My Top 10 Songs for a Musical March

It has been a long while since I’ve written about music so I wanted to sum up what I’ve been listening to and loving lately. Here are ten of my favorites that have been helping me get through this cold and snowy winter.

1. Work Song – Hozier

I love it because…it’s Hozier. His voice is wonderfully soulful, the lyrics lovely and a little dark, it has an awesome beat, and it’s just the right amount of gospel.

Favorite lyric: “No grave can hold my body down, I’ll crawl home to her”

2. Cavalier – James Vincent McMorrow

I love it because…I just can’t resist that falsetto. James Vincent has got an impressively high voice and there is something so poignant, emotional, and genuine in his tone. His songs always make me want to cry in the best possible way.

Favorite lyric: “Speak until the dust settles in the same specific place”

3. Cold as it is – The Lone Bellow

I love it because…those harmonies though. I’m a big Lone Bellow fan and I was super psyched when their new album came out earlier this year. This song builds so well, and with the winter we’ve been having in Vermont the lyrics really speak to me.

Favorite lyric: “Singing songs of sorrow, lock before the dawn, waiting for the midnight”

4. Seventeen – Lake Street Dive

I love it because…the lead singer’s voice just melts me. It also has a really fun beat. I had the pleasure of seeing this band live in Burlington recently and highly recommend checking out the rest of their tunes!

Favorite lyric: “I wish I’d met you when I was seventeen, before I kept my hands so clean”

5. Always Alright – Alabama Shakes

I love it because…it makes me think of Silver Linings Playbook. Also, it makes me want to dance. The lead singer has an awesome gravely sound and the song is a great blend of blues, southern rock, and soul.

Favorite lyric: “Well I don’t care if its seven in the morning, for all I care it could be the second coming”

6. Like Real People Do – Hozier

I love it because…it’s beautifully simple. This is one of Hozier’s softer songs. It has a gorgeous acoustic sound and has some wonderful layering of guitar, drums, back up vocals, and lead vocals.

Favorite lyric: “Why were you digging? What did you bury before those hands pulled me from the earth?”

7. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

I love it because…the funk. It starts with an awesome bass vocal, and then Bruno comes in and he’s just perfect. It’s so much fun and another great dance song. I also love the modern take on classic 70s funk.

Favorite lyric: “Smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy”

8. What I’m Doing Here – Lake Street Dive

I love it because…it makes me swoon. Rachael Price has a crazy range and this simple, stripped down song shows it off perfectly.

Favorite lyric: “There’s been so many nights when I’ve longed for your touch. There’s been so many days when our love was not enough”

9. Who Will Comfort Me – Melody Gardot

I love it because…it’s jazzy. Melody’s sultry voice paired with the horns and the simple, meaningful lyrics make for a perfect combo. Keep an ear on this one.

Favorite lyric: “My soul is weary and beaten down from all of my misery, oh Lord who will comfort me?”

10. The Love You’re Given – Jack Garratt

I love it because…it’s intriguing. It has a lot going on and features another impressive male falsetto. Definitely worth listening to all the way through.

Favorite lyric: “Don’t feed the solace within you and allow it to grow”

I hope you found something new you liked here! You can find the almost* complete playlist here on Spotify. Let me know what you’ve been listening to and loving lately in the comments below.

*What I’m Doing Here is not available on Spotify so I swapped it out with another one of my Lake Street Dive favorites.

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Cozy Winter Duvet Cover

It’s not officially winter yet, but it sure as hell feels like it here in Vermont. We had a nor’easter roll in yesterday and I’m feeling pretty grateful that I can watch the snowfall from the comfort of my couch right now. There are a lot of things I love about winter in New England, particularly snow, skiing, skating, the holidays, and flannel, fleece, and down.

In order to survive the cold months ahead warm bedding is a must. I use a down duvet, which I absolutely love because all that’s required is a fitted sheet and a duvet cover; no need for an obnoxious flat sheet that is sure to get twisted and tangled in the night. This year, in preparation for winter, I decided to combine my three favorite winter materials and create the coziest quilt ever.

I bought a set of flannel sheets and a large fleece blanket. I put the fitted sheet and pillow cases from the set on my bed and I used the flat sheet and the blanket to make the perfect winter duvet cover. For the average cold night I keep the flannel side down, but on those really chilly evenings I turn the fleece side down for extra warmth and coziness. The cover is removable and machine wash and tumble dry safe, making it easy to clean.

The instructions below are for a full size duvet cover (about 85 x 85).

What you’ll need:

  • One flannel flat sheet (queen size is ideal, but full size will work)
  • One 90 x 90″ fleece blanket
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Pins
  • 7 to 10 buttons

Step 1: Prepare the fabric

Wash and dry the fabric and fold or spread out immediately in order to avoid wrinkling.

Lay the right side of the flannel sheet on top of the right side of the fleece blanket, exposing the wrong side of each, and line up the edges.

