Tuesday, December 24, 2013

New Tunes Tuesday - Christmas Edition Week 4

Let me preface this by saying... I was skeptical. All controversy aside (and none of that will be discussed here), I do like Duck Dynasty. I think it's a great family television show, and their stories crack me up. But a Christmas album? Can they sing?

Yes they can! Duck The Halls is actually pretty good.

The Robertson clan mix traditional songs with a few originals for a heaping helping of family fun. As fans of the show can attest, it's the warmth and love of this family that makes their show a special one. It all shines through on the album.

Willie, Missy, Uncle Si, and Phil lead the way. Missy has a wonderful voice that is show-cased on I'll Be Home For Christmas. She also sings with husband Jase in a very flirty Baby It's Cold Outside.

They also bring in some a-list help on a few songs. Luke Bryan pairs with Willie on Hairy Christmas. "Like Jesus and Santa Claus, we got love behind these beards" they joyfully sing on the chorus. Sadie's sings sweetly on Away In A Manger while Alison Krauss and Josh Turner provide harmony. He then later duets with Missy on a song he wrote, Why I Love Christmas. And Phil joins George Strait for a good time on his song Christmas Cookies.

Uncle Si is entertaining as ever when he mistakes Santa Claus for Willie on The Night Before Christmas. You can also hear him on You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.  Plenty of "Hey, Jack!" for everyone.

I really enjoyed the original songs also. Camouflage and Christmas Lights is a great tribute to uniformed soldiers. The oldest son Reed Robertson, whom we really don't see much on the show, sings here. Rajin’ Cajun Redneck Christmas starts the album off and pretty much sets the tone. It reminds us of what Christmas is really all about. "Gotta buy a Barbie doll and a toy robot / You can't buy me nothing I ain't got / Some folks wanna know what it's really for / Down here we know it's about the Lord"

I honestly thought it was going to be more of a novelty joke album, but it certainly isn't. I was pleasantly surprised. You don't have to like Duck Dynasty to like this album either. If you love Christmas and Christmas music, then it's a winner.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Tunes Tuesday - Christmas Edition Week 3

For me, it isn't the Christmas season until I listen to Straight No Chaser. Last year I included their Holiday Spirits album in my New Tunes Tuesday Christmas Edition. And this year, I add another of their albums... Under the Influence: Holiday Edition. 

It's eight tracks long in which four of the tracks include a guest singer. First they pair with Colbie Caillat on Every Day Is Christmas. It's a romantic ballad about how everyday seems like a holiday when they're with their lover. The blend is nice, and I really like the bridge, but it's a little too sticky sweet for my taste.

But the tracks keep getting better.... Next is CeeLo Green on White Christmas. I love the arrangement on this track. The doo wop beat is catchy and bouncy. CeeLo provides a nice lead vocal and makes it sound very current.

Merry Christmas Baby with Otis Redding is soooo smooth with a rocking beat. His vocal provides a unique twist on the album while Straight No Chaser is solidly in the background. This is my favorite track on the album by far.

Wonderful Christmastime with Sir Paul McCartney is safe and predictable. His voice just seems to disappear in the mix and the arrangement is very unoriginal.

The last four are original songs by the group. Home By Christmas Day and Song for Santa are excellent tracks for the a capella fan. Their sound is full and balanced, but they're really not very original. They do show their quirky and creative side with Nutcracker however. They lament attending the boring ballet instead of watching the game. "Guess I'm a guy what can I say. I'd rather watch football than ballet!" It's quite funny (and guys, I can relate!)

They wrap up the album with a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace. It starts out slow then picks up with a really fun groove. A few key changes and an amazing lead vocal make it interesting.

Overall, not their "best" holiday album, but one I will listen to often. I'm a big fan of a capella bands (have I mentioned that?) and the men of Straight No Chaser do it well.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Tunes Tuesday - Christmas Edition Week 2

First, I know it's Thursday. This is what happens when life gets in the way... your blog post is late. But, as I always say... better late than never.

This week I'm reviewing Wrapped In Red by Kelly Clarkson. This girl has amazing chops. I have watched her grow since she won American Idol in 2002. I was a fan of her then, and I'm still a fan now. I wish I could have seen her Christmas special last night, but again.... life stuff happened. That's okay. It was important life stuff with my kids.

On to the music....

She spans a variety of genres on the album including blues, country, soul and contemporary pop. There is a little something for everyone on this very Clarkson Christmas album. I think my favorite song on the album is Underneath The Tree. It has a 60's rockin' feel to it. I can definitely imagine it blaring through the mall speakers during this time of year. It was immediately added to my Christmas Favorites playlist.

