Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012: Music

Welp, it’s Music Day on our “PTA Recap of 2012 Tour.” Thus far you’ve enjoyed movies, TV, Tech/App…but today is the day you have been waiting for. Today is the day we unveil just how hip/retro/nerdy/high-school-girl/trendy/sophomoric/savvy we are when it comes to music. (Are you nervous? I am, a little bit.)

I’ll start.

For me, the best song to come out of 2012 was Ho Hey, The Lumineers. American Folk Rock band out of Denver that debuted in April. Here is the best endorsement I can give this song: Our family generally roadtrips at night. And when it’s late, and everyone is asleep, I put on the ol’ iPod and a selection of raucous tunes that I love and have personally selected keeps me company. This has gone on for years and years, yet, for the first time ever, just on our last trip, Katie rolled over from her passenger-seat nap, tapped my shoulder with a smile, and said, “I can hear you singing that out loud while you listen to it. I’ve never heard you do that before.” (I don’t generally sing in front of anybody. I am horrible at it. But I couldn’t help it while listening to Ho Hey.)

My Guilty Pleasure: What Makes You Beautiful, One Direction. I was chaperoning a youth dance in May when this song came on and the place went berserk. The energy and enthusiasm of youth just exploded all over the room. I hadn’t previously heard it, but I’ll admit it, it made me a bit nostalgic for dances I went to as a teenager. I was completely caught up in watching youth that I already loved (including a few of my own children) jump up and down together, singing in unison to this little ditty. Now it always makes me smile.

What’s that? You want to hear what Josh has selected? Very well.

Best: Mumford and Sons, Babel - This could either be about the album Babel or the song of the same name. It’s probably a little cliché, but I love the twangy, alt-country, moustache wearing hipness of Mumford and Sons. I want to listen to their music all day AND dress like them.

Gulity Pleasure: Somebody that I Used to Know by Gotye. Do we still say a song is “overplayed?” I guess, this song became pretty ubiquitous this summer, but I don’t really listen to the radio anymore, so I pretty much only hear the songs I want to hear and I wanted to hear this one a lot. I heard this song first when Gotye was on SNL and immediately went and downloaded it and then listened to it on repeat 1 trillion times.

You want more, loyal reader? Oh, you are insatiable. Here is from our very own Brett, who, when it comes to music, claims he is not “with-it” like he was in college. Well, Brett is in good company, as all of PTA is on that bus now.

Best - Gossamer, Passion Pit. I select my favorite music these days by the number of plays it gets through the year. I wore this one out. I think I listened to only this for a month straight. It's so happy, complex, full, and foot stompingly good.

Guilty Pleasure - "Call Me Maybe" Carly Rae Jepsen. I don't know how I even know this one. Yes, I do. I have an eight year old girl who knows it by heart and sang it over and over. You'd think that I'd hate it but I actually love that she loves it and that is why it's a guilty pleasure.

Chris chimes in with his picks as well.

BEST: My favorite album of the year was Barton Hollow, by the Civil Wars. Who knew I could get all country with my Civil Wars listening and Nashville watching? But I did. I ALSO LOVED: El Camino, by the Black Keys. Fear Fun, by Father John Misty. Suicide Pact, by JJAMZ. Release Me, by The Like. Happy to You, by Miike Snow.

GUILTY TUNES I BOUGHT and secretly listened to a lot in my car:
Somebody That I Used to Know, by Walk Off the Earth
Hang With Me, by Robyn
Tekitoi, by Rachid Taha
Super Bass, by Nicki Minj
Meddle, by Little Boots
Wide Awake, by Katy Perry
Brokenhearted, by Karmin
Ta douleur, by Camille

 But I’ll deny knowing any of those songs!

Patrick's Best:

Hold On, by Alabama Shakes. So so SO so SO good... serious, go find it and listen.  Heads up, that's a lady singing.

Guilty Pleasure:  Myself, singing songs I wrote.  This year I wrote a song called 'Christmas Eve Lullaby', I love it and I listen to it all the time.  I also wrote songs called, "I Will Love." and "Call Me Maybe" but you will never hear them.

And what about you, loyal and charming and EAGER  TO COMMENT reader? What were your musical selections this year?


Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of 2012: Tech/Apps

At PTA, not only do we watch a lot of movies and TV, listen to a lot a music, and read a lot of books, but we also like finding new ways of getting that into our faces faster. That's where tech/apps come in. It's the most broad category. Some of us listed gadgets, some listed apps, some listed software. That's the fun of the category. Almost anything goes.

And as Josh said yesterday and Chris the day before, we love and welcome your comments. We want to know what you like and what you don't. That's important (so we can judge you). This will be the last call for comments, I promise, unless Ken and Patrick do it.

Brett's Picks

Best: iPad Mini. I am a borderline Apple fanboy. This is going to sound lame but the 7" screen is perfect, the weight of it is feather-like, and it does everything I need it to do to a point that I almost feel like I won't buy a regular iPad again (as long as I also have a laptop).

Guilty Pleasure: Wii U. We've had a Wii and we've never really played it much together, as a family. Since we've had the U, we've had so much fun playing little silly games and laughing our heads off together. We still love board games, I should add, but a Wii U is better than Monopoly ... we've never been able to get through that game without me getting cranky.

Runners Up - Best App: Evernote. I have it on my phone, my tablets, and my laptop, and, no matter where I go I can take notes, pictures, etc., and sync them across all devices. Guilty Pleasure App: Bloons TD 5. Bloons is a game that will consume you, create hate, and deliver joy in the space of a few hours. Do not get it.

Ken's Picks

Best: Dropbox. I am not super App-savvy. I will freely admit it. But I enjoy the luxury of moving large files around and having them on-hand – and doing it for free.

Guilty Pleasure: Shazam. I love using this whenever I hear songs in restaurants, in movies or TV shows, etc. and – boom – I suddenly know who sings it so I can download it later. (I used to be so musically knowledgeable. And now I’m not. And that is what I feel guilty about!)

