Sunday, November 24, 2013

Giving thanks: Third installment

I'm back for round three of giving thanks for November! I'm running a little late this week but I'm still going to list seven things. : )

(Round one of my list of things I'm grateful for can be found here, and round two can be found here!)

So, here are seven more things I am grateful for, in no particular order:

1) To be safe and warm under a solid roof as I hear the wind blow furiously outside. Brrrr! Winter is here!

2) Seeing Christmas lights at night... especially where we live, there are so many dark country roads, and when people put up Christmas lights, it's like a beacon in a cold winter night. : )

3) Being able to work with some really awesome people. I'm lucky that my band staff and the other members of the music department are so easy to talk to and work with!

4) Facebook. That might sound weird, but facebook really allows me to keep in touch with friends and family - and as my friends have spread all over the country in recent years (literally - California, Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, Virginia...) it's nice to live in a digital age where it's so easy to stay up to date on what's going on. I still like to send cards, but sometimes it's nice to send a message or write a wall post the minute I have something on my mind. 

5) Real books. : ) Whether they're on my Kindle or actually honest-to-goodness print books, I love being able to escape from the stress of real life into a good book. 

Lately I've been re-reading all of the Little House books, which were my favorites when I was little. 

6) The travel experiences I've been able to have. This morning I was thinking about all of the places I've been and how lucky I am to be able to travel. I've gone on a road trip through New England with my friends; I've been to Europe on a musical tour; I've been to New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., and San Francisco; I've been to Disney World and New Orleans. I've been up and down the east coast on different beaches. 

7) and my wonderful parents... I wouldn't have been to most of those places without them. In fact, I'm not sure where I'd be without them, but I doubt it would be the same situation I am in now. I'm so lucky to have such loving and supportive parents. We might not always see eye to eye but I love them very, very much and I'm extremely grateful for everything they have done for me.

I'll try to get my next Christmas carol post up soon... until then, thanks for checking in! : )

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Christmas Carol: I'm dreaming of a...

I'm continuing my Christmas Carol series after my first blog post about The Twelve Days of Christmas : )

Basically, quick catch-up, I love Christmas music, and I have multiple versions of many songs, so I'm reviewing some of my favorites.


I have a soft spot for the song White Christmas, after performing in the musical version a couple of years ago. I made some great friends during that show and it was a great distraction for me while I was laid off from my job. "White Christmas" was written by American composer Irving Berlin - who also wrote really great songs like "God Bless America" and "There's No Business like Show Business." The song "White Christmas" is featured not only in the movie White Christmas but also Holiday Inn - which I have never seen. It is on my Netflix queue for this year, no worries.

According to Wikipedia there are over 500 known recordings of "White Christmas." I have 13 of them on my iTunes. : )

Let's start with the most famous version, recorded by Bing Crosby:

White Christmas - Bing Crosby

Bing's real name was Harry. Now you know!

White Christmas - Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, etc. - movie version

Love. Love love love. There is so much craziness surrounding this movie - look it up sometime, or watch the extras on the DVD - but this scene is just magic. 

White Christmas - The Drifters

This version features prominently in Home Alone. It is so much fun to sing along with, and to switch between the parts. These guys could hit some crazy notes. 

White Christmas - The Rubber Band

This version is a mash up of "White Christmas," "Ticket to Ride," and "Happy Xmas (War is Over)." (I will not be featuring that last song, ever, because it drives me insane. Can't. Stand. It.) I love me a good mash-up, though. This is a pretty cool version.

White Christmas - Michael Buble & Shania Twain

I love me some Buble. His Christmas album is one of my favorite albums of all time - I will listen without skipping a song, and there are very few albums like that for me.

This version is based off of the Drifters' version.

White Christmas - Kelly Clarkson

This is from Kelly's new album, Wrapped in Red, which is pretty sweet. There are a few new songs on there mixed in with a bunch of classics, and she has some different takes on the classics, which is cool.

White Christmas - The Carpenters

This is more like Bing's original version. There is something so pure and clear about Karen Carpenter's voice, and it's a shame she died so young. This is a beautiful version of the song.

Those are just a few versions of this song that I enjoy - did I miss any? Which is your favorite?

Stay tuned for the next episode of Giving Thanks, on Thursday... this week is going to be a busy one, but hopefully a good one too! Tomorrow is my awards banquet for marching band, and I've worked really hard on it to make it nice, so I hope there's a good turnout and that everyone enjoys it. One thing is for sure: I will definitely sleep well tomorrow night!

Have a great week, everybody!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Giving thanks: Second installation

Hi there! : )

I'm back for round two of my thanks for November. (Round one can be found here).

Here are seven more things I am grateful for, in no particular order:

1) Both of my grandfathers. One served in Korea and one served in WWII.

Both very handsome guys, too. : )

2) Musical theatre! LOVE IT.

3) Date nights with my wonderful husband.

4) Electric blankets. One of the best inventions ever.

5) Being able to share music I love with my students. Today I played Frank Ticheli's "Amazing Grace" for a couple of my high school kids because I'm pretty sure we're going to play it this year. They quickly fell in love with the piece too. : )

6) Being able to spend a weekend with my family. I was home for three days last weekend and got to catch up with my grandparents, aunts, and parents. I missed A. but it was so nice to be there for a little bit.

7) Christmas movies... I just got all of mine out and I'm excited to start watching them!

Favorites: Elf, Polar Express, Year without a Santa Clause, White Christmas, The Holiday... so many.

