Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Songs: Best Movie Soundtracks

One of the best creations ever was movie soundtracks...not only do they heighten emotions in movies, but they can be some of the best mixes other than your own.

Here's a few of my faves, in no order:

This mix will sure to bring you to every emotion possible - hate to love to freedom to death. Fab compilation. My faves are "Kissing You" by Des'ree and "You and Me Song" by Wannadies.

This mix always reminds me of walking to class during college. I can't pick a favorite song...they all are amazing. However, I do have a bit of a soft spot for "Blue Eyes" by the Cary Brothers because during that time in my life I was dating a blue eyed boy (and my future hubby)...

One of my favorite movies ever. Plus, this reminds me of high school (I'll be honest - it's great to make-out to)! Great tracks: "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John, "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynrd and "The Wind" by Cat Stevens.

Mediocre movie, but great soundtrack to chill to. "Hard Times" by Eastmountainsouth has amazing harmony.

Another mediocre flick, but I absolutely love this mix of romantic music with a bit of country. "Chances Are" by Detroit-native Bob Seger and Martina McBride and Garth Brooks' rendition of "To Make You Feel My Love" = GORGEOUS.

It just makes sense that I adore the soundtrack of my favorite movie of all time. It's all my favorite hippie-era groups, too: The Doors, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Mammas and the Pappas, etc. Can't get much better than that!

The soundtrack makes the movie worth seeing, although the books are still better. Love Linkin Park, Paramore, Muse and Iron & Wine...but my favorite track doesn't even have words and it was written for the movie: Bella's Lullaby. It's beautiful and fits the books/movie to a T.

Like the movie, this soundtrack is fabulous. I esp. love "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" by Al Green feat. Joss Stone and a remake of "How Deep Is Your Love" by The Bird & The Bee. I just bought vol. 2 and hopefully it's just as good!

There's many, many more I adore, but this list, my friends, are what I consider the cream of the crop. Are there any others out there I should look into?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Detroit People Mover Art

One thing downtown Detroit has going for it is the People Mover. It's no L-train, but it does the job of transporting out-of-towners to places such as the Ren Cen, Joe Louis and Cobo in a clean, efficient and safe manner.

My favorite part of taking the short ride around the city? The beautiful artwork in the stations.

It was hard for me to pick a favorite, but these two are absolutely gorgeous in my eyes (information/photos taken from the People Mover Web site):

JOE LOUIS ARENA STATION - VOYAGE

"This piece was originally designed to be blue to depict the skys, since the images are of constellations. However, it was changed to orange to blend in with the colors of Joe Louis Arena. The artist painted a mural and sent the painting off to Crovatto Mosiacs, which is located in a little town in Italy. The town's chief industry is making venetian glass mosaics (too expensive to have done in the States). To make venetian glass workers pounded out very small pieces of colored glass and glued each piece with the flat side directly down onto sheets of paper. A wooden panel was then placed on top of the jagged sections, and shipped to Detroit. The panels were then installed on the station's walls. Then the sheets of paper were removed from the glass pieces to give us this finished art piece. The design is based on astrological signs from the 17th century."

CADILLAC CENTER STATION

"A profoundly rich green hue emanates from luminous arches, which are surrounded by Pewabic tiles that had been originally fired for the Stroh Brewery in 1955. The mural is interspersed with tiles depicting Detroit workers, which were originally installed in Detroit's Northern High School in 1926. The bronze plaque of Madame Cadillac entering Detroit after her canoe journey from Quebec is by Carlos Romanelli, dated 1903. It is presently on loan from the Detroit Institute of Arts."

Take a look at the site. What's your favorite piece?

Note: Apparently guided art tours are are available for groups of 10-30 by appointment through the tour season (May-October). Hmmm....may just have to get some folks together to learn about the art/history first hand!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday Songs: The Ultimate Workout Playlist

Alright it's Monday, so I'm a little late for a Sunday Song, but I'm still calling it that.

In honor of myself trying to get my butt in shape, I've decided to share with you what I consider to me the ultimate workout playlist. Mind you, I fell off the treadmill listening to it (v. embarrassing), but that just means it's that good. So, without further ado, here's my mix, in order of intensity:

1. Paolo Nutini - "New Shoes" : gym shoes?
2. Fedde Le Grand - "Put Your Hands Up For Detroit" : our lovely city.
3. Jamie Lidell - "Little Bit of Feel Good" : goes along way.
4. Caesars - "Jerk It Out" : kick it old school.
5. Silvertide - "Blue Jeans" : makes me want to drop a few sizes in my blue jeans.
6. Rusted Root - "Ecstasy" : Spanish/Carribean-influence vibe. Muy bien.
7. Jamiroquai "Canned Heat" : Yes, Napolean Dynamite made it famous, but this song makes anyone wanna dance.
8. The Killers "Mr. Brightside" : destiny is calling me...
9. Skillet - "Rebirthing" : this Christian band's song rocks my socks off. love the strings!
10. Linkin Park - "Faint" : ultimate anger song...but anything by LP rocks, really.
11. OutKast - "B.O.B." (Bombs Over Baghdad) : nananana

Cool down =
Alicia Keys - "Superwoman"
Damian Marley and Bobby Brown - "Beautiful"
Robin Thicke - "Lost Without You"

Please share with me what songs you like to workout to. I need some kick booty inspiration to continue this recent spurt!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ring-A-Ling...It's that time of year!

Yes, whether you like 'em or loathe 'em, it's the bell ringing time of year!

I've volunteered to ring bells for The Salvation Army in the past, but none has been as much fun as ringing with my partner in crime, Nikki. We wear Santa hats and act goofy and play music, but more importantly we walk away knowing we did our part to contribute to the greater good.

One of our clients at the PR agency where I work is The Salvation Army, both of metro Detroit and for Washtenaw County. I don't serve directly on the accounts, however, I hear the banter that goes back and forth and am amazed by the passion my teammates put into the work they do for the organizations. (yes, they are paid for the work, but not for the millions of hours they over service)...

It's on the news everyday: times are extremely tough in Michigan right now and unfortunately, the Salvation Army is experiencing it first-hand. Not only is the need for their services up more than 20 percent across the board (especially in the 'burbs, folks), but donations to their annual Red Kettle fundraising campaign is down a good chunk of change.

I've told my colleagues from time to time -- I think the issue is people just simply don't understand what their donation go toward. Let me tell you one thing -- it's not just thrift stores, people.

In 2007 alone, The Salvation Army in Metro Detroit utilized Red Kettle contributions to help provide the following:
  • 7,811 meals

  • Shelter for more than 2,110 men, women and children each night

  • To purchase 9,951+ winter clothing items, including coats, hats and mittens

  • To purchase 111,030 Christmas gifts for kids and seniors.

Additionally, donations also funded rehabilitation and after school programs, provided utility assistance, free legal aid and helped to make many more other beneficial programs possible.

