Monday, January 10, 2011

10 Snow Activities At Little or NO Cost

Living in Nashville, I have certainly seen my share of winter freak outs by nearly everyone.  Whether it's a trip to the store to buy out all the milk and bread, school closures at the mention of snow possibilities, abandoned cars on the interstate when the snow is approximately half way up the soles of my shoes, or non stop news coverage on the pending doom, you can count on Nashville to overreact.  I grew up in the mountains where school was not closed until there was the threat of more than a foot of snow and there had to be at least six inches actually on the ground before the call was made.  Nevertheless, I write this to say I wish people would freak out about how much fun they can have in a snow storm.  The possibilities are endless.  Yes, most options consist of braving the cold but the bet part is that most of it lacks is cost.  Here are 10 things you should do when the snow continues falling:

1. Sledding
If you don't already own one, make a sled.  Look around the house and see if you have any of the following and you've got yourself a grade A sled at no cost: cardboard (may only last a few runs), old satellite dishes, a washing machine lid (recommended for small children so you don't lose the functionality of it), storage tote lids, garbage can lids, plastic laundry baskets and even the top lid of a toilet seat.  Find a good hill and you now have hours of free fun.

2. Make A Snowman
Shape a handful of snow into a small snowball, lay on the ground and roll away from you to accumulate more snow until it's the size you want, pack in a little extra snow when stacking the sections together to help them stick, search through your house and in the refrigerator to find some good accessories (a knit cap won't fly away as easily as some others).
3. Have A Snowball Fight
Fights are usually more fun when you have enough people to create teams.  Wrestling should be permitted (it will happen anyway).  Make sure to wear good gloves and cover your ears and neck so you can actually last more than 3 minutes. 

4. Take Pictures 
Grab your camera and take a walk.  You'll discover nature, light, people, and life through your lens in a new way.

5. Rent A Movie 
Build a fire or turn down the heat 5 degrees and grab all the blankets around.  Curl up on the couch with your dog or family and make some popcorn.  Now is your time to catch up your pop culture or finally watch all those episodes of "The Godfather" Trilogy. 

6. Make A Snow Angel
There are so many ways to snow stamp but the most common is the snow angel.  If you've never made one, please let me describe how simple it can be.  a)Carefully find a spot of untouched snow, b)with legs shoulder width apart, stand tall and fall straight onto your back with arms slightly out to the side, c) move legs and arms in 30 degree arcs a few times while still in contact with snow, d)CAREFULLY stand as not to disturb your angel.

7.  Snowcones
Almost every refrigerator or freezer has some juice. So, grab a cup, find some fresh snow (be sure to steer clear of the yellow kind), pack it and fill with juice.

8. Board Games
Enjoy some family time and play some board games.  If the lights go out, find some candles and put them in the middle of the board.  (the power was once out for 3 days when I was in high school.  We played Monopoly for all of them.)

9. Make Snow Ice Cream:
1 cup milk
1 egg, well beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
clean snow
Beat egg; add milk, sugar and salt. Mix together well. Add enough snow to make it thick.

10. Maple Taffy on Snow
Boil pure maple syrup to 122 C or 252 F. Drizzle on well-packed snow. Make sure it is cool before licking. (It is essential that pure maple syrup be used and not any other maple-flavored syrup).

Have Fun!!!  No matter what you decide to do, if you do go out and actually drive, please drive slowly.  I would venture to say that speed is the cause of 90% of all accidents in the snow.  

Fun facts about Nashville:
Lowest temperature: -17, January 21, 1985

Most snowfall, 24 hours: 17.0", March 17, 1892

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Austin City Limits: Lost and Found

I was so excited to visit Austin last week.  I’d heard so many great things about the music scene there and had only gotten the chance to visit once.  It was for a wedding and I didn’t really even get to go downtown.  South Congress and 6th Street: now I know why they say “Keep Austin Weird.”  Loved it though.

I had a jam packed week.  I had all the different kinds of venues covered and knew I was going to get a musical experience there that I had never had the chance to get anywhere else.  I mean, Nashville has a lot of music but people really seemed to enjoy the music in Austin more.  Is it because music is in so many more places than just honky tonks?  Is it because it’s not quite the same mainstream cover music, it sort of lilts in the air and hangs there longer instead.  Whatever the reason, I had a great time except for the unexpected vortex of missing things that seemed to hang over my head while there.  As I go through some of the venues, I’ll explain this mystery.

