? ‘Cause you know I can’t read, remember?” says the little guy.

Touche, my boy! Oddly, it worked anyway.

  • Lunch
  • Snack
  • Water Bottle
  • Homework Folder
  • Gym Clothes
  • Gym Shoes
  • Hat/Gloves/Scarf
  • Snow Pants

Okay, it’s April already. We might be okay leaving the snow pants at home. We might. Also I broke down and signed them up for school lunch. I decided I would rather have them not-eat the organic, free range, healthy school lunch that not-eat the bag lunch I get up early to pack for them.

But the Owlets are getting better! And they pump each other up, “Let’s go get dressed–fast, fast, fast–NO distractions, okay? No distractions, go, go, go!”

Hope springs eternal.

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Belle & Sebastian with Honeyblood at The Riviera April 2015

The Belle & Sabastian concert on Friday at the Riviera in Chicago: It was a near perfect thing and I’m happy.

This is the third time I’ve seen Belle & Sebastian live, and it was the best yet. But where to start?

Well, first things first. Honeyblood. I generally resent opening bands. Honeyblood, however, was fantastic. Kind of like a lush, layered version of Throwing Muses, served with a side of Scottish righteous indignance. I have been listening to Honeyblood incessantly on Spotify and I can’t wait to pick up the debut album.

I became aware of Belle & Sebastian when Dear Catastrophe Waitress came out. I loved that CD, but Belle & Sebastian didn’t seem so different from The Shins, The Decemberists,  Death Cab for Cutie, The Killers, The Postal Service–it was a happy time for me, music-wise, the early 2000s, the height of indie pop.

That record led me to Belle & Sebastian’s extensive back catalogue: If You Are Feeling Sinister, The Boy With The Arab Strap, and Tiger Milk were just stuffed with beautiful songs that were personal and direct and riveting and kind.  And uniquely so, Maybe that’s why the mostly-very-much-younger-than-me crowd went so nuts for my old loves: Century of Fakers, The Boy With The Arab Strap and Lazy Line Painter Jane. The on-stage participation towards the end of the concert was what made the show for me. The crowd brought those old songs alive again.

But I was there to hear what Stuart & friends are up to now. In Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, they continue to share their quirky take on life and how to live it. Nobody’s Empire is the big anthem off that album. The Party Line is beautifully nostalgic, as is Enter Sylvia Plath. And, on first listen, I was totally obsessed with the song Perfect Couples which is a bit of satire about modern manners. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t sure if I really liked Perfect Couples or if I really didn’t like it. But the live version (with bongos!) was freakin’ great and accompanied by a video that really worked. There was quite a lot of film in this show, maybe prompted by Stuart’s foray into film-making with God Help the Girl, or the fact the people listen to music via YouTube more and more.

So, why only near perfect? Stuart seemed a bit stressed at the beginning and made a few comments probably referring an ill-considered op-ed from Pitchfork (srsly, p4k, cray-cray much?). Still, I hope the crowd made the band feel well-loved in Chicago. Because they are!

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Brutally Honest Yoga – A Workout Playlist

So, yoga. I reluctantly added it to my workout schedule.

Some people like yoga. I am not one of those people. For me, one of the so-called benefits of yoga, body awareness, is almost unbearable. Yoga always lets me know I’m stiff, unbalanced, inflamed and rigid. Thanks for the feedback, Yoga!

Well, anyway, here’s the playlist. There are some favorite songs that ease the pain.

OWL MUSE YOGA PLAYLIST < listen on Spotify

1. New Wild Everywhere – Great Lake Swimmers.

2. Talking Backwards – Real Estate.

3. Ghost – Neutral Milk Hotel.

4. Maniac – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

5. Swim Club – The Cave Singers

6. Jesus, etc. – Wilco.

7. Out of Season – Royale.

My yoga routine goes like this. The first part is pretty close to your basic sun salutation cycle.

Mountain, Standing Backbend, Half Moon. Swan Dive to Forward Fold. Repeat 5 times.

