30 November 2012

Friday's Top Five: The Best Christmas Carols

This makes me laugh.

Hello faithful readers of five!

I had this wonderful awesome good idea that Joanne and I should blog about our favourite Christmas Carols! After all, it's that time of year where I can finally unleash my Christmas crazy, right? RIGHT?

This was hard guys. I love me some Christmas music, I do. How do I narrow it down to five? Sigh.

I decided that when selecting my music, it would be five songs that are simply enjoyable, that evoke an emotion or memory, or may possibly be used to torment any future children I have. Win-win all around!

Gather around children. Irish up your nog. Sit back and enjoy!
5) The Huron Carol 

I first heard this song in Church during Advent in 2008, a few months before I became a Catholic. It immediately resonated in my conscience and filled my heart. Sometimes, you simply cannot express how the beauty of a song can evoke an emotion.

This song is Canada's oldest Christmas carol, written in 1643 by Jean de Breabeau, a Catholic Jesuit missionary, to the Huron peoples. It was originally written in Huron as a way to explain the Christmas story. Haunting. Beautiful.

4) O Come O Come Emmanuel - The Civil Wars 

I love everything about this song, which we sing during Advent at Church. When I was searching for a version of this song, I came across this wonderful version by the group, The Civil Wars. This version is absolutely amazing. (I also recommend Enya's version, which weaves in Celtic lyrics in a haunting way).


3) Now the Bells Ring - Rita MacNeil

CRTC rules dictate that Canadian content be played on the radio every day. It is how I am able to hear Now the Bells Ring year after year. Which is fine by me. My mom loves this song, so it was played a lot at home. Rita MacNeil has one of the clearest and best voices out there.

2.5) Little Saint Nick - The Beach Boys.

I know, I am totally cheating. I am a cheater mccheaterson. Whatever. I can't have a list without Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys. So. Much. Fun.

2) Christmas is All Around - Bill Nighy (from the movie Love Actually

Some may ask how I can hate Wham's Last Christmas so much, and yet this song, which does basically the same thing (insert the word Christmas into a generic song), is my second favourite Christmas Carol?  Easy. This song, unlike the monstrosity of Last Christmas, is funny. I first heard it watching Love Actually. I laughed then. I laugh now. My husband loves it. I love it. Heck, we will even play the song in the middle of summer (and still laugh). We will even sing it in our fake English accents. Bill Nighy MAKES this song a classic.

Watch this movie clip. Then you will understand how I can defend this choice.

1) Do They Know It's Christmas - Band Aid

This is easily my favourite Christmas carol. This selection is all about happy memories and 80's nostalgia. I remember listening to this song over and over (and over) again at Grandma's house with my aunts and uncles.

This was back in the day when big stars got together to compile songs for charities (save the whatever cause of the day). There is no mistaking that this is an 80's song. All you need to do is listen and watch the video to determine that!

What makes this song great 28 years later is that it is still awesome, still a great song to listen too, and still socially relevant. I crank this song and sing along every single time.  Plus, it has Phil Collins, who you all know is my favourite.

Feeed the world...let them know it's Christmas time...

My selections either caused you to enjoy your rum nog, or drink more more rum nog. Leave comments about my choices and some of yours, then head on over to Joanne's blog to see her 5 choices.

28 November 2012

Things that make me go hmmm?

Me this morning. Me every morning. Source: who knows.

