Favorite Christmas Songs/Albums From A Person Who Isn’t Lovin Christmas Music

 

Okay, first off, I just want to say as a disclaimer that I don’t have a horrible dislike towards Christmas music. The real truth is that I’ve never been a huge fan of Christmas music. I’ve always liked it, but have never really loved listening to Christmas tunes constantly on every single station. I know, I know, you probably are all thinking, “What the heck is wrong with you Alex??” and yes, I ask myself that very same question each time Christmas rolls around. I can’t explain it, it’s not that I don’t enjoy Christmas time as I absolutely love walking around my local city, looking at striking Christmas decorations, trees, and watching my favorite Holiday films, but I’ve just never gotten into listening to Christmas music. Could it because I’m Jewish? Was I automatically programmed from birth to be annoyed at songs about jolly old Santa Clause that pop up on the radio? Probably not, after all, it is said that the best Christmas songs have been written by Jews (however, if the best Christmas songs have been written by Jews, why couldn’t they have written better Hanukkah songs? Do you know one famous song about Hanukkah? I certainly don’t. If any of you guys know of any amazing Hanukkah songs, please let me know in the comment section below, I’d **LOVE** to hear them). I guess I’m just not a big Christmas music fanatic. This bothers my family greatly. When I was in the car with my Dad, he kept on asking why I kept on changing the station whenever a Christmas song would pop up. Sorry Dad, I just prefer 80’s pop/rock songs to Christmas tunes. Will I someday come to appreciate Christmas music more? I don’t know, but certainly hope so! However, with that being said, I do have some Christmas songs/albums that I absolutely ADORE AND LOVE! To get into the spirit of the holidays, I am going to be sharing with y’all my favorite songs:

Album #1: Kelly Clarkson’s New-ish Christmas Album “Wrapped in Red”

I’ve always loved Kelly Clarkson’s voice, it is just so soulful and unique. In fact, I think I had a mild obsession with Kelly Clarkson in the 4th grade; especially her nose stud. For some odd reason, I thought I was a cooler kid for listening to someone who had her nose pierced. I was 9-10 years, okay, cut me some slack! Okay, getting off topic here, anyways, when I heard that she had a Christmas album coming out, I knew that I had to check it out. Turns out that I **LOVED** it!! I think that this is my second favorite record of hers behind “Breakaway”.  In my opinion, it is one of the best Christmas albums of all time. She puts amazing twists on favorite classics such as “Baby It’s Cold Outside”,  “White Christmas”, and “Silent Night” with some new, original (I think, they might also just be songs that were sung before that I’d never heard of) Christmas tunes. My favorite jingles off of this album are “Wrapped in Red”, “Underneath the Tree”, and “Silent Night”. If you haven’t listened to Kelly Clarkson’s Christmas Album, get your butt onto YouTube and listen to it right now, you won’t regret it.

Song #1: Lea Michelle and Cory Monteith’s Last Christmas

In general, I’ve always really liked this song, but Glee’s Lea Michelle and Cory Monteith took this song and brought it into a whole new dimension for me. I just can never stop listening to this song during Christmas time and I mean, come on, who can get sick of Lea Michelle’s voice?

Album #2, Plus One Of The Best Songs Of All Time!!: Sarah Mclachlan’s Christmas Album.

If you don’t know anything about at all, you should know that Sarah Mclachlan is pretty much my favorite female vocalist of all time. Seriously dude, I think I’ve listened to all of her songs. Most of them, I believe, I have played like a broken record, but still, I never get sick of them. My Mom first bought this Christmas Album in 2006, when it first came out. Since then, we as a family have listened to it countless times, even during the summer (true story, we listened to it on our way up to Quebec City in August)! Sarah Mclachlan covers a lot of famous Christmas tunes beautifully, like an Angel (for Sarah Mclachlan fans you will get this pun here), such as “Silent Night” and “Happy X-Mas (War is Over)”. However, my favorite cover of her’s by far is Joni Mitchell’s “River”. In fact, I think it’s one of my favorite song covers of all time. I love how this song is so sad but yet hopeful at the same time. It also have a very uplifting melody to accompany the chorus. If you are having a bad day, even if it isn’t Christmas time, listen to Sarah Mclachlan’s “River” cover and you’ll feel instantly better, I promise. Additionally, I absolutely love the songs “Wintersong” and “Song for a Winter’s Night With You” just to let you know.

Songs #3 and #4: Mariah Carey

The first Christmas song of Mariah Carey’s that I love is destined to become a classic or has already become one and that is “All I Want For Christmas to You”. It is just so catchy and just wants to make me get up and dance. I also love her rendition of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”. Her soulful voice is absolutely perfect for this tune and makes you want to listen to it over and over again. Which one of these two songs are your favorite of hers?

