Thursday, December 23, 2010

my publisher's clearing house moment

Do you know those commercials for the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes?  The one where the lady or man of the house is going about their day-to-day life and they answer a knock on their door only to find someone holding flowers, balloons and a gigantic check, letting them know all their dreams have just come true?


I had one of those moments recently.  Have a look....

(Cell phone video.  I know it sucks but I am just thankful Countrymouse filmed this.)

I still can't believe he's here (or that Matt and Countrymouse were able to pull off the biggest surprise of my life!).  Publisher's Clearing House has nothin' on me!


I hope your holiday is filled with awesome goodness and lifelong memories.  I know mine has been.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: carol of the bells



So today is the last Tuesday before Christmas and there's still so many songs I'd love to share.  In trying to narrow down my options, I began thinking about songs that stand out as favorites. 


Countrymouse's favorite Christmas song is "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Nat King Cole.  I think he actually likes anything sung by Nat King Cole.


One of my mother's favorite Christmas songs was "The Little Drummer Boy".  I have lots of fond memories of singing it with her and my siblings.  When we were very small we really loved the pa rum pum pum pum part.  I can see us now beating away on our imaginary drums, playing our hearts out.


I'm not sure if this changed later in his life but when we were kids, my brother Phil's favorite holiday song was "We Three Kings".  I have to admit I liked it too.  There seemed to be something magical about the melody of the song.  Hearing it now brings me back to the Christmas pageants we did at church when we were young.  All the little boys were shepherds and the little girls all got to dress up as angels.  I can remember feeling so beautiful.  One of the last years we participated in the pageant, I was selected to be Mary and Phil was one of the Wise Men (or Kings).  I can still remember him as he walked down the church aisle bearing his gift while the congregation sung "We Three Kings".  He smiled the entire time.  


I always have a hard time picking one song (or artist) as my favorite... I like so many.  However, for the past several years I would have to say my favorite Christmas song is "Carol of the Bells".  I typically like the versions without lyrics because I find the music to be so beautiful.  I hear this song and I immediately think of everything I love about the holidays.  It's a nice feeling.


"Carol of the Bells" is one of those songs that has been musically interpreted into countless variations.  In it's original form it is an Ukrainian a cappella folk song.  During the last decade or so the song was taken to new heights when the Trans-Siberian Orchestra recorded it in it's rock orchestra style.  Of course you can also find many versions recorded by artists we all know and love.


Since there are so many versions of "Carol of the Bells", I find different recordings evoke different emotions.  Because of that, I thought I'd share three different versions.  Which one do you like best?   




Traditional Ukrainian version, "Shedrik".  The group is Charivna.  Try your best to get past those crazy glasses.



Modern version by The Bird and The Bee with lyrics.  I think this almost has a 60s feel to it.  I love The Bird and The Bee so it's easy for me to like this version.


Instrumental version arranged and preformed by George Winston.  This is probably my favorite.


I hope there is lots of memorable music in your life this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: the christmas song



There is something very familiar and comforting about traditional songs.  I'm not sure if it's that they have been around our entire lives, that everyone knows them or if we each have our own personal memory of a particular song.  I like tradition and knowing year after year we can look forward to doing the same thing (or hearing the same song).  I think tradition helps bond people by creating a common experience and a common memory.


Here in the US, one of the most beloved Christmas songs is "The Christmas Song" also commonly known as "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire".  I can remember singing this with my mother as a little girl. The song was written in 1944 by the very wonderful Mel Tormé and Bob Wells and first recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946.  Cole went on to record several versions of the song, adding different instrumentation to each, but his definitive version was recorded in 1961.  This is likely the version you know (and hopefully love too.)  Just about everybody who is anybody has recorded their own take on this song, though I must say that most versions don't stray too far from Nat King Cole's.  


Have a listen and enjoy a little holiday tradition. What songs make you think of Christmases past?  Are there any songs that you look forward to hearing every year?





Tuesday, December 7, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: winter song



Today's holiday song is a modern one and features the lovely voices of Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson.  Their duet, "Winter Song", is featured on the 2008 album, The Hotel Cafe' Presents: Winter Songs. The album, released in a year tagged as 'the year of the female singer-songwriter', highlights some of today's most popular female artists, from Katy Perry and Colbie Calliat to Brandi Carlile and KT Tunstall.

While I love the old Christmas standards, I appreciate listening to holiday music by artists I play all year round.  This particular album offers many songs I enjoy and find myself listening to quite a bit this time of year.  


Have a listen and tell me what you think.  Are you a traditionalist or are you open to adding to your holiday music playlist?



