New Music To Head Back To School

It feels like this summer flew past in the blink of an eye, and now my kids are back in school. Like many parents, I find myself both wishing the summer were longer and grateful that school is back in session.

Don’t get me wrong, summers are fantastic. The weather is usually cooperative, and there’s a lazy feeling to the day as schedules are thrown out the window. Which usually means my laptop sits and collects dust for a couple of months.

Now that I have a few hours of my day back to myself, I’m grateful to be able to sit and write about recently released albums, as well some about to drop. So, let’s get schooled in some new family music, shall we?

New Music To Head Back To School

First up, Ralph’s World released Ralph’s World Rocks and Reads July 11th. This collection of Ralph’s favorite songs based on his children’s books is chock full of infectious songs.

Ralph's WorldRalph’s songs are just the right length for young attention spans, and they get to the point quickly. Not only that, but they exude joy. I think it’s physically impossible to be in a bad moon while listening to Ralph’s World, especially with upbeat songs like “Happy Lemons” and “Follow the Leader and Dance” with it’s funky Latin groove.

I was so happy to see that “We Are Ants” was included in this collection, as its catchy chorus makes this track one of my kids’ favorites of Ralph’s. My favorite, however, is the waltz “Sawdust and Spangles” with it’s rolling melody that envelopes you in to a circus journey.

Ralph’s World’s Ralph’s World Rocks and Reads is available on iTunes.

Jazzy Ash, the self-proclaimed first New Orleans Jazz Band made especially for kids, released Bon Voyage July 28th. As a New Orleans native, this music hits me in a spot that can only be cured by Zydeco music, gumbo and beignets.

Jazzy Ash Cover artJazzy Ash (a.k.a. Ashli Christoval) has a degree in early childhood development, and it shows. Most of the music on this album is interactive, providing prompts for kids to get up and move (“Leap Frog”), and would be great to get kids moving in a classroom setting.

The album is full of surprises at every turn, including the slinky, sneaky groove of “Hide and Seek.” Jazzy Ash’s strong, sultry vocals feel in the same family as Zooey Deschanel – inviting and comforting in its soulfulness. This is especially apparent in the song “Buddy,” which shows the full range and depth of Jazzy Ash’s vocals.

If you want to get a little taste of this treat of an album, be sure to check out their video for “Heebie Jeebies”:

Bon Voyage by Jazzy Ash is available on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby.

I have to admit, Renee and Friends’ album Simpatico (released August 28th and produced by Rich Jacques) is one of those albums I won’t be saving just for when my kids are in the car. The beautiful, tender voice of singer-songwriter Renee Stahl exudes love and warmth on this album, perfect for children and adults alike.

Renee & FriendsRenee’s music sucks you in with her alluring voice and lush composition and instrumentation. While presented as a children’s album, it might resonate with parents the most. The lyrics hit me in my mother-core, tapping in to those bittersweet moments we experience as we watch our children face new experiences, tough times and triumphs.

Included on this album is a veritable Who’s Who of guest artists (who are real-life friends of Stahl and Jacques and makes me wonder “How can I become friends with them, too?). Caspar Babypants makes an appearance on the track “I Am Not Afraid,” “Are We There Yet” features spoken word by the beguiling Colin Hay, and Molly Shannon sings “Happiness” from the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The amazing Maya Rudolf appears on the cover of Prince’s “Starfish and Coffee,” and with that track, my mind was blown.

As a life-long Toad the Wet Sprocket fan, I was so excited to hear Glen Phillips’ voice on the sweet “You Were Meant To Be.” It’s a tender song that could be played for your child during a time of challenge, but if you’re looking for that song that makes everyone cry at high school graduation, this is it. I couldn’t listen to this gorgeous song without tearing up. Me! The Ice Queen!

Lisa Loeb sings with Stahl on “Gather Round,” and these two voices go together as perfectly as Nutella and croissants. Their lovely harmonies remind me of The Story, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they collaborate more in the future.

Renee and Friends Simpatico is available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

The Latin-influenced sounds of Hot Peas ‘N Butter will release their 7th studio album, Put Our Heads Together, on September 25th. It’s an album rich in an eclectic mix of rhythms and instrumentation, promoting themes of cooperation and harmony, especially with the tracks “No Bullies” and “Put Our Heads Together.”

Hot Peas N ButterDan Zanes lends his distinctly expressive voice to the opening bilingual track “Amistad.” “Seasons” sounds like a street party with its festive beat and samba-esque percussion.

The bicycle-centered tune“Fresh Spokes,” featuring Susan Lapidus, appears in three different versions on the album: an acoustic track, a dance remix, and the original track, which has a bit of a pop/club music vibe. The party continues on “Graduation Day” with a similar electro beat, making the album fun to dance to.