So here's my thoughts on three ways to help TSA:

DONATE. Drop a few pennies into the bucket. Or maybe even an extra buck if you're feeling frisky. So you can't get a taco at T-Bizzle. At least you can feed a hungry, local child. Or maybe even two for that matter.

VOLUNTEER. What is 2 hours of time in the scheme of life? Not much. Bell ringing is great fun and is wonderful people watching. (sign up at ringbell.org)

SAY THANKS. It's a small gesture, but believe me, when you're standing out in the cold, hearing those words warms your soul right up.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Song: "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana

I won two tickets this week to see famed musician/composer Leonard Slatkin direct Carmina Burana today with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, so Jason and I went to check it out for our 6-month wedding anniversary. It was AMAZING! We had awful seats (upper balcony isn't recommended), but it didn't even matter...you could've heard a pin drop during the performance because the entire audience was in absolute awe with the talented musicians and singers.

The highlight of the entire piece, which is made up of 24 medieval Latin poems, is "O Fortuna." If you haven't ever heard it, go here NOW. It'll raise the hair on your arms.

We rounded out the night with dinner at Slows BBQ. As always, we had to wait nearly 45 minutes, but the amazing food totally makes the wait bearable. It was a perfect night to end a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This Post is Brought To You By The Letter R

Sometimes you just need to "fluff" it up and do a fun post. Hence, why I asked the fab Supergirll to tag me for a post based on a letter of her choosing...

Here's the scoop-a-loop:

You leave a comment on this post, and I’ll assign you a letter. You write about ten things you love that begin with your assigned letter, and post it at your place. When people comment on your list, you give them a letter and the chain continues on and on.

So here’s my list, all starting with my assigned letter -- R.

1. Random. I am pretty sure that sums up my personality well. I can be so off-color but be so "corporate" if needed.

2. Rabbits. One of my favorite books as a kid was Runaway Bunny (pretty profound when you read it as an adult). As a kid, I also had a recurring dream of visiting the Easter bunny's house. It was my favorite dream and I recall praying to have that dream over and over. I later read in a dream book that dreaming about rabbits signify luck.

3. Rent. One of my favorite musicals of all time!

4. Red House. This song by Jimi Hendrix was what inspired me to check out more blues music. I absolutely love the sound. It's just plain sexy.

5. Ring of Fire. Johnny Cash's hit always reminds me of Jason's family and more importantly, our "burning" love for each other (haha).

6. Raspberries. My absolute favorite fruit. Too bad they're so expensive and go bad so quickly.

7. Rainbows. Cheesy to say, but there's always one after a storm...and they amaze me.

8. Reading. It's the only way I can truly turn off my brain at the end of the day!

9. Romance. Some say it's dead, while I see the glass as half full. Everyday I see/read of romance. It does exist, it just may be a bit different than it was "back in the day."

10. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. It means a lot to me.

Whew, that was not as hard as I thought it would be!

So, who's next?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Learning the Joy of Cooking

I have a recent obsession: COOKING.

As most Americans, food is a passion of mine. I enjoy finer food, but as mentioned in an earlier post, I am also completely satisfied with Coney Island fare or Taco Bell on occasion. Regardless, one thing I've learned over the past few months is there's just something so satisfying about making a meal on your own that actually turns out the way it looks in the cookbook.

Thoughts of cooking all started when Jason and I moved into our house last year. We decided that with an official "big kid" kitchen, we needed to start utilizing the space for something other than a spot to throw mail. Although we still do have empty cupboards, we're getting there.
It's really tough to find the time to cook and since we generally don't get home until about 7 p.m., we need to make dinners that are both quick and tasty.

Enter Kraft Food & Family magazine. We only get the mag because the prior home owner got it and let me tell you, it's a lifesaver! Although we're fans of Top Chef, it's virtually impossible to cook quickly and on a budget with the ingredients needed for the extravagant meals they create.

Instead of going gourmet, we've made all kinds of things from the magazine's simple pages plus many others from additional cookbooks...recent meals have included tuna pie, beef stroganoff, chicken and biscuits, chili, bruschetta chicken bake, garlic ranch chicken...and the list goes on.

I highly recommend giving the mag and cooking in general a try. It truly gives you something to look forward to each day...and provides a great escape from daily stress.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Song: "The Winter Rose"

I absolutely love singing. I have been in choirs my entire life...except for the past four years. I was sad when life just got to crazy to make time for my favorite pastime. But as I've gotten a tighter grip on what to expect with my job, I decided I needed to make time to sing. After my dear friend Lyndsey joined her local community chorus, I decided to check if there was one in my area. And sure enough, there is and I've been singing with the group ever since.

I am by FAR one of the youngest people in the group, but I don't care. There is just some amazing inner peace I get within myself when I sing harmony in a large group.

One of the pieces we are singing in our holiday concert this Friday is "The Winter Rose." It chills me every time I sing it, and sometimes when I think about the words, I get choked up. The work tells the story of Jesus’ ministry, passion, death and resurrection, however, I believe it can be taken whichever way you like.

I can't find an MP3 online anywhere, but I thought I'd at least share the beautiful lyrics.

The Winter Rose
Joseph Martin

In the silence of the winter,
while stars shown high above,
God sent from heaven's garden,
a rose to show His love.
It opened in the dark of night,
While the world was fast asleep.
So perfect was its beauty,
It made the heavens weep.
The angels paused to wonder,
Upon that winsome sight.
And kings and shepherds gathered
To worship in its light.
They all breathed in its beauty,
A precious sweet perfume.
And in the bleak midwinter
The Rose began to bloom.
O let us now remember
When God put on the thorn.
And Love restored the garden
And the Winter Rose was born.
Oh, Love restored the garden
And the Winter Rose was born.

If you're in the Detroit area and want to check out the concert, here's the details:
Troy Community Chorus presents Joyful and Triumphant -- 30th Anniversary Concert
8 p.m. -- December 5
@Troy Athens High School

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quick Thoughts on the Twilight Craze

I'll admit it, I've entered the "Twilight" zone. I've read the first two books in the acclaimed series and have started on the third. Along the way, I have enjoyed them immensely. They are an easy read and provide the perfect escape at the end of the day when all I want to do is turn off my brain and relax.

I saw the movie yesterday and thought it was decent -- it was good for what it was, but in my opinion, the book almost always surpasses the movie. Regardless, I was still extremely proud today when I read that the director of this movie, Catherine Hardwicke, broke the record for the biggest opening ever for a female director. GIRL POWER!

What I love is that media folks are saying is that it was audiences of teenage girls that were filling the theaters to a take in a whooping $70.6 million this weekend alone. But what about us 20-somethings? Regardless of the cheesiness, there's just something to be said about a good, fluffy (and screwed up) romance. Teens and adults alike swoon over Edward Cullen and his mysteriousness. Stephenie Meyer (the author) knew what the heck she was doing when she created this series. GIRL POWER for her too!

