Getting to know Me again

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life, and one that I will now always remember, is that I can’t continually put my ideas and dreams on the back burner for someone else – no matter how much I love them. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that relationships are all about compromise, but there are some things that just shouldn’t be compromised. And the things that make you “you”, definitely shouldn’t.

Looking back, I’ve done this periodically throughout my life. I want to make my partner happy, and sometimes I didn’t think about what I wanted or what I enjoyed; but instead I hung out with “his” friends, went where “he” wanted to go, listened to “his” type of music, and did what “he” wanted to do in an effort to have a happy marriage. Soon enough I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror.

This September marks the 5th anniversary of being single, again, following a 7-year marriage; and I have to tell you I am really enjoying getting to know ME again.

I’m writing. I’m traveling. I’m singing. I’m hanging out with MY friends again. I’m doing all those things I neglected.

In listening to this beautiful song by Mandy Moore, it seems she has been guilty of this as well.  She and Chantal Kreviazuk wrote this incredible song about taking the time to get to know yourself again. You can really hear the emotion in her voice.

Take a listen – you won’t be disappointed.  I’ve also posted the lyrics below.

Gardenia
Well, I put so much thought into getting ready
Now I know that was the best part
It’s so easy to get caught up in what I’m regretting
Forget what I got from a wounded heart

I’m the one who likes Gardenia
I’m the one who likes to make love on the floor
I don’t want to hang up the phone yet
It’s been good
Getting to know me more

I’ve been seeing all my old friends in the city
Walking alone in Central Park
Doing all the things that I’ve neglected
Traded ’em all in
To be in your arms

I’m the one who likes Gardenia
I’m the one who likes to make love on the floor
I don’t want to hang up the phone yet
It’s been good
Getting to know me more

Well, I hear my own voice
Sounds so silly
Keep on telling my story all around
Everything I lost seems so different
Well, this is how everybody gets found

American Idol – LIVE Tour 2011

Last night the season 10 American Idol Summer Tour came to Sacramento.  As a huge fan of the show, I was thrilled to be there. Overall, it was an entertaining evening and I enjoyed watching these kids live out their dream.

The excitement was palpable inside the Power Balance Pavilion as the lights dimmed and the top 5 Girls from Season 10 took the stage. Immediately noticeable, however, was Lauren Alaina – hobbling around the stage amongst her dancing counterparts. What’s that on her leg? A cast? Wow. After a little digging I got the scoop from a twitter message Lauren posted on July 10: “Good news & Bad news. It’s not broken but I have a third degree sprain and I have a boot and crutches!” I must say I am impressed that she preformed the day after her accident. She used a fancy black sparkly cane as she performed her solo’s later in the show.

Now here’s some highlights and lowlights from the show…

During the first half-hour, Stefano Langone and Pia Toscano were definitely the highlights, in fact during that time-period they performed more solos that then their counterparts. It was as if the producers are trying to push these two into the spotlight, and showcase their talent since they had less time on the show.

As usual, Pia was amazing. Her tone and pitch was spot on; and she was graceful, poised and beautiful. I wish they would have made better song choices for her, because they were a bit forgettable after a few minutes. She did the best with what she had, and it was great to hear that voice again – she was unquestionably booted from the show too early.

Stefano really shined! Great song choices, his confidence is up and he truly looked like he belongs on the stage. With dance moves and a wide vocal range, he certainly showed everyone he deserved to be there.

Unfortunately, Thia Megia’s lower register was barely audible, and thankfully, she only had one solo (that I remember); her higher range is much stronger and thankfully half of the song was in the higher range. She’s this seasons’s weakest link.

Naima Adedapo’s voice and dance moves were quite strong; and she adapted a Beyoncé song to include an African Tribal Dance. WOW, that girl can move!

When Paul McDonald took the stage singing Maggie Mae (and the crowd erupted) I had a premonition that soon Rod Stewart will be writing his life story for a made for TV movie, and Paul would definitely get the lead role. It’s uncanny how much he looks, acts and sings just like the superstar of the 70’s and 80’s.