Equally as rockin' is Run Run Rudolph.  She puts a Memphis Blues twist to it that's a lot of fun. Speaking of blues... Please Come Home For Christmas (Bells Will Be Ringing) is full of soul. I found myself comparing it to the original just a little bit, but I still love her style. But I had to star Every Christmas, an original ballad where she really lets loose. She also really shines in front of a big band horn-section on My Favorite Things.

The album has a great mix of original songs and your holiday favorites. She sounds absolutely beautiful on Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and White Christmas. Both songs really highlight her tone and phrasing. The encore at the end pairs her with country superstars Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood on Silent Night. I loved seeing this genre-jumping country twist. It's an elegant rendition that solidifies the whole album.

With her ever powerful voice, Wrapped In Red is destined to become a holiday classic.

Friday, December 6, 2013

'Tis the Night Before The Championship

On the eve of the SEC Championship game, I felt inspired to write about it. It's been an incredible ride this year! I couldn't be more proud of my team. Mizzou-rah!

'Tis the night before the championship and all through Mizzou Nation.
The fans are not sleeping, we're full of elation!

Our black and our gold is ready to wear;
And our hearts are in Atlanta (man, I wish I was there).

All through the media there has been such a clatter!
I flipped on the TV to see what was the matter.

We've had quite a season and shocked quite a few
Last year was depressing, conference winnings just two.

But we've won the SEC East and oh, so much more.
We've earned their respect, our team can't be ignored.

"Now Franklin, Now Josey, Now Sam and Bonner!
On Wilson, On Copeland, On Washington, and Ponder!

Go DGB, Sasser, Sam and Gaines!
And don't forget Pinkel!" the fans all exclaim.

We're in this together, everyone is with you.
So go and fight Tigers, fight for ol' Mizzou!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Tunes Tuesday - Christmas Edition Week 1

It's back! New Tunes Tuesday has been noticeably absent for a few weeks, and I apologize for that. But quite honestly, I haven't really felt a strong urge to review new music. But never fear, it's back for my favorite Christmas Edition series. For the four weeks leading up to Christmas, I'll review some of my favorite Christmas music.

This week I'm going to talk about Pentatonix - PTXmas (Deluxe Version). I fell in love with this group on the singing competition show, The Sing-Off, which is an a capella group competition. Pentatonix won season three. And by the way... the new season of The Sing-Off premieres on December 9th on NBC (don't miss it!).

First of all, their talent is amazing. Only five voices (and one is usually providing the percussion) yet they sound like a full orchestra. And they have this unique style and ability to twist and turn a song into their very own while still keeping the integrity of the song. I was very excited to hear that they put their creativity into Christmas music.

You may have already heard one of their songs that has gone viral on social media.

Amazing, right? The album is only 8 tracks long, but each one is just as amazing as the first. Carol of the Bells is definitely a jaw-dropping favorite of mine. The chorus is definitely the highlight. The "trumpet" solo in The Christmas Song is perfect and simply awesome. I've heard many versions of This Christmas and this one might be my favorite. The smooth beat and out of this world harmonies just simply make me smile.

And since I've run out of adjectives to describe this album, you should just click play and listen for yourselves. I'm going to head on over to iTunes and buy it right now! I think you will too.


Monday, December 2, 2013


The word of the day was four. You know, something like four things, four sides, or maybe the number four. I like symmetry. Eight is actually my favorite number, but I decided on four as it is more simple for photographs.

Here's what I came up with....

I thought it was a cool concept. Now... had I used my real camera with the remote, maybe a back light and a nice big white wall to project my shadow onto?  Can you envision that?  Yeah, that's what I had in mind.

But you get me standing on one leg in my kitchen taking a pic of my shadow.

It's close.

I also chose the word taboo. I took a pic of some political books and my bible. But since it's taboo (meaning I don't really like to talk about those subjects), I'm not posting my photo.

And the last topic was food. It was Thanksgiving Day in the USA, so my idea was to take photos of our feasts. Sadly, I deleted that photo before I had a chance to post it here. But it was just a big plate of food. And I ate it all. I felt stuffed for days.

So that was my week! It was awesome and now we're halfway through a new week. Time really flies...

Monday, November 25, 2013


I went slightly out of order on the list of topics and skipped ahead to #4 because I can. It's my week, right!?! And there are no rules in our group. None.

I went on a little drive Sunday afternoon, found a cute little barn, and snapped some pics. Perfect for rustic, don't you think? This is what I came home with...

Favorite - I love how simple it is

Worn Out

Shut It Down

Forgotten Memory

Tiny Barn, Big Sky

Taken This Weekend

Continuing with this week's photo themes, Saturday's was drink.

