Eurovision 2015 Semi-Final 2: A Werewolf, A Hipster, and An Invisible Violin

Well, friends, the second round of semi-finals for Eurovision is on Thursday and I could not be more excited. Watching the first round on Tuesday was super fun. We’ve never watched the semis before, and while the grand final is obviously the main event, there are some really neat things that happen throughout the week and it was great to get to watch everyone perform, not just the ones who made it to the finals. Most of our favorites made it through on Tuesday, so we’re really anxious to see who makes it tomorrow! Here’s my rundown for those contestants.


Lithuania — This Time — Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila — We really like this song. It’s so fun and cute, and has such great energy! The original preview video was really adorable, too. I like this video less, but I’m hoping that the stage show will be more like the first video. They had so much chemistry that we were pretty convinced they were a real couple, although we can’t find anywhere that says they are. Totes. Adorbs.

Ireland — Playing With Numbers — Molly Sterling — It’s not a bad song, it’s got kind of a nice rhythm and parts of it are pretty singable, but I don’t feel like it was a standout in any way. Just kind of a nice performance, no more or less.

San Marino — Chain of Lights — Anita Simoncini & Michele Perniola — This entry continues San Marino’s love affair with technology. (See their 2012 Eurovision entry, The Social Network Song, by Valentina Monetta.) These kids (and they are kids, they are YOUNG, y’all) are too cute, and this song is way too cheesy, but I can’t help but smile when I watch it. The only part I object to is that mercifully short rap interlude. No, San Marino. Don’t. Just don’t. (Also the credits are really long, like “list everyone in San Marino” long.)

Montenegro — Adio — Knez — Another song that I completely forgot existed. It always feels like it’s building toward a climax and just never gets there. I don’t understand the women in the video. I really dig the singer’s snakeskin jacket and torn jeans look. That’s ridiculous enough to almost work.

Malta — Warrior — Amber — Warrior song #2! The first one made it through to the finals so I think it’ll be interesting to see if this one does, too. This is my favorite of the warrior woman songs — I actually really like the song — but the video is less great than the others. Amber makes some weird faces when she and the camera are on that tracking dolly. It’s…odd.

Norway — A Monster Like Me — Mørland & Debrah Scarlett — What a confusing and ultimately disappointing video! The song is weird, and the video is even more so. They’re hosting a dinner party? And they maybe poison everyone but with a crazy drug or something? And the chick looks like Ginny Weasley? Usually Norway is one of our favorites but we just aren’t sure what to do with them this year. It’s so strange that…I kind of love it now. But boy is it strange.

Portugal — Há um Mar que nos Separa — Leonor Andrade — This chick thinks the song is way more hardcore rock than it is. It’s a pretty standard easy listening song but she is rocking the HOUSE in her mind. I love her whole look, her whole thing is awesome, but she deserves a much better song for as much passion as she is giving it.

Czech Republic — Hope Never Dies — Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta — My favorite part of this video is when they put the key words on the screen in a burning font. That just cracks me right up. The song itself is pretty good, though, and I do love a duet in Eurovision.

Israel — Golden Boy — Nadav Guedj — I know my husband disagrees with me, but I really enjoy this song. I like the sound, I like the beat, and I really like jamming to it while I’m cooking dinner. It is fun to dance to! As long as the stage show is solid I feel pretty positive about this dude getting into the finals, and I’ll be pretty happy about that.

Latvia — Love Injected — Aminata — This one wins my vote for the absolute craziest song of this year’s show. The style changes so abruptly it kind of gives me whiplash. The original preview video was just her standing there singing, and while I loved her look a whole ton, it made the song seem even more disjointed. The new preview video actually helps with that a little, but still. I am not sure what to do with this crazy thing.

Azerbaijan — Hour of the Wolf — Elnur Huseynov — In my mind I have decided that, because of the title, this song is about the guy waiting to find out if he’s been turned into a werewolf. The video has nothing to do with that — it’s just the guy in an apartment where he is alternately having and not having a party — but I like my head cannon better. I do really enjoy this song, werewolf or no. It has good drama and I find myself singing the chorus pretty frequently.

