Category Archives: Holidays

The Phenomenal Mix Playlist Winners Revealed

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Between blog comments, facebook and Twitter, I received 70 song and musician suggestions for the 2016 Phenomenal Women and Cafe Mix playlists – my annual gift of new music for my mom and sister.

Thank you to everyone who shared suggestions and music videos for my search. Several of your recommendations made the final list and I’m excited to share them with you in the new year. Here’s what I’m currently dancing to!

The 2016 Phenomenal Women Playlist

  1. Stranger to My Happiness by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

In honor of this phenomenal woman who passed in 2016. She is one of my favorite live performers to have seen. So much soul. Felt the need to kick off the playlist with a song from her album “Give the People What They Want”. 

2. Best Kept Secret by case/lang/veirs

3. Into the Wild by LP

4. Wild Things by Alessia Cara

5. No Diggity by Postmodern Jukebox featuring Ariana Savalas

6. Million Reasons by Lady Gaga

7. We Break the Dawn by Michelle Williams

8. The Greatest by Sia

I’m a Sia fan. I love her music videos and the unusual ways the dancers move. I think it’s beautiful. 

9. Heaven Knows by First Aid Kit

10. I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Postmodern Jukebox featuring Maiya Sykes

Shoutout to Amber West for recommending some Postmodern Jukebox tunes for the mix, which have not been included before and leant a variety of sounds and styles. I loved this cover of a song by The Killers. 

11. Heart of My Own by Basia Bulat

12. Wildewoman by Lucius

13. Tokyo Sunrise by LP

Hands down, my favorite musician this year has been LP. I discovered her last year and included “Night Like This” on the 2015 mix, but since then, she’s released another album and I’ve been playing her nonstop, so two songs made the list this year. 

14. Wildest Moments by Jessie Ware

15. Scars to Your Beautiful by Postmodern Jukebox featuring Sara Niemietz

16. Beautiful Life by Judith Hill

Judith Hill is a musician I have tried to include for the last several years and could never quite fit in. Came across this song off the 2015 album, Back in Time, and fell in love. This music video is a paired down version of the song, but it’s gorgeous either way. 

17. Runaway by Aurora

18. Got Your Number by Serena Ryder

19. Road Less Traveled by Lauren Alaina

20. In the Morrow by Brandi Carlile

The 2016 Cafe Mix

  1. Happiness by NEEDTOBREATHE

The hubs and I are both fans of NEEDTOBREATHE and this is off their new album, Hard Love. 

2. Alaska by Maggie Rogers

3. Red Hands by Walk Off The Earth

4. Trying So Hard Not to Know by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

5. The Walker by Fitz & the Tantrums

6. White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes

7. Unsteady by X Ambassadors

8. Hold Back the River by James Bay

James Bay was a discovery the hubs and I found through an indie artist bio-vid we came across and we loved his sound. 

9. Lost Stars by Adam Levine

10. Growing Things by Shook Twins

11. Dreams by Fleetwood Mac

12. Out of My League by Fitz & the Tantrums

13. I Found by Amber Run

14. Snow by Lisa Hannigan

15. Wicked Game by Chris Isaak

16. House of Mercy by Sarah Jarosz

Sarah Jarosz has been another musician I’ve had in my collection and tried to include for several years, but hadn’t. This year her 2016 album, Undercurrent, was added to my iTunes and I loved this song. 

17. Home Nights by Sugarcane Jane

18. Woodwork by Sleeping at Last

19. Morning Noon & Night by Ryan Shaw

20. Thank You by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Here’s another group I can’t help but groove to when I listen. 

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And now, the winners of the mix giveaways! Thank you all again so much for the song recommendations, I love listening to all your favorite tunes and they are a huge help in making these playlists.

The winners are Serena Dracis and Amber West!!!

 

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Call for Music Suggestions: The 2015 Phenomenal Woman Mix

IMG_6738Since 2007 I’ve made my ma and sis a Phenomenal Woman Mix CD at Christmas. It’s a collection of the best songs sung by women. In 2012, I expanded that to include a second CD called the Cafe’ Mix, which basically housed all my favorite tunes heard at coffee shops (which is where I hang out). This CD can have female or male singers on it.

Sure, in the age of ipods and wireless mini-speakers, a gift like a mix CD could be considered outdated, or worse…lame. But this remains one of their favorite gifts and one of my favorite giveaways of the year!

Because this is the part where you give me music suggestions!

And in turn, once it’s completed, I gift the cds to TWO lucky commenters who shared suggestions with me!

To get started, here’s a look at last year’s line-ups. And here’s a few I’m currently thinking of for this year.

