We Ate Things We Didn’t Recognize

I crowd-sourced what cuisine I should try for the TRY ANOTHER COUNTRY’S CUISINE Challenge and the winner was: Ethiopia! (I took a poll on Facebook and Instagram and Ethiopia thumped Russia/Uzbekistan in the voting). This was one of those challenges where I thought, “Why did I say I’d do this?” We did a little research about what we should eat and, maybe more precisely, what we should avoid. Tibs: stir-fried meat, yes.  Kitfo: raw lean ground beef, no. Feeling fairly prepared, we ventured out but I can’t say we were too excited.

Sora
Full disclosure: taken as we were leaving.

Turns out there are six Ethiopian places within walking distance. We chose Sora Ethiopian Market and Cafe, which is only half a mile from out house! It’s not a large place and luckily we weren’t the only diners. Game plan: order some kind of identifiable meat and be comforted by the idea of bread. We had decided we needed to order one of the combo platters that seem to be the staple of Ethiopian cuisine. So we picked the Veggies of the Day and added something called YeShint Tibs: cubed ribeye steak sautéed with onions, garlic, tomato, jalapeño and some kind of seasoning.

menu
Notice the YeShint Tibs. As well as various other Tibs.

In Ethiopia you eat without utensils.  Meals are served with a spongy flatbread called injera which you tear off into small pieces and use to scoop up the meat or vegetables. It’s not bad once you get the hang of it, but messy.

injera
Injera. An endless supply.

So, I’m sure you are wondering, how was the food? It was pretty good! I was surprised that I liked the vegetables better than the bread or the beef.  Let’s start with the bread.  Injera has a strange, almost sour, flavor.  It serves primarily as a vessel to get the food from plate to mouth.  It certainly isn’t something that I would just eat alone but with the veggies or meat it almost disappears flavor-wise. The temperature was off-putting, room temperature with an almost clammy feel.  I’m not sure I’d even describe it as bread? Lee and I were in agreement about the injera.

For the meat entree, YeShint Tibs, I liked the seasoning but the steak was just okay,  I wanted it to be more tender and I thought our server said it would be thinly sliced.  However, looking at the menu now it clearly says “chunk cubes” of ribeye, so…I guess that’s on me.  Lee liked the meat better than I did.

On to the veggies.  I was nervous about them. In the pictures they looked mushy and of indeterminate origin.  However, I liked all but one of the five!

Foodlabeled
All platters are served on injera.

A veggie breakdown:

Messer: spicy lentil stew- my favorite!  Good texture, nice level of spice!

Alicha Messer: non-spicy whole lentil stew- not a lot of flavor and in certain circumstances that’s a win!

Alicha Kik: yellow split pea stew- not a ton of flavor and full disclosure, I thought it was described by the server as being sweet potatoes, which probably made me give it the benefit of the doubt before even tasting it.  The whole dish was kind of an exercise in suspended disbelief anyway because it looked like corn.

Kay Sir: red beets, carrots and potatoes cooked with onions and garlic- surprisingly good!  I do like beets (cooked only, please!) and potatoes, to the picky eater, are a god-send, plus carrots, I can do.  I was good once I realized that even though I couldn’t tell whether a chunk was beet, potato or carrot they all tasted fine.

Gomen: Collard greens cooked with onion and garlic- I saved the best for last…no. This was no bueno.  Wrong language,  I know. Wrong country even, but really just plain wrong. I’m not a fan of collard greens, in general, and these were probably perfectly fine if you like them, but, just no for me.  I did try them and, honestly, it was the only thing I ate all night where I was like, just swallow and try not to make a face.

We admitted to our server that this was our first time eating Ethiopian food and she said we seemed like naturals!  I think she was impressed that we didn’t ask for silverware.  Overall, we enjoyed it.  We might even go back.  Maybe.

coke
Liquid security blanket.

So, did you eat something from somewhere different? What did you think?  I’d love to hear about it!  I was about to write that maybe we’d try out more new food from other countries but, you know, I’m going to pace myself.  I’ve promised to try sushi and we might just give the Uzbek/Russian place by the movie theatre a go but after that I think I’ll give my tastebuds and my overactive imagination a rest.  Thanks for reading!