Iceland — Unbroken — Maria Olafs — My husband likes to say that this is pretty much the same song as “Hour of the Wolf” and it really comes down to whether you prefer a girl or a guy singing it. He’s not wrong. While this is a perfectly fine song I don’t have a fun werewolf-related head cannon for it so I prefer Azerbaijan.

Sweden — Heroes — Måns Zelmerlöw — This one is getting really good press and seems to be a front runner for ultimate winner. I don’t really get it myself. It’s a good song, but I wouldn’t put it ahead of some of the others (SERBIA) and while it’s probably in the top half, it’s pretty solidly in the middle of my top.

Switzerland — Time to Shine — Mélanie René — I have no feelings about this song one way or another. If you played this (no video, just the song) next to Iceland’s entry I’m not sure I could tell the difference?

Cyprus — One Thing I Should Have Done — John Karayiannis — This guy! This guy is so hipster! And this song is so hipster! And it makes me laugh because it’s all so hipster! Look, he’s in black and white while the background is in color! Ahahahaha! ❤

Slovenia — Here For You — Maraaya — I don’t understand why she’s naked in the beginning, or what’s up with the ice bath thing, but I do really love this song. SO catchy, very singable, good energy. Also I love the techno invisible violin thing, that’s pretty sweet.

Poland — In the Name of Love — Monika Kuszyńska — I’m not a huge fan of the song but I found the story of the video really interesting. Look up Monika Kuszyńska, her story is pretty fascinating, and I think it’s really cool they way they presented that in the video. I feel like the song is pretty boring right now but that I’ll warm up to it after playing the album in the car a few times.

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Eurovision 2015 Semi-Final 1: Techno Elves, Punk, and A Body Positive Ballad

YOU GUYS Eurovision is happening again on SATURDAY and I am SO EXCITED!!

As with many cool/weird things in my life, I have my sister Amanda to thank for introducing me to the wonder, the beauty, the magnificent madness that is the Eurovision Song Contest. We love every bit of it, every bearded woman and gout of fire and tricycle-riding fairy and whatever. All of it is gold.

This year we seem to have a particularly good batch of contestants. More than most years, my husband and I have been pulling up the videos on YouTube and listening (and listening and listening and listening) for weeks now. The songs have been getting stuck in our heads. We even made brackets! (For the record, Serbia was the bracket winner for both of us.)

The first round of semi-finals is broadcasting tomorrow, and it’s indicative of how much we love this thing that we’ve arranged our day so that we can drop everything at 3:30 and watch. (The longest break I plan to take is heating up leftovers for dinner.)

Here’s my take on the folks who will be competing tomorrow, based on their preview videos (and the fact that I’ve listened to their songs SO MANY TIMES in the last few weeks.)

(Links to the videos are in their titles because if you haven’t watched the videos yet, you really really should.)


Moldova — I Want Your Love — Eduard Romanyuta — The music is sort of catchy in a typical on the radio way. I’ll jam to it, I probably won’t skip it when it comes on in the future, I won’t search it out intentionally. I don’t dig the video very much, and the singer looks like he’s 12. I’m not sure how this is going to translate into a stage show.

Armenia — Face the Shadow — Genealogy — What a great song. It has this wonderful drama to it, even discounting the history that it is clearly invoking. I fully expect this to do very well. I really like how many people get involved (I tend to like groups over soloists) even though — or perhaps because? — in the video it seemed like singers just kept coming out of the woodwork.

Belgium — Rhythm Inside — Loïc Nottet — I did not love this song at first but let me tell you, it has gotten stuck in my head maybe the most of all of the songs. I will find myself “rap-ap-ap”ing at random moments just because I can’t make it go away, in a good way. I don’t understand the video — Why is he wet? Why is everyone covered with red paint? What is going on? — but I have come around to enjoying the song.

