Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in pictures

Happy New Year! Below is my attempt to present my year using only one picture per month. I had to cheat for November (you'll understand why) and December (I made a collage, so it's technically only one picture...). 2013 has been a great year. Here's to a lovely 2013.


Molly, asleep in the winter sun.

The fateful Half Price Books in Humble concert, during which our car broke down and we were stuck in Houston.

Studying for doctoral exams, which I passed!


Easter brights.

I was there too, I promise.

5th anniversary festivities

My favorite show to play this year: Dallas does the Eagles


Back to school!


Never. Ending. Pasta. Bowl. (with some of my favorite people)

Avengers for Halloween

Two new baby nieces on their first ever Thanksgiving. How could I choose between them?


From top left: a scene from Narnia on a white Christmas in Paris, TX; caroling with Highland Baptist Church; we roasted marshmallows around this fire; Uncle Adam tackling my future-NFL/rock - star nephew; country Christmas; Molly and the book tree.

Happy 2013 everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

What Child is This?

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!

This weekend, I had a blast playing Christmas songs at Opening Bell Coffee's annual Christmas Open Mic. As usual, it was a wonderfully talented bunch of performers and songwriters, and we really enjoyed being part of the holiday spirit.

Now, it's Christmas eve, and to get you in the spirit, here's that other Christmas tune I promised you: "What Child is This?" featuring the alternate chorus lyrics.

From the picture on this video of a peaceful Molly-cat, you might be tempted to answer the question, "What Child is This" with: a fuzzy orange tabby. But that would have truly frightening theological implications. So, I'm going to stick with the answer:

"This, This is Christ the King, 
whom shepherds laud and angels sing; 
haste, haste to bring Him laud,
 the babe, the son of Mary."

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Friday: Books and Cats and Christmas

Earlier this month, I showed you our book tree with Desmond trying to knock it over. Today, I bring photos of Molly and the tree -- a perfect picture of the personalities of our two cats: Desmond tries to destroy things while Molly sleeps and looks pretty. Now that I've switched to this tree-topper, Desmond generally leaves the tree alone, but the mere glimmer of tinsel turns him insane. Yesterday, I was wrapping presents and struggling to keep the crinkly paper and ribbon away from Desmond's adorable-yet-mischievous white paws. I turned my head for a second and when I looked back he had strings of shiny red tinsel in his mouth. I thought I got all of it out, but later I found a lovely new Christmas present: throw-up with strands of tinsel glittering throughout. sigh. At least we also have the good cat:

I love that in this picture you can just see our mantle with stockings. Here's a close-up:

That was a long time ago. Now that little count-down Santa says "04"

Also, Molly is good at hiding.

A close-up of the top of the book tree. It's kind of amazing what books ended up on the tree through searching for mostly red and green books. A yellow one ended up near the top because it was the right size. I really enjoy the interplay of those top 5 books: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton; A Theological Miscellany; The Divine Life of the Most Holy Virgin; Jesus: Man or Myth?; and finally, a Gideon's New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Bible -- the perfectly-sized topper, and sort of symbolic, too. I'm not sure what Tolkien Commentaries, Beckett's Endgame, and The Heidegger Reader say about us -- probably just that we're both graduate students.

Happy Friday, and Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

A couple of years ago, I recorded two Christmas songs in my home studio, playing and singing all the parts myself as a fun, winter-break project. Ever since, I've wanted to do more Christmas songs, but we've had some problems with our recording equipment at home, and going into the studio is expensive. But here's one of the songs for you, one of my favorite Advent songs of longing: "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus:"

Speaking of songs of Advent longing, check out my post over at Thinking Through Christianity about a little-known Christmas carol in which a mother mourns the death of her child in Herod's Massacre of the Innocents.

I'll post another Christmas song next week.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Hobbit Day -- er -- Friday!

As you can tell from my relative blog silence, this week marked the end of the semester and all its accompanying insanity. Today, I will calculate and enter my final grades and then go celebrate by watching The Hobbit. In college, when the first Lord of the Rings movies came out, I would have been at last night's midnight showing, but neither my body nor my schedule is that forgiving any more, so I'm looking forward to date night tonight in middle earth and my local Studio Movie Grill.

I know this is not a holiday post per se, but since the first movies also came out around finals week/Christmastime, Peter Jackson's vision of Tolkien's world has seemed, ever since then, like the perfect way to celebrate Christmas. And, really, what could be better to celebrate Christmas than a tale of prophecy and promise, good triumphing over evil, and order and peace restored to earth? I mean, middle earth.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Happy Friday: 5 unfamiliar Christmas songs

Happy Friday! Today I am shamelessly recycling a post I wrote last Christmas over at Thinking Through because it features 5 of my favorite Christmas songs that don't get nearly enough attention. I'm copying the post below, but here's a link to the original.

