Tag Archives: Music

Thrift Store Score: Tambourine

8 Jun

I’ve been putting together a collection of musical instruments for Isobel. Not all of them have been thrifted but I’ve seen many available second hand so I could have easily put a whole set together while thrifting. Last Christmas her Grandparents gave her a drum and we bought her a little piano. Over time we’ve gathered whistles and bells and little egg shakers. Here she is dancing to “Life Goes On” while alternately dancing and shaking some maracas. She can’t hande doing both at the same time, so she has to frequently pause to switch. She’s only about a year old and it is nearly fatal levels of cute, so watch at your own risk.

Recently we found this awesome tambourine for a dollar while yardsaling. It’s missing a few tiny cymbals but it works great. I love that it’s not a toy, it’s a real tambourine, so it chimes pleasantly when you shake it. When my Uncle stopped by for a visit he pulled out his guitar and played “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” for an hour or two while Isobel sang and shook the tambourine.

That dollar was well spent.

Guest Post: Children’s Music Recommendations

24 May

I’m still checking in textbooks and performing inventory on my library, so today I have a post for you by Julie Jurgens, also known as Hi Miss Julie on the internets. Julie is a children’s librarian and a talented singer-songwriter, so children’s music is a topic near and dear to her heart. Also, here’s a video of her playing the banjo. No other qualifications necessary.

This topic is extremely timely for me as Isobel is showing a disturbing preference for children’s music. Bad children’s music. The kind sung by children. (I blame my mother, who bought her CDs.) She is becoming scarily attached to it. Her other obsession is the Care Bears Big Wish movie, and music in that movie ranges from boring and saccharine to what you find here.  I’m pretty sure that song is the soundtrack to Hell. (Seriously. Check it out. It’s way more demoralizing that you can possibly imagine.) Also, this. There are no words.

On the bright side she’s so obsessed with this movie that she walks around telling people NO! MORE! WISHING! It’s adorable, if confusing to other people.

Miss Julie’s Music Picks for Children

And The Parents Who Have To Hear It

As a kidbrarian and musician, I make it a point to use a lot of music in my programs, and I like to expose my storytime parents to music beyond the usual Raffi and Hap Palmer (who are great, by the by, but sometimes you just can’t take it anymore, you know?) Here are a few of my current musical favorites for your enjoyment:

Pete Seeger American Folk, Game & Activity Songs
For parents who like Wilco, Justin Townes Earle.

It’s Pete Seeger, guys! How can you go wrong? He’s an American classic, like Levis, apple pie, and changing lanes without bothering to use your turn signal. Furthermore, I am hereby predicting that banjo will soon supplant the uke as the hispter alternative stringed instrument of choice, so you might as well get your kids ready now to ride the resurgent wave in twenty years. The banjo is also just inherently awesome and the twangy out of tune-ness of it will make up for the fact that you can’t sing in tune (which kids don’t care about, really, until they are seven or eight and capable of being embarrassed, so until that point, sing while you can, because before you know it little Jimmy will be plugging up his ears and screaming “MOM! FOR PETE’S SAKE STOP YOU’RE MAKING THE DOG FARTOUT OF FEAR.”)

Putamayo Kids
For parents who are into world music, Radio M, and Afropop Worldwide.

Whatever style or genre of music you’re into, there’s a Putamayo release for it. Animal songs, Caribbean, Zydeco, folk music, anything, and chances are high that 90% of each disc will make you just as happy as it makes your kid. This song is my current favorite, and it never fails to work its magic.

Human Tim + Robot Tim
For parents who like Star Wars, Red Dwarf, and Star Trek.

Do you have a love for all things robot but know it’s too soon to introduce your tot to Jabba the Hut?* Then play some Human Tim + Robot Tim for your kid and enjoy some age-appropriate science fiction fun. Human Tim is also a Wiggleworms staff member at the Old Town School of Folk Music, so you know he has some musical chops to go along with his super-cool sci-fi concept.

*Although for some people it is never too soon.

Super Stolie
For parents who like Neko Case, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, and Jill Sobule.

Super Stolie is super adorable and super energetic, and will give your little girls (and boys, hey, I don’t judge; paint little Jimmy’s toenails pink if you wanna!) a non-princess pretty girl to look up to, emulate, and admire. Stolie is always performing live, so if you live in the Chicagoland area, make an effort (you won’t have to try very hard) to see her in person and help create the next generation of live music supporters and show-goers.