The Netherlands — Walk Along — Trijntje Oosterhuis — Singable, but not outstanding. I won’t skip it when it comes on, but I may get distracted while it’s playing. A good, solid entry but I don’t expect a win here.

Finland — Aina Mun Pitää — Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät — Haha, I love these guys. Punk isn’t my favorite style but they do a solid job with the song and are clearly having fun. I love that they’re straight up bringing the punk to Eurovision, and I feel certain they are going to have the time of their lives.

Greece — One Last Breath — Maria-Elena Kyriakou — I have already forgotten that this song is part of the lineup. It has some sort of spell on it, I think, where I remember that it is a thing for the three minutes while it’s playing and then as soon as it’s over I’ve forgotten it again.

Estonia — Goodbye to Yesterday — Elina Born & Stig Rästa — I dig this song a lot. It’s got a catchy beat to it, sort of a retro feel that makes me happy. If we listen to it long enough to learn the lyrics I suspect Hubband and I will pause talking in the car to sing along with it. I think these guys have a good chance of taking it, and I would be fine with that. I hope they have an interesting stage show, though.

F.Y.R. Macedonia — Autumn Leaves — Daniel Kajmakoski — Good song! I like the illustration preview video, although I’m not sure how that would work for a stage show or if they’d even try it. Still, it’s a really solid song, very singable. This is another one where I’d be fine with it taking it all.

Serbia — Beauty Never Lies — Bojana Stamenov — This was the winner of our brackets. I adore this video, with all the fans singing along: so fun! It’s a great power ballad, super easy to sing along to, and Bojana is just lovely. I don’t think it’s going to win, which makes me a little sad, but she makes a great showing and I will sing this song forever, haha.

Hungary — Wars for Nothing — Boggie — I like the song way better than I like the video. The super long intro and the hipster flash mob setup turned me off at first. The song minus the video, though, is fantastic. It’s a protest song, basically, and is a beautiful one.

Belarus — Time — Uzari & Maimuna — This is the opposite: I like the video way better than the song. The song is kind of meh, not terrible but not great. But the video! There’s a girl with a fiddle stuck in an hourglass! The singer is some sort of techno elf! There’s a snake! What’s not to love here?? THIS is what Eurovision is all about — a kind of mediocre song with a freaking insane show.

Russia — A Million Voices — Polina Gagarina — I really like this song. Last year Russia got booed: I wonder if that will happen again this year. I feel bad for the singer if so: it’s not her fault that the leaders of her country are crazy! Anyway, it’s a good song and a cute video.

Denmark — The Way You Are — Anti Social Media — Throwback band, haha. Super catchy, very “That Thing You Do”. What a fun, upbeat song. Our favorite part of the video was the guy playing guitar dressed like a greaser. Everyone else is standing in place like a good old-fashioned band and that guy just wanders all over the stage. It’s great.

Albania — I’m Alive — Elhaida Dani — I feel like this song and video will have more impact for other people. It just doesn’t resonate with me. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just don’t love it.

Romania — De la capăt / All Over Again — Voltaj — The sads!!! 😦 But it is a good song, really. I love the mixed languages, and the music is just lovely.

Georgia — Warrior — Nina Sublatti — This is the first (of several) songs about warrior women. This one isn’t my favorite song of that group, but it is my favorite music video. These chicks are awesome. I would watch a buddy movie with every single one of these amazing warrior women in it.

Exciting Things

Two exciting things today!

1) I haven’t mentioned it on here, but I’m one of the hosts of a project called The Ration Project. My family and another family are living off of World War II rations for a year and we’re podcasting and blogging our experience. It’s been very fun and very interesting so far. Today the podcast was featured at the top of iTunes’ New and Noteworthy podcasts in the History and Fitness & Nutrition categories. That was super super exciting to see! We know it’s all because of our loyal listeners so THANK YOU if you have subscribed, rated and reviewed. If you haven’t tried us out yet you can find us on iTunes or on Libsyn. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and of course our blog.