Put Our Heads Together by Hot Peas ‘N Butter will be available September 25th on Amazon.

José-Luis Orozco has been welcomed in to the Smithsonian Folkways family with his album ¡Come Bien! Eat Right!, which will be released September 18.

Jose-Luiz Orozco19 different songs appear on the album in both English and Spanish, with themes that focus on healthy eating, colorful plates, and clean hands.

The short sing-along style songs are easy for kids to follow and potentially pick up a few phrases in a new language. If your child is a fan of the Music Together classroom material, they’ll love this CD, especially songs like “Leche” and the call and response tunes of “Chocolate” and “Ensalada fresca/Fresh Salad”

The lively “Rotana/Snack” is my favorite tune on the album and is great for dancing! And I love that this album sneaks in basic language building skills for Spanish with counting numbers (“La gallina de Juanito/Juanito’s Chicken”), animal names and sounds, and movement instruction (“El baile de las legumbres/The Legumes Dance”)

Look for José-Luis Orozco’s ¡Come Bien! Eat Right! on September 18 through Smithsonian Folkways and Amazon.

Here’s hoping for a fantastic school year!


Disclosures: I was provided a copy of these products for review purposes. All opinions are 100% completely my own. Full Of It is a participant in the iTunes Affiliate Program. If you click on some of the product links above, I will receive a small commission which in turn helps run this site. Don’t fear, I only recommend tunes that I think you’ll love!



In Pursuit of Flawlessness

I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’m not young anymore. Having lived a pretty amazing 41 years, I’ve had some great experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Lately, though, my face is starting to show it.

In Pusuit of Flawlessness

I’ve got a cavernous line in between my forehead, the area around my eyes are starting to look like I permanently slept weird on my pillowcase, and don’t even get me started about my jowls. The parentheses that bracket my mouth don’t really scream 29 anymore.

To combat all these new roads on my face map, I tried all different kinds of skin care regimens. Anti-wrinkle creams, deep exfoliation, masks, serums, fillers, you name it. After a while though, I got tired of spending money chasing some genius product that would reverse time and poor SPF decisions and decided to stick to plain old moisturizer.

Do I want to look like a dewey college student? Not really. I don’t need to get rid of wrinkles entirely, just soften them a bit. I am tired of finding hidden crumbs in my facial features.

But, as life would have it, I’ve recently been hit with the Double Whammy of skin care: Adult Acne.

I mean, acne and wrinkles at the same time seems unnecessarily cruel. Can’t a gal catch a break? I know I want to look a bit more youthful, but breaking out like a hormonally awkward high school Freshman is more than I bargained for. Nothing says aging ungracefully than a massive, painful goiter setting up camp on my forehead.

A few weeks ago, in the thick of a period-induced breakout, I went to get my eyebrows waxed. I figured if my face was at war with itself, at least I better make the battleground free and clear of shrubbery.

The aesthetician ripping my moustache off noticed that I was having some “skin issues” and recommended that I speak to one of the skin care consultants at reception when I checked out.

Desperate for some miracle cure, I discussed  the Appalachian Mountains on my forehead with a young woman in a pristine white lab coat. She nodded her head sympathetically, and the second I was done talking she touched my shoulder and said “I have the perfect product for you that will clear your blemishes up in a matter of hours!”

Then she handed me a $100 jar of acne lotion.

Holy crap! Is this how much it costs to have clear skin? Oh, and did I mention this jar was about the size of a mini York Peppermint Patty and would probably last me all of four days before I had to fork out another Benjamin Franklin? What the hell was it made of, baby unicorn blood?

However, I looked up from the half-ounce jar at this woman, caught a glimpse of my complexion in the mirror behind her and contemplated handing over my credit card. Why did all those red little bumps have to be so shiny? They looked like the Las Vegas strip.

As if to persuade me to let go of my plastic in earnest, she said “I use it, and now I don’t even need to wear makeup!”

Wow! Really! I’m sold!

Before I relented though, I gave this woman a good, hard look. That’s when I realized she was all of 19 years old, and I was overcome with the sudden urge to punch her in her perfect, poreless face. Of COURSE she has great skin, she’s a baby! How can I even compare her results to what would surely be disappointment when I slathered this stuff on my face?

Her untarnished face was the jolt I needed to knock me to my senses. I thanked her for advice then walked my zitty face out to my car with my $100 in tact.