Ella Jenkins
For parents who can’t stand treacly, sugary children’s performers, for parents who love(d) Mr. Rogers, and parents who need to learn what authoritative parenting sounds like.

No, seriously, I’m tired of wishy washy and permissive parents. Listen to the way Ella talks to kids, and follow her model. “Kids. I’m going to play the ukulele, and we’re going to sing a song together.” Bam. There you go. I love Ella’s simple and clear presentation. The children’s music equivalent of a scotch, straight up. In, you know, a wholesome way.

Hugh Hanley
For parents who were Classics or English majors in college, who want to be well-versed in classic children’s songs, who drink the house blend at Starbucks, who shop at Etsy.

Hugh Hanley isn’t flashy, but he’s a solid musician and he is on the Ella Jenkins end of the music spectrum. His voice is medium-pitched but bright while also being soothing (like your morning coffee). He has a strong background in early childhood education as well, so everything he does is perfectly attuned for your little ones to dance and move. Don’t be the only Mum or Dad at the block party who can’t bust out “Here’s A Ball for Baby” or “Open, Shut Them.” Hugh also includes handy booklets with lyrics and illustrations, so you’ll be sure to get the words right and you can smugly lord this fact over all the other parents at playgroup.

Drum Solo!

7 Nov

Normally on Sundays I like to feature a Home Movie, mostly because 1. I take a lot of them 2. It’s fun to share and 3. It makes posting on the weekend a whole lot easier. You’re probably going to be very thankful that I don’t have one for you today, because what I wanted to share is Isobel and her first time playing the drums.

My cousin’s husband (who’s been in the family so long I usually just refer to him as ‘my cousin’) is a musician. Actually, so is my cousin and much of my family. Including me. I have music in my family on both sides, but my cousin’s husband is still actively making and recording music. Naturally, he is encouraging his daughter Victoria to experiment with all sorts of instruments. Recently he bought her this drum set.

Isobel wasted absolutely no time and immediately started playing it herself.

I’m not sure how, other than possibly by seeing musicians on Yo Gabba Gabba, but she knew exactly how the drum set worked.

She even worked the foot pedal on the bass drum, no problem.

Looks like someone’s going to be asking Santa for a drum set one of these years.

Cousin Time

1 Nov

Isobel loves playing with her cousin Victoria.

Isobel especially loves playing piano on my Nana’s piano with Victoria.

We have to remind them to be gentle. Often.

Isobel is very musical. This however, was just a whole bunch of noise.

Victoria was trying to teach Isobel the “proper” way to use the keyboard.

She was a good teacher. Unfortunately Isobel prefers her method.

Riverbank Whine and Cheese Fest

12 Oct

My weekend, in bullet-points

* I was super busy this weekend. I went shopping, a attended a baby shower, ran errands, met with friends, did an on-location woodsy-themed photoshoot for the shop, developed an obsession with Battle Star Galactica, and saw my friend Melynda’s band Hollopoynt a the Riverbank Wine and Cheese Festival. I’m typically a hermit so this was an intense weekend for me.

* The festival was a few towns over, and Anthony and camera-shy Ian thought we should take the country back roads to get there. We were lost for awhile and I was beginning to suspect we’d get eaten by Valley Folk (the flatland version of Hill People) but eventually we got there by following a police car, which I assumed could only be on its way to the festival. I was right.

* Getting there was only half the battle: it took ages to find parking. We passed row after row of Jaguars, Porches and BMWs parked neatly alongside more humble Hondas and the ubiquitous SUVs. By the time we found parking we were nearly in Modesto*.

* Local joke

* This festival was hyped as one of the largest Wine and Cheese festivals in California. That’s saying something because this small town is competing against towns in areas such as wine-centric Napa, the posh Bay Area, and privileged So Cal. I mean, sure we’re the agricultural center of the state, and yes, we have our share of shit kickers, feed stores, vineyards and dairies. But it was still hard to wrap our brains around such a large festival held in a modest town like Riverbank.

*While my friend’s band played we wandered around eating and people watching in the area adjacent to the band. It was really loud, which wasn’t really a concern for us so much as for Isobel. The shady area where most of the crowd sat was too near the stage for our comfort and sitting in the middle of the street in the scorching heat was unbearable. We could still hear the band perfectly while walking around and Isobel was a lot happier to be moving.

* I had to really pace myself during the day. Walking around during a festival is always a challenge for me and I had to pay attention to my body and stop and rest and go at a slow pace. If I hadn’t done that I would have been in pain for days afterward. Yay, autoimmune disease!

