Driving with Great Music

Driving with Great Music

Driving took up half my day today, traveling from Wisconsin through Minnesota down into central Iowa. I noticed two bald eagles, one perched in a tree right on the Mississippi River near the I-90 expressway and one in Minnesota a couple of hours later, soaring over the snowy prairie fields. I hope they both got a meal. I also saw a couple hawks but what kind they were alluded me – my best guesses would be a Coopers Hawk or Red-Tailed Hawk. They were both perched looking for the gullies on the side of the highway.

To pass time when I drive a greater distance, one that takes more than an hour on the road, I always try to bring along a few CD’s. Today I grabbed an old favorite by the Boston Pops. CD

Many of the songs on here are from old Disney movies, to which I was having a hard time remembering the words. But, I knew the music. I hummed and sang along when I could, usually at the top of my lungs!  It was fun and made the trip go by fast!

Do you ever sing in the car? What type of music do you sing along with? Leave your response in the comment section! Thanks!

Pizzelles, The Carpenters, Coffee, & Dancin’ in the Kitchen!

Pizzelles, The Carpenters, Coffee, & Dancin’ in the Kitchen!

Saturday morning in Wisconsin it was snowing. Training camp for soccer took one son out of the house. A trip to the YMCA for a quick workout took the other son out. My husband had errands to run. This left me home alone, which is something I usually do not mind.  We had been invited to a friend’s house for dinner and not told to bring anything when I asked.  But, being brought up in a more “proper time”,  I decided that I would make pizzelles which could be taken with us for dessert.

Pizzelles are an Italian cookie. We have a pizzelle press that is part of a waffle iron – Panini combo appliance.  We did not get around to making them this holiday season, so I thought it a perfect activity for a slow, snowy, Saturday morning.  Music. I needed music to complete my kitchen experience!  Wandering over to my CD rack in our deck, adjacent to the kitchen, I immediately grabbed a new Carpenter Love Songs CD that I received last year (2016) for Christmas from my husband. I have listened to this once or twice before but was more than ready Saturday morning to sing along with Karen’s low, sultry voice, while she was either on Top of the World, looking for love, or lamenting the fact it didn’t work out. Into the under cabinet CD player went the disc. Soon, Karen was crooning, Richard was tinkling on the keys as he did so very well, and saxophones or flutes were being played for extended solos. I was reliving the 70’s all over again, only in my own kitchen – not my bedroom of my parent’s house!

The pizzelles were made, but not without a quick trip to the grocery store by my husband for more baking powder. Luckily, we noticed this before I was left with a plan but no car to find a new supply at the grocery store.  The half batch (for which I had enough baking powder) turned into a full batch and I started to put the dough onto the heated griddle form.  Pizzelles contain anise. I love anise. It is my favorite additive to baked goods. I would much rather add anise than vanilla.  But, the recipe from Cooks.com called for 4 Tbsp. of anise! WHAT?! Four tablespoons is a ton of a very potent licorice flavoring.

I know that not all people like anise the way I do, so I halved it.

Then, figuring out the right size dollop of dough to put on the press was a challenge. First, too much. Then, not enough! Ugh!  The iron seemed too hot at first, as they pizzelles were a little too brown and then, not hot enough after I backed off on the suggested 3 minute bake from my husband.

The Carpenters continued to croon. Soon enough working the pizzelle press was down to a science, albeit not an exact one, and I was dancing around in the kitchen, drinking coffee, and listening to some of my favorite music from days gone by.  I was, quite figuratively, on the Top of the World!  Not bad for a slow, snowy, Saturday morning in Wisconsin.



The Power of Music

The Power of Music

The Power of Love! Do you know it? The old song from Huey Lewis and the News? (See it on YouTube here.) It is one of my favorites, probably because I was in college and college is where I met my husband. The song was popular at that time. It was featured in the Back to the Future movie in 1985.  When  I hear The Power of Love, it immediately transports me back to the 1980’s.  Music has the power to do that, in my opinion. We hear a song from the past and in a flash, we remember; before we consciously even realize, we are singing along, word for word, with the tune. It happened again this weekend.

