Friday, December 23, 2011

Wexford Carol - Alison Krauss and Yo Yo Ma

This is still the most beautiful rendition of this carol I have ever heard.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Carol of the Bells (for 12 cellos) - Steven Sharp Nelson

If you like your classical music with a modern twist, you're going to love this guy. Steven Sharp Nelson (The Cello Guy) is half of a duo called "The Piano Guys." The other half is Jon Schmidt.) They just released their first album "YouTube Hits Vol. 1. You can go to to read all about them and buy the music.

The first video is Steven playing "Carol of the Bells (for 12 cellos)." The second is called "Classical Music at 180 mph." The third is "Cello Wars Light Saber Duel."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Holy Night - David Archulet, and Special Announcement

This is one of the most heartfelt renditions of this song I have ever heard. Listen to this, then watch the second video to see why he is so emotional.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

And The Winners Are . . .

"Pride and Popularity" goes to Bonnie.

"Cold River" goes to RandomlyKait.

"Crossed" goes to Donna Weaver.

"Variant" goes to janneish.

Congratulations to the winners! Happy reading, everyone!

Go Tell It On The Mountain - Toby Keith and Jewel

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Medley - North Church iBand

This is pretty cool! Who knew there were so many instrument apps on iPad and iPhone? (Not me. I'm an HP and Android kind of gal.) There is actually a Christmas hymn, mixed in with all the secular music. Listen for it at 1:40. The OCD part of my brain wants to run up on stage with my little lens cleaning cloth and wipe all the fingerprints off the screens.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Joseph's Lullaby - Mercy Me

I wonder sometimes about Joseph, who was technically Jesus' stepfather. He was the man chosen to protect and provide for the Savior of the World. He must have been a very good man.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ding Dong Merrily On High - Christmas Flash Mob

This happened on the afternoon of Black Friday. I wonder how many shoppers had been awake all night and thought they might be hallucinating?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor Day - I Won't Be Home For Christmas

I saw a comment on YouTube as I was searching for the right video to put up today. It said, "A real hero doesn't wear a cape. A real hero wears dog tags."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thankful - Josh Groban

Christmas seems to be edging out Thanksgiving more and more all the time. At least the Christmas merchandising is doing that. What would happen if we start overlapping Christmas with some extra Thanksgiving?

Here's a thought. If someone says, "Oh, you don't need to get me anything for Christmas," take them at their word. Check out Heifer International where you can buy a heifer, or a flock of geese, or even a llama to give to a family in a 3rd world country so they have the resources to improve their lives. Then you can customize a gift card to the person who has everything, explaining you have made a donation in their name.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Was Not His Father - Michael McLean

This is from "The Forgotten Carols" by Michael McLean. You can buy the CD here. There is also a companion book and DVD.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah - Mariah Carey and Patricia Carey

Their singing styles are different, but you can certainly tell where Mariah gets her talent. I knew Patricia Carey was an opera singer, but I never knew what her voice sounded like until now.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Do You Have Room? - Shawna Edwards

"Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus." ~Neal A. Maxwell~

If you like this song, you can go to Shawna Edwards website, where she is offering your choice of either a free copy of the sheet music or the original recording. All you have to do is leave a comment on her blog telling either (1) your favorite Christmas memory, or (2) how you are making room for the Savior in your life. Click on the button in the right-hand column and follow the instructions. How easy is that?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Los Pastores a Belen - David Archuleta and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

I can't find a good translation of "Los Pastores a Belen," but it has something to do with shepherds running to the stable to see the Christ child (and I think somebody loses a shoe, and there's something about bread). Whatever, I'll probably be singing along every time I hear it, even if I don't know what I'm singing.

This was from the 2010 Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert. You can buy the CD, or the DVD of the whole concert, with David Archuleta and Michael York, at this link.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmastime - Hilary Weeks

I just love Hilary's voice. And I love her trust in God. From her blog:

"I have learned that God's hand is ever present in my life, that His miracles and promises are real, that He makes us enough and more, that every good gift comes from Him, that He is aware of this project, that He has inspired me to reach for lofty goals, that He will provide a way, that there are reasons for everything, that we can trust Him, that if we follow where he leads we'll find ourselves in amazing places, that He loves me and that the future is incredibly bright."

Sometimes, I just need to hear somebody say that.

Hilary just released a new album called Every Step, which debuted at #6 on Billboard's Christian Albums list. The first single is "Beautiful Heartbreak." You can find the video here. If you know someone who likes more mellow Christian music, this would make a very nice Christmas present.

"Christmastime" is from Hilary Weeks' album of the same name. You can click here to order it from her website.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Give Books for Christmas Blog Hop

I'm participating in the Give Books for Christmas Giveaway Hop, hosted by Inksplasher.

What's a Give Books for Christmas Giveaway Hop? It's a group of bloggers who are giving away books as prizes!

The hop runs from December 1st through the 15th. All books will be shipped on December 16th. We can't guarantee books will arrive in time for Christmas, but we're going to give it a good try!

I'll be giving away four books:

Pride and Popularity by Jenni James,

Cold River by Liz Adair,

Crossed by Ally Condie,

and Variant by Robison Wells. I'll be posting my reviews of each of these books between December 1st and 15th.

At the end of this post, you'll see a long list of the participating blogs. Just click the links and go check out the contests.

Deadline to enter: Thursday, December 15, 2011.

To enter to win one of these books:

Become a follower of my blog. If you are already a follower, just say so. (That's good for one entry.) Tweet or Facebook (or Google+ if you're one of those progressive people) about this giveaway or my Musical Advent Calendar to spread the word. (One entry per post.) Comment to let me know what you have done. You will get one entry per day for leaving a comment on my blog. That is a possible 61 entries. Theoretically, with so many entries possible, one person could win all four books, so I'm going to limit it to one prize per person. Every entry will be placed in order on a spreadsheet, and on December 15 at midnight, I will use a random number generator to pick the winners.

That's it! The winner will be posted and notified at the end of the hop.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

100 Things For Which I Am Thankful

I posted this last year, and decided it was worth revisiting this year.

