Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Grow Slowly

 We had a party, and it was fabulous.

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Favorite people, favorite treats, favorite colors, favorite activities.

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 I thought I should blog for her last night, but no words would come. It still didn't feel real. We woke up early for school this morning, she opened her presents and we played most of the day with them. I wished her a Happy Birthday several times, called her my Birthday Girl and took her out for her dinner of choice. The Servers sang and she blew out another candle, this time on a brownie. We talked about the day she came into our lives, how we felt, how her Sister reacted. She loves when we talk about that, we both do. Her Daddy put her to bed and I spent about an hour feeling really restless. Now, I've lit some cinnamon-y candles, put on some mellow writing music, but the truth is, it still doesn't feel real. That she's been here, in her olive-toned and soft body, in my life, for four whole years. And at the same time it feels like she's always been.

 This is the year where she'll lose all her baby, she might learn to swim, she'll go to preschool and make her own friends. She'll start to pronounce more words like a big girl. Her feet will grow. How I wish they wouldn't, that they would stay wide, chubby little baby feet that I would always want to nibble on. Maybe she'll stop being so picky, too, about her food, and her outfits, and her books and her shows. Maybe she won't.

 I think it doesn't feel real because I'm not really ready for it to be real. While I look forward to learning even more about her in the coming months, I'm just a little tied to who she was over the past twelve, the past 48. Good thing she seemed just like my same old girl today.

So here's to taking it slow Baby Girl. Grow Slowly so my heart can take it. Happy 4th Birthday Tessa Winter Jacqueline, you sweet and stubborn baby.

Monday, January 14, 2013

La Cabane a Sucre.

On New Years Eve, Cheryl and I were talking about Bonhomme Carnaval and La Cabane a Sucre. When we realized that the boys had no idea what we were referring to, we decided it must have only been a French Immersion thing - (I just assumed the whole Elementary school would have participated).

I decided right then that since neither of my girls will be in FI, I would make this awesome treat for them at home!

After Cheryl posted about the Deep Freeze Festival in Edmonton this past weekend - I was inspired! We did a Cabane this morning and the girls LOVED it! Elise said it was "the best thing she ever had, ever". We had fresh snow falling, but that isn't really necessary. Making the candy is super easy. Heat about 3/4 cups of real maple syrup to about 230F, and quickly poor into packed snow. You should be able to roll the candy up on a popsicle stick, hand them out and let the kiddos have at 'er! We will definitely be making this an annual thing in our home.

There was a moment of panic when she realized it was stuck STUCK to her mitten, but I was able to save the day - thank goodness.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I want to talk about all the music I bought, basically.

There was so much good in music this year and I really wanted to chronicle some of my favorites so I'd be able to flip through later on. I have this fear of "forgetting about" a good song or a great artist. Hopefully you will find something new, or decide you want to be my newest best friend because I have such impeccable taste and ability to string an album review together. Probably you'll just be disgusted at how much of my bank account I blew on records this year. Again, these are simply MY favorites - so if you don't see YOUR favorite, don't flip your lid telling me I missed something, cool? Here we go, in no particular order.

 I like the one that goes "eee eee eee eeeeee Anything can happen", and the one that goes "gotta do much more than buh-leeve if ya wanna see the world change" the best.

 Just kidding. That was dictated by my 5 year old when I asked what her favorite songs were over the past year. She's totally on to something though!

  Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel
I've been waiting years for this album. Believe it or not, I was graduating High School when Fiona’s last album was released in 2005. Suffice to say, much has changed on my radar, but her trademark piano sound and lyrical genius hold true throughout The Idler Wheel, making this record – without a doubt – worth the wait! If you loved this album, you might also enjoy The Ol' Razzle Dazzle, Missy Higgins’ 2012 album release, or Little Broken Hearts, Norah Jones, released in April. (Yes, that’s totally my way of sneaking more music onto this list! ;))

  Mumford and Sons - Babel
Although it wasn't even released until the last quarter, this is probably the record I listened to the most this year. The perfect mix of hope, sadness, rainbows and rage – ideally suited to my every mood. If you thought you’d save a few bucks and skip the Deluxe Edition – you are really missing out. The bonus tracks include a killer rendition of “The Boxer” that effortlessly challenges the original and, my favorite Babel track, “Where Are You Now” which closes the listening experience with a soft and thoughtful vibe.

See? We listen A LOT.

 Ingrid Michaelson - Human Again
I bought it the morning of its release date and I just knew it would be exactly what I needed. Though not nearly as intimate as Ingrid’s previous records, our prize is well worth the trade.  This album starts out in a desperate, inwardly focused, orchestral storm.  As it continues though, we hear it symphoniously and lyrically lilt toward clear and hopeful skies, especially in the last few tracks.