A friend of ours has a very talented daughter. We have watched her grow up. We used to be neighbors and know this family well. On Saturday, this young lady was singing at a classy lounge in a small downtown in the mid-west, near where she grew up and we were neighbors. This was a three-hour acoustic performance – just her and a similarly talented guitarist. We were treated to songs from Elton John, The Eagles, Christina Perri, Taylor Swift, and more. Each was better than the rest!  My favorite was probably Unchained Melody, which most people today know from the from the movie Ghost with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore (1990).  The song has a long history before that, as noted in this article in The Atlantic in July of 2015.  Our lovely young singer-friend got to show off her wide-range in this piece and hit the high notes beautifully without any hint of a screech or crack in pitch. It truly gave us all chills. Her mom gets chills every time she hears it. I can more than understand why. It was beautiful!

While listening to this beautiful, talented singer, I told her mom that it made me miss the music in our house.  We never had a singer. But, we had/have a talented pianist. It is just that he does not live at home any longer. Now, a graduate student in the field of Statistics,  our young pianist would fill our house with all kinds of music. Classical, and broadway musicals or show-tunes were most commonly played, along with some pop and of course any music chosen for recitals – which were held once a year, right at this time.

A lot of memories converged for me this weekend. I am working at a school where I drive past the church where the piano recitals were held. My pianist has played many acoustic performances, some with the very music our friend sang on Saturday night.

The piano would be played in practice, daily, sometimes for great lengths of time. It was obvious the performance on Saturday had required practice. As a performer, our friend was relaxed and enjoyable to watch. She has been performing with this guitarist for a while, as well as with a band during the summer months in which he is also the lead guitarist.

Both of these talented young people, my son and our friend, have incorporated their love and talent for music into their lives. Yet, neither are majoring in college for music. It is possible to love music, be a talented musical performer, and share your love for music without making it work or filled with competition of chair placements, section leaders, or winning a solo.  Let me be clear that they both, as individuals, have enough talent to have made music a more “official” part of their degrees, lives, or wages.  However, their love for music has kept it alive for them – we benefit because they share their talent through performance and practice.

It is obvious that music in some form will always be with these young adults. Just last week, my son had to take a break from studying. What did he do? He went and played piano. He has access to music rooms at his university, as well as an excellently maintained piano at the church he attends.  His self-imposed therapy worked……upon returning to his apartment, he was able to finish his work easily.  His head had been cleared! I love that playing the piano can do that for him!

Music is powerful! It can be used for entertainment, enjoyment, relaxation, and even stress relief. Music can transport you to a different time and/or place. It can give you chills, make you cry, or fill your heart with joy.  Those who have music in their lives, in some form, are probably some of the most lucky people on earth! Music is powerful!




The 1812 Overture: The Memory of A Love for Music

The 1812 Overture: The Memory of A Love for Music

It was 39 years ago that I was a freshman in our high school symphonic band. It was that year the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky catapulted me to the first seat in the first section of flutes, after having to play it for our chair placements. It was half way through the year, and I previously held the first flute, third chair position. Being seated first meant that I performed better than anyone else in my section on my scales and on this most difficult piece of music – we had the full score, not a watered down version. I had played the piece with few errors for my band director and hence was sitting in front of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, leading the section. I remember thinking, “am I ready for this?” Playing the piece was exhilarating, exhausting, and challenging but oh, so worth it. Each time we finished, whether in rehearsal or concert, a sense of pride and accomplishment overwhelmed me. Here is a link to a version I found on You Tube.

The memory of band and this piece of music came flooding back to me last night as I watched the PBS special, “A Capitol Fourth”. I do not think the piece was played particularly well, nor did they spend twenty minutes of the broadcast playing it. But still, my love for music runs deep. At one point, in late middle school,  I considered being a musician but that idea vanished from my head after the above experience, and others, that showed me the politics and stress of chair seating in bands and orchestras. A girl I knew, and played flute with for years, simply wanted it more. “It” refers to leading the section. I do believe she went on to be a music teacher.  And I, being a shy introverted 15-year-old, let her have it. I never sat first flute, first chair again. I simply did not want to. I made sure that I had mistakes on my piece in future auditions!