Josh's Picks

Best: Instagram. If there is an app I use every day, it’s Instagram. And if you think it is merely a way to apply old-timey filters to photos, then your missing the point. Sure, the filters are fun and occasionally turn a good photo into something that seems artistic. But the funnest part about Instagram is to follow other people and see the photos they are taking. I follow a lot of friends and family and a lot of people that I don’t even know. And there is something fun and satisfying about getting glimpses into what’s going on in their life through these snapshots. Yes, it can be ridiculous (did you the see the awesome Instagram parody video? Warning: adult language!!) but I’m kind of obsessed. Follow me! I’m Jooshanoosh

Guilty Pleasure: HeroAcademy. I wish this game was at least intellectual or something. But it’s not. It is a little cartoony turn based battle game (you do your 5 moves and then send your turn to your opponent. You get a notification when they have done their turn.) I have wasted countless hours with my youngest son going back and forth. It’s not rocket science, but its kind of delightful.

Patrick's Picks

Best: Garage Band. Really, I know it's comes free with your mac, but honestly I have this little writing group and the three of us all ended up with Garage Band and we have so far written three brilliant and turbulent show stopping shows using this program. I'm sure there fancier programs but for my needs, I love it every time.

Guilty Pleasure: Hulu. But I have to take a moment to write my guilty pleasure a note:  Dear Hulu, if you are just going to show me the same set of commercials that whole episode of Nashville, then just get them all over with at the beginning, Oh, how I love Louis Vuitton who just gives me one 2 minute sexy video before New Girl starts and then, like a classy commercial should, picks up the tab for the rest of my advertising.  And every time the show I'm watching skips a set of commercials because Louis has them taken care of, I think, "I should buy myself a $600 purse."

And so the system works.  Thanks Hulu though for all you do. Love, Patrick. P.S. Josh wants you to stop showing commercials on Hulu Plus, because he's paying you already and that should be enough for you. Stay Cool!

Chris' Picks

Best: Samsung Galaxy 3. It's not an iPhone, I know. But I'm locked into my plan! What can I do? It's a Droid and I won't apologize for it. It's beautiful and it's smooth. And I love it and carry it around in my pocket and cry when we're apart. But I never call anyone on it! I've made about six phone calls. Isn't that weird? I use my phone all day long and it's never for calling people. We live in the future, and it's eerily silent. I'm OK with that.

Runners Up:
Instagram. For making your life look awesome and hipster HEFE
Life Reminders. To remind you to do things all day long
Amazon Kindle. Reading on the run!
Flixster. Movie reviews, locations, dates, and showtimes in a jiffy
Netflix. getting better all the time
UDOT Traffic and KSL Weather. two local faves, one that tells me where the snow is and another that tells me why the traffic's not moving.

Guilty Pleasure: LDS Tools. it tells you how old everyone in your ward is

There it is. What do tech or apps do you love? What did we miss?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best of 2012: TV

Everyone at PTA is a bit of a TV Junkie, some more than others. I am a bit obsessed. When the Entertainment Weekly Fall TV preview comes out, I literally get highlighters and use a spreadsheet to plot out which shows we will DVR (Parenthood, Top Chef) , which we will catch up watch online (The Glee Project) and which we will wait for on Netflix (Breaking Bad, Revolution.) So me picking a favorite TV show is tricky, because I love so many different shows for different reasons.

And as Chris said yesterday, we love and welcome your comments. They validate us, let us know what you like and what you don't and help us know that we aren't just sending these posts out into the void. I promise that we won't keep begging for comments every day (let's be honest, its a little pathetic and needy seeming.) but don't be shy. Weigh in.

I struggle to recommend my favorite show, because I know it is definitely not for everyone, but when I think about which sow I would immediately watch when it appeared on my DVR, it was The Walking Dead. It's not for everyone: incredibly violent, pretty gross and incredibly violent. But it makes me sit up in my seat in shock. The end of season 2, which aired at the beginning of 2012, had two moments that were totally unexpected and made me gasp out loud.  No one seems safe on this show - good guys die regularly and if they live they often do things that make you question how good they are.

Guilty Pleasure: Happy Ending I don't know anyone else who watches this show. Its a wacky comedy about 6 friends and is definitely played in a zany style. No one really talks that way, I know. But it consistently makes me giggle.

Ken's picks:

Best: Parks & Recreation. Why? Ron Swanson and Andy Dwyer. And Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle. And a splash of Rob Lowe.

Guilty Pleasure: I am realizing I don’t watch that much TV. Maybe that’s what I should feel guilty about! And I want to apologize to….I guess whoever is offended by that. I have been catching up quite a bit lately on Psyche episodes. I’ll say I feel guilty I was ever so far, far behind on those.

Patrick's picks:

Best:  The Mindy Project. I die.  She gets to write her own ticket and on her own ticket Mindy Kaling writes herself as a valley girl OBGYN...come on, it practically writes its self.  This opening scene where she wakes up her boyfriend while wearing his shirt, she's super cute and they both think it's super cute, then he accidentally puts on her pants and she is horrified, he tries to recover by saying, "This is what we're doing, you wear my shirt and I wear your pants." To which she responds, "What I am wearing is adorable, what you're wearing is an ad for Lap Band Surgery!"--forever made me a fan...of the show and it's beautifully witty writer.

Runners up: Happy Endings (Every week, Josh...every week), The New Girl, and Shaun the Sheep (go find think it's for kids but you will laugh every episode...every single one.)

Guilty Pleasure: Nashville. I die. First off Connie...WHAT?! She beguiles and she can't even really sing...though they let her.  The music is good, like go download after the episode good, and I'm super in to Hayden Panettiere's super mean Taylor Swift! I didn't think I would like her and turns out...she's good, they all are and you are missing something if you are thinking, "Who needs a Country version of Glee?" It's's better!

