Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: H is for Halloween


Ever since I was a kid, Halloween has been one of my favorite days.  In fact, it has gotten to the point that the entire month of October is over taken with spooky activities for me, and this year it reached epic proportions.  We explored an old asylum, an allegedly haunted cemetery, a deserted circus, and an abandoned amusement park.  We went to a zombie paintball outing, as well as a ghost walk in a local town.  We have watched countless horror movies (most of them terrible), and we carved six miniature pumpkins.  Finally, last weekend, Trick or Treat was held in our town.  I dressed up (something I have never done for Trick or Treat), put costumes on the dogs, and used a little speaker to play spooky music on the porch while we handed out treats.  It was so much fun, we had more trick or treaters than ever (Hubby had to make an emergency store run for more treats!), and some of the costumes were amazing!


There are several reasons why I like Halloween.  First off, I like the fake scariness of it.  As someone who is highly anxious, I am used to being scared for extended lengths of time.  With Halloween, we know any scares we encounter, either from a haunted house actor or a scary movie or anything like that, are very temporary and completely false.  Something about that is comforting to me.  It actually makes me feel energized.  Also, by willingly subjecting myself to spooky things, I am in total control of the fear, and that is empowering.  Another reason I like Halloween is that it allows people, myself included, to be someone else for a little while.  It allows people to express creativity.

We have just a few days left in the witching season, and I intend to enjoy every minute of it, starting with the minute I hit start on my Halloween playlist.

Consider it my trick or treat to you!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: New York Never Sleeps


Yesterday, I wrote at length about the fact that we saw The Long Winters perform in New York City over the weekend.  But I have to explain a little more about this trip to the Big Apple.  The SOLE purpose of this trip was to attend that concert.  The goals were, in this order: 1. See concert, 2.  Not spend a ton of money, 3. Make it home alive.  So, the easiest way for us to achieve all three goals was to plan a whirlwind, NO SLEEP trip.  We left home Thursday night at 10 pm, drove to Harrisburg, and caught the train at 5 am Friday morning to Manhattan.  We got into the city at 7:30, and proceeded to spend the next 12 hours wandering the city.


Since we had both been there before, and done a lot of the traditional touristy things (Central Park, NYSE, Empire State Building, etc) we were more interested in sticking to the lower part of Manhattan  near the concert venue and finding interesting things slightly off the beaten path.  We so totally achieve that goal.  Among the things we did: Walked the High Line, roamed the Village, found a geocache, saw the Stonewall Inn, watched an after school youth program play basketball, saw a rainbow in the Washington Square fountain, ate amazing and affordable gluten free food, spotted a Free Little Library, watched strangers get married, saw amazing examples of art in the wild, found several cool little shops to visit, saw tons of cute dogs, and sat in a branch of the New York Public Library.  All that (and in reality so much more) was just 12 hours of our 23 hour trip.




Another 7 hours or so were devoted to the concert itself, then the rest of the time was spent at Penn Station, exhausted and waiting for the train.  We wanted to do more exploring after the concert, but we were just too tired, I was ready to pass out.  I had been awake since 8 am Thursday, and stayed awake until about 7 am Saturday, when we boarded the train back to Harrisburg.

Was it crazy to undertake this trip?  Yep.  Did we accomplish all 3 goals?  Yep.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.

New York is called the city that never sleeps.  While we were there this past weekend, we also never slept.  When I finally did drift off on the return train ride, I slept with a smile on my face, remembering the adventures we had in that gorgeous city.  I am still smiling as I remember, so of course this experience is inspiring my playlist for today.

I love you New York, and promise to see you again real soon.


To see the rest of the photos from our amazing NYC trip, click here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Long Winters in NYC

I have never been one to have favorites.  I have such a wide variety of tastes and interests, it is nearly impossible for me to boil everything down to one single favorite of anything.  There is, however, one notable exception to my no favorites rule.  I absolutely have a favorite band, and I am 100% proud to admit that my favorite band ever is The Long Winters.