2) Rhonda Parrish just revealed the cover for her upcoming anthology B is for Broken. It looks AMAZING and the anthology has some amazing authors attached, so I’m really excited for it to be released at the end of May.  You should definitely go check it out.

C is for Chimera

Chimera_Apulia_Louvre_K362

I’m very pleased to announce that I will be contributing to the upcoming anthology C is for Chimera. It’s the next in the Alphabet Anthology series by the excellent Rhonda Parrish. Here’s her post about the anthology, including other contributors and some fun alternate definitions for “chimera”.

If you’re interested to see how this sort of thing works, you can also check out the first two in the series: A is for Apocalypse and the upcoming B is for Broken.

(Guess I’d better get writing! 😉 )

Cleveland ConCoction 2015 Schedule

This weekend is Cleveland ConCoction, and I’m super excited. There are so many awesome things to do! Just take a look at the programming schedule!

If you’re interested in catching any of my panels and events, here are the main things I’ll be doing.
Friday, March 13

1:00pm — Let’s Get Together: Collaborative Writing panel

3:00pm — Twisted Fairy Tales panel

6:00pm — Author Showcase Session 1

7:00pm — Autographing Session 1

Saturday, March 14

9:00am — I Wrote A Short Story — Now What? panel

8:00pm — Shaping the Short Story

I’ll also be wandering around with my sister Amanda so if you want a double-signed copy of Wolves and Witches this will be a great opportunity to snag one. 🙂

Let me know if I’ll see you there!

FFT [poem]: There Are No Trees on Alpha Centauri

For today’s Free Fiction Thursday I’m sharing a poem that makes my sister cry.

I don’t do a ton of science fiction — science and math aren’t my strong suits, and although I love to watch sci-fi I’m not so much a fan of reading a lot of it. Still, every now and then an idea strikes me and I go with it although, true to form, I tend to focus less on the space and more on the emotion.

I fully expect we’ll have colonies on other planets in the distant future, and I would go if the planet were dying, but it would take something that dramatic for me to leave my Earth, my place — my home.


There Are No Trees on Alpha Centuari

It’s only a planet! the ads read,
as if we would be foolish for mourning it.
Who grieves for dirt?
And yes, it is dying.
And yes, we must leave.
We must look to the stars to live.
I know that.
But this land is in my blood.

Those are the trees they planted
when we were born.
Five generations have lived in this house.
My family has haunted these woods
since a time before rockets
and colonies
and smiling women in cheerful ads telling us to leave.

That is my uncle’s car
rusting away among the trees.
My grandfather built that clock.
My mother canned those peaches.
My sister pushed me down those stairs once,
and every Christmas morning my brother sat at the top,
waiting for us to wake up.

Even if I could pack them up
and take them on the ship
—  the bell that rang at our wedding,
the garden my parents built  —
they would not be the same.

This is not only a planet.
This is who I am.
This is my grandmother’s doily
over my great aunt’s sewing machine
in the extra room my father built
when I was three years old.

I will ride the rockets
and leave my place behind.

But when, in the moonlights of the colony,
I look towards the small star of Earth,
I will not see only a planet.
I will see three tall trees
and my grandparents’ grave by the church
and the hill in the backyard
that we called the End of the World.

I will see the light of our dying sun
peeking in the windows
shining on dusty picture frames
of memories the rockets left behind.


“There Are No Trees on Alpha Centauri” was first published by Silver Blade.

Magpies and Me

The excellent Rhonda Parrish just announced the proposed table of contents for the upcoming Corvidae anthology and look at these awesome people!