In the parking lot, my pimples acting like a moving stop sign alerting cars that I was coming, I began to feel a bit better about my complexion. Sure, it’s not something I ever want to see on an HD television. But this imperfect skin has been with me through countless moves to unfamiliar towns, heartache and heartbreak and hardship, a lifetime of laughter, my wedding and 12 years of marriage, the pregnancy and birth of two children, and countless performances on stages big and small. It’s the face my kids kiss at night, even on it’s most pimply of days.

I’ll take that over baby-faced inexperience any day.


Celebrating the 4th of July With the Help of Tipsy Elves

Who’s ready for America’s Birthday? The 4th of July is coming up in a few short days, and I can’t wait to celebrate with family, indulging in way too many hot dogs, cold beer and more French Onion dip than should be humanly possible to consume.

While I get giddy about all the food, for many Americans, it’s also a day to celebrate our freedom. Those festivities come in the form of parades and fireworks where red, white and blue are the colors du jour. Colors that normally don’t exist in my closet. Every year I drag out the same tired, blue and almost-red-but-border-line-orange shirt I’ve worn for the past seven years and call it a day.

Bo-ring, right?

My kids like getting donned up in festive wear, and when we recently went shopping for summer clothes, they both saw patriotic shirts and begged to get them for Independence Day.

Wanting to join in on the fun, I looked around for a cute USA-themed shirt that was actually some form of red white and blue, but came up empty.

So when the guys at TipsyElves contacted me about their Patriotic Line, I jumped at the chance to try out some of their products. I’d browsed their site one Christmas when we were invited to an Ugly Holiday Sweater party, but being that I waited until the very last minute, I didn’t have time to get any of their gems shipped in time for the party.

4th of July Tipsy Elves

The two shirts I received are completely adorable! Here’s me in the Tipsy Elves’ Women’s American Flag Tank:


And this is the Tipsy Elves’ Women’s USA Tank Top:


I love the soft, good quality of the fabric of these Tipsy Elves shirts, and both hang really well. The cute cut around the arms is perfect for those hot summer days, but are feminine enough to not make me feel like I should try out for the JV football team. And while they’re patriotic, I don’t feel like they scream ‘MERICA!

Now the only thing I have left to do is decide which shirt I’m going to wear for the 4th. So I throw the choice over to you, dear readers. Since democracy is one of the foundations of this country, feel free to cast your vote.

What do you think?

Tipsy Elves

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of these products for review purposes. All opinions are 100% completely my own. 

Delicious New Music For June

I’m on a detox thing and haven’t had any wheat, corn, dairy, sugar, alcohol or caffeine in over three weeks. If you know me, you know that discipline and will power really isn’t my thing, so I’m amazed that I’ve made it this long without biting anyone’s head off in my household.

While my hankering for highly processed foods 24/7 have mostly waned, a nice salty crunchy thing, or a sweet gooey thing sounds pretty good right about now.

There’s a big new batch of family music recently released, though, that comes pretty close to satisfying those cravings.

Delicious New Music For June

For starters, Flight of the Blue Whale from Pointed Man Band is a CD that plays like my favorite snack, popcorn, in that it’s something I could make room for any time of day. It’s music that’s not only upbeat and wholesome, but it also has just the right amount of flavor and bite to appease my taste buds and make me happy. 

Flight of the Blue WhaleThis album is a sophisticatedly crafted narrative that weaves a story about a fox with some pretty spectacular musical composition. Pointed Man Band’s latest release has a great vibe that’s parts Black Keys, Tom Waits, Beirut and Modest Mouse, a combination that’s sure to entice an older listener’s palate.

Notable songs on this album include the first track “Red Fox” with it’s rolling melody and Beatles-esque quality, “Forget the Sea” which displays the clear, gorgeous voice of Kay Elliot like a beckoning siren, and the fun, party-atmosphere track “Apodidae Reggae.” Pointed Man Band’s Flight of the Blue Whale is available on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.

The Harmonica Pocket is a band that hails from the Pacific Northwest, delivering organic music to grow on with their May 19th release, Sundrops.

hp.sundrops.coverAs refreshing as a summer salad, this album is crisp, clean, and every now and then offers something a bit more savory to bite in to, like a crumbly piece of cheese drenched in delicious dressing, with tracks like “Getting Night Now.” My favorite track on the album has to be “I Like Ukeleles” and its witty play on words that begin with the “you” sound. Sundrops can be purchased on The Harmonica Pocket’s website and is available on iTunes and Amazon.

If you’re looking for something to pique your appetite, like a piping hot bowl of shrimp gumbo, then look no further with the latest album from All Around This World with their release of All Around This World: Africa. These 32 tracks that come on two discs (one for West, Central and South Africa, and then North and East Africa) are full of flavor, soul and variety.

