Showing posts from 2014

The Best Christmas Music Out There

If all the Christmas music you listen to is from your local radio station, then you have been missing out on some of the best Christmas music that is out there! Honestly, you can only hear "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" so many times before your head explodes. Here's a guide to some of my favorite Christmas albums: Mannheim Steamroller Christmas This was the first - and arguably the best - Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album, and there's not much on it that I don't like. The first track, "Deck the Halls" can be heard everywhere, but "Good King Wenceslas" is a joyful track that gets toes tapping, and this version of "Silent Night" is the best one not sung inside a church. Did you know that this album is now 30 years old? Pentatonix That's Christmas to Me and PTXmas That's Christmas to Me  is brand-new this year, and I love listening to it. My students love it, too - especially songs like "Santa Cla

A Fine Day to Ski

Last Saturday I decided to take a trip into the mountains and go skiing in Breckenridge - a ski location that I am familiar with thanks to my trips there last season. My goal for this one-day adventure was to see if I remembered anything from my lessons eight months ago, and also find out if I could go on my own. My cousins weren't planning on coming to Breckenridge till the following weekend, and I had a free morning with good weather. I had spent the week researching good places to park, the best slopes to try, and how long it would take to get there. Thanks to my advanced planning, my day went off without a hitch! Breckenridge's parking lots are $12 on the weekends, but they have a free satellite lot outside of town and free shuttle service to the free gondola that will take you up to the base of Peak 8. There's a lot of "free" in that sentence, so I had to take advantage of that. I woke up at 5 a.m. and was on the road by 5:45. There hadn't been

How to Leave the Stress Behind

I didn't have a good day today. It wasn't like anything serious took place. It was just very stressful. Lots going on. It seemed like not much went the way I planned it. Some things I might not have handled as well as I could have. So how do I get rid of the stress? Some ways work for some and some ways work for others. Here are mine: Work out It might seem like that would be the last  think I want to do after a stressful day. But working out - whether it's taking a walk or doing a light routine - is a great remedy. I did a light workout today and felt much better. Computer time This may mean paying bills, downloading podcasts, syncing my iPod, or catching up on television. On stressful days I love it when there's big entertainment news, like Star Wars  names being revealed, because that means there's lots of reactions and lots of ways to get my mind off of stress. Cat cuddles It's no surprise that cats help with stress. It is really amazing ho

Peter Pan Live: A Review

There were so many times tonight when I was watching Peter Pan Live  on NBC that I was suddenly transported back to my living room in Michigan watching a VHS copy of Peter Pan with Mary Martin. And when I was reminded of those times, I reluctantly decided that the old version was better. Yes, the NBC version had some improvements. The scenery was amazing - especially the complete nursery set. Having Nana actually be a real dog was great - he did an amazing job! (Too bad they couldn't've had a trained crocodile, too.) The dancing was amazing pretty much the whole way through. The kid who played Michael was having a ball hanging out with those Lost Boys - even though he had to wear footie pajamas. My cast MVPs are all the pirates, Lost Boys, and Indians, for sure. But there were a few clunkers. The choice to use a computer animated Tinkerbell was a bad idea. The animation looked like old '90s CGI rather than an innovative prop. Is it so hard to use a light? Allison

The Christmas Music Zone

It's now December, which means it's safe to listen to Christmas music everywhere you go and not get the stink eye. I know that many of you have your favorites, but there's always room for more fantastic Christmas music in your repertoire - especially if you don't want to hear "Blue Christmas" for the tenth time today. "Deck the Halls" Mannheim Steamroller When I start listening to Christmas music, this selection from Mannheim Steamroller's  Christmas  album is usually one of the first things I queue up. The reason I love it : It reminds me of decorating the Christmas tree when I was a kid, as well as my siblings and I having pantomime concerts featuring this music. "Glory to God" Glad This is not a familiar Christmas carol. Instead, it's derived from the angels' words in Luke 2. The reason I love it : This is one that I as a musician love to dissect, and break down each part that is sung. I loved it so much, I act

The Best Years of My Life

The best years of my life? That's a hard question. Here are the options: My pre-school years were the best years of my life. Sure, I was born four weeks early and had to spend a week in the hospital getting into fighting shape, but I was born to a great family! I had an older brother that loved having me around, and we lived in a great area. My parents moved us to another great area in Michigan just a few months later, which was even better! Now I was closer to my extended family, who all loved me and wanted to hold me. And what could make it better? A little sister! A little baby sister that my brother and I fawned over. Someone that we spoke up for and did everything for, even when we probably should have been letting her do it herself. I got to spend all day every day with my mother, and my father was home for short periods throughout every day so I got to see him too! I got to go to work with Dad sometimes, and I'd spin in his spinny chair and crawl under the church p

The Procrastinator's Movie Review: Non-Stop

Non-Stop Release Date : February 28, 2014 Who was in that one again?  Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery I can't remember the plot.  A US Air Marshal (Neeson) goes on a trans-Atlantic flight to London and someone texts him, saying he'll kill one person every 20 minutes if 150 million dollars isn't put into an account. Unfortunately for the Marshal, all signs point to him being responsible for these problems. The review: It takes a lot for me to watch a movie at home, start to finish, without picking up my tablet or computer and browsing. I don't lose any plot points because I kind of already know what's going on. Not in this movie. I stayed focused on it from start to finish, and I still was second-guessing who the hijacker was. Was it Neeson's character? The stewardess? The other Marshal? The cop? The redhead? This is definitely not a predictable movie. Great action, not too much gore, and very much a thrill. I love thrillers.