Which is odd, considering I just discovered them within the last 16 months.  You see, the band last released an album in 2006.  Back in 2006, I was too wrapped up in MySpace and listening to Dashboard Confessional to realize that there was so much more out there.  I probably *did* encounter The Long Winters somewhere along the way, and I was too engulfed in bad relationship bitterness to realize their greatness.  Luckily, last summer, John Roderick opened for Jonathon Coulton in Pittsburgh, and Hubby and I became instant fans (here is a hint, pay attention to opening bands, it pays off).

Over the next months, I devoured every bit of The Long Winters music I could get my hands one, and became a full fledged fangirl.  If only I had learned about them back when they were touring regularly!  Then, the most amazing thing happened.  The band's record label, Barsuk Records, announced that they were celebrating their 15 year anniversary.  Part of the celebration would include a reunion of The Long Winters, to play their album When I Pretend to Fall.  Alas, most of the shows were going to be on the West Coast.  Makes sense, since the band calls Seattle home.  But then, my luck changed, and a New York show was announced.  And I miraculously convinced Hubby to go to the show.

It was a whirlwind trip (more about that in the next post) that resulted in 23 hours actually spent in NYC, 7 of those at the concert venue.  The show was part of the CMJ music festival.  The venue was the Bowery Ballroom.  There were 5 (yes 5) bands performing before The Long Winters.  We watched them all: Promised Land Sound, Otka Logue, Kan Wakan, Reuben and the Dark, and Eleanor Friedberger.  For us the most notable was Kan Wakan.  Within the first 5 seconds of their set, Hubby shouted to me "I am sold!".  We both were; the sound was sensual and mesmerizing.


  We bought the band's EP later in the night.

 I also was converted as a fan for Reuben and the Dark.    

Not only are these guys easy on the eyes, their rich warm harmonies are easy on the soul.  

But of course, the draw for us was The Long Winters.  And it was every bit as amazing as I anticipated it would be.  The crowd was a mix of old fans back from early touring days and newer fans like us.  But we all knew that this show would be nothing short of greatness.  John Roderick and Sean Nelson have a playful chemistry on stage, and it just quickly became apparent that they were loving every minute of what they were doing.  John Roderick is one of the few performers who not only sounds better with age, but sounds better live than on studio recordings.  His voice is so sumptuous (almost as much so as his beard), it feels like a warm blanket wrapped around you.  Although I love the whole When I Pretend to Fall album, my least favorite song is one titled Blanket Hog.  Yet John made it sound so beautiful that night, I can no longer do anything but love the song.


There were so many awesome moments to the show: John rocking out at the end of Scared Straight, experiencing Cinnamon (my favorite song) live for the second time, hearing John and Sean get good-natured heckling by the crowd (and each other) and giving it right back, the band calling out a couple who tried to sneak out at the last song.  It was nothing short of magic and perfection.


The thing I like the best about this band is they know exactly who they are.  When you encounter John Roderick and Sean Nelson, you know exactly what to expect.  They are purposeful with their lives, and make no apologies for themselves.  I find that incredibly brave, and it inspires me to live that way as well.  Anyone who was surprised that John needed to tune his guitar multiple times, or that he was going to give us the finger a few times that night, or that John would get so lost in the music that he would close his eyes for long periods of time, well, they are not true fans, or they are not paying attention.  


This was, most likely, a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.  Seeing the band reunited, playing their album all the way through in order for the first time ever.  I hope and pray that the band does release a new album soon, and then does a tour for it.  And I hope that tour comes somewhere near Pittsburgh, or at least a day's train ride away.  Because even though we did not sleep for about 48 hours, and were too dead tired to try to stay and meet the band afterward (seriously, I almost passed out during the encore), the concert, and the entire trip, was everything I hoped for and more.  And I would do it all over again.


So, the moral of the story is always check out the openers.  You just might find your new favorite.  