AATW-Africa-CD-cover-by-Sarajo-final-front-for-shop-page-285x300Africa is a fantastic introduction to the vibrant sounds and rhythms of different music from various regions in Africa, and you’d be hard pressed to find something on this album that doesn’t get your soul dancing.

Favorites include the upbeat “Kikalama” and “Sai,” “Carnaval” with its horns and salty tempo and timbre, the ska track “He Motsoala,” “Nanu Nanu Ney” (which makes me wonder if The Police didn’t find find inspiration in THIS REGION’s music), the soulful, almost gospel quality of “Thinantsha” and the lullabye “Atas Atas.”

And as if Emeril gave this dish a big giant “BAM!”, All Around this World: Africa is also the basis for an interactive global learning platform, with cultural lessons created for families and teachers by Jay Sand. You can find this network of “1000 Classrooms” HERE.

All Around This World: Africa will be available on their website June 21st.

If Africa is gumbo, Alastair Moock & Friends’ June 19th release All Kinds of You and Me is a scrumptious beef stew – simple yet hearty and satisfying.

AllKinds_WebCulling from the prominent themes of inclusivity in Marlo Thomas’ Free To Be…You and Me, Alastair Moock’s latest album offers cheery songs that are upbeat with great messages for kids.

The jazzy “You Might Be a Girl” challenges the gender stereotypes usually attributed to girls. “My Life (Is a Lot Like Yours)” sheds light on similarities between family lives even though their makeup might look different. “I Am Malala” is a tribute to the Nobel Peace Prize winning young woman and proposes that we are all Malala when we speak up for injustice.

On the track “You and Me,” Alastair discusses his experiences listening to Thomas’ groundbreaking album, and it effortlessly transitions to “This Land Is Your Land”, both songs embracing the power of hope and change for a better world to live in. It’s a perfect finish to the album, like a cold glass of milk, smooth and full of good healthy stuff. Alastair Moock’s All Kinds of You and Me is available on iTunes, Amazon and his Bandcamp page.

Red Yarn’s Deep Woods Revival, marketed as rousing sing-along songs “for everyone,” goes down like the perfect platter of fried chicken – southern flair, rich and impossible to stop after one taste.

Deep-Woods-Revival-Album-Cover-1030x1018A satisfying mix of folk, bluegrass, rock and blues, Red Yarn’s latest album is presented in two parts. The first contains traditional, familiar songs like “Skip To My Lou”, with Andy Furgeson’s charming and alluring voice.

Part Two is a narrative, a popular method of songwriting for family music lately, meant “for brave kids and grownups.” It follows a younger Red Yarn through adventures in the outdoors as he experiences life and loss. The second half of the album is definitely more somber as it delves in to deeper issues of nature and the cycle of life with milder tracks like “Buckeye Jim” (my favorite track on the album) and the slow waltzing “Animal Fair.” “Sourwood Mountain” is grizzly and sweet at the same time. The title track “Deep Woods Revival” is a whopping good time for sure.

Red Yarn’s Deep Woods Revival will become available June 25th.

And you know what sounds good every once in a while? A little animal cracker or a popsicle. Something that reminds me of what it’s like to be a little kid. Lianne Bassin’s latest album Breathe In does just that.

_liannecover-thumbnailBassin has a voice that is sugary sweet, much like Kira Wiley with the upbeat personality of Suzi Shelton, and this album is best suited for children in the 2-4 years of age range. It helps young listeners build confidence and gives them strategies to handle big emotions, conflict resolution and living mindfully.

The airy, dreamy track “I Am” reminds us that we’re all connected with nature. There are several songs on the album that would be great lullabye’s for a daycare scenario, like “Peaceful Place.” My favorite song on the album is “Wishing Tree” with its lovely accumulation of lilting voices.

Lianne Bassin’s Breath In is available on iTunesAmazon and her Bandcamp page.

However, if a hard-core treat is what you’re after, than look no further because Recess Monkeys Hot Air is a tasty one. Like the glorious chocolate cake with hidden motlen ganache inside that you see on the menu and decide to skip an appetizer so you can savor every bite of it.

RECESS MONKEY HOT AIR.72The highly anticipated 12th studio album from Recess Monkey gets released today with a two-disc package. One disc is comprised of 14 original songs, and a DVD that incorporates these tracks into an animated story. The concept album that focuses on themes like flight and the courage to face the unfamiliar. Recess Monkey once again brings their A Game with smart lyrics and even smarter composition.

Some of my favorite tracks on the album include the Ben Folds-ish quality of “Lighter Than Air”, the dreamy “Head in the Clouds” and what is sure to be a crowd favorite, “Oh Lando” with it’s awesome baseline.

