Archive for life

Chris Mann’s album, Roads


I had no idea what to expect when I put on Chris Mann’s album, Roads, for the first time. The only thing I knew about this young artist was that he did well as a contestant on The Voice, which is a show that I don’t watch but caught snippets of here and there on various talk or entertainment shows.

My first thought as I listened was “Wow, forget albums, this guy has a voice built for Broadway!” I was awed by his vocal range and the unique clear quality of his voice as I listened to the first track of the album, which is the title track, Roads. After doing a quick Google search to try and find out more, I learned that Chris has quite the impressive resume which includes singing in an Italian opera in Europe. His voice is honest and vulnerable, a beautiful mix of passion and clarity. Though his voice itself is incomparable, his album will appeal to those who enjoy the sounds of Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, and Michael Bublé.

Set to classical and sometimes jazzy arrangements, the album is one to be savored and enjoyed. On my first listen I thought it was an album I’d likely put on over a romantic candlelit dinner or a long soak in the tub, but upon subsequent listenings, I decided that I’d want to hear it any time.

I tried to pick favorites and couldn’t, there are too many wonderful songs on this album to pick a favorite, but can’t-miss tracks include The Blower’s Daughter, which builds to a climax of a duet with Christina Aguilera, who acted as Mann’s mentor on The Voice. And Cuore,  based on Bach’s “Air on a G String” and one of two songs on the album co-written by Mann (the other is Falling) makes my heart swell with anticipation in the way that usually only live performances can inspire.

You can buy Chris Mann’s new album Roads (be sure to check out the tracks above!) on iTunes or Amazon and learn more about the man behind the voice at

In the interest of disclosure, this is a review post from One2One Network. I was provided with a copy of the album and I am eligible for a prize drawing. All opinions stated are my own.


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Happy Birthday, Dad

Some say that our sense of smell is one of the strongest memories we have. To this day I can’t smell a fire without thinking of my father.

My dad was a volunteer firefighter for many years. He’d come home from a long afternoon of trying to put out a brush fire and leave his gear on the floor of the basement, which at that time was our main play area. My brother and I had been told time and time again not to touch his gear, but I remember at least a few times where we’d sneak into the cumbersome trousers and jacket, and try to balance the heavy helmet on our heads, laughing at how silly we looked. The smell of fire and smoke on the gear was overwhelming and  it would transfer to our clothes and so we’d eventually get in trouble for playing with the gear even though we swore we were nowhere near it.

To say that my dad only loved firefighting would be a fallacy. He also loved fire-making. At the start of the day he would burn sausage or bacon, the smoke wafting through the hallway and setting off the fire alarm. While he stood at the stove fixing breakfast my mom would fan the smoke alarm with a towel while my brother and I stood nearby with our fingers in our ears. This went on for many years, so much so that my husband has also witnessed the burning of breakfast sausage and eventual smoke-filled hallway that follows.

Back when it was considered normal, he burned garbage out in a rusty barrel in the backyard. We didn’t have a garbage truck in our town and when you needed to get rid of your garbage you either had to burn it or take it to the dump. He burned a lot of garbage. We’d watch from our swing set or sand box, sneaking water from the nearby precautionary hose to make a moat for our castle.

Sometimes on a summer evening we’d go to the neighbors’ house and build a big bonfire in their driveway. Our families would sit around the fire and make mountain pies and roast marshmallows and hot dogs and stay out later than we were normally allowed. We’d do the same thing when we went camping, which was at least once every summer until we were old enough to hate camping. That was about when my brother and my dad started going camping with their Boy Scout Troop and then they’d both coming home smelling like a campfire. We’d light fires in the fireplace at home and my dad would poke at them with a stick until they were roaring and crackling. We were taught to enjoy fire, but also to fear and respect it.

Even our main vehicle was a Chevy Blazer. I have numerous memories of being piled into the car on the way home from church or a shopping trip and we’d see a plume of smoke rising from a far-off tree line. My dad would always find an excuse to find the fire. If the fire was in town, we’d drive by the bank “to see how warm/cold it was outside” (the bank had a large thermometer) or stop to buy a Sunday paper and then we’d also check out the fire. If the fire was off in the distance, we’d take “the back way home” and just happen to drive by the field or house that was burning. Sometimes we just went and saw the fire with no excuses. I remember once we bundled up in our warmest clothes and went on a drive to look at Christmas lights and we just happened to pass a house that had recently burned to the ground, killing the elderly woman who lived there. A morbid fascination indeed, but it was his way and so it became ours.