Brett's picks:

Best: Sherlock. I love this show so much that I get angry every year when it's only three episodes. Three brilliant two hour episodes that will make you laugh, cry, and poop.

Guilty Pleasure: American Horror Story: Asylum. This stupid scary show. I really love it and I feel horrible because I'm sure it does nothing for my spiritual well-being but stomp on its face.

Topher's picks:

Best: My favorite show of the year is New Girl. Nothing makes me laugh like it does, and no show has the caliber of across-the-board casting that it has. I love every character, and they all make me laugh. I know I’m supposed to hate Zooey Deschanel, but I can’t. I still think she’s funny. I also loved Parks and Rec and 30 Rock, but I always have and probably always will. Even though 30 Rock is ending.

But judging a comedy with a drama is also like apples and oranges. I loved some good dramas this year: Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and my current favorite: Nashville.

Guilty Pleasure: Portlandia. This show is silly and quirky and ridiculous, but it’s also kind of genius. How Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein can come up with that many eccentric characters is beyond me. And when I visited Portland in September and actually ran into just about all of these characters? Amazing. PUT A BIRD ON IT!!!

So there you have it. What do you agree with? What did we miss? Please let us know in the comments! Don't be shy!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 in review: movies

Josh hasn't told you this yet, but each one of us is taking a day to recap the past year in various forms of entertainment. So we here at PTA are going to talk books, music, apps, and, in my case, movies. We hope you enjoy it. We hope that you agree and post millions of comments! But sadly you won't. Because we get a ton of hits and no comments, and it hurts our self esteem. (Could this be our New Year's Resolution? Maybe we should spend a little less time with our families this year and a little more time writing awesome comments to PTA? Why not? Auld Lang Syne.)

Well. What a year in movies it wasn't! Nothing blew me away, and usually something blows me away. Bear in mind I haven't seen Les Mis, Django Unchained, or Zero Dark Thirty and I bet they will all blow me away and I will regret being so dismissive in this post. But up until now? Kinda dumb year, Hollywood.

But if I were to narrow it down to my favorites, I would offer the following poem:

Anna Karenina was beautiful
The Hobbit was dutiful
Lincoln was historical
The Master: metaphorical
Moonrise Kingdom: cute and sweet
Argo: an exciting feat
21 Jump Street was dirty and funny
Life of Pi's visuals were pretty dang stunning

But if it came to guilty pleasures, was there anything greater than The Avengers and Skyfall?? I saw them both twice. Twice, you say? How decadent!

I could also make a special poem about the movies I didn't like, but that seems hateful and I'm full of love. But I'm giving you the stink eye, Hunger Games, Battleship, and Cloud Atlas!

How did my fellow PTA members feel? Let's ask!

This is from JOSH:

BEST: Perks of Being a Wallflower - This may seem like an odd choice for best movie of the year. It was pretty small, I don’t think it made a lot of money and I doubt it is being considered for any awards, but I loved it. It seemed to get that feeling of being an outsider in high school (and weren’t we all) and what it feels like to finally find your people. Logan Lerman is pretty fantastic as Charlie, the main character, and plays nicely off Ezra Miller, who plays Patrick, his gay best friend.
Guilty Pleasure: Pitch Perfect - any movie with a character named Fat Amy is bound to be on the guilty pleasure list. This movie is silly and unbelievable, but funny and heart warming and has some killer music (even if you are not a fan of a capella groups.)

How about this from KEN:

Best: I haven’t seen it yet, but my guess is Les Miserables. This story of redemption has resonated with me from the first time somebody told it to me, when I was a teenager. It’s probably cliché at this point, but I’ve always found the music powerful and get emotional at the end when they sing the final “Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Out beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?” To love another person is to see the face of God, indeed. I think it looks brilliantly cast. What’s that, you say? I have to pick something I’ve seen? Then I’ll go with Lincoln.
Guilty Pleasure: The Bourne Legacy. I say this is guilty because before I saw it, I consciously objected to the Bourne movies going forward without Matt Damon. But I told myself this would just be a spy movie and I could distance myself emotionally from it being a “Bourne Movie,” and it worked and ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

Here's a few thoughts from PATRICK:
Best: Brave
So admittedly I have not seen a lot of movies this year...I have a new born and a two year old.  So I saw Brave...the thing I loved was a surprise of it being a Mother Daughter movie. You think your are going to get arrows and bears, but really it's a story about one Daughter and one Mother who love each other and can't see why the other one can't see it their way...with arrows and bears.
Guilty Pleasure: Dark Shadows
I know, but what was I gonna do?!  Tim Burton?  Johnny Depp?  Michelle Pfeiff?!  I had to see it.  And I feel guilty for how much I liked it. I'm sure it was mostly because it was like watching old friends do something they thought was real funny and so I thought it was funny...but that they thought it was, not that it really was.  I love those guys, I can't wait to hang out with them again in...Lone Ranger?? (Not Burton) 

Movies I can't wait to see...when my kids have moved out:  Les Miserables, The Hobbit,  Moonrise Kingdom.

And finally, BRETT weighs in:
Best - Argo. I didn't see a more well-crafted, acted, directed movie this year than Argo. You know what's going to happen yet you're gripping the armrest seeing how they'll get there. I hope it wins tons of awards. Runners up: Avengers, because there wasn't a more fun movie all year and Looper, because of the mind blowing.
Guilty pleasure: Cabin in the Woods. This is a guilty pleasure in the sense that I feel guilty I love well-made horror movies so much. It balances the funny with the scary so well. And, it's Joss Whedon. It's so good that it may ruin you for other horror movies forever. Runner up: Ted, because I laughed a lot and I shouldn't have.