* Our first clue that this festival wasn’t going to live up to the hype of it being One of the Largest Wine and Cheese Festivals in California was the proliferation of Bud Light booths and posters. We joked that if they were selling Bud Light as wine then perhaps they were offering Velveeta in lieu of cheese. I was laughing through the tears at that point, afraid it was so. We never found out: the festival had limited times and capacity of the cheese tasting. No Velveeta samples for us.

*While we ate and wandered we enjoyed the best part of the day: Melynda’s piano solo. It was during a song that I didn’t recognize but it was AMAZING. If I had been at all near the stage I would have thrown my panties at her.

*A racetrack had attracted a small crowd but as we got closer I was disappointed to learn it was for remote control cars. Yawn. The only racing I am interested in involves either piglets, or wiener dogs. Or a ketchup racing a mustard.

* Melynda’s band was playing for about an hour and a half and if you notice, she’s the only band member that had to play the entire set in the sun. It was nasty hot and I was uncomfortable just standing there. It must have been much worse to have been playing an instrument that whole time. The keyboard was directly in the sun, too, and Melynda told me later that the keys got so hot they burned her fingertips as she played.

* The crowd watching my friend’s band is actually a lot bigger than it looks. That’s because the seating area was positioned the sun where it was about 95 degrees. Being in the sun was painful. Off to the right was a huge shady park area and that’s were most of the crowd was congregating and dancing.  Don’t let that guy on the Rascal fool you—it was one rockin’ show, made even better by that hot Latina keyboardist over there. There were quite a few people on rascals at the festival, actually. My sister and I used to count slug bugs as children. Maybe the new thing should be counting Rascal scooters.




* Happily, we ran into our good friend and Melynda’s significant other Justy while I was taking photos of the band. We don’t get to see Justy and Mel as often as we used to. I sure do miss them. I had to censor the photo Anthony took of Justy and I because Isobel was exposing a large bit of my bra. Not that anything was revealed, but still. It’s kind of weird posting a photo of you next to your husband’s best man with your bra hanging out.

* I personally enjoy tattoos but I saw two that just baffled me. If I were to host a Weird Tat of the Day competition, I’m not sure which one I’d pick. The first one was a large giraffe skeleton, carefully sewing its skin on itself bit by bit. The second was of a realistic-looking grizzly bear, looking forward and roaring fiercely… while doing Kung Fu. (It was a combination of this and this.) I am mostly sure neither Ian nor Anthony dosed me, and it was too hot to drink wine so I was 100% sober. Ian saw the giraffe one and it weirded him out, but that grizzly doing a Wushu form? Terribly strange. Internet, you decide which is weirder.


"Improves Human Performance"


* Here’s the part where I whine: why is it that all the vendors at any fair or festival or parade are the same? The same religious fundamentalists, the same chiropractic booths, the same ‘magic bracelet’/’magic pill’/’magic drink” companies, people yelling at me to come buy Tupperware Pampered Chef or airbrushed backpacks or carved wooden signs for my house. The same pointless, unnecessary booths for real estate and air conditioning companies go to every local event. Is this necessary? You’ll find the exact same ones at our county fair, our 4th of July parade, the Chocolate Festival, Garlic Festival, Gape Festival and the weekly farmer’s market.  When I go to a food festival I want: 1. food 2. drink 3. music. I don’t know why that’s too much to ask. I feel like there’s barely a point in leaving the house for festivals if it’s all the same, generic crap everywhere I go.

* You can also file this under Whine Fest: neither bathrooms had changing stations for babies. REALLY? Changing my baby on the ground outside makes me irate.

*Anthony and I had this conversation.

Anthony: “Erin really likes that show with all the sluts.”
Me: “Gossip Girl?”
Anthony: “No, the old sluts.”
Me: “Oh, Sex in the City.”
Anthony: “Yes.”

Letter to a Coffee Shop

19 Jul

Dear Queen Bean,

I know it had been several months since I dropped by for coffee, but imagine my surprise when I discovered how quickly things had changed in so short a time.

First off, let me tell you awesome it was to be hassled by your Security. As a five-foot, two inch female, nothing makes me feel as badass as being jostled on my way to hear an outdoor piano duet. I felt hardcore! Like a gangster. I was planning on purchasing dinner at the Bean but such a friendly greeting made me step up my game. I wanted something lighter, in case I got the opportunity to engage in a bar fight precipitated by aggro covers of Elton John songs.