The biggest highlight of the 1st half of the show came when Casey Abrams took the stage with his standing Bass and started a slow and seductive version on Smooth (by Santana), the audience went crazy! The first verse was completely amazing, and then he transitioned into the radio version of the song. It was still fantastic, although I preferred the slowed down version – he’s just an incredible talent. Soon Haley Reinhart joined him on stage (again the crowd goes wild) and they start a scatting duo to rival any Jazz singer. Following the duet, Casey continued his magic with his own version of Maroon 5’s Harder to Breathe. Simply amazing.

The 1st half concluded with a forgettable group ensemble of Forget You. The performance seemed disconnected and they definitely had sound equipment issues.  Jacob Lusk started off at lead vocal, but his microphone was either turned down, or turned off, because you couldn’t hear him for the first line or two of the song. Then, as each of the other members of the top 11 (minus reigning Idol Scotty McCreery) joined him on stage, it was difficult to follow what was going on if you weren’t sitting in the first 10 rows. This was due in part because the video camera was continually pointed at a performer who was NOT singing. The sound issues continued and finally the song just ended; so unexpectedly, in fact, that the audience needed a few seconds to catch up and applaud.

Following intermission, the show continued with James Durban entering the building from the Pavilion’s side entrance and walking through the audience singing Sweet Child O’ Mine.  He was high-fiving fans as he walked through, until he finally made it to the stage. That stellar performance was followed by another, as he belted out Uprising, the Muse song he performed on one of the last Season 10 episodes. Both songs were incredible!  It was amazing to watch this sort of talent in person.  I always thought he was fantastic on the show – but hearing and watching him perform live was stunning.  His vocal range (in full voice) is truly remarkable. He moves constantly, running from one end of the stage to the other, and he doesn’t lose his breath or his place in the song.  That’s tremendous! Following his performance, the audience applauded and stomped their feet so much, it was like we were experiencing an earthquake in Sacramento.

Jacob Lusk followed James, and again, wrong song choice and unfortunately for Jacob, pretty much bad placement. I certainly would not want to follow James, but if I did, I’d want to sing a song that people knew, that they could sing along with. His performance made me feel like I was attending a Church service – when I’m an “unbeliever” – I felt out of place.  His second song was a much better, but I was actually relieved when the next act came to the stage. Don’t get me wrong, I think he has a really great voice, I just didn’t feel the songs that he performed highlighted his abilities in the best way or engaged the audience.

Thankfully, Haley returned to the stage immediately following Jacob, and she blew us away with her rendition of The House of the Rising Sun.  Her sultry and seductive vocal stylings truly captivated the audience. She followed up with Benny and the Jets, a fan favorite from season 10.  Haley, in my opinion, should have placed at least second, if Scotty was going to win. She’s polished, poised and knows how to work the stage; unlike Lauren Alaina who is young and sweet, but who at times appears immature and lacks confident.

That said, Lauren did a great job on her solo’s. The best being her new single, Like My Mother Does – a wonderful tribute to the relationship she has with her mother.

The climax of the evening followed a video presentation from the past 9 seasons as each Season’s Winner was announced;  then they showcased Scotty McCreery’s crowning moment. The crowd erupted in anticipation of Scotty finally taking the stage – hands clapped, feet stomped, girls screamed, tears rolled down young girls faces and then you heard it – “Well, lock those doors and turn the lights down low…” – Scotty’s unmistakably low and rich voice came across even sweeter in person. Following his first song, he spoke directly to the girls in the audience (he knows his fan base) and then thanked everyone for coming out.  He followed up with Are You Going to Kiss Me or Not, and then sang his new single This Big.

He continued his seduction with When You Say Nothing at All; and following the first verse, Lauren Alaina joined him on stage and they sang the number as a duet. I’d say this was one of the evening’s highlights. Lauren Alaina sounded amazing, Scotty sounded like Scotty, and they looked like they were actually in love.