Phenomenal Woman Mix

“Hello” by Adele

I don’t really feel this song needs explanation. It’s Adele’s new hit. It’s going on the cd.

“Alive” by Sia

I’m a Sia fan, especially of her music videos. This one did not disappoint.

“Lights and Camera” by Yuna

Yuna is an artist that has crept up the past three years, and I’m happy to add this tune to the mix.

Cafe’ Mix

“Empress” by Morningsiders

I’m loving the piano part in this song.

“Sun Hands” by Local Natives

The final verdict on this one is still out, but I do like it.

“Lost Cause” by Priscilla Ahn

This melody is haunting and beautiful.

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Now, as Joan Jett says, hit me with your best shot!
What song recommendations do you have for me to add to the
Phenomenal Woman and Cafe’ Mixes? 

I can’t wait to listen! 

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

2014 Collage

Happy Holidays Everyone!

May your homes be filled with peace and love. May you be surrounded by all those you call family. May you enjoy quiet moments and uproarious laughter. May you be thankful for all you have, and share with those who have less. May your new year bring only as much struggle as what will help you grow, and two times as many joys. May you be inspired to create and share your talents with the world. And may you get to sleep in at least once this week.

Love to All this Holiday Season,

Jess & Joe

Was Santa Good to You?

Happy Early New Year Everyone!

I’m feeling very blessed these last few days of 2013. Joe and I spent Christmas Eve with my family, made it back to La Crosse safely for Christmas day with his extended family, and spent friday night with his family for a Christmas pajama party sleepover! Over the weekend, one of my best friends, who I’ve known since high school, came with her boyfriend to stay the weekend with us!

And bonus of all bonuses, this was the first Christmas in 6 years I didn’t spend in retail during the ho ho horror of the holidays! Yaaaaaaay!

 

*Note: Shopping online is AWESOME!
I know for many of my WANA friends, this has been a difficult year. So many of you have suffered losses in the form of both people and things, be it jobs, manuscripts, and health. I’ve reminded myself often that this was a year for growing. Quitting my job was the right thing to do, and it resulted in a fantastic new job and the time necessary to complete the first draft of my book. But several months of unemployment definitely took their toll. I’m still paying off credit cards and loans I needed to use in order to make do. I often felt (and ok, still sometimes do) embarrassed by this fact, but you all have been so supportive and I must say THANK YOU!
Thanks for being a part of my happiness project in 2013! I mean it when I say that your comments are verbal gold! They fuel my spirit, and definitely give me happiness!
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But enough of the gushy stuff! I want to know what your favorite Christmas present was!!
Who was the person that gave you the most thoughtful gift? Or the funniest one? What surprised you most? Or even what made you cringe?!
My favorite gift this holiday season came from my soon to be sister-in-law in the form of Clue themed espresso cups and matching dish towel!
photo 1
You all know how much I love Clue right?
It was Mrs. Peacock in the Billiard Room with the Wrench!

It was Mrs. Peacock in the Billiard Room with the Wrench!

So Clue, originally called Cluedo, was created in England in 1949 and is quite possibly my favorite board game. A whodunnit mystery with quirky suspects and unlikely murder weapons! Hidden staircases you say? What’s not to love?!!

photo 2

That was my favorite gift this year! What’s yours?
Happy New Year!!!

The First Thanksgiving: It Happened in 1863

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Hanging out with Priscilla Mullins aboard the Mayflower II

Happy Thanksgiving Week Everyone!

As a descendant of  two of the Mayflower pilgrims, I’ve been sharing Thanksgiving stories on my blog all month. If you missed out, feel free to check out:

Starting With Some Gratitude

The Baby Born on the Mayflower

and The One That Fell Off the Boat

This week, I thought I’d share a history of the actual Thanksgiving.

Are you ready for this?

It happened in 1863.

Wait! The pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621! Your date is over 240 years later?!

That’s right my little pilgrims. The first official Thanksgiving happened in November of 1863, when President Lincoln made it a national holiday at the urging of Sarah Josepha Buell Hale.

Sarah was a New Englander who was interested in bringing a war-torn country together. She wrote editorials for a lady’s magazine on the importance of Thanksgiving, in addition to writing the President, all state governors, and every member of Congress once a year for 17 years!

It is Sarah Josepha Buell Hale who can be thanked for our national holiday being credited to the pilgrims. Many New Englanders did observe an annual Thanksgiving, however in 1863, the states were still divided about the holiday. The South believed the North to be celebrating their current success in the war, so many of them opted to celebrate on an entirely different day.