5 Christmas Songs You Should Be Singing, but Aren't

I'm sure that the giant stack of papers I need to grade accounts for my breaking my Thinking Through Christianity silence today, but that's all right -- the joys of Christmas music are worth it. So here goes, amid the shiny pop strains of "All I want for Christmas is You" and the ten-jillionth (yes, "jillionth") rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," here are 5 Christmas songs worthy of your attention:

1. Wexford CarolThis Irish/English carol, from the 12th century, is one of the oldest surviving European carols. Its opening lines are a beautiful call to maintaining memory of why we celebrate Christmas: "Good people all, this Christmas time, consider well and bear in mind what our good God for us hath done in sending His beloved Son." Also, the linked recording, by Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss is transcendent.

2. Sussex Carol: Apparently, I really like Christmas songs named after parts of England. You may also know it as "On Christmas Night All Christians Sing." This one is remarkable for its lyrics, which point to the redemptive work of Christ: 

Then why should men on earth be so sad
Since our Redeemer made us glad,
When from sin He set us free
All for to gain our liberty.


When sin departs before His grace,
Then life and health come in its place.
Angels and men with joy may sing
All for to see the new-born King.

I haven't been able to find a recording that I really love, but my band and I perform this song each Christmas in an energetic, lilting style that always brings me the joy of Christmas. Maybe some day we'll record it this way.

3. The third verse of "Joy to the World": I know I'm being awfully lyrics-heavy here, but have you seen these wonderful words?

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

When we say "Joy the world," we don't just mean people, we also mean the earth. Christ's coming signals the coming of His Kingdom, which extends to every bit of creation that has been tainted by sin and the fall. His blessings flow to the most wounded individual as well as to the most hurt part of the earth -- and it even extends to horrible, horrible pop music. Yes, one day, we will hear perfect music on a perfectly restored planet, with perfectly restored bodies and souls. This is all part of the promise of redemption.

4. Come On, Everybody! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!As far as I can tell, this Sufjan Stevens song has no deep theological value. But, for me, it captures the sheer joy of Christmastime like nothing else I can think of. Just listen for yourself and see if it doesn't make you smile.

5. Here Comes the Sun: Okay, I know this isn't technically a Christmas song, and some people at your church would look at you really strangely if you started playing this on Sunday morning, but the theme of this song is what Advent is all about -- I mean, people have been using images of light shining in the darkness as metaphors for the Messiah for a long time. Just check out this passage from Isaiah 9:

 The people walking in darkness
   have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
   a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
   and increased their joy...

 For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace...
To which, I joyously respond, "Sun, sun, sun, here it comes!" 

This Saturday, Dec.8th, at Coffeehouse Cafe, from 6:30-9:30, I will be providing, along with my usual originals and covers, plenty of lovely Christmas music, and you can bet that these 5 songs will be on the list. Well, except for the Sufjan Stephens, because there's no imitating him. And you might even hear my version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," too.

What other Christmas songs would you want to hear?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Advent

This Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas in which we remember Jesus's birth and anticipate his return. I think I love Advent even more than Christmas itself. I love the sense of anticipation, the music, the parties, the food, but even more than that, I love the constant reminders during the Advent season of the essential mysteries of my faith. Expressed through the songs of the season, I am reminded of "the incarnate deity" who "comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found;" that "the wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth good will to men;" and I am encouraged to "rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing." At no other season are these messages so much a part of the fabric of ordinary life, even amid the inevitable commercialism and cheesy renditions of "All I want for Christmas is You." The lights all around remind me of the need for "the Light of the world;" the gifts remind me of God's gracious gifts; even the food reminds me of the spiritual feast that God Himself provides in sending His son.

So over the next four weeks, I'll be devoting my posts to various Advent musings alongside pictures and stories of our own Advent preparations, like our book tree:

This year, inspired by various pictures online, we decided to make a tree out of books. Our first topper proved to be no more than a cat toy, but we did finally solve that problem.

May this Advent season be a peaceful time of reflection for you, even in the midst of holiday craziness.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy Friday with Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel might be my favorite group. I say "might" only because it's hard to top the Beatles or Led Zepplin, but Simon and Garfunkel are right up there at the top alongside those two greats. I first truly discovered Simon and Garfunkel in High School, with a live greatest hits CD. I still can't hear certain songs of theirs without thinking that applause is supposed to immediately follow. And my favorite song of all time, "America," is by Simon and Garfunkel. One of the most fun moments of Cameron Crow's film Almost Famous happens when Zooey Deschanel's character is caught smuggling the Simon and Garfunkel Record Bookends, on which the song "America" was released, into their home. (The idea that anyone would need to smuggle this record, which includes, alongside the gentle musings of the title track and "America," Garfunkel's artistic recordings of elderly people talking about their lives, is hilarious in itself). Defending the music to her mother, who insists that all rock music is about "drugs and promiscuous sex," Zooey's character yells, "Simon and Garfunkel is poetry!" "Yes," her mother replies, "It's the poetry of drugs and promiscuous sex." The mother then points to Paul Simon's puppy dog eyes on the iconic cover and insists that he is high on pot.