 The Lumineers - The Lumineers
This debut album from Colorado was *this close* to making the number one spot on my list. It was love at first listen, for me. A Mumford-folky mix of sound with lyrics that provoke feelings of nostalgia – and just so catchy! Again, a record I could throw on in almost any mood and feel comforted and satisfied. Brilliant, really. If you loved this, you'd love The Carpenter, The Avett Brothers and The Head and the Heart's self-titled 2011 album release.

 A Fine Frenzy - Pines
As the title indicates, this record is full of outdoorsy metaphors and imagery. It’s lush in sound and I think we actually see a much truer Sudol than in previous records. I had the privilege of seeing the band live in October and while she engaged the audience between songs, she seemed to disappear into them when she sang. Your husbands will think it’s weird, it will lull your babies to sleep, and it will make you feel delicate and strong, connected and far away – all at once.

 Dave Matthews Band - Away from the World
I almost didn't want to review this album (I still haven’t actually decided that I do). It seemed a little biased of me, and if I’m completely honest, it really didn't get the play a DMB record would typically get in my house. Don’t get me wrong, that is still a ton of listening hours and nearly a full 3 week stretch with nothing else on the go. When the single “Gaucho” was released, I kind of thought - here we go again. It seemed to mirror the last album’s themes and sounds so closely and I simply didn't know how that made me feel. Still, I was the first person in HMV on the morning of the release, because - let’s face it, I’m more than committed. What I expected to be another exciting, jazzed up party album, laced with wise lyrics and deep, worldly contemplation ended up really surprising me. This record is far more mellow than its predecessor.  It exudes an almost entirely different mood. Of course there are still some party tracks (“Rooftop”, “Belly Belly Nice”), an almost trademark long ass jam session track (“Drunken Soldier”) and it is still, of course, lyrical gold. At the end of the day though, my 5 year old will still choose Big Whiskey over the new album, and I think there is something to be said about that.

 Ellie Goulding - Halcyon
Ok – there are 18 tracks on the deluxe edition of this album! 18! To put 18 tracks onto an album and not have me want to skip over even one deserves a quick ‘Bravo’ before I even go on. This is my 5 year old’s self-proclaimed favorite album of the year. (The child is basically a genius.)  With a modernized Eurythmics feel and a snappy Calvin Harris collaboration – the listener literally gets the best mix of dark and dance. The record has been criticized for being “too much” – but I, for one, adore the courage and indulgence. A couple of related suggestions are 18 Months, Calvin Harris (2012) and Ceremonials, Florence and the Machine (2011).

 Allen Stone - Allen Stone (Self-released in 2011, Released in 2012 by ATO Records)
I was SO excited about this album in the beginning. I would play some of the tracks on repeat (“Celebrate Tonight”, “Contact High”) for hours, just taking in the soulful energy. When I sat down to compile this list, I revisited these songs and I was blown away again by the way he could sing a song about heartache that was somehow perfect for a warm, sunny day on the patio. Allen has a totally unique sound that relaxes you right to the core.

 Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - The Heist
I was hooked with the first two tracks I sampled. Give me horns, a Mary Lambert collaboration and purposeful lyrics and you’d find it pretty tough not to totally sell me.  Thank-you, Ben Haggerty, for fighting for equality and human rights – loud – for all to hear.  Buy this record if you bought Girl On Fire, Alicia Keys or Unapologetic, Rihanna. No, actually, buy it no matter what else you did or didn't buy.

 Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
Are you ready for me to gush? This was my FAVORITE album in 2012! Raw, raspy, with a kick drum beat and a “F*ck it” attitude. Not like anything else I listened to all year, or perhaps ever, save a Janis Joplin record or two. Brace yourself, maybe even take a seat, Brittany Howard will, literally, blow you away.

Notable EP's released in 2012-
LP - Into the Wild
Mary Lambert - Letters Don't Talk

I had to choose a Top Ten list of albums to write about, otherwise my children might have ended up bored and hungry, but I do want to quickly acknowledge the rest of the music that shaped my year.

The Temper Trap
Grizzly Bear - Shields
John Mayer - Born and Raised
Bob Dylan - Tempest
Newton Faulkner - Write It on Your Skin
Of Monsters and Men - My Head Is an Animal
Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
Kimbra - Vows
Brandi Carlile - Bear Creek
James Vincent McMorrow - Early In the Morning
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Here
Joshua Radin - Underwater
We Are Augustines - Rise Ye Sunken Skips
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - The Lion, The Beast, The Beat
Regina Spektor - What We Saw from the Cheap Seats
The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow