Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Song - "Motownphilly" by Boyz II Men

Since I can't make the Boyz II Men concert that's coming to the D in August, I'm giving the "Boyz" a tribute here.

I would LOVE to see these old school guys live. As an alto singer, they are my harmony heroes (well, on the man front at least!) and I don't even care if many of their hits are over a decade old -- they are timeless!

Motownphilly is one of my favorite song's of theirs. Maybe it's because they reference Motown or maybe it's because Cooleyhighharmony was one the first cassette tapes I ever bought with my own piggy bank money. I have many fond memories of this song -- one being doing the M.C. Hammer and Roger Rabbit on the boat to Bob-Lo Island (R.I.P.) when I was just six years old.

And who can forget the music video??? It is def one of the best of the '90's. Gotta love that Philly style!

Here's the scoop on the song, according to a fun Web site I came across --

In the US, this was Boyz II Men's first single. It confused DJs for a few reasons: many didn't know how to pronounce the band name, and some thought the song was called Boyz II Men and the group was named Motownphilly, since the words "Boyz II Men" are in the lyrics and the chorus states, "Motownphilly back again."

The song tells of the group's dreams and how they were discovered. The song includes a rap by Michael Bivens explaining how they sang to him one day. Bivens was a former member of New Edition who was part of Bell Biv Devoe, who were a very popular group at the time.

The lyrics talk about the "East Coast Family." "ABC" is the group Another Bad Creation and "BBD" is Bell Biv Devoe. ABC and BBD weren't around a few years later, but Boyz II Men were wildly successful. (thanks, Andy - Arlington, VA)

The title implies that Boyz II Men were bringing the Motown sound to Philadelphia. Motown is a legendary record label from Detroit featuring black artists. (really? j/k. We're proud they signed with Detroit record label Motown Records!)

All I know is that these BOYZ can sing and beat out any modern day boy band! Be sure to listen to their latest album, Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville, U.S.A. It's absolutely gorgeous -- especially their rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon In The Sky" and the Commodores "Easy."

They may not be from Motown originally...but we're surely happy to have adopted such a wonderful group!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Old Fashioned Thank Yous: Still Work Like A Charm

I received a nice thank you note the other day. No, it wasn't from a recent wedding or baby shower gift (although I love those, too!) It was from a corporation...Dolly's Pizza, a Michigan-based franchise, to be exact.

You see, a few weeks ago, Jason and I received a hand written envelope from a mystrey person in our mailbox. We were surprised to see a note inside saying "Welcome to the Neighborhood! Come try a FREE medium pizza (up to two toppings) on us!" (the "us" being Dolly's)

We are pizza connoisseurs. And we've never tried Dolly's, so we thought what the heck? It's free! And it's pizza! Woot woot.

The pizza wasn't the most amazing ever, but it was pretty darn good. And for being free and saving us a night of cooking a late night dinner, it was really good.

As if the first nice handwritten note and free pizza wasn't enough, we received yet another hand-written card the other day, this time thanking us for our business and to bring in this card next time to get a free order of cheesy bread. Yum! Again, we're just happy to get free things... even if the dude forgot an 'e' on please.

So, this brings me to my bloggin' point: There's just nothing in this world quite like a hand-written thank you card. Especially from a mitten-based company (we all know they are most likely struggling in this economy...).

Thanks Dolly's for providing us with your greasy goodness. For free. You betcha we'll be giving you some paid business in the future, too.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Suze Orman: The Financial Oprah of TV

Suze Orman has quickly risen to a new breed of sexy: financial feminity.

As the host of The Suze Orman show on CNBC, Suze works her money magic to provide people of all different backgrounds with tough love in the form of financial advice.

And she rocks at it. So much so that she nabbed #73 on Time magazine's "TIME 100" this year.