Album #3: Josh Groban’s Noel

In general, I love Josh Groban’s voice, but in particular, I love his Christmas album. Every year, we always listen to Josh Groban’s Christmas album when putting up the Hanukkah tree (yes, I know, we are very bad Jews) and this is a tradition that I will always cherish. I love all of the songs on this album, but my favorite tune is “What Child Is This”. I just love the instruments that are utilized in this song and most of all its haunting, but yet soothing melody. I can listen to this song and it can put me to sleep, let me tell you.

So that’s a wrap, those are my favorite Christmas songs/albums! Are any of what I mentioned one of your favorite Christmas albums/songs? What are some of your favorite Christmas tunes?

Happy Holidays!

-Alexandra Spund

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Walk Down Memory Lane: Favorite Childhood Books

When I was a wee one, my Mom really, really wanted my sister and I to love reading. She has always been a huge reader and made it her mission as a parent to instill a love of literature in the two of us. While other kids were watching Spongebob Square Pants and Rugrats on T.V., my Mom had us plopped on the couch watching Reading Rainbow, Between the Lions, or some other educationally approved kids’ show that promoted literacy. Whenever I would tell my Mom about a friend saying that they “hated reading”, my Mom would be all like, “Well that’s to bad for blah, blah, blah [insert imaginary name here], because reading is amaze-balls (okay so maybe she didn’t say that, but something of the equivalency)!!” Besides watching book related television shows, my Mom introduced us to lots of great picture and beginning reader chapter books. She would often read these books to us out loud, which, we would then have passionate discussions about afterwards. I loved these read out louds! They were much better than the majority of my teachers and my Mom could do lots of funny voices :P. The trio of us loved read out louds so much that we did them up through the 8th grade (yes, we are a weird family, don’t judge). I am glad that my Mom put so much time and energy into evoking a love of reading in both my sister and I. Without the great books that I read when I was younger, I would not have the amount of background knowledge that I currently obtain, an extensive vocabulary, and probably would have had a more difficult time getting through some of the dry books I’ve been forced to read in high school (cough, cough…The Scarlet Letter, no offense to those who dig it or anything). However, most importantly, reading has helped me become the open-minded, compassionate, and sometimes skeptical/cynical person I am today. Books have exposed me to the many joys and horrors of life and I’m grateful for that because reading about various issues inspires me to make change in the world. I want to bring the joy that I’ve read about into other people’s lives; especially those who have so little of it. In this blog post, I’m going to share my some of my favorite books that I read as an elementary schooler. Whether you are a parent, educator, or someone who is just curious about and/or simply loves amazing children’s books, you’ve come to the right place (psssstt…I am seventeen years old and still ❤ children’s books)! This will more than likely be a series on my blog, as I don’t want to just give y’all a laundry list of books; I want to explain what I love about each and every one of these stories. Drum roll please………….or you can just scroll down if you wish ;).

                My Favorite Childhood Books

 Book #1: A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannen

I remember my sister and I reading this beautifully illustrated book, with a wonderful message, multiple times. If you are not familiar with the book’s plot, it is about a young girl who is teased by her classmates for loving Lima beans. Therefore, she vows to never eat Lima beans again, but then, she comes down with a case of stripes. Her parents, however, force her to go to school regardless of being decorated with stripes, and is then subjected to even more teasing by her classmates. She eventually learns that the only cure for getting rid of her stripes are good ol’ Lima beans. Through this experience she learns not to care about what other people think. I believe that this is a vital theme for young children to learn that will carry with them through life. I know that the gorgeous pictures and carefully crafted sentences in this book has always served as a reminder to me!

Book #2: The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osbourne

I remember hearing one of these books for the first time as a read out loud in grade school and then becoming obsessed with them shortly there after. I didn’t read all of them, but every single book I did read I thoroughly enjoyed. The premise of these books are that two siblings, Jack and Annie, find a tree house in their backyard and discover that it can make them go back in time. As a result, they go on some pretty immaculate adventures and go to many different places, witnessing famous historical events such as the American Revolution, The Olympics, The First Thanksgiving, and the Titanic sinking. These books really got me excited about history as a kid and made me eager to learn more about the colossal turning points that shaped our nation and world. I’d highly recommend these books to any kid in grade school, especially if they are not big fans of history, because Jack and Annie will for sure make the subject more enjoyable for them.

