Wednesday, April 27, 2016

House Update: We Planted an Apple Tree

Now that the weather has warmed up, our attentions have turned outward, especially Greg's because he kind of does yards for a living and the big empty yard was a big selling point for him. 

First off, we had our first fire of the season in the backyard! Whoo! Six people came, which isn't bad for a last minute shindig. (There will be more planning and prep next time. Probably.) Last year, we were only able to have one fire on Halloween, which was a pretty great inaugural event. Too cold after that.


We cleared a lot of trash that had somehow collected in the yard, probably due to the monster windstorms we kept having this past winter. Greg also cut down a lot of dead grapevines, most of which went on the fire. He also took out a large patch of a type of grass we don't want and put down seed for the type we do (can you tell this is not my thing?). Our yard is mostly dandelions right now.

And we planted an apple tree! It's a pink lady, my favorite kind of apple. So sweet! Like candy. Another apple tree of a different variety will be going in at some point so they can cross-pollinate. We used the sod we dug up for the tree to fill the mystery hole in one corner of the backyard. (It might have once been a fire pit, but we really don't know.) I used one of my father's old shovels to move the sod, one I sometimes used to help him in our garden growing up. It felt like a little piece of him is living on in my own garden I am building with my future husband. (Pa would love Greg. I wish they could have met.)


Beneath the tree, we also interred our beloved cat Sawyer's ashes. (Because he passed in January, he could not be buried out-right and his body was instead cremated to await the spring thaw.) We have talked about putting a bench there, as well, and maybe growing catnip in the area. We have some catnip in a planter in the kitchen that we bought for Sawyer not long before he died. Our other cats do not attack it with as much relish as he did.

Greg is outside now mowing for the first time this season (goodbye, dandelions! we hardly knew ye) and will soon be digging up an area along the side of the house for a garden. He got a great deal on mulch at work. I think he is going to plant lilies.

Well, I have a demanding kitty on my lap who is forcing me to type left-handed (I'm so much better with my right hand), so I will end this here. Ciao!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Independent Michigan Musicians I'm Listening to on Spotify and You Should, Too

Spotify is fantastic for exploring new music! Since I do not have a smart phone, I listen to it on my tablet and the computer at work, where I am allowed to play any song I want, provided the record label has a contract allowing it (which is a damn lot of them), and I can skip tracks all I want, something I am told is not allowed on the phone app version unless you pay for the privilege. 

Not only do I get introduced to new artists, but I can listen to and support local, independent musicians. I learned from a singer-songwriter that if you publish your album with CD Baby, you can also get it available on iTunes and Spotify. Not a bad deal! Spotify probably pays out about as much as Blogger pays me for blogs, but as my grandfather says, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye, and people are far more likely to listen to songs over and over than re-read blog posts.

So here, my friends, is a brief list of local, independent bands and artists that I currently have on my Spotify rotation. (If you're into iTunes, look for them there, too! Or buy straight from their websites.)

1) Ghost City Searchlight (Ypsilanti, MI)
I discovered GCS while working at Crazy Wisdom. Every Friday and Saturday night, the Tea Room hosts live music shows - for free! - from 8:30pm to 10:30pm. GCS is my far and above favorite regular feature. They're energetic, known for stomping, fun, funny, and generally just put on a great show! From their own website
Ghost City Searchlight plays original music inspired by traditional Celtic and American folk songs infused with raucous energy. Their brand of charismatic folk-rock tells stories that are drawn from the spirit of tall tales heard around the campfire, from the pages of dime novels read under the covers with a flashlight, and from the personal experiences of anyone who feels the deck is stacked against them.

And if that isn't enough for you, it also says, "If Social Distortion, The Pogues, Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash got drunk, had a baby, and named that baby Joe Strummer, and then that baby got drunk, we might sound like the bartender who gave that baby the alcohol." I suggest starting with the tracks "Healthcare Plan" and "Drag the River" off their second CD The Ghost Light Tales, Vol. II. To enjoy a live show, check ghostcitysearchlight.com for upcoming appearances.


2) Dale Wicks (Grand Rapids, MI)
I've known Dale since we were in the Japanese program at Western Michigan University together. For a time he was the VP of our school's anime club Anime Addicts, despite not running one year and also not being present for the vote (he did such a good job the year before!). We became closer friends during our study abroad summer in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, Japan, and he might be one of the composite characters in my multiple award winning story "Skinship." (I'll let you guess which one.)

At the time, Dale was in an emo band called Our Last Autumn, introducing me to the concept of emo. A few years later, while in a different band, Rotten Rose, Dale adapted one of my poems to a rock song he called "When You Look At Me" (which is what I should have called it, but didn't). One of my early Proud Writer Moments was being surrounded at one of their shows by drunk lesbians gushing about how much they love that song. Rotten Rose broke up before it  was recorded, but Dale recorded it himself and burned it to a CD for me as a Christmas present. It still sits on my shelf labeled "Best Xmas Present Ever."

Nowadays, Dale performs solo with a more country sound. His album Someone Else's Songs is one of Spotify's favorite things to play when I set it to random both at home and at work. It's funny for me because some of the songs I've heard before, but differently arranged, like "The Language of the Kiss." "Suitcase" and "Girl, You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone" set my toes tapping. Dale performs all over Michigan, but is based in Grand Rapids. Find his show line-up at dalewicks.com.

3) The Appleseed Collective (Ann Arbor, MI)
I don't remember where I first saw the Appleseed Collective. I think it was at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, which is a fantastic way to be introduced to such a lively, folksy, genre-blending group. There's a guy who plays the washboard! It's wonderful. And if you visit Ann Arbor, you will see their posters all over town. They're a very active group. In fact, if you live in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti region, chances are you're already familiar with them. And their website does a far better job of describing their sound than I ever could:
The Appleseed Collective is poised to become the new sound of string music. Riding the wave of the bluegrass revival beyond newgrass and into a strange new genre-bending territory, they explore the full range of dark and light, old and new, composition and improvisation in a deeply theatrical stage show that transports audiences through time.
You also don't have to be in Michigan to see them live as they tour all over the place. They also have a live CD out, Live At the Ark, so you can even enjoy some of the fun of a live show from the comfort of your own home. Find all kinds of info at appleseedcollective.com.

5) John Churchville (Ann Arbor, MI)
And now for something completely different. John Churchville leads the monthly Indian Tabla Music nights in the Crazy Wisdom Tea Room. I'd never heard the term tabla before, but I had heard bits of Indian music before. I don't know much about Indian music, so I've enjoyed exploring it with John's performances.

There is one album available on Spotify. I like to put it on as background music while reading, writing, or doing some other activity during which lyrics are too distracting. It's not what I'd call relaxing music because that sounds like it will put you to sleep, and there's too much of a beat and rhythm for that. But it's also not hyper music that gets your blood pumping. It's good music that's nice to listen to! Check johnchurchville.com/events to see where you can catch the next live performance.

4) Angela Predhomme (Metro Detroit, MI)
I've written about Angela Predhomme twice before, most recently in 9 Women You Should Be Listening to on Spotify. Because I like her! Right now she is up for the People's Choice Award of the Detroit Music Awards for the song "Living In A Love Song." Her latest album is called Will and features "Vinyl Voodoo," a track I listen to often on the work playlist. Since I've posted about her before, I'Il leave this one brief and direct you to angelapredhomme.com