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Behind a Mic - Natalie's Blog

My 5 minute, no equipment, no gym, no excuses workout 

Have you walked past a sorry looking hotel gym right after you check in thinking how great it would be to make it in there during your stay? 

You get to your room, unload your stuff, turn on the TV, open the HBO guide to see if there's a movie starting in the next 5 minutes… there never is.
 
You could go workout, but somewhere in the middle of settling in you realize there is no way you’re going to make it back to that hotel gym.
 
Working out by yourself in an empty gym while you’re in full view behind floor to ceiling windows for everyone who is checking in or walking through the lobby is never appealing. Why do they all have huge windows?
 
Or what could be keeping you from leaving your room is the thought that even in the nicest hotels the gyms seem …kind of gross.
 
When I’m on tour for a long time, like I was this summer, I usually pack furniture sliders and workout bands to exercise with - as well as sneakers and lots of hiking clothes so I can hit the trails or the pavement and get some exercise without really trying (that’s my favorite kind!).
 
But, I often have to pack light and don’t have much time, energy or willpower to commit to a full workout while I’m traveling.
 
For times like these I have a no-excuses workout.
 
It takes just 5 minutes and will wake up all your major muscles from your travel slog.
 
Hold or do each position and exercises for 60 seconds. If that’s too long for you aim for 30 seconds and build from there. I use my phones timer so I can just focus on executing the exercise.
 
1. Seated Wall Chair Squat
With your back against the wall and feethip distance apart and about two feet in front of the wall lower yourself into a squat. Youwant your knees to be straight over your ankles and form a 90 degree angle to your lower back against the wall. Careful not to arch your back and engage your abs so every inch of your spine is against the wall as well for good form. I like to rest my arms on my legs but you can press them into the wall behind you too.

*Make it more challenging by lowering and raising your ankles every 5 seconds or so.
(Check out Wiki to see how you measure up to most people in #5 http://www.wikihow.com/Measure-Lower-Body-Strength)
 

2. Chair Dips

You do this exercise with the help of a chair, coffee table, desk or counter top. The angle of the stable surface your using will change the way your muscles are engage and naturally add variety to the exercise.

Start seated or against a chair with your feet hip-width apart. Slide yourself off the chair and support your weight with your hands and straight arms. You may want to inch your feet a bit forward at this point. Bend your elbows back and lower you butt to the floor. Try not to use your feet as you push back up to the starting position.

Engage your abs and keep your back straight to get the most from the exercise and hit more then one muscle group.
 
3. Forearm Plank
I like to do this on a towel because as gross as hotel gyms are the floors in your hotel room are probably worse.
Lie on your stomach on the towel. Wish feet hip distance apart tuck your toes under your feet and press them into the floor. Bend your elbows and place your hands palms down on the floor. (I like to form fists that face each other or a diamond with my fingers on the floor but you can also keep them at your sides - experiment and see what you like better or change things up to keep your workout fresh - little changes can still challenge your body in new ways).
 
Pull your belly button into your spine as you tighten your abdominals and contract your glutes and legs to lift yourself off the floor into a plank position. Your body should form a straight line from head to feet.
*Without moving your arms or legs imagine your elbows and toes pulling towards each other. This will help keep you in proper form.
 
4. Standing Side Bend
You can do these without weights but I like to use something to add some more resistance and challenge my abs. Most hotels will have something you can use if you don’t want to use your own laptop like I am in the picture. A bible, filled ice bucket, anything with even a little weight will help maximize the results from the workout. Do 30 seconds each side to reach a minute.
 
Standing straight up with good posture and a tightened core, bend to one side and return back to the starting position. Make sure to bend from the waist and try not to move your lower body. *This is a great move to improve your posture and combat any hunched over traveling or working at a desk issues.

 
5. Standing Heel Raise
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your feet pointed straight ahead. If you need to, rest your hand on a wall or counter for balance. With your abdominals pulled in raise your heels off the floor so you’re on your tiptoes. Lower back down to the floor and repeat for one minute.
*You can make this exercise harder by doing it on the edge of a step, adding a little weight with your free hand or by doing one leg at a time and bending the leg your not standing on up to your butt.
 
