Tag Archives: Reviews

Saturday Soundtrack – Brought to You by The High Priestess of Soul

11 Feb

In honor of Black History Month, I’ll be featuring African-American artists who have helped shape the way we do music in America. Enjoy!

What can be said about the incomparable Nina Simone that hasn’t been said a million times already? Nina was a singer, songwriter, pianist, and amazing civil rights activist. She loved classical music and wanted to be a classical pianist, but by far her greatest contributions to American music came from her instinctive talent for taking classical influences and injecting them with a heaping dose of jazz and soul. She learned to connect with her audience in a tangible way by playing piano during sermons and at revivals. Nina was a commanding presence on stage, and came to be known as “The High Priestess of Soul.” She incorporated monologues and dialogue with the audience into her performances, and I believe this incorporating style was one of the early influences of spoken word.

Dozens of artists cite her as one of their musical influences, including John Legend, Mos Def, Cat Stevens, Mary J. Blige, Jeff Buckley, and John Lennon. Without a doubt, her musical legacy has shaped what music sounds like today, and I cannot get enough of her silky/growl-ey/soulful voice. ‘Feeling Good’ is not just one of my top Nina Simone songs, it’s one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s been covered time and time again, but no one can get close to the grab-you-by-the-heart-and-dive-right-in feel that the original has. (Although, remember My Brightest Diamond? They did a pretty respectable job.)

For fans of Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, and Dusty Springfield.

Feeling Good” by Nina Simone on I Put a Spell on You (1965)

Saturday Soundtrack – Brought to You by Shape-shifting Psychedelic Pop

4 Feb

click for credit

MGMT came on the mainstrem music scene with their first major label debut, Oracular Spectacular, in 2007. They became a big thing in a major way, working with and opening for artists as diverse as Radiohead, Sleater Kinney, M.I.A. and Paul McCartney. I’ve always been a huge 80’s music fan, being a product of the 80’s myself, and for my money MGMT is the modern-day extension of everything good 80’s Electronic Euro-Pop brought to music. Even though their sound is comprable to many bands, both older and current, MGMT’s sound is entirely their own. And it all makes me want to jump in place while spinning in a circle.

“Kids” was the 6th track on their second EP, titled Time to Pretend. It was given a facelift and added to Oracular Spectacular. It quickly became one of their best known singles and is one of my all-time favorite songs. I love having this song on while I run or clean, any time I want to feel productive, really.  Even though it clocks in at a moderate 125 bpm, the driving beat makes me want to kick up my heels and get moving. Despite lyrics that definately lean towards the eerie, their psychedelic stylings always make me feel entirely optimistic and happy about life when this song pops up on my playlist. Even the music video is remincent of the 80’s, playing out like the dream of a cinephile listening to the Eurythmics while on an acid trip. What’s not to love?

For fans of Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend, The Xx, and The Postal Service.

Kids” by MGMT, on Oracular Spectacular

Intentionally January

1 Feb

image from chasing vivid dreams

Let’s see, one month ago I was waxing poetic about all the things I wanted to do to make 2012 the year of living intentionally. I thought today, on this first day of February 2012, would be a good time to look back on the month before through the lens of being intentional. Let’s see how we did, shall we?

Pursuing the Lord’s heart like I did when I first loved Him.

I did ok on this one. Instead of just skimming over my daily verse and thinking “oh, that’s nice,” I started saying a prayer about that verse. Usually that God help me to apply it to my day, or let me understand Him better through His word. Not a bad start, but I could have done better.

Moving into a season of greater spiritual and emotional intimacy with my husband.

This one went well, I feel. (Will have to check with A. and see what he thinks.) A is neck-deep into tax season, and traditionally this time of year we are never at our best, intimacy-wise. But remember my idea for building intimacy through wine and cheese? We’ve kept it going, every night A is home for dinner and we don’t have to rush out the door, which usually means 2-4 nights a week. On Sunday we were doing our big grocery run for the week, and I started tallying up what portion of our food budget we spent on wine and cheese. It wasn’t obscene, but definitely more than we’d usually spend just to have a little luxury. I said as much to A on our drive home, to which he replied, “yeah, but you know? I see it as an investment it us. It’s not really spending money on food, we’re spending money to bring us closer together, which we really need right now. Plus, it’s cheaper than going out to dinner.” True dat, my love, true dat.

