Inspiration Through Music: Downton Abbey Soundtrack

A drama that can tell a wonderful story through a variety of characters against a historical backdrop, stories that can touch your heart, stories that can make you burst out laughing or burst into tears when something happens to one of these beloved characters. I’ve always been envious of anyone who can create and write stories in such a way that it seems almost easy. It’s how I wish I could write. I wish that I could be so emotionally invested in my characters as I am the characters of Julian Fellowes’s amazing series, Downton Abbey. Like a revamped “Upstairs, Downstairs”, the series debuted a couple years ago and only after my mom told me about it did I try watching an episode. I was hooked. It wasn’t even the first episode of the first season. But I knew that I wanted to see where the series began, where the characters got their start and what it was about them that made them so lovable.

As much as I love watching Downton Abbey, I love to diagnose its successes, how the stories twist and turn and pull viewers along with it. It helps that the score of this wonderful show is so beautiful that you can’t help but feel as though you yourself are at Downton as well. Along with the gorgeous “Downton Abbey Suite” performed by The Chamber Orchestra of London, there have been two albums released with a bevy of favorite pieces from the first and second seasons of the show. Today, I’ll be sharing 5 of them with you and telling you what I see when I listen to them.

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Coconut Milk = Eeehhhhwww…

COOKING ADVENTURE #55: Cuban Chorizo Stew

Cuban Chorizo Stew

Part of the fun in cooking is trying new things, including combinations that you wouldn’t often think would go together. I found this fun recipe for Cuban chorizo stew on Pinterest a few weeks ago and decided that I wanted to give it a try. After all, it uses chorizo, which is just short of being the most delicious thing on the planet. (Bacon gets that number one slot, of course.) I wish that I’d paid a little closer attention to the other ingredients that I would be adding to this though… as well as the quantities. This recipe makes a LOT of stew… too much stew for me alone, I’ve realized. I could have had a party with this stuff and still had some left over. But when it comes right down to it, there will always be those times where you’ve slaved your way through most of the recipe only to have this bubbling cauldron of deliciousness staring up at you, steam practically searing your vision despite how wonderful it looks. Then… you add that last ingredient and sure enough, it ruins everything. Coconut milk. Once added, it spurned on this Ernest P. Worrell reaction, one that I reserve for only a few truly gross culinary combos: Eeehhhhwww.

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Inspiration Through Music: The Civil Wars

Ever have one of those moments where you come back to a musician that you heard about a while ago and chose to ignore (because you’d been an idiot at the time), only to discover that this band/musician is brilliant and extremely talented? That happened to me the other week. I had just watched “The Hunger Games” movie again and decided to have a peek at it’s soundtrack because some of the songs really touched me. In addition to the original score, I listened to the album “Songs from District 12 And Beyond” which includes the Taylor Swift ballad, “Safe and Sound” (also coincidentally featuring this week’s artist) and the soft beautiful, “Kingdom Come”. I’d heard of the Civil Wars before but had never listened to their stuff because I was honestly expecting something completely different. I am not as much a fan of alternative rock as one might think. I can handle it every now and again but it’s not my favorite. And for some reason, that’s what I thought these guys did. Boy, was I sorely mistaken! I practically berated myself for hours for not checking them out earlier.

The Civil Wars is an American singer-songwriter duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White who put together plaintive ballads and thought-provoking emotionally-charged pieces. The combination of their voices is especially heart-rending  in my favorite song of theirs “Falling”. The lyrics are also very fresh and pieced together so thoughtfully that they expertly tell a story while evoking emotion easily. I feel as though I can listen to their music and start a dozen other writing projects from each song. I kind of want to… But, must not get carried away. Today, I’ll be sharing 5 of their songs with you and showing you what I see when I listen to them. Enjoy!

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The Lemon Murders of ’13

COOKING ADVENTURE #54: Lemon Bars

 Lemon Bars

Last Friday, you were expecting a Cooking Adventure right out of some French cafe. A decadent lemon sorbet recipe with some fresh choux pastries to accompany. Sorry folks. I once again made things way too difficult for myself last week. I had two readings to set up for and that left little to no time to make cream puff pastries. In fact, I think it would have made me extremely frustrated. However, I’d already bought six lemons in preparation for that. So… what is a girl to do? I had the sudden realization that there weren’t going to be any dessert items at my Thursday book-signing so I resolved to do lemon bars. These are something my grandma used to make when I was a kid and they were always amazing. I have fond memories attached to this dessert. I thought, “This will be easier, less stressful, and something that everyone will enjoy at the reading. Easy? *blows raspberry* Why on Earth did I think it would be easy?