You can see all my photos from the opening bands here, and all the photos from The Long Winters set here. Some of them a a bit blurry but they still capture the energy and emotion of the night, plus it is hard for me to delete any photo of them no matter how blurry.  Imagine what I could have accomplished with a professional grade camera!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: Ridin' the Rails

I Been Workin on the Railroad

We like to travel, but not the typical travel you might think of.  Rather than going to exotic locals, we like unusual places,  kitschy places, filming locations, natural beauty.  In short, our destinations are often as nerdy as we are.  And I would not have it any other way.  We always travel by car, as neither of us is fond of flying, and so far we have not traveled anywhere that requires flying, though one day I am sure we will.

We have some upcoming travel plans that include an entirely new adventure for us: traveling by train.  Sure, I have taken novelty train rides, but to actually travel to a large bustling train station?  This is going to be fascinating.  Train travel gaining popularity a bit, but Americans really do not use it as much as Europeans do.  If we decide that we like this mode of travel, we may expand our travel area a little.

In order to prepare for our upcoming adventure, I have compiled a playlist devoted to songs of the rails.  Have a seat and enjoy the ride.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: G is for Gold

Autumn has always been my favorite season.  I love everything about it.  The air gets cooler in the mornings, so sunrises are crisp, often with mist rising up.  My wedding anniversary is in the fall, so we always do something fun to celebrate.  As Halloween creeps closer, we enjoy spooky attractions and scary movies.  And I have a legitimate excuse to put pumpkin into practically everything I cook. So, yeah, fall is pretty awesome.


But my absolute favorite thing about fall is the changing color of the landscape.  I live in an area that remains pretty green for the whole spring and summer.  We are surrounded by wooded hills, and lots of farm land, so come autumn, that lush greenness of the world turns varying, brilliant shades of gold.  The freshly baled hay and the newly harvested fields take on halcyon hues.  The leaves are gilded with shades of red and yellow.  Even the sunshine embodies a deeper, richer, amber tone.  And between the Penguins, Pirates, Steelers, and a giant rubber duck, gold is all over the city of Pittsburgh.  We always take some time, each autumn, to go on long leaf peeper car drives, and take tons of pictures.  The autumn landscape of western Pennsylvania is, in my humble opinion, one of the best reasons to live here.  It makes me feel warm and cozy, and heaven knows I need to store up that feeling to get ready for the winter ahead.  So this week's playlist celebrates the blonde beauty of the fall.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  Personally, I think it is pure gold.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cartoons by Hubby: Hitler's Furries

"Um...this is awkward."

The backstory:  Last week, over on my book blog, I reviewed a book titled "Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields".  It was an excellent book, bringing to light an aspect of the Holocaust that no one wants to consider; how many women were involved in the Nazi death machine.  So, I read the book, reflected on it, and wrote a thoughtful review.  As I always do, I shared the link on various social media outlets, including my Twitter account.  Several hours later, I got a text message from Hubby that said:

"You may as well have reviewed a book titled Hitler's Furries, because that is what I see every time I read the real title."

To which I replied:

"I humbly request a cartoon pictorial representation of your alternate title of the book."

This is what I got.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: Let's Go Bucs!

HAPPY BUCTOBER!  What the heck us Buctober, you ask?  It is the fever that is sweeping Pittsburgh, as tonight, October 1st, the Pirates host the wildcard playoff game at PNC Park.  First time a playoff game has ever been held in our gorgeous stadium, and the first playoff game for our Buccos in over 20 years.  YINZ GUYS!  GROUP HUG!


I desperately wish I could be there tonight to feel the crackling energy of an entire city in love with our team. For the first time in years, we actually have not been able to go to a single game this year, due to a lot of other commitments and the fact that the games are actually selling out now. But that has not reduced my Bucco love, I simply love them from afar.

I, along with thousands of others, will be thinking about the game all day today, daydreaming about pennants and World Series games along the river.  So, was there ever any doubt what today's playlist theme was going to be?  Listen to this playlist on repeat, get pumped up, and let's do this!

Come on boys.  Raise the Jolly Roger.