Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Craft Resolution!

Hi, everyone. My name is Monica...and I am a yarn addict.

Hi, Monica.

I have a basket in the living room filled with the yarn for a half-finished afghan...

At least it's all one project.

Our spare bedroom has a large shipping box full to overflowing...

Still not so bad, right?

The box is right next to a large chest, which is ALSO filled with, you guessed it, MORE YARN.

The volume of this chest is over 11,000 cubic inches. Full of yarn.

Thus, the shipping box. I literally could not fit any more yarn in this chest. There is only one thing to be done with all this yarn: Use it. But for what? My crafting time is limited to when I come home from work in the evenings...or on the train. It would need to be something small and portable. Something I can work up easily and quickly. Something I can make in different styles. Something like...hats.

I love hats. They keep the sun out of my eyes in the summer and keep my ears from falling off during long Chicago winters. My current favorite hat is a Care Bear hat that I bought this summer at Wizard World:

Yes, that is Amy Acker with me. Wizard World is AWESOME.

But I also love to make hats. They can come in any color, size, or style. They work with yarn that's thin, thick, cheap, expensive, solid color, multi-colored, you name it. My New Year's resolution is to make at least one hat every week. And to blog about it. Most of the hats will go to various charities in the Chicago area, so if you know of one that would like hand-knitted hats, please let me know!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Grinch Song List

"I must find a way to stop Christmas from that I never have to hear these five songs again."

#5: Christmas Time Is Here from "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

Why I don't like it: I have nothing against "A Charlie Brown Christmas." It's a sweet little special with a good message. And I love Snoopy. But this song grates on my nerves. If their voices were any higher I would worry about my glasses shattering.

#4: Here Comes Santa Claus

Why I don't like it: I always found it odd that this song mixes the religious and secular traditions of Christmas. "Santa knows that we're God's children, that makes everything right." So Santa doesn't visit atheists? That's kind of a dick move. Also, when I was little I knew at least one Christian family who made sure their kids knew that Santa was not real, because if they found out later that Mom and Dad lied about Santa...what if that means they lied about God, too?

#3: Santa Baby

Why I don't like it: The point of this song is selfishness. The singer gives Santa her list of increasingly large demands--a car, a yacht, a duplex, diamonds on her Christmas tree--and it's all played for laughs. At least when Janis Joplin sang "Oh Lord, Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz?" she was being ironic.

#2: Do They Know It's Christmas?

Yes, this version by BNL is from the same album that provided five songs on my favorites list. I figured it was only fair.

Why I don't like it: I am well aware that there are people in the world who have horrible lives, and their lives don't magically improve at Christmas. But there is a difference between this song and, say, a volunteer for the Salvation Army. The point of the bell-ringers is to say, "There are people who have crappy lives. Can you give us something to help them?" The point of this song is to say, "There are people who have crappy lives. You should feel bad."

For an added bonus, listen to this song while doing your Christmas shopping: "There are people who have crappy lives. You should feel bad. Buy our shit!"

#1: Baby, It's Cold Outside

Why I don't like it: I never really listened to this song until I was in college, working a part-time job to help pay for tuition and books. Like every other store on the planet, we switched to full-time Christmas music after Thanksgiving. The line that caught my attention was when the woman sings, "Say, what's in this drink?" To be fair, when the song was written that line probably did not call up implications of Rohypnol. But after that, I started listening to the lyrics more carefully, and I discovered something: this song is creepy as hell. It's all about a man trying to convince a woman to spend the night with him because of a storm. The woman protests--at one point she even says, "The answer is no,"--but the man will not take no for an answer. Worst-case scenario, she has not only been drugged, she is also underage, because she points out that her parents will worry if she does not come home.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar, December 24

Today's song: I Saw Three Ships by Barenaked Ladies

Why I love it: There are two things about this song that really make it stand out. The first is the mandolin in the background. So joyful. The second is the slightly syncopated rhythm (ooooh, technical music term!). Before I heard this version, I never really cared about "Three Ships." I didn't dislike it; it just seemed like a forgettable song to me. The only thing I dislike about this song is that it is only a minute long.

Merry Christmas eve, everyone! I am off to bake brownies. I will have a "Bah, Humbug List" of Christmas songs I don't like in a few days. Look for new crafty and/or geeky posts from Crafty Geek in the new year! I hope you enjoyed the advent calendar of songs.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar, December 23

Today's song: Away in a Manger by Mannheim Steamroller

Why I love it: This is the one song by Mannheim Steamroller that I actually like. Usually I find their songs too bombastic. I can't really explain what I dislike exactly. Probably the instruments. Away in a Manger has always been one of my favorite Christmas carols, and they actually do a nice, simple rendition. The electronic instruments that make up their usual sound have been traded in for a recorder and guitar. The first time I heard this song, I was shocked to find out it was by Mannheim Steamroller.

