Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: Looking Back at 2013

IMG_7932This year?  Kind of amazing.  Probably the most creative, fun filled, growth filled, challenging year I have had in my adult life.  I have spent so much time working on myself as a person, and while I am miles away from being perfect or even where I would like to be, overall I am really happy with me and with my life.  So many awesome things happened this year, we must review the highlights.

We papered our floor with book pages.  It took two months, and was back breaking work, but we transformed our living room into a work of art.

I completed a 35 Day Project in honor of my 35th birthday.  35 days of random acts of kindness.  Many of my friends and family members participated as well.  It was amazing.

We watched our nephew graduate from high school.

We reached two geocaching milestones.  We found our 200th geocache, then we cached every day for the entire month of August, our longest streak ever.  I also got to introduce my niece, nephew and his girlfriend, brother and brother in law to geocaching.

We watched our good friends get married.

We visited many of the filming locations from the movie The Shawshank Redemption.

We watched my brother get married.  Later on in the summer we got to visit them and see their new house as well.

We went to our first comics show.

I saw the largest yarn bombing in America, also known as Knit the Bridge.  It was while my niece was visiting us, so I took her to see it.  It was one of the many awesome things we did together during her visit.

We saw John Hodgman perform, and met him after the show.  He totally knew our names, because we had been all over social media talking about the show.  Later, when I reviewed the show, he shared my post.  I was so ridiculously star struck over the whole thing.

We saw the giant rubber duck make its way into Pittsburgh and attended the huge party on the bridge.

We took a whirlwind trip to New York City to see John Roderick and The Long Winters perform.

I made an entire Christmas Tree's decorations out of old book pages.  It is so beautiful I cannot yet bring myself to take it down, despite the fact that it has been up since before Thanksgiving.

I was offered pretty much the perfect job for me.  I have been there for a month now, and the giddiness still has not faded.

So, this a look back at my year.  Pretty amazing, right?  I kind of think of it as a montage.  And every montage needs a soundtrack.  So here are some of my favorite songs from 2013 to go along with my look back at this wonderful year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The State of Being Resolute

We are once again on the cusp of a new year, a fresh start, the beginning of endless possibilities.  It is a tradition to make a list of resolutions, things we want to change in ourselves, our lives, our world at large.  Lose weight, stop smoking, read more, swear less, it is different with every one of us.  It is also tradition to abandon most of these resolutions before February.  I think this is because people are looking to change the wrong things, thinking it will lead them to immediate happiness.  The thing people need to be changing is their mindset; they need to realize that we each create our own happiness.  It has little to do with external appearance, and more with internal reflection.  So, in my attempt change my own mindset, I will now admit my list of New Year's Resolutions for 2014.


1.  Laugh every single day.  I try to do this already, and am fairly successful.  Hubby makes me laugh a lot, it is one of my most favorite of his many great qualities.  The dogs make me laugh too.  So between the three of them, I can usually find a reason to laugh, even for just a moment.  And when all else fails, laughs abound on the internet.

2.  Love the people I love in better, kinder, and more abundant ways.  We all have days where we say things we do not mean.  Tempers flare, frustrations arise, sadness falls.  These things are inevitable.  However, the moments that follow these things are the best opportunities to show love when it would be way easier not to.  This means I need to check my envy, swallow my pride, say I am sorry, admit I am wrong, and try to show a little more grace.

3.  Be unashamedly enthusiastic about the things I adore.  Dachshunds and John Roderick, Doctor Who and books of all kinds, creative reuse and gluten free cooking, good music and even better movies, live performances by musicians and comedians, and all things nerdtastic.  These are just some of the things I love.  It is ok if you do not love them, we all have our preferences.  But I do love these things, and will continue to fill my life (and probably my conversations) with them.  I respect the things you enjoy, even if they are different from mine.  I hope you can do the same, because I am never going to stop loving them.

4.  Work harder.  This one applies to all aspects of my life.  Work harder to love myself.  Work harder to make my home the way I want it.  Work harder to establish myself at my new job.  Work harder to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit.  Work harder to care less about other people's expectations and opinions of me.  Work harder to have high expectations and opinions of myself.  Work toward establishing some balance in my life.