*My flat sheet was narrower than my fleece blanket so I aligned the long edges on one side first.

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The blanket and sheet I chose for my duvet cover

Step 2: Attach the Long Edges

Once the edges are aligned, pin and sew them together. Repeat this step on the other side.

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Sew the long edges of the flannel and fleece

Step 3: Attach the Short Edges at One End

Once both long sides of the sheet and blanket are attached, lay the fabric out on the floor and smooth out any wrinkles, keep the right sides together and the wrong sides exposed.

*Because my sheet was narrower than the blanket when I smoothed the fabric a strip of fleece blanket showed on both sides of the sheet. In order to make these borders even I made sure the strips of fleece were of equal width on either side of the flannel fabric.

Align, pin, and sew the short edges on one end together, this will be the top of the duvet cover.

Step 4: Create the Button Closure

Pin and sew a four-inch edge on either side of the other end together, leaving a large gap for the duvet to go into the cover.

Turn the fabric right side out

Turn the fabric right side out

Turn the fabric right side out and once again lay and smooth it on the floor.

Measure the opening of the bottom end of the cover and determine how to space your buttons so that they are evenly distributed along the edge.

Sew the buttons to the edge of the flannel sheet and then cut a slit in the fleece fabric directly in line with each button, because fleece doesn’t fray you can leave the edges of the button-hole raw.

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Button closure at the bottom of the cover

*I sewed my buttons to the outside edge of the flannel sheet and folded the fleece over the flannel edge to close the button. You could also choose not to fold over the fleece edge and just sew the buttons to the inside edge of the flannel.

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Finished bottom edge of the cover

Step 10: Make you Bed

Put your duvet inside the cover, aligning the edges and corners of the quilt with those of the cover, then close the buttons, make your bed, and enjoy a very cozy winter nap.

All done and ready for the coziest night sleep ever

All done and ready for the coziest night sleep ever

Moose Chili

A few months ago a coworker of mine gave me some moose meat from one of his recent hunting expeditions and it has been sitting in my freezer ever since. So, on one of the first chilly fall days of the season, when I was craving some comfort food I decided to cook up some chili. I even managed to keep most of the ingredients local, using corn, tomatoes, and bell peppers from my CSA, hot peppers from my garden, and the moose meat.

I referenced the Chili Con Carne recipe in my trusty copy of Joy of Cooking for ratios and came up with a tasty one-pot meal.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 teaspoons Salt

1 large Onion, chopped

8 to 10 Garlic Cloves, chopped

2 to 6 Hot Peppers (I used a jalapeño and a cayenne pepper, which gave the chili a very mild spice)

1 to 2 large Green Bell Peppers, chopped

2 Cobs of Corn, cut the kernels off the cob (or 1 14-ounce can Corn)

2 to 3 pounds ground Moose Meat (beef or turkey work too!)

1/4 to 1/2 cup Chili Powder

1 28-ounce can Whole or Crushed Tomatoes (I added a few fresh, chopped tomatoes too)

1 14-ounce can Pinto Beans

1 14-ounce can Dark Red Kidney Beans

4 cups Water

1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar

Salt, Pepper, and Cumin to taste

Home grown hot peppers, CSA corn and bell pepper, and fresh chopped onion and garlic

Home grown hot peppers, CSA corn and bell pepper, and fresh chopped onion and garlic

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan and cook the onion, garlic, hot peppers, corn, and green bell pepper over medium heat until they are slightly softened.

2. Add the meat and season with salt, cook until it is lightly browned (do not fully cook), pour off any excess fat if you wish.

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Browned moose meat

3. Stir in the chili powder, tomatoes, beans, water, and vinegar then season with salt, pepper, and cumin.

4. Simmer the chili, uncovered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to break up any large tomato chunks. Cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened.

Simmering chili

Simmering chili

5. Serve with grated cheddar cheese on top and  some warm buttermilk cornbread on the side, then enjoy!

Add some cheese and cornbread to complete the meal

Add some cheese and cornbread to complete the meal

What to do with those giant zukes?

Summer is sadly coming to an end, which means the nights are getting chilly, the sun is setting sooner, and the zucchini crop is in full swing. I love zucchini, but there is only so much ratatouille and stuffed squash I can eat. As the weather starts to cool off I find myself craving comfort food, and zucchini bread happens to be one of my favorites.

This year I didn’t actually grow any zucchini in my own garden, but luckily I have a generous co-worker with an abundant crop. I found a recipe online with excellent reviews and whipped up a few tasty loaves…they didn’t last long.

Giant Vermont zukes from my friendly coworker

Giant Vermont zukes from my friendly co-worker.

Shredded and ready to fold into the batter. Two loaves didn't even use the whole zucchini!

Shredded and ready to fold into the batter. Two loaves didn’t even use the whole zucchini!

The finished product. Yum!

The finished product. Yum!