Moving forward with the ministry God’s put in front of me.

Yeah, this one I haven’t paid much attention to this month, except to worry about how much I’m not doing, and time is slipping away. This month will be better.

Making the most of the relationships I have, and taking time to nurture them.

I haven’t done much with this one either, though now that I think about it, how would I measure this? I did well with A, as noted above, but I don’t know about my other relationships. Do my dogs count? Truth be told, one of the hardest things to deal with as I work through S.A.D. is feeling distinctly anti-social. It’s hard, because I’m a very social person. I’ve really appreciated how a lot of my girlfriends and sister have made a point of reaching out to me, and I’ve loved going out when they suggest it, but it has sometimes been hard for me to make that phone call. So I haven’t been proactive about making active time to nurture my relationships outside of A.
Wait! I’ve got a success! (Little stream of consciousness here.) My friends all seem to have a lot going on in their lives right now, and in January I’ve felt more of a burden to pray for all of them than I have in a long time. They might not know about it, or be able to see it, but right now when my time and emotional resources are limited, I’ve been praying. And truth be told, I feel like I love them and appreciate them more now for doing it.

Tackling some of the harder things on The List, especially the ones that scare me.

As I’ve said, January didn’t see me cross anything off my list. I am working on learning the guitar, and have started a teeny-tiny dream fund, but no actual crossings yet. I’m hopeful for February.

Having more people over for dinner, and not letting time/stress/money get in the way of my love of being a hostess.

Done! We had A’s bff from work and his wife over for dinner. They brought wine, she baked my favorite cookies ever, my chicken was dry (per usual), but we had a great time. It was the first time I’ve felt a little hangover in awhile, let me tell you. Accountants, man, they be crazy! There was a time in the not-too-distant past that having one couple over for dinner in a month would have been a step down for us. But looking back on 2011 (which will forever be known as The Year Suck) we really didn’t have people over. So one this month is a step in the right direction. Yay, Team Aylesworth!

Finding ways beyond words to show people that I love them.

I’m going to defer to my note on praying for people on this one. And my successful implementation of wine and cheese nights with A. Oh, and yesterday I picked up a bag of gummy bears for A while I was at the store. (They’re his favorite, and I’ve never seen them carried at Trader Joes. All of a sudden, there they were! Get while the gettin’s good, I say.)

Buying locally as much as possible.

This has been a mixed bag. I just put a temporary hold on our CSA order, as I’m not cooking as often or as much as I have been, and it was starting to be a waste. But I continue to seek out local veggies at the store (again, SO BLESSED to live in California!), buy from local dairy farmers, and I just found an egg supplier who is local as well for year-round egg buying. Score! (Come summertime I buy eggs from my friend Danielle, our church’s very own urban farmer, if she has enough. You don’t get much more local than that!)

Finding fun, creative ways to get together with friends that don’t revolve around food.

I had two FWF dates this month. BOO-yah!

Reading challenging, empowering, quality books instead of solely feeding my brain a mental fast food diet of chick-lit.

Hmm, let’s see. What have I been reading this month? Not a whole lot, unfortunately, the newest issues of Relevant and Runners World aside. I finally picked up The Man Who Ate Everything. Loved The Night Circus. Finished Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) and The Handmaid’s Tale. There were two chick-lit books thrown into the mix as well that I don’t really remember (mental fast food indeed), so three chick-lit, three non? I’ll call that a win.

Putting my health first and making the time to exercise.

I went out four times, which is better than my previous month’s score of zero. Still working on shaking of my sense of inertia courtesy of S.A.D, and I hurt my foot somehow. It’s really quite the mystery. I have a doctor’s appointment on Friday if it doesn’t feel better by them. For now I’m walking on my toes on my left foot.

All in all, I’m going to say not bad. This year isn’t about doing everything all the time. No one can do that, especially me. I’d exhaust myself trying, and drive myself crazy thinking about all I’m not accomplishing instead of focusing on my successes. No, I can’t do everything, no matter how much I’d like to. But I want to do something, and cataloging my journey towards being intentional is part of my being intentional; I know myself, and if I didn’t purposefully take a look at how I’m doing I’d get nothing done. So now I know what I’ve done and what I want to work on next. Less of a check list, more of a status check on my journey thus far.

If you had a resolution or a word for 2012, how’s it going? I’d love to hear! Leave a comment or link to a blog post you’ve written on this below.