5.  Write more, yet blog less.  This might seem antithetical but really it is not.  I have been sort of slacking on my blogs lately, and I think it is, in part, because I need to move on to a new form of writing.  So, in the year to come, I will be backing off from blogging (though not leaving altogether), and reducing the number of reviews I do.  Instead, I will be trying to work on my own personal writing.  I have too many people encouraging me at this point to not at least try.

6.  Stop fearing failure.  My whole life, my biggest fear has been failure.  This fear of failure has caused me to walk away from opportunities, to flee trying new things, and to avoid risks at all costs.  I cannot fail at something if I never attempt it you see.  But by adopting that strategy, I have missed out on some amazing opportunities.  So, I hereby give myself permission to fail.  In fact, I command myself to fail at something this year.  That way, even if I succeed at everything, I will fail at that commandment.  Because I must stop allowing a fear of failure to prevent me from living life to the fullest.  How can I fully appreciate my successes if I never have any failures?

So there you have it.  My New Year's Resolutions for 2014.  

It's going to be a happy new year.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: Christmas Favorites

IMG_1969Well, it is finally here.  Christmas Eve.  The presents are wrapped, the stockings are hung, the halls are decked.  And I can sit back and enjoy the holiday.  Except for the cooking.  And cleaning up.  And then dealing with putting everything back in their respective places.  I guess maybe I will not have much time for relaxing after all!

What I will have time to do, however, is reflect on all the wonderful memories from Christmases in the past.  Sitting at my grandma's house with our huge family, waiting forever to open presents.  Hearing adults sing Polish carols.  Watching my mom make her famous potato salad.  Helping make Christmas cookies.  Tearing open my presents with glee, and saving my stocking for last so that Christmas could last just a tiny bit longer.

As I think back to all these memories, I realize that a very distinct soundtrack plays in my mind.  Songs that were played in our house since the first Christmas I can remember.  I have a very specific list of Christmas songs that are my favorite.  Sometimes it is just the song itself, sometimes it is a version by a specific artist, and sometimes it is just the artist in general that fills me with holiday glee.  So today, on Christmas Eve, my gift to you is a playlist full of my absolute favorite Christmas songs.  Each one is tied to memories of my childhood, and Christmas just is not complete without them.  My family will recognize all of these songs, and know the stories and memories behind them, but for the rest of you, listen and see if you can tie them to memories of your own.

Merriest of Christmases to you all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: Have Yourself a Quirky Little Christmas

Right about now is the time I start stressing out about the holidays.  Waiting for gifts to arrive, trying to get everything wrapped, planning a gluten free holiday menu, attending holiday social functions.  It is all catching up to me.  I cannot imagine how I would feel had I not done most of my shopping before Thanksgiving, or put my tree up in early November.  With the short gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I think we are all feeling the pressure.

And I hate that.

I hate that a holiday that should be about peace, joy, and family instead becomes overwrought with stress.  Sometimes you just have to force yourself to shake it off, and be a little silly.  And what better way to do that than music?


I think by now you are all taking me serious when I say I love Christmas music.  And most of the time I tend to prefer sacred holiday pieces.  But when the clock is winding down, and I still have a million things to do, I absolutely need some music that is going to make me laugh and remember to have fun during the holidays.  So, I threw together a short playlist of the quirkiest holiday songs I knew.  Sing along, dance along, and remember to enjoy the magic of this season.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: Happy Hipster Holidays

Remember how I said I love holiday music?  I was not kidding.  I really do.  So today's playlist is another installment of holiday music.  But, you know me, I have to keep things interesting.

While researching my playlist for last week, I found a offbeat, kooky, hispterish holiday song.  I loved it so much, I used it to start a new playlist.  The playlist was kind of a joke, looking for other indie, folksy, decidedly hipterish songs.  I never expected to fall in love with it.  But that is exactly what I did.

I guess it makes sense, I have quite a few hipster traits.  I like hipster fashion, even if I cannot pull most of it off.  I love to don my glasses, rock my natural curls, and throw on a scarf to look casual and trendy.  So, my fashion sense is on the hipster fringe.  My love of social media is certainly a hipster trait.  My increasing desire to eat a clean, wholesome diet is trending toward the hipster.  My love of obscure music, movies, and books is most definitely hipsterish.  You guys!  Am I a closeted hipster??  I think I might be!  I really hate to fully embrace the label of hipster, because in my mind hipsters are much younger (both chronologically and emotionally) than I am, but there is no doubt I skirt the edges of this subculture.  I would absolutely love it if my little town became a hipster haven, and I think my covert hipster status is what makes me want to move to the west coast.