What about you, reader? What were your favorite movies this year? Let us know in the comments! (Oh, who am I kidding)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from Part Time Authors

Christmas is love

Christmas is many things to many people — from the eager, materialistic grasping of a child for a present to the deep spiritual thankfulness of the mature heart for the gift of the Savior of the World. If there is one common denominator, perhaps it is this: Love. Christmas is love. Christmas is the time when the bonds of family love transcend distance and inconvenience. It is a time when love of neighbor rises above petty day-to-day irritations, and doors swing open to give and receive expressions of appreciation and affection.

Thomas S. Monson


Friday, December 21, 2012

A Very Traditional Christmas

"Something old, something red, something borrowed, something dead," as Krampus, St. Nicholas' holiday devil, famously said. What that phrase I just made up now means is that holidays are steeped in tradition. For most of us, Christmastime is when we dust off winter traditions we loved as kids and continue to build them within our families and/or we try to create new ones that we hope will catch on.


When I was growing up, my mom and dad tried very hard to make Christmas different from other times of the year. Much of the time we were either lower-middle class or poor but that never seemed to matter. It was magical.

The decorations would go up (some handmade the year or five before), the egg nog and wassail would flow freely, and the kitchen smelled at various times of ham, turkey, spices, rolls, cocoa, sugar cookies, homemade mints, caramels, and pecan logs.

We always had music playing and I remember especially loving Andy Williams, MoTab, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, and John Denver and the Muppets. Each year we'd mark the calendar, much like my contemporary Ken Craig, so as not to miss any stop-motion or traditionally animated holiday special. My favorite? "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

We often went caroling, sledding, and visiting Grandma's house during the holidays and one of my favorite Christmases was when we took boxes of food, blankets, and other supplies and gave them to homeless people.

On Christmas Eve, we were allowed to open one present, not including the less exciting traditional new pajamas gift. In our home, we had 4-7 kids at various times – there was always a baby to play Jesus –  so this night was when my dad would read Luke 2 and Mark something while we dressed in robes and towels to portray the remaining roles of Mary, Joseph, Wise Men, and Shepherds. Christmas Eve at our house always felt calm yet tinged with excitement. We would eat, watch movies or specials, play board games, put ginger bread houses together, and continue working on some 5,000,000 piece puzzle. There was always a puzzle being built. My little brother Jared was the king of puzzles, even at the earliest age. I was good at finding the edges.

Christmas morning, when we were finally allowed to stop pretending we were asleep, my mom would turn on the twinkling lights, put on Bing Crosby, and we'd all line up at the top of the stairs or in the hall according to age, youngest first. My parents were masters of the Ty Pennington reveal, creating suspense, joy, anxiety, and glee with one or two well-timed grins. As we'd enter the main room of the home, screams of delight would fill the home as we'd find the part of the sofa or recliner where our stockings were pinned, marking also where Santa had left each child's gifts. We never tore into our gifts at this point. We always went around in a circle, one gift at a time, so that we could share in the awe of each sibling's haul. Doing this made the morning last and, by the time we were done, the tough choice of which toy to free from its plastic prison faced each of us. We were never poor on Christmas.


Today, I have a wife and two kids. Our time together during the holidays is mostly filled with trying to figure out how we can do as little as possible and get more couch togetherness time. It's what we like to do. We're pretty good at it year round but we do have our traditions too.

We still cook at Christmas (Amelia is fantastic at it) but we don't really do the homemade candy part. We "try" to eat healthy-ish treats (and by that I mean packages of peanut M&Ms). We love egg nog and cocoa time. We often have a "pickin' ham" which, once we've used it for the main dish, we cover in the fridge and pick at it to make sandwiches or ... just eat a drive-by handful.

Amelia and the kids usually decorate the tree after school one day while I'm at work and I think they like it. This year we got our first fresh tree as a family, tied it on the roof, and brought it home without incident. Our home smelled like what I imagine Narnia would smell like – crisp, clean, fresh, piney, and British – for at least a week.

Music is still a big part of Christmas for us, and thankfully, my kids love the John Denver/Muppets album as much as Amelia and I did/do. It might come from our iPhone speaker set via Spotify but it still infuses our home with holiday cheer. "It's a Wonderful Life," "Miracle on 42nd Street," and animated shows we remember to DVR are regularly viewed. We also love to go to the theater to see as many movies as we can during the break, something we could never do as a family when I was young.

We serve others given the opportunity and get wonderful drop in visits from our dear friends and near strangers. We'll take cookies around from time to time as well. We'll build snowmen, have snowball fights, and go sledding from time to time but not every year. I'm ok with it.

On Christmas Eve, the kids open new pajamas and my dad usually drops by with their gifts, watches them open them, and has some cheese and crackers. That night or sometime the next afternoon we get visits from other family in the area. Our home is sort of the gathering place at Christmas.

I always read Luke 2 and Mark something while but we haven't done the role-playing part. The kids simply listen as they cuddle their mother. Christmas Eve at our house is calm yet filled with anticipation. We eat, watch movies or specials, play board games, and work on some 5,000,000,000 piece puzzle. Amelia and the kids are brilliant at puzzles. I am good at finding the edges.

Christmas morning, I turn on the twinkling lights, put on Bing Crosby and we line up the two excited munchkins in the hall. We try to master the Ty Pennington reveal but the truth is I'm just as excited as they are. As we enter the main room of the home, gasps of happy breath escape and fill our home as they find the part of the sofa or chair where the stockings were hung. Our daughter always checks to see if Santa has eaten the milk and cookies and if he's left a thank you note. He always does but he only leaves a few gifts for the kids. (The best ones come labeled "From Mom and Dad.") We never tear into our presents. We go in a circle, one gift at a time, so that we can share in the experience of giving and receiving. Doing this makes the morning last. I never want it to end. I hope our kids feel it too and I hope they find some tradition like these they enjoy enough to try and pass on.

We've been blessed in recent years so money at Christmas hasn't been the issue I imagine it was for my parents. But, I don't think it ever would be. Our love for each other, the Spirit in our home, and our traditions make it feel special to me. We'll never be poor on Christmas.