Jump or walk back to chaturanga (plank)(Hold 30 seconds or as long as you can). Cobra straight into Down Dog.  Repeat 5 times.

Down Dog to Forward Lunge. Do each side (obviously). Repeat 3 times.

This is a pretty standard sequence I think here’s a link to something similar.

I might do this 2 or 3 times.

The next sequence starts by hanging out in Thunderbolt. This is really for loosening up the knees. Then Child’s Pose. Then Tabletop, Then Cat/Cow and Child’s Pose Again. This video will give you the idea. Maybe go through this a few times.

Then a bunch of stretches you may remember from gym class in Junior High School. Butterfly pose or bound angle, some neck rolls, and seated forward bend. Then do a bunch of forward bend variations — with your legs in different positions. Here are some examples. Then do some twists, like this one.

The Shavasana – this called corpse pose — but if that is too macabre for you you can call it the jellyfish stretch. I always start this at the beginning of the last song at the latest.


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Benjamin Booker @ Metro Chicago 3/28/2015

IMG_3180 (1)

SMOKIN’ I caught Benjamin Booker at the Metro. I am a huge fan of the debut album, and I love BB even more now. To me the Metro is a punk rock palace, and you gotta go big or go home. Don’t worry, Benjamin Booker did just fine owning the venue. Until I saw the show, I thought of Benjamin Booker as a guy, but the band is actually an amazing three piece, including bassist Alex Spoto and drummer Max Norton, who was pretty damn remarkable. Benjamin Booker, as the frontman, comes across as a total doll — a fun guy just having a lot of fun. The show was sold out and the crowd just ate up the whole set. Someone next to me remarked, “Wow this is an intense show.” I’m most impressed by how many musical influences these guys draw on and the fact that they just rock. Toward the end, there was an interlude with feedback and then a jumbled, crashy psychedelic guitar solo which almost lost me but the always sardonic Mr. Muse said, “It touched me.” Anyhow that little bit was reminiscent of the Butthole Surfers who are a perfectly fine band I really can’t stand. (Aggh, Benjamin Booker you have now made me break the first rule of The Owl Muse…don’t talk shit about anybody. But I figure if the Butthole Surfers did want people to talk shit about them they wouldn’t have called themselves the Butthole Surfers, or those album covers, or pretty much anything). But I digress! BENJAMIN BOOKER. GREAT SHOW. LOTS OF FUN. CATCH IT IF YOU CAN. It’s probably just what you need.

If you go to the Metro, you probably don’t want to drive unless you don’t mind tooling around for a while to find parking. We grabbed a bite to eat at Southport & Irving (which was great and had live music) and walked down Clark (about 10-15 minutes) to Metro. We got there just a few minutes before they announced the headliner, and had a pretty bad spot in the back next to the bar, but we could still see the band pretty well. Sorry I didn’t get any pictures, but Gapers Block also has reviewed the show and has great photos.

You can also check out my fan-girl Pinterest page on Benjamin Booker if you want to know more.

P.S. This post is dedicated to my dear mother without whom nothing would be possible.

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Vintage Valentine’s Day Playlist on Spotify

Oh, Valentine’s Day! Oh, once upon a time it was as simple as a heart-shaped box of chocolates and a dozen roses. A card from the drugstore. A nice dinner and a bottle of wine. Or so I imagine. Then we all had to go and get so smart. Valentine’s day isn’t a real holiday, we nod knowingly.  “We don’t do hallmark holidays,” we sniff. But I’m not one to pass up a bit of fun whenever I can get it. (Okay, that’s a total lie, but at least I’m trying. Trying to be fun.)

These days, we celebrate Valentine’s Day with a wink and a nod. One way to make the day romantic is by picking a surprising soundtrack. And the Owl Muse can help you out with that.

For Valentine’s Day, I’ve gone back, way back, to some unabashedly romantic songs. I owned Aretha’s “I Never Loved a Man The Way I Loved You” years ago, hot damn, there is not a bad song on that record. So I took a page from that book, found a lot of old blues, jazz, big band, and lounge type stuff that really floats my boat. I hope you (and yours) enjoy it, too!