That’s it! Takes 5 minutes. If you have extra time try doing it twice. It’s also a smart idea to stretch for a minute or two before and after the workout …really it’s a 7 minute workout!
 
I like being active and when I’m at home I go to the gym regularly, swim, hike, bike, rollerblade… vacuum. ;) I do a lot and stay pretty fit.
 
The road is another story all together. Long drives, long hours, little sleep, trying to find the venue, load in and then find a place still serving food and load out at the end of the show. It’s all so much work that working out falls pretty low on my priorities list. But if I don’t stay fairly active I always regret it and it shows up in my not having the stamina to perform at my best when I am on stage.
 
I hope this inspires you to do some of your own small workout even if your at home and not feeling too motivated. Just committing to do a few things will most likely leave you feeling better once you’ve done them! 
 

10 Great Tips to Stay Healthy on the Road…  

Being on tour is usually seen by those who haven’t done it before as a glamorous and exciting adventure. I get asked a lot where by tour bus is (it isn’t) and where my entourage are (they aren’t)… 

I’m here to tell you that touring and road tripping can be a LOTS of fun but you don’t want to get burnt out physically and mentally just a day or two into your trip. Here’s a little list of my tips for staying healthy and enjoying your whole journey.
 
1. Pack Light - Put everything you want to bring together and then eliminate 10 - 20% of what you think you need. You can always get more of something if you run out. I try to bring options that can layer up for various weather and do double duty going from casual to dressy. Packing light allows you to get ready and out the door faster on the road (less decisions!) and gives you space to bring things home that you find along the way.
 
2. Comfort Items - I personally sleep a million times better in any bed if I have my own pillow. This isn’t really an option when I fly but when I’m driving it’s with me. I keep a bright pillow case on it so I never forget it when leaving the next morning and keep it clean by keeping another pillow case over the bright one when I’m in transit. That and some essential oil at the end of the day (right now I’m into sandalwood - lavender is good too) and it’s instant zzz’s and feeling like I’ve got a little bit of “home” on the road.
 
I also bring notes and pictures of loved ones and use them as a bookmark or keep them in my makeup case or even tucked in the space in my suitcase where all my dirty clothes go. Anywhere I’ll run into it a lot. It makes me feel loved and puts a smile on my face.
 
3. Essential Secret Stash - I try to anticipate what might go wrong on the road and be prepared. Keeping a stash of my favorite remedies can make all the difference when handling colds and unforeseen allergic reactions to different climates on the road too. Bring any medications, bandages, and extra vitamins (especially C and Zinc). I like to bring throat coat or Echinacea teas and because the Advil Cold & Sinus and Claritin that work for me have to purchased at a pharmacy over the counter I try to make sure I have plenty of them so I don’t have to run around finding an open pharmacy on the road. It’s good to keep some phone numbers, at least $20 bucks and an emergency granola bar (or 3) in this stash too. Lots of times you’ll find after a show that everything in the town your playing is closed and you’ll be glad for those extra calories and small meals.
 
4. Sunblock - this gets it’s own little note because it’s so important. The road ages you and one of the things on the road that ages you the most (right up there with little sleep and dehydration) is the sun. Put it on more then you think you should. On your hands and arms when you’re driving too… don’t get the dreaded drivers tan! Stock up when you see a sale and you can keep some in your glove compartment or center console to slather on every two hours or so.
 
5. Audio Angels - If your traveling over long distances this is a must. I started this after reading Christine Kane’s post for travel tips for happiness and have listened to a ton a of books on tape since. I usually go to my library and take out a big stack - when you return them feel free to make a donation if you’re grateful, libraries can definitely use the funds!
 
Podcasts are another favorite of mine - you can find a podcast for virtually anything online and learn a new language or some interesting facts. Like Christine says, learning while you travel completely changes how you show up at your destination.
 
6. Connection - Picking up your phone (or headset!) and calling friends and loved ones is SO important. Find the time to stay connected with your community back at home and maybe even some people you haven’t connected with in a while. If you travel a lot or for long periods of time this will help keep you grounded and keep you from feeling lonely and depressed.
 
