Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Best Christmas Songs You've Never Heard - Part 5

There are classics and standards that we're all familiar with when it comes to Christmas songs. But what about those new little gems that we may not be as familiar with? This month I'm highlighting a few of my favorites, even if it is a couple of days after Christmas.

SONG #9 - The Last Christmas Without You, Sixpence None the Richer

The first time I heard this song I was nine months pregnant and waiting to go into labor at any moment. It made this song very special to me.

SONG #10-23 - The entire SheDaisy Christmas album, Brand New Year

Okay, so it's not a single song, it's a whole album. Some of the songs are classic carols but they all have a brand new twist. This album is just fun. It's also not as hidden a gem as some of the others, especially if you're a country music fan, but this is a fabulous album. A mix of reinvented traditionals and totally brand new songs, it's as festive as the season itself. I like the album so much it was hard to decide which song to highlight off of it. I decided to go with The Secret of Christmas. (As a side note, I was going to use Twist of the Magi, a hilarious duet with Rascal Flatts, but there wasn't really a good YouTube video with it.)

I hope you've enjoyed discovering some new Christmas music with me. Be sure to share some of your own favorites in the comments!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Best Christmas Songs You've Never Heard - Part 4

There are classics and standards that we're all familiar with when it comes to Christmas songs. But what about those new little gems that we may not be as familiar with? This month I'm highlighting a few of my favorites.

SONG #8 - Are My Ears On Straight, Gayla Peevey

This is an old one, but a good one. My mom had this one on a tape from when she was a kid and I have always thought it was such a fun song for Christmas. One of my favorite Christmas presents ever was a stuffed animal. I always wanted to believe that he loved me as much as I loved him. The popularity of the Toy Story movies proves that everyone wants to think of their toys loving their owners. This is that same little girl that sang the song we all know about hippopotamuses. I haven't met anyone else who knows this song, though.

Since it's Christmas Day, I thought I'd throw a couple of surprise presents in as Honorable Mentions. These two are songs you've heard of, but maybe not quite like this. They make me smile.

HONORABLE MENTION #1 - Blue Christmas, Porky Pig

I have no idea if this is actually done by the guy who did the voice of Porky Pig or not, but I have trouble caring. It's just funny.

HONORABLE MENTION #2 - The Christmas Shoes, FM Static

I've never been a huge fan of this song, although many people are. This is a different version that made me smile.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Best Christmas Songs You've Never Heard - Part 3

There are classics and standards that we're all familiar with when it comes to Christmas songs. But what about those new little gems that we may not be as familiar with? This month I'm highlighting a few of my favorites.

SONG #6 - Not That Far From Bethlehem, Point of Grace

Do you ever wonder what it was like for Mary and Joseph making that trip? I've had three kids and let me tell you - I didn't even want to walk across the room much less across the country during my ninth month. I can just imagine Joseph reassuring Mary, "We're almost there, I'll help you make it." And then such discouragement at not finding lodging but such joy at a healthy baby boy. Beautiful. And to think, we're never far from that same Savior.

SONG #7 - Strange Way to Save the World, 4Him

We think a lot about Mary. After all, she was the one lugging a pregnant belly around. But lately I've been hearing more songs about Joseph and I think that's great. The task of fathering the Savior of the World had to be daunting. As this song points out, it's really hard to imagine that helpless little bundle that you instantly love so much being the conduit God would use to save the people of the world.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Free Fiction Friday - Installment 1.8

It’s time for Fiction Friday! How does Fiction Friday work? Well, kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but with a lot more room. Read the installment of the story below. At the end, you’ll find a question. You the reader will get to determine what happens next. Leave a comment. I’ll pick one at random.  You get to determine where the plot goes. So read, enjoy, and tell me what you want to happen next.  