So, how does one rise to such inspiration and fame? Here's Suze's story, according to Wiki:

Orman was born on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois to Russian-Jewish immigrants Ann and Morry Orman. Orman came from a working class background and has said that she did not "grow up with money." She was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, from which she holds a B.A. in social work.

In 1973, she and some friends moved to Berkeley, California, and she lived, for three months in a van on Hearst Ave. She became a waitress at the Buttercup Bakery. In 1980, a longtime customer gave Orman a loan of $50,000 to help her fulfill her dream of opening her own restaurant. Orman invested the money at Merrill Lynch, but four months later was broke again, after she was swindled by her stockbroker.

Knowing that she couldn't make the money back by waitressing, and having started learning more about finances and investing, Orman returned to Merrill Lynch and entered their training program to become an account executive. After she completed the training, she was hired by the firm and remained there until 1983 when she left to take a position as vice president of investments at Prudential Bache Securities. In 1987, Orman resigned and opened her own financial planning firm, the Suze Orman Financial Group, in Emeryville, California. She acted as director of the firm until 1997, when she stepped down as her writing career took off with the publication of her second book (there's eight total now).

What a neat story...I mean, she lived in a van for three month's for goodness sake!

My shoe is off to you, Ms. Orman! After all, you make it possible for me to not be the old lady who lives in a shoe. Literally. (thnx to CB)

I hate math. I hate numbers. If it wasn't for my accountant husband, I'd probably call my mom, crying and worrying about what "saving for the future" really entails.

But with Suze behind me, I feel hope. She speaks to me. And she gets me geeked about financial planning, mortgages (30-yr. fixed!) and car loans (never lease if possible!). Her show features a segment called "Can I Afford It?" which often reminds me: NO, I cannot afford a vacation to the Greek isles or an iPhone. I need to invest my money and not simply save it in an account where it will grow at a ridiculously low interest rate.

Tune into The Suze Orman Show weeknights at 8 p.m. EST to hear Suze's invaluable financial advice for yourself.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Exit 69: Troy, Michigan = No Place Like Home

I have to admit it, the city where exit 69 is officially the exit for Big Beaver me some mad pride right now. For just a few miles away from this great American road is where my home resides...

Yes, I pay ridiculous amounts of money for taxes and yes, traffic can be quite brutal during rush hour, but still...Troy, Mich. has managed to landed spot #22 on CNN Money's top 100 best small cities to live in America, beating out other great Michigan cities -- Ann Arbor (#27), Novi (#48) and Sterling Heights (#61). And I'm just beaming.

I knew the hubby and I picked here for our landing spot for a reason...and not just for the kick booty public schools that teach Mandarin Chinese and the vast array of shopping and coney islands.

I learned a lot of interesting facts with this list and decided to list the highlights:
Air quality index*(% of days AQI ranked as good)
80.3% (75.9% is best cities avg.)
% students attending public/privateschools (located within town limits)
95.0/5.0 (best cities avg. 89.0/11.0) -- GO PUBLIC!
Restaurants(within 15 miles) -- This is good for the foodie in me!
5,368 (4,094 is best cities avg.)
7.2% (sadly, 8.3% is best cities avg.)

So the bags of leaves I'm rakin' is this (thnx, Nicolena):
People in Troy are breathing healthy air, obtaining great educations in a public school system, eating their little hearts out and staying happily married.
Now those are some stats that will make me stay for years to come!

Another point of Troy pride...For those who enjoy Project Runway (as I do), one of Troy's own is a designer on this season's show. His name is Joe Faris and he's described as the "down-to-earth" straight father of two. I can't wait to see how far he can go...

Thanks for making Troy and all of southeast Michigan proud!
And Joe, if I ever see you in T-Town, the drinks are on me. Way to go, brother!


P.S. Please send my pleasant regards to Tim Gunn!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Song: "Man In The Mirror" by Michael Jackson

Art Credit -- Mirror Ball by M.C. Escher

So I heard this story today at church and I liked it so much, I decided to share it. Sorry if it's not as well-told as the priest told it, but I'm keeping it simple here. ..