It's been well established on my blog that I love to drink coffee. And I love to try different flavors of coffee. I also like my coffee strong and sweet (cream and sugar are a must). The holidays are a great time to try new flavors, and now I have a new one!

I love the cinnamon dolce latte at Starbucks. It's probably the one I get most often when I want something like that. They will be seeing a lot less of me now that I've found this, which is good news for the pocketbook and my waistline! The Cinnamon Creme is fantastic! I'm extremely sad that it's a limited edition though. Why must my favorites be limited?!?

Sunday's prompt was one of my favorite types of photography... black and white! Here are a few favorites...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Album Cover Challenge

If you could create an album cover that describes who you are as a person, what would it look like?

This is the question I posed to my photo group on Facebook this week. If you've been a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I have participated in a monthly photo challenge. I completed 15 months of this challenge and decided to take a break after October. For me, the topics have become mundane and have started repeating themselves (after a year, I guess they would tend to do that). A few in my photo group felt the same way, so we branched off and made our own group.

This group is very bold, provocative and extremely fun. One of the best things about being a part of this group is that each week we take turns coming up with our own photo themes. Yeah! We all have different personalities and ways of expressing ourselves, so to have the opportunity to suggest theme topics has been so much fun. We're now in our third week, and this week was my turn.

Since music is such an influence in my life, I included in my list of themes an album cover challenge. Here's what I said: I want you to create an album cover that describes you, be sure to give it a title, song list is optional, or maybe it’s a single. It’s your cover.  The creativity in the group has literally exceeded my expectations. I have been so pleased to see each and every one.

So what did my cover look like?

Heart of the Heartland is a country album, of course, and I did create a set list as well to help describe who I am.

1. Better Late Than Never 
2. Dead End Dirt Road 
3. Wild At Heart 
4. Learned My Lesson 
5. I'll Drink To That 
6. Missouri Maid 
7. Two For The Road 
8. You're Lying Eyes 
9. I Forgive You 
10. Halfway Gone 
11. Livin' In The Moment

I now present this challenge to you. What would your album cover look like? Have fun with it and post it in the comments if you want to share.

Tomorrow's theme is "drink". Come back to see what's in my glass....

Friday, November 8, 2013

October Photo A Day FAB FOUR

Is it November already?!?

Yeah, I'm a little late with this post. Traveled to a meeting the first week of November, so the FUN stuff in my life took a back seat.  But I'm back!

Here are my favorite photos from October...

Upper Left:  Corner
Upper Right:  Leafy
Lower Left:  Still
Lower Right:  Depth of Field

I gotta admit, I was not a fan of the list for October. Some days were a real struggle. I can't decide if it was the list of photo topics, my lack of creativity, or I just need a break! I'm going to try the last suggestion for November. I took one look at the new list and said no. I'm not even going to start. I may try December. And then again, I may be finished with the photo a day project. I have completed 15 months of photo prompts. That's a lot of photos!!

But you know me... that won't stop me from taking pictures. There will be plenty of opportunities for that.

Until next time....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Tunes Tuesday - Lindi Ortega

I'm just going to come right out and say it.... modern country music needs more Lindi Ortega!

This alt-country artist makes a big statement on her just released album, Tin Star, which is ironically titled in my opinion. In the male-dominated world of country music, Lindi shines brighter than any of the truck lights they sing about. She'll have you hypnotized with her fiery rasp and haunting melodies. Her voice is like a cross between Dolly Parton and Emmy Lou Harris. She's Johnny Cash meets Wonder Woman dressed all in black with her signature red cowboy boots. Have I got you interested yet?

She tells the tale of her struggles on the title track Tin Star... "Well, we don't got fame, no name in lights / No Billboard hits. No sold-out nights. / We got bills to pay, trying to make a way. / Some of us wait on luck; well, some just pray." She compares herself to an old tin star to the bright shiny stars in Nashville, Tennessee. “Well you don’t know me, I’m a nobody. / I sing on the Strip, for a few pennies. / I’ve got a busted string, and a broken guitar. / I’ve been singing for tips down at the local bar. / Like an old tin star I’m beat up and rusting, lost in the shining stars of Nashville, Tennessee / Well I wrote this song for those who are like me, lost in the shining stars, the shining stars." And this song just scratches the surface.

The opening track "Hard As This" could belong on a Quentin Tarantino film (that's a compliment) and is a lyrical masterpiece. "If you need time, here’s a clock / You can sit alone at night and listen to it tick and tock / When it stops, wind it up / I’ll be somewhere giving up on you." It's the ultimate break-up tune.

