Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

I hope you have a very happy and blessed New Year! Here's to 2012!

Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble

Where do I even begin? I guess I’ll start with some background info on Levon Helm. For those who don’t know, Levon was the drummer/singer for The Band (famously known as being Bob Dylan’s back-up band before going out on their own and becoming one of the most influential bands of the 60s & 70s). Both Dylan and the members of the band spent most of their time during these years in or around Woodstock, NY and a few stayed there long-term, Levon being one.

The drive from our hotel to Levon’s home/site of the Midnight Ramble was about 20 minutes. We went back on this dirt road, in the dark and we thought, “How in the world will we ever find it?” But once we got close, we could spot it immediately. Levon’s beautiful barn was all lit up, people we talking and music was playing. We pulled in, gave our names and off we were. We had some beers and stopped in Levon’s General Store—this is where his merchandise is sold and the food is set out. It’s like one big party with people you’ve never met before. The dinner was a potluck; I brought a ramen slaw & received lots of compliments which made me happy! Kev bought a poster and I bought a sticker to add to my collection (I’m now kicking myself for not buying a poster as well).
Since we had standing room only tickets, we decided to get in line a little early so we could find our “spot.” We made friends with the two couples in front of us, one lived in Boston and the other is from the North Hills of Pittsburgh! Such a small world it is. Both couples were awesome—we talked beer, food and of course music. Finally the doors opened and we were greeted by big security men who had big smiles on their faces. We ran upstairs and found a great spot along the banister right up from the drums. The loft above and behind the stage was definitely the closest, but I was too set on being able to see their faces. It ended up being perfect. To me, the only better spot would have been front row seats (which were reserved for special guests so that was a no-go anyway).
Just like any show, the lights got dim and the audience got quiet. Barbara O’Brien, Levon’s manager and host of the Midnight Ramble got on stage and told us we were in for a treat, “Tonight is going to be the most over the top Ramble we have ever had.” She sure knows how to get a crowd going—but she was not lying.

A big reason we chose to go to this Ramble, was because of the opening band, Dawes. I first discovered Dawes a little over a year ago, and just in that short time they have progressed as a band in ways some bands who have been together 10 years don’t even understand. I was kind of mad at myself because I looked at their entire set list before they began to play, but once I saw one of my favorite songs listed I just couldn’t help myself. Dawes played “A Little Bit of Everything” AND “How Far We’ve Come,” in addition to a few others including a Band cover and their most popular “When My Time Comes.” They were absolutely perfect. Dawes is far and few between when it comes to new music. They have that old-school Laurel Canyon/LA feel and they play simply because they love to play music. They are genuine, beyond talented and so respectful. During their set, Taylor Goldsmith told a story of when they first started as a band. He said “We were making a list of goals for us as a band, and one of those was playing at this here Ramble.” After their fourth song, out comes Jackson Browne. Dawes has been Jackson’s backup band and just the day before they performed at NYC’s Occupy Wall Street together. Jackson didn’t play any of his own songs; he did however perform a song that he wrote for another band. “Take It Easy” began and it was one big sing-along. Jackson wanted to show that he was there for the experience and to support Dawes and Levon—not to show off his talents.
The next set was about to start and in walks Jimmy Vivino. Jimmy is the musical director and leader of the band for Conan O’Brien’s show, and man is he a talent. I sort of knew who he was, but I was completely blown away. He is an artist, storyteller and a loyal friend to many. His set was special because he did a tribute to Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, both original members of The Band. He shared stories about Richard and mostly Ricky, to the point where I thought that I actually knew them. Jimmy invited a special person on stage… The Band’s Garth Hudson. I don’t think Garth said more than 5 words but they were not needed. He blew everyone away with his continued piano skills and added his own special touch to each song.

Before we knew it, in comes Levon and his band. He just stared and smiled at the entire crowd. It felt like he was personally looking at each and every person and saying thank-you. The crowd was going wild. People were screaming, smiling and just staring in awe at this wonderful legend standing before us.

Another guest joined Levon’s band—Donald Fagen from Steely Dan. He did a mixture of Grateful Dead, The Band and his own Steely Dan songs. At this point I wasn’t expecting any more surprises and I definitely had no idea what I was about to experience. Jackson came back on and sang “Up on Cripple Creek,” his choice of song. Levon sang “Ophelia,” which is probably my favorite Band song. I wasn’t expecting him to be singing at all due to his throat cancer, but he shocked us all when we heard “Boards on the window, mail by the door, why would anybody leave so quickly for, Ophelia,” coming straight from LEVON! It was like a dream. The entire set was a dream. By far the most memorable part of the night was the last song, “The Weight.” All of the artists got on stage, between the singers and musicians there must have been at least 20 people up there. Levon yelled out to Jackson to take the first verse, which he willingly did. Taylor from Dawes shared the mic with Jackson and the other members were spread across the stage. The entire song was one big sing-along, but the last verse was by far the best. I also need to point out how incredibly talented Levon’s band is. It is lead by Larry Campbell and features Larry’s wife, Theresa Williams and Levon’s daughter, Amy Helm. What a power this trio gives off.