Winter Songs from Crush Creative on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

seasons

"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each."

 Henry David Thoreau




Tuesday, November 30, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: marshmallow world


I'm really into the holidays this year (maybe because my oldest two sons will be home for visits this month??) and holiday music is a big part of it for me. I'm one of those annoying people who actually looks forward to the local radio station playing Christmas music 24/7. I don't exclusively listen to Christmas music between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I like knowing it's always available. To help your Christmas spirit along, I thought I'd share some of my favorite holiday songs with you over the next few weeks. Just like with my musical tastes in general, I like a little of everything... so who knows what you'll end up hearing here!

Today's song is by the lovely Darlene Love and was featured on the 1963 album, A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector.  I've heard other versions of this song, most notably by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, but I still like this one best.  Phil Spector's magic "Wall of Sound" makes it a stand out from all the others.  This album is considered by many to be the best Christmas record of all time. I really can't argue with that!

Have a listen and let me know what you think.



(I couldn't find an interesting video to share, but the song makes up for it.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

giving thanks

Maybe I am feeling a little sentimental and nostalgic, but I still love all the Charlie Brown specials.  Even though it was originally broadcast in 1973, I still haven't gotten tired of watching it.


"In the year 1621, the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast.  They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food. Governor William Bradford and Captain Miles Standish were honored guests. Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: 


'We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world 
for freedom and justice. 
Amen.'"


These are all things I am thankful for today and everyday.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope you spend it with people you love.




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: dead american writers


There was no way I wasn't going to like Tired Pony, the collaboration of Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody and a host of friends, most notably (for me) Peter Buck of REM.  Lightbody's sound is so distinct that even when he isn't fronting Snow Patrol, much of his music still sounds like them.  Since I adore Snow Patrol, I'm good with that.  The The Place We Ran From is filled with classic Lightbody themes.... love, loss, life.  Lightbody, who hails from Northern Ireland and has spent a chunk of his adult life in Scotland, has admitted this album is a dalliance with American country music and culture, calling it a twisted love letter to the States”.  If that was his goal, I think he's missed his mark, though the album is good, nonetheless.  


Dead American Writers is the first single off the album, which was released here in the States in late September.  The instrumentation is slightly different (more countrified??) but otherwise, it is full-on Snow Patrol.  


Tired Pony live shows are extremely few and far between, so if you like what you hear, you should get a copy of the album and if you are a Snow Patrol fan, this is definitely for you.
  
Let me know what you think.


Friday, November 19, 2010

(near) sleepless night

I got 3 hours and 12 minutes of sleep last night.  (The extra 1.12 hours was mainly because I overslept.)  This is why:



Countrymouse took me and the three youngest pups, along with a friend, to see the 12:01am showing of the new Harry Potter film, The Deathly Hallows. You know, we're just cool like that. (Or perhaps just extremely nerdy or maybe even a little crazy??)


I won't give anything away except to say, GO SEE IT.  Mind you, I haven't read any of the books, and I understand that parts were left out (doesn't that always happen?) but it was the quickest two hours I've spent in a long time.  I was definitely up to seeing the entire two halves in one sitting!


Of course, I still have to get myself showered and to work on time... I didn't say there wasn't a downside or two!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: take everything


You'll find this week's tune, "Take Everything", on sing-songwriter Greg Laswell's newest album, Take a Bow.  Laswell's rich tenor is always a pleasure to listen to and I find this song especially upbeat and catchy (even if he's singing about being taken advantage of).  Laswell's songs are generally about love and I think this album finds him in a good place in his life and it shows in his music.  (Laswell is engaged to the equally lovely Ingrid Michaelson and she is featured on this tune.)
have a listen and let me know what you think.  (How about the video?  It's pretty cool too.)



Greg Laswell "Take Everything" from Vanguard Records on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

homecoming

Countrymouse and I recently attended my high school homecoming. The irony that this is the same high school 4 of my 5 sons will graduate from is not lost on me. When my parents moved us from New York City (The Bronx) to the Eastern Shore of Maryland just a few weeks before I started my freshman year in high school and I found out my new school was literally located in a corn field, I cried.  The ironic part is that I am glad my boys are graduating from that same school. (And yes, it is still located in a corn field.) High school is high school and while I had some memorable times and made some lifelong friends, there's no way I'd want to go back.  But I have a soft spot for that place. (Must be time and age that makes that happen.)  I think we live in a great community, even if it's a little slow paced for me at times and it's still a good school.  I'd like to think having this in common with my kids adds a dimension to our relationship. 