Before you go…I must admit that Lee tasted everything first and told me what I’d like and what I wouldn’t!  Although, I was going to try everything anyway it helped me to prepare mentally.  Let’s just say he’s my food wing man.

 

 

 

 

 

Direction Over Speed

I’m amazed, and frankly a little scared, at how fast time passes.  A lot has happened since I last wrote and yet somehow I can’t believe it’s been over a year.  2018 was in most ways a year like any other.  I worked, I ate, I laughed, I cried, I moved.  Ah, yes, the ever presenting moving.  It was also the year I turned 50.  That birthday so dreaded by many but also rightly celebrated. A milestone. The combination of its approach, an additional major life change and an unassuming little yellow book are what initially led to this blog.  I knew I wouldn’t complete the challenges by 50 but I’m ready to start again.  I’ve missed this endeavor.  The planning, the writing and the connection, not only to my faithful, supportive readers but to myself.  Two of my new guiding principles for 2019 fit nicely with this: live deliberately and direction over speed.  As I’ve written before, one of the benefits of this blog has been that it’s forced me to live more deliberately.

My subconscious has been busy trying to convince me that it’s been too long for me to pick up where I left off.  The ship has sailed, no one cares, you (shockingly) failed to finish something again.

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Rare sighting of my subconscious watching me write.

But, I’m in charge here and I want to pick up where I left off.  I’m choosing direction over speed.  As a military spouse I find this to be a difficult task.  We don’t feel like we get to choose the direction and once we land somewhere we have to act with speed, ever aware that time is precious and finite. The truth is that whatever the outside forces or internal whispers WE get to set the speed and direction of our lives. Obstacles just make it more challenging and interesting. I’ve said all of this to say, I’m back! There are many challenges ahead and I hope you are still with me. Let’s do this.

Before you go…Facebook has been reminding me that all 69 of you that liked my Before You Grow Up page haven’t heard from me in a while…I’m not sure if that’s supposed to motivate me or depress me but either way it worked.

Ok, I just realized that I’m the 69th person (or probably, more accurately, the 1st) so to the other 68 of you, thanks for reading.

Much Appreciated

I’ve had a good time working my way through all of these challenges.  Obviously, some are more fun than others.  If you’ve ever sewn on a button you know that it’s not for entertainment. But, I have to say this challenge was the best.  I’m not exaggerating when I say we have been a Marine Corps family for a long time.  Other than the occasional reduced hotel rate, we don’t really take advantage of a lot of the available military discounts.  Then we discovered, after attending a Military Appreciation Day hosted by the Carolina Hurricanes, that they are not exaggerating about their military discount.  This time last year I sat in the best seats I’ve ever had at a professional sporting event. I spent more the year before for seats that were so high up we had to wear an extra layer of clothing. As I called my hockey-loving brother, Daryle, from PNC Arena to wish him a happy birthday I just knew that he had to come with me the next year for his birthday.  Fast forward 365-ish days and here we are.

darylevalhockey
Happy birthday, Daryle!
As an adult, I’ve never lived close enough to a professional sports team to be able to attend regularly and become one of the local fans.  I’m hoping that if someday I do have a local home team that it still generates the same feeling.  There’s nothing like entering a stadium or arena for a sporting event.  The excitement feels electric.  I particularly love it when the players enter.  The music, the introductions, the spectacle. It’s awesome.  This particular game was especially exciting because not only did I get to share it with my brother and my kids but we had really great seats!

bench
View of the ice from our seats!
You know you are in for something special when the guy who looks at your tickets to tell you where your seats are located says, “You’ve got great seats.” When I bought our tickets I wanted to get something up close, center ice.  Well, I succeeded.  We were on the second row behind the opposing team’s bench.   If I had it to do again I’d buy seats a few more rows back.  The seats I purchased were row D which to me equated to the fourth row, not the second.  But, no one was complaining. It was pretty awe-inspiring to be so close.