I didn’t it want it to come to an end, but I knew I just had one of the best musical experiences of my life. I felt like I was Levon’s friend… like he called me up and invited me to a small get together. That’s certainly what it felt like considering there were probably less than 200 people there. And how in the heck did I get so lucky to pick the most “over the top Ramble ever?” I stared out onto the stage a little longer just to take it all in. Again, it was like a dream.

I knew it was time to go, I put on my coat, turned around and looky, looky what I got:
That’s right, the set list. Before the show started I was talking to a nice man about my love for set lists. He won tickets to the Ramble from the local Woodstock radio station and just like us, he was a Ramble first-timer. At the end of the show, I turn around to leave and he is standing behind me holding out a copy. I immediately thought, “How did he get this??” Then it crossed my mind, could this actually be for me? When he handed it over I screamed like a little girl and gave him a huge hug. A man from the crew was watching this all happen, came over, gave me a hug and said he just wanted to tell me how happy he was that I enjoyed the show and have such love & respect for Levon and his musical family.

And if that wasn’t the perfect end to a perfect weekend, I’ll show you what is:

I met Griffin and Tay fro Dawes! And these nice boys let me sneak in a picture. Pretty awesome, right?

Woodstock is the best place for this Ramble. The entire community makes you feel at home and Levon and his people were no different. Even if you don’t love The Band (but how can you not?)but you have a love for music, especially live music, you need to make it to a Ramble. It will change your life in some way I can promise you that. One of my goals for 2012 is to get back to that Ramble—and I’m pretty sure I can make that happen.

Stay tuned for more on the town of Woodstock, NY!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Road to Woodstock

The first weekend in December I went on a little road trip with Dulsk to Bethel and 
Woodstock, New York. To put in simple, I didn’t want to ever leave. 
The entire trip was like a dream. When I’m home I’m tired, get headaches, become moody, etc. and during this trip I truly felt like I was on cloud 9 the entire time. We left Thursday after work and drove almost 4 hours to Lancaster, PA to visit one of my bestest friends, Kaitlyn. She and her husband have a beautiful home that all decorated for Christmas. As soon as we got there, Kev walked inside and up the steps to put his bag in the spare bedroom and apparently on his way back down stairs he stepped in some of their dog Monkey’s poop. So that was a nice little welcome—he trailed it all down the hall, down the steps and into the entryway. Don’t worry it all came out. Silly, Kev J Kate took us out to an awesome restaurant decorated with tons of Steelers gear and afterwards we continued our drinking at a little bar closer to her house. We got home, exchanged gifts (she got me TONS of beautiful peacock things) and I made some ramen slaw for the weekend. Unfortunately Kev and I needed to get up super early to get on the road so our visit was short.

Our drive was supposed to be close to 4 hours and due to some direction difficulties ended up being closer to 6 hours. Somewhere along the way we started going towards Bethel, CT and not Bethel, NY. Took us about 2 hours out of our way—I was not a happy camper after this. But we did get to see this pretty site:
This is Bloom's Mill. It house Revolutionary soldiers during the war.
Eventually we made it to Bethel. Anyone who knows me knows how I get when I am way too excited about something. Needless to say, I was ready to get out of that car. We drove straight to the Museum at Bethel Woods and opted to check into the hotel until after. Going to this museum ahs been one of the best memories and experiences I've ever had. It looks on the small side, but I can promise it is filled to the brims with photos, videos, music & more. We met one of the volunteers (whose name I can't remember) and he guided us downstairs to the "Pig Light Show." Marc Rubenstein also known as "Pig" created these light shows in the 60s and played them most famously at the Fillmore. He started out using overhead projectors, oil and dye and made beautiful images that moved along to the sound of music. We saw John Lennon "Imagine," and various Aerosmith and Jefferson Airplane songs. This was a special exhibit and ending the next day so we were glad we made it.
It was finally time to head upstairs into the main museum. I walked in and immediately became overwhelmed with happiness. The museum was exactly as I imagined. It was the 60’s wrapped up in one room:  colorful, interactive, groovy, psychedelic, peaceful and filled with love. The museum had everything. From MLK to JFK and Bobby, Haight-Ashbury, Timothy Leary, the Vietnam War and every record and legendary photograph you could 
It’s hard to pick a favorite part, but I did love that psychedelic bus. I stepped inside and was ready to move in. The tie-dyed tapestries on the ceiling, beads hanging from the window, the music being played just put me in that mood. The windshield was used as a screen and played clips from Woodstock. While we were sitting on the bus, the first volunteer we met came on and sat with us. Turns out he grew up in Pittsburgh near McKeesport and his sister still lives there in Bethel Park! He played college football in the 60s, so unfortunately had to miss out on the Woodstock experience, but was still full of information and happy to tell us about anything we asked.

