Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Why I Love MasterChef Junior

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Not often do I find myself completely enamored with a television show, but here I am, writing about how I’ve fallen head over heals for MasterChef Junior.

MasterChef Junior is a reality show where children (ranging in ages from 8-12) cook for world-renown, professional chefs (including celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay). Now, before you roll your eyes at the words “reality show” or say “not another cooking show,” hear me out -- this isn’t another cutthroat competition show where you watch it and feel disgusting after, and it’s not another Saturday morning cooking show where the same dish seems to be made over and over. This is, when it comes down to it, a show about kids with strong character, kindness, heart, positivity, and a lot of determination.

Reasons why I love this show:

  • I can watch it and forget completely about the negative news, things on my to-do list, the ice dam on my roof causing my living room carpet to be soggy. I mean everything. I find myself sitting there, rooting for every child to do well, heart swelling for those kids as they triumph over the challenging dishes they’re tasked to make. 
  • These kids have such great character! They are encouraging, positive, realistic (with their own cooking triumphs and struggles), and so helpful! They go out of the way to help their competitors, and they do it with such kindness. When their competitors are eliminated, genuine hugs and encouragement are given. I want to live in a world this kind all of the time. 
  • Those kids are remarkable! They’re doing amazing things with French or Japanese or other advanced cooking techniques (thinks I’ve never heard of), and they have to use step stools just to see over the counter.
  • British accents are wonderful -- Don’t let anyone tell you any different. (This one is definitely a minor detail, but still adds to the enjoyment of the show.) 
  • The chef-judges have such high expectations for their young chefs (and the young chefs know it and definitely give their all for them), but they don’t let that get in the way of them making real connections with the kids, being silly, being encouraging, and showing their protégés respect. You can see how proud the judges are of the kids and their accomplishments, and how hard the elimination process is for them.

Watching this show is like getting an hour-long hug. The kids are extraordinary, the judges are firm, but kind and encouraging, and the result is such a positive experience for the audience (and I would imagine everyone involved with the show as well). If you happen to find yourself with an extra hour or just want to bring some positivity into your home, I recommend turning on MasterChef Junior.

(This is just my own personal option regarding this show. We've not been compensated or rewarded in any way for this blog post, other than the warm-fuzzies I get simply by watching this lovely show.)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Top Tunes to Show Your Love

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Whether it is spent snuggling with a romantic partner, spent with family, or celebrated with a special child, here are some tunes for your Valentine's Day playlist to show your love to those around you!

Cara



My list is divided into 3 categories (since choosing music for me is much like eating potato chips: once I start, I just can't stop...):

Swoony and Sappy:

Sweet and Sad:

Cheery, Bright, and Hopeful:

Melissa 

In February 2003 I discovered and subsequently fell in love with Josh Groban while going through a very intense breakup. Subsequently, every Valentine's Day I go through a Josh Groban kick. His song When you say you love me makes me feel like a heartbroken seventeen-year-old. Also, if you haven't listened to Mindy Gledhill's album Anchor you need to remedy that immediately. The entire album makes for a whimsical Valentine's playlist, but her song All the pennies reminds me of being a dirt poor newlywed with nothing but love.  Finally, it may be cheesy and slightly cliche and ridiculous, but ever since I was a little girl I thought the most romantic song in the world was a toss up between Lady in Red by Chris De Burgh and Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton. Hey, it was the 80s.

Lindsey

I have been listening to songs with this post in mind trying to pick the perfect ones.  Something beautiful and romantic.  But I'm just not feeling it.  So a lot of my songs are more toward the sad and sweet side, but still beautiful.  