One of my favorite tracks is "This Is Not Surreal." She's so vulnerable and a little gloomy on the ballad. She draws you in with her emotional quiver. Her vibrato is fragile yet confident on "Something For You" as she tries to find the right words to express her feelings. I like the boot-stomping "Gypsy Child" which is probably auto-biographical.

The album is about chasing your dreams and doing what you love despite the struggles. You don't have to be a singer in Nashville to relate to a theme like that. It really is a gem of an album from start to finish. One of the best this year. Shine on, Lindi!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Our Trip to Disney

We've been talking about it for years. We should take the kids to Disney World! It's every kids dream vacation, right? Well, we wanted to go at "the right time." You know, when the kids are the right age and during the right time of year. But is there ever a right time? Maybe. We decided to go this fall. We found a time where the kids aren't real busy with sports, they had a day off from school, and it worked with our work schedules. So off we went on Saturday, September 28th.

The Fountains Resort
We bought a three day park hopper with two days free from the internet. We also decided to fly from our small local airport. Time was crucial as we didn't have much of it. It did cost a little more, but it was worth it! And we had an extra bonus with lodging. My parents own a timeshare. The kids had their own room and bathroom, and we had a kitchen so we could cook some of our meals. Publix was right around the corner.

We arrived in the afternoon and after the grocery shopping, decided to hit the pool. We grabbed some lunch and walked around the grounds. The Fountains is a great place. We really enjoyed it.

That evening we decided to go to The Magic Kingdom! I never saw so many strollers in all my life. Tip #1. No matter what time of year, Saturdays are BUSY!!! Be prepared to fight the crowd. We rode a few rides (Space Mountain was shut down!) and mostly just walked around. We only made it halfway around the park when we decided it was time to go. It had been a long day and we were getting hungry. We caught a glimpse of the Electric Parade. Yes, it's still happening! And on the way to the car, we saw the fireworks go up. I knew right then that we had to come back in the evening to see the show. The kids agreed. In fact, we found out that every park puts on some kind of firework show in the evenings.

Day two was at Epcot. It's Sunday and the park isn't that crowded. Lucky for us, a food and wine festival was happening! I saw the schedule on a Disney blog. Tip #2. Follow the Disney blogs so you know if any special events are happening at the parks. Pat and I certainly took advantage of that. I think this was the least favorite for the kids, but we kind of knew that was going to happen. We warned them ahead of time. We ate a late lunch at one of the restaurants which is something we had planned to do. The food was fantastic.

Day three was at Hollywood Studios. The kids are happy again! The wait time was only 10-15 minutes on even the most popular rides. So we got to ride everything and see everything we wanted fairly quickly. We headed back to the hotel for some swim time because it was a hot and humid day! That evening we went to Downtown Disney for dinner. Again, this was a planned splurge and really enjoyed our meal. Tip #3. We heard there are new plans in store for Pleasure Island. So look for that if you are planning a trip soon.

Day four we decided to sleep-in and head back to The Magic Kingdom in the afternoon. We spent the morning at the pool, went through a drive-through for lunch, and got to the park at around 2:00. Tip #4. The Wishes Nighttime Spectacular is a MUST SEE! The park gets busier and busier as the day goes on because everyone wants to see the show. I would try to get a table at Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant if you can. We had an excellent view of the show. It was the perfect way to wrap up our vacation.

Some more tips... wear your walking shoes. We wore athletic shoes every day and were thankful for it. The fall is a great time to visit. Main Street was decorated for fall and Halloween. Try to visit the parks during the week. We NEVER used the fast pass. The wait time was minimal, so it was never needed. There is a Disney App called My Disney Experience that was very helpful. It contains maps, wait times, and descriptions of the restaurants. We used it a lot.

I think we did find the right time to go! The kids are 12 and 9. My oldest missed two days of school, and the youngest missed three. The weather was great, and the atmosphere was wonderful. Hope these tips are helpful when you plan your own trip to the happiest place on Earth!

September Photo a Day FAB FOUR

A little late with this post because I was on vacation this past week and without a laptop. More on that to come in a future post.

September Photo a Day was an interesting month. The prompts were all reader driven, and some proved to be quite challenging. That's what makes it fun.

Here are my favorite four photos that I took in September.

Top Left: Alone
Top Right: What Is This?
Bottom Left: Curve
Bottom Right: Gold

Oh, and that bottom right photo should give you a clue as to where I was this past week.

On to the next month! Can you believe it's already October? The months just seem to fly by. It's still warm outside so it doesn't feel much like fall. But it will be here soon enough, so I'll enjoy the warmer temps while I can. Here's the list for October already under way!