Listen, Perform, Conduct - A Game!

If you have ever participated in a teenage sleepover - or at least surfed on the Internet for random, stupid things - you have probably come across the game that I am going to tweak a bit today. The game has been known for its many forms (some of which I can't type here), but the basic premise is that you're offered three people, and you have to decide which one you'll marry, which one you'd date, and which one you'd kill. This can be a very difficult game for some people, especially because one of the choices has a very negative result. If you have three people that you like, how can you choose the one you'd kill? Let's be rational here for a second: you'll never kill this person - and it's highly unlikely that you'd marry or date the other two (especially if they're celebrities). But why don't we take this game and play it to my strengths? Namely, a music game? I came up with this when I was flying back from Minneapolis and a gr

All the World's A Stage for This Family

This weekend marks the end of an era in my family. We are all gathering in Minnesota to watch the youngest member of our family in the final musical performance of his school career. Musicals have always been a huge part of my family's life. We were raised to love musical theater and saw many touring productions that came through Detroit. While our mother can be credited for passing down her singing and acting talent that she used when she was growing up, our father gave us our passion for musicals. He never acted in his life, but he has known and loved musicals since he was a kid, and that love has not waned. Viewing Musical Theater The earliest musical I can remember loving was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat . Other musicals that I was aware of, like Oklahoma! and The Music Man and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers  were from thirty or forty years earlier, and Joseph  seemed like a new-fangled kind of musical (even though it actually was born in the 1970s). My p

Not So Scary, So Much Candy!

One of the things on my "must-do" list at Disney included finally doing a hard-ticket event in the Magic Kingdom. I'd heard that the Halloween Party was a lot more fun than the Christmas Party, so on my fall trip I was able to purchase a ticket. The premise is this: everyone who attends is encouraged to wear costumes (but not TOO accurate for some costumes like Snow White or Belle) and can trick-or-treat in various areas around the park. Many attractions are still open, but there are special shows, dance parties, and fireworks that are the highlights of the evening. I planned on arriving in the Magic Kingdom as the Ninth Doctor from Doctor Who , but I didn't want to be in the outfit all day, so I stored it in my car. People with party tickets can arrive at the park at 4pm (though the party doesn't officially start till 7), and I wanted to make the most out of my time, since this would be my only time in the Magic Kingdom all vacation. I was in Epcot, an

An Adventure with Indy

Fourteen years ago, my family crammed into a 3,000 seat arena-style theater, in the upper half of the bowl. It was the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, where actors would perform three scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark, including all the stunts. Then a casting assistant director came out before the first scene, announcing that he was looking for extras to perform in the street market scene. My older brother, who had purchased a large hat to keep away the Florida heat, took it off and started waving it around like a mad person. Lo and behold, the cast member picked him as one of twelve extras! He was ecstatic over this, and so were we. It was wonderful seeing him perform in front of so many people, because each participant gets to act out something and look pretty ridiculous up there. For example, he had to act evil, and his first instinct was to act like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers  (that was popular back then, kids). In the actual market scene it was hard to spot him out, but

The Adventures of the Birthday Button

I am going to make this perfectly clear at the start: I was celebrating my birthday in Walt Disney World. Did I plan to? No. Was it my birthday? No. But will I ever be in Walt Disney World the first weekend in May, when my birthday falls? No. There are a variety of reasons why this will never happen. Firstly, this weekend is usually when Confirmations take place. This weekend has also been the weekend of grade school track meets since I started teaching. And it is too close to the end of school to take an extended vacation. So as a result, I celebrated my birthday in October. This came about when I was picking up my ticket at the Transportation and Ticket Center Will Call. I had purchased my tickets at a discount online, and had no trouble giving them my ticket voucher and getting my card. When I was about to wrap up, the lady at Will Call asked, "Are you celebrating anything on this trip?" I shrugged. "I'm on a break!" Which I was. I was on fall

The Magical Trip: An Overview

My trip to Orlando is over and done, but I'm still riding high on the fumes of awesomeness. I can barely get out of my mouth how great the vacation was when people ask. I'm going to take a couple of posts to explain everything, but if you want to know the trip on a whole, this is the post you're looking for! Day 1 - Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure   New Area I was Anticipating: Everything, but mostly The Wizarding World of Harry Potter I had gotten in to Orlando pretty late the night before thanks to airline and luggage delays, but I finally made it to my hotel at 2am and crashed. Universal opened at 8am the next day, so I was up by 6 and out the door by 7 to make sure I got there on time. At 8am I wandered my way through the rest of Universal and made it to the back of the park - pretty much where everyone else was going. You can't see Diagon Alley from the other areas of the park - instead, you can see various buildings from London (including Kin