Homecoming was fun.  The football team lost.  (Some things never change.)  The alumni association made a brilliant decision to rent a photo booth.  Even though we were in there just a minute or two, we had a ball and it may have been one of the highlights of the day.  Here's the proof...
 
(For the record, my eyes technically aren't closed in all those shots. They are just really almond-shaped and when I smile really big, they disappear.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

honoring all who served

Today is Veterans Day, probably one of the most under-celebrated and under-appreciated holidays here in the US. While the banks will be closed and government workers will have the day off, most of us will go about our days as usual.  Most schools in my area do not even close in honor of Veterans Day.  I wonder how many people will stop to consider the significance of what today symbolizes?


I have no doubt that America is the greatest country in the world.  I am very thankful for the freedoms we have but I know that freedom isn't free.  Our freedom has been and continues to be fought for and secured by countless men and women who put their lives at risk every single day.  


Matt


If you've been around a bit, you know my son Matt is currently serving in the US Army and is deployed to Iraq. I thank God for his safety but I also thank God for his mind being sharp, for him staying alert and having good judgment when necessary.  There are not enough words for me to express my pride in what he is doing. It is more physically, mentally and emotionally challenging than anything I have ever done (or probably ever will do.) Yet, he and thousands of other soldiers do what they do everyday. 



Veterans Day isn't about politics... it's about honoring the men and women who stood in the gap for our country and what it represents.  I count it a great privilege to say there are veterans in every aspect of my life... my grandfather, my father, my fathers-in-law, my brother, my brother-in-law, uncles, cousins, friends, colleagues.  I'm thankful for these men every day but today, I'd like to especially thank them. 










To be a veteran, one must know and determine one's price for freedom.
Honoring all who served.  Thank you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

sugar kisses


Give me a kiss to build a dream on
And my imagination will thrive upon that kiss
Sweetheart, I ask no more than this
A kiss to build a dream on

from A Kiss to Build a Dream On as performed by Louis Armstrong


I was giggling too hard to kiss back.

I am hopelessly romantic and can be a little sappy at times. So when I came across Kissssing: A Love Blog, a photo blog that focused on couples, many of them kissing, I was hooked.  Who doesn't love seeing people in love? (Okay... some of the pictures are scenes from movies, so they are actors pretending to be in love.  Still works for me, although the obvious random candids are my favorites.)

Seeing as it's Wednesday, I thought you could probably use something to perk up your week. Here's a few photos to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside ('cause I'm a good friend like that).  I also encourage you to kiss three people today.  Not all kisses are romantic (though those rank high on my list) but they are all good! There should never be a day that goes by that you don't get at least a little sugar!





A morning goodbye kiss?

Young love

Classic V-J Day photo

I love the spontaneity of this kiss.
 
I think this is my favorite. 



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: rome wasn't built in a day



Sometimes you come across a singer whose voice you just fall in love with.  That's the case for me when it comes to Skye Edwards.  Edwards was the lead singer of the British group Morcheeba from it's inception in 1994 to 2003.  After that point, the group put out some good music with new lead singer, Daisy Martey, but failed to capture the magic they had with Edwards fronting them. Happily, Edwards returned to the group earlier this year.


I love Edwards' smooth, sultry vocals which lend themselves perfectly to Morcheeba's electronic downtempo style. To be honest, I had a hard time just picking one song to share with you... there's so many that I love.  "Blood Like Lemonade" or "Even Though" off this year's Blood Like Lemonade, were contenders, as well as "Enjoy the Ride", "World Looking In" and "Be Yourself". So if you like what you hear here click on some of the links above and listen some more.  As always, tell me what you think.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

what would you circle?

My new Sur La Table catalog arrived the other day.  It makes me feel like I am 9 all over again.  When my siblings and I were younger we would wait with bated breath every fall for the Sears and Montgomery Ward Christmas catalogs to arrive. Then we would pour over them, studying every toy (never clothes) until we knew just what we wanted Santa to bring us. In our home, we didn't make traditional Christmas lists... we just circled the things we wanted and put our initial next to it. As we got older, we realized our mother actually put little marks next to the toys she ordered.  Talk about anticipation!


The problem (?) with Sur La Table is that I pretty much would order at least one of everything in there.  I don't think they sell anything I don't like... I'm just not always sure that I'd end up using half the stuff.  Nevertheless, since arriving, I have looked and looked through the pages of the catalog, admiring all the colorful gadgets and pretty dinnerware and nifty appliances.  Here's a few of the things I'd circle...