1. The gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. My mother, who didn't just read to me. She showed me that she loved to read.
3. My father, who told me I could have anything I wanted, if I worked hard enough.
4. My husband, who tells me I look pretty even when I am at my worst.
5. My son, the genius.
6. My daughter, the other genius.
7. I live in an area some people dream of visiting at least once in their lives.
8. Chocolate. Duh!
9. Seven sisters.
10. One brother (poor, long-suffering guy).
11. The spouses of numbers 9 (most of the time) and 10 (always).
12. My 48 nieces and nephews.
13. My numerous great nieces and nephews, who are multiplying exponentially. I've lost count lately.
14. 5 great-great nieces and nephews. No, I'm not that old. My niece Vai is.
15. Attention deficit disorder. I am a master of brainstorming.
16. ADD meds, so I can get something done once in a while.
17. My day planner (which keeps me sort of organized, when I remember to use it).
18. Electricity.
19. Smooth pens.
20. Mechanical pencils.
21. LDS General Conference.
22. The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
23. The Holy Bible.
24. Genealogy.
25. Yak Tracks.
26. Modern medicine, without which I would not have a day job.
27. The internet, also without which I would not have a day job.
28. Personal computers, which are very useful when accessing the internet, and writing.
29. Blogging, wherein I give everyone my opinion, whether they want it or not.
30. Castle.
31. The new Hawaii 5-0.
32. The right to vote.
34. LDStorymakers annual writers conference, my right brain spa vacation.
35. David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants.
36. Wood stoves and radiant heat.
37. Four seasons.
38. Especially summer.
39. Books.
40. Libraries.
41. Bookstores.
42. Internal combustion engines.
43. Words. They are so fun to play with.
44. The English language. It is so versatile. If you can't find a word to express what you mean, make up a new one (or just steal it from another language).
45. The French language. Vous ne pouvez pas inventer de nouveaux mots, mais qui s'en soucie. Parce que même le plus laid des mots sonnent si beau en français.
46. Vicks Nyquil.
47. Vicks Dayquil.
48. Puffs facial tissues with aloe and Vicks Vaporub. (Why yes, I recently had a bad cold. Why do you ask?)
49. Ibuprofen.
50. Excedrine.
51. A good night's sleep.
52. Facebook. It's a love/hate relationship.
53. Farmers.
54. Supermarkets.
55. Duct tape.
56. Macaroni and cheese.
57. Lasagna.
58. Pizza.
59. Edited movies.
60. Good friends I may not see for ages, but when we get together again it's like we were never apart.
61. Shadow the Cat.
62. Scoopable cat litter.
63. A decent WiFi connection.
64. Good music.
65. Specifically Journey (old incarnation).
66. And Mozart.
67. Dancing.
68. Zumba!
69. Holidays.
70. Snow days.
71. Cell phones. How did we survive without them?
72. MP3 players. Remember vinyl records? 8-track tapes? cassettes? CDs?
73. Jump drives. Remember floppy disks when they really were floppy?
74. Old Faithful.
75. Waterfalls.
76. Lavender aromatherapy.
77. Yerba mate.
78. Blue Delft.
79. Pretty much anything blue.
80. Big chunky sweaters.
81. Family reunions.
82. Meeting cousins I didn't know I had.
83. Automatic washings machines.
84. Peaches.
85. Wildflowers.
86. I can breathe without thinking about it.
87. Mostly good vision.
88. Reading glasses.
89. Other people who are willing to do the icky jobs.
90. Talents, mine and other people's.
91. Good neighbors.
92. Unbiased journalism. (That could be an oxymoron.)
93. A really good story.
94. Snow tires.
95. 100 watt incandescent light bulbs.
96. Daffodils.
97. Teachers who really care about their students.
98. Clean humor (like Ryan Hamilton and Humor U).
99. Digital cameras.
100. Indoor plumbing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Martha Stewart Won't Be Coming for Thanksgiving

Disclaimer: I did not write this. It was sent to me in an email. I do not know who the author is. If you know, please tell me.

To All Our Family and Friends:
Just a note to let you know we are hoping to see you Thanksgiving Day, but . . .
Martha Stewart will not be dining with us this Thanksgiving. I’m telling you in
advance so don’t act surprised. Since Ms. Stewart won’t be coming, I’ve made a few small changes:

Our sidewalk will not be lined with homemade, paper bag luminaries. After a trial run, it was decided that no matter how cleverly done, rows of flaming lunch sacks do not have the desired welcoming effect.

Once inside, our guests will note that the entry hall is not decorated with the swags of Indian corn and fall foliage I had planned to make. Instead, I’ve gotten the kids involved in the decorating by having them track in colorful autumn leaves from the front yard. The mud was their idea.

The dining room table will not be covered with expensive linens, fancy china, or crystal goblets. If possible, we will use dishes that match and everyone will get a fork. Since this IS Thanksgiving, we will refrain from using the plastic Peter Rabbit plate and the Santa napkins from last Christmas.

Our centerpiece will not be the tower of fresh fruit and flowers that I promised. Instead we will be displaying a hedgehog-like decoration hand-crafted from the finest construction paper. The artist assures me it is a turkey.

We will be dining fashionably late. The children will entertain you while you wait. I’m sure they will be happy to share every choice comment I have made regarding Thanksgiving, pilgrims and the turkey hotline. Please remember that most of these comments were made at 5:00 a.m. upon discovering that the turkey was still hard enough to cut diamonds.

As accompaniment to the children’s recital, I will play a recording of tribal drumming. If the children should mention that I don’t own a recording of tribal drumming, or that tribal drumming sounds suspiciously like a frozen turkey in a clothes dryer, ignore them. They are lying.

We toyed with the idea of ringing a dainty silver bell to announce the start of our feast. In the end, we chose to keep our traditional method. We’ve also decided against a formal seating arrangement. When the smoke alarm sounds, please gather around the table and sit where you like. In the spirit of harmony, we will ask the children to sit at a separate table. In a separate room. Next door.

Now, I know you have all seen pictures of one person carving a turkey in front of a crowd of appreciative onlookers. This will not be happening at our dinner. For safety reasons, the turkey will be carved in a private ceremony. I stress “private” meaning: Do not, under any circumstances, enter the kitchen to laugh at me. Do not send small, unsuspecting children to check on my progress. I have an electric knife. The turkey is unarmed. It stands to reason that I will eventually win. When I do, we will eat.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind my young diners that “passing the rolls” is not a football play. Nor is it a request to bean your sister in the head with warm tasty bread.

Oh, and one reminder for the adults: For the duration of the meal, and especially while in the presence of young diners, we will refer to the giblet gravy by its lesser-known name: Cheese Sauce. If a young diner questions you regarding the origins or type of Cheese Sauce, plead ignorance.

Before I forget, there is one last change. Instead of offering a choice between 12 different scrumptious desserts, we will be serving the traditional pumpkin pie garnished with whipped cream and small fingerprints. You will still have a choice - take it or leave it. I hope you aren’t too disappointed that Martha Stewart will not be dining with us this Thanksgiving. She probably won’t come next year either.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks to the U.S. Military

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the U.S. Military. I just saw this performance from the WVU Marching Band, and it's just too good not to share. (Pay close attention at 2:34.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Can Only Imagine

I've been gearing up for my annual musical advent calendar, which gives me a good excuse to hang out on YouTube and watch a lot of videos. I stumbled across this one last night.

This song, "I Can Only Imagine" by Mercy Me, has been one of my favorites since the first time I heard it. It gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, but I've never heard this version with Mercy Me and the London Symphony Orchestra. Combine THAT sound with THESE pictures and . . . it leaves me breathless.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is music in praise of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and in celebration of the beautiful world He created for us. Try to remember to breathe.

Monday, November 14, 2011

NaNoWriMo or Why My Nails Are Blue

I'm participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. In accordance, in a total departure from my personal style, I have painted my fingernails a bright blue and they will stay that way until I hit the goal.

This is not as completely random as you might think.

Several years ago, I participated in a writing workshop where the instructor talked about transference. You can take some small object, hold it and concentrate on the feeling or emotion you want it to represent. In this case it had something to do with motivation to write. I chose a round, flattened blue glass rock, about an inch in diameter, the kind you might use in the bottom of an aquarium. It was a deep blue color, somewhere in the spectrum around sapphire, cobalt, and ultramarine. There's a paint color for the Ford Mustang called Kona Blue Metallic.

(On a side note, we also tried this technique in a weight loss group meeting once. The leader passed out some pretty rocks and told us they were to represent willpower. Unfortunately, my rock was the color of milk chocolate. Epic fail.)