Past Segments:  1234567


After a leisurely ride through the country, the party had stopped at the home or Lord Bromley, Baron of Gimbleshire. He and Lord Clampton had several business dealings together and the stopover would serve the dual purpose of allowing them to spend the night in comfort and letting Lord Clampton deliver some papers.
None of them expected to find the house bustling with dinner party preparations.
 Lady Bromley, it appeared, was not going to let the opportunity to entertain such a high ranking man as Lord Clampton pass her by.
“It’s just a small dinner party, I assure you. I simply couldn’t fathom asking Lord Clampton to sit down to a simple family meal.”  Lady Bromley gave a whole new meaning to the words gushing and fawning.
“Not a problem for me,” Mrs. Ruggiford said. “Give him the party and the rest of us will take the simple family meal.”
Lady Bromley blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
Minnie rushed forward to grab her aunt’s arm. “What she means is that she’s quite tired from the trip. Would it be all right if we just send a tray up to her room? The rest of us will be happy to attend your gathering.”
Olivia smiled. The girl was learning.
Trunks were brought in, dresses were readied, and hair was repaired in record time. Guests began arriving before the ladies had even made it to their rooms.
Olivia decided to peek in on Lord Clampton’s aunt before going down to the drawing room.
Mrs. Ruggiford settled onto a chaise lounge, wrapped in a green velvet dressing robe. She waved her book in the air. “Dinner party with the bard tonight. Don’t miss me.”
Olivia chuckled as she headed down the stairs. With such a successful example of irreverence as a guide, it would be a miracle if Minnie developed any social graces at all. The proof of this was staring her in the face when she joined the already mingling guests.
Minnie stood in one corner of the room, chatting merrily with a small group of three other guests. The conversation appeared to be flowing nicely and Minnie was holding herself as a proper young lady should when conversing with a group of gentlemen. There was one problem though.
She was wearing her hat.
Olivia was the last to arrive in the drawing room. Their hostess began the processional to the dining room as soon as she spotted her final guest. Olivia never made it across the room to her new friend. She was forced to watch the mismatched ribbons and plumes dance above Minnie’s head a few feet down the table.
When the ladies finally retired, Olivia wondered if it would be best to let the hat remain. Minnie appeared to be holding her own with the group. Removing her hat now could undermine her confidence enough the make her hide in the corner. Olivia decided not to risk it and prayed she wasn’t also telling the pig story.
The gentlemen joined them much sooner than Olivia expected. She was quite grateful since she assumed this meant to party would dissolve soon and she would be able to retire for the night. Even leisurely travel could be quite tiring.
She had not counted on Lady Bromley.
“I have a special treat for everyone!” The hostess clapped her hands like a delighted little schoolgirl. “Miss Elizabeth Stratford has agree to play the pianoforte for us tonight so that we might enjoy a little impromptu exercise and entertainment with a little dance or two.”
Olivia groaned. She knew ladies shouldn’t groan in public, but she just couldn’t help herself. Dancing. There was going to be dancing. Dancing could go on for hours.
“May I have this dance, Miss Bedford?”
Olivia turned to find Lord Clampton standing behind her, hand extended in invitation.
“Of course, my lord.”
“Please, call me John. The trip will be much more enjoyable if we don’t stand on formalities.”
Olivia smiled. “John, then. Please call me Olivia.”
The two took their places for the dance. It was a fairly quick moving one that would not allow for much conversation between partners. This didn’t concern Olivia overmuch since she wasn’t trying to further her relationship with any of the men on the dance floor that evening. John apparently had other ideas.
“I have something to confess,” he whispered as they passed each other.
“What?” Olivia asked when they had once again met in the middle to skip their way down the train of dancers.
“Minnie isn’t the real reason I asked you to come on this trip.”
Olivia looked up at John in surprise. The man didn’t acknowledge it, staring straight ahead, a blank look on his face. “I – I –“
Olivia’s shock and inability to articulate a sentence didn’t matter for the moment since they reached the end of the line and took their place among those forming the walls of the dancing pathway. It was a solid minute before they were once again side by side.
“I had another reason,” John said.
Olivia nearly growled in frustration as she pranced around in a circle with all the ladies.
“What was it?” she asked as she took his arm one more time.
“I’m afraid it is rather personal,” he said before he handed her off to another gentleman.
Personal? It was personal? Olivia tugged harder at her current partner’s arm, trying to hurry the dance around to the next formation.
“What was it?” she asked again, desperation settling into her belly.
“I –“
The music ended. John bowed while Olivia curtsied. She was still rising to her feet when Lady Bromley swooped by and drug John off to meet some of the ladies that were present.
Olivia stamped her foot as she watched John disappear into the small crowd of people.

Okay, readers, it’s your turn? What is John’s REAL reason for inviting Olivia on the trip? Does it have to do with his feelings? His sister? Something else? Throw you ideas in the comments below.

Comments are now closed for this segment. Please look for the next segment of the story. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Best Christmas Songs You've Never Heard - Part 2

There are classics and standards that we're all familiar with when it comes to Christmas songs. But what about those new little gems that we may not be as familiar with? This month I'm highlighting a few of my favorites.

SONG #3 - I Celebrate the Day, Relient K

This song embodies the reason I absolutely love Christmas. I do not want to imagine what life would be like if Jesus had not been born (and by extension died and rose again). And yes, I know, no one really knows what day Jesus was born, but I like celebrating it at Christmas.