  • Sad Songs and Waltzes - Cake
    • Possibly my favorite Cake song (if I HAD to choose just one). 
  • Rambling Through the Avenues of Time - Flight of the Conchords
    • On the lighter side of things with a twist at the end.  Brett is telling Jemaine about a girl he met while walking around New York City while Jemaine is trying to watch TV.
  • I've Just Seen a Face - Jim Sturgess - Across the Universe
    • Originally a Beatles song, but this cover is upbeat and happy and I love it.
  • You Could be Happy - Snow Patrol
    • This is a post break-up tune. It'll help with the necessary post break-up wallowing.
  • Question - Old 97's
    • Really just a super sweet and catchy proposal song.
  • The Ballad of Love and Hate - The Avett Brothers 
    • Just a wonderful song.  My favorite line comes in at the end "He says, "Love, I'm sorry," and she says, "What for? I'm yours and that's it, whatever. I should not have been gone for so long. I'm yours and that's it, forever.  You're mine and that's it, forever." 
    • Another runner up from The Avett Brothers that is worth a listen is I and Love and You.  They'd pair nicely on a mixtape.

Lis

Martha Reeves and The Vandellas - It's Easy to Fall in Love With a Guy Like You. It's an older song that reminds me of falling in love with my husband.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNMR46BPems


Jill

There are so many love songs out there in the world, but because my husband and I have vastly different tastes in music, very few of them have the emotional impact on me that I thought they would have by the time I got married. It actually hasn't caused too many problems in our life so far (other than there being no hope of us ever going to a live concert together because there is no artist or group that we would both be willing to spend 60 bucks on), but when we were planning our wedding we hit a major speed bump when we tried to pick "our song" to dance to. We love dancing with each other and I usually just ignore the fact that I don't like country music so that we can go out country dancing and have a grand night out. For our wedding, however, we wanted something that was special to both of us. We almost didn't make it, but at the 12th hour we stumbled on OneRepublic's "All This Time" and we were saved. We had both waded through the dating pool for quite some time before we found each other, so singing the words "all this time we were waiting for each other/ all this time I was waiting for you" while we danced on our wedding day created more than the perfect moment for us.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Stories to Make Your Heart Swell

I can't be the only romantic (though I'm sometimes stubborn about it) whose heart swells when listening to the stories of those who have been in love for such a long time, can I?

These are lovely:

(Disclaimer: I know it's a commercial for life insurance, but it's just so charming. We have no affiliation with this company; I was just drawn in by their effective marketing and lovely interview subjects.)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't Worry That It's Not Good Enough

I've always really liked to sing. I don't care for singing solos (I get nervous and I don't feel like my voice is that strong by itself) but when I discovered choirs in high school after a few voice lessons, I really, really loved singing for people. I sang through high school and three years of college and in a few church choirs, and I always found it really fulfilling. I'm not the greatest singer in the world, but singing makes me happy.

Lately though, I don't have too many opportunities to perform, and my skills are probably decreasing. With a new baby in the house it's hard to get motivated to join the church choir when I could be napping on Sunday afternoon, and anything else seems like a lot to coordinate right now. My husband works some nights, getting babysitters stresses me out, you know the drill. I get my singing kicks by singing to my babies. 

When CB was a baby, I sang everything to her. Old choir songs I remembered, Broadway show tunes, hymns, songs from Sesame Street or the Muppets, stuff by the Beatles or Simon and Garfunkle - anything I knew all of the words to was fair game, and sometimes I stayed in her room rocking her longer than was strictly necessary just because I enjoyed singing to someone who didn't make me feel self-conscious. 

Now CB is two and a half, and she has opinions about what we should sing. I sing the ABCs about 15 times a day, "Once Upon a Dream" about a dozen, and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" makes an appearance at most bedtimes. I still get to sing whatever I want to little sister when I get my rare one on one time with her, but for the last month or so I've stopped minding singing what CB wants to sing - because now she sings it with me. 

If you want to experience something joyful, it's seeing your child enjoy something that you love and ask you to do it with her. Although sometimes she wants to sing alone (and she tells me - "No Mommy, you not singing!") sometimes she demands that I sing along. It doesn't matter where we are or who else is around either. If it's time to sing "Sleeping 'Boo-ty,'" it's time.

Better still, when little sis is upset, we ask CB to sing to her to help her calm down. At first this was just a tactic to help her stay calm, but crazily enough, 85% of the time it actually seems to do the trick. And if you ask CB what Miss D's favorite song is, she'll tell you the ABCs, and her favorite singer, of course, is her big sister. I'm not sure there's any feeling that is sweeter than watching my baby look at my toddler with a look of pure delight, when seconds before she was sobbing, and watching my toddler singing at the top of her lungs to make her baby sister happy, no matter who is around. Her sweet little voice cracks, she mixes up words, (my current favorite is, "You'll love me at once, the way did you once upon a D-WEAM!"), and if I tell her it will help her sister, she never, ever hesitates to start belting it out. 