I, of course, side with Zooey on this one: Paul Simon is a poet, and the music that he and Art Garfunkel made together was poetry of its own sort. That's why I'm so excited to be joining with other performers in tonight's Dallas does the Music of Simon and Garfunkel at Opening Bell Coffee. The show starts at 7:30, it's $5, and you get to hear some of the greatest music ever. Bonus: I get to play my favorite song of all time. Here's a clip from Almost Famous featuring "America" to get you in the mood:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Giving Thanks

This year, we had two Thanksgiving dinners. The first was with my family on Thanksgiving day. The pictures below do not begin to show you how much food we had -- I think we set a record.

After giving our bellies a rest for a day, it was off to Thanksgiving feast, number 2 with Adam's family. We forgot to put the memory card in our camera that day, so we were limited to pictures from other peoples' smart phones. Again, the photos don't do it justice:

What a display of harvest blessing! The food alone shows how much we have to be thankful for. I'm hoping this thankful attitude can carry me through the crazy/busy end of this semester.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Black Friday

I'm enjoying the day off -- without going to the sales -- and I hope all of you are having a lovely Thanksgiving Holiday. I just wanted to remind you that the Dallas Does Simon and Garfunkel event will not be happening tonight. It was moved to next Friday, November 30th.

Here are some pictures of my parents' cats, Regina, Red, and Ringo. to make your holiday that much brighter:

More Thanksgiving pics to come. Right now, I'm enjoying cuddling with my own cats and decking our apartment out for Christmas.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

5 songs of thanks

This morning I'm thankful for a lot of things: that there's no school or work for me today, that I'm about to cook a whole lot of delicious oatmeal butterscotch cookies, and that Christmastime is upon us. And those are just the shallow things. Here are a few songs that express my thankfulness:

1. "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty," a 17th century hymn that never fails to remind me of my reasons for thankfulness with lines like, "hast thou not seen how thy desires e'er have been granted in what He ordaineth?" and "Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee." This version, by Christy Nockels, is my favorite.

2. Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke," which reminds me of how grateful I am for the musical greats who have gone before: "Basie, Miller, Satchmo, And the king of all Sir Duke/ And with a voice like Ella's ringing out
There's no way the band can lose..." Plus, there's no better song to dance to.

3. Gungor's "You Are the Beauty," which praises God for gifts like "music," "flavors," "breath, and sex, and sight." The song then moves into a fantastic jam (this live version rocks) that displays just how much reason we have to be thankful for music.

4. Led Zeppelin's "Thank You." This super-romantic song is the perfect way to tell someone you love how much they mean, all while getting to rock-out as you tell them.

5. Bing Crosby singing "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)." This one reminds me of all my blessings, puts me in the Christmas spirit, and puts me to sleep. (I don't know whether or not that's a compliment, but it's true.) In college, the Sunday night after our big Christmas concert, the whole music department would gather in the choir room to watch White Christmas on a big screen with lots of hot cocoa and other goodies and, of course, lots of singing along. It's one of my favorite college memories -- and yet another thing for which I am very thankful.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Happy Friday Thanks

I am thankful:

For getting to wear jeans to work

For donuts, for Starbucks, for long lunches, for company parties that all seem so appropos that one day of the week

For date night, girls’ night, gig night

For getting off work or class early

For memories of Fridays past: for Urkel and Uncle Jesse and Corey and Topanga. For school dances. For the feeling that anything could happen on a Friday night.

For this one-man a capella medley of TGIF theme songs.

For the anticipation of sleeping in, having a leisurely brunch, watching chick flicks in pajamas on Saturday morning

For “permission” to rest

For all the excitement of a weekend before it has slipped away in as much of a busy flurry as the week -- on Friday we still feel the excitement, still believe a million projects can be accomplished, still believe in weekend magic.

For the feeling, once more, that we’ve accomplished something. Or, if we haven’t, that we get to leave this week behind and start over next week.

For all these reasons, I give thanks for Fridays.

And I hope yours is a very happy one.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Giving thanks for Coffee

It's November 13, so I'm 13 days late at jumping on the facebook bandwagon of posting something I'm thankful for each day of November. Instead, I'm going to dedicate my remaining November blog posts to the theme of giving thanks. Today is simple: I'm thankful for coffee and for my sweet husband who has been getting up earlier than me all semester to make it. In the fall, he spices the coffee with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sometimes ginger, putting the spices right in the coffee grounds before it's made, and it is the perfect way to wake up on a chilly morning like this one.

