‘Old School’ Christmas Playlist

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I have a number of favourite Christmas music videos saved in emails. Yes, emails — a whole file of them and mostly YouTube links. Since I have a YouTube channel that I created to upload my “16 mm film archive project“, I thought I might as well make further use of that account. I don’t have Spotify or any other music sharing app, so I thought it made sense for (old school) me and I was excited to make my very own first public playlist online πŸ™‚ At our house, we often like to have interesting or live music videos playing on the screen while we are doing other tasks nearby. My playlist is quite eclectic so I thought I would share on my blog as there might be something for everyone there: Christmas Favs. There are three that didn’t make the cut… yet. They poke fun at families at Christmas, but maybe there is one that might give you or your family a good chuckle or be needed at some point. Here they are as well:

Life’s Charms

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I recently attempted to “downsize” my jewellery box. I managed to part with a few things. It’s difficult to part with the sentimental pieces. My charm bracelet went back in the box, but it left me pondering about such bracelets in general. Mine is from my preteen years and most of the charms have some memories attached. Such a personalized piece of jewellery!

I was able to find an article that covered some historical aspects of collecting such “charms”, as well as a timeline of the different bracelet styles. I guess I was influenced by the “Bobby-Soxers” style of bracelets before the trend changed to the more link-type bracelets in the 1990s. It sounds about right:

For them, the charm bracelet was a way for them to keep mementos from their vacations, hobbies, and achievements.”

At first I worried about posting a photo of mine because of the personal “data”, but I will chance it.

Most of the “data” fits: I still like cats (upper left), I should ride a bike more, and I like Christmas. I am a sister, a best friend, a Virgo, and a graduate. A couple of charms are mementos from a trip to Toronto, but it was my sister who went to Hawaii. Nothing too exciting or extravagant, but a bit like a “bio” of the day. I couldn’t help make some connections to social media. Did these bracelets represent our identity similar to what social media would offer now? Were they a way to brag or compare “statuses” with others? Did social media kill the charm bracelet? πŸ˜€

If you have any thoughts or stories to share about charm bracelets, please do! Do you have one? Did you ever actually wear it? What did it mean to you? Do you still collect anything similar?

Sampling

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No, not in the food sense of sampling. I only recently learned that it is also a term used in the music industry. Not sure how I missed that. Whereas covers of songs don’t require permission from the copyright owner, sampling does. I found a full explanation here: How Music Sampling Works.

From the article,

Few deny that it takes talent to sample a classic song effectively and use it in a new, creative way. And the practice has played a major role in shaping the entire genre of hip hop. But sampling has had a longer history and more complex legal implications than many people realize.”

Why did I get so curious about this? A Melanie song that was “sampled”, of course! It started with a video shared to a Facebook group for Melanie fans. It was an Australian hip hop band, the Hilltop Hoods, performing a song live that sampled an original Melanie song (The People in the Front Row). From what I gathered, it might be their signature song. I have never been much into hip hop and maybe it is just the pandemic isolation, but I want to be on this boat at a dance party singing along with music that includes Melanie lyrics! πŸ˜€

Such fun!

About a name

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I love stories about how people got their names. My mom told me she had a different name picked out for me, but my 3 older siblings liked Sheila better than her choice (Beverly). It hasn’t been confirmed, but I have a suspicion that this popular hit song in the early 60s influenced the choice of my siblings:

I recently listened to an older Tommy Roe singing it and I think I prefer his older voice (and some happy dancing here!):

I don’t meet many Sheilas, and if I do, the spelling is often different. I have learned that my name is of Irish origin and that a sheila means a woman in Australian slang (an internet search confirmed that it is not derogatory). It doesn’t seem like there are very many famous people with the name Sheila, but I remain fine with that. I like that there is a song of my name.

Readers, were you named after a song or a famous person? Your children? Do you have a good story about how you were named, or any good story about a name to share? How about a favourite song that is based on a name?

A conversation with Melanie

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Stephen Hurley and I first connected online, then later in person, because of education advocacy events and gatherings. Even though my involvement in education has lessened since then, I have continued to connect with Stephen because of music! Most Saturday nights for a number of years now, I have “met” Stephen on The Dock — his specific music related broadcast on VoicEd radio. (More recently, Sara Candela, has joined him in hosting this fun and interactive global gathering around a topic or theme in music.)