It started off well in New Braunfels.  What an adorable little town.  Not only is famous Gruene Hall there, there little wine tastings, antique shops and probably one of the best independent music stores I’d ever been in: Lone Star Music.  The instore was pretty sad but I did find my EP on the shelves though and it was right next to The Courtyard Hounds (one of my new favs).  That was enough to allow me to sleep well in Lakeway that night.  When I woke up in the morning, I realized I didn’t have my entire bag of jewelry, including my Grandmother’s famous ring I always talk about.  I felt sick.  I called the record store, called Lee, looked in every bag and I had and it was nowhere.  Little did I realize, the vortex was just opening up.

On Thursday we played at Botticelli’s on South Congress.  It’s a great little restaurant next to the Continental Lounge but what really got me was the back courtyard.  There was a stage and an open sky.  The sound was great.  We plugged in and played for an hour.  For a one hour show, we got more tips than I had ever gotten at a show in Nashville and people listened while the met with friends, ordered drinks and ate the outstanding food.  It was also First Thursday which means all the art galleries and shops were open late and people were milling around everywhere.  It felt so alive.  I however did not.  My throat was killing me and I still hadn’t gotten enough sleep.

Friday we had Collings Guitar tour. I was able to see how guitars were picked from single slats of wood and finished into beauty.  They were working on a special guitar for Conan O’Brien and I got to see it before he did.  That night we played a house concert and the room was packed.  The cello sounds amazing in a small room full of people. I had a blast.  House concerts are an entirely different subject that I’ll tackle next time I suppose. 

Saturday=Vortex.  After rehearsal, it was lunchtime with friends. I dropped off the car and jumped into theirs.  At the restaurant we put my wallet, phone and rental car keys into Donna’s purse.  After the meal, she handed what could have been everything back to me.  We don’t remember the keys.  We left the restaurant and before we got to our destination were in a frantic search.  We called the restaurant, emptied the purse, searched the car and found NOTHING.  Then we walked along the river and while on our walk, Melissa’s ID fell out of her pocket.  Luckily the other two were right behind us and noticed an ID lying in the grass.  They picked it up and to their surprise, Melissa was smiling back.  At least that was one thing saved from the vortex.  After driving back to the restaurant and checking back at the house, I gave up hope.  The keys were gone.  The show must go on though so Donna had to drive me to my second house concert at the Tulkoff House.  It was another successful night and while I was playing I wasn’t thinking about my jewelry or keys so I didn’t want to stop. 

Thank God Saturday was over.  There weren’t many more things to lose, at least that’s what I thought.  We got up to meet our friend Mike for lunch at the marina, another person from our Iraq trip. It was a gorgeous day and that sounded relaxing.  I love the water.  The lunch was pretty good too.  I enjoyed seeing Lakeway from the water side.  I would love to live there but don’t think I can afford it.  Anyway, we got back to the house and started getting ready for the show that night.  It was a military tribute being taped for Veteran’s Day to be played in Afghanistan, etc.  Mike came back to the house to pick us up and asked if we’d seen his wallet.  I thought, “Are you kidding me, you too?”  It got a good laugh because now I wasn’t the only one who’d actually lost anything.  The show was great.  It was in a church and the acoustics were incomparable and simply amazing.  After the show my friends were trying to help get us moving quickly since none of us had eaten and all the restaurants closed in 30 min.  What John didn’t realize was that my phone was in the side mesh pocket, easily dislodged.  So, you guessed it, when I checked my belongings an hour later, the phone was gone.  We drove back to the church, checked the parking lot, and looked through the car.  This was becoming an all too familiar feeling. 

The worst part was that I was leaving at 6 am the next morning.  That is far too early to locate any belongings or take care of the rental car which was still parked out front because no one at ACE could get to the extra keys or could be of any assistant in a moment of crisis of the weekend.  If you rent a car, make sure something bad happens during the week because you’re on your own over the weekend.  Or, just don’t rent from ACE. 

