Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Song of the Week: Josh Ritter

I was in a friend's car this weekend driving along the cold and snow lined streets of Kansas City when "Girl in the War," started to play out of the sound system.  I thought, Man, why isn't Josh Ritter a bigger sensation then he is? He really should be huge. His songs truly make me see songwriting as a craft, weaving thoughtful words and just the right musical notes together.

"Girl in the War," is such a beautiful song. When we hear the word, WAR, we often think about major military assaults, tanks and boots on the ground. But a lot of us are fighting our own little wars in our little lives. We can often acknowledge all this in our lives (woe is me), but it's good every now then to realize that other people around us are also fighting their own wars too. Let's form some alliances.

The only thing I know to do
 Is turn up the music and  pray she makes it through

In other Josh Ritter news:
His new album, The Beast in Its Tracks, is set to be released next Tuesday, March 5, but you can stream the album, in entirety, right now (RIGHT NOW)  on NPR. You are one lucky duck.  "Hopeful" and "Nightmares" are some favorite new tracks of the moment. 

Mr. Ritter will be touring in support of the new album March -May in the US and July in Europe.  He will be doing a FREE Record Store Day (remember that from yesterday?) Performance at Vintage Vinyl in St Louis on April 20.  See, Missouri, you are cool, don't let anyone ever call you a fly over state again! Full tour dates here.

Mark Your Calendars: Record Store Day!

Ok kids, grab your calendars and a red pen. Flip to April, April 20th to be exact and circle that red letter  day, big and bright. April 20, 2013 is the 5th annual Record Store Day, a day to celebrate independent records stores. Real music stores, like in real buildings. Not online warehouses, not huge chain stores, but Ma and Pop, brick and mortar, indie stops. The kind that you can happily spend hours flipping through rows and piles of records and cds and cassettes. The kind where the guy and gal behind the counter will talk your ears off about this release or that band and you leave with a lot bigger pile of new music treasures than you even knew you needed. 

I get a great deal of my music digitally these days, I'll admit that. It's convenient, it's instant gratification, and in some cases it is more cost efficient  for the band/musician; some smaller bands can't afford the packaging and distribution that comes with making the physical medium of music. But there is just something about pulling a vinyl record out of the sleeve and putting it on the turntable. There is just something about reading all the liner notes, right down to all the acknowledgements. There is just something about listening to an entire album in sequence and feeling how all the songs connect, instead of just cherry picking songs. There is just something about holding something physical in your hands, and think, wow this is music.

Last week it was announced that a Mr. Jack White was named as the Record Store Day Ambassador for 2013.  And like a hipster in skinny jeans, it is a perfect fit. Jack White not only owns his own record store/record label  (Third Man Records in Nashville), but is a huge supporter of independent music and the preservation of the experience of listening to and falling in love with music. 

He also released a statement about Record Store Day.  You need to read this. I'm tempted to ask/tell/demand you to write a book report about it, but I really don't have the power to assign book reports, so just read it and then we stay friends.

You can find out more about Record Store Day, Record Store Day Special Events and find local record shops in your area here.

Long time blog readers already know that I am a huge Jack White fan, but if you still haven't joined me in the boat, feast your eyes and ears on his cover of Little Willie John's song, "I'm Shakin'". 'Cause what is better than Jack White? TWO Jack Whites. Mercy. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Picture of the Week

This past weekend was my first dinner party back in the Midwest and I was nervous. Ever since returning home I have been a little unsettled about meeting new people. I guess that I am used to every social interaction being like a job interview: what do you do, why are you here, justify your existence in  100 words or less.  And with my life being so blank lately, at least at the surface, I cringed at the idea of small talk. I mean, how do I make my life sound exciting and interesting when I am still trying to figure it all out?

 But I made my little key lime cheesecakes, unpacked my stripy straws and dinner partied with some old friends and new faces. And you know what? It wasn't awkward.  I don't think one person asked what I did for a paycheck or why I moved back. It felt, in a very comforting and freeing way, that no one cared about my past, they seemed happy that I was there in the present.  I didn't have to prove anything or justify anything, other than my skillz in a spontaneous game of Name That Tune. Now, I am little competitive by nature and if you throw music into the mix, then watch out friends. By some law of the universe,  I had to answer any song hint with what some may call gusto, others may call yelling; NEIL DIAMOND, SWEET CAROLINE  (do, do, do). Living in the moment. With my outdoor voice. 

I also overused the word awesome. Seriously guys, don't let my use that word until at least April.