I left the little blue rock sitting on the base of my computer monitor, and every time I looked at it, I felt guilty that I was not spending more time writing. At that time, I was working full time from home doing medical transcription. It's a job that requires sitting for 8 hours a day in front of a computer, listing to doctors' dictations, and typing as fast as you possibly can, with 100% accuracy. It was both mind-numbing and complex. Most days, by the time I finished my regular hours, the last thing I wanted to do was keep typing. I barely had enough functioning brain matter left to decided what to make for dinner. Sometimes I could scrawl a few hand-written pages in the evening.

I felt the talent I had been given was a "use it or lose it" kind of thing, and it was slowly slipping away. Sometimes I would try to write and nothing happened. Finally, I reached a crisis point. I was driving myself nuts. Something had to change and I was afraid it meant giving up writing. I knelt at my desk chair and prayed for something, anything, that would help me know what I was supposed to do. When I looked up, there was my little blue rock. But the impression that came into my mind was different this time. It was, "It's okay. Don't worry. You've still got your talent. It may take a while, but it will happen."

But that wasn't the end of it. Suddenly, wherever I went, I saw that color blue, or something close enough to it to remind me of the answer to my prayer. A highway sign, a box of Band-Aids, somebody's dress at church, a Christmas ornament, the tarp covering a pile of firewood, a sign at the grocery store. "It will happen."

The whole section from teal to blue to purple has always been my favorite part of the color spectrum, but now I have a special affinity for MY blue. I've even started collecting cobalt glassware and Blue Delft figurines.

So that's why, when I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year, I painted my fingernails with the closest match I could find to Kona Blue Metallic. "It may take a while, but it will happen."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Buy This Book on November 10!

The other day, I bought some books on Amazon. They are supposed to be here tomorrow. At least that's what the confirmation email said. I'm feeling a little impatient because I actually read three sample chapters of one of the books and I'm hooked and I just have to see what happens. Aauugh! I should have just bought it on Kindle. I like instant gratification.

The book is Variant by Robison Wells. It's published by Harper Teen, and Publisher's Weekly says it's one of the best books of 2011. While the Publisher's Weekly thing is kind of impressive, what really made me want to read this book was the great word of mouth I've been hearing, things like "couldn't put it down," "stayed up too late reading it," and "up there with Hunger Games." I've also heard it is a clean read, suitable for everyone from tweens to adults.

I wish I could give a full review, but I've only read those first three sample chapters that you can download on Kindle. But here are a couple of reviews I found.

Benson Foster will try anything to escape the foster care system, but when he enrolls in Maxfield Academy, he finds that he is escaping one type of hell only to be trapped in another, truly deadly, one. There are no adults at the academy; the students do everything from teaching to preparing meals and security. There are four main rules: no sex, no violent fighting, no refusing punishments, and no trying to escape. Students who break the rules are sent to detention, and they never come back. Benson is trying to find a way to escape, and along the way he finds some devastating secrets: some of the students are not who they seem to be.

Variant is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat read that combines psychological themes from works like Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game in a truly unique way. There are a couple of twists that are truly surprising and up the emotional ante of the story. From the moment Benson enters the academy until the very end, readers are caught in a tight, tense thriller. What is the academy and why are the students there? Wells does a good job of both universebuilding and character development, as the rules unfold and character roles become clearer. There is a slow unfolding of academy secrets that proves to be just the right pacing. In the end, Benson may escape the walls of the school but he stumbles upon an even bigger mystery. Variant should join the ranks of today’s must-read science fiction and fantasy series . This is a highly recommended addition to any collection for teens.

—Karen Jensen. VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates, magazine for YA librarians)

Lots of YA novels begin with a character arriving at new boarding school, but it is safe to say there has never been a boarding school like this. Perennial foster kid Benson arrives at Maxfield Academy armed with an unexpected scholarship and some cautious optimism, but within minutes of arriving he realizes something is terribly wrong. There are no adults. There are towering walls topped with barbed wire. Messages are sent by computer to instruct the teens in both academic pursuits and paintball war games. Most immediately worrisome is that the student body has split itself into three warring factions: the Society (tasked with keeping order), Havoc (food preparation as well as serious attitude), and the V’s (whose chief shared trait is a desire to escape). This is good old-fashioned paranoia taken to giddy extremes, especially when a totally implausible—but nonetheless enjoyably insane—twist upends the plot in the final act. Take Veronica Roth’s Divergent (2011), strip out the angst, add a Michael Grant–level storytelling pace, and you have this very satisfying series starter.

— Daniel Kraus, Booklist

So here I am breaking my blogging silence in the middle of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), posting a review of a book I haven't even read yet (dang snail mail). It's for a very good cause. The author, Robison Wells, has been going through a pretty tough time lately. I would not want to switch places with him right now, even if it involved being published in the national YA market and getting great reviews. He explains what is going on here, and here, on his own blog. His friend, fellow author Larry Corea (Monster Hunter International) decided to start a book bomb for Variant.

Here's how Larry explains it: What many people don’t realize about writers is that we keep our day jobs until we have about five or six books in circulation, and sometimes longer depending on how well they are selling. Writing isn’t the most steady of paychecks. (I’m doing well enough now that I could just be a writer, but I happen to love my day job, so I plan on doing it for probably another year). You’ve got to earn back the advance and even then you only get paid every six months. Variant is Rob’s first book on the national market. He had a ways to go before he would be able to quit the day job, but his illness totally wrecked that plan.

So I want to book bomb the HELL out of Variant. I want to shove that thing up the bestseller lists on Amazon and I want to give my friend a hand.

What is a book bomb? Well, Amazon has its own bestseller list. It is calculated hourly and you are given a sales rank based up on how you stack up against the other six million books on there. It is some sort of strange rolling average algorhythm, but what it comes down to is, the more books that are purchased during that particular time frame, the higher you rank. The higher you rank, the more of their top 50 or top 10 lists you show up on. The more of those you show up on, the higher you go, the more attention you get, the more books you sell.

By getting as many people as possible to purchase the book on a single day, it really kicks a book up the rankings.

So if you want a really good book to read, and wouldn't mind helping out a really nice, deserving guy, buy Variant by Robison Wells on Amazon, November 10.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Our Little Visitor

We've had a very wet spring. Now that summer seems to have arrived, I decided to take a chance this morning and hang some laundry out to dry. I have a line strung over a raised deck between our detached garage and a tool shed. On a nice, sunny day, feeling the sunshine on my face and smelling the fresh scent of clean clothes almost makes doing laundry a pleasant chore. There is always the chance of clouds rolling in with rain, necessitating a mad dash to grab everything off the line, but I was ready to chance it.

Well . . .

I had just begun hanging the laundry when I heard a funny bumping noise, like apples falling off a tree onto the deck. But our apple tree doesn't have any fruit on it yet. I looked over at the little space between the deck and the shed just in time to see a fluffy black and white tail disappearing underneath.

What to do? What to do? I had already hung up two of my daughter's shirts. The skunk was under the deck, not up where I was. If I was very, very quiet, maybe I could finish hanging the laundry and the skunk and I could peacefully coexist until we could convince it to live somewhere else like the forest, the county dump, the bottom of a pond. I didn't care where it went as long as it was away.

Then the skunk chose to reemerge from under the deck. I decided not to move until it went somewhere else. It was between me and the house.