Coffee has been my fuel of choice since college. I like it unsweetened, with cream, or with a delicious flavored creamer (today it's pumpkin spice). My favorite everyday coffee is Chock full of nuts, which we buy in huge containers from Tom Thumb, the only place around here that carries it. My favorite special coffee is Lavazza Espresso, or if I'm in the mood for a really dark, smoky, kind-of chocolat-ey roast, Starbucks' Verona Blend. My favorite espresso beverage is a perfect Italian cappuccino, which is not easy to find with that just-right-balance of espresso, milk, and foam. I've had particularly good ones at Coffeehouse Cafe, Buon Giorno Coffee, and the Pearl Cup. I also have pretty good luck if I order a short cappuccino at Starbucks. It's not on the menu, but if you request it, they will make it, and it has the same amount of espresso as the tall, but a better milk-to-foam-to-espresso ratio. My favorite fancy Starbucks beverage is a raspberry mocha. If they ever discontinue the raspberry syrup I will be a sad girl.

I love coffeehouses, too. I've been enchanted with them since high school; I thought they were so cool -- meccas for intellectuals, students, journalers, and book worms. And musicians, of course. I couldn't wait to be the featured performer at a coffeehouse, playing gentle, folk-y music, passing the hat in the old-school, Bob Dylan style. Looking back on my almost 15 years playing music in coffeehouses, I've been welcomed by all sorts of local shops, and seen more closings of truly great coffee shops than I'd like to count. Some that stand out in my memory are three excellent Fort Worth Coffeehouses that are now no longer with us: four-star coffeebar, Eurotazza coffee, and Panther City Coffee. Eurotazza stands out for actually paying its musicians (no wonder they had to close :( ) But all these wonderful establishments paid in coffee, which, as I've already made clear, I love. I especially enjoyed Panther City because I would take home a pound of delicious, house-roasted coffee at the end of the gig and enjoy it for a couple more weeks.

So I'm thankful for coffee, and I'm even more thankful for the people who make it -- like my sweet husband, my local baristas, the deacon at church who gets the coffee going before anyone walks in, and my mom, whose coffee habit taught me to associate a good morning with the funny little sounds of a drip machine and the smell of coffee floating down the hall. Being thankful for coffee is more than being thankful for a shallow creature comfort; it's about being thankful for the people and experiences that go along with that morning, afternoon, and late-night-study-session beverage. If, like T.S. Eliot's Prufrock, I have "measured out my life in coffee spoons," I can also count up the deep and lively conversations, the Scrabble games, the open mic nights, the finished papers or projects, the late-night movie screenings, the early-morning church services, or the quiet afternoons reading a book or having a heart-to-heart that were enlivened or made possible by coffee.

So this Thanksgiving, I will give thanks for coffee -- by having it in my traditional Thanksgiving manner: poured over a giant scoop of homemade whipped cream, paired with some pumpkin pie, while catching up with family as the Cowboys play in the background. Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Happy Friday: 5 ways to combat writer's block

Writing a dissertation puts me in the position of dealing with writer's block way more than I'd like. Here are some things that help:

5. Work in a different medium

Sometimes when I'm stuck -- especially if I lack ideas about a topic -- it's helpful for me to do something creative with the material: write a song about it, make a collage, draw a picture, etc. I think doing this helps me see the material in a different way and forces me to make sense of the ideas in a very different context, which makes me hone in on what is most important about what I'm trying to say. It also helps me, if I'm working constantly on a computer, to do something physical -- write by hand or make an outline and then cut up the pieces and rearrange them -- or draw a giant timeline in dry-erase marker on a mirror, like I did last spring, when studying for exams:

4. Sleep

It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but often, when I'm working on a big project and suddenly feel like I can't go on, a little nap (or a long one) will help tremendously. I'll usually wake up with the solution to whatever problem I had been trying to solve. Plus, it's better to be well-rested when writing anyway.

3. Make lists

I do this constantly -- on Google calendar, on random note cards, in my journal, on the back of any random scrap of paper that happens my way -- heck, I'm doing it right now. Lists help me brainstorm and organize and just get my thoughts out of my head and on paper (or on a computer screen). They help me to complete tasks, they help me to generate ideas, and they help me remember to do things like buy cat food or pay the electric bill or call a friend. Lists are my friend.