Playing house with the Pilgrims on Plimoth Plantation

Playing house with the Pilgrims on Plimoth Plantation

What the pilgrims really did in 1621 was celebrate their harvest. To truly understand how important that first gathering was for the pilgrims and the Wampanoag native tribe, you need to know that the pilgrims would not have survived without their native neighbors.

A local comedian and storyteller in my town put it like this:

If the pilgrims hadn’t invited the Wamanoag people, that first Thanksgiving would have been an all-you-can-eat barley buffet.

They were still learning how to live off this new land. Much of the food that became staples of their diet was learned through the Wampanoag. And it is a Wampanoag tradition to give thanks throughout the year at harvests. Since they lived off the land, they took time to celebrate it at every season. They knew the peak times for picking berries, fishing in the river, planting the crops, and hunting the forests.

Two native men burning a log to be made into a canoe.

Two native men burning a log to be made into a canoe.

A native woman tends to the fire where a fish is cooking.

A native woman tends to the fire where a fish is cooking.

See that long doughy item laying in the bark? There's a bluefish in there! It's wrapped in clay  and cooked over the fire.

See that long doughy item laying in the bark? There’s a bluefish in there! It’s wrapped in clay and cooked over the fire.

So in act of gratitude, the pilgrims invited Chief Massasoit to their harvest. He brought with him some 90 men, and the harvest feast lasted for three days.

The only known description of this first harvest was found in a letter written by pilgrim colonist, Edward Winslow. He was a key person who helped foster the friendship between Wampanoag and pilgrim. He wrote:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their great king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Clearly Edward Winslow didn’t care about run-on sentences.

Eh-hem. So there you have the first harvest, which we now refer to as the first Thanksgiving.

Other noteworthy topics of conversation you can toss around the turkey table this week with family, include…

  • The first Thanksgiving had no forks. They used knives, spoons, and their fingers. Forks were not yet invented.
  • Eels were considered a delicacy and lobsters were lower class.
  • Venison was the main course served, followed by turkey.
  • The Wampanoag word for “time of harvest” is Keepunumuk.
  • Beer was considered a normal drink regardless of age, gender, or class.
  • Both cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies came years after the first Thanksgiving.
  • In the 1800’s celery was the featured vegetable – pricey, but available, it was often laid on the table in a fine silver bowls filled with cold water to let the stalks crisp up.
  • Sports have always been present at Thanksgiving. After dinner was over, the men would go to the fields to play ball or pitch horseshoes.
  • It was President Franklin Roosevelt who made Thanksgiving a truly official holiday, signing the Congressional bill that made it law in 1941.

How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year?

The Ultimate Mix CD Song Contenders

Listening to MusicHey Dudes and Dudettes!

Last week you all shared 57 song suggestions with me! BAM!

Nice work! I had some listening homework to do, but it was fun, and I have a loooooong list of possibilities now.

Today I’m sharing a few favorites and I hope you keep the recommendations coming! I’ve actually got 3 mix cds to make: the Phenomenal Woman Mix (all female dance mix), the Cafe’ Mix (chill, coffee mug in hand mix), and a Dude’s Mix (all male mix cd).

So if you hear something ya like, *raises eyebrows up and down*, don’t keep it a secret!

Three random commenters will win all 3 CDs!

Favorite Phenomenal Woman Contenders:

Love Me Right by Geek Swag ~ From Ginger Calem

Ginger said this is the song that makes her dance no matter what. I couldn’t agree more! And it has a very Sex in the City kind of vibe, I think. Brunch tomorrow, ladies?

Into the Nightlife by Cyndi Lauper ~ From Emma Meade

Definitely a dance song, and a nice throwback to the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Queen!

Mama’s Broken Heart by Miranda Lambert ~ From Julie Glover

I would describe this song as a 3 part harmony involving the True Blood theme song, Mad Men’s wardrobe, and the Desperate Housewives wig collection. In short, it’s kinda awesome.

It’s Too Late by Wild Belle ~ From Dawn Sticklen

Still a great dance song, but it’s probably played at some french club I can’t get into. Thanks Dawn!

Favorite Cafe’ Mix Contenders:

Say Something by A Great Big World w/ Christina Aguilera ~ From Misty Laws

Sad, poignant, haunting, lovely, honest, heartbreak, hope. This is the kind of thing you’ll play on repeat.

Stop Signs by The Moondoggies ~ From Mark Petruska

This could go on the Dude’s Mix or the Cafe’ Mix. Love his voice. Sounds like something you’d hear in a movie while the main character embarks on a long road trip.

What songs did you love?What else would you recommend?

What’s new with you?

The Baby That Was Born on the Mayflower

I didn’t get a blog up on Friday because I spent the weekend at home visiting the newest edition of the family!