I really love Sesame Street, and I've heard their "Sing a Song" about 40,000 times, but I especially love this part:
Sing, sing a song
Keep it simple, to last your whole life long
Don't worry that it's not good enough
For anyone else to hear
Just sing, sing a song. 

I don't think I sing well enough for EVERYONE else to hear, but singing to my daughters makes all of us happy, and I'm glad that, for now at least (until I'm SO EMBARRASSING MOM STOP) it's good enough for them. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reinvented Childhood Bookshelf in Just 62* Easy Steps

Completed project... for now... 


I’ve been following the (often overwhelming) posts on Apartment Therapy. Every once in a while I get the bug to turn my dreary, piecemeal apartment into something fashionable and sleek (and then I remember that I have no budget -- who has the money to spend $1,000 on on a plastic chair?). But, rather than get overwhelmed by actually doing something productive (like cleaning larger spaces like, oh, I don’t know, my living room or kitchen or bathroom), I dig into a task that isn’t very high on the “need to do” checklist, because, you know, priorities. I had this old bookshelf that I’ve had since I was probably 5 (particle board, nothing fancy). It’s white laminate with stains from old candles I got for a long-ago birthday, and I’ve been using it as kind of a catch-all (imagine junk drawer, but with more dust). I kept old electric bass amp cables, an old set of double bass strings, my old digital camera, bibs and participant medals from every 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon I’ve ever run, bobby pins, old photo frames no longer used, tags I’ve removed from new clothes just before heading out the door wearing said new clothes… You get the idea. Recently I’ve been acquiring more cold weather clothing: Cuddl Duds, long-sleeve t-shirts, layers upon layers upon layers. I wanted to find a way to store these new layers, along with the sweaters that can’t/shouldn’t be hung up and so, with a little obsessive internet browsing, I came up with the idea for my repurposed (budget-friendly) bookshelf. Here are the steps I took (should you try this project, your steps may be different):
  1. Stare at my dusty old bookshelf for approximately 4 years.
  2. Allow it to accumulate clutter beyond my wildest imaginings.
  3. Ignore the dust bunnies (that seem to multiply at a faster rate than real bunnies) for the last 8 months. (If you don’t touch it, it’s not airborne, right?)
  4. Start obsessively reading Apartment Therapy, dreaming of a sleek, clutter-free home.
  5. Realize that isn’t going to happen any time soon.
  6. Stare at the sweaters draped across my drying rack.
  7. Realize that I rarely actually put them “away,” and instead just wear the same ones over and over directly from the drying rack.
  8. Go through my closet and realize I actually do have a decent selection of cozy clothes to keep me warm.
  9. Resolve to do better.
  10. Stare at my dusty old bookshelf some more.
  11. Go online and browse Target.
  12. Spot these awesome baskets that are more expensive than I need, but they’re so pretty.
  13. Order these baskets, and also some more practical ones that do the exact same thing, but for less money.
  14. Wait for baskets to arrive in the mail.
  15. Open magic box from Target -- Huzzah! Baskets!
  16. Immediately gravitate to the awesome design baskets and see how my folded sweaters would fit in them.
  17. Continue to stare at my dusty old bookshelf and take no steps to actually start cleaning it off.
  18. Admire my neatly folded sweaters in one of the fancy baskets I ordered.
  19. Calculate just what the shelf height should be to accommodate the fancy baskets. Realize it’s the same height as the non-fancy baskets.
  20. Finally open the non-fancy baskets, because I feel guilty non opening them, just to see how they’d look.
  21. Stare at the two baskets for a little while. Finally decide to splurge a little and go with the slightly-fancier plastic basket for the project.
  22. Decide I won’t really have a good idea of how the project would look unless I actually make an effort to clean off the bookshelf already…
  23. Sit down and watch Hulu for 2 hours (because Miranda is hilarious).
  24. Eat some supper, because it’s that time already.
  25. Wash the dishes.
  26. Glance at the bookshelf to see if it is still dusty and ugly, or if my project has magically completed itself. It hasn’t.