Little Pepe Le Pew and I would have been just fine except for that darn mosquito. (Did I mention we have had a lot of rain? The mosquito population has exploded.) Without thinking, I slapped at the mosquito. The noise got Pepe's attention and he began to rotate his tail end toward me. I quickly grabbed the laundry basket, jumped off the deck, around the fence and into the alley, where I was out of sight (and hopefully target range) of the little guy. After about a minute I quietly moved back onto the deck and removed my daughter's shirts from the line without attracting any more attention. Then I beat a quick retreat down the alley to the sidewalk and back to the house.

I think I'll stick to an electric dryer for a while. Anyone know how to get rid of a skunk?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

American Idol Results - That's Just Wrong

I was wrong about Jacob being the one sent home this week. But Casey? Come on. I don't know that I would give him first place, but I would at least send Jacob and even Haley home first. How am I going to break the news to my daughter?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - W is for WIP (Work In Progress)

I have many, MANY works in progress. That's one of the drawbacks of ADD. It's great for creativity, but tough for sticking to one thing. But currently I'm using an index card outline system that allows me to jump back and forth from one WIP to another, as the ideas come. So what am I working on?

My main project is "Faithful," an action suspense involving Old Faithful, a cult leader, and lots of explosives. This one has been fun to research. I've got a nephew-in-law who is a physics professor and knows all about which explosives have the effect I need. It makes for some interesting conversations at family gatherings. Another friend is a jet mechanic and was nice enough to answer some questions I had about how to disable a private jet. He did wonder what in the world I was up to.

Currently my secondary project is "I Speak Geek," a humorous YA. I got the idea for this one after attending a writer's conference that was mainly aimed at science fiction/fantasy writers. Most of the attendees there spoke a different language, or at least a different dialect, that I did. (Not to say that science fiction/fantasy writers are all geeks, but a disproportionate number of them seem to have a better understanding of computers than I do.) So I started wondering, what if someone had grown up in a very intellectual family and understood all the vocabulary and inside jokes, and then could act as a "translator" between geeks and everyone else at school. All I need is a good plot.

So that's what I'm spending (most of) my writing time on currently. I'll post status updates again soon.

American Idol - Carol King Week

Carole King is one of the most prolific songwriters of her time. In over 100 hits she has written or co-written, there should be something for everyone. In fact, I thought all six contestants found the right song for their voices and styles, and even the three duets turned out okay.

First up, Jacob Lusk sang "Oh No Not My Baby." I don't remember hearing this song before, but Jacob did a great job with it. And that plaid suit and bright yellow shirt did more for him than the satin and velvet suits he's been wearing. And he danced! It was a fun performance.

Lauren Alaina sang "Where You Lead." It was interesting to watch her push herself even more. She was worried that if she went for the big notes she would miss one, and she did. But it just showed how well she could do if she took a chance.

Scotty McCreery showed a more emotional side than he has before, and a higher range, with "You've Got A Friend." It's like, "Hey, Scotty's a sensitive guy." He even held the microphone in a less dorky way.

James Durbin sang "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." He sang the first lines acapella and proved (again) he has a really beautiful voice. And backstage after his performance he said that the performance was dedicated to his wife. Awww! Have I said how much I like this guy?

Casey Abrams turned the American Idol stage into a jazz club with "Hi Dee Ho." It was a very entertaining performance, but I thought it was more a platform to spotlight the backup musicians than a showcase for Casey's voice.

Haley Reinhart sang "Beautiful," another song I'm not familiar with. It seemed to be a great song for Haley's voice. But it was a little boring. Nice, but boring.

Tomorrow night, I think Haley is going home.

Steven Tyler's comments were a little boring tonight, too.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - V is for Vacuity

According to Webster's, vacuity is:

1. Emptiness.

2. An empty space.

3. Emptiness of mind.

That seems to describe the state of both my mind and blog at the moment. But at least we have all learned a new vocabulary word today. Ah, but come back tomorrow, when we will discuss my WIP.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - U is for Unplugged

No blog today. I am being unstructured. It's nice for a change.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - T is for The Third

I just read a really great book, one worthy of telling everyone about. It's called "The Third" by Abel Keogh. Here's the blurb from his website:

When Ransom Lawe, a recycler in the Pacific Northwest, finds out his wife is pregnant with their third—and therefore illegal—child, he’s forced to choose between the government who proclaims a desire to save the planet and his hope for a place where his family can live in freedom. But with the Census Bureau Sentinels closing in on his wife and unborn child, Ransom’s choice will either save his family or tear them apart forever.

Abel Keogh offers a stark and haunting look at a not-so-distant future in this chilling new novel. Crossing lines between good and evil, freedom and oppression, and political and environmental responsibility, The Third is a gut-wrenching tale of intense loyalty and unconditional love."

I had heard about "The Third" from other friends, and I went over to Keogh's website to check it out. I like the dystopian genre, and it sounded interesting, so I read the first chapter, which is available free on the website. I was hooked immediately. The main character, Ransom Lawe, is a flawed everyman. There is not much remarkable about him, other than his above-average height. Honestly, the guy gets his butt kicked fairly regularly by the bad guy. But as soon as he goes to the aid of a stranger when everyone else just watches, he becomes the hero you root for. You have to keep reading, just to see if everything will be okay, because the possibility that everything might not be okay is so strong. "The Third" is a view of what might happen if people allow their government to take away too many basic freedoms in the name of the common good. I was riveted until the end. I hope there will be a sequel, because I really want to know what happens next for Ransom and his family.

So, seriously, if you want a really good book to read, click on the link above, go to Abel Keogh's website, and order "The Third." It's available in both hard copy and e-book format.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - S is for Sigh of Relief

Today was my last working day on my day job. For another week and a half, I am using up personal leave, holiday leave, and some vacation time. It hasn't quite sunk in yet - still feels like I just finished my work for the week. Maybe by Monday, when I don't have to sign on and start typing, it will seem real.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - R is for Results of American Idol

I was half right. I predicted Jacob, Stefano, and Haley in the bottom three, and I was right. But I thought it would be Jacob going home this time, and instead it was Stefano. I'll go out on a limb here and predict Jacob going home next week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - Q is for QUIT

How fortuitous. Today is brought to you by the letter Q, which stands for Quit, as in, I just quit my job today. Really. I officially gave my two-week notice this very morning.

For 11 years, medical transcription has been my day job, and writing has been my "whenever I can fit it in" thing. Except it just didn't fit in very well between the 8 hours a day of work, the wife thing, the mom thing, the homemaker thing, the church lady thing, and all the other things yelling for my time and attention.

Well two weeks from now, writing is going to have a firm time and place on my schedule every day. The kind of time which may only be interrupted by blood relatives and then only if they are in imminent danger of death. Except my mother, who can call any time.

American Idol - 21st Century Week

This season just gets better and better. The judges keep saying anybody could win. I don't know about that, but I think at least half the contestants right now could win IF they make the right song choices and have great performances for the rest of the season.

That opening number, though, kind of made me wish I hadn't watched the first few minutes of the show. "So What" by Pink is a fun song, and the girls did okay, although their voices are so different they should never sing the same note all at the same time. They just didn't match up. Then Paul came in and he didn't harmonize with anybody or anything. It was painful.

On to the real show.

First up, Scotty McCreery singing "Swingin" by LeeAnn Rhimes. (I've never heard her version. This was originally sung back in 1983 by John Anderson.) I liked this one so much better than what he sang last week. It was upbeat and fun and he got some of the "low ladykiller notes" in there. The judges were a little bored and wished he would take more chances. Luckily, they don't have a vote anymore. Scotty is doing what Scotty does and doing it well.