So, there you have it.  The best challenge yet.  Impressive athletic feats, rockin’ songs to get you pumped up, t-shirts floated down in parachutes from the rafters and a brother who traveled half-way across the country to share it with me.  I realized that, all of the excitement aside, what makes these events even more memorable is that I always get to enjoy them with the people who I love most in the world.  Building relationships and making memories.  I think that’s what this life is really all about.

Before you go…even though we had a great time we did not get to celebrate a Hurricanes victory.  The defeat did not discourage the usual heckling idiot fans. And, don’t think just because we had great seats that we weren’t going to have to listen to it.  I’m never a fan of the loud-mouth who yells during the game but occasionally you’ll find one that, while annoying, is at least begrudgingly funny.  Our trio of fools couldn’t even come up with a good taunt.  On the upside, they did not curse.  But, on the downside, repeatedly yelling, “You’re the worst!”, with an intermittent “You’re literally the worst!” thrown in for emphasis is just embarrassing.  I’m not trying to encourage more negativity in the world but study up on your insults if you are going to try to insert yourself into the game.

Do You Believe in Miracles?!

With this challenge we are moving from learning a solid life skill to more of a life-expanding experience.  ATTEND A PROFESSIONAL SPORTING EVENT.  I have attended many professional sporting events in my life.  I grew up watching the local minor-league hockey  and baseball teams in Oklahoma City. Heck, I even watched the National Finals Rodeo a couple of times before Las Vegas stole it from us in 1978.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have watched games in each of the four major professional sports in the US.  I’m super excited about this challenge.

jaxjags
Family affair: son, brother, nephew.  Jacksonville Jaguars vs Minnesota Vikings. Dec 11, 2016.
I’ve liked watching sports for as long as I can remember.  In elementary school, I spent many summer Friday nights with my brother, Daryle, at the OKC Fairgrounds watching Sprint cars race around the dirt track.  I’m embarrassed to admit that in the 6th grade when my classmates were probably writing about the Iran Hostage Crisis or tornados I wrote my term paper about hockey.  In my defense, it was the time of the “miracle on ice”  and the medal-round victory of the US Olympic hockey team over the Soviet Union.  For a brief period of time during my first semester of college I even thought I wanted to be a radio sports broadcaster. My first and only journalism class cured me of that notion.

For about ten years now I’ve been the administrator of the Candy Bar Football League in which a small, ever-changing group of family and friends pick the winners of the NFL games each week every fall.  It’s high stakes. At the end of the season the winner gets a candy bar.  We started when Andrew first became an obsessive Philadelphia Eagles fan following a viewing of the Mark Wahlberg movie Invincible.  I’m also a part of the Pick-One-Fool Fantasy Football league.  If you don’t play Fantasy Football you can’t understand how you could find yourself watching some random NFL game just because DeAndre Hopkins is on your fantasy team.  That said, there’s nothing like watching a sporting event in person.

So, are you a sports fan?  Even if you aren’t I think there is definitely something about seeing a live sporting event.  Do I only think that because I am a sports fan?  Do you have access to professional sports where you live or do you have to travel, like I do?  Did you get to watch a professional sporting event as a kid?  If you are guessing that I’ve got a game in my near future, you’d be correct.  I’ll check back in with you next week.  In the mean time, if you have a favorite professional sport you like to watch, live or otherwise, I’d love to hear about it! Or, if you’d rather wash dishes than go to a sporting event I’d like to hear why??!

Before you go…although my kids aren’t professional athletes, they all played sports and it was pretty moving at times to watch them play.  In November, Rachel finished her Senior season playing volleyball for Greensboro College.  Getting to watch her play with heart and determination as a leader who left nothing on the court will always be better than watching any professional sporting event past or future.

rachelposter
It’s my blog… I can brag if I want.

Needles, Shanks & Irrational Fears

This challenge brought up a bit of an irrational fear of mine.  I don’t like needles.  Not in the I’m afraid of shots way, although I don’t love those either, but more in the I’m going to step on a needle! way.  I don’t think I’ve ever stepped on a needle before but apparently it’s a real concern in my deep dark subconscious.  It could be related to listening to multiple tellings of Lee’s childhood story of getting a thumbtack stuck between his toes.  I understand a thumbtack is not the same thing as a needle but the pointy end makes them close cousins. I also have some vague memory of my Mom getting a needle stuck in her foot.  Not even sure if that’s a fact or an alternative  fact but it’s in my brain anyway. Whenever my kids wanted to do some kind of craft that required pins or needles I was probably not very encouraging.  I was pretty sure that some carelessly supervised pin or needle was going to slide itself comfortably into the fibers of our carpet and lie in wait for it’s unsuspecting victim.