Friday Five: Best Shows on TV Right Now

27 Jan

A and I don’t have regular TV. We’ve been watching on the internet since we were married, before it was a thing and TV’s came with internet-ready hookups. (The day A figured our how to jerry-rig his old computer to our TV…that was a proud moment in the Aylesworth house, my friends.) Anyhoo, we made the decision to not have regular TV because I hated the advertising and we figured that newlyweds had more important things to do than watch TV all evening…like get to know each other as newley-marrieds! Minds out of the gutter, folks. But that didn’t work out so well in the long run. With internet TV becoming a major thing, we watch all the shows (for the most part) other people do, just a day later. So I thought I’d share the five shows A and I wait for the other to watch. The best current shows on television (that we can see on Hulu or Netflix, that is, since not all networks put their shows up yet), according to Bigger in Real Life are:

1. Modern Family

I feel almost trite putting this up here after the sweep I heard it did, once again, at the Golden Globes, but it’s the truth. This show rocks. There isn’t a better ensemble cast on TV right now, and unlike my perennial favorite Friends I can’t think of a character I dislike. I love the patriarch in Jay and how he’s softened by the comic genius in Gloria. I love the whole dynamic of the Dunphys. And Cam is my absolute favorite. So soft and lovable, yet so hard-core. Awesome.

2. Castle

This show had us since we heard the two magic words: “Nathan Fillion.” Sure the plots are semi-formulaic, and A and I usually figure out whodunnit before Beckett and Castle do, but shaddup, it makes us feel smart. There’s no better combo of lighthearted fun and dramatic twists than Castle. And the almost there love dynamic between Kate and Castle? Television gold. Listen up, writers of Castle: if you ever let Castle and Beckett get together it will ruin the show. I know you’ll be tempted if you ever have to end things, but trust me, the almost-there is what makes the show. Although it would help a lot if NF could go back to looking like the dashing hero if the first season. He’s starting to look more like Kate’s older and less attractive uncle than a serious love interest.

3. How I Meet Your Mother

This one almost was #2 for me, as the show neatly fills the hole Friends left behind, but while the HIMYM gang makes you wish you could have a beer with them, Castle just makes me feel good about life. So it’s in at #3. And why is that? Oh, I’ll give you six reasons, in three words or less: Robin Sparkles. Slap bet. Suit Up. Legend-waitforit-Dary! Theme Songs. Neil. Patrick. Harris.

4. 30 Rock

Honestly, this show is so freaking good it could have usurped any of the ones listed above. I only ranked it lower because the non-linear plot line makes this show closer to sketch comedy than something where you can really invest in the characters. But oh my goodness, I love everything Tina Fey does. And prior to 30 Rock I never thought I’d say this, but Alec Baldwin really makes the show. First time in his career I’ve been laughing because of him, not at him.

5. Community

This show has been a bit of a sleeper on the acclimation scale, but I’m here to tell you that it deserves a place on any top five list, with a bullet. This show has served up paintball wars, a claymation Christmas Special, anime foosball, Dawn of the Dead-type plots, blatant fun-making of Glee, alternate timelines, and Troy and Abed in the Morning. You don’t have to have attended a community college to love this show, you just have to be able to recognize greatness when you see it.

Runner up in the drama category: Parenthood

I felt bad that all my top picks were comedies lasting half an hour, so had to throw this one in as an honorable mention to show that I don’t only like the funny shows, and that I have an attention span longer than a goldfish. Because really, could Parenthood have won over any of the above? I don’t think so.
A doesn’t like to admit it, but when he’s up in the loft playing computer games he totally pays attention to the plot-lines of this oh-so-well-written show. Do I agree with every decision the writers make? No. Do I think some of the things they write intending to be heartwarming are stupid and shallow? Yes. But I love this show for the way it portrays families. I come from a crazy large family, and we all talk over each other, just like the characters in Parenthood. I’ve been every teenager on that show at some point in my life, and have had friends like all of the Bravermans. I love how they have problems and make choices for better or worse, but in the end family trumps all. I will say one thing, though. I still don’t know the name of Lauren Graham’s character, because to A and I she’s still Lorelei Gilmore.