SONG #4 - Welcome to Our World, Chris Rice

There are a lot of Christmas songs about Jesus, but like the Relient K song above, this song is sung to Jesus. It's a wonderful telling of the sentiment the world should have had when the Savior came to earth. While it would have been nice for Jesus to get a proper welcome when he was born, at least we can express it today.

SONG #5 - While You Were Sleeping, Casting Crowns

This song starts with looking at how Jesus slipped into the world, unknown and unexpected. IT ends with a call for us to realize that the same thing could happen in America when Jesus comes back. Very powerful. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

More Opportunities for You!

As of noon yesterday, Olivia's and John's fates were floating in the cyberwind, waiting for some gentle reader to give them direction. No one has.

So, considering that I have some major Christmas busyness this weekend, I'm giving y'all one more week to direct the next installment of the story.

Go here to read last week's installment and leave your suggestions.

In other news, keep a close eye on this blog because some big things are coming soon. I have a big giveaway planned for next week and am in the process of making some design changes that I plan to unleash in January.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Organizing Your Closet Door

I'm not at home today - I'm guest posting over on I Dream of Clean.

I will pause here while my friends and family laugh themselves silly. They have, after all, seen my house. I think it's pretty apt. I often dream of it being clean.

Anyway, I am guest posting on I Dream of Clean. Come over and check out the many uses for over the door shoe racks that you might not have thought of before!

No matter how many cabinets and closets exist in your house, you are probably looking for more
storage. We all either need more places to cram our abundance of stuff, or – and this is really
more ideal – we are looking for more space to make ourselves a little more organized. If you have
ever begun looking for wasted space in your closets, it has probably been suggested that you look up and add another shelf.
That’s a great idea. For Yo Ming...

Read the rest of it here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Best Christmas Songs You've Never Heard - Part 1

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. I LOVE Christmas even more than chocolate, and that, my friends, is saying something. I particularly love Christmas music. It's been playing at my house since November 1. There are standards we all know that have been made into 1500 different versions. There are classics that get played over and over, whether we like it or not. (Side note: I once heard a radio station play Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer every fifteen minutes until they raised a certain amount of money for a local charity. Funny!)

Then there are songs. Wonderful little nuggets that might get lost amongst the old standbys. For the month of December I'll be highlighting a few of those. These have become some of my favorite Christmas songs, though they fly under a lot of people's radar.

SONG #1 - The Night Before Christmas, Brandon Heath

I love this song because it captures the real meaning of the gift of Jesus. We were disconnected from God, lost without hope, and floundering in sin, but then Jesus came and everything changed. What a fabulous reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.

SONG #2 - Born in Bethlehem, Third Day

These two songs go well together as The Night Before Christmas tells of the need for Christmas, this song pulls together the story and glory of Christmas.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Free Fiction Friday - Installment 1.7

It’s time for Fiction Friday! How does Fiction Friday work? Well, kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but with a lot more room. Read the installment of the story below. At the end, you’ll find a question. You the reader will get to determine what happens next. Leave a comment. I’ll pick one at random.  You get to determine where the plot goes. So read, enjoy, and tell me what you want to happen next.  