Love and Kisses, The Owl Muse


  1. Fly Me to the Moon/Julie London
  2. I Only Have Eyes For You/Billie Holiday
  3. Le Poisson Des Mers Du Sud/Isabelle Antena
  4. I Never Loved a Man/Aretha Franklin
  5. I Just Want To Make Love to You/Etta James
  6. Decollage/Thievery Corporation
  7. Hallelujah, I Love Her So/Ray Charles
  8. Walking After Midnight/Sandy Kelly, Patsy Cline
  9. Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries/Judy Garland
  10. In the Mood/Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
  11. The Girl from Impanema/Billy Francis and His Orchestra
  12. Love and Kisses/Ella Fitzgerald
  13. L-O-V-E/Nat King Cole
  14. You’re My Thrill/Peggy Lee
  15. Devil May Care/Jamie Cullum
  16. Turn Me On/Norah Jones
  17. Dance Me to the End of the Love/Madeleine Peyroux
  18. I’m Just a Lucky So-and-So/Sarah Vaughn


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New Wave Circuit – A Workout Playlist

Welcome back to Workout Wednesday at The Owl Muse!

We are almost done with this little project. Cardio. Check. Weights. Check. Spinning. Check. Plyo. Check. All I have got left is Circuit Training.

The word circuit made me think of technology, which made me think of science, which made me think of the early days of MTV, and 80s alternative music which was sort of obsessed with kitsch-y sci-fi themes.

Now, it almost makes me queasy using “80s” and “workout” in the same sentence. Weird and wonderful as the eighties were, there was something about physical fitness back then that was just warped. Olivia Newton John, anyone?

Okay, I will spare you further foray in the tortured catacombs of my brain, but this mixtape is certainly nostalgic with lots of New Wave. If you listen to Channel 33 on SiriusXM, or follow Slicing Up Eyeballs, you will enjoy it.


1. Birthday/The Sugarcubes – Warm up

2. There Must Be An Angel/The Eurythmics – First Circuit –  Move quickly through four stations that train legs, back, abs, and chest. I do kettlebell swings, bent over rows, crunches and push-ups. Just do as many as you can with good form, move quickly to the next station, and keep going until the song is over. Sort of like musical chairs.

3. Please Remain Seated/OMD – Rest during this song. Just rest.

4. Don’t You (Forget About Me)/Simple Minds – Do some sort of cardio at an intense/sprint pace for the duration of this song.

5. Glory/Liz Phair – Rest. Rest for the whole song. Really. If you don’t need the rest you are not working hard enough.

6. This is the Day/The The – Repeat the circuit of legs, back, abs, and chest.

7. Him Dancing/Throwing Muses – Rest again.

8. Girlfriend is Better/Talking Heads – Sprint cardio – go!

9. Welcome to the Working Week/Elvis Costello – Rest.

10. Under the Milky Way/The Church – Repeat the circuit of legs, back, abs, and chest.

11. Game of Pricks/Guided By Voices – Rest.

12. Kundalini Express/Love & Rockets – Sprint Cardio – Go!

13. Sharkey’s Day/Laurie Anderson – Stretch

This is a longer workout (almost an hour), but you only have to keep doing one thing for 5 or 6 minutes at a stretch. Circuit workouts are hybrid cardio and resistance workouts that burn a lot of calories. Many people don’t get great results doing long sessions of steady state cardio. I sure don’t. Paleo types are often big on resistance training and are not fans of endurance exercise, for this reason. But don’t misinterpret that to mean that cardio is unnecessary for fitness. Even the paleo people are into short cardio sprints now and then.

*It has come to my attention that Spotify will only let you play these songs in exact order if you have a premium account. If you have a free account it will play them in Shuffle mode. Bummer. You need to do these in order or at least alternate the 5 to 6 minute songs (for the workout bits) with the one minute songs (for recovery).

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