Johnnyswim

If there’s an indisputable argument that true love is a real thing it’s probably the band Johnnyswim performing on stage. When we were fortunate enough to see them at the Troubadour in Los Angeles just over a week ago, the opening band—one of their close friends—jokingly suggested their chemistry is “just a ruse.” But from the moment the young married couple Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez take the stage, it’s obvious that the two are unconditionally, joyfully in love with one another. And it’s infectious.

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Through every song of their show, they dance flirtatiously with each other and send warm gazes across the stage. They’ve written all of the lyrics together, and the words are interwoven with their history, the strength that their relationship has provided, and the hope of what may come in a future shared together. In between tracks they tease each other about idiosyncrasies, talk about what it’s like to be both artists and soulmates, and recount some of the creative battles they’ve faced together. We were intrigued to find out that one of our favorite tracks, “Diamonds,” was written as a suck-it song to a former friend turned naysayer who thought that their musical aspirations would never succeed. He gave Abner a quarter and told him to call him when the music career failed and devolved into homelessness.

Some years later, they’re touring across the country, have performed on The Late Show and The Tonight Show, and in the cozy, historic space of the Troubadour, felt like a band inches away from breaking into the mainstream (if they want to). They also recently had a son, and that new life seems to have only added to the electricity and devotion they share together. They did a small set of acoustic songs that they would sing together while their newborn was still in the womb, and it was touching and adorable.

All of the chemistry simply heightens what is clearly an immensely talented group of musicians—not just Amanda and Abner, but also the instrumentalists alongside them. It’s difficult to pinpoint a genre for the music they play, and that adds to the uniqueness and the musicality. There’s folk, some Latin influence from Abner’s Cuban roots (he sneaks in some Spanish lyrics once in awhile), some twang from the years they called Nashville home, and even some pop and hip-hop beats on occasion. They closed with a mashup of one of their songs and Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends.” It was awesome.

Altogether, we were grateful to be able to go to one of their live shows. Eric had only heard a few of their songs going into it, and he’s been playing their albums over and over ever since. The songs are great to wake up to, or to curl up on the couch to, or even to fall asleep to. And they’re best shared with someone you love.

It’s hard to find artists so genuinely dedicated to their craft that they keep pressing on through the obstacles of naysayers, the challenges of being in a relationship and being musicians on tour together, and not letting any of those struggles get you down. In a lot of ways they reminded us of us. Not because we’re super talented musicians, but because we feel that same kind of love in our own marriage and it has kept us strong through all of the peaks and valleys of life. True love isn’t some mythical, absurd thing; it is possible to find someone who makes you a better version of yourself and with whom you can create beautiful things together. And it’s possible to open up and share that love and hopefulness with other people in ways that makes them feel inspired—reminded that the world isn’t only a place of heartache and cynicism. No matter your situation, there are diamonds there waiting to “rise out the dust.” Johnnyswim are a wonderful reminder of that, and flat out amazing performers.

Things We Like This Week: #1

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls Picture by Eric 

Have you seen the THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA six part series? A beautiful story and history of our greatest treasure.

Loving the new How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence and the Machine

Open Minds People! Why so much fuss about Zoe Saldana’s husband taking her last name? Eric took my name  #earlyadopters.

What are you baking this summer? This pie from Smitten Kitchen looks yummy!

Those Who Jam Together, Stay Together

Jam

Eric and I have been wanting to make jam and learn the art of canning for about two years now. Who doesn’t want a collection of cute jars with amazing fruit and vegetable contents to pull out of the cupboard whenever you like? But every time we get excited about it I do some Google searching and become terrified that I’m going to cause a botulism outbreak. A couple weeks ago, I mustered the courage and we finally decided to tackle this adventure together. Eric bought me a wonderful artisan canning book Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving. Inspired, I went all out and purchased a countertop jam and jelly cooker (BALL FreshTech, and it’s fantastic), along with a canning pot and rack, a big case of jars, tongs, funnel, etc. I feel official (and safe!) now.

Having a bunch of jars and equipment with nothing to put in them obviously doesn’t get you very far, so we went to the market to see what’s in season. Another perk of canning: having another reason to get tasty produce from the farmer’s market. We went straight for the blueberries. In Southern California, we’ve cycled back around to plump, fragrant ones (yay, local!) instead of bitter pebbles imported from Chile out of season.

With everything we would need finally in our kitchen, the jam making began. For our first batch we decided to make some Blueberry Lime Jam. We ended up with Blueberry Lime Jelly because we each reading from two different recipes. Learned-lesson one: don’t make it too complicated. Learned-lesson two: if you add too much pectin you will achieve more of a Jell-O.

Putting the jam into jars and placing them in a hot water bath for the lids to seal is a little nerve-racking. Glass, hot, sugary gloop, and boiling water don’t seem like natural party friends. But ultimately I’m just excited to be making jam like a boss. Eric pulled the jars out of the water bath and we waited for them to pop and seal. Looping in the back of my mind is the scene from Holiday Inn where the canned fruit Bing Cosby brings for his city friends explodes. I sure hope we’re not about to have blueberry-lime confetti throughout the house!

But lo and behold: four jars of perfectly sealed jam jelly ready to christen our home-canning shelf. Any new endeavor can be scary; most of us are uncomfortable with change and diving into something where we don’t know all of the ins and outs. Canning is relatively friendly. The (slim) possibility of foodborne illness is daunting, or an accidental jam fireworks show. But things are much less intimidating when you jump into it with someone that you care about deeply. You reassure each other, you cover each other’s novice mistakes, you add a new dimension to your relationship by introducing something you’ve never done before, and if you do even a small part of it right you can sit back and enjoy the results and feel accomplished. That Blueberry Lime Jelly was rather delicious, and we’ve confidently made jams with a handful of other seasonal fruits since including blackberry peach cardamom, strawberry rhubarb, raspberry rhubarb, and blueberry cinnamon gin!


Eric and I have taken much greater risks and leaps together before, and we’re stronger and closer because of it. But even with something as light-hearted and generally harmless as canning, we’ve become convinced that those who do it together stay together.