I'm not gonna lie...I am already excited for "New Moon" to come out!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Song: T-Baby's "It's So Cold in the D"

This YouTube video phenomenon has bombarded Detroit radio airwaves. It's horrible vocally and the video is awful as well, but local singer T-Baby is on to something and the big star rappers should take note...this song is SO catchy! It's been in my head since I first heard it a month ago. Add some decent back-up vocals and change the words to be grammatically correct and this just may become the next Detroit anthem!

And with December coming up so quickly, she's spittin' the truth...It IS so cold in the D!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Song: Kid Rock's "Roll On"

Love him or hate him, Kid Rock sure brings about some good karma for the D. His lastest hit song's video, "Roll On" features tons of great scenery of the city and makes us proud. Thanks, Kid for not forgetting your D-town roots!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Salute to Vets & Soldiers Across America

In honor of Veteran's Day, I am posting a very powerful forward I received from my mother-in-law about the life of a soldier. It makes me very thankful for those who have fought for our freedom in the past and those currently serving our country.

Your cell phone is in your pocket. He clutches the cross hanging on his chain next to his dog tags.

You talk trash about your 'buddies' that aren't with you. He knows he may not see some of his buddies again.

You walk down the beach, staring at all the pretty girls. He patrols the streets, searching for insurgents and terrorists.

You complain about how hot it is. He wears his heavy gear, not daring to take off his helmet to wipe his brow.

You go out to lunch, and complain because the restaurant got your order wrong. He doesn't get to eat today.

Your maid makes your bed and washes your clothes. He wears the same things for weeks, but makes sure his weapons are clean.

You go to the mall and get your hair redone. He doesn't have time to brush his teeth today.

You're angry because your class ran 5 minutes over. He's told he will be held over an extra 2 months.
You call your girlfriend and set a date for tonight. He waits for the mail to see if there is a letter from home.

You hug and kiss your girlfriend, like you do everyday. He holds his letter close and smells his love's perfume.

You roll your eyes as a baby cries. He gets a letter with pictures of his new child, and wonders if they'll ever meet.

You criticize your government, and say that war never solves anything. He sees the innocent tortured and killed by their own people and remembers why he is fighting.

You hear the jokes about the war, and make fun of men like him. He hears the gunfire, bombs and screams of the wounded.

You see only what the media wants you to see. He sees the broken bodies lying around him.


You are asked to go to the store by your parents. You don't. He does exactly what he is told even if it puts his life in danger.

You stay at home and watch TV. He takes whatever time he is given to call, write home, sleep and eat.

You crawl into your soft bed, with down pillows, and get comfortable. He tries to sleep but gets woken by mortars and helicopters all night long.


REMEMBER our Troops NOW and do not forget them LATER.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Greatest Detroit Hit: Coney Island Restaurants

There's tons of great products made in Detroit, but nothing tops the straight-up DEEETROIT category quite as much as Coney Island restaurants.

Many Detroiters consider themselves coney connoisseurs...Between Kerby's, Leo's, National and hundreds of other great family-owned joints -- Detroit-area Coney Island restaurants all are so similar and amazingly cheap. I like to jokingly blame my Greek roots for my weekend cravings, but I really think it's just me feeling incestuous about my love for Michigan-made products.

The typical Detroit-area Coney Island provides the perfect menu for all to nosh on: classic coney islands, Greek salads, spinach pie, Gyros, baklava and my personal fave non-traditional classic - chicken hanis. Besides the variety of menu choices, I'd have to say my favorite part of my coney visits is that although you may go to different places, the food always gets to you super fast and it generally tastes the same. It's a beautiful thing.

As all Greek families have, my great-grandpa once had a restaurant in Detroit at the intersection of Woodward and Peterboro. I would give my eye teeth to see that place in action nowadays. I'm not really sure why it ever went out of business, but I'm surely glad that at least the iconic Detroit anchors American and Layfayette Coney Islands have survived in the D for so long.

The history of the coney in Detroit is quite fascinating... American Coney Island came first -- established by immigrant Gust Keros in 1917. The restaurant was first started by Keros and his brother, who got into an argument soon after and split their restaurant into two parts -- the present day American and Lafayette Coney Islands which are next door to each other, and who to this day jokingly argue about which is the "original."

So, I guess you could say once again my Greek roots pushed me to experiment -- which one really is better? A few colleagues and I decided to take a rainy Friday to challenge ourselves to determine which takes the prize for being the top Coney Island in the city.

We started at American. After being beckoned inside by an older waiter with a thick Greek accent, we were seated and quickly received exactly what we all wanted -- an original coney with all the fixing's. We were impressed. A snappy Dearborn Sausage dog with chili with a slight kick tasted pretty good going down.

The owner, who called himself "Dan-Dan the hot dog man," told us a bit about the history of the two restaurants and claimed American was the best because it was the Detroit original. Before leaving, we got a pic with him (of course, he's the guy with the American flag-inspired hat!).

From there, we walked next door to Layfayette and were greeted by classic 50s mint green tile walls and another older Greek gentleman waiter. The coney, of course, arrived quickly. The Winters Sausage hot dog was a little softer than American's and the chili had a bit more of a kick -- possibly from extra spices used in the recipe.

As mentioned above, most Coney Islands generally have the same fare with the same taste. But, we unanimously decided that American's dog was our favorite. The snappy casing on the hot dog, the passionate owner and the good old fashioned Americana theme was what sold us.
But really, in the end, both were extremely similar. Some picky points: both could have used more mustard (or at least had it on the table) and both gave me a mild case of heartburn.

Go out and take the coney challenge yourself. And be sure to frequent your local coney joint. It's a Detroit classic not to be missed!

Sunday Song: "Changes" by 2Pac

It's a shame Tupac Shakur isn't alive today...

2Pac's song Changes has lyrics that say "And though it seems heaven sent / We ain't ready to have a black president." Yet, today, a little more than a decade after 2Pac's death, we obviously ARE ready for a black president.

This week, as you all know, we elected Barack Obama -- a president that doesn't "look" like a single past president. African American children in classrooms with photos of all the presidents lining the walls will now have a face that looks like them -- something many having been dreaming about for decades.

Through the years, slavery, segregation and mere ignorance have hindered the hopes of black progress time and again. Obama symbolizes the resurrection of hope and the restoration of belief in a country that has often failed to treat its black citizens as equals.

We gotta make a change... It's time for us as a people to start makin' some changes. Let's change the way we eat, let's change the way we live and let's change the way we treat each other. You see the old way wasn't working so it's on us to do what we gotta do, to survive. - 2Pac, Changes

Here's to the next four years.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Song: "Seasons of Love" (From Rent)

As mentioned in the previous post, my mom truly exposed me to everything possible since I was very young. One thing I got hooked to virtually right out of the womb, was live theater. Coming from a middle class background, heading into Detroit to see a show at the Fox or the Fisher wasn't always an affordable option, but nonetheless, we often made the trip downtown for a show at least once a year.