Lauren Alaina left the stage and Scotty concluded his performance with Gone, with a few of the female contestants on backup vocals.

The finale was, of course, a group number that included a montage of the Journey songs. I had to check my ticket, because all of a sudden it felt like I was watching a Glee concert (which is a good thing). They sang perfect harmonies and their voices were completely synchronized. It was a brilliant way to close the show.

Got a case of the Mondays? Play This…

Monday evokes different feelings for different people. But for many, Monday is the most dreaded day of the week. Some Mondays (especially Monday mornings) can be hectic and you may have a difficult time getting back into the rhythm of your work/school routine, especially after a weekend of staying up late and sleeping in. 

Many cartoons have been made about hating Mondays; in fact, in the Garfield comics and shows, the title character hates Mondays, and is frequently harmed during them.

 

In the film Office Space (1999), character Nina says to Peter “sounds like someone’s got a case of the Mondays” suggesting Peter is not having a good day.

For others, Monday might stir warm and fuzzy feelings upon the reflection on a wonderful weekend spent with someone you love (or are beginning to love), and make you long to see them again.

In the spirit of Music Monday, I dedicate this “Monday” playlist to all of you who are muddling through your Monday.

Hey Monday, Stafford
Goodbye Blue Monday, Jeremy Fisher
Monday, ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra)
Monday, Monday
, The Mamas and The Papas
(They Call it) Stormy Monday, Les McCann, LTD., & Lou Rawls
Come Monday, Jimmy Buffett
New Moon on Monday, Duran Duran
Monday, Wilco
Monday Morning, Death Cab for Cutie
Blue Monday, New Order
Long Monday, John Prine
Monday Morning, Fleetwood Mac
Stormy Monday Blues, Long John Baldry
Manic Monday, The Bangles
Monday, Monday, Monday, Tegan and Sarah
Happy Monday, Melissa Reyes
I don’t Like Mondays, The Boomtown Rats
Except for Monday, Lori Morgan
Blue Monday, Johnny Lee
Rainy Days and Mondays, The Carpenters
Come Next Monday, K.T. Oslin
Permanent Monday, Jordan Sparks
Every Monday, Marvelous 3
Weekend in New England, Barry Manilow

Music Monday – Great Workout Songs

I love music. It can lift my mood immediately and make me want to start moving; and moving is very important when trying to lose or maintain your weight. But I tend to get bored easily, so for me it’s important that I have a few workout playlists on my iPod so that I can switch it up from time to time.  I update my playlists every few weeks, adding a couple new songs or some old favorites to keep me motivated.

Here are a few songs that I have on my workout playlist that always seem to energize me:

Rock That Body – The Black Eyed Peas
American Boy – Estelle
Dynamite – Taio Cruz
Firework – Katy Perry
Telephone – Lady Gaga, featuring Beyoncé
DJ Got us Fallin’ in Love – Usher, featuring Pitbull
I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas
Stereo Love – Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina
Hey Soul Sister – Train
California Gurls – Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg

What are some songs that get you moving?

Girls Night Goes Jamaican

Happy Anniversary Girls Night!

We’ll it’s been a year since I started my monthly Dinner and a Movie ~ Girls Night, and besides being a fabulous night with my girl friends, it’s also been a wonderful culinary experience.

girls from girls nightStacey

Each month we have a different menu theme and movie, however, for the past few months we’ve actually not watched the movie at all.  We have just enjoyed the meal and discussion.

This month’s theme? Jamaican Baby! And, one of my favorites themes so far. There were so many incredible colors and flavors in the dishes people prepared. 

We started the evening with fancy island beverages made with Pineapple juice, Coconut Liqueur and clear Rum (thanks Tracy!), in addition we served Guava and Mango juices with Coconut liqueur.

To keep with the theme, I made a funky Jamaican/Reggae playlist on my iPod with songs by Bob Marley, Collie Buddz, Peter Tosh, Ken Boothe, Harry Belefonte, Freddie McGreggor, Aswad & Sweetie Irie, UB40, Johnny Nash and Musical Youth, to name a few. The island music played throughout the evening.