It took me about month, maybe a month too long, to give up the stoicism of a solitary life.  Maybe as I find a couple more of pieces of my new life I will also get better about telling the stories of the stuff below the surface, but for right now, shared meals and random music trivia are mighty fine. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Snow Day!

I have been running my mouth about wanting snow all winter now and today it came! The morning hours were near white-out conditions with heavy snow and strong winds and even some thundersnow

We got almost a foot of snow this morning alone!

We had a break in the snow in the afternoon, and with all the sincerity in every single cell of my body, thank goodness for ridiculously nice neighbors with Bobcats. The machine, not the actual cats. My driveway is pretty long and it would of taken me all day to shovel out.  Even though I resigned myself to stay housebound for the day, it is nice to know that I could leave if I needed too. Trapped is not a feeling that looks good on me. 

 I still had a good deal of shoveling to do around the doors and such, and coming in from the cold, there is no better way to warm my bones then some hot chocolate with 3 giant marshmellows.  3 is a magic number. 

The snow started again in the early evening and I don't have the heart to look out the window right now to see if it has stopped. I know I have been doing the snow dance for many a week now, but I had plans this week and weekend. Stuff I have been looking forward to, stuff I should of done weeks ago. Thanks, Universe for a lesson in the pitfalls of procrastination. You're hilarious. 

A couple more photos taken from the warm side of some frosty windows:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Life Lately in My Missouri

What I've been up to . . . .

I made chocolate chip pancakes as part of our Pancake Tuesday festivities. They reminded me of those Rorschach ink tests. I see a big oak tree under a moon.

A couple of nights a month I volunteer with some young folk and we made valentines this month. Awsome is way better than being awesome. No needs that extra "e"?

I also got some pretty sweet surprises in the mail. Thank you! Other than spending all day at the DMV, Valentine's Day wasn't too shabby this year. 

I've been trying to be better about menu planning, but let's be honest, I usually fall asleep too.  Peanut butter out of the jar again for lunch!

How about that local sports team? The Kansas City Royals (baseball team) gold crown is based on the Hallmark Gold Crown. Hallmark is HQ'd here in the KC. I'm just full of fun facts. 

Our local Social Services has a pancake breakfast fundraiser every year. Pancakes and helping the community?  You better bet your Blue Bucks I'm there! DC joke.

 It snowed just enough last weekend to make a couple of snowballs. I waited and waited and waited for an unsuspecting target, but alas, my stockpile melted.  P.S. I won't recommend Vans as the best snow shoes. Guess who still can't find the box with the majority of her shoes? {meekly raises hand}. But if it can't be done in Vans, ballet flats, running shoes or a sassy pair of black heels (all the shoes I can find right now) is it really worth doing?
 We are expecting a big winter storm tonight. I can't express how happy I am not to be in DC during snowfall. Gosh, I'm still pretty keen on DC,  evident by how many times I am referencing it in this post, but they can't handle bad weather. It snows every year in DC, but every year with the first sign of snowflakes the whole area goes into --the sky is falling--apocalyptic meltdown mode. I wish I was being overly dramatic, but I am pretty sure some DC friends can back me up on this one.  There is an insane panic in the stores, people  grabbing everything off the shelves, accidents galore on the beltway, public transportation stops. It's bad. Here, people preparing for coming storms by driving their truck instead of their car. The end.

You guys. You guys. All my tambourines have been accounted for. Phew. (The ones from India are here too, they were just too prissy and didn't want to be in the picture).

I'm learning to sew, one 1950's housewife apron at a time.

Over the long President's Day Holiday weekend I went and saw some friends down in southern Missouri. They kept apologizing for not being exciting hosts, because we really didn't do anything, but the trip and stay was exactly what I needed. Walking the dogs along gravel roads  . . .  

And saw old one room school houses, complete with outhouses . . .

 And lots of old barns. Theses are pretty good pictures for being taken while be dragged along by a very strong basset hound, huh?

And visiting Old Order Mennonite General Stores. Like real general stores that have every odd and end, and not the fake tourist trap ones you often find in Amish Country. My friends actually buy a lot of their dry goods at these stores instead of modern grocery stores, because of the better quality and prices. And I'm pretty sure not a lot of tourists visit out here. I'm not really sure why, the baked goods are pretty terrific. But every time I go into a General Store I have to fight the urge to ask for some Dapper Dan Pomade. O Brother, Where Art Thou joke. 

Every now and then you just need a break from life and sit at a friendly kitchen counter and break into Irish drinking songs. Sometimes that is really all you need. 