Happy holidays.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hey, Carol

It seems that people have pretty strong feelings about Christmas Carols. There's the "start listening clandestinely in October and then start playing out loud all month of November and December" (Spoiler: I fall into this camp.) And there is the camp that feels it is a sacrilege to listen to Christmas music before December 21st.

I kinda don't get that camp. I LOVE Christmas Music. I love that it is fun and festive. I love that it can cross all musical genres - it can be classical, choral, jazz, folky, poppy, whatever. So if you don't like Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree and Jingle Bell Rock (and let's be honest: I dare you to find a single person who doesn't think listening to those songs in the equivalent of having a sharpened candy cane stuck in your ear) then you can go for something different. Maybe a little Lower Lights or a little Sufjan Stevens.

I was going to make a list today of the most hated Christmas songs. (Christmas Shoes, Santa Baby and Jingle Bell rock all featured prominently.) But that seemed too easy. And too annoying. Who wants to be reminded of the songs you hate? So I present to you a Christmas playlist of awesome Christmas songs. This is a good hour that should get your through wrapping a big stack of presents or baking a mess of sugar cookies (feel free to drop off said sugar cookies at my house.) And there are 25 of them (See what I did there?)
  1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by James Taylor. I love you, James.
  2. Carol of the Bells by the bird and the bee. This is one of those weird Christmas Songs you hear a lot when you work in retail (this is for sure on the Anthropologie Christmas mix. Amirite, Patrick?) It's a little odd but it has totally grown on me and I love it.
  3. O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Neil Diamond. Nothing says the love of the Savior like Neil Diamond. This is a Christmas classic. Westward leading, indeed.
  4. I Saw Three Ships by The Lower Lights. If you don't have the Lower Lights Christmas Album (or their Hymn Revival albums) do yourself a favor and GO GET IT!! It's one of my favorites. Folky, twangy, amazing. I could have included their whole album on this list, but I was trying to be choosy.
  5. O Come All Ye Faithful by Amy Grant. When I was growing up and CDs were a new thing, my family got the Amy Grant Christmas Album on CD and I think it was the only one we owned for about 7 years, because I swear it was all we listened to. So now no Christmas is complete without Amy. 
  6. In the Bleak Mid-Winter by Shawn Colvin. Remember Shawn? She's not just for Dawson's Creek anymore. This is one of my favorite Christmas Songs. So haunting and gorgeous.
  7. Hark the Herald Angels Sing by the MoTabs. You can't have Christmas without the MoTabs and this is just the kind of song you want. It's Choraltastic and has trumpets and gongs and such. Amazing.
  8. O Little Town of Bethlehem by Sarah McLachlan. Gorgeous.
  9. Mary's Little Boy Child by Harry Connick Jr. I'm not usually a big HCJ listener, but his Christmas albums are kind of awesome and delightful. 
  10. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Brian McKnight. My wife is in love with Brian McKnight, and I am in love with this song. 
  11. The First Noel by David Archuleta. Am I a 13 year old girl, do you ask? Why no. But I unabashedly think that David Archuleta (Elder Archuleta?) has some pipes and rocks out this First Noel. 
  12. Do You Hear What I Hear by Kristin Chenoweth. When I was a kid this was my favorite carol. And who doesn't love Kristin Chenoweth? Remember when she found Leo McGary dead on The West Wing? Anyway. That was a tangent. 
  13. What Child is This? by Josh Groban. Josh Groban was genetically engineered and grown in a test tube in the north pole to sing Christmas carols. 
  14. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Sufjan Stevens. If you are a 30-something hipster, you can only listen to Sufjan Stevens Christmas music. And I have already professed my love of Come Thou Fount before. Maybe not traditionally a Christmas song, but I ask you why not? WHY NOT?!
  15. Angels from the Realms of Glory by Annie Lennox. Oh, Annie. Sing to my soul. This whole album is awesome and weird and amazeballs in only the way Annie Lennox can be. 
  16. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Keyshia Cole. I know nothing about this song or this artist. But it has a kind of 90s R&B feel that is pretty great.
  17. The Christmas Song by Diana Krall. Jazzy.
  18. Baby, It's Cold Outside by Darren Criss and Chris Colfer. Yes, this is from Glee. Yes, I know this song is about date rape. Yes, I know Topher just died and rolled over in his grave that I mentioned Glee on this blog. But don't we all need a little gay love song at Christmas time?
  19. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joni Mitchell. Why didn't Joni Mitchell record a whole album of Christmas music? I think it so suits her voice. And I think technically this song is about the Apocalypse and the end of the world, but it says "Bethlehem" so go with it.
  20. Silent Night by Rhonda Vincent. This is a little bluegrassy Christmas song that I think is lovely.
  21. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by The Civil Wars. Are you as obsessed with the Civil Wars as I am? I am in love.
  22. Ding Dong! Merrily On High by Chanticleer. Don't you need a classical vocal ensemble on your Christmas mix? Thought so.
  23. Happy Christmas by Maroon 5. If you are a baby of the 80s you need this song on your mix. And isn't Maroon 5 the U2 of our generation? (I just offended Ken.) Also, their guitarist is super nice.
  24. Your Holiday Song by the Indigo Girls. It makes me feel happy.
  25. We Three Kings by Rod Stewart, featuring Mary J. Blige. Who know the Stewart/Blige combination could rock my world so? I think pretty much anything featuring Mary J. Blige is going to rock. The DMV, featuring Mary J. Blige? I'm there. Root Canals, featuring Mary J. Blige? I'll take 3. 

And, since I won't post again until after Christmas, let me say thanks to all of you. This blog has been a fun adventure this year. We didn't really know what it would become when we started (and frankly still don't) but we love writing it and appreciate all of you reading it and telling your friends about it and liking posts on Facebook. Have an amaizing Christmas, and play this mix in the background.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

why i missed my deadline

Wednesdays are my day to post in Part Time Authors, but yesterday I totally spaced it. Even after my phone reminded me to do it! Usually Patrick's mom calls to remind me to post (she can't get enough of my posts, you guys!) but I declare she's on vacation.