In addition to my needle issue, I did have a couple of other challenges to overcome.  I could not find a garment that needed a button replaced.  I also could not find a sewing kit (possibly linked to the previously stated needle phobia).  However, I did persevere.  After clearing a couple of initial hurdles, I am now fully licensed in the state of North Carolina to sew a two-hole button- at least onto a scrap of fabric. I’m also the proud owner of a new sewing kit.

The 100 Things You Need to Do Before You Grow Up book sometimes offers additional information to help the reader.  I decided that even though this wasn’t going to be my first button I might want to follow their ten helpful steps.button-titlejpg

Everything was moving along nicely.  Each step was concise and easy to follow.  Until I got to Step 8 which I could not comprehend.  Maybe Step 8 is the litmus test for full acceptance into the Button-Sewing Club.  If so, I failed.  However, I did not leave my button unsecured.  I just chose to use the method I’ve used before.

instruction

I was unfamiliar with the term shank in reference to sewing.  If you watch shows about crime or prison you might be similarly confused. I did, however, google it and it does make sense.  It allows for space between the button and the fabric when the garment is buttoned.  My method allows for the same thing, I just didn’t realize what I was doing…or why.

I now have a sewing kit so I am prepared for any future button-sewing.  Plus, this summer I’ll be in California with my own personal button-sewer who can then take ownership of said sewing kit. I’m assuming most of you have sewn a button on before.  If so, were you aware you were creating a shank?  Do you worry about your needles getting away from you and making a new home in your carpet?  Do you ask yourself why you keep reading this?

Before you go…I would like you to know that when sewing my button onto my scrap of fabric I did take the time to cut a buttonhole ensuring that my button is functional and not just decorative. Thanks for reading along.

 

Buttons Are Gross

The latest challenge appears simple on the surface and could easily be dismissed. LEARN HOW TO SEW ON A BUTTON.  I’ve sewn a button or two in my time.  I don’t sew, so any button-sewing for me is strictly in repair mode.  I used to be one of those people who saved those replacement buttons that come with shirts, jackets and sweaters, but after moving several times with a jewelry box compartment filled with buttons for apparel I no longer owned, I stopped.  Maybe I just get rid of clothing before the buttons fall off or possibly when the buttons DO fall off.  (Now, I’m picturing landfills filled with perfectly good shirts just missing one button and feeling a bit of guilt.)

In reality, I don’t wear a ton a clothes that have buttons.  From 2 1/2 until approximately 7 years of age my daughter, Elisabeth, actively disliked buttons.  Functional or decorative.  She wouldn’t wear them, didn’t like it if I wore them, even disliked pillows that had them.  Buttons were “gross”.  Searching for clothing without decorative buttons: easy.  Searching for clothing without functional buttons in reality means your child wears a lot of t-shirts. Not a lot of button-sewing going on at our house during that period of time.  I didn’t stop wearing clothing with buttons to appease my four-year-old but if I didn’t love it, I didn’t wear it.  It wasn’t worth it.  When you have little kids, who has time to button up a shirt anyway! Plus, shirts with buttons also tend to be shirts that require ironing.  I’m not usually organized enough to have a shirt ironed and ready to wear. Lee has always been the chief ironer in our house and ,now that I think about it, he’s probably the primary button-sewer, too.  The Marine Corps prepared him well for a lot of things including button-sewing and ironing.

What about you? Are you someone who saves those replacement buttons and actually uses them?  Are you the person people seek out when they’ve lost a button?  When is the last time you sewed on a button? Any tips for me as I proceed?   I’m off to find a button that needs replacing!  Failing that, I’ll just do some practice button-sewing so that I’m prepared for the future.  I do think this is a good skill for kids to learn.  Maybe I’ll make Andrew sew on a button, too.