The funny thing: I still had an amazing week of shows and hanging with friends.  I felt incredulous that all of my belongings were being sucked into this missing world.  I just needed to leave and leave soon.  While packing Sunday night, I decided to look in the night stand just in case…My jewelry.  Was I really that delirious?  I never put any of my belongings away while traveling.  Mike was able to search his boat again and located his wallet.  Much later in the day, someone finally answered my phone and it’s currently on its way back to me.  The only thing still floating out there in nowhere land are those damn keys.  Of course, they were the most expensive thing to lose.  Oh Austin.  How I loved and hated you. 

Beyond the music, I’d heard that traffic in Nashville was worse and boy was whoever said that WRONG.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Roller Coasters AKA The Music Business

It doesn't take long for anyone to figure out that the music business is a roller coaster of highs and lows.  Sometimes I've found myself holding on for dear life, screaming for fear of the unknown, or smiling as I enjoy the ride.  It looks like the same ride every time I get on but somehow there are silent engineers changing the corners and drops without me even having a clue.  It certainly makes it excited.  I mean, I love roller coasters but I'm not such a huge fan when they toy with my emotions.  Still, I find myself waking up every morning ready to hit the entertainment world with all my gusto.

Last week as I was rehearsing for a sold out weekend show. Yes, exciting.  You have to live in every moment because they are few and they are fleeting.  (One of my favorite co-writers said to me once, "celebrate every accomplishment even if it's learning a new chord.  It'll keep you going.")  Then I got a text message from an artist who had recorded one of my songs.  I had just met her the week before for the first time.  On one hand it was exciting that she knew my telephone number and thought enough to call me in person to tell me the song she had recorded of mine would not be a single.  It was all the emotion wrapped up in one.  I mean, I remember being in college and twisting my ankle so badly that it was black and blue meaning I couldn't dance with the band (yes, I was a Stanford Dollie).  What it did mean though was that I would get to go see this person in concert.  Now, she's calling and texting me?  That's unreal and it makes me excited and happy inside but at the same time, she is calling me to tell me that something I'd waited and hoped for for years is no longer going to happen.  Debbie Downer.  She was astonished though when I didn't even think twice and texted back that everything was going to be alright.  She deserved better, the listeners deserved better and something greater was meant to happen for both of us.  That's just the way you have to believe if you want to make it in this business.

The show went well (minus the missing cymbals mishap) and it was onto business as usual.  What would the roller coaster have in store for me this week?  It was certainly not what I had expected. Out of all the new music, my name was mentioned on the New Music Playlist from CMT:
-Really?  My name is only mentioned with a dozen other names but holy cow, it's mentioned with only a few other names.  All that new music and he chose one of my songs?  Back up on cloud nine. 

I'm not going to sit around and wait for some bad news or some let down to come my way but I do realize that is just the way of the land.  There are so many talented songwriters, singers and musicians all trying as hard as they possibly can to make a dent because they don't know any other way.  I talked to one very successful songwriter tonight who played a song of his that Pat Green had recorded.  It actually was a single but did nothing.  Like he said, "it's like having a player running with the ball on the 10 yard line, no one around to tackle him and he trips."  That's just the business and if you understand that, then you're as ready for the business that you'll ever be.  It's a bunch of highs and lows and you just have to look around and enjoy the scenery.  Love being scared, exhilarated, nervous, excited, sad and happy all at the same time.  I will tell you one trick though.  Have great friends and family that keep you grounded.  You never want to get too high or too down because then the business will just eat you up.  Thanks to all my friends and family that have pulled me up, held me down and taken the ride with me.  It takes a village people, a village.  

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Glow Bus

When living in NashVegas, buses come in so many different shapes and sizes.  You have the traditional yellow school buses, the Metro Transit Authority buses, a main Greyhound bus terminal, the new free downtown circuits (blue, green, and purple), artist and band buses, and the fabulous party buses. 