I'm hoping to be back by the end of the weekend with another post. : ) Until then, have a great Friday!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Christmas Carol: 12 (x4) Days of Christmas

My favorite season is upon us!

Lots of people get all cranky this time of year - meaning early/mid/late November - because IT'S NOT DECEMBER YET SO WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT CHRISTMAS ALREADY.

(I already addressed this in my last blog entry, so I'm not going there again. If you want to postpone reading this blog entry until after Thanksgiving, if it will make you happy, that's fine with me. : )

Anyway, I'm going to start a series of Christmas carols. I was inspired to do this by the over 450 Christmas songs I have on my iTunes... I have multiple versions of many songs, and it's fun to rank them, because I'm a huge music nerd.

I'm starting with The Twelve Days of Christmas. (Though technically, as of today there are 45 days until Christmas, nearly four times twelve. Also, traditionally the twelve days begin the day after Christmas. Oh well.) This carol is a fun teaching tool, but can get monotonous if you are leading a sing-a-long or actually caroling. I enjoy it, however, because when I was growing up and we were traveling all over town as a family on Christmas Eve after church, we would play it in the car and sing as a family, each of us taking three of the days. When my brother and I got older and started going separate places on Christmas Eve, we kind of lost the tradition... but it's still something I look back on fondly.

Quick analysis of this song: it is pretty ridiculous, when you stop and think about it.

There is a great moment in an episode of The Office, when Erin pleads to her Secret Santa that they stop sending her the gifts from the Twelve Days of Christmas. He says, "It's not my fault that the first seven days of Christmas are basically thirty birds."

Here we go!

Veggie Tales - The Eight Polish Foods of Christmas
Technically it's not twelve days, but I love this version nonetheless. (Kielbasa is delicious!)

Bob & Doug - The Twelve Days of Christmas
For some reason, this is always popular on my local radio station once they start playing Christmas music.

Bob Rivers - The Twelve Pains of Christmas
I love the kid in this - "Mommy I have to go to the bathroom!"

The Muppets & John Denver - Twelve Days of Christmas
Classic. Muppets are awesome.

Perry Como - Twelve Days of Christmas
This is the version my family used for our sing along. We always fought over the "swans a swimming."

Straight No Chaser - The Twelve Days of Christmas
SNC has arguably become one of my favorite groups to listen to around Christmas time. It all began with this arrangement, which is fantastic.

AND... my number one version of The Twelve Days of Christmas...

Natalie Cole - The Twelve Days of Christmas
Natalie just gets increasingly more frustrated with each verse, and I love the final count at the end.

Do you have a favorite version of this Christmas counting song? Let me know! : )

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Giving thanks: first installation

Today I decided I'd suck it up and stay up late to write a blog entry. : )

It's funny because I got on Blogger and saw a post at the top of my blog feed by Ashley, who was annoyed at people being annoyed at others' thanks on Facebook for the many variations of November's 30 Days of Thanks that are going on right now. And I was coming on my blog to write an entry similar to the status updates that many of my friends are posting every day, but in a more condensed form.

At first when I saw the slew of Facebook posts starting, I was like, great. Here we go again. But then I tried turning down my drama dial, something that I encourage my high school students to do on a daily basis. People are grateful for things. That's good. There is too much selfishness and ungratefulness in the world. There are too many people complaining about things on facebook, and giving thanks for things should be a nice change.

 (I swear, if I see one more person complain about retail decorating too early for Christmas and Christmas music playing too early... but I don't want to complain back. It seems hypocritical. I really enjoy Christmas and I'm not a big fan of Halloween, so I've been listening to Christmas music - privately, not shoving it in the world's proverbial face - since mid-October. Christmas brings me really happy memories, and the music is so happy and/or uplifting. So if you want to celebrate all November long with Pilgrims and turkeys, that is awesome for you. I am going to look forward to my favorite holiday and enjoy it for as long as I can!)

Yeah, yeah...


Without further ado, for the first seven days of November, here are seven things I am grateful for, in no particular order ---

1) Having fun with friends. I had a girls' night on Saturday with a couple of my college friends and a few of the girls I work with, and we had such a great time. It was so nice to get together to laugh, eat and drink, play games, and sing very loudly along with Disney movies. : )

2) Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Choosing to DVR this show was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Oh hey, handsome funny man kissing a fluffy puppy. Hey.

3) Having a full time job teaching music. It is time consuming and stressful and frustrating and overwhelming. BUT. Being laid off was stressful and frustrating and overwhelming and very, very depressing. Anytime I start getting mad at the politics of education, or frustrated at the antics of some of my students, I thank my lucky stars that I have my job in the first place. Which leads me to number four...

4) Teaching really awesome kids. I am so lucky to have so many fantastic, motivated, compassionate, likable students. The fact that they are also really musically talented is a bonus. 

5) Reading. You guys. YOU GUYS. I have read so many books in the last month. I have been taking full advantage of my brand new library card. I will fill you in on more about this in a future blog entry.

6) Our Keurig machine. Two of my college friends bought it for us for our wedding. It has basically saved my life this fall. I love it. So. Much.

Wuv you, K-cups.


7) My little Penny. My little girl is getting spayed tomorrow... an important and necessary thing but I am so anxious for her and it will be so weird not having her around tomorrow night since she stays overnight at the vet! She drives us both bonkers but you look at her face and it's just like... awwwwwwwwwwwww

Here's our nephew taking Pen for a walk. AKA, the cutest picture ever.

And there you have it, my first week of thanks for November!

And it's 10:00 on a school night... ugh. I'm getting old.
Peace out everyone : )