Before you go…I’m feeling the need to explain that when I do get rid of clothing, I donate it to the local Goodwill or some other charity organization. I’m not marching to save the trees everyday but I’m not as callous about the environment as it may appear.  Also, today, I’m exactly one month from my 49th birthday and feeling pretty good about the challenges I’ve completed so far.  Thanks for taking this journey with me!  It wouldn’t be the same without you.

 

 

Walk a Mile (or 20) in My Shoes

It’s taken me a while longer than I’d like to get this next post going.  The next challenge is a big one and I’ve actually been working on it for about a month now.  RUN A 5K.

I’ve never RUN a 5K before.  Once upon a time I did run track.  Middle-school track, if you must know, but I was a hurdler and sprinter.  The overall supervision of our track team was quite lax in my memory.  We were told to run to the high school and back — a mile, two miles?–but I really only remember mostly walking and goofing around with my fellow teammates. If there was a coach with us he had given up on motiving my group. I do remember working on getting my steps down between hurdles and practicing the relay baton hand-offs but actually getting into shape by running…not so much.

I have participated in the Hope for the Warriors races before.  My friend, Renee, and I did the 10K a couple of years ago but we really only ran the last part so that we wouldn’t finish behind someone who appeared to be pushing 70.  Classy, I know.  I do understand the need for training.  The two years that we lived in Chesapeake, VA I walked the Shamrock 1/2 Marathon and did the required training to complete it in a respectable time.  But, for this challenge I am going to run so I need a good training plan.

I identified my goal race and date (Raleigh Rock-n-Roll 5K – April 1st) and decided to use the Couch to 5K (C25K) app.  I have used that app before (sadly, briefly) so I knew that was the tool I needed.  I also reached out to my longtime friend and runner extraordinaire, Mona, to coach me along.  She’s become my nutrition mentor, my accountability partner and my overall life cheerleader.  As I work on this challenge it has made think back to a distant grade school memory of participating in a walkathon.  By my recollection, we walked to Lake Draper and back.  A 20-mile round trip.  Was that possibly an accurate memory?  We did no training, most likely walked in Keds or Fastbacks, wore no sunscreen and possibly had no water along the way.  Plus, I’m sure it was probably May in Oklahoma, which means you would have needed both sunscreen and water in large quantities. So, I asked my sister, Emilie, if I was crazy and she agreed that we had participated in walkathons but she wasn’t sure if it was a full 20 miles…maybe 17?  Well, that makes all the difference in the world.  My husband, Lee, also verified this memory. Although we didn’t know each other at the time, we could possibly have walked the same fundraiser, all sunburnt and bloody-footed, to raise pennies-0n-the-dollar for some charity.  Ah, the 1970s.

70skid
Don’t know who this is but he probably completed a walkathon in this exact outfit  in Moore, OK circa 1978.

You won’t be hearing much from me about this challenge until closer to race time but I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips for me.  I have had some issues with my knees, which I haven’t before, and that makes me feel old.  I do plan on getting new running shoes so maybe, just maybe, that will help.  If you have a race planned or find this challenge a motivator to run (or walk!) a 5K yourself please let me know!  There is comfort in numbers, which is why I’ve drafted my kids to run along with me, or at least, be present to cheer me on.  And, if you have memories of participating in walkathons, do share!

Before you go…talking with Lee and Emilie about this brought back a lot of the “wonderful” 70s experiences like not wearing a seatbelt, getting paddled in school for talking and having the kind of free range childhood that seems like we were just asking to get abducted.

Let Them Eat Cake!

I’ll start with a confession.  When I saw that January 27th was National Cake Day I knew immediately that would be the week for the BAKE SOMETHING FROM SCRATCH challenge.  It wasn’t until I took the picture of the date in my calendar that I realized it was actually National CHOCOLATE Cake Day.  I’d already purchased the items for a white cake with white frosting but no harm. You can never have too many options for cake.