2. Free-write

This one sounds a little cliche, but it works like a charm. If you've never done a free-write before, here's what you do: set yourself a goal -- either a word goal or a time goal -- for how long you want to write, then, write as much as you can, as quickly as you can, on whatever topic you're trying to write more about. Don't stop, don't censor yourself, and don't worry about grammar, spelling, etc. -- just write. I am amazed at the things that somehow come out of my head when I do this. Two websites that are made just to facilitate this sort of thing, and which I have found useful are and, both of which have ways of helping you set and adhere to free-writing goals. 750 words encourages daily writing of -- you guessed it -- 750 words, and it works mostly through "rewards" of winning badges for meeting writing goals. Write or die works through "punishment" for not writing -- you set a word or a time goal on the site's writing application, and the program keeps you on track by playing a horrible noise after a certain amount of time spent not writing or, on more strict modes, by actually deleting your material.

And the number one way to fix writer's block:

1. Get a deadline!

I am never more productive than under a tight deadline. Likewise, I am least productive when I lack a tight deadline. The deadlines always win. "Get some self-control," you say; "be a grown-up," you say. The problem, of course, is that being a grown-up means meeting lots of deadlines: paying rent, going to the dentist regularly, getting to work on time, meeting other responsibilities. Sure, I have internal motivation to write and all that jazz, but if anything else in my life has more pressing deadlines than my writing does (and lots of things do), I will always spend more time on those things than on my writing. That's what makes my current task of dissertation-writing so darn difficult: there are no hard deadlines. But Friday comes at the same time each week, so I usually keep my appointment to write a "Happy Friday" post like this one. See what I mean? The deadlines always win. I've tried, but mostly failed, at setting up some artificial deadlines with people in my life to hold me accountable, but that hasn't worked very well. There's no grade or job at stake yet. Maybe I just need to make my dissertation goals public, on this site, since apparently I feel compelled to write at least 2 weekly posts here. Do you have any ideas for how to make deadlines when there aren't any? I desperately need them.

And I desperately need you -- to have a Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Dylan Diaries: Dylan Live

Set List, Bob Dylan 11/1/12 at Verizon Theatre:

Watching The River Flow

Read more:

Thank goodness Dylan posts these set lists on his website. I was taking copious notes at the concert, but I could not figure out a few of these. Indeed, perhaps the most fun I had all evening was the game I would play with every song in which I tried to figure out what he was playing before he got to the song's chorus. That's because, predictably, Dylan played most of these songs very differently from the way we would be used to hearing them. In terms of arrangement, he sort of "Tempest-ified" all of the songs; I mean, stylistically, they sounded like they all belonged on his latest album, with its gentle rockabilly-blues sound. In fact, when he began playing the encore, "Blowin' in the Wind," I was convinced, until he started singing, that he was playing the title track from that album, a 14-minute song about the Titanic sinking, since his arrangement of "Blowin' in the Wind" was in 6/8 and included an Irish-sounding fiddle, much like that eponymous track. I was pretty glad when that turned out not to be the case ('leave it to Dylan to do a 14-minute encore,' I thought, until he growled out the line, "how many roads must a man walk down...") In the end, despite the Tempest sound, he didn't do any songs from Tempest, which surprised me; I expected to at least hear "Duquesne Whistle."

Vocally, of course, the songs were also basically unrecognizable, but for Dylan, his voice sounded pretty good. He played the piano or organ instead of guitar, complete with several piano solos that consisted of repeating the tonic note over and over or playing a descending scale -- either the blues scale or the regular one. These were the only musical tricks in his bag for the keyboard, and he used them again and again. More than once I was reminded of this video of a cat playing the piano (but the cat is much cuter and the symphony written around this cat's random playing is more beautiful):

As a Dylan scholar, I already knew that Dylan is famous for changing things up with every live performance, so there were no real surprises or disappointments with that part of the show. I'm grateful that I got the chance to see a legend. But, with the exception of his magnificent songwriting, sometimes I think he was just lucky, and has been winging it ever since, riding on his almost instant acclaim since the 60s and never bothering to learn a decent piano riff.

Am I horrible to say this? Maybe I'm just not hip enough to get it. Or maybe the secret is that he's a brilliant songwriter and a sub-par performer -- I mean that's been pretty clear for a while, no matter how much Dylan fans (including myself) may rave about how wonderful his unique performances are.

High Notes:

The highlight of the evening was, without a doubt, "Ballad of a Thin Man." This song was the only one that made me feel like they'd rehearsed the "spectacle" aspects of the stage show, because the lighting changed and the sound engineer added some spooky reverb to Dylan's voice, which was really effective on that venomous, accusatory hook: "But something's happening here and you don't know what it is, do you (do you...) Mr. Jones?" Don't get me wrong, though, the song wasn't only my favorite because of the show. It was also very well-played. And I might as well admit it: it was closest to the sound of the 60's original. "Tangled up in Blue" was also a treat, and it got the whole crowd singing along. Dylan's guitarist showed his Hendrix side in the way he soloed on "All Along the Watchtower," so that was another high point of the evening. Lest you think that only the 60's songs were hits, the 90's song, "Things have changed" was another crowd-pleaser, as was "Watching the river flow."  As an instrumentalist, Dylan was by far at his best on the harmonica, which he played soulfully and skillfully, sometimes while at the piano, or sometimes while wandering around the stage.