This song is actually a last-minute substitute. The one I wanted to feature is apparently not on YouTube at all: Jeffrey Osborne's version of Angels We Have Heard on High/Hark the Herald Angels Sing. I looked through several pages of Google results, and there is nowhere to listen without either paying for it or signing up for some unknown site. You can listen to the preview and download it from Amazon (track 10) if you're interested.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar, December 22

Today's song: O Come All Ye Faithful by Amy Grant

Why I love it: As I mentioned way back in my first advent calendar post, Amy Grant has a marvelous voice. This is another song with a great arrangement. The guitar blends with the singing perfectly. This is a simple arrangement, and in this case it works far better than a more complex arrangement would. Also, I like how she sings more than one verse.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar, December 21

I apologize for the lateness in today's post--there were technical difficulties with my Internet this morning. At least the world didn't end...

Today's song: Ding Dong! Merrily on High by Canadian Brass

Why I love it: I love brass music. I played the French horn in band as a kid, which probably has something to do with it. This arrangement is big and bold, and joyful at the same time. Whenever I hear this song, I find myself humming along, with a big smile on my face.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar, December 20

Today's song: We Three Kings/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by BNL, featuring Sarah McLachlan

Why I love it: The musical arrangement on this song is fantastic. I'm not sure if the fully dressed men in Bare Naked Ladies play their own instruments or if they have a backup band, but they do a great job. It also takes two of my favorite Christmas carols and combines them seamlessly. There's another song coming up in the countdown that does the same thing. Finally, Sarah McLachlan has a gorgeous voice. It's nice to hear her singing something for once that doesn't make me want to this song about being an abandoned toy. If you really want to cry, listen to these two songs, featured in two separate commercials for animal shelters.

Man, now I need to cheer myself up again. If you like "All I Want for Christmas Is You," check out this version from the Jimmy Fallon show. Mariah Carey sings, and The Roots play the background music...on grade-school music instruments. And that's not even the best part. What is? Watch the video!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar, December 19

Today's song: I Pray On Christmas by Harry Connick Jr.

Why I love it: Harry Connick Jr has soul...and 99.99% of the time people say that, they're not talking about a white guy. ;-)

This song rocks. And if you pray, when you pray, listen to this song. The things he prays for--understanding, strength for those who are sick, working out problems--are good things to pray for on Christmas day or any other day of the year. They are also things we can all work for, whether you personally pray or not.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar, December 18

Today's song: Nothing But a Child by Robin and Linda Williams (no, not that Robin Williams)

Why I love it: This song is just beautiful. I love the message: Christ came into the world as a child, and all children are miracles. It may sound sappy, but it is a message that I believe. "Nothing but a Child could wash those tears away, and guide a weary world into the light of day. Nothing but a Child could help erase those miles, so once again we all can be children for a while."

I purposely arranged my countdown so my more religious-themed songs and Christmas carols would be in the final days before Christmas. Only one week left! Yikes. I'm almost done with my gifts. There are a couple things I still need to buy, and one handmade project left to finish.'

How are your preparations coming?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar, December 17

Today's song: This Christmas by Donny Hathaway

Why I love it: This is such a jazzy and joyful song. The lyrics are fun, the instrumentation is great, and I can't help but start dancing every time I hear it. The cover by CeeLo Green is also good, but I am posting the original here because this version is my favorite.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar, December 16

Today's song: Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney

Why I love it: This is another song that just puts a smile on my face when I hear it. The lyrics are simple and the tune is catchy. I'm not sure what instrument they used in the background that makes the twanging sounds, but it lends the song a great sound.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar: December 15

Before I continue with the Christmas song countdown I would like to say that my thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. My heart breaks for the families of the victims.

Today's song: Snoopy's Christmas by The Royal Guardsmen

Why I love it: The songwriters may not have known it, but there was an actual Christmas truce during World War I. I always loved this song, with its message of peace and hope, but once I found out about that story, my appreciation for this song grew even more.