I also really appreciated waiting twenty minutes in line while my friends started the show without me. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder! My simplistic, expensive drink was surely sweeter for having to stand that long on my arthritic legs. I could have sat down to enjoy the show while I waited for the line to die down, but I’m sure this made my drink taste all the more better since I had to work for it.

And let me tell you how much I appreciated the selection of beverages and food you had to offer! I know the sandwiches looked like they were served on plain hotdog buns, but since you were charging $7.00 for them, I’m sure they were the most exquisite hot dog buns money could buy.

If there’s one thing I love when going into a place of business, it’s feeling like I have the owner’s attention. Boy, did I ever! I couldn’t turn around without bumping into a sign that told me that only paying customers were allowed to enter the establishment, see a live show, use the bathroom, access the shitty WiFi, or ask questions. It would have been perfect if I were into being dominated.

Another great aspect of your shop is the service. You can tell only cool people go to the Queen Bean because only cool people are willing to be ignored for ten minutes while the baristas talk amongst themselves when you’re ready to order. I’m sure that keeps out all the riff-raff that don’t have time to bask in the coolness of your coffee shop.

Art by my talented friend Jose

As a girl who loves nothing more than vintage, you can imagine how thrilled I was to sit in old, and desperately in need of repair lawn furniture while I sipped my expensive drink and listened to my live music. I love that the table I sat at had loose tiles. So authentically trashy chic! You nailed it, Queen Bean. Bravo.

In closing, let me state that your coffee shop witnessed the end of an era as Stefalynda played their last show ever there. I have been going to see my friends play for years and years, and my experience at your shop was definitely the most memorable I’ve ever had. I will always remember, for example, how you told my friends to end their show at 10 p.m. sharp, and how less than five minutes later you turned the patio lights on and off several times to get our attention. The message was clear: go home now because we desperately want to keep your business.

Yes, we were in no danger of becoming overwhelmed by those warm, teary feelings you have when one of your best friends in the whole world is moving away. We could have been lamenting Stefalynda’s last show but instead we were distracted by your efforts to close up for the night. Well played, Queen Bean, well played.

Day Trip Fail

2 May

Yesterday our little family took a little day trip to the Bay Area for a conference for Anthony’s work, a mistake we are not going to make again. We knew traveling with a toddler was going to have its rough moments, but we didn’t suspect that the majority of the trip was going to be one constant aggravation after another.

Anthony and I did invent a great new game to play on road trips. It’s called ‘Gang Initiation.’ Basically one person thinks of a task that the other person must do to be in their gang.  The point is not to do the suggested action, of course, because there is no actual gang. The point is to out-ridiculous the other person. It goes something like this:

Me: “For your Gang Initiation you have to… spray paint over the Keyes freeway sign and change the name to ‘Butt Town.'”

Anthony’s initiations were always way harder:

Anthony: “For your Gang Initiation you need to… come up with a lasting solution to peace in the Middle East.”

It’s hours of fun, even with a baby fussing in the background.

There were a few bright spots in the day, such as when we found a little patio to wander around on, but most of our time was spent not learning from the conference but basically preventing Isobel from getting into something or doing something dangerous.

We thought it over and we really couldn’t have done anything differently. We handled the situation as best as we could and we prepared for it as much as possible. It just wasn’t a toddler-friendly environment. Had she been younger and not mobile, she would have been content. Had she been older and able to play independently with the many other children there, she would have had a ball. As it was she is too young to play on her own and too old to be interested in sitting and playing with toys.

Pretty much all the activities she was interested in around her were dangerous. Anthony and I often talk about how suicide-prone babies are and how supervising her pretty much involves us trying to prevent her from killing herself. Angela said that being a parent was like playing and endless game of lemmings, which sums it up perfectly.

We left early, got ice cream, and went home. When we got home we unplugged with a couple hours of Heroes and afterward we were recovered enough to go out and see our friends play a show at Borders. Stefalynda played one of its last shows ever because soon Stefanie is moving to Reno to get her doctorate. I took some photos of Isobel ‘playing’ piano with Stefanie.

She loved it so much that when we were done she spent the remaining time at Borders tugging on Stef’s pants and saying ‘up.’ It’s hard not to indulge her.

My friends and I have a running joke that some jazz music sounds like they just gave a bunch of instruments to babies and let them have at it, so I guess this was not too far off.