I've seen tons of plays-- straight and musicals and have even been a part of a half dozen or so. Through my experiences, I would have to say my absolute favorite is Rent. The first time I heard the music, I fell in love and begged my parents to take me to see it during a family trip to Toronto in the 7th grade. Looking back, I may have been one of the youngest audience members, but regardless of the adult content, I LOVED it.

A bit of background: The play focuses on the year in the life of a group of artsy friends living in New York’s East Village. The friends remain close as they lead lives filled with the threat of homelessness, drugs, homosexuality and AIDS. To me, the play depicts truth to the core and I highly recommend open-minded folks out there to see it live, or if you cannot, at least 'rent' the movie. (Thanks Nikki for letting me borrow your copy!)

All of the music throughout the play is genius, but the headlining song, "Seasons of Love" may easily take the cake for being one of the best Broadway songs ever written. The lyrics discuss "525,600 minutes," which is the number of minutes in a typical calendar year. Throughout the song, various answers are suggested for how to measure a year (daylights, sunsets, midnights, cups of coffee), however, the conclusion is made that love is the only proper measure of a year in a human life. And I couldn't agree more.

Although I feel slightly guilty for spending the money to see the play for the second time, I can't help myself -- I am going with my girlfriends to see it when it comes to the Detroit Opera House in February and I couldn't be more excited. I just may be an official 'Renthead,' singing along with every lyric!

Check out the movie version of "Season's of Love" here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Life Influences

I was lucky to hear famed writer and Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom speak at the PRSA National Conference this morning. He did a wonderful job.

As he walked through a bit of his past, he mentioned how important several people have been in shaping his life (think Tuesdays with Morrie if you've read it). It seemed the theme of his entire speech (besides plugging his books), was to never forget those who have mentored you throughout your life -- both professionally and personally.

While he was speaking, my mind started to wander. Who has been the influencers in my life? To combat my questioning brain, I came up with a list.

The obvious influencers:

Grandma N.
She's the happiest lady ever, ever, ever. I have her to thank for my optimism and my ability to talk to make strangers feel comfortable.

Grandma B.
She's stubborn as heck and she never gives up. She taught me when you set your mind to something, gosh darn it, you gotta make it happen.

Dad
My dad is one of the smartest people I know. Not just the book smart stuff, but the street smarts, too. He's got a good combo for both and I think I was blessed with that half/half gene.

Mom
My mother has taught me the art of communication and expression. I've always been into a little bit of everything and I think it's because she exposed me to so many things at a young age -- both good and bad.

The not-so-obvious folks/things:

Mrs. Trader -- 4th grade teacher
When Mrs. Trader split our classroom up between the "smart" math kids and the "slower" math kids...I was put in the slow class, while all my friends left for the smart kid class. I think I cried myself to sleep for a week. But Mrs. Trader quickly saw my talent for other subjects -- English and the arts and reiterated to me that we all have our talents and mine just didn't happen to be math. To this day, I have her to thank for helping me to find where my talents lie.

Wal-Mart
I worked there for 2.5 years in high school. Contrary to the popular belief that Wal-Mart is the devil, they treated me well and paid me well. I met tons of great people while working there and was able to learn the true value behind obtaining a college degree. I was also able to save enough money to go on a trip to Europe and get through my first year of college, so I guess you could say it helped me with money management as well!

Mr. Bushey -- middle and high school choir teacher and neighbor
Anybody who went to high school with me will agree, Mr. B had the ability to make anyone feel at home. His classroom was more than just a place to sing...it was a place where I gained wonderful friends.

Friends
I just may have the bestest friends ever and I feel very fortunate in that regard. My friends have taught me the most important lesson ever -- when things get crazy, take a breath (or a drink!) and be sure to laugh.

I could name a thousand folks, but these are the cream of the crop. Who has influenced you? Think about it, it's pretty neat stuff.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Songs: Music by the Vitamin String Quartet

I flippin' love stumbling coming across random, great music.

Perhaps I'm out of the loop on these folks, but one of my most recent lucky finds is music by the Vitamin String Quartet. The songs they play aren't originals but orchestral versions of popular songs.

It's really interesting to hear a song that is so recognizable to you performed in a completely different style. But this isn't your average cover song...the strings being played can sometimes feel as if the entire meaning of the song has changed. Pretty amazing stuff.

The VSQ Tribute is a series of string quartet tribute albums, released by Vitamin Records and performed by several different groups of string quartets. From the Beatles and Paramore to Queen and Seether, the group has managed to bring a classical sound to some of the biggest songs in history by giving them a fresh, new sound.

Here's a few of my faves thus far:
Tribute to The Used - Taste of Ink
Tribute to Coldplay - Clocks
Tribute to System of a Down - Aerials
Tribute To The Killers - Mr. Brightside
Tribute to My Chemical Romance - I'm Not Okay
Tribute to Paramore - Crushcrushcrush
Tribute to Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody

Give them a listen. Even if your generally not a fan of classical music, I guarantee you'll appreciate this stuff. And it's so fun to sing along, too...It's like karaoke with strings!

Check out all of the Vitamin String Quartet's albums at VitaminRecords.com.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Song: "Detroit '67" by Sam Roberts

I love this song and the video is a great tribute to Detroit -- even though Sam Roberts is Canadian!

I love how it shows the grit and blight of Detroit, but also highlights the charm, beauty and history. Very well done!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Six Random Things

I feel honored the fabulous Supergirll tagged me in a meme and now it's my turn to talk about 6 unspectacular things about me, so here goes nothing:

1. I loathe drama-filled TV sitcoms, but I love all Bravo reality shows (with the exception of Real Housewives...).
2. My maiden name, Panaretos means of all virtues in Greek...or so I'm told!
3. My hubby would say the craziest thing about me is that I could have died twice...As a baby, I went down the basement stairs in my walker and I almost drown when I was two (my dad rescued me). I am still very clumsy...yet have never broke a bone.
4. I really, really, really love Taco Bell (most of you know this). And if Yum! Brands weren't based in California, I would LOVE to do PR for them...even though they probably induce millions of heart attacks each year.
5. I took ballet for 13 years, 3 of which was on point. Man, I give those real ballerinas credit. Bleeding toes were awful.
6. I provide TMI to almost everyone I encounter on a daily basis. I can't help it -- I'm very open!

Wasn't that enthralling? Now I tag Estrella10, Radiant Thoughts and randommsugirl!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Free Scoop of Ben & Jerry's to Voters

Just came across this sweet promotion from Ban & Jerry's and thought I'd share:

Come to participating scoop shops on November 4th from 5-8pm, show us you voted and you'll get a free scoop of ice cream. Show us your "I Voted" sticker, a photo of you in front of your polling station, do the "I Voted dance" or just tell us you voted.