There is a knight and he is traveling with his horse when all of the sudden the horse stops and almost knocks the knight off his back.

"Why on earth are you stopping, horse?" says the knight.

"Because there's a little bird on the ground lying on his back with his feet in the air and I didn't want to hurt him," said the horse.

"A bird? You almost killed me because of a bird?" says the knight.

(Turning to the bird) "Bird, why are you lying on your back like that with your feet up in the air?" said the knight.

"Because the sky is going to fall and I want to save everyone."

"You think lying here in the middle of the road with your feet in the
air is going to make a difference?" says the knight.

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot stop the sky from falling, but I can do something. I can try."

The moral of this story is so true. You may only be one person, but you can make a difference in this world, whether it's through helping others, donating money to those in need when you can or just taking care of our earth's resources. All you have to do is start at the most elementary place -- within yourself.

This whole principle reminds me of one of Michael Jackson's most powerful hits -- "Man in the Mirror," hence why I chose it as my Sunday Song. Great lyrics, great beat.
"I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer...
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

This Bud's No Longer for Me

By now you all have probably heard of sale of Anheuser-Busch "The King of [American] Beers" to Belgium's InBev.

To me, this is one of the most disappointing news bites since Mother Teresa's death.

What is more American than the Budweiser name?

Beer is one of life's pleasures. For as long as I can remember, myself and my family have been Bud Light drinkers. Now what will we turn to?

Yes, it will still be produced in America.
Yes, they say American jobs are safe.
But where's the American pride?

Anheuser-Busch has been U. S. owned for 130 years... It truly is an American point of pride and an icon of what it means to be American -- especially for those who live in its home city, St. Louis.

There's Miller people, Coors people, Bud people and microbrew people. The fact that Budweiser is an American beer is really important to its very loyal beer drinkers, and it's going to hurt Budweiser now that they're no longer American.

I feel sorry for Anheuser-Busch's PR/marketing team. This has got to be a nightmare. What's going to happen with their branding? Their witty campaigns have always been shaped around the beer being American-owned and produced and they have built a loyal following because of this. Now what direction is in store? The job undertaking is going to be tough for the Belgian brewer. It will be interesting to see how consumers will respond to the European takeover.

According to a new Web site,, "like baseball, apple pie and ice cold beer (wrapped in a red, white and blue label), Anheuser-Busch is an American original."

So, what's next for you?

Looks like I'm officially on to drinking a different, cheap, red, white and blue beer -- Pabst's Blue Ribbon. It's almost the same, right? And at least I can feel that American pride with each passing sip...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday Song: "Vienna" by Billy Joel

Billy Joel has been one of my favorite singers since I was a little girl. Everytime I hear the familiar sound of his voice, it takes me back to my childhood...falling asleep to Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) in the back of my parent's car, laughing at the "cadillac-ac-ac-ac" lyrics in Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) and dancing to Uptown Girl with my dad at countless Daddy-Daughter Dances.

Billy Joel and Elton John were the first musicians I ever saw live. I remember it well. It was '95 and my mom randomly got tickets and when she picked me up from school that day, she surprised me with the news. I was in heaven. We had horrible seats, but that didn't phase me -- I was experiencing two of my heroes. Live. I danced and sang my little heart out to the millions of hits the two uber successful "piano men" have made throughout their careers.

So the other day...

I had a long, tiring day at work and was flustered because I started thinking about the millions of tasks I wanted to accomplish this weekend. I hit shuffle on my iPod and, like fate, I heard this week's "Sunday song" (Vienna) and I really listened to the lyrics for what felt like the first time in my life. I thought, "Dang Billy, are you reading my mind?"

The past two years of my life after college have flown. I haven't had a single moment to rest -- consuming my life with adulthood -- a career, a car payment, a mortgage, multiple bank accounts, a 401k and marriage.

But Billy (or God?) sent me a reminder.