Click here for the recipe and enjoy for a delicious breakfast, snack, or dessert.

Singing in the Streets

Happy Summer! It is finally, officially my favorite season. June in Vermont has been lovely with very little rain and countless sunny 75 degree days. I was going to use the blissful weather as my excuse for not posting anything for a while, but in truth, I just haven’t known what to write about! After much mulling, I decided on a music update.

For those who don’t know, I’m in a band called EmaLou with two dear friends. It’s tough to sum up our sound and style with one genre, so when asked I generally say “we’re a mix of folk, funk, blues, jazz, and gospel”, which is a lot for one band to cover, but I chalk it up to that fact that each of us has our own favorite style and we get a lot of joy out of trying new tunes and blending our unique sounds together.

Summer is a busy season for music in Burlington – there are a lot of great venues around town that seek out local talent, and this year we’ve been busy performing at quite a few of them. From farmers’ markets, to intimate cafes, to busking on the streets – we’re out there sharing our sound and having a grand ole time. I’ve including a few recordings we made in the living room of my band mates’ tiny apartment below (they actually turned out pretty good considering the recording location). If you like what you hear, and you’re in the Burlington, VT area check out our Facebook page for upcoming shows!

I’ve also shared my new favorite song of the summer – it’s an Ingrid Michaelson tune that just makes me want to dance. Enjoy – and if you think of a song EmaLou should cover please comment below!

Time Machine – Ingrid Michaelson

Can You Get to That – Funkadelic

Sittin’ on the Couch – Emma Cook 

I’ll Fly Away – Albert Brumley

For the Birds

It is 70 degrees and sunny today, the buds have emerged, the seeds have sprouted, and the grass is finally green again – spring has officially sprung!  For me, one of the most wonderful things about spring is the birds.  The mornings are musical again, and flashes of color flit from tree to tree. Being a bit of a bird nerd, I wanted to find a way to slow them down and see them up close.

I searched for some DIY feeder ideas online.  I wanted something simple, sturdy, and artistic.  I came across some really neat projects, and settled on a simple mason jar design.

What you’ll need:

  • One 1 quart, regular mouthed mason jar
  • One Harris Farms Baby Chick Feeder (I bought one for $3.99 at Tractor Supply)
  • Outdoor craft paint
  • 6 feet of 8 gauge copper wire
  • 4 feet of thin galvanized steel wire
The necessary items

The necessary items

Step 1: Decorate

I wanted to give this project some color so I used Patio Paint to decorate the jar before assembly.  Unfortunately I was not blessed with my Grandmother’s artistic ability, so I went with an abstract flower design.  Let the paint dry before continuing.

Step 2: Wrap and coil

This step is a little tricky.  Begin wrapping the thick copper wire around the jar.  Start by coiling the wire around the mouth of the jar and work your way up, bending the wire as tightly to the curves of the jar as possible.  After wrapping the wire around the jar two or three times, bend the end into a hook and center it over the jar for optimal hanging.

Once you’re happy with the shape of the copper wire, stabilize its structure with the thin steel wire.  Wrap the steel wire around the bottom of the copper coil (near the mouth of the jar), then thread the steel wire straight up, wrapping it around each level of copper coil as you move up.  Once you reach the top of the feeder, wrap the steel wire around the base of the copper hook a few times, then continue the thread-and-wrap pattern down the opposite side of the jar.  Repeat this step to create a total of four vertical lines of steel wire.  This will help to keep the copper wire from extending and warping when it bears the weight of the bird seed, birds, and even the occasional pesky squirrel.

Reinforce the copper coil with thin galvanized steel wire

Reinforce the copper coil with thin galvanized steel wire

Wrap the steel wire around the base of the copper hook, then continue down the opposite side.

Wrap the steel wire around the base of the copper hook, then continue down the opposite side of the jar

Step 3: Fill, hang, and enjoy

Now that the feeder is structurally sound, you’re ready to feed the birds!  Fill the jar with bird seed and screw the Harris Farms Baby Chick Feeder piece onto the mouth of the jar.  Now quickly tip the jar upside down to fill the base with seeds.  Hang it on a sturdy hook and enjoy the close-up view of your favorite backyard birds!

Unfortunately this is not a squirrel-proof feeder.  Those devilish creatures are clever and I’ve found they’ll stop at nothing to eat from mine.  Here is one sneaking onto my porch and waiting for the opportune moment to steal some bird seed treats…

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Sneaky squirrel

I’m still working on a strategy to deter the menace, but for now, he is winning the battle.  The good news is that the feeder is strong enough to withstand some squirrel abuse, and best of all the birds love it too!  It has been great to get a closer look at some of my favorite species, including a beautiful cardinal pair that nest nearby and always visit the feeder a few times a day – such a wonderful sight.

A male Northern Cardinal - photo credit for this great shot goes to Keith Macchione

A male Northern Cardinal – photo credit for this great shot goes to Keith Macchione