The Comfiest Fall Ever + Giveaway!

The Comfiest Fall Ever + Giveaway!

Big thanks to Katillia at Momma Sweet Pea Crochet for supplying a prize for this blog giveaway!

It’s a new year. It is not even remotely a new me. I still procrastinate. I still think about writing blog posts for myself and then forget… or decide to watch a show on Netflix… or decide to watch a different show on Netflix.

But, whatever. Here we are. I have given myself a resolution of writing AT LEAST one blog post a month. Just like I’ve given myself a resolution of reading AT LEAST one book a month. Both of these things are things I love to do… but am having a hard time fitting them into my current life.

(Watch me segue like a boss here guys.)

You know what I haven’t had a hard time doing? Fitting my new scarf into my life.

(Yeah. I just segued. I segued like someone riding a Segway from one topic to another in a quick, smooth fashion.)

I bought a new scarf this fall, from my longtime favorite crochet mastermind, Katillia. Katillia and I have met each other in-person a grand total of one time. One time, back in 2011 (I think?) we met at another friend’s house for a playdate… but we’d been internet friends on Facebook for at least a year before that, simply because our husbands were friends.

Isn’t that crazy? I don’t know, maybe it’s not. It feels crazy to me. The truth is, though, I interact with her via the internet on an almost daily basis. We were pregnant “together” with our first kids, and we’ve both watched each other become entrepreneurs over the course of the past five years. That’s awesome, and I’m genuinely grateful to have her in my life.

I kicked off fall by ordering a nice, comfy haul of wintery goodness from Katillia. A new scarf (I’d had my old one from her for almost 4 years), two “mug hugs,” and a coffee cozy. A coffee cozy that, on her suggestion, is modeled after the bowtie and jacket worn by Doctor Who’s 11th, doctor. She totally gets me.




So, I’m ready to spread the awesomeness that is Katillia’s crochet shop, Momma Sweet Pea Crochet. You can check out all of her awesome stuff on her Etsy shop here, and you can check out the adventures I’ve been having with my Fall Crochet Haul in this little picture series. You can ALSO win $25 worth of crochet from her shop, if you leave a comment on this blog post. Not on Facebook, but right here, in the comments section at the bottom… because this is a small business, a small blog giveaway, and I don’t get a whole lot of comments, so it’s going to make me feel extra good about myself.




Your assignment? In the blog comments, tell me what your favorite warm beverage is to drink in the winter. If you want extra entries, you can like both my and Katillia’s Facebook pages and leave comments on the post about today’s giveaway. That’s not hard, right? I’ll keep the giveaway open for one week, ending at 11:59 pm CST on Wednesday the 27th, and will choose a winner using a random number generator. Giveaway is valid in the US only.

May the most random winner win!

Black Day: The Monster Rock Band by Marcus Sikora

Black Day: The Monster Rock Band by Marcus Sikora

Disclosure Stuff: I received an eBook preview of Black Day: The Monster Rock Band in return for this post. All opinions are my own and reading is awesome so high-fives all around!

I know, I know. Lauren’s doing another sponsored post? Doesn’t she usually blather on about how she really doesn’t do that kind of thing?

Well, sometimes I do, when it’s something I think is totally awesome. Plus, the compensation I’m getting from this particular post is the best kind ever: reading.

I recently got to check out a sneak peek of a new children’s book called Black Day: The Monster Rock Band, written by a local author named Marcus Sikora, and his mom, Mardra.

Black Day stars a young boy named Brad who desperately wants to be in a rock band… regardless of who’s in it. When he stumbles upon the band practice of a group that just so happens to be made up of monsters, Brad has no intention of changing his plans. Not only do we get to watch Brad use his resourcefulness and gain acceptance from his spooky band members, we also get to see the inception of a town’s newest Halloween tradition. I love that the book promotes the importance of recognizing people’s value, whether we fully understand them or not.

One of the things that makes this book special is the fact that the author, Marcus, is a young man living with Down Syndrome. His mother, Mardra, writes beautifully about their life together on her website, and I feel privileged to be allowed a glimpse into their lives. Marcus is a vibrant guy with an honest demeanor, and seems to be more emotionally intelligent than most of the people I’ve met in my life. Definitely more so than I am.