Welcome Sarai Lorraine!

Sarai

It’s baby city in my families as both my sister and Joe’s just had little ones. We have a healthy baby girl and boy to celebrate Thanksgiving with this year. Both moms had some difficulty with labor, and it sure makes me grateful for modern medicine, knowing they (and babies) were in good hands.

I’m blogging about Thanksgiving this month and in honor of our little ones, I thought I’d share this story…

The only baby born on the Mayflower belonged to Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins. They named their son Oceanus in honor of the voyage.

Imagine being pregnant and packed below ship with 101 other people for months on end!

When the Mayflower originally sailed from England, it was to be accompanied by another ship, the Speedwell. Rumor has it that one of the voyage benefactors wasn’t too keen on the trip and purchased sails much too large for the Speedwell’s frame. When the crew raised the sails, they caught the wind so strongly that the beams cracked, turning the Speedwell into the Sinkwell.

Aboard the Mayflower II

Aboard the Mayflower II

Both ships had to turn back and families were forced to make the difficult decision of either staying in England and departing at a future date, or crowding onto the Mayflower, setting sail for the New World. Some families even split up, leaving the women and children behind and sending their men to procure land and prepare homes.

For the Hopkins family, the journey was a tumultuous one. The Mayflower had a boxy shape to it which offered some resistance to the bouncing waves, but didn’t counteract them altogether. The pilgrims were considered the worst lot on the boat. Captain Miles Standish, a fiery redhead with a temper to match, was a military man who hadn’t much use for farmers and families aboard his ship. Many of the pilgrims became seasick and the soldiers on board mocked their lack of sea legs.

What the crew's quarters probably looked like.

What the crew’s quarters probably looked like.

Below deck, the pilgrims crowded with their families as well as livestock into small bunks with nothing more than curtains for privacy. The noise was one matter, and the smells were an entirely different one.

Such was the environment that Elizabeth Hopkins gave birth in. And Oceanus was born.

These babies and their mothers remind me what we’re capable of. They overcome unbearable pain, the sense of being out of control, and yet so incredibly focused all at the same time. And they introduce us to the very essence of hope – a new child. What a perfect reminder to be grateful. Grateful for every day we have with our family. For every adventure we embark on – whether we know what that new world will bring or not. For every lesson learned along the way.

Here’s my gratitude list from this weekend:

  1. Holding baby Sarai.
  2. Hugging my sister and brother-in-law.
  3. Sleeping next to Sonja (Sarai’s 4 year old big sister) who kicked me in the ribs, butt, and thigh repeatedly on the hour every hour for two nights in a row. Once the soreness fades, I’ll remember how we got to snuggle in the early morning and she told me how excited she was to go home with mommy and daddy and her new sister.
  4. Concealer, to hide my lack of sleep. Coffee for the drive home.
  5. Being an aunt to some truly loveable kids, all five of them.

What’s on your gratitude list this week?

Starting With Some Gratitude

The house seems extra quiet this week since Joe took down all the Halloween decorations already. No ghosts or ghoulies to keep me company anymore. We’re still on our scary movie kick though. We spent Halloween watching The Lost Boys and The Exorcist! Classics. We still have a few in our pile to watch yet (Psycho (the remake), The Ring, Village of the Damned, The Prophecy…)

Even though Halloween is over, it’s the beginning of another favorite holiday for me. Thanksgiving.

This holiday is always special to me and my family because we’ve tracked our ancestry back to two of the pilgrims that crossed over on the Mayflower. John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley. John Howland came from England as an indentured servant to John Carver, one of the Leiden Separatists (AKA: pilgrim). John Carver was Plymouth colony’s first Governor and the first person to sign the Mayflower Compact, which he wrote.

Me, standing in front of the Mayflower II - an exact replica of the original 1600's ship

Me, standing in front of the Mayflower II – an exact replica of the original 1600’s ship

But John Carver and his family did not survive the first winter in the new world. In fact, most of the original passengers on the Mayflower did not survive that first winter. My 17th Great Grandfather, John Howland, who was in his 20’s at the time, now found himself a land owner and became a prominent member of the community. He would later become quite a reputable fur trader, working with Native Americans along the coast of Maine, and ending his days as a farmer in Massachusetts.

Elizabeth was only a teenager when she made the voyage across the Atlantic with her parents. Her parents did not survive the first winter either.

Eventually, John and Elizabeth married in the new world, and over their life together, gave birth to 10 children! What is so remarkable about their story is that they all survived! The Howland line is the most common bloodline for pilgrim descendants to belong to because it was so rare that these people lived as long as they did. Elizabeth was in her 90’s when she passed!