I know that since the Lumineers were nominated for a Grammy they are so mainstream now and my hipster rule books says that I really shouldn't listen to them anymore, but let's be totally ironic and still adore them. One of my favorite shows of the 2012 were the Lumineers and Old Crow Medicine Show. So much fun and joy in a single show. I clapped my hand raw and stomped my feet silly that night. Local radio stations have been playing "Stubborn Love," a lot out in these here airwaves, and holy Hannah, I just love that song. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Song of the Week: 2013 Bonnaroo Lineup!

Today the 2013 lineup for the Bonnaroo music festival was reveled. Bonnaroo, is a four day festival held in Tennessee that attracts upwards of 80,000 music lovers each year. It has become one of the biggest festivals in the US and usually kicks off the summer music festival season. The lineup this year (as always) is stellar. Whaaaat? Paul McCartney AND Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers? Excuse me, I just fainted. 

I try to limit myself to one festival a year, which in reality means I talk myself into going to two.  They are all day commitments, they are exhausting, you come home dirty from standing in dirt lots and fields,  maybe a little bruised from standing in a sea of humanity, you get dehydrated and sunburned, but it is so, so, so, oh my word, worth it. 

One of the great things about having over 100 bands in front of your face is that you get to discover some new bands. So let's scroll a little further down the line up list and look at a couple of artists that may get a smaller font size, but their hearts and music are just as big as the headliners. 

Frank Turner
Frank Turner will always be in large print type in my book. So good. He has written many of the songs of my life. 

Sea Wolf
Sometimes the sad songs are the best songs.

John Fullbright
He sings the blues, like the blues that make your soul shake, with his eyes closed. Enough said.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Little Musical Valentine to You

If I had a box of Scooby-Doo valentines I would totally send them all to these three bands that are currently on tour together. Musical explosion of the heart. If this isn't love, I sure don't know what is.

Shakey Graves. If you aren't on the Shakey Graves boat yet, get in. Get in. Get in. Get in. Every song  kinda makes me remember all the goodness in the world. Get in the boat. 
{Music swap friends: the above may be a preview of what is coming via USPS to you soon. Sorry. I'm bad with surprises.}

He's My Brother, She's My Sister. 2 words: Rockstar Tap dancing.  Best quote ever about this amazing band: "Their mojo has the power to heal the afflicted" (LA Deli Magazine). Word. 

Paper Bird. Oh my, I swear I can never have enough banjo in my life. This lovely band comes from the same Denver, Colorado music scene as The Lumineers, so mainstreamers will probably discover them a year from now, but you should get hip to them NOW. Seriously. 

Full tour dates of this face melting line-up here

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Song of the Week: Monsters of Folk

I was at one of those random stores the other day. You know that kind that aren't thrift stores but are filled with stuff that fell off trucks or are overstocks or are I don't even really know where all the stuff comes from. Totally legit though, totally random and legit.

I came across a pile of records and most of the pile were several, like tons, of copies of the same album, an album and band that no one should be listening too, so let's just forget I even brought them up. But then I came across another album that had a sticker on the front with the magic words, blue vinyl. Any colored vinyl records are just fun to find. Then I moved my eyes away from the sticker and actually realized what the album was and then I skipped gleefully to the checkout to plop down my 2 dollars. Maybe skipped is an exaggeration, but there was definitely a spring in my step.

Monsters of Folk is a super group made up of Conor Oberst  and Mike Mogis (from Bright Eyes), Jim James (from My Morning Jacket),  and M. Ward ( from She & Him). Super. Group. The self titled album has been out since 2009, but it is now, like right now as I type this, taking it's folky soulful wonderment for a spin on my turntable. Score at the random store!

And P.S. blue vinyl is so pretty:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Picture of the Week

A new life.

One of the things that I loved about living in Virginia was that I was 2 hours from the beach and curling my toes in the sand and standing in the waves on literally the edge of the continent. I was also about 2 hours away from Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Mountains, hiking on elevated trails and high lookouts and  feeling like I was on top of the world. I love being in nature, I feel so much like, well, my natural self. Needless to say, I ran away a lot. Some weekend mornings would come and I would wake up with the feeling I had to get away. I had to leave. And so I did, I would get in my car and point myself east for the beach and west for the mountains. And even if I could only spend a couple hours at my desired location, it was enough to recharge my little heart and fill my lungs with enough air to get through the next little bit of life.

And now I live smack dab in the middle of the country.  I love the Midwest, and I have learned, especially this year, that I am in fact a Midwest girl through and through, but this week I just felt so suffocated by my current geography. There is no ocean in Missouri. THERE IS NO OCEAN IN MISSOURI. Mountains, on the other hand, we have the Ozarks down south, which I am planning a little trip to soon. But when I needed to run away, I found my options, or I guess my good old stand-bys, lacking and non-existent.