Past Segments:  123456


                The carriage rolled along at a steady pace. The occupants were in no hurry to get anywhere in particular and enjoyed the sights flowing by outside the window. Two of them did, anyway. Mrs. Ruggiford had grunted something about it being way too early in the morning, leaned her head back against the seat, and snored. Once the carriage was rolling steadily along the newly paved roads outside of London, Lord Clampton produced a small satchel of papers and had not looked up since.
                “Look!” Minnie pointed at a roadside peddler as they passed through a small village. “I haven’t seen one of those since coming to London! Oh, Olivia, he has feathers!”
                Olivia smiled at Minnie’s exuberance. Minnie’s life must have been sheltered indeed for her to maintain such a childlike demeanor at times. She was completely unprepared for Minnie’s next move, however.
                Minnie lurched across the carriage to bang on the wall. She stayed pressed against the window, watching the peddler and presumably keeping an eye on the tempting feathers. Olivia found herself knocked off balance and landed hard against Lord Clampton’s shoulder. His head jerked upright. His eyes met hers, growing slightly wider as their gazes connected.
                “I beg your pardon,” Olivia whispered. She attempted to right herself, but Minnie was still in the way. Olivia was effectively pinned against the man’s side. She had never touched him except for when they danced, and she found it very disconcerting.
                “And how are you enjoying the trip, Miss Bedford?”
                Olivia could hear the smile in his deep baritone and found herself smiling in return, even as she looked in the other direction.
                “Quite well, thank you.”
                Minnie half sat on the seat, waiting for the carriage to come to a complete stop. “They look perfect from here! What town are we in?”
                Olivia tried to shift once more, but found herself having to lean sideways because of Minnie’s new position. She was practically resting her head on Lord Clampton’s shoulder. She could feel him craning his neck to look out the window without dislodging her precarious balance.
                “I must confess, I am not sure. I haven’t been paying attention. Why are we stopping?”
                “Feathers,” Olivia said.
                “For my hat,” Minnie added.
                The footman opened the door and Minnie all but jumped from the carriage, giving Olivia some desperately needed space. She straightened her skirts and then followed her new friend out of the conveyance and over to the peddler’s cart.
                “Oooo, look at them, Livvy. You don’t mind if I call you Livvy do you? How did they manage to get this particular shade of green, do you think?” Minnie fingered the long, green feather.
Olivia opened her mouth to answer but she never got a chance.
“I like the green, but I already have two different shades of green on the hat. Of course, they aren’t feathers. I have a ribbon and a flower. Maybe the blue one would be better? I think this shade would go well with red and purple. ”
Olivia looked back over her shoulder at the carriage. Somewhere in there was apparently a monstrously colorful hat. She was starting to think that preparing Minnie for a successful season was going to be harder than she originally thought.
Eventually Minnie settled on selecting the green one that originally caught her eye. She trotted back to the carriage holding the feather like a trophy.
She stepped gracefully up into the carriage, showing a glimmer of the potential lady she could turn into. Olivia shook her head as she followed more slowly.
She reached the carriage and found Lord Clampton’s eyes watching her closely from behind his papers. Her palms began to sweat under the scrutiny. She focused all of her attention on making it into her seat without stumbling. She situated her skirts and looked up intending to say something about the green feather.
She froze, mouth gaping open, eyes widening to a size she would have thought impossible.
                In the seat across from her, Olivia was busy securing her new feather treasure to the most atrocious, ridiculous, and appalling hat ever created.
                The wide brimmed bonnet was trimmed in white lace. The light green ribbons trailed to the floor of the carriage. A cluster of mismatched flowers, including the infamous green one, clustered along the crown. Minnie was industriously working the end of the feather into the trimming so that it would dance in the air behind the wearer’s head.
                “Guh…” Olivia darted a glance at Lord Clampton, only to find him staring at her from behind his raised papers. One eyebrow slowly climbed towards his hairline.
                Olivia jerked back towards Minnie. “That’s an interesting hat.”
                Minnie turned the bonnet this way and that, admiring her handiwork. “I know. It’s my travel hat. I started it when I left Cornwall. I picked up this ribbon on my first real London shopping trip.”
                Carefully Minnie sat the hat back in the black box at her feet. She closed the lid with an affectionate pat. “I think it’s beautiful.”
                Olivia wasn’t sure what to do. The idea of Minnie actually wearing that ridiculous headpiece anywhere was appalling, but how to tell her that without demeaning her special keepsake? She cleared her throat to stall having to say something.
                “It is so important to remember the journeys in our life,” Olivia began. “Just think how much fun it would be to display it on a statue in your bedroom when this trip is over. You could see it every morning and smile.”
                “Oh, what a fabulous idea. Thank you so much, Olivia.”
                Olivia looked at Lord Clampton out of the corner of her eye. It was amazing how important his opinion had become to her in just a matter of days. He smiled and looked back at his papers.
                Minnie turned back to the window, exclaiming over a grazing herd of sheep.
                Olivia’s gaze kept returning to Lord Clampton. It was obvious that his family, particularly his sister, was extremely important to him. She was beginning to believe that his asking her to accompany Minnie on this trip was about much more than companionship. The responsibility felt heavy indeed.
                Mrs. Ruggiford snorted, drawing Olivia’s attention. The older woman’s eyes were only half open, but it was still enough for Olivia to distinguish the wink that came in her direction. Apparently the others saw the hat as some sort of test and Olivia had passed. It made her feel like she had done something truly worthwhile.
                With a feeling of purpose that had been missing in her life for a long while, she joined Minnie in her perusal of the countryside.

Next week our traveling party will be stopping at the house of Lord and Lady Bromley to spend the night. They are going to be surprised by the fact that they are holding a large dinner party. What’s going to happen to out soon-to-be happy couple? Will some other man ask Olivia to dance and make John wildly jealous? Will they all get food poisoning? Toss out your ideas in the comments below.

Comments are now closed. Please check for the next section of the story.