Me standing in front of the Jabez Howland house in Plymouth, MA - one of only two houses still standing where a pilgrim (John and Elizabeth) actually lived.

Me standing in front of the Jabez Howland house in Plymouth, MA – one of only two houses still standing where a pilgrim (John and Elizabeth) actually lived.

I am fortunate in many ways. I’m fortunate that I know where my people come from. I know their story, or at least as much as I can know. And I know we are survivors. I’m also fortunate to have visited the land and place where they walked. The first time in 2010 with Joe, who was patient and understanding with me while I took photos of everything and felt like I was walking in a really good dream. The second time, just this year, when I took my parents to tour Plymouth and watched my mom have the same journey I did three years ago.

Mom and Pop outside Plimoth Plantation

Mom and Pop outside Plimoth Plantation

So Thanksgiving is a meaningful holiday for me. It’s a reminder of who we are and what we’ve been through. What we can endure, with hard work and family, in order to achieve our dreams. It’s a reminder to change for the better by learning from others and seeking understanding more than being right.

This month, I’d like to focus on thanksgiving. I’ve kept a journal since I was 13, but within the last year or so, I’ve turned it more into a gratitude journal. At the end of each entry, I write five specific things I’m grateful for.

Here is today’s list:

  1. The opportunity to travel to Plymouth this year with my parents.
  2. The chance to tour my ancestors’ home and see artifacts used by them.
  3. The sound of my mother’s voice, telling John and Elizabeth’s story at the dinner table on Thanksgiving day.
  4. My mom’s dairy potatoes.
  5. Knowing my family is full of survivors. If they can cross an ocean with only the stars to guide their way, then I can publish my damn book!

What are you thankful for today? What does Thanksgiving in your house look like?

Announcing the Halloween Costume Contest Winner

Thank you to everyone who participated in my Halloween Costume Contest! I had sooo much fun seeing your costumes! We had everything from Bigfoot to Unicorns, 80’s Punk Rocker to Madonna and Child! You sure are a clever bunch!

Had you come Trick-or-Treating at our house last night, you’d have met this…

Wonder Woman and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

Wonder Woman and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

But, there can be only one! And this year’s Costume Contest winner is…

Diana Beebe!!!

Diana’s costumes are positively purr-fect!

Be sure to check out Diana’s fabulous fantasy blog – Mermaids Don’t Do Windows!

Congratulations Diana! Thanks for Trick-or-Treating with me!

Behold your ghoulish bounty!

SAMSUNG+ a book of your choice and chance to guest post!

How did you each of you celebrate All Hallow’s Eve? What was your favorite costume you saw?

Halloween Party and Costume Contest

Halloween CollageIt’s no secret I love Halloween.

Like. Really. Love. Halloween.

It’s a good thing my honey loves Halloween too! Every year Joe and I collect more Halloween decorations.

He continues to scare the crap out of me by hiding more spiders around the house. (I don’t do spiders.)

I continue to buy Halloween movies for us to watch each night.

You never know what you might find at our house!

Skeleton

We also love to dress up.

Sometimes our costumes go together…

Who ya gonna call? … GHOSTBUSTERS!

It was Mrs. Peacock in the Billiard Room with the Wrench!

It was Mrs. Peacock in the Billiard Room with the Wrench!

Sometimes, they don’t…

I bet the real Dolly Parton never had to deal with zombies.

I bet the real Dolly Parton never had to deal with zombies.

This year we coordinated! Joe’s band, TUGG, decided to dress up as The Wizard of Oz, and all the ladies agreed to play along too.

Behold…OZ!

Wizard of Oz Cast

Pretty spectacular, isn’t it? I must say, we did have fun.

Wizard of Oz Collage

Maybe too much fun…

Witches Duel

Ok, definitely too much fun! (But look what I made on Pixlr, I mean this just screams to be made into a bookmark!)

Wizard of Oz - Glinda Bubble

I want to see YOUR Halloween spirit!

HALLOWEEN COSTUME CONTEST

Submit your favorite Halloween costume photo here, or on Facebook, by Thursday, October 31st, Midnight.

One lucky winner will be selected in a random drawing to win the following:

  • DVD copy of John Carpenter’s Halloween – in honor of this month’s Original Vs. Remake series
  • A Book from my Bookshelf to Yours – multiple titles to choose from!
  • A Guest Post Featured on The Happiness Project, or One on Your Blog Written by Me
  • A Plethora of Halloween and Fall Goodies

*Bonus entries can be made by sharing this post! Tweet or share on Facebook for additional chances to win! 

What are you waiting for?

Trick-or-Treat!

wicked party 1

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