Recess Monkey knows how to get your toes tapping, and it especially shows in songs like “Penguinese” (which celebrates the uniqueness of someone who is different and new) and the funky “Hand Me Downs” and the rockin’ “Thunder and Lightning.” The band has a soft side too, demonstrated on tracks like “My Balloon” (about the all-too-familiar tale of losing your grip) and the sweet call and response of “Carry a Tune.”

Hot Air from Recess Monkey is available on iTunes, Amazon and their marketsquare website.

SSoftly_560x358_boiteAnd if that wasn’t enough, what better way to cap off a hearty meal of music than with a night cap? Last month The Secret Mountain released Sleep Softly: Classical Lullabies by Grahms, Schubert, Satie, Debussy… and it’s the perfect end to your day. Performed by L’Ensemble Agora, these 16 tracks are like a cozy cup of chamomile tea after a perfect dinner.

The CD comes with a beautifully illustrated book that gives information about each song and its composer, facts about composition, orchestration and instrumentation. Some of the tracks on the album are familiar melodies (like Johannes Brahms “Wiegenlied (Lullaby)”), some of them are not quite as familiar (“Feuillet d’album (Album Leaf)”, but all of them are gorgeous. It’s the perfect accompaniment to ride off to sleep with. I’m partial to Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1” and Franz Shubert’s “Ständchen (Serenade),” but there are many lovely lullabies included in this album.

The Secret Mountain’s Sleep Softly: Classical Lullabies by Grahms, Schubert, Satie, Debussy… is available on Amazon.

There you have it, some new family music to sink your teeth in to. Is it as good as a vat of queso and tortilla chips, chased by a delicious margarita and finished with a giant bowl of ice cream? Good God no. But these new releases come awfully close.

Disclosures: I was provided a copy of these products for review purposes. All opinions are 100% completely my own. Full Of It is a participant in the iTunes Affiliate Program. If you click on some of the product links above, I will receive a small commission which in turn helps run this site. Don’t fear, I only recommend tunes that I think you’ll love!

My Solution For Indecision

Decision making is not in my wheelhouse. I will hem and haw over the simplest of choices for what feels like years. The title of this post? Yeah, I grappled with that for hours.

Get my husband in on the mix, and something as simple as what restaurant to eat dinner at becomes several rounds of “I don’t know, what do YOU want?”

I don’t know what makes me so indecisive. Perhaps it’s the fear of making the wrong choice. Or it could be that I like all of the choices laid out in front of me that I can’t just pick one.

And if the price tag or consequences of my choice is greater? My indecisiveness reaches a fever pitch of spreadsheets and pros and cons lists.

My Solution For Indecision

Recently my husband and I booked a family vacation for the summer. Several calls with travel agents narrowed down our choices to two all-inclusive resorts that, on paper, looked pretty much identical.

I could have picked either one and we’d probably have a great time, right? Except, I stressed out over each choice, second guessing myself every time I narrowed down a reservation. The internet doesn’t make this kind of decision any easier, providing reviews that run the gamut from “This is the best resort ever!” to “There is no amount of alcohol that can make this resort a great place to stay!”

So when I had to title a dance piece I’d been working on all semester, I went in to a total panic.

What if this title says the wrong thing? What if it’s too cheesy? What if it sucks so bad the audience won’t even bother coming back from intermission to watch it?

One of the dancers suggested I create a Doodle survey to get their advice. And it was the best thing I’ve ever done.

If you’ve never used Doodle, you need to. I think the Doodle website’s primary function is to make scheduling meeting times with large groups of people easier. But there’s this fancy polling option that I’m now in love with.

I had about eight choices, threw them in the poll, sent them all emails, and within an hour, I had crowd sourced my title selection. How freakin’ easy was that?

And now? Yeah, I plan on Doodle polling every decision I need to make from now on.

Imagine the possibilities!

When I can’t decide what should I cook for dinner? Doodle that, yo!

Not sure if I should wear this black dress or pants and a shirt? Poll, baby poll.

Undecided as to whether I should start binge watching Scandal, The Walking Dead or The Last Man Standing? DooooooooOOOOODLE!

I mean, I could NEVER have to make a decision by myself again!

Of course, this wouldn’t work for major life decisions. Doodle polling a house or how many kids you should have sounds like a recipe for disaster. Or a new Fox reality show. I’m not sure which one yet.

But if it means I don’t have to hem and haw over decisions that cause my head to hurt, I’m all in.

I think. Maybe I am. I don’t know yet. Let me send you a Doodle poll link.