Last year M and I were headed to Lowe’s one weekend and we saw a lot of smoke rising up close by. M saw how big my eyes got, and knew what our new afternoon plans were. We navigated roads we weren’t entirely familiar with until we got very close. Too close. My eyes burned and the acrid smoke got into my lungs, making it hard to breathe. The smoke was so thick we could barely see to drive. In retrospect, it wasn’t a smart idea. The fire was huge, a mulch plant that burned out of control and spread rapidly due to strong wind gusts. It burned for hours causing nearby I-95 to shut down after wind blew fire right across the interstate. We went to see the damage the next day only to witness firefighters hosing off hot spots that still burned more than 24 hours later. Entire fields of thick, black char spread themselves right up to the side of the road. It’s amazing that there wasn’t any loss of life or any major damage to property, other than the mulch plant.

Today my dad would be blowing out 62 candles. Though he’s no longer with us, his spark burns on in my heart. And when our smoke detector goes off for no reason, as occasionally it is want to do, I can’t help but think that it’s my dad’s way of saying hello and reminding us that though he’s no longer here, he’s always a part of us. Happy Birthday, Dad.


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Adventures (and Misadventures) in Crafting

Still making. On Wednesday, a friend and I attended a workshop at Ambrosia Bead Shop where we constructed adorable earrings. I made sets of angels which I think will make some lovely Christmas gifts. Eileen made dragonflies (in the same type of fashion as the angels, just different parts) which I wasn’t able to get a shot of to share. However they were so easy and lovely that I have a feeling that when spring comes I will be making a set for myself to wear, and then I’ll be sure to share a photo!

Cards– I make a lot of them. M comes from a big family and has more aunts, uncles, and cousins than I have. (And I thought I had a lot!) You can imagine that means man holiday cards are addressed and mailed out each year– about 70 when you add in friends to the mix. The first few years I’d try to make each card start to finish but I found that took up so much time that I had to try a different tactic. And so, for the past 5 years or so, I’ve made the cards piecemeal. First cutting out all the necessary pieces, then stamping each piece, then coloring all the pieces, then assembly. This keeps things organized and running smoothly…until I realize that I’m quickly running out of adhesive.

A local scrapbook shop, The Queen’s Ink, turned me on to a particular brand of double-sided tape runner called Sticky Thumb. It’s a great product and the refills are incredibly affordable. You can imagine that with as many cards as I make, I go through an obscene amount of adhesive. Last night as I had everything spread out on the dining room table (it’s gotten so bad that the studio surfaces are all covered with other projects!) I had a few choices. I could have hubby run out to Michael’s, which is just around the corner, and have him pick up any number of (inferior) tape runners, I could quit working for the night and head out in the morning to The Queen’s Ink, or I could take him up on his enormously generous offer to go to The Queen’s Ink on my behalf. I dawdled for awhile. Sending a husband into a craft store is akin to sending a first date to the drug store to buy tampons. I didn’t want to do that to him…

But he offered, so I did. I armed him with an empty refill package and requested that he just go seek someone out and ask them to get the product for him, rather than him trying to roam throughout the store to find the correct section himself. (This store is laid out to be a world of joy for a crafter, but definitely is not one of those places with aisles marked by supply or department.)

Off he went to Savagie Mill— a historic textile mill turned into a mix of eclectic shops and an antique mall, where The Queen’s Ink is located. He first realized he was in trouble when he couldn’t find a parking spot. Anywhere. Even the overflow parking was filled up. After driving around for a bit, he eventually found a spot but couldn’t help but wonder what was going on that so many cars were in the parking lot. (It’s usually very easy to find parking in the evening.) He would soon find out. When he walked in the doors, he found himself among hundreds of people in better than their Sunday best. Among men in tuxedos and ladies who milled about daintily eating fancy food on toothpicks (attending some sort of large fundraising gala) he made his way through the crowds of people, decked in his fleece hoodie and jeans, to get to the shop.

Exasperated once he finally made it to The Queen’s Ink, he did as was instructed and found an employee to help him, and announced “I have a crafting emergency!” to which the entire gaggle of women, including the Queen herself, responded in fits of uncontrollable laughter. This ends the humor in the story– though it ended well– the finale scene being the presentation of tape refills to me along with the telling of the series of unlikely events leading up to the purchase.