Over this time, Stephen became well aware of my favourite singer, Melanie. I would like to think that he now loves her music as much as I do! But it still came as a big surprise when he contacted me that he would be interviewing Melanie in March! Yesterday was the big day! I listened to the full recorded interview as soon as it was available. Well done, Stephen and Melanie! Some great stories were captured about the music industry, Melanie’s career over the decades, and her current musical pursuits and performances in spite of a pandemic!

Having said all that, I am so excited to link this interview on my blog! Here is the link to information about the interview and the recorded audio from Stephen’s podcast segment, On The Edge: https://www.spreaker.com/user/voicedradio/melanie-safka

Thanks again, Stephen! Here’s to more musical connections and journeys!

Bag or Wrap?

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Photo by Hert Niks on Unsplash

I actually like to wrap gifts for others — as in using flat paper to fit the present or the box that I put the present in, especially at Christmas. I suppose it is because my memories of childhood of are removing wrapping paper from my gifts under the tree. It is part of the anticipation, right? Also, “presentation” matters to me when I give a gift to someone special. Again, perhaps it is my past experiences that make me feel that a present in a gift bag doesn’t measure up at times. That’s not to say I haven’t selected fancy gift bags and/or jazzed them up some. At Christmas, I do start wrapping early so I can enjoy it. Rushed gift wrapping is not where I like to be.

When did gift bags become such a popular alternative? Was it prompted by environmental concerns first, or was it because bags provided a faster and/or an easier alternative? Most wrapping paper and tissue can’t be recycled, so an alternative makes sense. If wrapping isn’t one’s thing, an alternative makes sense too.

So I am torn at times, but I still do a combination of wrapping and bagging (with the odd cloth bag too). I still feel compelled to put that really special gift in a box, with tissue, and then continue with wrapping paper and ribbon. I love using gift tags made from cut-up Christmas cards from previous years. Perhaps I will have to come up with a more environmentally safe wrapping material alternative. I remember using the comics section from the newspaper when I was a kid — I think they were in colour back then though.

Open to suggestions!

My Vinyl

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Photo by Eric Krull on Unsplash

Music has been of great comfort during this Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has also led to a lot of going through boxes and collections of things and making some decisions — keep, donate, or toss?

I have written before about my “45” vinyl collection and I think I might be ready to let it go now. From time to time, I pull out the index card in the storage tote to check if I really did buy a certain title or not when different songs or bands come up in conversation. I could probably keep that list. But as I look through my collection of forty-three 45’s, I really don’t think I would ever play many, if not most, of the songs again (on turntable or otherwise). There is a lot of high school in that little tote!

I have two that I think I would listen to again for sure — my first purchase and my last!. I mentioned those two in my first “45” post — From Melanie to Squeeze! But I can find both on YouTube for a good listen or a live performance.

So I may finally weed this old collection down to few and figure out where to donate the rest. Muskrat Love, anyone? Bohemian Rhapsody? Oh, but I do have a stack of Beatles 45’s that I got from older members in my family so maybe I will hang onto those…. Will I get to this same stage of letting go with my “LP” collection?

Do you have a song or two that makes you instantly think of high school? Good or bad, or both? Do you still have the song(s) handy? If so, in what format do you listen to them? Did you ever play the B side of 45’s? Do you have any “45” advice for me?

Ticket in a Teapot

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A number of years ago, I bought a cool looking teapot at an estate sale (photo above). I was into collecting unique or antique teapots at the time. When I was about to clean this particular new find, I noticed a piece of paper folded up inside it. Instant curiosity! Of all things, it was an “Irish Sweepstakes” ticket! Date: 1965

Front of ticket
Back of ticket

It didn’t take long for my husband to look up to see if it had been a winner — Nope. I still didn’t toss it though. I came across it again in a recent flurry of going though stuff in the house. I suggested to my husband that we could probably throw it out now. This time he searched eBay — mint condition tickets are up for sale at 20 – 30 dollars. Well, this one is in crisp, mint condition, but who would really want to buy one?