A Murder of Crows by Jane Yolen
Whistles and Trills by Kat Otis
The Valravn by Megan Fennell
A Mischief of Seven by Leslie Van Zwol
Visiting Hours by Michael S. Pack
The Rookery of Sainte-Mere Eglise by Tim Deal
The Cruelest Team Will Win by Mike Allen
What Is Owed by C.S.E. Cooney
Raven No More by Adria Laycraft
The Tell-Tale Heart of Existence by Michael M. Rader
Sanctuary by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Knife Collection, Blood Museum, Birds (Scarecrow Remix) by Sara Puls
Flying the Coop by M. L. D. Curelas
Postcards from the Abyss by Jane Yolen
Bazyli Conjures a Blackbird by Mark Rapacz
Seven for a Secret by Megan Engelhardt
Flight by Angela Slatter

Hey, that’s me! 😀

I’m pretty excited about this story. It features Zinnia and Harris, two best friends who hunt monsters — pardon me, who discover mysterious creatures that they may or may not have to dispose of. I love this duo and have several more of their adventures waiting in the wings, but this will be their first appearance and I couldn’t be more pleased to have it be in what is shaping up to be a fantastic anthology.

Lazy Mom Snack Stuff

I am a HUGE proponent of menu planning. My husband and I started this pre-kids, when we had two incomes and no inclination to cook at the end of very long days. That was a golden time, those halcyon days when for two or three nights a week dinner was Chipotle or Panera or Skyline* but all good things must come to an end, and so must not good things like eating out every night. Our budget could support it then but we knew that sort of habit was A) not healthy and B) not cheap, so we decided to try planning out our meals a week at a time and shopping accordingly.

It was an awesome decision and some day I’ll write a huge long blog post about how much I love menu planning and how awesome it is and why you should do it, too. That day is not today, though.

Today it is nearly the end of the month, and since we’ve switched our menu planning (and consequently our Big Shopping day) to once a month, things are getting a little sparse in my kitchen. The last week is always when we run out of stuff but don’t want to go pick it up since we’re Big Shopping in a few days, so I have to get creative. Days like today are when I plan for dinners like marinated chicken, steam-in-a-bag edamame, and homemade corn bread, a menu which sounds delicious but was actually put together because those are all things I can be guaranteed to have in my cupboards and freezer no matter how wonky our month was.

Snack time with Little Thing One and Little Thing Two gets dicey around this time of the month, too. All the Good Snacks have been eaten and they’re just not feeling celery and cranberries or a piece of plain bread.

So here’s what I made today:

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Other moms might recognize this. It is Standard Mom Stale Cereal Snack. It is the thing that moms make when kids need a snack and three partial boxes of very stale cereal are staring her in the face from atop the dusty fridge.

And I’m going to share the recipe! YOU’RE WELCOME!


Lazy Mom Snack Stuff

4 cups of your favorite cereal (ie, the cereal that is most stale and you want to get rid of)

1/2 cup corn syrup + 1/2 cup sugar OR 1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup peanut butter OR 1/2 cup Nutella

(For my mixture today, I used Rice Chex, Corn Chex, and Super Why Alpha-Bits. I also used peanut butter and just honey, so no sugar or corn syrup.)

Put your cereal(s) in a big bowl. If you think some nuts would go well, throw them in. Raisins? Sure! Chocolate chips? Obviously. Spinach? Probably not. Leave that alone for dip or salad.

In a saucepan, put corn syrup + sugar OR honey and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for a minute or until you think it’s been a minute because seriously, who’s going to set a timer for that? Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until smooth and delicious looking. Pour delicious mixture over cereal(s) and mix until everything is evenly coated. Press it into a pan (bake pan, round pan, square, rectangular, whatever) that you’ve put either plastic wrap or wax paper or parchment paper in the bottom of. Let it cool about 15 to 20 minutes or until you cannot stand your children howling in your ear that they want their snack NOW even though the snack timer has NOT YET RUNG, then pull it out and cut it up and enjoy.

Notes: This is supposed to come out fairly solid, in bar or square form. Mine did not. My guess is that it’s because either A) I did not use enough honey or B) I did not let it cool long enough (see above re: squalling children). It still tastes delicious, though, and the Things (and my husband, I’m sure) don’t care if they’re eating it with a spoon or in a Pinterest-perfect square, so whatever.