When life gets crazy, we all just need to slow down, stop and smell the roses and remember, our versions of "Vienna" will come when the timing is right.

Slow down you crazy child

Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while

It's alright, you can afford to lose a day or two

When will you realize...Vienna waits for you?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Free Slurpee Day, A Holiday Not to be Missed

Happy realization today: It's July 11. As in 7/11. As in 7-Eleven,
America's favorite convenience store.

To honor the store's day of "birth," locations around the nation are offering their 7.11 oz. Slurpees to their patrons free of charge.

I've always been a fan of Slurpees, so you betcha I'm going to nab one on my commute home tonight.

To salute the day, here's some fun facts from the Slurpee Nation Web site. There's some pretty interesting useless information here.
  • Early prototypes for the Slurpee machine made use of an automobile air conditioning unit.
  • Bob Stanford, a 7-Eleven agency director, coined the term "Slurpee" in 1967.
  • Winnipeg, Canada is generally thought to be the Slurpee capital of the world, due to their amazing Slurpee fanaticism. (really? yes)
  • At Slurpee, we call it a BrainFreeze. The scientific name for it is Sphenopalatine Ganglioneuralgia.
  • Pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth is a known cure for brainfreeze.
  • The current world record for drinking 6 oz. Slurpees in one minute is ELEVEN.
  • Every day more than 11.6 million Slurpee drinks are consumed around the world.
  • More than 40% of all Slurpee drinks are sold during the months of June, July and August.
  • The average Slurpee drinker's age is 29.
Wow. Good stuff here. And great Web site, 7-Eleven. Happy birthday!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Detroit Firefighter: My Brother, My Hero

I have so many heroes and wonderful people in my life. As many of my posts indicate, I get inspired by people. A lot.

One person who inspires me immensely is my own brother, Derek, who has been a Detroit firefighter for the past eight years. (Photos posted are of him!)

He works on average 48 hours a week. He is awoken in the middle of the night (interrupting REM sleep patterns constantly) just to learn the fire called in was a false alarm. He's seen run down buildings and crack houses burnt to the ground. He's helped to rescue tons of people -- including children and the elderly from burning buildings. He drives the fire engine (don't get me started for people on the road not parting ways....) And he has a heart of gold.

He cares for his family, including his wife and my two nephews, Nicholas (8) and Kyle (4). Along with his exhausting job as a firefighter, he also works all sorts of side jobs to keep afloat (i.e. cutting elderly neighbors lawns, always helping friends, etc.). I am so proud of him. He worked so hard to get where he is and he honestly LOVES his job, unlike many people in this world. Just wanted to post to say how special he is to me!

My brother Todd is also a hard-working American hero and a recent new daddy to baby Owen! But more on that to come in a future post...

For now, here's a little tribute to Derek:

A Fireman's Life

A fireman's life is one big surprise,

Usually he laughs, sometimes he cries.

There's always stress, toil and strife,

Hoping he's good enough to save just one life.

His wife understands, when he misses dinner,

If he runs out of church, don't think he's a sinner.

Answering a call, is tops on his list,

Regretting each one he's ever missed.

He tries and tries, but can't make us see,

The happiest men, still work for free.

Jumping from bed, fighting the cold,

Knowing what to do, without being told.

He rushes to the station, jumps on a truck.

Depending on skill, never on luck.

Putting his life on the line, for an unknown friend,

Hoping and praying, it won't be the end.

"The Bravest Men in the World", the title is fitting,

They all do their best, never come close to quitting.

Next time you see them, all their lights blinking,

Take just a minute, to think what they're thinking.

It's a hard job, so show them you care,

And help them out, with a little prayer.

-- Daniel S. Driscoll. --

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Thought for Music Lovers

"What is love?