Hipster holiday

I do not think I will ever be full on hipster.  No PBR or skinny jeans for me thanks.  But I will proudly share this hipster holiday playlist, and tell you that I love it with the fire of 1000 suns.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Musings on the Nutcracker

I have been in super Christmas mode lately.  I have wanted to focus on all things Christmas; music, gift buying and wrapping, movies.  Last night I fell asleep while watching White Christmas; today I am starting my day watching the Nutcracker as I do housework.  Thank goodness for Netflix.

This particular version of the Nutcracker, my personal favorite version, was filmed in 1986.  I can remember, back in the days before cable had made its way to our rural area, this would be aired on our grainy PBS channel, and I would sit in rapt attention watching it.  I have adored it ever since.  However, now that I am an adult, and can watch it on a tv with a crystal clear picture and sound, I am noticing things I never realized before.  First off the costume and production designer was Maurice Sendak.  No wonder I was so fascinated with it.  His artwork papered my childhood.  As I watch it now, I see familiarity in the lines and curves.  And it adore it all the more.  Secondly, the adult Clara narrating the beginning of the story is the voice of Julie Harris.  A prolific stage and screen actress, Harris just passed away this summer.

I am impressed with how well the production has held up; nearly 30 years later it still looks fresh and crisp.  Sure, some of that is probably due to digital remastering, but a lot of it is due to the timeless way it was staged.  In no way does this look like it is from the 80's.  It really is timeless.

Photo courtesy of  Judy van der Velden

Several years ago, I fulfilled a lifelong wish and saw a live production of The Nutcracker in Pittsburgh.  We sprung for first row seats (totally worth it), and I admit, I got a little teary eyed.  While I was never the kind of girl who dreamed of being a ballerina, I was the kind of girl who fell in love with the music of The Nutcracker, and watching it come alive was something I will never forget.  For me, as with most people, the Nutcracker is a holiday staple.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tiffany's Tuesday Tunes: K is for Kris Kringle

011Well, kids, Turkey Day is finally over, it is December, and we can start talking about Christmas without anyone grumbling that it is too early!  I absolutely adore Christmas music.  I remember when I was a child, we had an upright piano, which my brother played.  I used to love getting the Christmas songbooks out and reading the music.  Once I could actually read the notes, I used to pluck the tunes out on the piano keys.  Now, mind you, this behavior was not limited to December.  I used to do it all. year. round.  My poor parents, it must have driven them bananas!

As an adult, I still enjoy Christmas music all year round.  I think it is because there is such a diversity in styles.  Sacred, secular, classical, country, indie rock (oh yeah, I totally have an indie rock Christmas cd).  And my absolute favorite Christmas album is by Barbara Streisand.  Who, as you know, is Jewish.  I think that irony is a little awesome.

I think I will probably have Christmas playlists all month, each one focusing on something specific.  This week I am focusing on Kris Kringle.  Santa Claus.  Saint Nicholas.  Father Christmas.  He goes by many names, but we all know who he is.  The jolly fat man in the red suit who brings you gifts.  I know some people do not like the Santa mythos, because it detracts from the real meaning of Christmas.  I personally think Santa can add to the magic of Christmas, and can be reconciled nicely with the religious significance of the holiday (I know several people who do this well with their kids).  Many people remember being traumatized when they learned the truth about Santa, but I do not.  In fact, I do not even remember when I stopped believing.  I think it is because a part of me still wants to believe in the magic of Santa Claus.

So, while Santa may no longer be the one putting gifts under my tree each year, his spirit still lives in my home, particularly through music.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cartoons by Hubby: Cyber Monday

The Backstory:
It is Cyber Monday, the big day of online holiday bargains.  My email has been bombarded since 4 am with bargains and deals, which is awesome, except... my shopping is done.  So, thanks but no thanks.

Early this morning, I posted these sentiments on Facebook, and less than an hour later, I got this amazing cartoon from Hubby.  For those who do not know, it is an homage to Doctor Who.

You're Welcome.