  27. Sit down on the floor in front of the bookshelf to get started.
  28. Realize I forgot all dusting materials under the kitchen sink.
  29. Get back up and fetch everything I could ever possibly need to tackle such a massive amount of dust.
  30. Begin the dusting process.
  31. Shove found bobby pins in random places in my ponytail (to be found later, while getting ready for bed).
  32. File away old race bibs and medals, dusting each individually (not because they’re precious, but because they are that dusty).
  33. Shove old picture frames aside to be dusted at the end.
  34. Try to remember which electric bass cords actually still work. Give up and shove them in a corner with my instruments, to figure it out later.
  35. Dust each shelf thoroughly, and then remove the shelves and dust them again (because, somehow they’re still dusty).
  36. Move the bookshelf and realize I hadn’t vacuumed behind it since I moved in. Use all the vacuum tools/attachments to get in the nooks and crannies and corners of the carpet and the bookshelf itself.
  37. Take a sneeze break.
  38. Look at the bookshelf and question whether it’s even worth trying to do anything with it.
  39. Walk away for a while.
  40. Come back, looking at the floor with bookshelf clutter exploded all around. Decide I do actually want to be able to walk through my hallway without tripping over clutter. Resolve to complete this stupid project.
  41. Look at the peel and stick wallpaper thing I found at Target. Consider covering the back panel and top (to cover up the stains from the candle from many birthdays ago).
  42. Decide against the wallpaper (too much work and too expensive for just an old bookshelf) and go with some wrapping paper I have lying around in my closet.
  43. Measure the back panel to figure out just how to cut my wrapping paper -- Carefully cut the wrapping paper.
  44. Realize that my angles aren’t 100% square, but it’s for the back of the bookshelf and there will be baskets in it anyway so it doesn’t really matter that it’s not perfect, right?
  45. Try to figure out the best way to adhere the wrapping paper… Little rolls of packing tape -- If it’s good enough for the mail and for presents, it’s good enough for me.
  46. Stick little rolls of tape around the edges of the inside of the bookshelf.
  47. Try to figure out a way to keep the paper from rolling back up while I’m trying to stick it up in the two top corners… Find a couple of bobby pins in my hair and clip them onto the bottom two corners of the wrapping paper. Somehow stick the paper to the tape and pull the rest of it tight and smooth out the paper -- Success!
  48. Realize I still have to cut wrapping paper for the top of the bookshelf. Decide to use one long roll of packing tape across the whole front of the top.
  49. Get caught in a web of sticky tape.
  50. Throw away a lot of tangled tape and start over.
  51. Finally succeed in making a roll of tape. Realize I need to measure and cut wrapping paper.
  52. Finally get the perfect piece of wrapping paper cut only to have it roll into the already adhered tape...one corner was correct...and one corner curled with the pattern down.
  53. Try to get the paper up from the tape without ripping it.
  54. Fail at getting the paper up from the tape without ripping it. Tear it violently and curse the wrapping paper gods.
  55. Cut another piece of wrapping paper for the top of the bookshelf.
  56. Adhere it correctly and smoothly and do a happy dance!
  57. Realize I still have to put the shelves back in.
  58. Put shelves in, but notice there is a wobbly one because I accidentally put one of the shelf pegs in the wrong hole.
  59. Take the shelf out; fix the peg; put the shelf back in.
  60. Figure out which of the sweaters (and Cuddl Duds) goes in which baskets and on which shelves.
  61. Finish the top of the shelf with pictures (no longer covered in dust).
  62. Worry about the sticky tape residue that will inevitably be a problem someday in the future, but decide to ignore it until I get another project bug.

So, that’s it, just 62 easy steps to the perfect, sweater-filled bookshelf. 


Wrapping paper tops it off
Completed back panel


* 63. Realize after taking all of the pictures for this blog post that the middle shelf is still crooked (see completed back panel photo). Take out shelf; fix pegs; return shelf; resolve to not do any more "creative" projects, at least for a little while...