7. Snail Mail - I love writing loved ones when I’m on the road. Often times I’ll talk to the person I’m sending mail to in between when I’ve written it and when I think they’ll get it but knowing a surprise on it’s way makes me happy. I love putting it together and sending it off almost as much as I think folks like getting old-school snail mail. I try to write something timeless so it doesn’t matter if the details of my day are already outdated. If you know where you’ll be traveling to give your friends your address and see if they will send mail out for you too! :)
 
8. Presence - As you’re connecting to folks back home connect to whatever is around you too! Get some quality time outside the car in nature - I try and take lots of stretch breaks, arrive early so I can walk around to get a feel for the community and see if there seems to be a lake or place nearby where I can picnic. This light movement and awareness goes a long way to helping my body to feel tired from traveling/sitting all day and help me feel more grounded wherever I are.
 
9. Pack a Cooler - One of the hardest things about being on the road is eating healthy. I bring a cooler with me and try to visit grocery stores or farmers markets to stock up on healthy snacks that travel well (apples, carrots, nuts). I’ll even make salads the night before to bring along. I try to make what I’m bringing decadent and like treats too so I don’t even think about loading up on a sugary, caffeinated drink or a bag of corn nuts because I have cherries or watermelon waiting for me instead. If you have access to a freezer you can also freeze water to keep in the cooler and have later in the day. Which brings me to…
 
10. Stay Hydrated - It seems you can’t have enough water on the road. This alone will keep you healthy. If you don’t like the taste of water try slicing up a cucumber into a water bottle - it’s the best! It will stay good for about a day too and you can keep adding more water. I also pack tea bags and bring a nice size cold water bottle too. You can fill both hot water and cold water up inside most gas stations for free with the filtered water from their coffee maker and fountain machine.
 
Which reminds me, I’m not sure where I heard this but this is some of my favorite advice: Don’t fuel your body where you fuel your car. ;)
 
Take care of yourself - listen to your body if you need to slow down. The road, like a best friend, can be a good mirror of how you’re really doing emotionally and physically.
 
In this world where we are all so connected and surrounded by content and distractions you may even find some long stretches of highway without cell service and find yourself daydreaming about your next truly grand project or adventure.

Things I overheard at Sundance 2014... 

There's something to be said for stuffing 50,000 people into a city made for 10,000. Spending time in the bitter cold, oxygen thin, times square like glow of Main street would normally get to you after a few days. But not when you're at the Sundance Film Festival. The energy of Sundance always inspires me... kicking me into the new year with creativity and motivating me to push myself and my art harder then the year before.

It's been 5 years since I've attended my first Sundance and I've gone back ever year since. This one was a special one for me marking the release of the Sundance In Your Eyes song I wrote and really feeling like I was catching up with family by being there. Being more comfortable at the festival lead to some more eavesdropping. I always say, be careful what you say around a songwriter!! ;)

And so, here are a few of my favorite things I overheard at Sundance this year...

Man on his cellphone: "I can't get tickets to my own premier... You've gotta be f***ing kidding me. Tell me you're kidding me."

Drunk girl #1 regarding skiing man statue on Main street she just ran past: "Is he real? I just hit him"
Drunk girl #2 runs by and hits the statue: "No it's a statue, I just hit him"

Friends at a party about how Cannes Film Festival compares to Sundance: "Going to Cannes is like being in a Kanye West music video"

Girl walking down Main Street: "I'm not hipster enough for this"

Guy to girl freezing and shivering outside on Main street: "Are you twerking or just cold"

Feel free to add your own in the comments below! Happy Sundancing!

It's Resolutions time! 

...actually it's been resolutions time for quite a few days now but I'm generally late to the party, if I even find out there's a party so I'm working on my resolutions this weekend - a very rare weekend off from playing shows and driving all over this fabulous country. 

If you've followed me for a while you might remember that I'm a fan of this Word of The Year System. I still love choosing an overall word for the year but I am going to be putting down some very concrete resolutions and time lines this year.

I wanted to share a blog post I found with you before I share some of resolutions for the New Year both creatively and personally below. 

Leanne Regalia wrote a blog titled - 12 Most Powerful Ways to Keep Your Creative New Year's Resolutions.