Let’s get real here, though. I think the most awesome thing about this book is that I got to see Marcus singing onstage before I had any idea that he had a book about a rock band cooking in his head.

I met Marcus and Mardra officially last year, but it turned out that I had been watching them sing Karaoke together since 2011 at one of my favorite (but sadly closed now) Karaoke bars. Mardra’s got a killer voice and can belt some 90’s alternative music without breaking a sweat, but the real showstopper is Marcus and his rendition of Harry Belafonte’s Day-O. I’ve gotten to watch Marcus’ accomplishments all the way from the stage to the page, and I feel incredibly honored.

The Details:

Black Day: The Monster Rock Band is a 40 page hardcover book, and is available for $20 online here for delivery in July, and immediately available for purchase at the Bookworm in Omaha, NE

-For more info about the book, you can head over to

-There will be a reading and book signing event at the Bookworm on Friday July 11th 1:00 pm. -You can follow Marcus and Mardra on Facebook and Twitter!

Very Complex and In-depth Video Book Review

I asked Charlie to do a little video book review about Black Day. He may or may not mention a lot that the book is scary… just bear in mind that even a dash of ominous ambiance is enough to have him covering his eyes.

The Local Awesome: Special Kneads LLC

The Local Awesome: Special Kneads LLC

There have been plenty of changes around here in the Bonk household.

One of the biggest, though, is my back. Specifically, my upper back. It turns out the mysterious and glamorous world of being a barista is pretty cool, and also pretty hard on your upper back region.

The thought of getting a massage has been floating around in my brain for a few months now, but where was I to go? I was planning on using my hard-earned tip money, and wanted to make sure I spent it at the right place. Most of the massages I’ve experienced felt good, but were fairly impersonal and often at a massage chain.

For once, however, my procrastination and indecision paid off.

Enter Tina Wilson, LMT to order a latte during my shift and save me from my plight.

Tina owns a small business called Special Kneads LLC just a few storefronts down, and her business’ motto is “Massage for Everybody.”

I don’t know what it was about her… whether it was the clever business-naming abilities, her warm and down-to-earth nature, or a combination of the two, but when I was done chatting with her, I knew exactly where the money in my tip jar was headed.


The actual massage experience was just what I was hoping for. The reception area is bright and open, with a big picture window facing the street. Local art is hung on the walls of this surprisingly large space, which made me feel welcomed and excited.

I’ll admit to being a little concerned about the bright atmosphere when thinking ahead to my relaxing massage, but I was happy to find a dimly lit and peaceful room waiting for me.


Tina displays a demeanor of both professionalism and warmth, which is the perfect combination for a massage therapist, in my book. The massage itself carried on with the pattern that I noticed throughout the entire experience; a pleasant mix of function and relaxation. I had mentioned certain parts of my back and shoulders that were bothering me, and she did not shy away from working out the kinks while also providing a relaxing massage.

Normally, I prefer a little more pressure when I get a massage, but since I knew I would be writing about it, I wanted to get a feel of the standard offering… and I can tell you it’s just the right mix of restorative and relaxing. Tina made it known that my communication was welcome during the massage if I needed changes in pressure or anything else that ensured my comfort.

While the massage itself is of course important, I wanted to make sure I highlighted Tina herself, as her responses to my questions were so very genuine and heartening.

ME: Why did you decide to go into Massage Therapy?

TINA: I chose massage therapy because I was drawn to alternative healthcare. This was largely in part to my mother, who later in life chose to go to school to become a Physical Therapist Assistant. As part of her training she had a massage class and so I was exposed to the health and healing benefits of massage at a young age. I would sometimes give my Mom a back rub (not knowing what I was doing) and she always told me I’d be good at it. I’ve always been interested in anatomy and physiology, but was not necessarily interested in becoming a nurse or a doctor, so massage therapy was a good fit for me. It was a way to be part of healthcare without being in a conventional setting.

ME: What is your favorite part of the job?

TINA: My favorite part of the job is seeing the look of post-massage happiness on peoples’ faces when they come out of the room after a session. There’s no greater feeling than being able to provide relief to people in pain, or relaxation to people whose stress has made living life difficult. I’ve seen people hobble in and walk out straighter and smiling. Or pregnant mothers that waddle in with looks of pain on their face come out as if they’re floating on a cloud. That gives me goosebumps. That makes what I do worth doing. I’m a firm believer that there is a ripple effect that occurs after getting a good massage. If you feel good, then you’re more likely to be in a better mood or be able to carry out your tasks of the day with a better attitude. This can lead to all sorts of positive reactions like being more patient with your kids, or kinder to strangers. I know massage isn’t the only thing that can cause this ripple effect, but it sure helps.