Clearly it was our lucky day, because the museum was slow so it felt like we had it to ourselves, with the exception of one older couple and one man. This one man was at Woodstock. He was there to relive one of the best weeks of his life. He told us stories and we talked about the reality of today compared to the years of peace and love. It was pretty amazing. As we reached the end, we stayed and watched a special 20 minute film made just for the museum, and can you even believe that Grace Potter and drummer Matt were featured? They were responding to the films of each performance at the festival.

The exit of the museum was the entrance to the gift shop. I picked up a few things and once again met an awesome museum worker. It was closing time and we were the last to leave. He stayed and suggested some sites to check out and answered a few questions. I asked if he ever got bored of working at the museum. He responded by saying “You mean all the music, peace and love stuff? Not at all—I love it.”

We said goodbye to our fellow Pittsburgher and headed to dinner. Bethel has a little town square with a couple restaurants and shops. It’s a very small town so we were told that was about it when it came to options for dinner. Well that small town gave us some of the best meals we’ve ever had. I had crab and scallop stuffed flounder with mashed potatoes and asparagus and Kev had a burger with lots of different spices. The service was awesome, which we were expecting. 

The next morning the museum had a craft show, we stopped by and I got some winter tea, a postcard, a charm made out of an old domino and Kev bought his sister a rug made out of recycled plastic bags. Next came one of the best parts of the trip:  the Woodstock monument. When I walked near that field and looked out over the fence, I felt like I was there. If you’ve ever been to Ellis Island and walked into the main room all the immigrants came through, it’s the same feeling. At one time the place you are standing was filled with people, memories, and experience that you will most likely never come close to having, but still feeling like you were part of it.
I’ve always had so much respect for the culture, people, artists and leaders of that era, but after this experience it has reached a whole new level. It was awesome, fulfilling and life-changing.

This Room

is all happening. I love the bold, carefree look. 
This is the perfect example of just buying what you love 
andtrusting that it will all go together and look wonderful. 
I'm sort of in the process of doing a mini-makeover in my bedroom 
& this is definitely my inspiration.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Pittsburgh Christmas

I have the wonderful pleasure of working in downtown Pittsburgh 
(which of course comes with the not-so-wonderful rush hour traffic). 
But none the less, it is still pretty neat seeing all the sites in town every day. 
I’ve been downtown in the past for Pittsburgh’s Light-Up Night, 
but never really took in all the beautiful holiday decorations until now. 
During a few lunch breaks I took a stroll around the city and 
snapped some great images of all the holiday decorations. 
Here are my favorites:
The Allegheny County Courthouse aka my work: courtyard Christmas tree, beautiful gallery, holiday choral proagam, and the door to my office!
The beautiful manger set outside the US Steel tower--& it plays music!
Oxford Center.
PPG Place & Market Square--thats me with my cousin, Richie at the ice skating rink!
The City County Building, US Post Office on 4th, a window at Macy's, the Frick Building and BNY Mellon.
One of my favorites in the city, the William Penn Hotel: amazing lobby, gingerbread replica of the hotel, and an outisde banister. This hotel is gorgeous all year-round!

Click on pictures for a larger view.

Wish List

I didn't really want much this year--in fact I'm not really sure if I even told anyone about the things on this list. I guess I'll just cross my fingers & hope someone read my mind!

1. Hunter Green Hunter Wellies
2. Fire & Rain:  The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel,
James Taylor, CSNY and the Lost Story of 1970
3. Halston Heritage Sleeveless Faux Fur Gilet--
Really any faux fur vest that looks like this.
4. The Band’s The Last Waltz record
5. Forever 21 rings
6. Hue tights—these are the best tights I’ve found for a decent price. 
I wear tights 3/5 days of the work week during the winter months, and these are a great quality.
7. Hobnail Pitcher in blue from Anthropologie – 
this will match the dinner sets I just bought!

Hope you get what you're wishing for this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cookie Post #2

If you like red velvet cake, and even if you don't you must try these cookies. I'm not usually the biggest fan of red velvet, but I am a fan of cheesecake. Again, just like the Lemon Burst cookies I posted about these were so easy to make but took a bit more time. 

Here's the recipe.