In this case, thank you isn’t nearly enough so I’m hoping to come up with some sort of gesture that will adequately express my gratitude.

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Cocoa and Crafting, but Mostly Cocoa


Every year I tell myself I’m going to start on holiday preparations earlier than the previous year so as to avoid the last minute frantic feelings I inevitably start having right about now.  I’ve spent the week holed up inside desperately trying to finish (start?) all of my holiday cards and handmade gifts and ornaments. I can’t even begin to think about baking or shopping or parties.

My mother-in-law surprised me at the end of last week with a set of these adorable handmade place mats that she made, adorned with ric rac and dancing penguins! They have brought me so much cheer as I sit in the dining room indulging in hot cocoa, which as of late has been more of a crafting fuel than a caloric luxury.

I have a hilarious (well, hilarious to me) story to share with you tomorrow about poor M getting sent on a mission to the Scrapbooking store to buy double-sided tape refills…


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Six Fifty-Eight

I wait at the door wrapped in a cable-knit throw as the dog sniffs and finds a spot to do his business. I can’t help but wonder what today will bring as I recite: “red in the morning, sailor’s warning; red at night, sailor’s delight.”

There are benefits to being up early, though I have friends who would adamantly argue against the notion.

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Happy Halloween!

A couple of weeks ago, M and I decided that we were going to make a scarecrow for the front yard. The flowers in the bed are gone except for some mums flanking the steps and the area was looking a little sparse. So that’s what we did.

And as soon as it was in the ground, Mr. Tucker promptly ran up and bit it. (Of course he would.)

They quickly became friends.

A funny story about Pepe… (That’s what hubby named the scarecrow.) One of the neighbors flagged me down the other day to tell me that he got very nervous when he looked out the window and saw someone standing in the yard with his pants hanging down low, looking like he was up to no good. When he came outside to investigate, he saw the top half of the body and laughed himself silly that he was concerned about a scarecrow. I told him that it has scared me half-to-death at least a dozen times so he shouldn’t feel foolish.

With the heavy winds and rain we got this weekend, Pepe fell over and the color in his face ran a little. (Note to self: Sharpie takes artistic liberty with the term “permanent.”) Anyway, we came home on Saturday to find him passed out on the hay bale with his pants halfway down, looking like a drunk. He’s been quite problematic, this scarecrow.

We’re expecting lots of trick-or-treaters tonight and I’m looking forward to handing out goodies. Mr. Tucker will be dressing up as monster dog again this year. He will be on his best behavior which means he will be locked in the bedroom, howling his beastly face off.

Happy Halloween from our house to yours!

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Mat Kearney at 9:30 Club

On Sunday night, M and I headed into Washington D.C. to enjoy a Mat Kearney show. Last month, I reviewed Mat’s latest album, Young Love, and fell in love with his music. Imagine how excited I was when a One2One Network community manager contacted me and offered me 2 complimentary tickets to Mat’s show! Of course, I said yes!

To say that Mat Kearney put on a great show would be an extreme understatement. The venue sold out and we were packed in like sardines– I even saw a few families with young children who seemed to be having as good of a time as the teens and adults. The show was a great mix of songs from all of his albums and even the slower songs were full of energy. It was impossible not to have a great time and dance along with the music. Mat encouraged the fun and upbeat atmosphere by inviting us to sing along for a number of songs and mingling with the audience, shaking hands, handing out high-fives and even singing on top of the bar for a bit. He cracked jokes throughout the show, made numerous references to Star Trek (seriously!) and during his Washington D.C. freestyle he worked in a joke about seeing Michelle Obama in the audience. Mat’s performance seemed effortless (talk about some performance chops!) and he seems like a down-to-earth, genuinely nice guy. I’d venture to say that he enjoyed performing for us as much as we enjoyed being there to see him.

Towards the end of the show the opening band, Leagues, took the stage with Mat Kearney and company and performed a cover of  Pumped up Kicks. The bands seemed to have a great time with this number and the audience did too. I actually prefer their version of the song over the one played on the radio!

I have to add in the mandatory legal disclaimer and let you know that I received complimentary tickets through One2One network. (A big thank you to them for such a fun opportunity!) The opinions expressed here are my own and, as always, honest. I enjoyed the show so much that after the concert I came home and downloaded his two earlier albums (with my own hard-earned money) and my iPod has been on Mat Kearney mode for the entire week. If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what will.

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