Most people have ridden a bus at some point in their lives.  It’s usually a school bus or some form of public transportation.  I remember riding the bus for the first time on my way to kindergarten on my first day of school.  It was exciting.  I remember the trips in college getting on the bus with all those crazy LSJUMB band members on our way to a football game.  There was one time when my mom and I missed our bus stop in Cannes, France and the bus driver made us get off at the end of the line only to feel sorry for us and drive us back to our hotel in his own car.  Buses have also provided me with a roof over my head or a quiet place to hang out before a show but there are some buses in Nashville that are just downright fun.
 If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a rockstar, you should rent one from FADDS party buses found in Nashville.  Most cities have something similar to these.  I’ve seen some in New York and San Francisco.  I won’t talk about those though because I’ve never been on one.  I will tell you the experience is well worth it.  If they had something like this where I grew up, I think we probably would have rented one for prom instead of a limo (oh wait, we never rented a limo).  If we had rented a bus like these, there is a good chance we might not have made it to the prom because there is already music and neon lights, strobes and poles, drivers and bathrooms, and even some have a DJ. 

Last weekend, a friend’s mom rented one for her birthday.  Yes, she is 29 years old but when you’re the baby, you’ll always be the baby and Mom can do whatever she wants.  In fact, it was the best idea for the night.  We were on the glow bus.  I’ve been on a few of the buses.  For one of my friend’s bachelorette party, we rented the trolley.  It doesn’t hold quite as many people but it’s cheaper.  We went from bar to bar and the driver usually helped us get in either free or for discounted rates.  That’s just one of the perks.  I have also been on the Majestic.  We were filming a kid’s game show for which I was the  Don’t tell anyone but for the outside shots, we were in a different double decker bus and for the inside shots, we were in the most tricked out double decker bus.  Anyway, I digress. 

This particular night last weekend was so much fun because our intention was to be on there for three hours and bar hop around Nashville.  We ended up pretty much driving around for the whole three hours.  Our first stop was a liquor store.  They have coolers in the bus already filled with ice so why wouldn’t you just buy your own bottle of whatever you want to drink and spend 1/5 of the money you’d spend in a bar.  Once our cups were full, we headed down to Broadway.  That’s where you’re going to get the attention.  People stop and stare.  One lady was waving at us throwing the rocker horns and ran smack right into a parking meter.  Have you ever seen the two guys who dress in “Bang This” shirts that rap and dance on the street corner without music? A few of us jumped out of the bus and danced for a minute with them while at a light.  Near the end of the night one guy decided to moon the entire bus.  I really wish he’d kept his pants on, he blinded me.  Anyway, point is, you never how people will react to you but they will react.   
I just don’t know why there aren’t more buses like these.  It’s the closest you’re gonna get to being on a tour bus or truly having your own private dance club.  You’re on a bus with only your friends, the DJ takes only your requests, you aren’t drinking and driving, you can dance while on the interstate even, you can yell at all the people walking on Broadway and most importantly, you can have as much fun as you allow yourself.  One friend had a little too much and was trying to sleep on the back of the bus.  Our driver drove him home while we all heckled him.  At the end of the night, none of us had to pick a house, that’s key. 

Glitz and Glamour, everyone can have their own slice of it.  Just rent one of these buses and have the time of your life for a few hours at least.  

Monday, September 13, 2010

What is Patriot Day?

Stars, they were everywhere.  I’m not just talking about the kinds that twinkle in the night.  There were those too, lots of those.  I’m talking stars as in 4 star general, a 5 star hotel, blue star moms, stars and stripes, and Hollywood stars.  Appropriate?  Yes. 

I can’t believe I’m saying this but up until 1 ½ years ago, if you’d asked me on a random day what day Patriot Day was, I would have to think through all the days of the year and probably deduce and ask questioningly, “9/11?”  I think about it often and always take a silent moment to remember the day and its events but didn’t know that in 2002 Bush had designated the day as such.  I do now though.  After this weekend’s events, I will never ever forget it. 

My journey to the balcony of this beautiful 5 star Fairmont Princess Resort in Phoenix started in April of 2009 when I joined the Flagship Freedom mission with American Airlines, People to People International, Operation Iraqi Children and many more.  Without writing a short novel, that trip changed me and I look forward to the weekends when I get the chance to meet back up with any of the people on that trip.  This was one of them.   

If you’ve never been to a Patriot Day Celebration, you must go.  Be warned, you will cry. I even saw a huge muscled Green Beret get teary so don’t think it won’t happen to you.  There were so many wonderful moments in the day.  It started like this and I don’t care what side of the political spectrum you’re on, it’s always cool to meet someone who ran for President.  I got the chance to meet Sen. John McCain.  The speech was nothing unforgettable but certainly set the mood for the day as something a little more than ordinary. 