1 box red velvet cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
2 tbsp flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla

4 oz. cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Preaheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the cake powdered cake mix, flour, eggs, oil and vanilla in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla. Let both refrigerate for 30 minutes to harden a bit (this makes it easier to work with).
Form the batter into a patty and scoop cream cheese in the middle. Form another patty to place on top and mold the two together. I found it easier to make the outside a bit thinner than the middle, that way the filling doesn't pop out. This is much easier than it seems.
Place on a well-greased cookie sheet. Space these babies pretty far apart--they get huge.
Here they are! These were delish. My only change is the filling in the middle. If you don't put enough inside it can be hard to taste. So stuff in as much as possible. 
Happy Baking!

Cookie Post #1

I found this recipe while on Pinterest (of course--I think everyone and their mother is addicted to this site) and it looked SO easy I just had to try it. I've been wanting to bake some cookies to take into work for the holidays, so I was glad when I stumbled upon this recipe. When I say SO easy, that might be an understatement. This was a four ingredient recipe--yes, baking delicious cookies that only require you to buy four things.

Here's the recipe.
1 box lemon cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
1 8oz containter of Cool Whip
1 egg
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat Cool Whip, egg and cake mix in a bowl. It's important to note that you mix just the powdered cake mix, not the additional ingredients listed on the box. The batter will be very thick and sticky--I stuck mine in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Roll into balls and coat with the powdered sugar. I found it easier to spoon some of the batter into the bowl of powdered sugar, make sure it was coated and then I rolled it into a ball. It was less messier this way and the batter seemed to roll nicer.
Place them on a well-greased cookie sheet. I would even space them a bit further apart than I did--they expand quite a bit so some didn't have enough room. Bake for 10-12 minutes and let cool before removing them from the cookie sheet.
Here they are! They turned out perfect. Very moist and fluffy--I will definitely be making these again. 
P.S. See the red cookie in the picture? 
Those are Red Velvet Cheescake cookies--post coming soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Quiz

I rarely come across quizes that I actually want to take the time to do, but since I'm trying to get into the Christmas spirit, I figured this one would be fun. I found it over at The Weigand's. Casey has an awesome blog--you should check her out!

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate for sure.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Definitely wrap--I tried to spice up my wrapping this year. Lots of pretty handmade gift tags & bows.
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? I love the white.
4. Do you hang mistletoe? My gramma always used to--not sure if she did this year!
5. When do you put your decorations up? Usually around a week after Thanksgiving.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish? My mom's Christmas cookies!
7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? Going to church the night of Christmas Eve and singing "Silent Night" with the lights out and candles lit.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? My mom, sister and I were just talking about this! My mom said it was around 4th grade.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? YES! We always went to my gram and paps Christmas Eve before church and she always let us open some presents. 
10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? White lights and ornaments that we've collected over the years. I have some really great sets given to me when I was a baby (Winnie the Pooh, the Wizard of Oz, Birthday Angels)
11. Snow! Love it or dread it? I actually really love it--with the exception of digging out my car for work, that's no fun. Grown-ups should have snow days too!
12. Can you ice skate? Eh, not really. 
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I'm starting to realize I have a pretty bad memory. I can't even remember what I got last year!
14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you? Spending time with my family. We watch movies, bake together, and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas.
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? My mom bakes great thumbprints. We mostly do cookies around my house--with the occasional jello salad.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? I've done the same thing every year for as long as I can remember. So from Christmas Eve on is one big tradition for me.
17. What tops your tree? An angel.
18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? I think the appropriate answer is giving--which I do love. I try to get a few unique and personalized gifts for everyone. But of course I also love opening presents : )
19. Candy canes: yuck or yummy? Both--I don't mind them, but I don't eat them much.
20. Favorite Christmas show? I am a collector of Christmas movies. Home Alone 1 & 2 are my absolute favorites. Also Elf, A Christmas Story, Emmett Otters Jug Band Christmas, Christmas Vacation and Miracle on 34th Street.
21. Saddest Christmas song? I don't know about the saddest song, but Silent Night always brings tears to my eyes.
22. What is your favorite Christmas song? I love Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmas Time," plus 'Do You Hear What I Hear," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and "Good King Wenceslas" just to name a few.

Happy Christmas!

Crazy Girl

My life has been CRAZY lately. As you can see, I've had zero time to blog or really even think about blogging. The holidays have been much busies this year--I think it's mainly because I'm working this year and don't have a holiday break. Plus my gramma is in the hospital--definitely a surprise to us all, but she is doing well & should be out soon. BUT of course, prayers are always welcomed! I've started jotting down a few ideas for upcoming blog posts--obviously my "Road to Woodstock" and the "Midnight Ramble," but there are definitely some other fun ones coming up too. 

Until then, 

Here are some pretty things I came across over the past couple weeks. I will definitely be trying some of these DIY's out. Stay tuned for updates!
This beautiful open-backed sweater. Reminds me of something my sister would LOVE!
This felt wreath. I started making this, not finished yet!
These empty bottles wrapped with colored twine.
This pretty fabric flower necklace.
Hope you're all ready for the holidays!