All in all, it was an experience I won't forget, and I'm glad to add Bob Dylan to the list of concerts I've seen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mark Knopfler

North American Tour with Mark Knopfler

Last Friday, I promised a full report of the Bob Dylan concert. But before I talk about Bob Dylan, I think it's important to say that the Mark Knopfler portion of the evening alone was worth the price of admission. We actually arrived late to the concert thanks to some horrendous traffic through Richardson, so we only got to see the last half of Knopfler's set, and that alone was worth it for me. I was unfamiliar with Knopfler's work prior to the concert, and I only discovered that he was the frontman for Dire Straits a couple of weeks before the concert. He did play some Dire Straits songs, but the best parts of his set were the songs from his latest album, which he played a lot of. (Check it out, here).

I'm not a nut about guitar tone, but Knopfler's electric guitar tone combined with his fantastic playing formed one of the most beautiful guitar sounds I've ever heard. And his band was amazing, weaving together celtic folk sounds with the blues seamlessly, and making an accordion or uillleann pipes sing just as effortlessly as guitar and bass. Knopfler's deep, mellow, gravelly voice made for wonderful listening as well.

I don't want to commit heresy here, but, truthfully, Bob Dylan was a bit of a let-down after the Mark Knopfler set, which sometimes left me so stunned with beauty that I could barely lift my hands to join in the (rightly thunderous) applause. That being said, I'm glad I got to hear Bob Dylan perform -- and I'll tell you all about that later this week.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy Friday: Halloween Dreams

Happy Friday! I'm still recovering from the shock of too much sugar to my system on Halloween and from the Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler concert we went to last night (I'll tell you all about it next week). Here's our Halloween in pictures:

From bottom left, counter clockwise: 1. Adam and I dressed as off-duty Avengers. He's Tony Stark and I'm Black Widow. 2.  Every year we decorate with these wonderful gargoyles and Halloween Jones soda bottles. 3. My mantle this year -- I love decorating with books. 4. I dyed and straightened my hair for my black widow costume; it took a long time. 5, 6, & 7. More decor. Adam's grandpa made those Abraham Lincoln book-ends. Aren't they great? 8. A close-up of Adam's Tony Stark chest. 9. More off-duty Black Widow. 10. decorations. again. 11. Our Halloween week entertainment. It was my first time to watch Friday the 13th.

Have a Happy Friday and a lovely weekend, everyone. And don't forget to come see me play at Coffeehouse Cafe in Dallas this Saturday night, Nov. 3, from 6:30-9:30. I'll be playing a special solo set.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

5 Halloween oldies that aren't "The Monster Mash"

I grew up listening to oldies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, so when Halloween rolled around, I knew there were certain songs that would get heavy rotation. The most obvious of these was the Monster Mash. Here are 5 more that are just as much in the spirit of spookiness but with a (mostly) better music:

1. Love Potion Number 9 by the Searchers: This tale of a guy who goes to a gypsy woman to help him get the ladies but who ends up "kissing everything in sight" including a cop after quaffing the spooky brew is almost as cheesy as "The Monster Mash," but it has always been one of my favorites.

2. Witchy Woman by the Eagles: The title is pretty self-explanatory, making it an obvious Halloween playlist choice, but the stellar vocals and guitar work set this song above the others.

3. Black Magic Woman by Santana: Closely related to Witchy Woman -- what's up with all these songs about women tricking men into loving them with magic? Any way, the song is a keeper for the outstanding signature Santana guitar.

4. Spooky: Yet another song about a woman of questionable ways. It mostly sounds like she's just not that into him ("I get confused 'cause I don't know where I stand...") but the guy chooses to chalk it up to her being "spooky." This one's kind of cheesy, but too obvious a choice to leave out. Plus, it ends with a Halloween proposal!