Next up, James Durbin sang "Uprising" by Muse. I finally understood the lyrics of this song and I like it. He brought in a drum corps! I love this guy! Every week I look forward to seeing how he is going to top his last performance. Does it hurt his vocal cords to sing that high?

Haley Reinhart took on "Rolling In The Deep" by Adele. I think the style was a good one for Haley, but she was losing control of the notes, which I thought was odd, because Haley has a lot of vocal control, normally.

Jacob Lusk sang "Dance For My Father" by Luther Vandross. I couldn't help comparing Jacob to Luther and the comparison was not good. Yes, everyone (the judges) compares Jacob to Luther, but I don't think the comparison bears much close scrutiny. At least not this close. Luther's voice is like butter and Jacob's was a little more like the chunks of butter floating around in the buttermilk when the churning is only half done.

Casey Abrams did "Harder to Breathe" by Maroon 5. (Side note: My daughter could barely contain herself, saying, "My favorite contestant is singing a song by one of my favorite groups! I love Casey!") As Randy said, "Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!" Casey is a rocker, too! He's another one that brings something new every week.

Stefano Langone channeled Neo with "Closer." So Producer Jimmy gave him a lecture about being confident, so Stefano was really acting confident on stage. This guy is improving every week. All the little girl voters just might put him through to the finale, but I hope not. Yeah, he's improving, but he's still not one of my favorites. When he throws his head back and hits those really big notes he reminds me of that little kid's fishing game where you have to get the magnet on the little plastic fishing pole to grab the magnet in the little plastic fishes mouth.

Lauren Alaina closed the show with "Born to Fly" by Sara Evans. Lauren really does have a very special voice. She lets it show a little bit more every time. The judges gave her a huge pep talk about just going for it and seeing what her voice can do. I look forward to seeing what she does with all that encouragement next week.

My picks for the bottom three this week are Jacob, Stefano, and Haley. I think Jacob will go home.

Unless Lauren comes out next week and knocks everyone sideways, I still think this is going to come down to Scotty and James in the finale. The winner will depend upon which is stronger, the country vote, or the rocker vote. But Lauren and Scotty could split the country vote, giving James the win.

This week's Tylerisms:

"I wish you would have boot scooted around a little more."

"God says all men are created equal and some are more equal than others."

And this was all for James:

"You stay out of my closet now. Mad Max meets storm troopers on Melrose. You'd be surprised how expensive it costs to look this cheap. I sounds like you're going in a T-Rex direction."

But Ryan, coming out in a fake red beard, had the funniest line of the night. "This is what it feels like to be a man??"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - P is for Pioneer Woman

Have you heard of the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond? I discovered her through a friend on Facebook. She has this blog, where she shares fabulously yummy recipes and documents her life as a former big city girl transplanted to a ranch. After reading her blog, I discovered Ree had written a book chronicaling the true story of how she met and married a cowboy, whom she refers to as Marlboro Man. The Pioneer Woman, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels is romantic with some hilarious moments thrown in, and just when you think that's all there is to the story, she throws in some drama. I've had a lot of fun reading it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - O is for Oh, How I Hate Filing Taxes

I've been working on filing taxes for most of the day. I tried to find our 2009 AGI, but last year's return has mysteriously disappeared. I looked EVERYWHERE! Then I found out we didn't really need it. Urrgh! Every year I promise myself I will start the tax return in January, and every year I wait until the very last minute. So that's all I'm blogging about tonight. My brain is tired. Goodnight.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - N is for New Background

Today is brought to you by the letter N. For quite a while today, the only N word I could think of was "nothing." It didn't help that I looked at my friend Christine's post over at DayDreamer this morning.

But then as I looked at my blog, I realized I had not changed the design for quite a while. Voila! N is for New Background! I picked this one up at Scrap-E-Blogs. It's called "Green Blue." How do you like it?

Friday, April 15, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - M is for Mom

Right now I'm being a mom, waiting up for a teenager to get home, when I would really like to go to bed and go to sleep. But knowing that my child is home safe is a higher priority than sleep right now. That's one of the amazing things I've learned since becoming a mother. It is possible for a sacrifice to be no sacrifice at all, because my priorities changed. I'm a mom.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - L is for LDStorymakers

That's pronounced LDS Storymakers. Yeah, I know, why didn't they just put another S in there? Anyway, despite the missing S, they are an awesome group of writers who originally got together to support each other, and later branched out to support up and coming writers. To that end, they created the annual LDS Storymakers Writers Conference, which has grown from a group of about 35 attendees at the Little Brown Theater in Springville, Utah, to this year's conference in Salt Lake City, which will have over 400 attendees.

I was lucky enough to attend the first conference at a time when I was just starting to get serious about my writing. I've been to every conference since then, and I plan to keep going, because I made a great discovery there. Published writers are real people, just like me. They started out with a talent for writing and a desire to share that talent, just like me. I found a whole new peer group of writers, both published and unpublished, who actually think the way I do. I've also learned so much about the craft of writing and the world of publishing. I've learned to believe that someday soon, I'll be a published author too.

American Idol Movie Week - The Results

So Haley, Paul, and Stefano were in the bottom three, and Paul was sent home. It's about time. I'm sure Paul has an audience he appeals to, but I am not part of it.

American Idol - Movie Week

Drat! Our cable went out for a while last night and we missed the first three performances. Luckily, they were on YouTube today.

Paul McDonald had the first spot of the night and sang "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seiger, from the movie "Risky Business." This was a better song for his voice and style, but I couldn't help comparing him to Seiger. He just didn't own it. And every time I hear that song I think of Tom Cruise sliding across the floor, and I'm afraid Paul didn't measure up to that performance either. Was that a new rose suit, or the same one dyed black?

Lauren Alaina sang Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" and I think she did it better than Miley. This young lady could have a bigger career than Miley Cyrus, without the boost of her own Disney Channel show or a famous daddy to get her started.

Stefano Langone sang "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men from the movie Boomerang. I think Stefano has found his niche - boy band songs.

Scotty McCreery sang "I Cross My Heart" by George Straight from the movie "Pure Country." This wasn't one of my favorite performances of his this season. Yes, it's very country and Scotty's very country and all that. But I thought it was a little high to really show off his voice. Still though, this guy is radio ready.

Casey Abrams sang Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy," from the movie "Moulin Rouge." I'm so glad he stood his ground and sang the song he wanted, rather than what the producer wanted him to sing. It was a great song to showcase Casey's talent. And he brought out the bass again!

Haley Reinhart chose "Call Me" by Blondie from "American Gigolo." She pulled it off. I think she chose another song that really showcased her unique voice.

Jacob Lusk sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkle from the "The Pursuit of Happyness." Okay, I grew up with this song BEFORE it was in the movie. This was an okay cover, but not the greatest. Sometimes, Jacob's vibrato is so overpowering I can't tell if he's singing the right note.