So, I hung out with the neighborhood cows. They are about as close to nature as I could muster this week. And the little guy was only 2 days old when I took the above picture. I watched him wobbled around on his new legs and investigate and explore his new world. Then the next day he was a little bit stronger and then the next day or so he was running, running! 

I think that one of the hardest lessons in starting over, is, well, starting over. Taking those baby steps on wobbly legs. Learning to walk when  you see everyone else running. I've been missing DC this week, especially seeing all the business at the Capitol going on. I don't miss everything, that is for sure, but I miss being part of something. Something big and important, something to talk about during dinner parties and feeling like I am doing something with my life. 

But this new life, full of baby cows and without smelly subway commutes is the life that I chose. And I chose it because, even with moments of fleeting doubt, I know it is the right thing for me right now. So I guess I will just keep putting one foot in front of the other until I learn to run again. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Get Ready: Pancake Tuesday!

I know Valentine's Day, or Single Awareness Day--if that's how you roll, is hogging all the holiday attention this upcoming week, but I don't want one of my most favoritest holidays to get lost in all the hugs and kisses and discounted chocolate.

Pancake Tuesday is this Tuesday, February 12th! Pancake Tuesday! Shout Hooray!

Pancake Tuesday is my second favorite food themed holiday, right after Pie Day. However, unlike Pie Day, Pancake Tuesday is a for reals, certifiable holiday, more commonly known as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras. But let's not focus on all the Mardi Gras debauchery, let's focus on the pancakes. Let us always focus on the pancakes. 

Pancake, or Shrove Tuesday is always the day immediately before Ash Wednesday which is the start of Lent which ends on Easter. By tradition, most commonly in the UK, pancakes are made on this very special Tuesday, to use up all the stuff one may try to give up for Lent; flour, sugar, eggs, and to clean out the cabinets. 

So even if you don't celebrate Lent, Pancake Tuesday is an all welcoming holiday. Pancakes are just nice like that. I have celebrated this fine little day for many of years now with everything from Star Wars pancakes:

In a galaxy far, far away pancake Yoda and pancake Vader met for an epic breakfast battle . .

To fancy strawberry stuffed pancakes:

Yeah, I just wanted to show off my pancakes skillz.

So as you plan your meals this week, 'cause you're pretty responsible with your meal planning and all, don't forget pancakes on Tuesday;  for breakfast, or lunch or dinner all of the above.


Some of my favorite easily Internet linked pancake recipes:
Whole-Grain Pancakes with Blueberry Maple Syrup by 101 Cookbooks (a great basic recipe)
Red Velvet Pancakes with Cream Cheese Butter by Southern Living. These are pretty ridiculous and you might have to eat kale smoothies for a week afterwards to counterbalance them. But you know, the choices we make in life.
If you are more of a savory pancake person, this article has some pretty intriguing flavor combos. 
Just scoot up to the counter at a local diner. Umm . . .diner pancakes. 

Please pass on any favorite pancake recipes, my breakfast repertoire is never, every full enough!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

If You Ever Wondered What My 17 Year Old Self Was Like


 Recently I was reunited with my ancient mix tape stash that spans probably from my senior year in high school into a couple years of college. It's full of homemade mixes, sampler tapes you used to be able to pick up from record shops and little demo tapes from friends' bands. It's ridiculously wonderful.

One tape caught my eye:

I should start by saying I am horrible about naming mixes/playlists. If you could see my playlists on my computer right now they all have names like Tom, Larry or Clementine. These aren't named after people, sometimes a bunch of songs all together just feels like a Larry. I usually remember to change the name to something boring like the date, before I give someone else a copy, but if you ever get a CD from me that comes  up as a random name, now you know why.  So when I saw a tape simply labeled "Inspirational Music," I was intrigued but not really surprised by the lack of detail in the title. There were no bands or songs listed and I honestly didn't remember making the tape so I had no idea what was on it.  But when I plugged it into my tape player, I instantly knew it.  The tape itself is in pretty bad shape, probably due to overplay, and that's a shame because it is pretty much the most awesome punk rock mix ever. Ever. There I said it. It's full of songs from bands with names like Stiff Little Fingers, H2O, Screeching Weasel, Rancid and Bad Religion. And the title of "Inspirational Music" aint no lie. These were songs that I would listen to on bad days, sad days, hard days, days I needed a little help to stand up on  my own two feet. I don't care what kind of stigma that punk rock music has gotten through the years. It was exactly the right kind of music that I needed in my life at the time (and still today!), and I accredit it for saving a little bit of my soul. There was just an overwhelming positivity and comfort and community that I found in the  music that I really wasn't finding in any other aspect of my life.