Another part of the reason why I forgot to post is that I have so much going on! I'm so busy, everyone. I'm the busiest person of all time. You think you're busy? Whoo-boy! You ain't seen nothing! I'm so busy that I barely have any time to write this today. And I'm so busy to even think about how busy I am. I'm just super, super busy. I may not even finish this post. No exaggeration. Christmas - such a busy time! You guys have no idea. Take however busy you are and TRIPLE IT!!!!

Here are some of the things I had to do yesterday:

1. Eat some Candy Cane Joe Joe's
2. Fire a dude
3. Eat this massive Hawaiian food lunch
4. Meet with students and make them cry
5. Hug a stranger
6. Listen to Josh Groban's song from "The Polar Express" and stick scissors in my ears
7. Worry about Tim Tebow's future
8. Parent all my kids (more every day!)
9. Think of others
10. Finish making a quilt for every one of my neighbors (shhhh! Secret Santa!)

So that's it. I shouldn't apologize. It's just that Christmas is upon us! And I barely have time to think of myself! Go, go, go! I'm so busy. So, so busy. Hang on, my phone is ringing and I really need to take this

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


This letter is in response to my colleague's disgusting post yesterday.   


Pull yourself together, of all the delicious things you can stuff in your face at Christmas time, you are going to waste waist space with the glue secreted from overripe boiled eggs?!  I know we are all on the same team here at Part Time Authors, but this is where I draw the line. I mean, you can have your intensive Shark posts and your Vinyl Apostasy posts and I have to support you, but this mug of puss you dashed with cinnamon that you have me looking at first thing this morning has ruined my day...and my life. 


Wikipedia: The origins, etymology, and the ingredients used to make the original eggnog drink are debated. Eggnog may have originated in East AngliaEngland; or it may have simply developed from posset, a medieval European beverage made with hot milk.[1] The "nog" part of its name may stem from the word noggin, a Middle English term for a small, carved wooden mug used to serve alcohol.[1]

Don't mind the  numbers in the brackets; they mean nothing here.

Blah, well who cares?!  Every year I see people I know swilling this glop...Wait, no, I don't even have to make up gross words because the people who invented it only could come up with the word 'NOG' to describe it. Is there anything else in the whole wide world called a 'NOG'?!


Oh whatever!  SO there are lots of NOG's... big effing deal.  It still doesn't change the fact that every year I see grown people, with no forcible provocation, under their own decision and control, fill some dumb novelty mug with this flobbergoxing drag and dump it into their own gob with some glee fetched smile all the while knowing they just swallowed toxic funk, whose only reason for existing is to be so potent and putrid that it masks the soiled stinging taste of Rum.  And somehow the baby Jesus got saddled with it.

Well, enjoy your holiday.  While you're at it why not have a nice cup o' fecal juice to wash the taste out of your mouth! At least your father had the sense to verbally set you straight on the matter; however, he was far too soft on you. Were I your father, I would echo Shakespeare when he was talking about the Nog of an Egg:

'How tender 'tis to love the babe that Noggs me:

I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.' *

Take that Wikipedia! What do you have to say for yourself now?!

Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as the "wrongful appropriation," "close imitation," or "purloining and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions," and the representation of them as one's own original work,[1][2] but the notion remains problematic with nebulous boundaries.[3][4][5][6] The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal emerged in Europe only in the 18th century, particularly with the Romantic movement, while in the previous centuries authors and artists were encouraged to "copy the masters as closely as possible" and avoid "unnecessary invention."[7][8][9][10][11][12]

*Don't ask me why your father breast fed you as a baby and why he had eggnog spilling from those's Shakespeare, and therefore proves my point. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Elixir

Say what you will about eggnog, but unless you are saying “It’s delicious,” then you’re wrong. I love this beverage. I love everything about it. Well, not the name (which sounds dangerously dangerous; like you are destined for food poisoning.) But for the love of all things holiday-ish, this elixir is an instant party in your mouth. Your senses are heightened. You can actually smell colors. (P.S. Your senses might be confused as well.) (But you won’t see that warning on the box.) (Because if eggnog were to start putting warnings on their containers they would have to include things like “Warning: You will quickly and gladly sell your children for more eggnog.”) (I like writing inside parentheses.)

Eggnog is not so highly endorsed by all people. In fact, it’s not even endorsed by all of my family. In fact, it’s not even endorsed by all Ken Craigs in my family. Take for example, my father who also goes by Ken Craig, and whose response to eggnog is, “Whoever would drink that stuff would drink their own bath water.”

Touché, Dad.

Fact is, there aren't too many fence sitters with eggnog. People either love it, or they are communist. You don’t see too many folks who say, “I can take it or leave it.” It’s usually, “I can and WILL take it – with both hands, if necessary” or “Get that swill away from me, you filthy beast.”

Well, I adore it. In all its forms – Dreyer’s ice cream, Jack In the Box shakes, pumpkin flavored, and on and on. But my favorite is Southern Comfort’s Vanilla Spice Egg Nog. Oh, hold me. I get the fever for it just talking about it. You must try it. I defy you to not fall in love with it. And for those of you concerned; no, it does not come with Southern Comfort already in it. It’s just pure heavenly non-alcoholic eggnog. You have to add the Southern Comfort yourself. But being the non-drinker that I am, I don’t add any Southern Comfort. I add a cup of my own bath water.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Your Essential Holiday Gift (Card) Guide

My Part Time Authors colleagues have done a smashing job this week of giving you ideas for those special people in your life, i.e. your kids, your women, your readers, and Chris Clark. But what about the rest? What if you've procrastinated until Christmas Eve or you get word that the neighbor you hardly know got you an iPad Mini?