Great minds have been grappling with this question through the ages, and in the modern era, they have come up with many different answers. According to the Western philosopher Pat Benatar, love is a battlefield. Her paisan Frank Sinatra would add the corollary that love is a tender trap. The stoner kids who spent the summer of 1978 looking cool on the hoods of their Trans Ams in the Pierce Elementary School parking lot used to scare us little kids by blasting the sweet hit "Love is Like Oxygen" -- you get too much, you get too high, not enough and you're gonna die. Love hurts. Love stinks. Love bites, love bleeds, love is the drug. The troubadours of our times all agree: They want to know what love is, and they want you to show them.

But the answer is simple. Love is a mix tape."

- Rob Sheffield, contributing editor for Rolling Stone and the writer of Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song as a Time. The book traces Sheffield's relationship with the love of his life through stacks of revealing, worn-out cassettes. It's a wonderful book given to me by my dear friend, Meredith. Music lovers: This is a summer must-read!

Don't Stop Believing: Gaganda Rin 'To (Things Will Get Better)

While waiting to catch a plane home from my honeymoon in Mexico last week, I bought a People magazine. Not something you typically see me read, but shoot, everyone has their guilty pleasures and there wasn't a lot to choose from that wasn't in Spanish.

I never buy People for the worthless celebrity gossip at the front of the mag, but the stories in the back about the "real" people that make a difference in this world. I told Jason, this is my chocolate and porn in a sense -- I literally am addicted to seeing and reading about others doing inspiring things.

Well, part of my excitement while reading the mag was over a celebrity/real person mash-up composed of one of the greatest classic rock bands of all time -- Journey and a 'real' person.

In case you haven't heard the story yet, Journey's front man, Steven Perry left the band to do his own thing years ago (BOOOO!)... To replace him, they grabbed Jeff Scott Soto, but ended up firing him last summer. In my mind, the band members must have figured they'd never find a voice quite like Steve's (streetlights, people -ah-oh-ah!), until one day...they stumbled upon YouTube and ran across a Journey song video with a singer from the Philippines -- Arnel Pineda. (Oh the effects of social media!)

The coolest thing about Arnel is his story. The guy began singing at age 5. His parents, both tailors, encouraged him to enter amateur singing contests. When Arnel was 12, his mother died of illness, leaving his family in some serious debt. Arnel's father took his three younger brothers to live with relatives, but Arnel, the oldest, had to quit school and collect scrap metal, bottles and newspapers to earn money. He was living in the streets, sleeping at a park or on a wooden bench at a relative's house. In a TV interview, Pineda described waiting and watching while his relatives ate breakfast in the mornings, hoping some food would be left over for him to eat. Reflecting on his childhood, Pineda said he felt no self-pity. He always kept a positive outlook, thinking, "Gaganda rin 'to." (Things will get better).

Pineda was discovered while he was the lead singer for the group "The Zoo," which covered American classic rock hits from bands such as Journey, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.

Videos of The Zoo performing cover songs began appearing on YouTube in February 2007. In June, Neal Schon of Journey contacted Noel Gomez, a longtime fan and friend of Arnel who uploaded many of these videos, to ask for Arnel's contact information. Neal sent an e-mail to Arnel inviting him to audition to be Journey's front man. Arnel initially dismissed the e-mail as a hoax, but after being persuaded, he finally replied to the e-mail. Ten minutes later, Arnel received a phone call and in August, Arnel flew to the U.S. for a two-day audition.

In December, he was announced as the lead singer of Journey. CNN Headline News ran the story as part of their "News to Me" segment. They called it a rock n' roll fairytale. And that's exactly what it is. From a kid who grew up collecting scraps to know being in a band he once idolized...Dreams really do come true -- Any Way You Want It! As long as you have Open Arms. (feeling punny today)

Watch a video about the new singer and hear him belt the lyrics to "Don't Stop Believeing" here. He's pretty flippin' good if you ask me! They are coming to DTE in Clarkston in September. I am seriously contemplating going. If you need some faith, this just may be the show for you, too.

*Cough* Sarah: B-day Present???