James Durbin chose (of course) Sammy Hagar's "Heavy Metal" from the movie of the same name. Who would have ever believed we would see heavy metal on American Idol? No doubt, James has the chops for metal. With the difference between last week's song and this one, I think he is proving himself to be one of the most versatile singers this season.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - K is for Kindle

I do not have a Kindle. Or a Nook. I have an Android, on which I have downloaded both the Kindle and Nook apps. So far I really don't see any difference between the two. Of course, I'm seeing them both on a 2" x 4" screen. Maybe if I was looking at an actual Kindle or Nook I would be able to see the difference between the screen resolution or something. But I don't really need that. When I'm reading a good book, all I need is to lose myself in the words. It doesn't matter that I have to turn the virtual page every two or three paragraphs or that I'm reading a column only as big as in a small Bible. It doesn't matter in what form the words are presented. "The story's the thing." And I didn't have to buy an expensive gizmo just to read books.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - J is for Just Shoot Me

Tonight I'm wondering why I signed up for this Blogfest. I have been doing laundry and other assorted household chores all day, none of which start with the letter J. Bleh.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - I is for Inspiring Blogger Award

Deirdra Eden-Coppel at A Storybook World gave me the Inspiring Blogger Award last week. I saved it until now, for the letter "I." Thanks, Deirdra!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - H is for Hermit

According to Professor Wikipedia, a hermit is "a person who lives to some degree, in seclusion from society. That would be me. I don't live in a cave up in the mountains and avoid contact with others or anything. But because of my work, hobbies, and natural inclinations, I'm not a social butterfly.

I work as a medical transcriptionist, which involves listening to dictation of a medical procedure and turning it into a legal document. You've heard of voice recognition software? I do the same thing, but I'm better at it. I am also paid according to the amount of work I produce, so interacting with others, live or virtual, is an interruption that cuts into my paycheck.

My hobbies include reading and writing, both of which tend to be solitary pursuits. I have been known to hide from everyone so I can read a really good book or get some writing done. When someone interrupts me, I try not to be annoyed, but it can be difficult.

By natural inclination, I'm an introvert. I heard this great comparison once that made perfect sense. Introverts and extroverts may be equally skilled at social interaction. But that very social interaction will charge an extrovert's batteries at the same time it drains the introvert's batteries. The extrovert could be with friends 24/7. The introvert must withdraw and have some personal time to charge up again.

The funny thing is, my "hermitting" disappears when I am with another group of writers. I morph into an extrovert, or as close as I will ever be.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - G is for Green Smoothie

Not too long ago I started hearing about green smoothies. It's more than just running fruits and vegetables through a juicer and strip out all the fiber. You start with a really powerful blender and throw in all kinds of good stuff - fruits, vegetables (particularly dark leafy greens), odd things like flax seed, and whatever else is good for you. Whip it all up into a drink, fiber and all, and you have the equivalent of about 10 or 15 servings of fruits and vegetables. But instead of chewing through a humongous salad, you just drink it. I'm not really a big fan of vegetables. I know I need to eat right to be healthy, but most vegetables are kind of hideous. I decided to give it a try.

So I found this Ninja blender. That's really what it's called, the Ninja blender. It has blades that could be lethal weapons. The first time I tried it, it minced raw spinach into bits the size of pepper flakes. I was impressed. It's so much easier to get enough servings of veggies when they don't look like veggies. Add enough fruit and they don't taste like veggies either.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A to Z Chhallenge Blogfest - F is for Favorite Family

I've bogged before about the way my family plays favorites. We treat everyone as though he or she is the favorite. It's not too complicated. We just treat each other with love and respect. If someone is your favorite, you make sure they get a piece of the birthday cake. You ask about what they have been doing and give sincere compliments. It makes an environment where everyone feels welcome and safe. It's a nice place to be.

American Idol Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Week: Results

Are you KIDDING me? Stefano, Jacob, and Pia in the bottom three? Stefano, sure. Jacob, maybe. But Pia? And she was the one sent home? The only thing that makes sense is that everyone thought she was safe, so they didn't vote. Whatever. It's only a TV show. It's only a TV show.American

American Idol - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Week

You know the contestant who impressed me most last night? Jacob Lusk. It wasn't because of his performance, per se. It was because of what he said before his performance. At first, he was supposed to sing "Let's Get It On" but chose not to because it was all about sex. Jacob is a church boy, you know. He decided Michael Jackson's "Man In the Mirror" was more reflective of his values and beliefs.

My second favorite performance of the night was James Durbin singing George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." I've seen him performing this on YouTube and I was hoping he would find a way to fit it into one of the categories this season. He has a really beautiful voice and this showed it off.

The rest of the performances were:
Haley Reinhart - Janis Joplin's "Take Another Little Piece of My Heart"
Casey Abrams - Credance Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain"
Lauren Alaina - Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman"
Scotty McCreery - Elvis Presley's "That's All Right Mama"
Pia Toscana - Tina Turner's "River Deep Mountain High"
Stefano Langone - Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman"
Paul McDonald - Johnny Cash's "Fulsome Prison Blues"

Everyone had a pretty strong performance, even Paul, although I had a hard time believing him singing about being in prison and looking so happy about it.

My pick to go home tonight is either Stefano or Paul.

Unfortunately, there were only two Tylerisms really worthy of note.
1. "You ought to put some wheels on that thing and ride it around town."
2. "You were all hat and no cattle."

The celebrity mentor, Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas really had the best line when working with Lauren Alaina. "You combine Country and Soul, and it's C-O-U-N-T-R-O-U-L." He tried to do the same thing with Country and Rock, but stopped short of calling it C-R-O-C-K.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - E is for Embarrassing

I really dislike being made to look bad. Today on Facebook, I saw that a friend had "liked" a list about 100 things to do before you die. I thought that might be interesting, and so I clicked on it to look at the list. There were several things that looked fun, but then I started to see things about drugs and alcohol and things that I just had no interest in promoting. So I closed that list and left Facebook and got on with other things I needed to do. A few hours later, my sister messaged me and told me to go look at my Facebook wall. That little list I had looked at had automatically posted something on my wall that was quite embarrassing, and not the kind of thing I would voluntarily put there. I deleted it immediately. Why do people create these things? Is it supposed to be a joke? Not funny people. Not funny at all.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - D is for Daydreams

I know sometimes it may look like I'm totally spacing out and daydreaming. What I am actually doing is working on another book plot. Okay, sometimes I'm just drifting. But I do find daydreaming helpful in writing fiction. I just think of a situation using the "what if" technique and we're off and running.

What's really fun to think of things that actually happened back in high school or college and think "What if I had done/said something different? I was a little more shy and awkward than your average teenager and had this bad habit of saying or doing things to completely embarrass myself. But with my characters it's a different story. They may say or do stupid things (wouldn't be much of a story if they were perfect), but they can somehow go back and fix what went wrong. I can have a character say that perfect comeback that I thought of years too late.

I wonder if that really cute guy from high school will recognize himself when my YA novel is made into a movie? What if I turn him into a football player instead of a . . . um, never mind.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - C is for Christian

I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. You can see by the official name that we are a Christian church. But still there are those who say Mormons are not Christians. How can anyone look at another person's belief system and say, "No, that's not really what you believe." To me, a Christian is one who follows Jesus Christ.

Of course, there are different definitions of the word "follow."

You can "follow" a sports team by watching what they do and talking about it a lot, even if you don't play the sport yourself.

Or you can "follow" in someone's footsteps, either by literally stepping in the footprints they have left, or by trying to do what they did.