And so now maybe this punk rock girl has grown up a little and listens to an obscene amount of folky music and swoons over banjo players,  but I will forever be front row and center at a punk rock show. 'Cause that is where I belong.

And I would like to leave you with some lovely words from a Mister Ben Weasel found on the "Inspirational Music" tape:
I know you're alone like everyone else in world
Don't tell me that things don't get better
'Cause sometimes they do
And they will for you. 
(I Wrote Holden Caulfield/Screeching Weasel)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Song of the Week: The David Mayfield Parade

It's February and you know what that means---- sappy love songs!  I'm starting to even embarrass myself with how many tender little songs I have been finding myself listening to. If you are putting together a little Valentine's Day playlist for that certain someone, which you really, really should, might I suggest a David Mayfield Parade song? Or two?

David Mayfield, big brother of Jessica Lea, and former member of Cadillac Sky, is an amazing performer. If you even get the chance to see him live, do it. DO IT.  Bolded, underlined and in caps.  I can't express enough how much a fireball of raw talent and energy that man is. He comes somersaulting on stage and it goes up from there. His shows will make you smile, like deep down in your soul smile,  so hard. 

My favorite song of his is a lovely little ditty called, "I Just Might Pray."
Seth and Scott Avett , aka the Avett Brothers, sing back up on Mr. Mayfield's 2010 self titled debut album where you can find "I Just Might Pray." And speaking of the brothers Avett, here is Seth playing along on "Breath of Love," also on the same album (hint, hint, that album should be added to your collection right about now):

Now, go dig out some pink and red markers and practice drawing some hearts . . . 

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Missouri: The Kansas City Plaza

I had an appointment down on The Country Club Plaza, known by the locals as just "The Plaza" today and took a minute to take a couple of pictures of the Kansas City Landmark. The Plaza was designed in 1922 to the be one the country's first outdoor suburban shopping districts, and to this day, it remains a haven of upscale shops and decent, although mostly chain, restaurants.  

The Plaza was the brainchild of real estate developer and  Kansas native J.C. Nichols who bought the once rather desolate land near Brush Creek. His purchase basically got him a hog farm and a brickyard, but it didn't stay that way for long.  

In his younger days, Nichols had traveled to Europe and while designing The Plaza, he was inspired by these travels and choose a Spanish theme for his new development with towers, stucco buildings, colorful tiles and courtyards.

 And walking along the streets there definitely is the familiarity of European fairways and market streets and then you get a whiff of BBQ. Kansas City Class. 

When the weather is a little warmer, the fountains are turned on. Fun (and true) Fact: Kansas City has more fountains than any other city in the world, except Rome, Italy. That is a lot of fountains. 

Kansas City, you're starting to feel  a little bit more like home. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Picture of the Week

A blank page.

One of the {many} reasons that I decided to come back to the Midwest was so I could concentrate more on my writing. Storytelling is a a huge part of my nature. Ever since I could remember, I have been writing words and stories. From little stories about princesses and wizards written in crayon to overly dramatic/angst filled teenager journals, to creative writing classes and published op/eds to  travel notes and endless lists. Words. Words. Words. 

Everyday I schedule some time to sit down at the computer and write. I had the misguided notion that now that I am free from my job, and the associated stress (freeeeee!), now that I am open to feel and now that I have time, the words would just come.  Ta da, I am here, come to me. But that hasn't exactly happened. Some days I will sit and stare at my computer and nothing comes. My toes grow cold. My cup of tea grows cold. And still there I sit, staring at a blank page.  Other days, it will take me an entire hour to write a single satisfactory sentence. And then there are days that words seem to come out of the air and I type as fast as I can to catch them before they float away and disappear. It has reminded me that even with talent and good intentions, creation and art takes hard work. It takes time and effort and at times, maybe more times than should be admitted, tears and biting all my nails off, and pacing the floor and cursing. Maybe I shouldn't admit to the cursing. I have forgotten that every good word may cost a little bit of myself.  I have to remember that that cost is worth it.

So each day I will continue to sit and tap on my little keys and stare at my glowing computer screen, pushing myself a little harder, a little further. 

Some little things I have found that help the creative juices:

Read, read, read! I have found that the more the read the easier it seems to write. The more I surround myself with words the more familiar they feel.

I always carry a little notebook around with me. You never know when a delightful little sentence or a brilliant idea will come to you. And you also don't know how fleeting those sentences and ideas will be, so get them down on paper ASAP!

Argyle socks totally help with keeping your toes warm.