5. Any song by 60s rock group the Zombies: Partly because they're called the Zombies, partly because the line, "what's your name, who's your daddy?" from "Time of the Season" is pretty creepy, and partly because there are some amazing organ solos in these songs.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Weekend recap: fallergies, coffeehouse cafe, and writing weekend

Hello, all. I'm writing a weekend recap on Tuesday instead of Monday because I sat down to my computer this morning and completely believed that it was Monday. I think that's because I spent most of yesterday, the actual Monday, high on Benadryl. Autumn allergies are always the worst for me and they have just hit the Jones household in full force, so Adam and I are a disgusting  pair of sneezing, sniffling, itchy, tea-drinking, pill-popping allergy sufferers. In fact, autumn allergies are so bad, they need their own word: fallergies. That's not very good is it? Probably not going to make it onto any nasonex commericals anytime soon as the new allergy catch-phrase. The good thing about spending Monday in a Benadryl-haze is that it's kind of like having a four-day weekend. I recommend it. Anyway, here's my weekend gig recap:

Friday, we played for the first time at Coffeehouse Cafe in Dallas. The crowd and staff there were very kind. The stage was small, so rather than squeeze the three of us together, my dad and I did a duo performance for the first time in ages, and it was fun to remember how well we work together as a team. The highlight of the evening for me was when someone requested a Norah Jones song, and, through the magic of wi-fi, I pulled up the lyrics on my Kindle and performed the song without a hitch. Internet is fun. We are looking forward to going back to Coffeehouse Cafe on Saturday, Nov. 3rd. This is a slight change from the previously-scheduled date of Friday, Nov. 2nd, so, if you were planning on coming before, you'll want to change your calendars to reflect the new night.

In addition to fallergies and coffeehouse cafe, I participated in my very first, self-instituted "writing weekend," in which I holed-up in my office at UTD on Friday and Saturday to get some dissertation work done without the distractions of home like Desmond crawling on top of my keyboard or all the seasons of Gossip Girl on Netflix. While not an enormous success (I left with no stunning, completed dissertation chapters under my arm Saturday evening), I certainly got more work done in my office than I ever do at home, so writing weekend is officially my new "thing."

Have a good week, everyone.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Friday -- Fall flowers

Happy Friday! I hope you've made some fun Friday night plans (namely, to come see us play tonight at Coffeehouse Cafe from 7-9:30).

This week, Adam brought me these lovely fall flowers:

Pretty, right? I was delighted. Until Desmond started eating them:

Even Molly tried to get in on it, but she's either not as bold as Desmond, or not quite as smart.

I learned two things from this experience. 1) It's hard to take pictures of cats chewing on flowers, as evidenced by that ridiculously fuzzy picture, above that looks as though Desmond is entering a dream state as he ingests forbidden flower poisons. 2) We can't have nice things. It's a good thing I really love my cats.

Happy Friday. See some of you tonight at Coffeehouse Cafe!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Dylan Diaries -- Favorite albums: Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

A great thing about this dissertation process is that it's exposed me to Dylan songs and albums that I probably wouldn't have taken the time to listen to otherwise. Yesterday at the end of class a student asked me a question about the obscure Basement Tapes track, "Apple Suckling Tree," and I felt like a real Dylan scholar as I answered his question. So in discovering new songs and albums, I have naturally discovered new favorites, which I would like to write about here. Today's post, however, is not about a new favorite, but about an old one: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.

There's a lot that I could say about the impressive classic songs on Freewheelin'; about the sparse musical arrangements that remove all the polish from "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Don't think twice, it's all right" if, like me, you grew up hearing the Peter, Paul, and Mary versions; and about the way this album changed everything in the sixties folk movement. It's a great album in its own right. But The freewheelin' Bob Dylan tops my list of favorite Dylan albums for purely sentimental reasons: whenever I listen to it, it takes me back to where I was when I bought it and listened to it for the first time.

It was late 2005 and early 2006 and a friend and I were serving together as youth workers in the tiny town of Thornaby, England. We enjoyed working with the kids and playing and organizing lots of music for the church there, but we also had plenty of free time, which we used for walking to the only Starbucks for miles around, buying bath bombs at Lush (a store that we didn't yet have in the states), and, of course, traveling.  One of our adventures brought us to Bangor, Wales, where an out-of-town acquaintance graciously let us stay in his home while he was away. Bangor is just across the water from Dublin, Ireland, so, while we were there, we took the ferry to Dublin for a day. Our day in Dublin is somewhat fuzzy. I think I got a little seasick on the ferry, and we definitely got lost wandering around Dublin.  But one part of the day stands out: on one of those many side streets we went down in an effort to figure out where we were going, we found a used CD store, where I purchased the latest Jamie Cullum CD, and, you guessed it, Dylan's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. I had no particular attachment to Dylan; I knew some of his songs of course, but not his recordings of them, but I am a sucker for classics, so I thought that this classic album would be the perfect addition to my CD collection.

When we got home that evening, worn-out, a little sea-sick, and tired of being around crowds of people, we each sought out some alone time, which I found with a cup of tea and a small CD player in the kitchen, where I put in my new purchase and experienced Bob Dylan's music for the first time. The songs made me feel both homesick and, somehow, at home, right where I was. Dylan's gravelly voice still bothered me, but it began to grow on me as well. And old familiar tunes like "Blowin' in the Wind" felt fresh -- lines that felt like cliches because I'd heard them so often sounded relevant and poetic. Dylan was the perfect companion for "alone time," and that little trip to Bangor and Dublin became the beginning of a larger journey toward grad school and this desk chair, where I sit, struggling to write a doctoral thesis about Dylan's work.