Shhhhhh. Rest easy, friend. I've got you. There, there. I've got you.

Gift cards. Boom.

The perfect gift for when you don't have time, shipping funds, or creativity to spare. Or you don't know what to get your parents and they tell you they love getting them because it's better than another quote book by Neal A. Maxwell.

Still, knowing who to get them for specifically and how much to spend can be a stressful task. Here's what I would do (have done):

Specialty Gift Cards
These are great for someone you care about but they aren't in your immediate family and you only have limited information about their likes and dislikes. If you know your Aunt Eunice loves Kneaders, bingo, a $10 gift card there has you covered. Caution: Make sure you give the person enough on the card to get something without also using their own funds. Don't get your cousin a $10 gift card to J. Crew. They won't be able to get anything.

Prepaid Credit Cards
Prepaid credit cards are good for someone you can't peg. Do they like music? Do they like movies? Do they like groceries? It doesn't matter! They can get whatever they want! On a more serious note, when I was poor and single, I loved getting these because it meant I could get gas in my car and a movie ticket. It's really helpful for those strapped for cash. $25 is good here.

Restaurant Gift Cards 
If your long lost high school friend loves chain restaurants you could get a Cheesecake Factory gift card. For those who are "foodies" you can get them a Cheesecake Factory gift card and then laugh later about how they had to go to that poorly decorated abomination. I kid. People love food and going out and, if you really want to impress, give them a "date night" set of cards that let's them eat and then enjoy a movie or bowling. $25, or enough for two people to eat and give a tip.

Department Store Gift Cards
Great for the more "mature" tastes on your last minute list. Seniors, maybe all of us, love gift cards to Macy's, Nordstrom, or Sears. They can get a scarf, jewelry, make up, shoes, etc. You may need to give more ($50) but at least your mother-in-law can get something they really want. That will make everyone happy.

Amazon Gift Cards
This is what I'd love. If you are a human under the age of 60, you can't go wrong here. Any $.

That's it. So, tell me. What else is there? How have you used gift cards? Do you hate them? Express your feelings in the comments.

Also, this post borrowed a few ideas from a post you can read here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Best Book Gift Ideas

I'm a reader. Always have been. And I love books. And I love nothing more than getting and giving books as gifts. In fact, my family invented a whole holiday around the idea of buying ourselves new books. And I love giving books. I think it takes the anxiety Chris described yesterday out of giving gifts. It's a book you love that you think they will love too. And if they don't, well then it is probably months after the gift giving occasion so you never have to know about it.

So with that said, I present to you my top books to give as gifts this Christmas. These are not necessarily my favorite books (stay tuned for PT Author's year end wrap up the week after Christmas for that!) but are books that I think you could unequivocally give as gifts (or buy for yourself.)

For your dad, who is a bit of a nerd and who once bought you a 6 foot long map of the world of the Book of Mormon to enhance your personal study
Maphead by Ken Jennings Remember Ken Jennings, that Mormon guy who won a bunch of money on jeopardy and became like the best player ever and even played against a computer? Well, turns out he is super funny and wrote a book about maps. Which sounds weird and boring, but is actually fascinating and funny and well written. And your Dad would love it. It's full of lots of odd facts that he can tell you later when he's already talked to you about the weather when you call home. What's that? That's just my dad? Ok.
For your sister who is a nutritionist but who likes dystopian fiction and was super excited when the Hajukari Mini line launched at Target because she loves anything Japanese.
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. This is one of those books that throws you into the deep end and expects you to figure out who everyone is and how this world works. Basically, it takes place in a future earth where the world has been ravaged by climate change and bio-terrorism. In this world where oil wells have run dry Anderson is a calorie man - a corporate employee who must seek out new foods that haven't been destroyed and lost by rampant genetic engineering. I know my description is making this sound like the Steam Punk version of the Weight Watchers handbook, but it isn't. It is gorgeously written and I'm a sucker for a good world-builder, which Bacigalupi certainly is.
For your Aunt who loves to watch CSI but got her major in Medieval Studies from an all girl's liberal arts college.
The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch. Apparently, back in the medieval days of yore, hangmen weren't just executioners. They were also police officers, jailers, interrogators and detectives. And when a drowned boy is pulled from a river with the mark of a witch on him, the hangman has to find the real killer before the town gets wrapped up in Witch Hunting Fever. Also, he has a daughter. Thrilling and well written - it just feels grimy, like a book set in 1659 should.

For your Mom who got a kindle last year and only reads ebooks now and who loves a good science fiction tale and secretly likes when girls kick butt.
Wool by Hugh Howey. This book is newly available in actual paper book form because when I first read it it was only available on Kindle. It's one of those inspiring/depressing stories about someone who wrote a book and then ventured out on their own and published it (this one was published in 5 parts no less) and now has a movie deal and a contract and a writing career. But Howey deserves it. This is a clever science fiction book set in a world where humanity all live inside a giant hanger buried underground because the rest of the world is unsafe to live in. And when people get too restless and antsy for the outside world they are put in a suit and sent out - ostensibly to clean the camera lens that shows the outside world. But no one ever returns from these cleaning trips.
For your recently divorced Uncle who is a foodie and a gourmand and a glutton, but who thinks Sandra Lee is for a knob. 
Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. I, too, got sucked into the food writing world post Kitchen Confidential. And even though there were some great food memoirs, most of them were just garbage interspersed with lame recipes. But this book is different. It is unromantic look at food and an honest memoir about Hamilton's less than perfect life. It's compelling and beautifully written, even if you are not a wannabe chef.