Are you going to play?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Tunes Tuesday - Chris Young

Chris Young is known for his deep bass vocals and traditional credentials with an updated sound. His fourth studio album "A.M" holds true to that. You may have heard his first single "Aw Naw" on the radio which follows right along with the current trend in country music - party anthem, high energy, and screaming guitars. But if you're not into that scene, there are plenty of other impressive ballads to make you melt.

"Hold You To It" is exactly one of those songs. "Girl you wear the hell out of that dress / And I can hardly catch my breath / when I see you look this way / And I've been sitting here all night long / Waiting on your favorite song / and it's finally starting to play." This song was an instant favorite of mine.

Another instant favorite was "Text Me Texas." If you liked "Gettin' You Home" (you know, the black dress song...), you are going to absolutely love this one. The mandolin carries you through this lovely song as you wait desperately for the object of your affection to contact you. It's a modern heartbreak song and very clever.

Another fun tune is "We're Gonna Find It Tonight." It's definitely more rock than country, but it finds a nice spot on the album. Whatever gets your girl fired up, they're on a mission to find it. Love it.

In Spotify, you can star your favorite tunes so that you can easily find them again. After one listen, I put a star next to "Forgiveness." His voice, the lyrics, and the stripped down arrangement is perfect. "It ain't hiding in no bottle on a shelf / Or lying in the bed of someone else / I can't feel it on some Sunday morning pew / And one sleepless night it dawned on me / The piece I need so desperately / is buried in the one place I can't get to / Girl, it's gotta come from you." I've been on both sides of this song, so that may be why it appeals to me so much. In the midst of so many modernized country songs, this one is just really refreshing.

This is one of the best country albums to come out this year, in my opinion. The ballads are definitely the highlight, but it's great that he gives us a taste of something different too. I highly recommend that you give it a listen....

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Every Day Is A Gift

Each day we are given is a gift.

I was reminded of that this morning when I saw the sun bursting through the clouds. Lately I've been focusing too much on the stress, the not so fun, and the hectic parts of my life. But if we focus on what's wrong with our lives, we'll miss all the beauty and the wonder that life has to offer.

We have so many blessings given to us each day... friends, family, and people who lift us up on a daily basis. We have the birds singing, flowers blooming, leaves turning, or a beautiful sunrise or sunset. We have the moon, the stars, and the ocean's wave. There is beauty all around us! Yet in the midst of it all, we get distracted and we forget. We forget the magic we felt when we first saw a firefly on the 4th of July, or the value of a moment spent to brighten someone else's day. It only takes a moment.

We are allotted a finite amount of time to enjoy all the wonders on this earth. Don't misuse your time. Don't waste one precious moment. Value the time you are given.

Every day is a gift, but it's up to YOU how you unwrap the present.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

New Tunes Tuesday - Keith Urban

Keith Urban has always walked close to the line of country, pop, and rock, and because of that (and his mad guitar skills) he has always appealed to me. His first single "Little Bit Of Everything" from Fuse seems very fitting because that's exactly what you'll hear throughout the album.

He pushes his creativity and artistic talent like never before. He brought in eight producers to shake up his sound, but fans should not fear. There are plenty of guitar rifts and banjo sounds that are uniquely his. The first track "Somewhere In My Car" reassures you right away. The first thing you hear is a banjo and a "mmm-mmm" from Keith. It's the closest song to an Urban traditional song that you'll find, but it has some tweaks too - heavier guitars (some of which have a wah-wah) and a staccato chorus.

Cars are a recurring theme as he sings about falling in love in the backseat of a "Cop Car." You wouldn't think that lyrics like "You were stealing my heart. I fell in love in the back of a cop car" would work, but they do. "Red Camaro" completes the car song trifecta about a hot girl in a hot car. "You got them cowgirl boots on / That summer dress blowin' / Girl, there ain't nothin' bout you that / Don't get to me and you know it." With a strong sturdy beat, it's sure to be a summer hit.

My favorite songs are the two duets. "We Were Us" with Miranda Lambert starts with her on the intro verse, and then their voices blend magically on the chorus. They have some of the best lyrics on this song about a small-town lover who's now gone. "Shotgun sunset / A cool mint kiss / Backseat promise / Breaking it / Floorboard feeling / County lines / God, I miss when you were mine."  He also pairs with Eric Church on "Raise 'Em Up." It's an anthem-type song that lists off things that can be raised up in good times: a lighter at a rock concert, sails on a boat, hands in a various situations, umbrellas in the rain, little babies, the stars and stripes, tear filled eyes, and even your voice. Both songs are perfect collaborations.