My religion is a combination of both types of following. We talk a lot about Christ. We study his life and teachings. All of our prayers and ordinances are done in His name. We also do the best we can to live as he did, and incoroporate his commandments and teachings into our everyday lives. If that doesn't qualify as Christian, what does?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A to Z Challenge Blogfest - B is for Book Bargains

I love books. And I love bargains. When the two are combined, like they were tonight at Deseret Book's Ladies Night, I get a little euphoric. (And spend more than I really should.) Here's what I got.

Hometown Girl by Michelle Ashland Bell
The Lonely Hearts Club by by Elizabeth Eulberg
The Jaguar Prophecies by Phyllis Gunderson
Dearly Departed by Trust Pinkston
The Overton Window by Glenn Beck
Quick and Easy Freezable Meals from Barbour Publishing

I'll probably blog about the ones I like. So far, my daughter is enjoying Lonely Hearts Club, except she says the author tried too hard to make one of the characters speak "teen."

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools Day

This month I am participating in the A to Z Challenge Blogfest. "It’s blogging a letter of the alphabet every day the month of April (with Sundays off for good behavior.) It begins April First with the letter A and ends April 30 with the letter Z."

A is for April Fools Day

One of my favorite April Fools Day pranks was perpetrated by one of my college roommates. (I was the innocent bystander. Honest!) Janet was an assistant in the college chem lab, so she had access to all kinds of nifty things, like syringes. She filled a syringe with green food coloring, which she then injected into our roommate's eggs. So the morning of April 1st, the roommate took a couple of eggs out of the fridge for breakfast, cracked them open and saw dark green yolks. It was a little unsettling first thing in the morning. She got us back by spraying our toothbrushes with perfume. I had the strangest taste in my mouth all day long.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

American Idol - Elton John Week- Results

So Naima and Thia were eliminated. I'm not surprised about Thia. She was getting too predictable. But I really hoped Naima would stay a little longer. She brought some good variety. At least they'll both be on the tour.

American Idol - Elton John Week

Did you see the shocking episode of American Idol last night? CASEY CUT HIS HAIR AND TRIMMED HIS BEARD!

Here's what Casey looked like before.

And here's what he looked like last night.

This was Elton John week and I think all 11 contestants picked the right songs. Not all of them did Sir Elton justice, but at least they each picked the right thing to sing.

Scotty McCreery - "Country Comfort." Did you know Elton John had a country song? Yeah, neither did I, until I heard it last night. I had to Google it just to double check. So Scotty got to stand firmly in his comfort zone. He gave a shout out to his Grandma. He sang the word "truck" several times. He even his his "young lady killer" bass note at the end. (It wobbled a little, but he reeled it in.) He should still be comfortably at the top, despite being first up.

Naima Adedapo - "I'm Still Standing." This was in Naima's alto range, and the lyrics could have been written just for her. Critics were writing her off, but she's still there and improving every week. Like Scotty, Naima knows who she is an an artist. Unlike Scotty, the only pigeonhole you can put her in is "Naima." She is her own category. I don't care what the judges said, I LIKED the reggae.

Paul McDonald - "Rocket Man." I have to admit, there were parts of his performance I actually liked. Those were the parts where he sang without sounding like somebody was strangling him. Unfortunately, those were very small parts. I'm still not getting why this guy appeals to people. And he wore the rose suit again. I'm sure Elton would approve of the suit at least.

Pia Toscana - "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me." Another ballad, but so what? If you can belt out a ballad the way Pia can, you should sing ballads. The judges (Randy) were back-pedalling and claiming they didn't actually tell her not to sing ballads. Um, Randy, yes you did. It's on YouTube and everything.

Stefano Langone - "Tiny Dancer." He didn't butcher this one. It was actually a good song for him, and a good performance. He did his best to "connect with the audience," keeping his eyes open and even walking down to hold Jennifer's hand at the end. I'm still feeling a little biased against him because of last week's performance, but he does have a good voice. On the right song.

Lauren Alaina - "Candle In The Wind." It was Lauren's turn to do a ballad. This one really showed off her beautiful voice. She didn't have to prance around the stage at all. Just Lauren and a piano and that voice, that's all she needs. I wonder what would happen if she sang a ballad without the country twang? She's got the potential to be a cross-over artist, like Taylor Swift.

James Durbin - "Saturday Night's All Right." Honestly, this wasn't my favorite James Durbin performance, vocally. But singing in the audience and the burning piano and the on-stage acrobatics were fun. James is a natural performer AND he has a great voice. He also had the best line of the night when he said there was so much hairspray holding his hair up that with the burning piano he was a little worried about having a "Pepsi moment." (On a show sponsored by Coca-Cola.)

Thia Megia - "Daniel." When she talked about being able to relate to this song because she was so sad when her older brother moved away from home, I had high hopes for this performance. My hopes were dashed. Thia sang beautifully. She always does. But the emotion wasn't there. I think she could have a great career singing on the soundtracks for Disney cartoons.

Casey Abrams - "Your Song." Casey can sing ballads, too! And he cleans up real good. Even though I had recorded the show and was watching it later, there were still a few minutes to vote, so I dialed in for Casey. He really does deserve to stay on longer. But nearly two hours after the show, the line was still busy. Either there was a glitch in the system or Casey is totally safe.

Jacob Lusk - "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word." This guy can emote. He could give Thia an emotion transplant and still have plenty to spare. But all that emotion can get a little draining, like the guy I used to date that was just a little too needy. Dude, give it a rest!

Haley Reinhart - "Benny and the Jets." If you're a big Elton John fan, skip this paragraph, because I am about to utter heresy. This is one of my least favorite Elton John songs. I think HALEY SANG IT BETTER. She got to use all her vocal acrobatics on this one. I'm thinking she's safe this week.

And now for this week's Tylerisms:

"Nothing I can say to you that an old-fashioned pair of high-heeled cowboy boots wouldn't fix."

"Have you been watering that suit?"

"I've loved you since the first time you laid eyes on me."

"If you keep singing like that, you'll be able to afford he rest of your dress."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

American Idol Results - Shocker

This is what happens when people think their favorite is safe and don't bother to vote.

Who could have predicted tonight's bottom three? Well, okay, I predicted Stefano would go home, and he was in the bottom three. But Thia? And CASEY? I'm surprised Randy didn't roll out his well-used line, "This is what happens when you don't vote." But everyone acted all confused about how this could happen. Thank goodness for the judges save, which was created for just this kind of situation. And now the Top 10 summer tour will be the Top 11 summer tour.

This had to be the best results show I have ever watched. Stevie Wonder sang a Happy Birthday to Steven Tyler (he's 63). Hulk Hogan made a surprise appearance and gave James Durbin the biggest surprise of his life. Jennifer Hudson brought down the house. And the drama of the elimination! I honestly thought Casey Abrams was going to have a heart attack, or faint, or throw up at least.

And now two contestants will be sent home next week. No more save. I am so hooked on this show this season.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

American Idol - Motown Week

It's hard to go wrong with Motown Week. There are literally hundreds of fantastic songs to choose from. Every contestant should have had a good night. Well . . . almost all of them did.

Casey Abrams started off the night with Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine." Acting on the producer's advice, he reigned in the wild man a little, which made the growl much more effective when he let it out. Unfortunately, the taming extended to his hair, which was slicked down with something that turned it dark, so it didn't match the beard anymore. But Casey was still Casey, which is a good thing.

Thia Megia ramped it up with "Heatwave" by Martha and the Vandellas. She "knocked it out of the park." Her voice and style seemed a little too smooth for this song, but I can't think that's a bad thing.