There were over 3000 blankets collected for Afghan families.  That is spearheaded by a retired four star general and his wife.  When I saw the overwhelming support from the community, I got the first knot in my throat.  People donated Crocs shoes to families at Luke AFB and to Afghan children.  An Apache and a Blackhawk helicopter landed in the streets.  Gary Sinise made an appearance though only through a recorded video.  I had the face paint artist paint me an American flag on my arm so you could see it on stage.  I met a blue star mom who has four children serving in the military.  She looked worn.  As she stood there teary, I let a few fall too as she thanked me for being there.  I heard the story of a man who spoke about losing his brother who was a NYC fireman and his best friend who worked in one of the towers on that fateful day.  The part I will never forget was when he talked about the subway.  The doors opened near the site and not a soul was to be seen in the normally frenzied metro stop and there was a foot of ash like it had just snowed.  I had to sing right after he was talking but between Phil Vandel and myself, I think we did a pretty good job of getting people back in a fun mood. 

Though I cried multiple times, I felt pride.  No matter where you stand on the issue, the events of the day happened.  There were some protestors with signs about it being an inside job.  The thing about it is, people still died and we were there to remember them and they were kindly asked to leave. 

My sister in law was with me over the weekend.  She made a point that I must share because it’s exactly how I feel.  For years, I have taken a moment of silence.  I remember where I was.  I remember that I thought I was watching a Tom Clancy film.  I remember that I worried about all my friends in NYC.  I remember that I ran upstairs to wake up my roommate who was in the reserves.  I remember the fallen.  It has always been a painful day, a dark shadow that won’t go away but this weekend changed everything.  There is no doubt, I cried. I cried a lot but I saw that side of us, that side of the American people that made me proud that day and in the days following.  I saw hope and support.  Sept. 11 doesn’t have to be an ugly gash that we strive to hide with makeup.  It can be a part of us, a character mark that does not define us but reminds us to be who we all wanted to be on that day. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Ground Upon Which I Sleep

After a week of hellacious itineraries and work schedules, I lie here on my carpeted floor to set upon this journey they/you call blogging.  I would normally be typing while sitting on my couch, killing time in a hotel room, riding in a bus, plane or car, after an awesome show or just as I am now: Exhausted.

The Urban Dictionary states that NashVegas is a nickname given to Nashville due to its country tackiness.  It also says that it's called this because Nashville is the center for glitz and glamour, stealing all the spotlight from dumpy Memphis, and a GREAT place to live. 

I am originally from the CA mountains.  I love Nashville because you can get a little taste of city life and then be out in the country in less than 20 min.  Being a mountain girl, I always wanted to live in a city but I love the outdoors.  So, when I was deciding where to move after college, I had three choices really.  I knew I was going to pursue music.  So, it was either LA, NYC, or Nashville.  After living in Nashville for one week, one of my friends, another CC, introduced me to the word NashVegas and so it began.  10 years later, I write my first official blog on what it means to me to live NashVegas, baby.

Over the last few years people have asked me why I didn't already have a blog.  I would consistently come back to the same thought, "do I have topics anyone would be interested in?"  The answer is probably yes and no.  My goal is simply to be and to tell.  I doubt I'll be very political even though that was my major in college.  I will certainly list the what to and what not to dos while traveling.  I will bore some of you to tears.  I will praise venues and organizations for their ability to put on great shows or make living on the road easier.  I will diplomatically, of course, relay to you those unable to pull off assisting an artist in anything.  I will share insightful thoughts about pursuing your dream of becoming rich and famous or broke and quasi famous. I will not tell you how to get to one place or the other.  I will simply show you what it is to be in one at one moment and the other in the next. You will quickly understand to which category I belong more often.  What I look forward to most is expanding my thoughts and experiences.  Sharing was something I hated to do with my brothers but it is one of the few ways to experience true joy and perspective on things I sometimes feel have become mundane.

Until next time, have a great Labor Day weekend.  For now, I will continue to lie on the floor of my living room and hopefully pass out.