Another great track is "Shame" which lists all of the mistakes he's made and people he's hurt in his life. “Promises I made and bills I never paid / Another missed birthday / Shame on me, shame on me / Bridges that I burned and lovers that I hurt / Lessons never learned /Shame on me shame on me.” I think his vocals sound the best on this song. The last song I'll mention is "Good Thing" because it is so different. It has this thumping beat throughout, cool rock guitar rifts, and doesn't sound country at all... but I still love it. It's addictive and worth mentioning. Check it out.

There's been a lot of criticism lately on the current sound of country music.... too much production and not enough old school twang. I personally like the stretches and risks that country artists are taking these days, and Fuse is a great example of how it can work.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How will you remember?

This morning I displayed our American flag in front of our home. Today is Patriot Day. A day of remembrance for our country for the 2,977 killed on September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Old Glory is ragged looking, isn't she? She's certainly not a perfect flag. She's faded from the sunlight. There are a few holes and tears in the fabric, and the pole is very dirty. As I took my photo I thought "we need a new flag." Should I really display this tired looking thing?

Yes. Because I had a few other thoughts...

Our country is far from perfect. It's full of holes and tears, and parts of her are quite dirty.

Our leaders are far from perfect. They are only human after all. Their judgement is sometimes full of holes and rips the country in two at times. We fight and disagree. And it makes me tired.

But we rise every morning and face the day. We stand proud and let our colors shine. And tomorrow we'll do it all again. I was reminded of these lyrics from That Ragged Old Flag...

"So we raise her up every morning and we bring her down slow every night.
We don't let her touch the ground, and we fold her up right.
On second thought I *do* like to brag
Cause I'm mighty proud of That Ragged Old Flag"

I'm still proud to be an American, but I'm feeling more and more like my Old Glory looks.

God bless the USA.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New Tunes Tuesday - Alabama and Friends

The band Alabama and I go way back. I remember seeing them as a child at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, MO with my family. That might have been my very first live concert. I've always been a big fan of their music. But not only that, their songs are synonymous with my childhood. When I hear "Oh play me some mountain music..." I'm transported back in time as a lot of fans of country music are. Their songs are family sing-a-long songs for me and are held in the highest regard.

When I learned there was a tribute album released commemorating 40 years of music together, I knew I would listen with a critical ear. I have the original songs in my head and that standard has been set. I was very interested to see how the covers would compare.

Fortunately, the album has an all-star cast with Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Eli Young Band, Trisha Yearwood, Toby Keith, and Florida Georgia Line. Alabama appears on several of the tracks providing back-up harmonies.

The song choices are exceptional. Jason Aldean's version of "Tennessee River" starts the album off, which was Alabama's first number one single. Kenny Chesney is perfection on "Lady Down On Love." And "Love In The First Degree" might as well have been written for Luke Bryan. But my favorite on the album is "I'm In A Hurry (And Don't Know Why)" with Florida Georgia Line. I'm in love with this band and love how they made this song their own. Though I love the original, I may like this one even more.

The album also has two brand new tracks for Alabama including "That's How I Was Raised" and "All American." It's currently sitting in the number two spot on the country charts, so fans are certainly loving it. And I must say, so am I. As far as tribute albums go, this one is a keeper.

Have you listened to it yet? What do you think?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Made By Me

Today's photo a day prompt is "made by me." Perfect opportunity for another shameless plug for my Blurb book of Mizzou photos. And today just happens to be my 15 year anniversary of working at Mizzou (halfway to retirement!)

You can view the whole book right here. If you love it (or know someone who would love it), you can purchase it on blurb.com.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Lesson On Being Alone

For some, that's a very scary word.


But there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. As an introvert, I much prefer being alone.

OK, I know what you're thinking, so lets clear up some misconceptions about being an introvert right now. No, I'm not shy. I'm really quite talkative, but social gatherings exhaust me. I do like to be around people, but I am not a fan of small talk. It takes me a while to formulate an answer to your question and that can be perceived as snobby. I'm not snobby. I'm just reflecting. And I love to talk in front of large groups of people. Public speaking is probably the most enjoyable part of my job, and I've been told I do it well.

I just prefer to be alone. Despite all of the social biases, spending some time alone can be enjoyable and good for you. Here are some lessons from an introvert on why a little forced solitude can be a good thing.

1. Removing all distractions for a while can boost your creativity. Being alone with your thoughts is sometimes necessary for artistic expression. I write my blog alone. I draw alone. I come up with creative ideas when I'm alone. I also love to go on photography walks by myself. I can see the world better when I'm alone.

2. It allows you to recharge. The outside stresses of work and home life are gone. You can breathe and just be.

3. Taking a little "me" time allows you assess your life and the direction of your life. You're allowing yourself to evaluate YOU and make any changes that might be necessary. When was the last time you gave your life a performance review?