Check here for the B & J's nearest you or to find out about other election events, check the Ben & Jerry's Facebook page.

I heart you Ben & Jerry's! Thanks for always keeping my ridiculous ice cream cravings satisfied.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Song: "Citizen/Soldier" by 3 Doors Down

Stop for a moment today to pray for a soldier. Remember what they give up to fight for you and me. Honor their sacrifice. Never forget that we live in the land of the free because of the brave.

There are days I forget we are in a war because I don't see it on a daily basis...To me, it's too scary to really think about the thousands of men and women my age (and much younger) fighting and dying in a war many do not believe in.

Citizen/Soldier was written by 3 Doors Down as a tribute to the National Guard and the lyrics convey the band's views regarding the actions performed by the military.

You may have already seen the music video, as it has appeared for awhile as a movie theater ads as part of a $24 million recruiting campaign targeting 18 to 24-year-olds. The campaign aims to build Guard enrollment as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to tap into the state-based units. Guard soldiers make up as much as half the ground troops in Iraq, with more than 224,000 members having served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. An additional 25,000 are leaving for Iraq this fall and 14,000 are deploying to Iraq and Kuwait in the spring.

The song's video explores the battles, victories and proud traditions of the National Guard from 1636 through today.

In general, I’m not a big fan of 3 Doors Down, however, this is a great tribute song and a great video. Check it out here and be reminded of why we need to be thankful for our troops that fight for our safety on a daily basis.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Treasure of Love

Jason and I received a beautiful wedding card (it's only four months late!) the other day and I liked the darn cheesy poem so much I've decided to transcribe it on here so I can have it forever:

The Treasure of Love
Sooner or later we begin to understand that
love is more than verses on valentines and romance in the movies.
We begin to know that love is here and now,
real and true, the most important thing in our lives.
For love is the creator of our favorite
memories and the foundation of our fondest dreams.
Love is a promise that is always kept,
a fortune that can never be spent,
a seed that can flourish in even the most unlikely of places.
And this radiance that never fades, this mysterious and magical joy, is the greatest treasure of all
one known only by those who love.
- Anonymous

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Song(s): Beatles Covers

OK, it's another week where I can't decide on just one specific Sunday song...so instead, I have another mini list.

I watched the 2007 flick Across the Universe last night and got inspired by all the amazing new spins on classic Beatles jams. It got my mind going...I have adored The Beatles since I found my parents extensive collection of their records in our basement when I was young. I tried to be hip and hang them on my walls with tacks, but of course that didn't fly for long (and thank goodness)...those babies could be worth something now-a-days!

The thing I enjoy the most about the music John, George, Ringo and Paul made is how their songs seem to transcend across all musical genres, hence my decision to make a list of my favorite Beatles covers by other artists.

Here's the list:
Joe Cocker — With a Little Help From My Friends (love this one esp. because of the show the Wonder Years!!!)
Fiona Apple — Across the Universe
Eddie Vedder — You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
Ben Harper — Strawberry Fields Forever (also love Ben's rendition of John Lennon's Beautiful Boy = tear jerker)

I highly recommend you take a listen. There's so many great Beatles covers out there, but as always, the originals can never be topped!

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Beautiful Saturday in Detroit

My mom and I spent Saturday doing all things Detroit. I was finally able to hit up some of the cultural hot spots I can never find time for and it was amazing.

We started off the day with omelettes from Toast, a Ferndale diner (OK, everything else in the post is Detroit), as recommended many times by my dear friend Nikki. It was delish! We had a "20 minute" wait, which really turned out to be 5 minutes and were greeted by friendly and fast-working staff. I'll definitely go back!

From there, we went to explore artist Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Project, a housing project on the eastside of the city that has had many question what art really means. While driving through the dilapidated neighborhood surrounding the project, my only thought was "how sad." Once we entered Heidelberg street and saw the randomness that makes up the art-filled streets and homes, my only thought was, "Man this is weird. But at least it's not sad anymore, it's just...interesting." I mean, who literally staples hundreds of stuffed animals to a house? Art is in the eye of the beerholder I suppose! Nonetheless, it was fascinating and beautiful in its own way.

After taking some photos of the houses, we headed over to Eastern Market -- a place I've been dying to go to since I moved closer to the area a few years ago. It was AWESOME! I could have walked up and down the rows of produce for hours -- it was like a candy store to me. There was just something so great feeling about buying items from local farmers and entrepreneurs. And the prices! I don't know a single store that can beat 'em! I walked out with grapes, tomatoes, raspberries and strawberries all for just $4.50. And with fall in full bloom, you couldn't beat the prices for mums and the other flowers that decorated the rows either.


From Eastern Market, we went to Pewabic Pottery, the famed Detroit historical landmark on Jefferson. This was another spot I could have stayed for hours. I have always loved ceramics and find such beauty in their uniqueness. It took me nearly an hour to pick out the perfect, reasonably priced piece -- a simple, circular, "Pewabic green" flower that was fired in the Detroit studio. My mom and I also wandered around the current exhibit - "Texting: Print and Clay" and admired the intricate and modern pieces and learned a little about Pewabic's 105-year history.
On the way back toward home, we drove around Belle Isle Park, which was huge and very beautiful (I've never seen so much grass in Detroit!) then we hit up the Good Girls Go to Paris Creperie, a new stand hidden on John R, a block off of Woodward. I had the Mollika (cherries, chocolate and whipped cream), while my mom had the Cora (strawberries, blueberries and whip). Very cool concept and I'm happy the adorable owner decided to set-up shop in downtown.
Overall, it was a perfect day and I have the city of Detroit (and my mom) to thank.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Song(s): Tunes that Tell a Story

Many of my favorite songs are ones that tell stories -- whether of happiness or grief. While driving around Detroit yesterday, my mom and I brainstormed some of our favorite songs that tell stories. Here's my top ten, in no particular order:

This song tells a moving tale of a young man's quest for revenge on an absent father whose only contribution to his entire life was naming him Sue. Fun fact: The lyrics were actually written by children's author, Shel Silverstein.

This easily may take the cake as one of my fave songs EVER (esp. for driving), but for the purpose of the list, it tells a great, creepy story...Is it about hell? Drugs? Death? I guess it's all in the ears of the listener...

Ok, Ok, this one is damn sappy. But the lyrics, oh the lyrics...so sweet, so real, so country. Beware: Kleenex is absolutely necessary.

Listen to the lyrics carefully. If this song doesn't give you the chills, I don't know what will!

Ain't nothing like the real thing baby...this tune recounts the story of the great ship sinking in Lake Superior in 1975.

Just a simple country tune that proves what's meant to be will always find a way.

This song tells the story of a man who doesn't have time for his kid, the kid grows up and then he doesn't have time for his old man. It serves as a reminder to us all about the importance of making time for loved ones.