Acorn and Fig Collection Square Plates
Acorn and Fig dinnerware

Breville® Barista Express
Breville Barista 

SodaStream Genesis Soda Maker, Red
Soda Stream Soda Maker

Mauviel Grand Paella Pans

Retro Martini Rubber Ice Bag
Retro Martini Ice Bag


Pig Chalkboard, Black
Pig Chalkboard


‘Buon Natale’ Kitchen Towel
Buon Natale Kitchen Towel

What about you? Are you a Sur La table junkie or is there another catalog that gets your mind reeling? What would you circle?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

how can you change a life for under $10?



How many times do you drop $10 on something?  I don't know about you, but here in the Mouse House, it seems like every time I turn around I am doling out a tenner to one of my kids for something or another... movies, gasoline, football games, a trip to McDonalds .  Honestly, I think they think I have a never ending stack of ten dollar bills.  (I can hear my own mother asking me as a teenager if I thought money grew on trees.)  To be fair to my kids, Countrymouse and I have our share of $10 expenditures.  (And for the record, dear pups of mine, yes I do think spending $10 on a venti macchiato and a scone is a better use of my resources than renting the latest x-box game.) All of that being said, do I think we could do better things with our money?  Yes, sometimes.


Videographer, Nora McCormack of Soft Shell Productions thought so too.  When the band Guster announced a fan-generated music video contest for it's song "Bad, Bad World", McCormack rose to the challenge.  The result?  The contest winning entry.


McCormack posed the question, "How can you change a life for under $10?". When I read that my mind was all over the place trying to think of ways that $10 would make a difference.  Honestly I was a little stumped, which isn't a good thing to admit.  I was very moved by how the people in her video accomplished the task.  They focused on little things that both met people's needs and enhanced their lives.  


You don't have to spend a ton of money to make a difference.  All the small acts of kindness and selflessness really do have an impact.  It's a powerful thing to know that a small gesture on your end could have significance in someone else's life.  


My buddies, Kristin and Chris Ann from LoveFeast Table, practice what they call Love Bombing, which they say is "the act of making, serving and sharing a meal for unsuspecting people".  While it is more than a $10 effort, they are still exercising this concept, just on a grander scale. I have no doubt that the lives of the people they "bomb" are impacted.  I think part of what is so touching about the video is that everyone involved is a stranger to one another.  It's really easy to be kind to people you know and like, but stepping outside your comfort zone (and maybe theirs) takes your giving to a deeper level. The LoveFeast gals inspire me.  This video inspires me (with some really great music as an added bonus).  


I know I share music all the time, but this time, have a listen and a look, not just for the music (which is good) but for message.


Guster- Bad Bad World from Softshell Productions on Vimeo.


I know not all of you use American money, so here's the exchange rate for those of you outside the US.


US 10.00
EURO 7.10
GBP 6.16
CAD 10.01
AUD 9.84

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: taller children



A lot of times I will share a song by an artist I've recently seen.  This week it's a bit in reverse.  Thursday night I'll be at NightCat listening to the lovely Elizabeth Ziman and her group, Elizabeth and the Catapult.  I can hardly wait!  


The song below is from their 2009 debut full length album of the same name.  A classically trained pianist, Ziman's vocals are clean and vibrant.  Their pop-rock melodies are playful but still maintain a certain sophistication.  I especially find this tune, Taller Children, catchy and cheerful.  Have a listen and let me know what you think.


Monday, November 1, 2010

calaveras de azúcar

I am not Latin or Roman Catholic but I can't help but find these pictures fascinating.  These are calaveras de azúcar or sugar skulls and are a typical part of Day of the Dead celebrations.  Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated by Mexicans and some other Latin countries that focuses on the gathering of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died.  It's generally associated with the Roman Catholic holy day, All Souls Day, which honors the faithful who have died.  

Sounds like a somber occasion, doesn't it?  You may not think so after you have a look at these!









I'm pretty positive I don't want these hanging in my house, but I think they'd be fun outside for a party.  Even though they are skulls, I find them very festive.  What do you think?  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

the scar project

breast cancer is not a pink ribbon

The Scar Project, an exhibit by fashion photographer David Jay, opened in New York City last week.  The exhibit of large scale photographs showcases images of young breast cancer survivors.  

If you're like me, you probably know someone who has been affected by breast cancer but if you're like me you probably also have never seen the effects of breast cancer up close and personal.


The young women involved in The Scar Project bared their breasts in an effort to heighten awareness about the disease. Honestly, my breasts are whole and I would find this a very difficult thing to do.  The courage shown by these women is amazing.  (Then again, their courage and believing helped them be victorious in the first place, so it's not surprising they have the resolution to participate in the project.) 


