Archive | August, 2011

26 – My Favorite Songs

26 Aug
Tom LaMark Orchestra

Me with the Tom LaMark Orchestra, Summer 2010

Not long ago, thoughtful and prolific blogger Margie Clayman sent out an all-points bulletin for blog ideas and I challenged her to list her favorite songs. Because music is life, and lists are fun. Margie’s list is a doozy and you should read it here.

Music evokes feeling, moves us physically and emotionally in a way that words alone fail to do. Many of the songs that truly move me conjure memories from my teen years, when I was surely the most emotional being on the planet. It’s difficult for me to pin down my absolute all time favorite songs and I started this list weeks ago, but have been stalled since, due mainly to indecision. Thanks for the gentle push, Margie.

Because I’ve been singing since I was a little kid (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and singing professionally since age 24, my list will naturally be top heavy with songs that are fun/challenging to sing. I could keep adding songs until the 12th of Never, but these are regular favorites:

Happy Songs

You’re Just Too Good To Be True – Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – singing this on the drum corps bus at the tops of our lungs throughout the 1970s made us feel happy to be alive. We sounded pretty good, too.

Tiny Dancer – Elton John/Bernie Taupin – because of the tour bus scene in the movie Almost Famous (see drum corps bus above), I grew to love this song even more than I did in 1972 when it debuted.

Ain’t That a Kick in the Head – Dean Martin version – at first blush, a kick in the head doesn’t sound like fun. Listen to Dino sing it, though; the man is positively joyful!

My Favorite Things – Julie Andrews. No explanation required.

Free Man in Paris – Joni Mitchell. It was a revelation to me in 1974 that a young woman would write the lyrics “I was a free man in Paris, I felt unfettered and alive.”

Here, There, Everywhere – Beatles – a sweet and gentle song.

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture – probably because of its recent association with 4th of July Fireworks, which thrill me to no end. It’s about war, I know, but still.

Almost any Christmas song with the exception of Little Drummer Boy and The Twelve Days of Christmas, which would top the list of Songs that Make Me Feel Stabby

Powered Up Songs

Theme from Rocky. I know you think it’s cheesy and spent, but it still works. I may be able to lift a car while singing along to this track.

From the movie 8 Mile, Chance of a Lifetime by Eminem, which also appears on Margie Clayman’s list ’cause we’re a couple of badasses.

MantisĀ  – Umphrey’s McGee – an epic song, just shy of 12 minutes long – gorgeous layers of tender and muscular musicality – it’s part of my gym workout or outdoor walk most days. “turmoil stands like old rubber bands, unbreaking.”

Barracuda – Heart – the sisters Wilson bring the power.

Sad Songs

Hear You Me – Jimmy Eat World – a sobbing-in-the-car-by-myself story of lost opportunity.

Beautiful – Christina Aguilera – I don’t know why.

Seventeen – Janis Ian – if you’ve ever been 17 years old, you’ll understand.

Amazing Grace – bagpipes or no, this poignant tune has too many memories associated with it to be anything other than sorrowful to me.

Singing My Brains Out Songs

Orange-Colored Sky – I like the Natalie Cole version. My bandleader, Tom LaMark, wrote a super-hot arrangement – it’s glorious!

Separate Ways – Journey – had the chance to sing this with my sons’ band. Too much bombastic fun.

Wake Me Up Inside – Evanescence – sons’ band again. Yow!

Respect – Aretha Franklin – Respect has been over used and over sung by every wedding and karaoke bar singer since Aretha made it a hit in 1967 (Otis Redding recorded it first). It’s still awesome.

At Last – Etta James – this has been recorded many times, but Etta breaks your heart with her warm and rich tones. The fun for me is in making it my own.

Songs That Make Me Wanna Move!

Thriller – Michael Jackson – not just for Halloween.

Two Step – Dave Matthews Band – great forward motion with Carter Beauford holding it down on drums.

Jeffrey’s World – The Van Burens (my kids again, one of their originals) Listen on iTunes and you’ll be twirling out of your chair in moments.

Superstition – Steve Wonder – you need hear only the first measure, and you’re moving.

What is Hip – Tower of Power – wicked rhythm section and ridiculous horns, ToP brings the funk – I challenge you to sit still.

I Get Knocked Down – Chumbawumba – I know – so goofy but the beat gets me every time.

That’s it for today, gang. As previously stated, I could continue adding songs ad infinitum. Instead, perhaps you could share your favorites…if you write a blog post about it, feel free to link back to this one.


Kitchen Garden – Early August – and Recipe

5 Aug

The first tomato

My kitchen garden is small, and mostly healthy, but I think the final result will be a low yield this season and that’s okay. I’ve already enjoyed a couple of small tomatoes as well as rosemary, basil, lemon thyme and cilantro. There’s more to come, as you can see from the picture. Also, my Christmas cactus seems very comfortable among the herbs and veggies, so I expect amazing blooms from it around early December, when it usually blooms.

The first tomato, harvested and admired for a day, was added to sliced fresh mozzarella and a few leaves of fresh basil inside two slices of my favorite sandwich bread, buttered, for a quick and delicious panini. I use my panini pan, which has a heavy cover to press the sandwich together, aiding and abetting the delicious meltiness on the inside and crunchiness on the outside, but it works on a regular grill or frying pan with another heavy pan on top to compress the sandwich.

With this garden setup, I’ve gleaned some new insight about gardening by observing, reading, and talking to experienced gardeners. I’m fairly certain I’ve not fed the plants often enough. And I learned that cilantro likes a sandy soil, which I did not provide, and which I imagine is why it has steadily withered to just yellowish stalks with barely any leaves. See the photo below if you want to know what that looks like. Good lesson, and I was lucky enough to harvest cilantro very early in the season for use in a few terrific batches of homemade salsa and guacamole.

After years of battling with slugs, I’ve vowed (once again) never to attempt growing marigolds. Whether in the ground or in plant pots, my marigolds have always been decimated by slugs. I’ve put tiny little containers of beer out to help the slugs to get drunk and forget about the marigolds. I’ve added crushed egg shells to surround the base of the marigold plants, as I read that slugs would rather not travel over ground cover with sharp edges. We must grow super-powerful slugs in our yard (maybe it’s the beer!), as these deterrents have been unsuccessful after repeated applications. I know you can pour salt on a slug to kill it, but I just can’t do it. Like having a baby, though, I’ll probably forget about the pain of the slug battle with the passing of time and plant marigolds again in a couple of years…

Sad cilantro

Sad withered cilantro, in a pot with lazy basil

Happy August to you! Please share any gardening tips you may have, particularly with regard to slugs.

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