I started my search again.  Checking out Pinterest, flipping through my own cookbooks, searching books at the library for the perfect chocolate cake recipe.  Since I’m a novice baker I needed a basic cake.  Most of the cookbooks on my shelves are about cooking not baking.  The problem with most books dedicated to cakes is that they really want to WOW you.  That’s not a problem if you are an experienced baker but I wasn’t ready to start with a checkerboard cake or one covered in fondant.  I needed a basic layer cake recipe. I did look at my Mom’s (very) old copy of Better Homes & Garden’s New Cook Book.   Those cakes were basic alright.  Find me cookbook today that has six cake recipes on one page.  I was going to need more than a paragraph to make this happen.

new-cook-book

Finally walking across the library I spotted a new cookbook by Ina Garten called Cooking for Jeffrey and on the cover was this beautiful chocolate cake with white frosting.  I’d found my cake.

I received some good advice about baking: make sure your eggs and butter are room temperature, grease and flour your pans, weigh your ingredients.  My ingredients were out and at the (hopefully) correct temperature, pans were greased and floured, and the oven was hot. I was ready. When I work in the kitchen I listen to music or audiobooks or podcasts or pretty much anything but not during the baking of this cake.  I felt like I had to focus so precisely on what I was doing that there was no room in my head for anything else.  It was like when you turn down the radio in your car so you can figure where you are going.  (Admit it, you do it, too.) The whole process took a lot longer than I expected.   The butter took a long time to soften. Weighing the ingredients took longer than just scooping them.  The cakes took longer to bake than they said they would.  The cooling took forever. By the time I was done my back hurt, my dogs had relocated to the kitchen floor, and I understood that bakers start at the crack of dawn so that they aren’t baking until midnight.

dogs-in-kitchen

I did not end up using Ina’s frosting recipe.  It requires six sticks of butter!  If you are using your scale you’ll know that’s 1 1/2 lbs.  I’d like to say that it was just on principle that I thought it was too much butter but actually I just didn’t have that much butter left.  Luckily, I was already prepared to attempt a beautiful buttercream frosting.  I didn’t frost the cakes the night I made them.  After a couple of frantic texts to my friend, Terry, about cooling time I let them cool, and wrapped them loosely in plastic wrap so they’d be ready to frost in the morning.

unfrosted

I didn’t get up as early as a professional baker but I did rise before the sun did to get my cakes frosted.  Ina suggested that a revolving cake stand would make the job easier but I don’t have one of those. Luckily, one of the brilliant people on Pinterest suggested that a large-mouth bowl flipped upside down with a plate resting on top works just fine and they were right.

cake

And then it was done.  I didn’t promise you a beautifully decorated cake. Just one that was made from scratch and that would hopefully be edible.  It was edible.  I thought it was a bit on the dry side but overall a baking success.

So, did you bake something from scratch this week?  Did you eat something that someone else made from scratch?  I’ll admit I did enjoy this challenge and I will make another cake from scratch.  In fact, now that I’ve gotten the first-day-on-the-job jitters out of the way I’ll be able to relax and enjoy it a bit more. Lessons learned: 1. the paddle attachment on the stand mixer is the one you need to cream butter not the whisk. 2. cleaning up after making cake is not fun. 3. your value to your co-workers will rise exponentially if you bring them a cake.

cake-at-work

Before you go…the cake was devil’s food made with both expresso and sour cream.  It was supposed to be a four-layer cake.  But I know my limitations and when Ina Garten has to use skewers to help her evenly slice her cake layers in half horizontally to get four layers, I’ll just stick to two.  Who am I trying to impress?

On Your Marks, Get Set…Bake!

Anonymous good deed? Check.  500-piece puzzle? Check. Mastering a new favorite song? Check. Now, it’s time to BAKE SOMETHING FROM SCRATCH.