Jay says, "“For these young women, having their portrait taken seems to represent their personal victory over this terrifying disease. It helps them reclaim their femininity, their sexuality, identity and power after having been robbed of such an important part of it. Through these simple pictures, they seem to gain some acceptance of what has happened to them and the strength to move forward with pride.”


These images will definitely cause a reaction within you.  Some are almost beautiful and others will break your heart. I think the photographs of the pregnant women are the most moving.  To see their bodies full of life after fighting for their own is emotional, to say the very least.




The best place to see the photographs is here and I hope you do click on the link.  The pictures are confronting and, frankly, educational.  I think they challenge what we as a society consider beautiful.  While they are a very real reminder of how vicious cancer is, seeing these young women alive and well is a reminder that people really can triumph over cancer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: boyfriend



I think Best Coast is just plain fun!  Their lo-fi, poppy sound is perfect for kicking any get together up a notch. When their debut full-length LP, Crazy for You, was released back in July, I had no idea who they were until Katie over at  Don't Warn the Tadpoles clued me in! 


Now, I am definitely an East Coast girl but West/Best Coast loving Bethany Cosentino's vocals are a case of the Ronettes meet Jenny Lewis meet The Jesus and Mary Chain. The overall sound is definitely 60's surf rock, with simple lyrics and solid guitars and drums.  It's a nice change from some of the stuff I listen to and makes me smile.


The band has just released a new video for their song "Boyfriend".  It centers around a quinceañera, a Latin American celebration which celebrates a young woman's transition from childhood to womanhood at the age of 15.  Best Coast actually had the honor of providing the entertainment at the celebration. Countrymouse's grandfather was from Colombia and there are relatives from several Latin countries peppered through his family tree.  We attended his cousin's quinceañera a few years ago and I can tell you, these parties are serious business!  (I think this particular one was fancier than my own wedding!)  I find the video interesting because it exposes the viewer to a slice of culture they may not otherwise have had an opportunity to see and enjoyable because the girl gets her guy. (Who doesn't like a happy ending??)


Have a listen and let me know what you think.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: miss maybe


I love seeing live music.  Countrymouse has often made the argument that recorded versions of songs are generally better.  On some level, I will concede to that notion, but nothing can replace the energy and the connection of a live show... especially in a small setting.  Even though we live out here in the middle of nowhere, we are blessed with some great shows.   Sometimes I am amazed (but always thankful) at the opportunities we have.  


Seeing David Berkeley this week was definitely one of those times.  I've had the pleasure of seeing David live before, but it's been way too long.  Nothing would have kept me away!


David is a modern day troubadour, his poetic lyrics filled with tales of life, love, people.  You find yourself hanging on his words and waiting to hear how the story ends.  Berkley's downtempo style has been compared to to Leonard Cohen, David Gray and Jeff Buckley, but I have seen him most often compared to Nick Drake, which is very easy to hear.  (I'd love to hear David cover Pink Moon.)


The song below, Miss Maybe, is from his debut album, The Confluence, which was released in 2002.  He has a new release slated for early next year called Some Kind of Cure.  I have no doubt that it will be some kind of wonderful.  Have a listen and let me know what you think.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

tunes i like tuesday: eyes wide open



I know I'm been kinda MIA lately.  I was away on a business trip and once I got home there was a whole lot of fun to catch up on. It was a busy weekend, but one of the best things Countrymouse and I did this weekend was to see The Vespers.  I had listened to some of their music on line but seeing them in person was a real treat! 


The Vespers are a young band out of Nashville made up of two sisters (Callie and Phoebe Cryar) and two brothers (Taylor and Bruno Jones), who together make music that spans from folk to roots to bluegrass to blues.  I loved seeing so many instruments on the tiny stage... an upright bass, banjo, several guitars, drums, ukulele, mandolin and assorted rhythm instruments. You never knew what combination of instruments would be pulled out for the next song or who would be playing what! I don't think I've seen that much instrumental diversity on one stage in a long time.  What really gets your attention, however, is The Vespers hauntingly beautiful harmonies.  The Cryar sisters voices are infectious, making you want to wiggle in your seat one moment and tear up the next.  


While often considered to sound like Alison Krauss, I think some better comparisons would be Nickel Creek, The Wailin' Jennys  or The Be Good Tanyas.  I also could hear a little Grace Potter rolled in there.  The Vespers are definitely their own sound though, and if the buzz surrounding them continues, I think you'll be seeing (and hearing) a lot more of them. Have a listen and let me know what you think.