4. Hiking, shopping, or even seeing a movie by yourself can be enjoyable. You can do what YOU want to do without adhering to anyone else's schedules, preferences, or expectations.

5. Tackling your fear of being alone can boost your self-esteem. Get back in touch with yourself and remember all of the reasons why you are AWESOME!

Do you enjoy spending time alone? What do you like to do most often by yourself?

"I love being alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."
-Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, August 31, 2013

August Photo a Day FAB FOUR

Today completes another month of Photo a Day. If you're not familiar with this daily photo challenge, click on the Photo a Day page here on my blog.

Last year, I wrote a post about every single photo I snapped for the challenge, and then created a monthly summary of all the photos for that month. This year, I decided to not post my photos daily and just include my Instagram feed in the menu on the right. But I still want to share some of my photos with you. Then I thought of the Fab Four.

Each day for the challenge a "fab four" is chosen either by Fat Mum Slim herself or one of her many wonderful helpers on the social media sites (Instagram and Facebook). If you share your photo on one of those sites, yours might get chosen. It's not a contest but just a way to highlight some of the photos that represented the prompt well or just caught their eye. By the way... mine was chosen once, and I was thrilled! Contest or not, it's still pretty cool.

So following that format, I will choose my own personal four favorites each month and post my own FAB FOUR. Here they are for August.

Top Left: Incomplete
Top Right: Macro
Lower Left: Cooking
Lower Right: Culture

Now it's time to gear up for September's list. Fat Mum Slim put out a call for topic suggestions on her blog, and the result was this list created by her followers. Some of them look to be very challenging. I'm pretty excited.

Do you like to take photos? Maybe you should give it a whirl! There are plenty of places to share your photos or not. It's totally up to you. It's super fun and a great way to see the world in a whole new way. 

Happy snapping!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Tunes Tuesday - Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan is having the time of his life right now. He sold out venues with his first headlining tour, "Dirt Road Diaries." Every single he's released lately has hit number one on the Country Charts. And now his latest album containing said singles has hit number one. His star is rising and shining brighter than ever. If there is anyone who should follow the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" mentality of making records, it's Luke Bryan. And he's done exactly that on "Crash My Party."

A few of the songs are predictable and heavily laden with country cliches. Especially the track "Shut it Down."  "Ooh, big, blue sky, half-plowed field / Bird on a fender, tractor sittin still" but I still can't get the dang song out of my head! That's what Luke Bryan does. His sound his contagious. I don't care how many times he sings about a Dixie Cup (and it's a lot); I want to be the girl holding that Dixie Cup!

Near the middle are the best tracks. My eye was immediately drawn to the track "Drink a Beer." But the meaning was not what I expected... it's a tribute to a lost friend that is very humble and personal. It'll be a hit if ever released.

The other sure fire hit and my personal favorite is "Play It Again." Country music is all about the story-telling, and this one is probably his best effort to date. This girl he spots at a bonfire continuously interrupts any pick up line he tries to give because her favorite song comes on the radio. It's clever, spontaneous, and yep, a Dixie Cup song.

Overall, the album gives his fans what they want without singing the same song over and over again. It takes you down rural dirt roads with plenty of headlights, dancing and beer. But it's the expressive melodies and arena-ready hooks that will make you want to say... "play it again, play it again, play it again!"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Letter To My Daughter On Her Birthday

To my beautiful daughter on her 9th birthday,

It's your special day, sugar, and this birthday is extra special. Today you are nine. NINE! You're at the halfway point of your at home years. (Dear Lord, let them go slowly.) It's the last year before you hit the double-digits. And I'm sorry to say, but it's all downhill after that....

Kidding! Just kidding. All joking aside, this birthday is very special. You are now what they call a tween... defined as between a teenager and a child. I say define yourself! Don't let the media tell you how to look, act or feel. Be the best YOU that you can be.

I love that you are not yet embarrassed to kiss your mom good-bye in public or ask for a hug. I love your funny sense of humor that is witty and smart. You are incredibly smart, and I'm not just saying that either. You have good common sense and a nice work ethic. You are also very loving, generous, and thoughtful. You sure do make me proud.

I also love your sense of style! I smile each time I catch you trying on my shoes to see how close you are to sharing them with me (waaaay too close, by the way). You are creative and imaginative with your clothes and hairstyles that are uniquely you. I'm not sure how you learned to braid your hair the way that you do. You sure didn't learn how from me. That must mean you aren't afraid to try and learn new things. That will take you very far in life, my dear.