Hi faithful readers of five. I'm here at work (not technically working), watching the snowmageddon arrive in my fair city. I feel like making random comments/questions/musings/ramblings about the world-at-large (mostly political). The things that make me go hmmmm.....
  • I have heard the Progressive Conservatives of Alberta describe the Wild Rose Party of Alberta as extremists. If that is the case, then why did you let that element rest in your party for 30+ without censure, constraint or expulsion? Don't you have yourselves to blame for the party that emerged? Hmmmmm....
  • I have heard the Wild Rose Party of Alberta describe the Progressive Conservatives as corrupt. Really? You sure enjoyed the hand that fed you for 30+ years without complaint. I guess as long as you don't get to share in the pork, then it's an issue. Hmmmm....
  • Interesting debates about meals costs for politicians and health care executives. On some instances, sure the complaints are legitimate. But do we honestly think that you can have a meal for two under $50.00 in Edmonton anymore? Do people think that they should go for meals to McDonald's? Hmmm.....
  • If I hear one more squawk about how awful the National Energy Policy was for Alberta in the 80's, immabout to lose my sh*t. First off, can we all deliberately ignore what was going on in the rest of the world that probably had a larger effect on the price of oil and gas? Also, it's been 30+ years. Policies have come and gone. Alberta is doing more than fine now. In fact, are we not now pushing for a national energy policy by our own conservative/federal conservative government? You can call it under any name you want now, but it is essentially the same type of policy. Hmmm......
  • Let's stop pretending that any vote for Justin Trudeau as a leader of the Liberal Party of Canada is because of any policy ideas he is putting forth, and more to do with the fact that he is a Trudeau, and a handsome one at that. Hmmmm....
  • On that note, how long will it take before anyone in the Liberal Party of Canada realize that Marc Garneau is the best possible leader of the current hopefuls? Will it be too late? Hmmmm....
  • Why do we complain about how early Christmas music is released onto the public? I remember Christmas music blaring in the malls in November when I was a kid. So why are we all acting like this is some sort of new phenomenon? Hmmmm....
  • Why do we treat Advent like Lent? It is not the same. One is a joyful period of anticipation. The other is a solemn period of anticipation. While we are always to be mindful and reflective of our interior selves, we don't need to treat Advent like a funeral. Hmmmm....
  • How much privacy and platform changes will we truly accept from Facebook before enough truly becomes enough? Hmmmm.....
  • Can we all agree that TWITTER = Total Waste (of) Intellect, Time, Talent, Energy and Resources? So let's stop pretending that we are intellects in 140 characters. Hmmmm.....
  • For that matter, why do people act like self-proclaimed experts on all subjects on social media? Hey, I can pull a quote from a Google search too. A fact doesn't always trump a viewpoint based on personal experiences. Let's stop pretending our "facts" don't stem from a personal bias. I can hunt down any "fact" to support my bias too. Hmmmmm.....
  • Can we all stop pretending that Gordon Lightfoot's performance at the CFL half-time show was any good? I get it. He is a legend. But it was not good. He needs to retire his guitar. Hmmmm....
  • Speaking of not good, did the organizers of the CFL half-time show really think that those who like Justin Bieber would become fans of the CFL? Are you kidding me? Do you know the audience this boy attracts? More importantly, do you know your audience?  Hmmm....
  • On that note, whoever decided that Gordon Lightfoot and Justin Bieber would be good CFL half-time entertainment should have tossed that plan in the garbage and booked Rush and Trooper. Surely they aren't busy these days? Hmmmmm....
  • Now that Nascar, Baseball and CFL are over, sports TV suckssssssss! Hmmmmmmm......
  • Is there anything good on TV anymore that doesn't involve "reality" TV and singing/dancing/food competitions? Hmmmm.......
  • Why can't I get frozen borscht from the grocery aisle? Hmmmm....
  • If men celebrate Movember for prostate cancer research, can I propose that women celebrate Janu-hairy for ovarian cancer research? I will gladly not shave my legs for a month. Hmmm......
  • I will say this once: please stop playing Last Christmas by Wham EVERY FREAKING HOUR. It is stupid. Replace Christmas with any word and the song applies. "Last Ramadan, I gave you my heart...", "Last election day, I gave you my heart..." Adding the word Christmas randomly does not a Christmas song make. Hmmmm....
  • For that matter, I'm tired of radio stations switching to an all Christmas music format. Can't you just slip some Christmas songs in between Careless Whisper and Boys of Summer? Hmmm....
There you go. I sound kind of angry. I am a bit owly today. I blame waking up. I had a nice warm blanket, was in dream land, and then woke up to an alarm clock with Christmas music. Bastard world!

21 November 2012

Friday's (Way Overdue) Top Five: Vacation Destinations

Sheesh, you tired of me yet, faithful readers of five?

So it is time I post the second (and final) catch up FT5 post. Staring out my window, looking the snow, and longingly makes me think of my best vacation destinations.

This list reflects the places I have been and recommend to you all, not necessarily the places I want to go.

5) Penticton and Disneyland

I lump these two destinations together for one reason: this is my vacation future. Once I have kids, this is where I will likely go most of the time. I am A-OK with that.

Disneyland is magic, pure and simple. My time there was short and I only got to experience California Adventure. But I know that when I get to experience Disneyland through the eyes of my child, then this place will where my best memories will come from. Sometimes you need a vacation to simply experience happiness, and Disneyland is that place.

Penticton is relaxing, pure and simple. My time there on my honeymoon was restful and enjoyable. When we have kids, we simply won't be able to afford extravagant vacations. So we need a place that is a reasonable drive away, affordable, enjoyable, with lots to do but in a relaxing manner so that it feels like a vacation. Penticton is that place.

4) The US South

Source: Unknown
Y'all, I love the South.