 Book #3: The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsberg

When I was young, I was so fascinated by summer sleep-away camps and desperately wanted to go for years. I would envision myself at sleep-away camp constantly, even going as far as dreaming up my own. Seriously guys, I would sometimes even open up a word document and make my own overnight camp brochures with snazzy backgrounds, slick fonts, pictures, everything. I would even make fake testimonials from kids with fake last names, such as Corington, Halifaxer, Roshien, Itrabide (for realzies, these were legit names that I made up. I went through my old journals today.) So, as you can imagine, the day my parents told me that I was allowed to go to sleep-away camp, I was uber stoked. However, when I actually attended an overnight camp located in Vermont, I wound up enjoying it a minuscule amount . I suffered from extreme homesickness, crying multiple times a day. I also really loathed the food and was mightily disappointed that the outdoor lunch buffet that was advertised on their website was really indoors and just leftovers from dinner. Damn liars.

Okay, I should probably stop ranting now and talk about how this experience is related to the book. Anyways, after my bad overnight camp experience, I found The Outcast of 19 Schuyler Place at Barnes and Noble and instantly knew that I would be able to relate to it from reading the back cover. The premise of this book is that a twelve-year-old named Margaret Rose attends sleep-away camp during the 70’s while her parents are trying to repair their marriage. However, the plot twist is that her cabin-mates are tormentors who play vicious pranks and therefore, she sends for her uncles to pick her up. After being rescued, Margaret Rose spends the rest of the summer with her uncles, trying to save two towers that are going to be taken down. I absolutely adored this book as a kid and read it multiple times (it is rare that I read a book more than once, even if I really love it). The love I had for this story is shown in its current physical condition, without a cover and pages falling out. I would recommend this book to anybody regardless of age, but especially for pre-teen ladies as I think that they will especially be able to relate to the main character, Margaret Rose, as someone that they could see themselves being friends with and take comfort in. Hopefully they will cherish this book, as I have, and take note of its wonderful messages of perseverance, unexpected friendship, and the fact that life just doesn’t work out all of the time. These themes have stayed with me throughout my teenage years.

Have any of you guys read these books before? What were your favorite books growing up?

Your Reading Buddy,

-Alexandra Spund

P.S. Here are the book links:

http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Case-Stripes-Scholastic-Bookshelf/dp/0439598389

http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Tree-House-Boxed-Books/dp/0375813659/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419050834&sr=1-2&keywords=the+magic+tree+house+set&pebp=1419050850610

http://www.amazon.com/The-Outcasts-19-Schuyler-Place/dp/0689866372

Deceptive Thanksgiving Dessert Advertising – Mary’s Gone Crackers Gone Wrong

Despite the snow, my Thanksgiving was not half bad. My clan was supposed to see extended family down in New York and it was very disenchanting when we learned we couldn’t go because of impossible road conditions. Obviously though, we made the best of the situation. I really can’t complain, heck, I got to see a 4-D version of the Polar Express. Anytime you can go beyond your normal dimensions, it’s a pretty cool experience :P. I mean, dude, I got to actually smell the hot co-co they were serving on Polar Express; if that’s not flipping amazing, I don’t know what is. Although I will say that getting punched in the back of our seats when the train came to a sudden halt wasn’t fun and unnecessary. My Mom was the lucky spared one who’s seat was defective.

While Thanksgiving 2014 was filled with joyful, 4-D memories, it also had its vexations. In particular, I am not very satisfied with the gluten-free company Mary’s Gone Crackers right now. What is Mary’s Gone Crackers, you might ask? They are the ones that make the seeded flax crackers that look wicked disgusting, but actually taste really delicious. Additionally, they also make desserts. Well, right before Turkey Day, my Mom found ginger snap cookies baked by Mary’s Gone Cracker’s that, supposedly, had a dairy-free cream in the middle. I was thrilled! I was so excited to finally have a cookie that had a filling as this is SO HARD to find being both gluten and dairy-free. I also have to limit the amount of soy I eat, which makes this conquest even more arduous. I just could not wait to crack the cookie open and find that ooey-gooey cream in the center as it looked like in the picture on the box. However, when it was time for dessert and the first bite was taken, I could only taste gingerbread. “Hmmm….this is quite peculiar, that cream has got to be in there somewhere“, I thought.  Therefore, I took the largest bite I could and still, …nothing. Could my cookie be the odd one of the bunch? Did they forget to put cream in my cookie? I then asked my Mom to take a bite of her’s to see if she had the same situation which she did. It then occurred to us that Mary the Cracker Lady was a LIAR! That cookie on the cover clearly had cream in it; or so we thought. After investigating the cover more closely, we both realized that what appeared to be cream in the middle were actually sprinklings of ginger. My Mom and I were astounded that both of us had missed this, as the two of us are usually overly observant people. *Sigh*, I guess that I still need to be on the hunt for gf/df cookies with a creamy filling. Or maybe I should try and make my own batter? Who knows?

Would you guys have been deceived by the cover?

Yours in a Current Agitated Spirit,

-Alexandra Spund

P.S. The cookies were absolutely delectable just to let you know. They tasted like actual, glutenous ginger snaps!! I was just mightily disappointed that there was no mouth-watering cream :(.