This revelation did not dampen my love for music nor the importance it has played in my life. As a flautist, I enjoyed being able to play the melody in most pieces. As a piccolo-player, I was challenged and enthused to play the fast paced Sousa marches we all know. I love them all. I have played most of them. Among my favorites are The Washington Post,  Stars and Stripes Forever, & Semper Fidelis. These rousing renditions can take me back through time to the streets of a parade or a field show routine under the Friday Night Lights.

I played in marching band, symphonic band, and fireman’s band. I played solos, duets, and even quartets (known today, as a flute choir, most probably). Music was, and is, part of who I am.  My grandfather and mother, both, were musicians as youth, played clarinet, guitar, and piano. It seems cliché, but music fills my soul. I have been known to get choked up while singing hymns in church, shed a tear during a high school band concert, or sing a show tune while paddling a canoe – as I did just this past Sunday night.

I can and do appreciate the talent and skill of great artists. Music is a language all its own. Through artists and composers such as Beethoven, Aaron Copeland, Benny Goodman, Kenny G, Vince Gill, and Brian Setzer, who not only play the instruments but also write the language, we are unified as humans.

It was both enjoyable and disappointing to hear such a memorable piece of music last night on a national broadcast. The 1812 Overture is familiar to many and played at many National occasions. The sounds of the composition brought me right back to sitting in that first chair, first flute seat and memories of how much I loved being a band member. Music is an experience that stays with you for life.



Creating begets Creators

Creating begets Creators

There is no secret that I like to create. From a young age, I drew, learned to sew, and took pride in knowing how to make things. My grandmother made all my clothes for many years – Yes, all, except my underwear!  From my swimsuits to my winter coats, and everything in between, it was a creation of my grandma’s that I wore. She could create!

My Dad is a wonderful artist. One of my fondest childhood memories is a train he drew on the top layer of painted cinderblocks in our basement. It had many cars and the engine has our house number on it. Every time I walked down the basement stairs, I was entertained by that train! He also drew many wonderful posters for my mom’s third grade classroom over the years. Cartoon characters indicated which day you had gym or music or art class or when lunch time was. I was always in awe of those drawings and what he could create.

In college, I learned to crochet. We all made huge granny square blankets one winter in nursing school. It was a creative outlet for a group of serious nursing students learning to take care of the sick. It became mindless but productive. A time to rest. A time to create.

Now that I have a family of my own, I can see how being raised by a creator leads to creating. My husband, my boys, and I all create on a regular basis. It is part of who we are, and I think it is a necessary part of being whole.

My husband makes clocks and fine, solid wood furniture. Almost every table, bookshelf,  and desk, as well as a few dressers, clocks, and lamps in our home were made by him. They are lovely, well made pieces, he created. His wood shop has attracted our 17-year-old for years. Once my husband’s volunteer assistant, this young man has morphed into a creator of laminated skate boards designed by using CAD software and a C and C machine that he taught himself to use. He has even created busts of his friends on our 3D printer! We need to find some way to squeeze those skills of creation on to a college application, as those skills are important to him, even if they might not be measured by the institution he attends daily to learn. He learned himself. He is a creator!


I make jewelry and have for ten years now. My creations have led to the most regular source of hobby income, as I have consigned to a number of gift boutiques and art or museum galleries over the years. My Etsy shop has been running since 2009.  Besides creating jewelry, I create curriculum. Reading and researching led me to create nearly all my lessons for the twelve years I ran an elementary school’s garden club. Math questions were created out of a desire to push myself to find ways to connect the subject to our garden club content for the students. The curriculum, the math questions, and of course this blog, are all creations, as well as the jewelry whose designs come solely out of my head and my heart, not a book.

Create. My youngest knows the word well. He created all of the origami pieces featured in a previous blog post. He tends to be obsessive about his creating phases. The origami craze took place a number of years ago. Now, he has moved on to colored pencil and charcoal drawings or drawings of mixed media. His creations amaze me, like this “old man drawing” he recreated from a photograph. His work takes many hours, as you can probably tell.