* An Ohio thing. Perhaps the best of Ohio things? Cincinnati chili is the bomb and I don’t even care for you haters. Step off, dude, and let me eat my spaghetti covered in weak chili sauce and two pounds of cheese in peace.

Applesauce

My family is pretty big into apples.

That might be an understatement, actually.

My whole childhood is filled with the smell of apples, the dirt and leaves and weeds and twigs of the family orchard, the freezing cold of the stand where we sold our produce every fall. Apparently some people use applesauce as a dessert. We had it for every single meal — usually along with apple butter or baked apples or some other apple product, and that’s not counting the apples we just grabbed out of the basket or bag and ate raw. We ate a lot of apples.

A friend asked me the other day if I was tired of eating apples, since we had them so much when I was younger. I had to honestly say no, not at all. If anything, I’m sort of spoiled on store-bought apples. They’re pretty tasteless and have a weird texture. I crave fresh fruit and apples in particular all year long.

Since I don’t have an orchard just down the road anymore, the apple consumption of my little family is much less than I enjoyed growing up. Still, we get regular deliveries of apple butter and cider and apples from my parents, and I use those apples to make baked apples, dried apples, “apple candy” (which is what my oldest son calls fruit leather) and, of course, applesauce.

I learned how to make applesauce at my mom’s kitchen counter, stealing pieces of apple as they went into the pot. I have two little ones of my own and I appreciate how difficult a job my mom had — for every piece of apple that goes into the pot, two go into the mouths of hovering children.

I’m making applesauce right now, actually, and as I cut up pieces and fed them to my son (slipping one into the pot every now and again) I remembered the times that people have commented to the effect of “I wish I could make applesauce like you.”

It’s pretty easy. At the risk of sharing family secrets, here’s how I do it.

* Get a pot, however big you think you need. I use a pretty big pot.

* Get some apples. It doesn’t really matter what kind.

* Peel the apples, take out the core and seeds, cut them in half, and throw them into the pot.

* Put a little bit of water in the bottom of the pot. Just a little, but not too little and not too much. You know, just *some*.

* Cover it and let it cook on the stove top over low-medium heat.

* Completely forget you’re making applesauce.

* Remember it half an hour or more later and say “Oh crap! Applesauce!” then run to the stove.

* Stir.

* Mash up any big pieces that are left until it’s smooth enough for you. I like lumpy applesauce so this generally doesn’t take me much time.

* Let it cool.

* Forget it’s cooling.

* Remember it another hour later and say “Oh yeah! Applesauce!”.

* Taste to see if it needs sugar. 99% of the time I do not add sugar to my applesauce.

* Put it in a bowl and put in the fridge to cool. (VERY IMPORTANT. Some people like warm or even hot applesauce. They are WRONGITY WRONG. When my mom made applesauce she sometimes had to put a bowl of it for me in the fridge special because it just wasn’t cold enough yet.)

* Serve it with dinner. Be surprised at how little is left after dinner. Realize you’ll probably have to make more tomorrow or the next day. Repeat.

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Back in the Game

I just submitted a story.

!!!

This is kind of a Big Deal for me. Kiddo #2 is 14 months old and my brain hasn’t felt clear of fog for…about 16 months now. I’ve whipped off a quick submission here or there in random lucid moments, nothing too taxing, but just lately I’ve felt a little clearer-headed, a little more like life is closer to under control.

And now I submitted a story.

And it’s not even a trunk story!

It’s a story that I wrote recently, that I think is actually pretty good, that I enjoyed writing and enjoy reading and think others might, as well, and that I just sent out into the big scary world.

I sent it to a Big Market, too. because why not go all in?

It will probably get rejected. That’s OK. I’ve got a good couple of weeks until that happens, so for now I’m just going to enjoy the fact that tonight I submitted a story I’m proud of to a market that I would LOVE to appear in, and maybe tomorrow I’ll send another one somewhere, and maybe again the day after, and the day after…

…and maybe I’m ready to get back in the game.