That's all I have for today. Hug your loved ones tight.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar: December 14

Today's song: Jingle Bells by Barenaked Ladies

Why I love it: It starts out slow and melodic, then joyful, and then just plain goofy. I started laughing the first time I heard this song, especially because I have never heard another recorded version which includes the "alternative" lyrics to the chorus (Jingle bells, Batman smells...). To this day it puts a smile on my face every time I hear it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar: December 13

Today's song: All I Want for Christmas is You, by Mariah Carey

Why I love it: This one is dedicated to my wonderful husband Jason. Like the song says, having loved ones in your life is better than any presents underneath the Christmas tree. It's even better than snow...and coming from me, that's saying something. ;-)

This video claims that this song is sexist because it perpetuates the idea that all women need to find a man to complete their lives. While I agree with her assessment of the other songs discussed in the video, I've always taken this one to be about a woman who has already found the love of her life and, for whatever reason, she hasn't seen him for a long time. She is singing because she misses him, a la "Please Come Home for Christmas." Of course, if you start with the assumption that she is singing about her crush, who has no idea she exists...yeah, I can see a stalker vibe.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar: December 12

Today's Song: Parade of the Wooden Soldiers by Harry Connick Jr.

Why I love it: This is another one I loved as a kid. It is such a fun song. I loved imagining all of the toys coming to life and having a party after Santa left his workshop. Even though Santa is never mentioned specifically, I always pictured him as the toy shop owner. Also, the music just makes you want to dance. I played this song for my preschool class yesterday and they immediately started marching along to the music. It was adorable.

It's interesting how portrayals of Santa have changed these days. I saw a Christmas cartoon from the Disney Channel a few weeks ago about Santa's elves. Apparently, instead of magic, Santa now uses an Internet database to keep track of the Naughty/Nice list. Also, his elves have electronic gadgets and communicate with Santa on walkie-talkies...or maybe they were cell phones. Anyway, I just thought it was interesting that magic had been replaced by technology.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar, December 11

Today's song: Step Into Christmas by Elton John

Why I love it: This is another rockin' Christmas song. It would be perfect to play at a holiday party. The melody is catchy and puts a smile on my face every time. The lyrics are a little bit nonsensical, but for this song it works perfectly.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar: December 10

 Today's Song: White Christmas by The Drifters

Why I love it: As I mentioned previously, I love snow. I always dream of a white Christmas, and I'm always excited when we get fresh snow. It seems like an extra gift. To top it off, this version rocks. I love the background vocals. It was featured in another of my favorite Christmas movies, Home Alone. Unfortunately, if I want to sing along with this song, I need to resort to lip-syncing too (at least for the first verse). My range is definitely less "The Drifters" and more "The Chipmunks."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar: December 9

Today's song: The 12 Days of Christmas by John Denver & The Muppets

Why I love it: FIIIIIIIVE...GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLD...RIIIIIIIIINGS!!! (Ba-dam-bam) What's not to love about the Muppets? This is another song that brings back childhood memories. I also love A Muppet Christmas Carol, with Statler and Waldorf as Jacob and Robert Marley.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar: December 8

Today's song: Everyone's A Kid at Christmas Time by Stevie Wonder

Why I love it: This is another song that just captures the spirit of the season. There is so much to enjoy around Christmas and it brings out the best in people (even Scrooge!). The tune is catchy and upbeat. I love the piano at the beginning.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Song Advent Calendar: December 7

Today's song: Christmastime (Oh Yeah) by Barenaked Ladies

Why I love it: This song captures the spirit of the holidays perfectly: spending time with family, taking pleasure in small things, singing Christmas carols. And sometimes, the best way to express your feelings is with a big, contented "Oh yeah!" One of the reasons BNL is one of my favorite lines is because their voices sound very melodic, which often contrasts nicely with the off-the-wall lyrics they write. What else would you expect from the band who once famously concluded, "If I had a million dollars/(If I had a million dollars!)/If I had a million DOLLLAAARRRRS...I'd be rich!"

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Songs

I love music, and there are some Christmas songs that always put a huge grin on my face. There are some I can't stand, too, but for now I am going to talk about one favorite song for each day leading up to Christmas.  After Christmas I might do a feature on "Christmas songs I'm glad I won't hear for another year."

Anyway, I have a bit of catching up to do, so let us jump right in!

December 1: You're A Mean One, Mister Grinch by Thurle Ravenscroft

Why I love it: This is the closest thing to an anti-Christmas song you will find on my list. The Grinch is one of those villains you just love to hate. Plus, it's sung by Thurle Ravenscroft, who also voiced Tony the Tiger for years of Frosted Flakes commercials.