And my oldest, a fresh college graduate, creates through using his mathematical, analytical, and statistical skills to find ways to help us from stop destroying our natural world. What better thing to create, than a better world?! He is also my writer – crafting pieces that have been read over and over by a teen magazine audience. How can you not be a creator when you take a micro-fiction writing course for fun? It what he did his last semester of school!  He must need to create, too! This is not to mention the music he creates with the care taken to learn complicated piano and saxophone pieces. Although the notes were put on the page by the composer,  the piece becomes a creation each time it is played and perfected by the musician.

There is no doubt in my mind that creating begets creators. So, if you have a creative child, you can most likely take some credit yourself for the making of another creator. And if you do not, start creating together. It will lead to someplace wonderful for both of you!

Inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt: Create

The Simple Gifts of Memorial Day: A Day for Music & Remembering

The Simple Gifts of Memorial Day: A Day for Music & Remembering

Here in the United States, it is the Memorial Day Holiday. A day when we take pause to remember our veterans who serve and sacrifice to keep Americans safe at home and abroad. In our town, we have a very short parade consisting of service representatives who walk with our flag as part of the American Legion, the high school marching band, the middle school marching band, and the local boy scouts. It is a parade of patriotic music and acknowledgement for those who have given so much for our country, including their very lives, in many instances.  For many reasons, I  love Memorial Day.

This is the first year in ten that I do not have a student in either of the bands. Just as they march by us, time marches by as well. I missed seeing my boys in the bands, but I did not want to miss this parade. It is such a short, beautiful recognition of the best our country has to offer. Sacrifice, Love, Patriotism, Loyalty, and Music.

Thankful for the veterans in our family, my Dad, and my late mother-in-law and father-in-law, as well as all those who choose to serve in the armed forces, attending the parade is the least I can do. Each year, it fills me with pride and gratitude, a great way to start off the day and frankly, the rest of the summer season.

The parade also fills me with music. Music is something that can transport and transcend feelings. It has always been an important part of my life. Following the parade, upon returning home from the 15 minute walk that takes us to our main street, I immediately put in one of the two compact discs of patriotic music that I own. They are not new CD’s and the music is not new but it is beautiful and renewing. I am listening to it now.

patriotic music CD's

Songs like Shenandoah, Yankee Doodle, The Star Spangled Banner, Simple Gifts, My Country Tis of Thee, American Patrol, Washington Post, The Air Forces Song, The Marines’ Hymn, The Stars and Stripes Forever, Over There, God Bless America, You’re a Grand Old Flag, Fanfare for the Common Man, This Land is Your Land, and others will be listened to and sung with, as they carry me through today and the rest of the week to come.  Thank you Veterans and thank you composers and musicians for inspiring love for our country and countrymen.


Sixty Six, Sunny, & Some Music for the Soul.

Sixty Six, Sunny, & Some Music for the Soul.


Being a mid-life graduate student in Environmental Education, I’m well versed on the positive effects nature can have on all aspects of your health. We need nature more than it needs us. Today, I lived what I preach and took my weekly walk a day early – alone.

By late afternoon, I took off down the road enjoying the sun, a warm sixty-six degrees, a cooling  breeze, and some of my favorite tunes from my iTunes library. Sheena Easton, Stevie Wonder, Glenn Miller, Toto, The Band Perry, Orchestral Arrangements of various pieces from Pirates of the Caribbean, Jackson Browne, the Zac Brown Band, Gloriana, and Steel Magnolia kept me company. Three miles, round trip, I walked along with a bounce in my step, a breeze to keep me cool, and songs to make me smile.

Usually, I walk with a friend and we try to solve the “problems of the world” during our one hour journey covering the roughly the same path I did today.  Today was for me – a tune up of my spirit using music, sunny skies, a warm breeze, and some great company – myself.

I noticed how green everything has become, the spring hyacinths and daffodils poking through the ground with touches of pink and yellow, the trees just trying ever so hard to leaf out dusting the ground with pollen, and the freshness of the air. It is spring. Nature is rejuvenating itself and nature is rejuvenating me.