Hurricane is a 1976 protest song co-written by Bob Dylan about the imprisonment of famed boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. It describes alleged acts of racism and profiling against Carter, which Dylan describes in the song as leading to a false trial and conviction. Very controversial song for its time.

One of Reba's finest, although it wasn't orginally performed/written by her. The song tells the sad tale of an impoverished mother whose husband has recently abandoned the family. She buys her daughter a red dress and encourages her to "be nice to the gentleman" (implying prostitution) as a way to make money.

Classic song. Who knows what the real meaning is, but that's half the fun! Many say it's dedicated to Buddy Holly...but there are many other singer/band references (Beatles, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, etc.).

Anyone out there have ideas for songs that tell great stories?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Buy One, Get One Free Kittens from Michigan Humane Society

I've always been a cat lover as long as I can remember. Don't get me wrong, I love ALL animals, but there's just something mysterious and sassy about furry felines...

Unfortunately, my husband doesn't have the same love for them (or any indoor pet for that matter)...So, until we have children and they're pulling on his pant leg begging to get a precious pup or kitty, I will live vicariously through my friends and their furry "children."

An uber-cool program that was recently launched by the Michigan Humane Society provides the purrrfect solution for those looking to add a furball to their homes: buy one / get one free kitty's. I heard about it as a public service announcement on WWJ-AM and just thought it was (pardon the pun) the cat's pajamas (yes, click on the link for the definition).
Here's the scoop from the MHS Web site:

With “cat” season in full swing and cat and kitten intakes at peak summer levels, the Michigan Humane Society announces an exciting program that seeks more cats and kittens going home in twos! The “Purrfect in Pairs” program looks to double the number of cats being adopted by carefully matching pairs and charging only one adoption fee.

In addition to placing more cats and kittens in loving homes, the added benefit of the program is that many cats do better in pairs by providing exercise, social interaction and mental stimulation for each other. Adopters will see that two really is twice as nice - and results in twice the love without twice the work.

MHS will adopt together cats who are well-matched and have been selected for their suitability to the program. Placing two cats together will also help maximize the available cage space - which is critically needed this time of year.

MHS maintains a thorough adoption process to ensure each kitten or cat is placed in a loving, responsible home. As with all MHS adoptions, the “pair” will have the added value of the MHS adoption package, which includes: sterilization surgery, age-appropriate vaccinations, a medical check-up, 10-day health plan and more.

MHS encourages you to visit its three metro Detroit adoption centers, or visit www.michiganhumane.org/adopt to “meet” your potential new furry family members online. MHS adoption centers are located in Detroit; Rochester Hills; and Westland. Adoption hours are Saturday/Sunday/Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Talk about smart marketing! All I know is that whenever that fateful day comes when I am finally able to pick out a cat of my own, the hubby's not only going to be stuck with one, but two!

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Official: Fall's Here!


Fall is BY FAR Michigan's most spectac season. It makes me so happy that it is finally here...now only if it could last a tad longer than normal...

"Autumn: The year's last, loveliest smile."
-- William Cullen Bryant

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Song: "Say" By John Mayer

I've been a moderate John Mayer fan since a friend made a copy of Room For Squares for me back in high school. That CD inspired me to go see John in concert at Meadowbrook. He was amazing to hear live. What's even more amazing than his talent are the lyrics to his songs, which are always sang with incredible passion.

"Say" was written by John for the movie "The Bucket List," starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman (BEST actor ever!). The flick showcases the importance of living life to its fullest. This song, played at the very end of the movie seems to further reiterate the notion of living life to its fullest by making sure if you have something to say about life -- be sure to SAY IT!

Although the song is a bit repetitive, there are some wonderful lyrics. Here's my favorite part:

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open...
Say what you need to say

Check out the song and video here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Song: "Johnny And June" by Heidi Newfield

I wanna love like Johnny and June // Rings of fire burnin' with you // I wanna walk the line, walk the line // 'Till the end of time // I wanna love, love ya that much // Cash it all in // Give it all up // When you're gone, I wanna go too // Like Johnny and June

I am so in love with this new song by Heidi Newfield! Not only because the lyrics capture how I feel about my husband, but also because it is a tribute to one of the greatest Hollywood romances of all time: Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Johnny died just four months after June -- a loss that no doubt had Johnny’s world falling apart and taking away his will to remain earthbound. Sure, John and June they had their tough times, as documented in the flick Walk The Line, but in the end -- and as always, love conquered all.

"What June did for me was post signs along the way, lift me when I was weak, encourage me when I was discouraged, and love me when I was alone and felt unlovable. She is the greatest woman I have ever known. Nobody else, except my mother, comes close. "
- Johnny Cash

Well said, Johnny! I feel blessed and honored to have a soul mate and best friend who is committed to me the way John was to June and I can only hope for a forever kinda love like theirs.

Check out the song and video here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Volunteering Time = Unbelievably Rewarding

It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life...that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

This past weekend, I volunteered with Panera Bread (my client) and United Way for Southeastern Michigan's joint partnership program -- Impact Your Neighborhood. It was a wonderful experience for me and the quote above truly embodies what I felt like upon leaving the volunteer site.

Although it was only a few hours of time, it was so rewarding. A group of 20 of us (pictured) worked at Vista Maria, a nonprofit child welfare agency for girls and their families, based in Dearborn. The organization works with young women, approx. ages 11-18, to help them overcome past hardships and recover from histories of abuse, neglect and other traumas. These girls have been through so much that I cannot even begin to imagine...the least I could do was pull some weeds on their lawn and play games with them!
(Fun historical fact: The organization started to take shape in the 1930s when a group of Detroit nuns bought the land belonging to the Ford family for just $1!)

Volunteering always brings clarity to my life, hence why I jump at any opportunity I can make time for. I was reminded of why I do this while working with all of the amazing people that showed up...One guy explained to me that he was an exchange student from Taiwan and volunteering helped him practice his English with patient people...I laughed and then he continued to explain how so many Americans have taken the time to help him -- volunteering just a few hours of his time was the least he could do to give back to America. Hearing him saying that almost brought me to tears...in a world that feels so corrupt and jaded at times, it was refreshing to be surrounded by so many genuinely civil-minded individuals. It also was pretty cool to realize these folks were definitely not just there for the free food...volunteering was just simply something each of the people found necessary to do.

My experience just proved to me once again that sometimes it really is the small things we do -- or the few hours of time we dedicate to others that can make us feel like a million bucks.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday Song: Bob Marley Essentials

"One good thing about music: when it hits, you feel no pain." - Bob Marley

Aside from the original "I Shot the Sheriff" and T-shirts with pot leaves on them, I knew nothing of Bob Marley until I went on a family cruise to the Caribbean and talked to the locals a few years ago. They all worshipped Marley and all he stood for. Ever since then, I've had a fascination with him and have been hooked to his music. Sounds cheesy, but I get what the locals were hearing...There's just something about his music that just speaks to people...