ME: Why did you choose Benson (in Omaha, NE) as the location for Special Kneads?

TINA: I chose Benson for my location, first of all, because the space itself was bright, beautiful, clean and handicap accessible. The way it is setup was perfect for a massage business, and I just couldn’t pass that up. In addition to the space itself being what I was looking for, I loved the idea of being part of a community that is growing and improving and so supportive of local businesses, art and music. It is a good feeling to be part of good change in the area, and to see the transformation as improvements take place. I also love the diversity of the Benson area. I see every color of the rainbow and every age walk past my place. It is always interesting. I’ve had people who have lived in Benson for years stop in just to say hi and to see what we do here and some have even thanked me for opening here. The area has a great energy.

ME: Can you tell me a little about your outcall services?

TINA: I named my business Special Kneads LLC, because I specialize in working with people who have a wide range of “special needs”. I work with people who have developmental/intellectual disabilities, spinal cord/brain injury, or degenerative conditions like multiple sclerosis. Some of these individuals come in to the office location assisted by their caregivers and some of them choose to have me travel to their location because it is easier or the person is more comfortable in their own setting. Sometimes the setting is their home or their day service setting. The bottom line is we adapt to the needs of the client.

One thing I want the public to know is we don’t work exclusively with the special needs population. Our tagline is “Massage for Everybody”. This means we work on everybody and every body. No one is excluded. So whether you have no pain issues and you just want a relaxation Swedish massage, if you have chronic pain and are in need of Trigger Point Therapy, or you are pregnant and are in need of a Prenatal Side-Lying massage, we can help you. We love working on all types of people.

I don’t know about you guys, but that’s the kind of person I want to trust with my massage.

I’m so pumped to have met Tina, and fully plan on sending anyone who asks straight on over to Special Kneads… which leads me to this: Tina is offering all of you awesome readers $15 off any hour or longer full-price massage service for the month of June. In order to get the discount, simply schedule your appointment online using the PROMO code: PENANDCURTAIN. This offer cannot be combined with any other offer or discount, and does not apply to outcall services.

I seriously hope some of you take advantage of this offer… whether it’s a gift for yourself or someone you love. The massage I got at Special Kneads, of course, was wonderful, but it was Tina and her business that ultimately had me floating on a cloud.

Support local. Support good people. Support yourself by getting an awesome massage.

Disclaimery Schtuff:

I was compensated by Special Kneads, LLC with a discounted massage that was tooooooootally wonderful.  All ideas and non-interview words are my own.

Arlo Guthrie and More Musings from Me

Arlo Guthrie and More Musings from Me

Here I am with another post sponsored by Omaha Performing Arts! If you’re sick of these, take heart in the fact that the season’s almost over, and if you’re not, then I will give you a high-five the next time I see you.

(Who am I kidding? I would probably high-five you no matter what.) Anyway…

Arlo Guthrie is playing in Omaha at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Kiewit Hall at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, April 28th, and I am really excited to see him play.

While, no, he hasn’t been someone I thought I’d see in concert, he’s definitely been a presence in my life for a very long time. My dad has always been a fan, and even named our dog, Arlo, after him. I can remember Thanksgiving car rides when NPR would play Guthrie’s famous “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” more than once. All day, maybe? I don’t remember for sure. Although, at the time, I was listening to Ace of Base and TLC on my discman and thinking “Ugh why Dad why,” I now appreciate how much my dad tried to acquaint me with the classics.

That’s what’s so special about this performance in particular; it’s Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour.” He’ll be commemorating the anniversary by playing the song/monologue in its entirety, along with other songs from his library. The song itself is a monologue with a guitar backing that depicts a true story from Guthrie’s life, and was written as a protest of the Vietnam War.

I hope you guys will take advantage of this awesome chance to see a legend. I’ve gotten to see Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King in concert, and I have to say that seeing the people who used to stare back at me from the album covers in my dad’s collection is an incredibly feeling.

(You can purchase tickets online at Ticket Omaha.)

(Seriously, you should go.)