You can read the whole post at the link there. One in particular really resonated with me today:

#5. Run as fast as you can from the comparison quagmire

Every time you compare your insides with someone else’s outside, you’re going to end up thinking “I suck!” There is really no good reason to go there. Part of learning acceptance and being kind to yourself — both of which are productive rocket fuel for artists — is realizing we are all on our own paths. We’re at different stages in our journeys and there’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s much more beneficial and healthy just to focus on how you can be a little bit closer to your goal tomorrow than you are today. Stick to your own resolutions one day at a time and then get back to work!

I think Leanne put it really well - we all know we shouldn't try to "keep up with the Jones'" but need a little reminder. As you make your resolutions over the fresh start of a new year do them for yourself. Do them so you're honored by your own commitment to the gift of each day and the freedom of choice you have to do whatever you want with your time. And change your mind the next minute. ;)

You just do you.

Love yourself for it.

I will too.
<3

For curious minds who want to know what an indie singer/songwriter wants out of 2014. Here are some of my resolutions in no particular order...
- A new CD... or Three! ;) It's true. I have big plans to put out LOTS of music in 2014. I'm thinking a live record, a ukulele record and a new full length. 
- Finally organize my kitchen. Living in NYC I never really grew up around people who have kitchens they actually use. I think my take out to homemade meals ratio still leans heavily toward take out even though I've lived in CA, with a real kitchen, for 2.5 years. So, one of my goals this year is to figure out how to put things where I can actually access them easily as I'm cooking and so when I have company they don't have to open every cabinet or drawer before finding a mug.
- Systems! I have been in love with this word for about two months now. I really like the idea of taking out the countless decisions (see my next resolution) I have to make about what to do and when to do it and just having a plan and doing the next thing I have to do. I'm implementing a routine for my day/week/month to get different things like my blog, newsletter, songwriting, booking and more all in a system. This includes a lot of other goals like a twice weekly video series on Youtube including one original and one cover song each week... which means I'll be writing one song a week!! ...whew! breathe!
- Get More Confident in My Decision Making. I'm the person who exhausts every option for flight travel (all airports, dates and other possibilities) among 100's of other daily decisions. This is not good when you're constantly booking travel itineraries, shows and generally being a living human needing to decide what to eat for dinner... I think I can save a lot of time with this one and maybe have time to organize my kitchen and write and record all that music!
- Get More Sleep. In general I want to treat myself better in 2014. I am going to get more massages, eat more greens, look in magnifying mirrors less, make shorter "to do" lists, read more books and just have a good old time getting to know myself more in some unscheduled play time (ie. a day off now and again) so I am super grounded when I go out and share music in the world. One of the books I need to finally read is The Artists Way. :) 

Love you all for reading. And please don't compare - just be inspired to do what you feel is right for you this year. I'm feeling like this is a big year for me and I have a lot of opportunity to step up now that I'm really settled in CA and have made some big strides this past year to set me up with knowledge of what's really important to me and how to do it. 

Happy 2014! See you on the other side!
Natalie
 

You might say I'm a dreamer... but I'm not the only one! 

It's true!

California native, Tiff Jimber and I dreamed... and drove all over CA together on our California Dreamers Tour a few weeks ago!

You can see all the cities we hit in this tour poster





The tour was an insane amount of fun and I can't wait to head back on the road with Tiff soon! Check out her music here: www.tiffjimber.com

Check out some, okay a LOT of photos from one of our first shows on the tour at Cold Spring Tavern in Santa Barbara. Tiff and I started accompanying each other with percussion (shakers, tambourines AND percussion on my guitar case!!) and singing backup... We even had a little assistant, a very young assistant I might add, who carried our tip jar around to unassuming guests and cried until they contributed and he moved a lot to the next unassuming patron.