Freewheelin' is still one of my favorite albums; today, my husband and I own a vinyl copy, and we even recorded one of the classic songs from the album, "Don't think twice, it's all right" on our latest EP. (Which, if you didn't know by now, is available for free on Noisetrade, or for money at Amazon and Itunes). These days, I'm almost more in love with the album cover than the album's content -- Dylan and then-girlfriend Suze Rotolo look so hip and happy. Also, that scene was so lovingly recreated with Charlotte Gainsborough and Heath Ledger in the film I'm Not There, that I get a little sad thinking about Ledger -- one of my favorite, late actors -- whenever I see the cover, especially in the large vinyl LP format. But whether I'm hearing it in analog or digital, whether I sit and listen intentionally or just hear a random track from the album on Spotify, whether I'm viewing the album cover or its film re-creation, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan does not fail to take me right back to the winding streets of Dublin and a quiet kitchen in Wales, and that alone makes the album wonderful to me.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Coming Up -- Coffeehouse Cafe

Hello, everyone. This Monday morning might be especially difficult for some of us Texans -- especially Dallas-ites like me -- since this weekend was the big Texas/OU game. Even if you're not a fan of the game, you may have found yourself getting exhausted while caught in the weekend party traffic. If that's you, or if you just dislike Mondays in general, I suggest making your Friday night plans right now, to give yourself something to look forward to.

This Friday we will be performing at Coffeehouse Cafe in Dallas from 7 - 9:30. Not a coffee drinker? Fear not. Coffeehouse Cafe serves breakfast all day (right now they're featuring ginger-spiced pumpkin pancakes) as well as delicious lunch and dinner. They make really great cappuccinos, but they have more grown-up beverage offerings, too. Plus, the atmosphere is cozy and they have a large, pet-friendly patio that is perfect for the weather this time of year.  To top it all off, they won a Dallas Observer Best of 2012 award for best new restaurant. So I can really think of no excuse for you not to come to Coffeehouse Cafe this Friday, grab a bite to eat or a comforting fall beverage, and relax to your favorite local singer-songwriter. (hint: that's me, right? -- right?).

In the meantime, have a lovely week as you look forward to a great Friday night of dinner and live music.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Happy Friday: Fall so Far

Happy Friday! Here are a few snapshots of fall thus far. It really is my favorite season.

Fall means boots weather -- hooray! I also took this photo to document that leather peter pan collar. I wanted to incorporate the leather trend into my wardrobe but on a small, inexpensive scale. So I made this collar using an adaptation of this tutorial with only materials I had on hand. (I found the faux leather on the back of a CD case that I once got as swag from a job fair.)
Speaking of fashion, I can't wait until it's cold enough to wear this sweater. It's almost cold enough. Here in Texas, it doesn't take much of a temperature dip for me to bundle up.

I love catching up on my blog reading with a cup of coffee on our balcony. The weather is perfect for it right now. Desmond loves to join me, too:
Who could resist that face?

This was taken during a women's retreat with my church. I love the color of the guitar (borrowed from a friend) and the cozy surroundings. The weekend was cold and rainy, so this homey lake house was the perfect place to bundle up and have girl time.
During some not-so-successful attempts at outfit photos, we ended up with this shot that reminded me of those "Read" posters you see in libraries. So I couldn't resist being the star of my very own. The book is Breakfast at Tiffany's

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Literary Musings -- On the Road

Hello, everyone! Instead of writing a full post here, I'd like to direct you to another website I contribute to, Thinking Through Christianity, for my post about Kerouac's On the Road for Thinking Through Christianity's participation in National Book Month.

While you're still here, I'd also like to direct you to my show calendar, where we have a few shows listed for October and November that I'm really excited about, two of which take place at Coffeehouse Cafe -- a great place to enjoy yummy food and fall beverages now that the weather's turned autumnal.

That's all for today!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Happy Friday with hugging kittens

I don't have a lot to say this week (as evidenced by my relative blog silence). But if this picture of hugging kittens doesn't make you have a happy Friday, then I don't know what will:

See all the pictures, here.

In other news, the next "Dallas Does" show will be Dallas does Simon and Garfunkel on the day after Thanksgiving. So you can go do your crazy Black Friday shopping, then come listen to some really great music. I think I'm more excited about this one than any of the others -- Simon and Garfunkel is one of my favorite groups. So, there's another thing to make your Friday happy.

Have a great weekend!