Cherish the Ladies at the Holland Center

Cherish the Ladies at the Holland Center

When somebody asks me where I want to travel, my first thought is Ireland. Hands down. My mind fills with green and mist and legends, and I imagine myself frolicking among grassy hills and tiny cottages. I want to go to pubs and see literary landmarks… and I want to just sit with a mug of tea and stare out the window, absorbing as much of the landscape as I can with my eyes and heart.

And when I’m imagining this, there’s always a soundtrack. Fiddles, flutes, heart-shaking drums. Guhhhhh. I love it. I find that a traditional Irish tune with a rolling beat gets my adrenaline pumping faster than any of my favorite workout playlists, and one that is slow and heartfelt almost pushes me to tears.

Luckily for me, Omaha Performing Arts is bringing Cherish the Ladies, an all-female Irish-American ensemble, to Omaha, along with intricately beautiful music and traditional step dancers. What I find to be incredibly cool about this group is that it has been around for thirty years, collecting some of the most talented Celtic musicians in the country. They’re bringing their 30th anniversary concert on tour, and we get to enjoy it about a week before St. Patrick’s Day.

I can’t wait. Although I’ve found lately that I’m not a huge fan of sitting through instrumental concerts (I blame Netflix and my ever-waning attention span), I know this is going to be a special case. Just sitting and watching this video on Youtube has gotten me all worked up.

If this kind of music makes your heart flutter too, I hope you’ll join me in seeing them at the Kiewit Hall in the Holland Performing Arts Center on May 11th at 7:00 pm. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased online at Ticket Omaha, over the phone at 402-345-0606, or inside the Ticket Omaha office in the Holland Center at 1200 Douglas Street.

For Transparency’s Sake: I’m being compensated by Omaha Performing Arts for this post with two complimentary tickets to Cherish the Ladies. All rambling and sigh-punctuated words are my own.

Check out my expanded horizons: An Evening with David Sedaris

Check out my expanded horizons: An Evening with David Sedaris

I think that, at almost 30 years old, I can examine my character flaws without it reflecting a lack of self-esteem on my part. There are a few aspects of my personality that I recognize as “not ideal,” at least when we’re thinking about the ideal characteristics of a human being contributing to society.

One of my most socially offensive flaws (in my opinion, anyway) is the intense desire to live in a carefully controlled bubble… a bubble containing my family, friends, nostalgic pop-culture, and music-related news.

I’ve spent my life carefully avoiding current events and nonfiction writing, because I prefer the fiction. If the fiction stresses me out, I can console myself with the fact that it’s not real. I recognize that, as a parent raising two other (hopefully) contributing members of society, this is an example I need to work on.

So, I’m trying, with baby steps, to expand my bubble. Perhaps someday, when my kids are older and more able to hold their own in the world, it will get easier to keep listening when NPR switches from Car Talk to the news. For right now, though, I’m slowly broadening my horizons with non-fiction storytelling. I’ve found that listening to things like This American Life and The Moth Story Hour makes it more possible for me to learn about the struggles of real people, without getting them carelessly dropped into my lap like a bowl of eyeballs. That might seem a little extreme… but sometimes that’s what the news feels like to me: like someone very nonchalantly handed me something horrible, in hopes of scaring me out of my wits.

So, slowly but surely, I’ve been learning about things outside of my bubble, and I do feel better for it. This is why, when I learned that David Sedaris was being brought by Omaha Performing Arts to speak, I quietly jumped up and down. Sedaris has been a fairly regular fixture on This American Life, and is one of the most spellbinding people I’ve heard (on the radio, anyway) speak. His words have a way of sounding so beautiful, even when he’s talking about things that are not inherently so. I think that seeing him speak in person will humanize him even more for me, and make his stories distinctly more real in my mind.

If you’re as interested as I am, An Evening with David Sedaris will be held on Thursday, October 30th at 7:30 pm at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Kiewit Hall. You can get tickets by visiting

I hope to see you there, whether you’re trying to expand your horizons or are simply interested in an incredible evening of storytelling! If you’re interested in reading some of his work, this website is a great place to start.


Real Talk: In return for this blog post, Omaha Performing Arts is compensating me with two tickets to An Evening with David Sedaris. Although I’m being compensated, all these words are my own, you guys. I ain’t no sellout.