I learned a lot from that little two year old and in general on this tour... my top 10:
1.  While they shouldn't, tears sometimes can help you get what you want... but it usually helps if you're under 5 years old.
2.  Driving... and parking a mini van is now totally doable. Bring it on!
3.  San Jose has been added to the ever expanding list of cities in California I will confuse (San (Jose, Francisco, Luis Obispo) Santa (Maria, Barbara, Monica)
3.a.  I just realized writing that out that those are all boys/gals depending on San/Santa... will that help me? No. Still very cool to learn.
4.  Traffic in San Francisco is actually worse then LA... I said it. deal with it. It's true.
5.  The piano skills I've been working up all year... and for 14 years when I was little... are finally being put to serious use. Thanks Tiff for pushing me to play!! <3
6.  People are great. People with dogs are greater. 
7.  A half a glass of wine will get you drunk if you've only eaten an apple that day. And by you, I mean me.
8.  There's a sweet spot on the guitar case where you can hit it and get an awesome base drum sound... But, more important then that is the sweet spot in the rhythm. Which is why I usually sang backup and played the egg shaker ever.so.softly.
9.  Breakfast is definitely the most important meal of the day. Coffee is the second most important meal of the day but it is also one of the min courses of breakfast
10.  You always notice when the tour loops back around and your headed towards home :)

Hope to see you out at the next show! Enjoy the photos!!
 

Scramble, Rock and Roll… or how I learned that eggs come from chickens and not the corner deli. 

Every year, my grade school would take a trip to a farm in upstate NY. We would stand in line and briefly take our turn milking a cow in machine-like precession before holding a baby chick, petting a goat and getting back on the bus… That was about the extent of my connection to animals, the great outdoors and any sense of where my food came from. 
Growing up in NYC in the 80’s you didn’t often have a feeling of connection and gratitude to nature or a sense of responsibility to care for it. In fact, I really felt like NYC was the center of the world and we were pretty much invincible in our cobbled, concrete and congested bubble. I had limited awareness of the world outside the city that kept us fed and fueled.
 
At the age of sixteen, for a number of reasons, I decided to give up meat. I read about the hormones used in animal products and innocently thought that my teenage veins were chock-full of enough boy-crazed hormones to last through my twenties. The health effects of eating meat over time made it seem an unhealthy choice and was shocked by the amount of recourses it takes to produce a pound of meat vs. the same amount of protean from plant sources. It just made sense and I considered myself a fairly sensible sixteen year old.
 
As I’ve gotten older, my non-meat consumption  (I settled into being a pesceterian) seemed to define me. I began a career as a singer/songwriter and have become much more aware of the environmental impact of all the choices I make. I try hard to balance being a responsible consumer with the path I’ve chosen. Just getting to my shows puts tons of carbon emissions in to the atmosphere. Let alone amplifying and lighting the show once I’m there, manufacturing merch or using my computer for the better part of each day to book those shows and tend to the plethora of work I have to do.
 
For me the balance seems to come in the middle of that awareness. It’s within the details, like not eating meat, that I make decisions everyday to lessen my footprint. I have rented cars to tour in because they were more fuel efficient then my own, opted for recycled cardboard for CD manufacturing though less cost effective and bought mostly vintage/recycled/up-cycled clothes to rock on stage and for photo shoots.
 
All of that is not out of judgment or self-righteousness but rather from gratitude and out of fun. That spirit is what inspired the making of the new music video for my song, “Most The While.” It was shot outside over two days at local locations with only the filmmaker, their camera and myself. No crew, extraneous gear, power or vanities were used. We felt that the environment and the music was enough to make a beautiful video. And after seeing these locations I think you’ll agree there wasn’t any need to bring a generator and light the already stunning environment.


 
For many of us it’s become second nature to buy organic, recycle, purchase reusable and up-cycled products and generally not consume or even bring into our homes what won’t be put to through use. There is always going to be more that you can do and new information coming out to keep you informed and making healthy choices for yourself and the environment.
 
I want to encourage you to take time to validate those choices and be inspired by the world you’re preserving and protecting. I hope the video inspired you to connect to something out in nature that’s non-manipulated and unpackaged and just enjoy the simple beauty and magnificence of our world.
 
Almost two years ago, I moved temporarily to California to make my new record. I ended up sticking around and eventually living on an organic farm with chickens (“The girls”) and goats… needless to say, it’s a far cry from NYC. Sometimes I miss getting lost in the streets and subways of the city or being able to get anything I need anytime I need it. Most of the time though I find it balancing out the New Yorker in me and putting those grade school trips to hold chicks at an upstate farm to good use.
 