My love affair started on the Great US Road trip of 2002 with Joanne when we travelled trough Northern Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina and Virginia. The South is like nothing I had pictured or expected. It was a sudden and passionate love affair, cut short by the journey I had to take north. I even said on the trip "Jo, now I know why the South tried to separate." It is truly like a different world. It feels like it's own culture, fiercely patriotic but distantly removed from the hectic pace and thought, that is the rest of America. I almost feel like I stepped back into a different (better) era when I stepped off the bus.

Everyone is so friendly. Everyone is so helpful. Everyone is so curious about you. Everyone is so hospitable. It is like the clocks stop because the connections with people are more important than anywhere you need to go.

The food - oh God the food. Where do I begin? You feel the love of the culture in every spoonful. You feel the pride in every bite.
Source: Travelwire.com

I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in North Carolina with a dear friend and her family in 2006. So I got to *know*  North Carolina. I got to *experience* North Carolina. There was simply so much to do, as is the case with all of the South. There is something for everyone...the beach bum, the military junkie, the history buff, the sports fan, the nature freak.

If you are looking for a slow-paced vacation with many options, go to the South.

3) Washington DC
Source: Telegraph.uk.co

I can't explain how much I love Washington D.C. There is much to love.

You have to appreciate a city has no skyscrapers (because no building can be taller than the the Capital Building). You have to appreciate a city that charges free admission to The Smithsonian's, giving everyone equal opportunity to experience historically and culturally significant artifacts that defined the nation. You have to appreciate a city so powerful and rich in political tradition. You have to admire a city that goes out of its' way to honour those who have served by way of vivid memorials and poignant grave sites.

There is so much to do that my one 3-day visit alone wasn't enough. There is so much to love. There is so much to recommend. Just go. You won't regret doing so. It will stay in your heart forever.

2) Las Vegas
Source: unknown
"Bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire." ~Elvis Presley 

Vegas, you saucy lady. You grew on me. I didn't care for you at first. Sure, you had lights and excitement and endless buffets. But you were busy and hot. I was tired. I wrote you off.

But circumstances in my life kept bringing me back when I would have rather gone elsewhere. And each time, you revealed yourself to me, real and artificial. I got to experience a wedding, Vegas-style. Most importantly, I learned how to travel and be alone in a foreign city.

By around the third date, you and I decided to take our relationship to another level. I was with friends, and I got to genuinely enjoy every minute of you. I even got to see every bathroom in every hotel thanks to a pregnant friend. I got to see a whole new side of you...

By the fourth time, I was with the man I love. He took me to The Mix at the top of The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. With your beautiful lights displayed to me in an exhilarating fashion, the love of my life proposed to me.

When I tire of your bright lights and loud slot machines, I can rent a car a drive to both a man-made (Hoover Dam) and God-made (Grand Canyon) wonders. Each time I do come back to you, there is a new hotel or display or restaurant to explore. You continue to reinvent yourself.

I visited you again last month. It will probably be the last time for a long time. I got to eat the most amazing food, and relax by the pool without a worry in the world. You rejuvenated me.

I worry you are about to get tired, but I fear not because the cranes of construction tell me you are reinventing yourself again. I worry that you are starting to become elite and unaffordable to the masses, but you will adapt to the needs of the masses, like you have for the past century. So when the time comes to visit you again, you will offer me new attractions and new sites to explore.

1) The Canadian National Parks in Alberta and B.C.
This was my view from the Banff Springs Hotel!

I will summarize my thoughts in a haiku:

Breathtaking beauty
There is so much to explore
This is God's country

I am fortunate to live a short drive away from Jasper and Banff. Thanks do my brilliant husband, I got to explore the National Parks in ways I never have before while on my honeymoon. My husband took me hiking all over the place. We didn't just stop, take a pic, and drive on. We hiked around every lake we came across. I saw some of the most incredible sites of my life, sites I never explored the previous 20 times I went to Banff.

We continued our journey through Yoho National Park and Glacier National Park on our way to Penticton. I got to see amazing sites like Takkakaw Falls:

I would recommend that everyone take the time to really explore the National Parks of Alberta and BC. Stop on your journey to where ever you are going. Plan an extra day or two. Really live in the moment. You won't have any regrets.

What are your top five vacay places? And head over to Joanne's blog to see her choices!

20 November 2012

Fridays (Way Overdue) Top 5: Guilty Pleasures

Hello faithful readers of five. I am way overdue on a blog post. Blame a combination of work-crazy, life-crazy, and laziness. Mostly laziness. OK. Just blame laziness and move on already.