For your goth Nephew who dresses in black and paints his fingernails and keeps telling you how you need to watch Dexter because it is so amazing.
I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells. John Wayne Cleaver is obsessed with serial killers (He also happens to be accidentally named after one and after a knife.) But he works had to seem normal and keep his creepy instincts in check. But then, someone starts killing people in his town. And it seems to be the work of a serial killer. And John has to release the beast inside himself to get into the mind of the killer to stop him before he strikes again. I loved it.
For your best friend who was teased in high school because of that giant mouth piece she wore.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio. August Pullman is severely deformed and has always been home schooled so he doesn't have to deal with the inevitable teasing mainstream school would cause him. But in the 5th Grade, he decides to attend public school where he wants to be treated like a normal kid, but his classmates have a tough time getting past his looks. The story unfolds from the points of view of different characters, so you get to see sides of the story you though you already understood through someone else's eyes. If you have ever been bullied, or felt left out, or bullied someone or did something to fit in, or have a human soul, you should read this book. 

Let's see...yep, I think I covered everyone on your list. And if you are done with your shopping, pick up a couple of these for yourself. No pressure. If you hate them, you don't have to tell me. Any books you are buying as gifts this Christmas? Any books you hope you get? Let me know in the comments. 

Want to keep up with what I am reading and share your recommendations? Follow me on Goodreads.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

a gift for me

I have been charged with sharing Christmas gift ideas this week. It's a little complicated for me, though, because I don't like Christmas gifts all that much.

I'm not sure what it is, but something about getting Christmas presents makes me uncomfortable. I feel weird that someone bought something for me and is desperately hoping I will like it. I always wonder if I showed enough love or appreciation for the present. If it's a toy, did the person see me playing with it for an adequate time? If it's clothes, did the person see me get excited and put it on? Or wear it around hip and awesome places? If it's a book, should I tell the person that I don't love reading fiction? If it's music, should I tell the person I probably already have it? If it's expensive, do I immediately feel the ensuing guilt of realizing that the gift I bought them was a fraction of the cost?

Of course there's also the possibility that the person doesn't really care about the present they bought me. Maybe they drew my name out of a hat or something. When I draw a name out of a hat it's a really last minute present. Last Christmas I gave my sister-in-law Gina a kit to scare off her husband's stalker (true story) and it took some real planning and creativity, but that was a rare effort for me. Most times I buy a few gift cards, go away, and sin no more.

It's not that I hate Christmas. I love Christmas! I just feel a little meh about presents. I would rather give you a special hug and share some hot toddy. I like parties and friends and food. That's what Christmas means to me! Also Mariah Carey songs.

So if you want to give me a gift for Christmas, I would love something cheap and homemade. It would mean everything to me. Don't buy me junk. I don't need it. And what I do need, I'll probably buy myself. Consider the following:

1. Write me a letter and list the things you like about me, with four or five things you would like me to change.

2. Knit me a hat (any color) (but don't put silly things on it like fake eyes or patches)

3. Give me a head massage (30 minutes minimum)

4. Make me a batch of popcorn or a box of donuts

5. Come over to my house and play a special song on your musical instrument while I lay under the Christmas tree.

I think these are all doable. Please consider them. Or something like them. This goes for you too, Lisa. Although you can be a little more "creative" with your presents. I think you know "what I mean." In case you don't, I think I mean something a little more "sexy."

Happy homemade Christmas!!!! And remember, the Baby Jesus never asked for an ipad. And the wise men never gave him one. And all the angels still sang.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

You Want Gift Ideas?!

You've come to the right place.

Alright let's get started.  You got crap you gotta get done and frankly it's December 11th, some people are done will all this, but not you. So let me knock out your perfect gifts and then you can move on to other blogs that are doing nothing to get you ready for the big day...not us...that's why you came here first.

You sort of like them, but the real point is you need to be prepared if they come over and give you something you need something thoughtful and generic.

Boom!  The Monogram Mug, easy you don't even have to know the persons first name, just give them the first letter you see on the mail box.  Or if you really don't know these people, get a "Q", it's a charming letter also, looks adorable filled with Q-tips in the guest bathroom...and you thought this was going to be a funny, not helpful post...wrong again lady.

I do recommend reading yesterdays post by Ken, it's magic.  But if you are over your budget in magic, then might I suggest, a book:

The Little Prince.  It's an amazingly beautiful pop-up book with lots of pictures and words, so if you are looking for your youngest or dumbest child, get them a Monogram Mug...least they'll learn one letter.

You know the one I'm talking about, she's nice but only comes to Sunday dinner like three times a year, and you drew her name and now you're at a loss because you know your brother is waiting to see if you really like her or not.  Easy.

It's one of these vases.  BLAM-O! No, really, that Tiffany Blue Vase with the Coral Chrysanthemum is $28.00 and she will die, it shows you think she has swuper cute taste and that you and her do have one thing in common. It's that vase.

You love her and she is off in DC, still single, and living the sexy life you once had before you married me.  Well, PTA comes through for you here too.

It's this sweater, now you're thinking "A sweater? Really, I mean, it's a cute one, but for my baby sister?"  YES.  She is out there all alone and for some reason is looking rock star sexy, this sweater gives the gift of style mingled with modesty, a little baggy, a little boob snugging, she'll love it and you will have done your part.
You're welcome.

Luckily she's easy, she's been dropping hints since October, but she's right. You knew it before she told you.

Royal Apothic Conservatory Collection Eau De Parfum: Noble Carnation.  For reals I have smelled this stuff and it is intoxicating. Also I have smelled your mom and she thinks she smells like this, but she doesn't, she will love it and so will your dad...gross.


He wants a flat screen.  Nothing funny there.  I wish I could be more help, but you chose him, luckily you only said, " 'till death do you part." That way you can shop around Heaven and find a guy who wants this for Christmas:

A Bamboo Mouse and Keyboard.  But no.  He wants a flat screen.  The one tip I can give you is that he wants it bigger then the one he has, also to find that measurement, use your fabric tape measurer (your grandmothers) and measure diagonally across the screen, just the screen sweetie, then take that number to the guy at Best Buy and tell him the next one up from that, he'll know what to do.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from all of us at PTA! 

*All the afore mentioned gifts can be got at your local Anthropologie...where else.

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