So, instead of choosing just one Sunday Song, I am choosing songs that I call the essential Marley 5: Three Little Birds, No Woman No Cry, One Love, Buffalo Soldier and Trenchtown Rock.

Instead of giving a mini biography of this amazing man, I will simply leave you with a wonderful quote from the ever-popular Wyclef Jean:

"What separates Bob Marley from so many other great songwriters? They don't know what it's like for rain to seep into their house. They wouldn't know what to do without their microwaves and stoves -- to make a fire with wood and cook their fish next to the ocean. Marley came from the poverty and injustice in Jamaica, and that manifested itself in his rebel sound. The people were his inspiration. Straight up. Like John Lennon, he brought the idea that through music, empowerment and words, you can really come up with world peace. But it's hard to compare him to other musicians because music was just one part of what he was. He was also a humanitarian and a revolutionary. His impact on Jamaican politics was so strong, there were assassination attempts on his life. Marley was like Moses. When Moses spoke, people moved. When Marley spoke, they moved as well."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Song: Priscilla Ahn's "A Dream"

A thing I have recently fallen in love with is NPR's Song of the Day. I have been learning TONS of great music through this! I subscribed to the daily newsletter and have learned of so many great artists and the neat stories behind their music.

One of the artists I learned about and now can't get enough of is Priscilla Ahn. Her beautiful voice chills me to the core everytime I hear it! One of her songs that is hauntingly beautiful is "Dream." She sounds a bit like Rosie Thomas or Sarah McLachlan, but still has her own personality in her songs.

Here's what NPR had to say about her:
"As a new singer-songwriter with a new debut album, Priscilla Ahn is an unfamiliar figure. But from her first breaths in "Dream," she possesses a presence that can't be overlooked. It's not just the startling clarity of her singing, but also the lovely and occasionally wry songwriting that's bound to capture listeners' attention and imaginations.

There's a sweet innocence to "Dream," with the childish hopes and desires of a "little girl, alone in her little world" captured in the sing-song cant of Ahn's flawless voice and swinging guitar. As she ventures from childhood to adulthood and old age, the song becomes more complex as it moves along.

The dream changes, as well: The child sings, "I had a dream / that I could fly / from the highest swing / I had a dream." The adult takes her flight from the highest tree, before finally seeking out the highest point of all. Looking back, she sings, "I lived it full and I lived it well / as many tales I lived to tell," adding, "I'm ready now / to fly from the highest wing / I had a dream." The song closes in the same simple address as it began, with Ahn lifting her voice — and her audience's eyes — to the sky."

SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

LUSH Tells the Naked Truth about what it means to be an environmentally-friendly company

I had to chuckle the other day when I heard about this PR stunt that was projected to get a lot of attention at the Somerset Collection in Troy...

LUSH, a global company that sells toiletries and shampoos was planning to have employees disrobe for a half an hour to promote its products' environmentally smart "naked" packaging (they don't use bottles or tubes). The employees that volunteered would have been wearing aprons that said "Ask me why I’m naked." Their butts would have been the only *private* part exposed.

The Somerset Collection was quick to veto the idea saying something along the lines of "our customers are too conservative for this type of promotion."

In my opinion, I think it was a genius way for them to get attention, even though the event didn't happen. I heard a few radio interviews and saw media coverage in the local papers and it made me curious, so naturally I checked out the company's Web site and made a mental note to stop by the store next time I'm at Somerset.

According to the site, more than 50 percent of the store’s products are package-free, and all of its paper bags, cardboard boxes and re-useable tins are made from recycled materials. It's also states that packaging contributes to 2 percent of overall greenhouse gases, and plastic uses 8 percent of the world’s oil resources. The U.S. consumes 79.6 million tons of packaging each year, and more than half ends up in landfills.

During last year alone, approximately 3 million plastic bottles were not manufactured, transported and disposed of because customers chose to buy LUSH’s solid shampoo bars instead of a bottled product.

To me, they have a wonderfully 'cheeky' idea. I give 'em mad kudos for trying something interesting, even if it doesn't take off with the masses.
Too bad Somerset doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor in all of this...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Preparing for the Next 'Round of Heroes @ the Paralympics

I don't know about you all, but I'm not a big sports fan. I try to know who's who in Detroit sports and who are the big guns when it comes to the big teams, but for the most part, I really just don't care. I appreciate the talent needed to suceed, but sports in general are just not that interesting to me...

Except anything surrounding the Olympics. I don't know if it was my Greek roots coming out, or if I just watched the games much more than I have in years past, but the 2008 games were the best I've seen ever. (Very big kudos to NBC for great coverage!)

Yes, there was scandal. But, there was also record-breaking triumph. There were tears, sweat and blood. It's true -- the Olympics are truly composed of the drama folks like me need to enjoy sports. And I truly enjoyed every minute!

Just when I thought the Olympics were done (tear), I read a great story and learned we've only just begun with the gold medal inspiration. September 7-17th, 4,200 disabled athletes from around the world will compete in the Paralympics in Beijing.

Paralympians are categorized into five different groups: spinal cord injury, amputee, visual impairment, cerebral palsy and ‘les autres’ (basically, French for those who don’t fit in the other categories). There are 20 different events including wheelchair basketball, archery, swimming and wheelchair fencing, among others. (How sweet would those be to watch?!)

One fellow American I will be rooting for is Melissa Stockwell, a solider who lost her leg in Iraq. She rocks! Read her ESPN story Little Leg,' big heart and positive thinking here and prepare to be inspired. Gold medal or not, she's a true American hero...in more ways then one.

Go Paralympians -- I know I'll be rooting for you all!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Song - "Skin Deep" by Buddy Guy

Excited for my upcoming road trip to Chicago to see one of my favorite people EVER, I'm picking out Chi-town native blues artist Buddy Guy's new single "Skin Deep" as this week's song. AWESOME song with a GREAT, positive message...and what artist can beat those hot guitar licks?

Eat Pray Love: A Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Elizabeth Gilbert's novel, Eat, Pray, Love has gotten many thumbs ups across the globe. I've just finished the book and I personally have enjoyed it immensely (although there are folks who beg to differ). There's just something about the way she carries herself that makes me want to be her friend (mostly by setting her straight half the time...).

Instead of describing the entire book and the parts I liked/disliked, I figure I'd just list some of the most memorable quotes spoken since there was a lot of wisdom hidden in the pages...

"Richard from Texas" describes soul mates:"People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master..."

"You don't want to go cherry-picking a religion," a friend of mine once said. "Which is a sentiment I completely respect expect for the fact that I totally disagree. I think you have every right to cherry-pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted... You take whatever works from wherever you can find it, and you keep moving toward the light."

"Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it's what you want before you commit."