My beautiful gurl crush BFF Joanne, at a A Warm Cup of Jo, has been faithfully committing to our quest to post weekly top fives. In fact, it was my suggestion to do this series as a way to blog more faithfully. How's that working out for me? Sigh.

So I need to catch up to the two posts FT5 posts she has posted (what a keener she is), I present my catch-up post #1.

We all have them. Some of them are more embarrassing than others. Here are my top-five guilty pleasures.

5) Libraries and Bookstores.

Source: National Library in Ottawa
I shouldn't feel guilty or embarrassed by my love of books, libraries and bookstores. There is nothing to feel guilty about.
But I take my love a new level. I will go in and wander just because. I have been known to have "dates" with my friends at libraries and bookstores. On a few occasions, Wendy and I went to Chapters just to look-around. Joanne and I spent many, many, many days in our youth going to the library (which was a conveniently located next to the fire hall *ahem*).
If there is time between bus connections at Northgate Transit Centre, I mosey over to Chapters. Bookstores and libraries are my paradise.

4) Weight Watchers
Source: Weightwatchers.com
It might be odd to have a corporation as a guilty pleasure. And for full disclosure, I am currently on Weight Watchers. But have you seen my WW stash? Have you seen the lengths I have gone to to attend a meeting?
True story. While I was on my honeymoon in Penticton B.C., I made my new husband drive around and then wait in a car for an hour just so I can attend a meeting. Was it dedication? Well sort of. But mostly, it was because I wanted to get my hands on products we couldn't get at our meetings at home.
My reading nook in the basement has an entire shelf dedicated to Weight Watchers. I have books going back to when Sarah, the Duchess of York was a role model. I have every single "weekly" magazine since the new Points Plus program came out in 2010. I have the latest book Weight Loss Boss by CEO David Kirchhoff (a book I highly recommend). I spend hours looking at other people's blogs. I go to message boards (via my App). 
So how am I doing in my own journey you ask? *cough cough*. Let us move on...
3) PBS
Source: PBS.org
Arguably, the previous two pleasure can be defended as reasonable and rational. But this is pure guilt at it's finest.

What is embarrassing about this choice:
  • It is an acknowledgement that I, at 35, willingly watch PBS.
  • It is an acknowledgement that I, at 35, willingly watch stuffy period pieces.
  • It is an acknowledgement that I, at 35, willingly watch documentaries and cooking shows
I know there are friends out there who would say "stand proud, stand tall" (right Rebecca?) I have always felt like an old soul. I have always felt that when I reject Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo for Downton Abbey, Jane Austen films, Ken Burns Documentaries and America's Test Kitchen, I am saying to the world that I am better than than you.

Which I am if you watch Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo willingly.

Yes, I am a snob. But some of the best 10 hours of TV footage of my life have been spent watching Ken Burns documentary Baseball. Seriously.

Source: PBS.org
2) Duck Dynasty
Source: A&E Television

I am a dumb complex individual. The same person who watches Downton Abbey while poo-pooing those who watch Jersey Shore will spend an entire Saturday watching Duck Dynasty marathon. My Wednesday nights have never been the same since I first saw welcomed the Robertson family into my life.

You have no idea how much I love this show. It is great for two reasons:
  1. It is genuinely funny. Side-splitting funny.
  2. The family are harmless and unoffensive in their red-necked ways.
Here are the gems they say on this show:
  • "I don't know about this Justin the Beaver"- Kay
  • "You kids ever hear of the term 'Nam' "- Si
  • "Most people named Willie are either in prison or on the arm of a wrestling circuit"- Jase
  • "First it's pretty tires. Next it's pretty guns. Then the next thing you know, you're shaving your  beard and wearing capri pants." — Si
Pure. Solid. Harmless. Enjoyment.

1) Cooking shows

If I had one guilty pleasure above all else, it is probably that I waste spend hours a week watching cooking shows.

There are the shows that I watch to actually learn how to cook, like America's Test Kitchen, Martha Stewart's various shows, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson et. al.

Then there are the shows I watch for pure foodie enjoyment, such as Chopped, Just Desserts, You Gotta Eat Here and so on.

Watching cooking shows, even in mass quantities like I do, wouldn't be other people's guilty pleasure. In fact, it would seem quite normal.

But shall I casually state that, much to the displeasure of my husband, my actual cooking skills are less than stellar? The fact that I am the anti-Nigella in the kitchen (under the delusion that I will actually get better by watching these shows) makes this my #1 guilty pleasure.

So head on over to see Joanne's guilty pleasures, and share your own guilty pleasures in the comment boxes.