My mom liked to bake.  She made bread shaped like teddy bears and even baked her own dog biscuits! So, genetically it seems like I might have an advantage in this challenge.  But my own experience is fairly minimal.  I went through an “artisan bread in five-minutes a day” phase for about a year when we lived in Northern Virginia.  That’s rough on the waistline.  I make a mean Texas sheet cake but I’ve never baked an actual layered cake from scratch. Turns out that National Chocolate Cake Day is Friday, January 27th.

national-cake-day

So, I’m going to bake a chocolate cake from scratch. I’ve watched all of the episodes of the Great British Baking Show.  I’ve even watched some episodes of the Great American Baking Show (not as good as the British one but better than I thought it would be).  I’ve watched every season of Top Chef.  Those crazy-talented chefs never want to tackle dessert.  They want to cook, not bake!  Baking is difficult. It requires more precision than I’m used to using in my life.  I’m not a precision person. Wish me luck.

What about you?  Have you ever baked a cake from scratch? Do you have any tips for me?   I’m excited to give this a try.  I now like puzzles (Andrew and I are working on a 1,000 piece puzzle!) so, who knows, maybe I’ll never buy another cake mix again!  You certainly don’t have to bake a cake.  There are a lot of things you can bake from scratch.  If you make something, I’d love to hear about it. Hopefully, I’ll just manage to make something that I’m not embarrassed to give to my co-workers on National Chocolate Cake Day.

Before you go…if you’ve never heard the stand-up set about cake by the comedian, Jim Gaffigan, you need to!  As a 10-year-old, Andrew could recite the whole thing.  Probably still can.

Oceans Rise. Empires Fall.

This was an enjoyable challenge but it was a challenge all the same.  As a regular sing-alonger I promised that I would push myself…and I did.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m in the midst of a serious obsession with the musical Hamilton.  At home, it’s been looping so much that Andrew can probably sing it in his sleep.  The rapid-fire lyrics and intricate rhymes can make many of the songs particularly tricky to sing accurately.  Of course, I’ve never been afraid to just make up a lyric or kind of la-la-la it through a song if I can’t figure out what they’re saying.  But since this was an official challenge I decided that la-la-la-ing wasn’t an option.  It took me awhile to decide which song to choose.  I love to sing almost all of them.  However, like I said, some are much harder than others.  I finally decided not on one song but two: “Helpless” and “Satisfied”, songs that are closely tied to each other.  To master them, I dedicated the time it took me to get ready for work everyday, my commute time (only 5 mins!), and my time on the treadmill.  Luckily, for anyone in ear-shot, my treadmill is in the garage so I can sing out loud during my workout, leaving the vocal quality even more compromised than usual.  I need to add here that the speed of the lyrics in these songs left me feeling more than a little out of shape.  These folks have some serious lung power.  Singing along, even when not mid-workout, I usually sound like I’ve just climbed a flight of stairs. To be honest, that’s one of the ways I chose the songs.  My choices aren’t as asthma-inducing, or honestly, as tongue-twisting.  Being able to read the elaborate lyrics made it easier to learn what I was actually saying.  Fortunately, I own the book HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION which has all of the lyrics and I had my own karaoke lounge every evening thanks to Amazon Music.

tv-hamilton

I realize one of the things that I love about this musical is that it is a celebration of history and a celebration of language, as well.    I remember having a discussion about music and lyrics with my friend, Damon, back during our high school days, and stating that I was more interested in the lyrics of a song than the music.  Now, keep in mind, we were probably 16-years-old during this conversation, so I’m sure it was deep and profound but it’s obviously stuck with me.  I actually think the best songs combine music and lyrics in a way that causes an emotional reaction, anything from sadness to joy.  Singing is like driving or reading, you can do it without thinking about it.  We’ve all driven somewhere on autopilot and then thought, “wow” I don’t remember getting from there to here.  Ever read aloud to a kid?  Next time you do really THINK about each word that you are reading.  It’s the magic that provides the connection between text and emotion.  The same is true for music.  The best singers are great not because of their voices but because they connect us to the emotion.

So, did you learn the words of a new favorite this week? Return to an old friend?  Songs are like smells, they can transport you to time and place.  They can be magical.  This blog has grown up listening to the music of Hamilton.  Every post has been written with those songs as soundtrack.  They will always be connected for me.  Maybe you’ll return to this shared time and place everytime you hear the song you tackled this week.

Before you go…the title of this post comes from lines in the songs in Hamilton sung by King George. They are belting lines.  The kind you sing at the top of your voice.  Every time I sing them they bring me joy!