Potential List Addition in the Future: Alcatraz

This is the first show in a long time A and I have been really excited about. I’m a straight-up sucker for any show set in California (another reason I love Parenthood. Watching them take a road trip down Hwy 5 was like taking a trip home for me. But I digress.) but set it in my favorite city in the world and I’m in. This show is full of intrigue and secrecy, and we can’t tell yet if Sam Neil is a good guy or a bad guy. Plus, they have Hurley, who I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to call by his new character name either.

And in case you were wondering, here are some shows that would have made the cut, had circumstances been different:

Best show if it was three years ago:

Best show if I wanted to admit to loving a dressed-up soap opera:
Private Practice

Best show if I was over 50 and wanting to still feel like I’ve got it:
Desperate Housewives

Best show as long as Steve Carrell stayed on:
The Office

Best show if I wasn’t burned out on the mockumentary-style filming thanks to The Office:
Parks and Recreation

Best concept turned disappointment by uninspired writing:
Once Upon a Time

Best case of a supporting cast totally being better than the name-brand star they got to play the lead character:
New Girl

Best show if there wasn’t something about Christina Applegate that makes me want to punch her in the face:
Up All Night. Love. Me. Some Maya.

So that’s my list. Do you agree? Disagree? What are your picks for best shows on TV right now?

Working on #1 With Benefit

28 Nov

I’ve tried a few times to get on board with the daily sunscreen routine, to no avail. So I decided to pull out the big guns. I walked into Sephora with a specific mission: get a good-feeling daily moisturizer that didn’t make me feel greasy, had a decent spf, and was tipping towards this side of luxury so that I would feel excited to use it every day without breaking the bank. Enter Benefit.

I love Benefit, and have since high school. Since before I knew what good makeup was. I was assured by the uber-helpful sales girl that even though it was a new product for them at the time, it was already a huge hit with consumer reviews. A quick test at the counter left me with sweet-smelling, softly glowing cheeks with no greasy feeling. Quite the opposite, actually, my face felt moisturized and fresh. I took home a bottle with high hopes.

Benefit does not disappoint. I used it for two weeks straight and was complimented regularly on how healthy and ‘glowing’ I looked. My friend Lady Dianne insisted it was because of the new workout regimen we started – week two and I was glowing already! – but I knew it was due to the cream. It just made me feel better. The one downside to this cream is it is scented. I think it’s the scent that accounts for the funny taste…hold on, before you go thinking I lick my face cream, there are plenty of socially acceptable ways I can tell that it has an obtrusively bad taste.

  • Scenario one: I put it on in the morning, avoiding my immediate mouth area, and head to work. Between campuses I grab a cappuccino, and since I have a rare ten minutes to enjoy my frothy treat I pop the top and sit down to sip while perusing my favorite blogs. While sipping, some velvety foam gets on my lip, so I stick out my tongue to lick it off. Instead of creamy, espresso-ey goodness, I get a bitter, astringent flavor that totally puts me off my cuppa.
  • Scenario two: A comes home from work, and is understandably thrilled to see me. A loves to kiss my cheeks. I don’t know why, maybe I have cute cheeks. So after a big A-Bear hug, he plants one on my smooch-puff. He then gives me a big, sweet, butterfly-inducing smooch on the lips…only it would have been that kind of kiss, if it weren’t for that bitter, astringent taste. Totally ruins the moment.
So, yes, I know my face cream tastes bad. Which wouldn’t be a big deal, except that it doesn’t stop tasting bad, even hours after I apply it. In my book, it makes my skin look and feel so kissably-good that I can forgive it a little bitterness during otherwise sweet moments. I just know that I have to proceed with caution and encourage A to kiss the non-moisturized areas on my face when I apply it. So definitely worth the buy, but next time I may walk in to Sephora and specifically request a face cream that doesn’t taste bad.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Hold on, Christy, if you’ve already found a product you love, wouldn’t that mean you’ve accomplished #1 on The List to wear sunscreen? Not so in my book, my friends, not so. You see, it takes roughly 21 days to make or break a habit, longer if the habit is addictive. The longest streak I’ve ever had putting cream on every day is 16 days. I’ll go in fits and spurts, then take a few weeks off. I’m really bad about it, actually, which is why it’s on my list. So I’ll cross this baby off when I’ve got a solid three months under my belt – I figure by then that habit will be pretty ingrained. Will Benefit take me all the way? Only time will tell…

Do you use a daily moisturizer with spf? Let me know what you like, and I’ll know what to try next!

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