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Inspiration Through Music: Stacey Kent

It’s 53 degrees outside. It’s January. I live in Maine. Can someone please explain this? I was kind of hoping for some cold weather, something that would make me happy about spending the day inside instead of being out there. Sometimes I feel guilty about spending so much time inside writing my butt off. I don’t feel like I’m taking advantage of the good weather, that I should be out snowshoeing or cross-country skiing… something other than sitting here. I’d rather have a cold messy day where I can be thankful that I’m inside, where I can curl up on the couch and read a book, or stand in the kitchen cooking something and listening to some pleasant easy listening tunes. It wasn’t but a couple weeks ago that on a particularly nasty day, I discovered the musical stylings of Stacey Kent. With a smooth cool voice, she makes me feel happy to be in the kitchen, whipping up something scrumptious. Cooking Adventure or not, I’m much happier with something in this genre playing. I’ve always gone straight to Madeleine Peyroux, but know that I know of Kent, I’ve already thrown together a playlist of her stuff that I can just put on when I feel the need to relax into a certain project. Today, I’ll be sharing  4 of Stacey Kent’s songs with you and what I see when I listen to them. Sorry it’s only 4. Feeling a bit under-the-weather today guys. Enjoy.

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Cola, you say? …How much Cola? 0_o

COOKING ADVENTURE # 53: Chocolate Cola Cake with Chocolate Cola Glaze

Chocolate Cola Cake

It’s the new year and one of my resolutions was to get back on a weekly exercising program to help boost my energy as well as to eat healthier… particularly more “green vegetables”. Old habits die hard. I tossed the resolution over my shoulder when I found this delicious recipe for a traditional Southern dessert, Chocolate Cola Cake. I’d heard of it before but it had always seemed like it would be lots of work which is why I never gave it a try… until now. I got pumped to make this. I was very excited. And yet, when I started telling people about it, I was met with reservation at almost every turn. Chocolate wasn’t the problem; it was the Coca Cola. A co-worker looked at me, his eyes slightly more rounded and asked “how much cola is in it?” as if too much would burn a hole through their stomach. I began to worry that the combination of chocolate and cola wouldn’t mesh well together. I began to doubt…

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Inspiration Through Music: Journey Game Soundtrack

In my arsenal of music, I reserve spaces for certain composers who go above and beyond the expectations for a brilliant musical score. I have maybe five soundtracks that I consider to be the best and most inspirational of all time. These are songs that move me to tears when I listen to them, songs that alone without the aid of visuals, can make me envision a book scene in its entirety. These pieces move me and have moved many other people by their beauty. As of late, I’ve had the pleasure of discovering what I consider to be my new number one soundtrack in this area. I was introduced to the soundtrack for an indie video game called Journey by thatgamecompany, a work of art in its own respect.While telling a spellbinding story with the use of gorgeous visuals and this sumptuous soundtrack, thatgamecompany manages to win the hearts of all sorts of people.

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I Wash My Hands Of You, Flour!

COOKING ADVENTURE # 52: Buuz

Buuz

Ah, flour: an incredibly important powder in a person’s life. No matter what type it is, it gives us the base material to make certain breads, cakes, and pies. If you are new to Cooking Adventures, the following may seem very strange to you: I have a problem with touching flour. Well, I should be specific. Not exactly “touching”. I don’t mind putting my hands into it. It’s just when skin makes contact with other skin covered in flour that I can’t stand. There’s something about that rough texture on me that makes my skin crawl and makes me think of chalk… which in turn makes me think of nails on a chalkboard. Don’t ask me where I made these mental associations because as far as I know, they’ve always been there. I’ve been working steadily to overcome my aversion to flour. Last year, I made several different recipes that required kneeding dough and rolling it out, all with copious amounts of flour. For the start of the new year, I wanted to try this traditional Mongolian wonton recipe, Buuz. The recipe has the person make the wontons by hand. I rolled up my sleeves, prepared to dive into what was likely to be a very messy Cooking Adventure. I wasn’t wrong.

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Inspiration Through Music: Erik Satie

Welcome to another wonderful year of Inspiration Through Music! Last year, I posted three separate Inspiration Through Music blogs, treating them as stand alones or promotional pieces for my up and coming books. Never did I imagine that I’d follow through with a weekly music blog all year long. Doing this has taught me that no matter what the genre, there is something in each song that really speaks to me and shows me a different scene in my head almost every time. I love music. I love its diversity, how the notes speak to you, the lyrics make you comprehend situations deeper and the melodies string you along on adventures waiting to be told. I had so much fun going between artists that I’ve been fans of for long periods of time and also brand new bands that I’d only just discovered. That is the wonderful thing about being a writer: no matter what you listen to, you can always come up with a story to put to it. And it helps as a writing exercise, warming you up for that novel you’ve been itching to write for so long. This year, I intend to keep up Inspiration Through Music every Monday with a new band, artist, or song. My goal? To help you get in touch with your inner music lover and writer. Now, let’s listen to some music!

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