December 2: Deck the Stills by Barenaked Ladies

Why I love it: I love BNL. Their album "Barenaked For the Holidays" has more favorites on my list than any other album. Oddly enough, it also has some songs which I can't stand, but I find this one hilarious. It's such a simple concept: singing "Deck the Halls" but replacing all the lyrics with "Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young."

December 3: (It Must Have Been Ol') Santa Claus by Harry Connick Jr.

Why I love it: The other album which contains several of my favorite songs is Harry Connick Jr.'s "When My Heart Finds Christmas." This was the album we would always play at my house when we were decorating the tree or baking Christmas cookies, so it definitely has a nostalgic feel for me now. This song is jazzy and the chorus has me singing along every time. Fun fact: for the longest time, I thought the phrase "big red hat" was "favorite hat," like the kid in the song had lost his favorite hat at some point in the past but Santa magically found it for him.

December 4: Winter Wonderland by Amy Grant

Why I love it: I love snow. I feel like it's compensation for dealing with the cold--the newly fallen snow makes everything look fresh and clean, even if I do need to bundle up in a puffy jacket and two layers of gloves. I love walking through the snow when it's coming down, because it does feel like a fantasy world. Also, Amy Grant has a marvelous voice.

December 5: Frosty, the Snow Man by Canadian Brass

Why I love it: ONE MORE TIME! Because you know what happens when Frosty gets hot...Also, the world needs more tuba.

December 6: Blue Christmas by Porky Pig

Why I love it: I heard this song for the first time several years ago, when our family decided for the first (and last) time to tune our radios to Chicago's Lite FM, which plays nothing but Christmas music between Halloween and New Year's. It seemed like they were playing Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas" every ten minutes, so this version was a welcome break. I could not stop cracking up the first time I heard it.

Check back every day (hopefully!) for the next song on my list.

Monday, October 8, 2012

How To Make PayPal Completely Useless (For 5 Years)

In 5 Easy Steps!

Step 1: Create a PayPal account using a temporary e-mail address. College e-mail addresses work particularly well.
Step 2: Add your only credit card to your account. Any time you want to use this card on sites that use PayPal, you will need to log into your account. This includes eBay, Etsy, and those great little sites that only accept PayPal payments because they're easy and secure.
Step 3: Forget your password. This is the easy part.
Step 4: Wait until the e-mail address that you used to create the account no longer exists. This means that PayPal is completely unable to e-mail you a link to reset your password! It also means that, even if you create a new account, you cannot add your credit card because it is already listed on another account!
Step 5: Use the "phone confirmation" option in your parents' basement, which typically gets one bar on a good day. This means that instead of receiving a phone call and inputting the password reset code, you will receive a voicemail half an hour later, and still be unable to reset your password.

The good news is that, apparently, my old account must have been inactive long enough that I was finally able to add my card to the new account I created (with my personal e-mail address, thank you very much). My theory is that the period of inactivity must have just ended, because I tried adding my card when I renewed it earlier this year, but PayPal still would not accept it. I was all set to try the phone recovery option again, but it turned out I didn't need to. Yay! I celebrated by starting on my Christmas shopping.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why I Love Summer

I am a person who very rarely remembers my dreams. Not sure why, and sometimes I wish I remembered them more often. Last night, I had such a great dream that I decided I had to write it down so I would remember it.

I was at work, and they were having a picnic. I work in a daycare center which is on the first floor of an office building, and in my dream the picnic was for everyone who works in the building. So I got to meet a lot of new people, and everyone was very friendly. The weather was perfect, the food was was overall just a nice time.

 Then the dream shifted to later in the afternoon, and I was outside with the kids in my preschool class, playing in the sprinkler. We actually did this yesterday, but in reality our "sprinkler" is just a garden hose, and we just sprayed the kids from the knees down. The lead teacher was afraid that the kids would be too cold if we got them wet all over. Also, we sprayed them one at a time because she was worried someone would get hurt if they ran around too much. But in my dream, the kids had an actual sprinkler, and they got to run around and get soaked.

Then the sprinkler turned into something I remember from a park in my neighborhood growing up: a giant whale that sprays water, big enough for the kids to climb on. Again, everyone was just having a good time. No worries about getting too wet or falling and getting hurt.

 Just pure summer fun.

And that is why I woke up with a huge smile on my face this morning.

In other news, Jason and I saw Brave last night. Highly recommended. In fact, I am off right now to find the soundtrack on iTunes. ^_^