"You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight."

"There's no trouble in this world so serious that it can't be cured with a hot bath, a glass of whiskey, and the Book of Common Prayer."

And my personal fave: You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.

Great summer read. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Song: "Silent All These Years" by Tori Amos

There's songs you just get certain feelings with. "Silent All These Years" by Tori Amos is one of those songs for me.

I won Tori's Little Earthquakes album during a contest at a 6th grade dance. I looked at it and thought, "Who the heck is Tori Amos?"

My girlfriends Leah and Nikki said "Oh, she's really good. I think you'll really like her."

I did.

This track is one of my favorite songs ever. The lyrics are different, strange -- but in a good way. Many say the song was written to give a voice to her inner rage from being raped by an obsessive fan. To me, the song discusses how she was silent for many years about what happened to her, but does not want to remain silent anymore. It could take on several other meanings, but that's really up to the listener to decide.

Startlingly original, the song's combo of piano, strings and Tori's hauntingly beautiful voice make it an instant 90's classic. Take a listen for yourself here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Logic Behind My Blog Name

A friend asked me why I named my blog Staircase to Earth's Loveliness.

My answer: When I was younger, I had a huge sticker collection I used for arts & craft-type stuff. I had a pile of the stickers I vowed to myself that I would never use or trade (too pretty, too funny, etc.). One said:

My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through earth's loveliness.
- Michelangelo

I've been smitten with that expression ever since...To me, it means it simply means to have fun conquering those stairs called life and don't forget to enjoy all the beauty the world offers along the way.

...and most importantly, always keep climbing!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

One Year of Bloggin'

Today is officially my one year blogging anniversary, so happy birthday to my beloved escape from negativity -- Staircase to Earth's Loveliness!

It's amazing how therapeutic writing in this blog has been for me. Each day, I find myself focusing in on positive things (partially because I'm always looking for topics) and doing away with any negativity that comes my way. This is my real-life version of "The Secret" -- we all really do have the power to create our own destiny and mine just so happens to include writing positively!

So why do I even bother to write this blog? I am pretty sure it's just a few friends and randoms that read it, so what's the point?

I like lists, so I thought long and hard and this is what I came up with on why I decided to start blogging:

6.
I love the area in which I reside and gosh darnit, I love America as a whole. Yes, both Detroit and America have ups and downs, but I've chosen to only make note of the ups in my blog -- our melting pot culture, rockin' music and the wonderfully talented people I see/meet/hear about on a daily basis that make me proud.

5. I've always enjoyed reading the blogs of others. And while reading a blog doesn't make me a natural blogger-that-you-can't-get-enough-of, it did make we want to give it a shot.

4. I'm an expressive and I always like to say what's on my mind (just ask my hubby). Sometimes people may not feel like listening to my ramblings, so this serves as a way for me to get my [positive] thoughts out there.

3. I need to practice my writing, grammar and spelling. Yes, I get a lot of practice with work...but I'm not perfect nor do I ever claim to be. This is a good way for me to see where I can expand my skills.

2. On the other side of this, when I blog, my writing standards are lowered. A blog is more informal than writing for work and just matches my personality more-so. I have writer's ADD...a little bit of this, a little bit of that. (Maybe that explains why I like using Twitter, too?)

and #1. There are a lot of things I just want to write down or save and put in a box for a rainy day (quotes, stories, songs, etc.). Some of these items are ones I don't want to forget, some I know I may need to recall in the future (i.e. so I can teach my children appropriately one day) and some are just because I like them.

All in all, you can expect to see a lot more from where this chick is headed...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Reminder: We All Have a Place in this World

I came across the story below through our clipping service for Panera and it struck a chord with me. Originally published in The Fenton Press, the story serves as a reminder to all of us that we can find our own life's meaning through action to others in many different ways.

Homeless man puts me in my place

by Julia Zaher The Fenton Press
Friday June 27, 2008

Each Sunday evening when Panera Bread in Fenton closes, I pick up all the unsold bread and baked goods, which the company donates each night to various nonprofit organizations.

On Mondays, my first stop is at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church on the east side of Flint, where the food is used for the Saturday soup kitchen. I've seen a lot of little miracles since I began volunteering at the soup kitchen. One of the most memorable occurred during Memorial Day weekend.

I picked up the bread as usual Sunday but because of the holiday, no one was at the church Monday to receive it. Everything had to stay in the back of my Jeep until Tuesday.

On Monday afternoon, a neighbor asked me if she could get a ride to her friend's house just north of downtown Flint, where we live in a historic apartment building.

We stopped at a drugstore on the way, and she bought me a bottle of water to thank me for the ride since I wouldn't take gasoline money.

I dropped her off and headed back downtown. Driving down Saginaw Street near the University of Michigan, I saw a man picking through a garbage can. He opened a discarded food bag looking for something to eat. I circled the block to catch up with him and rolled down my window.

"You need some food, man?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said.

"Meet me at the back of my truck," I told him.

(My dad likely is having a fit as he reads this. Trust me. When you work with street people, you learn who you can approach and when it's best to keep moving.)

I parked, got out and popped the back door to dig into the Panera stash for him. He was an older black man with no front teeth. I could smell the alcohol on his breath.

"You saw me looking in that trash can?" he said as he started to cry.

"Yes. Look, if you need food, don't be ashamed. You just need a little help. I can help you," I said.

He threw his arms around me, hugged me and sobbed for several minutes.

"It's okay. You just need a little help," I said. "What can I give you? Cookies? Bagels?"

"I don't eat no bagels. Can you give me some cookies? I need sugar."

I loaded him up with cookies and baked goods.

"I just got out of jail, and I ain't got no money, no place to go," he said, still crying.
He carried a plastic bag with his worldly belongings.

"Look at me," I said. "What's your name?"

"Charles."

"Charles, I'm Julia," I said.

"Julia? That's my sister's name. Someone told me that God loved me, and here you are. You saw me eating from that garbage can. How did you find me?," he asked.

"I just saw you, Charles. And you looked hungry, and I have this food. I knew I could help you just for today."

He hugged me. I gave him the still unopened bottle of water.

"Can you get into one of these men's shelters?" I asked.

"I can't get in today because I've been drinking, and they'll know. They won't let me in," he said.

"I know. But you can eat this sugar. Let the sugar calm you and don't drink, okay? And then tomorrow, get into a place. Now, Charles, look at me: no more booze. Just the sugar, okay?"

"Okay," he agreed.

Just then, two other men came walking along who recognized Charles. They were volunteers from a local men's shelter, arriving just in time to pick up where I left off. I left Charles with cookies and the bottle of water from my neighbor.

On the way home, a sob caught in my throat. Panera Bread supplied the bread. My neighbor supplied the water and the reason to leave the house right at that time. God supplied Charles to remind me that I have a place in this world.

And on that day, it mattered that I was in my place.