We continued our flavor fest with some wonderful appetizers brought by Wendy: Ahi topped with Mango Salsa and jalapeños, served with Blue Corn Chips, as well as some tasty humus and Pita chips.

The Dinner Menu consisted of some delicious Cold Pumpkin Soup – YUM! (Thanks Shay!), tasty Rice and Beans (Thanks Wendy!), some amazing Curry Shrimp* (Thanks Christian!), a scrumptious cold rice dish with pineapple and peppers (Thanks Erin!), a healthy and delicious tossed green salad (thanks Kellie!), yummy Jerk Chicken (prepared by me, recipe below), fried Plantains (more from Christian), and finished our meal with creamy Mango ice cream (more from Tracy).

For continued snacking we had Maui Onion Chips and Maui BBQ Chips (thanks Heather!)  We also had wine for those who didn’t want to stick with the sweet Rum drinks.

The movie chosen for the evening was Dr. No, the first James Bond movie (released in 1962) which was set in Jamaica. But, as seems to be the case lately, we didn’t make it to the movie due to our fun and lively conversation filling up the evening.

The Jerk Chicken I made was delicious and easy.  In case you’d like to give it a try, I’ve included the recipe. Don’t be daunted by the number of ingredients, its super easy and doesn’t take very long at all to prepare.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Combine in a large bowl:
1 Tbsp ground allspice
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground sage
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
big pinch of salt
1 Tbsp sugar

Whisk the following liquids in with the spices:
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
juice of one lime

Add the following to the marinade:
1 Habanero pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped white onion
3 green onions, finely chopped

Add 2-3 lbs. chicken to the marinade:
Approximately 4-6 chicken breasts. Leave the as filets or cut pieces into 2” or 3” chunks
Stir to coat the chicken
Cover with plastic wrap
Let marinade for at least 1 hour

Pull chicken pieces from marinade and place on grill (The best way to cook the chicken is on a gas or charcoal grill, however, I grilled mine on the George Foreman Grill and it worked great – and cooked extremely fast!)

Grill each side until chicken is fully cooked (white inside when cut into – about 20 min on grill, 5 minutes on Foreman Grill.) I take the leftover marinade and cook it on the stove for 15-20 minutes and then use it as a sauce to top the grilled chicken and rice.

Serve with Jamaican rice and beans.

Enjoy!

*Please see “recipes” category for Christian’s Curry Shrimp dish recipe.  It’s amazing!

The soundtrack of my life

listentomusicLast night I decided to make a new playlist for my iPod. I started off aimlessly, I didn’t know what sort of playlist I wanted to make. I just wanted something different to listen to.

As I was going through the thousands of songs in my music library, occasionally I would come upon a song I hadn’t heard in years, so I just had to stop and listen to it; and of course it sent me right back to the place I was when that song was popular, or when I played it to death… whichever the case might have been.

It brought back recollections of past relationships, road trips, nights out at the club, and days at the beach. During one song I’d smile and laugh when I thought of those really good memories; and then another song would come on and I’d feel a tightness in my chest as though I was right back in the middle of that painful breakup all over again.

Music has always played an important role in my life; but so have the people who have come in and out of it. So as I sat there last night, going through songs — and strolling down memory lane — a playlist that spanned the last 25 years was created.

Today as I listen to my production, I feel like I’m on the game show “This is Your Life” and I’m walking back through the years, one significant event or relationship at a time; seeing things again, but this time from a different vantage point. 

For the tough spots, it’s like a personal therapy session. I’m older now, and hopefully wiser; removed from the emotion of (almost) all of the past heartaches, and can look back on my life with love, respect, and appreciate what I learned from each person and from each substantial event; thus perceiving how it’s shaped my life. 

I love that music can be a road map back through a lifetime, keeping memories alive and well, and letting me choose when I want to revisit them.