I know you have a firm grip on what is right and good. But I also know your beliefs will be challenged in the next few years. I hope and pray that you stay true to yourself. You will be confused and frustrated at times, but you have a great moral compass to guide you. And if that gets lost, you know where to find me.

I'm afraid that the next nine years will zoom by as quickly as the first nine, and soon you will be spreading your wings and flying off to your next adventure. I want you to, but I don't want you to just as much.

As you are blowing out your candles this evening and making a wish, I will be making a few wishes for you too. I wish you health and happiness, friends and family who love you and understand you, and the audacity to be yourself.

Happy birthday, Krista. I love you.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another Year Begins

Today is the first day of school! So we must take a photo...

Out the door first was my son who is in the 7th grade. His bus route starts at 6:50 AM, and classes begin at 7:30 AM. Man, that's early! Good thing he's a morning person. He was up before me. I maaay have still been in my pajamas while taking this photo (ahem).

Next up is my daughter who is in the 3rd grade. Her bus route starts at 7:40 (much better), but I'm able to take her to school every day. Doors open at 8:05 AM, and her school is on my way into work. Perfection!

Can't wait to hear all about their day.

Here's to the start of a great year!!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rivalry Run 5K 2013

The rivalry between kansas and Missouri has existed since before the Civil War. Even though the landscape has changed with kU and Mizzou in different NCAA conferences, the rivalry has not. I was raised to hate the kansas jayhawks (not a typo, I never capitalize kansas), and I'm raising my kids that way too. It's a competition kind of hate, mind you. So any time there is a mechanism in which I can participate in this competition, I am sooooo there.

August 17th was The Rivalry Run in downtown Kansas City. This was the fourth year for the race and the second year for me. This year I brought my twelve year-old son along as a last minute decision. He's been wanting to try a race, and so I asked him if he wanted to join me this year. He did GREAT! Based on his time, he would have placed third in his age group. I'm definitely registering him for the next one. This was the longest distance he's ever run, so we weren't sure how he would do. He just blew me away... He told me he liked running with a group of people and looks forward to the next one. A runner in the making!

I did fairly well. I must admit that I've been pretty lazy with my running lately, so I knew I would be slow. My goal was to run under 40 minutes, and I did that. I crossed the finish at 39:00. My son was there at the finish line cheering me on. That was the best part.

The next race will be the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on October 12 in Columbia. My daughter would like to run this one. We're going to start training together this week. Soon we'll be a family of runners!

I'm very proud of my kids wanting to participate in these races. Not only is it great exercise, but it's building their self-esteem. It's a great feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Tunes Tuesday - Brett Eldredge


It's been three years since he released his first single "Raymond" in 2010. Later he released "Don't Ya" which has been played non-stop this summer, so the anticipation for the full album has been building. Wait no longer. His full debut album, Bring You Back, is finally here.

And it was well worth the wait, folks. He's not only an amazing vocalist but an amazing writer as well having helped pen 11 of the 12 songs. They are catchy, up-beat, and down to earth. It's near perfection from beginning to end.

I love the more bluesy and soulful tracks like "On and On" and "Waited Too Long." The latter is a song full of regret that he certainly brings to life. "I could beg, I could cry but it wont change the circumstance / Cause the truth is I should've pulled the trigger when I had the chance."

It's not all heavy stuff though. The first track on the album "Tell Me Where To Park" grabs you from the start. It's a fun up-tempo number that's made for the radio. In fact, any of these tracks could make a run on the radio if given the chance.

The real lyrical stand out track for me is "One Mississippi." Time has stopped still as he counts the seconds after she's gone. "Lipstick on the coffee cup / I know I should wash it up / But maybe I'll just wait here for a little while / I run my fingers around the top / Where your lips were I just stop / Cause I, I can almost see your smile." There is a live version of this song on Spotify that's wonderful.

There aren't very many albums with a "no skipping" seal of approval from me. So go out and buy the whole dang thing, won't ya?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

It's here!

I received my book that I made on Blurb.com in the mail yesterday. I am so very happy with the way it turned out. It is gorgeous if I do say so myself.

I have always been impressed with the quality from Blurb.com, especially since the photos in my book were all taken with my phone camera. Every page is crisp, clear, and the color is brilliant. Prior to now I've always ordered a paperback book. But this time, I ordered a hardback image wrap book for this special project. I am so glad that I did. This will be a wonderful keepsake for years to come. I may order some more for gifts.

Here's a peek inside..

The book is public and available for ordering here. It would make a wonderful gift for the Mizzou fan on your Christmas list.

It is really satisfying and a little humbling to see my photos in print. Thank you for taking the time to look. I appreciate each and every view. Please stay tuned because I'm already working on an idea for the next one.


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