Further reading confirmed that such Irish Sweepstakes draws are no longer being held. They ran from 1939 to 1986. It all started as a good cause to help fund Irish hospitals. I didn’t know that it also involved horse races and it led to illegal ticket purchases in other countries. According to Wikipedia, many tickets did not make it back to the rotating drums in Ireland for the draw! I guess this ticket is one of them? I wonder what the real story is about this ticket tucked into a teapot!

So I guess we are going to hang onto it for a bit longer…

The things I wouldn’t know about if I hadn’t bought a funky teapot πŸ™‚ Do you have story about an unexpected or surprising find? Have you ever found a winning lottery ticket?

Cider Rules

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Another “comfort drink” post for today…

I assume many people enjoy apple cider in the fall — warm or cold. It is delicious either way. But when it comes to warm, mulled apple cider, that is either a Christmas holiday or a cold day in January treat for me.

I prefer to simmer it in a crock pot to avoid boiling it. And it has to be apple cider not clear juice. (If you are wondering about the difference, a good explanation here.) I still use a mulling recipe that my husband and I got while visiting a fruit farm over 30 years ago when we lived in Southwestern Ontario (I remember a nice Christmas gift shop area set up for the season). When we moved back to NW Ontario, it was a bit more difficult to find fresh cider, but we managed to find some in a few local markets before Christmas.

Eventually we strayed from that fresh pressed cider rule. I think it had to do with purchasing a commercial brand apple juice and discovering that it had a similar consistency and flavour as cider. A label did claim that it was “100% fresh pressed”, so I hope that means good apples! That led us to trying it out for the crock pot brew. So after many years, we made the switch! Not to plug the brand, but it has to be Tropicana now… πŸ™‚

We still have the original little recipe card with the farm’s logo (The only other thing I have added to recipe was some ground nutmeg).

We often wondered if the farm that introduced us to apple cider still existed. After some poking around on the internet recently, I was able to learn that the farm is no longer there and the apple orchards are gone. I was able to find the exact location on Google maps. That south part of London is certainly not the rural country area we remember. The original Cornell sign is still visible, but faded. The signs below it advertise different businesses on the site (a fruit stand, at least, and a Greek restaurant). It’s funny what one can come across on the internet in a random search — I found a painting of the farm featured here.

Things have changed, but this recipe lives on with us and will always serve as a nice memory!

A Good Canadian Maple

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No, not another post about a tree this time, but one for some good cheer…

A friend of mine was right. I really do like the maple cream liquor that she suggested I try. Sorry, Bailey’s Irish Cream, you’ve been replaced. The label on the bottle of Cabot Trail Maple Cream, further describes it as, “maple syrup cream liquor.” It is made in Quebec, but here is a good article about it from Ottawa Life Magazine. And if you want to know more about and/or travel (someday..) to explore the actual Cabot Trail, a resource from Nova Scotia here.

As the holidays approach, I will be thinking about different ways to use the cream liquor. So far, my husband and I have tried it with and without ice, in coffee, and on ice-cream. Hot chocolate next perhaps.

On what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday recently (Oct. 9), I recalled that his favourite alcoholic drink was a Brandy Alexander and that he had referred to it as “just brandy and milk”. I have never had that drink before, but I thought… hmm.. maple cream instead? I decided to find out what was in a Brandy Alexander for certain, and yes, most recipes list brandy or cognac, milk or cream or “half and half”, and dark creme de cacao. We do have a bit of dark creme de cacao left in a bottle, but it is used sparingly as we can no longer get it at the LCBO. We can still get and also have a bottle of the clear creme de cacao, but it doesn’t seem the same — chocolate should be brown. So, I went for it:

1/2 oz. of brandy, 1/2 oz. of dark creme de cacao, 1 oz. of maple cream.

It would be easy to adjust each of those measurements up or down (and use the white/clear creme de cacao), depending on taste or preference. I have named it a Chocolate Maple Brandy Alexander for our records. I also tried this combination in coffee. All very good — shaken or stirred!

Our favourite antique “leafy” fall glasses

I thought I would share this to my blog, since we can’t have a group of friends over for a cocktail and conversation during this on-going pandemic situation. We can only hope by Christmas, but not counting on it.

Feel free to share a recipe for a comfort drink that you enjoy in the winter or during the holidays. Is there a drink that you enjoy that reminds you of location or destination that you have visited, or hope to soon? Do you have any dark creme de cacao that you could spare me? πŸ™‚

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