Jacob Lusk sang "You're All I Need To Get By" by Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell. Like Casey, he reigned it in from his usual all-out gospel-fest and showed beautiful control. He had Jennifer dancing in her seat, and at the end of the song, Steven ran up on stage to hug him. I did notice that Jacob has such a strong vibrato that when he isn't all over the place on purpose, he has a weensy bit of a problem staying on pitch.

I worried how Lauren Alaina would do with Motown, since she is the token country girl. But no worries. She sang the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hanging On" with attitude to spare, and if I had never watched her perform before, I would not have suspected she was a country singer. This girl is a big talent. It will be fun to see what she does with other genres.

Up to this point, I have really liked listening to Stefano Langone. He picked one of my all time favorite songs, "Hello" by Lionel Ritchie. And then he mangled it. The arrangement was so oddly chopped up I could barely recognize it. I think the style of the song was just all wrong for Stefano's voice. Or maybe it was the other way around.

Haley Reinhart was up next with "You Really Got A Hold On Me" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. She was totally in her niche! This girl has a rhythm and blues voice. As Jennifer said, she has the most soulful voice in the competition (aside from Jacob Lusk). I think she deserves to move up from her normal position in the bottom three this week.

I was seriously worried how Scotty McCreery would deal with Motown. He chose "For Once In My Life" by Stevie Wonder. So how does a country boy do Stevie Wonder? By doing Glenn Campbell. Scotty sang like he meant every word, and then he threw in what Randy termed "the young lady killer note" at the end. Love that deep, deep, deep voice.

Pia Toscana sang Stevie Wonder's "All In Love Is Fair." Wow! This time instead of singing another diva's song, she was the diva. It was still a ballad, which is her bread and butter. She promised Randy to change things up next time.

Paul McDonald sang "Tracks of My Tears" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. He brought out the guitar and wasn't jumping around the stage. So there was improvement there. But still, what is everybody raving about. I still don't get this guy.

Then Naima Adedapo got her act together with "Dancing In The Streets" by Martha and the Vandellas. When she was singing, she was singing. When she was dancing, she was dancing. And she has learned that she can't do both at the same time. This song was a great for her lower voice, too. All in all, a much better performance this week.

James Durbin brought up the rear with Stevie Wonder's "Livin' For The City." I love watching this guy perform! Not only does he have a fantastic voice, he knows how to work a crowd. And he was dancing! While he was singing! And still sounded good! The only way James will not win is if Scotty's country fans outnumber and/or out vote the rockers.

So my pick to go home this week is Stefano. He butchered one of my favorite songs. Haley and Naima both really got their acts together this time, so I hope they raked in more votes. I wish it was Paul's turn to go, but that won't happen for a few more weeks. (Frightening.)

Steven Tyler was in great form and gifted us with several new Tylerisms (beyond the hug):

"Perfect pitch with a perfect mix of crazy ____ out of control ego."

"You don't look a day over fabulous."

"You can't make a 3-point shot from under the net." (That's true.)

"E to the Z who tweedleedee." (What?)

"You ate the stage."

Where does he come up with this stuff? He's becoming the best part of the show.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

American Idol - Cute Baby Pictures

Last night on American Idol, the contestants were allowed to choose songs from the year the contestants were born. (And I use the word "choose" loosely. There have been hints that the contestants sing what the producers want them to sing.) We were treated to seeing baby pictures of all the contestants and interviews with their emotional/crazy parents. Yes, they were adorable, and most of them apparently started singing before they could talk.

First up was Naima Adedapo, who was born in 1984. She sang Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It?" Ouch. She scaled way back on the choreography this week, but that didn't help her vocals much. And the arrangement was too choppy.

Then there was Paul McDonald. Who had a cold. He was also born in 1984 and chose "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" by Elton John. He sounded like Elton John with a head cold on helium. Everybody seems to love this guy's voice and singing style, but I just don't get it. If he was on the radio, I would change the station.

Thia Megia sang the 1995 theme song from the movie Pocahontas, "Colors of the Wind." She did a good job with it. The judges were bored, but what do they want? Last week she jazzed it up a little and they didn't like that, so she went back to ballads. She really does have a beautiful voice, so I think she's safe for a while.

James Durbin was born in 1986 and chose "I'll Be There For You" by Bon Jovi. I like James. He's fun to watch. I like the way he pointed out that he wasn't going to be doing any kissing at the mansion where all the contestants are staying because he is married. I also like his versatile voice. (Go to YouTube and watch him singing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and you'll be a fan, too.)

There were two Whitney Houston songs last night. Haley Reinhart, who was born in 1990, sang "I'm Your Baby Tonight." Oh, Honey, don't go there. Haley really does have a good voice, and she sang well, but compared to the original, not good enough.

Then came Stefano Langone, born in 1989, singing Simply Red's hit, "If You Don't Know Me By Now." Once again, he showed that he really did deserve to be saved as one of the wild card picks.

Pia Toscana had the other Whitney Houston song of the night, singing "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" from 1988. Now Pia has the kind of diva voice that can get away with this, but whose stupid idea was it to turn it into an up-tempo dance number. It was okay, I guess.

Does it surprise anyone that Scotty McCreery idolized Elvis and dressed up as Elvis for Halloween? But there were no Elvis hits from 1993, so Scotty chose "Can I Trust You With My Heart" by Travis Tritt. He's still safe deep in country territory, but slightly more modern country, and he showed off his higher register a little more, which is still most people's lower register. This kid could sign with a record label right now.

Karen Rodriguez was wearing ear plugs, which really helped her stay in tune this week. She was born in 1989 and chose Taylor Dane's "Love Will Lead You Back." She did a good job, not spectacular, but good. But girlfriend, what was that thing on top of your head? And if the hoop earrings hit your shoulders and tilt at an angle, they're just a smidge too big.

Casey Abrams was born in 1991 and picked Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." AND he played electric base. AND there was an awsome light display behind him. He's got the wild man thing down. I could actually understand some of the words to the song, which is more than I could say for Cobain and company's original. Although I really prefer Weird Al's version.

Poor Lauren Alaina had the flu. But she still had energy to spare and if anything it gave just a hint of huskiness to her voice, which was perfect for singing "I'm the Only One" by Melissa Ethridge (1994). She redeemed herself this week.

Jacob Lusk picked, of all things, Heart's 1987 hit "Alone." While I think it's a smart move for the contestants to choose a song from another genre and opposite gender just for contrast, this time it didn't work out so well. He sounded a little too much like Ann and Nancy Wilson, and I don't mean that in a good way. I really don't think he'll be around as long as everybody predicts he will be.

Unfortunately, I think Naima might be the one to go this time. I would like to see Paul voted off, but that won't happen for a while since he's the current darling of Vote For The Worst.

As for the judges. . .

Randy is trying really hard to be the mean judge this year.

Jennifer looked beautiful (that's in her job description) with big, wild hair, smokey eyes, and some sort of animal print outfit.

Steven came up with several more Tylerisms, such as:
"I've got leftover sandwiches under my bed older than you."
"That man right there has a rich vein of inner crazy."
"Ethnic what-it-is-ness."
"Cool dude with a loose mood."


Post results show update:

I was wrong this time. My pick to go home, Naima, was in the bottom three, along with Haley and Karen, but it was Karen who had the least votes. Naima has another week to resolve her pitch problems on the big stage. Haley has another week to find the style that suits her best.