For the first few months I lived here I tossed in my kitchen scraps to the chickens and happily took eggs when the farmer gave them to me, but I resisted a total connection to “the girls” and helping myself to the eggs in their coop. One day I was really craving scrambled eggs and finally asked if I could help myself to some. Ten minutes later I was eating the freshest, most delicious scrambled eggs of my life. My bubble of consumption and connection was blasted wide open and with each bite I was so grateful to “the girls” and completely connected to the land I live on.

Streetlamp Musician Radio Campaign Kickstarter is 106% Funded! Thank YOU!! 

This "radio" I made says it best...

Couldn't have done it with out you all! We raised $5,660! Even with all of the fee's and a few pledges that didn't come through we still have over $5000 which is exactly what I needed to get this campaign off the ground.

A very special thanks to my "Name in Lights" pledgers: Peter Kemp and Allen Barth!! You guys are always supportive and I really appreciate your notes of encouragement always. :) Thank you!


Something, something... 

Here's a few videos recorded at SOhO Music Club in Santa Barbara, CA and a surprise cover song! Enjoy!!

Something Old...


Something New...


Something Borrowed...

Something Blue...

Recycled Paper Making 

I made some recycled paper the other day and lots of you have been asking about how I made it. It's really easy once you get going and fun because each piece of paper you make is a bit of a surprise but you do need a paper making machine. I use Arnold Grummer's Papermill Kit (www.arnoldgrummer.com).

First you gather up some scraps, you can even use old paper bags! I threw in some show fliers, envelopes from bills. ;)


Then rip the scraps into smaller pieces (feels good if you rip something that frustrated you and turn it into something you love!!) and blend with 2 cups of water. The longer you blend them the less bit's of paper you'll be able to see in your final piece.
 


You then pour the blended paper pulp into the paper making machine. It's a series of screens with a mold to guide the pulp through them placed in a tub of water. Use your fingers to shift through the pulp and distribute it evenly. I like to add dried flowers at this point to make the paper more unique and special. (Dont have the best pictures of this part because I'm always pretty occupied!)


Once you've lifted the mold and pulp out (in the photo above) the water keeps draining out and you release the velcro green straps and take your wet molded pulp on a screen over to a cookie tray.


After that you lay a screen over the pulp and gently use a sponge to soak up all the excess water, squeezing it out a few times until you dont have any extra water wringing out.


Then you peal the screen off and use whats called a couch sheet (comes in the kit) to lay over the paper where the screen was and soak up more water (not picured) and then flip the whole thing (couch sheet, new piece of paper and the bottom screen) peal that screen off from the corner gently and place another dry couch sheet where that screen was. You then press with a press block to squeeze as much water out as you can. Its actually a lot easier then I'm making this step sound ;)


You then lay your damp new sheet flat to dry. I like to lay them flat for a while and airing out easily and then place somethingheavy on them to make sure they dry nice and flat. If you forget to lay something heavy on them and they completely dry you can re-dampen the paper with water in a spray bottle (spritz both sides of new sheet til damp) and then place under some heavy books. Voila! New, awesome and 100% unique paper!
 

If you make some paper send me a photo! :D




Be Bold 

I often find my cat staring at something invisible or into the other room like she sees things I don't. Sometimes I even watch her playing with imaginary bugs or mice.

Kinda like this...

Usually I'll just ignore her or realize that she is so desperate to play that she's making an imaginary toy out of thin air and then I'll play with her more. But I've been thinking a lot about fear lately and how it keeps most of us, myself definitely included, from living a life that's 100% full so I wanted to share this.

I used to let her staring or little unknown noises freak me out. I would start imagining what was outside the room or what she could see that I couldn't becoming paralyzed by the fear. When I finally would get the nerve to go check out what it was... Nothing Happened. Everytime.

The boogie man didn't come to get me, their wasn't a mouse crawling across a corner and everything was always more-or-less in its usual state of ...disarray.

So my point is, to be bold because there really isn't anything to be afraid of. You decide exactly how your life is and if you have dreams please don't let a little fear stop them. Feel the fear and do it anyway. The worst that usually happens is nothing.
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