Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year in Review: Queen

While most fans expect that 2011 will be an exciting year for Queen, given that it marks the band's 40th anniversary, personally 2010 was a rather marvelous year for me.

Of course, the big news is that in July, I met Dr. Brian May, Queen's guitarist. Click here to read my account of the day.

Though I didn't go into detail here, my encounter with Dr. May did not end that evening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The next morning, I emailed Dr. May and thanked him for signing my book and CD. I also provided him with a link to my blog entry about meeting him with the explanation that I thought it might provide him with a bit of amusement.

To my surprise and delight, Dr. May responded! His message was short and simple, but enough to give me a thrill. Many fans have contacted Dr. May on a variety of topics yet a very small percentage report receiving any type of reply.

And believe it or not my excitement didn't end there! Later that weekend, I received another email from the woman who designs Dr. May's website. In her email, she wrote that Dr. May had in fact looked at my blog post and rather liked some of the pictures that Husband had taken of the lecture. She asked if I could send larger versions of the pictures and if I would allow Dr. May to use the pictures on his website.

Of course, I agreed and sent the photos along. Sadly, the lecture at which I met Dr. May was right in the middle of a busy touring schedule and once he had time to make a decision about using the pictures, it was too late. In fact, he never even wrote about the New York book signings on his blog (a highly unusual occurrence as he typically documents all his comings and goings in his Soapbox).

Just knowing that he had actually laid eyes on my blog though, even if it was just long enough to admire Husband's pictures, provided me with another great thrill and made my experience of meeting him even sweeter!

In honor of my momentous meeting, I spent the year thinking "all foxes, all of the time" (as a nod to Dr. May's Save Me campaign which hopes to prevent the return of fox hunting in the U.K.) Anthropologie was more than happy to help feed my new fetish and had an entire line of fox themed clothing and housewares this fall.

Sadly, I was sized out of the Fox tights, which ran a bit short and my evil evil evil sister had the nerve of fitting into the lone size Medium of the Wily Sweater left in my store (I'd tried it on earlier in the season but needed a size Large. See her review of the sweater here.) The fox candles were a Christmas gift from my mom as was the ornament which is now proudly displayed in my office next to my photograph of Dr. May. The children's sweater was adorable but unfortunately too pricey for any little boys that we know. And the button.


RT, how did you sneak that button into my photo montage of fox items at Anthropologie?

The button was also a Christmas present, from my sister's two dogs Jack and Docker. I laughed for a good five minutes after opening the package and the button is now up in my office bulletin board.

The rest of the year was characterized by lots of frustration and lots of waiting. Waiting for the RT solo album that he originally began promising in November 2009. Waiting for news of the band's new record deal with Universal. Waiting for the release of the Hammersmith Odeon Christmas Eve concert from 1975 which has been rumored since last Christmas.

We did receive a new Rock Band track pack, which as far as I'm concerned was worth the wait. In addition to new lesser known songs like Tenement Funster, Now I'm Here, and Keep Yourself Alive, I can finally sing harmonies on previous Rock Band favorites like Somebody to Love and Killer Queen. I also convinced Husband to download the track pack early enough that I was ranked #2 on Pro Drums Expert for We Will Rock You. Not too shabby.

And though the boys weren't in the studio working on their own solo projects or Queen material, they did find time to play on a few albums released over the course of 2010. Both RT and Dr. May appeared on Taylor Hawkins' side project Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Rider's second CD, Red Light Fever (click here for a review of that CD and the concert that Husband and I attended in May). And Dr. May produced and played on Kerry Ellis's CD Anthems which was released this fall in addition to finding time to play on Meatloaf's album Hang Cool Teddy Bear.

We'll see what 2011 has in store for Queen fans. Personally, I'd love the opportunity to see the boys play live though I recognize that any shows would likely be abroad. With that in mind, I'm also hopefully that We Will Rock You, the musical, finally makes it to Broadway and when it does, rest assured, I'll be in the front row cheering ecstatically!

Tonight is New Year's Eve and tomorrow is 2011! So exciting!

See everyone next year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Year in Review: Shopping

If you can believe it, even my enjoyment of shopping was not a constant in 2010. There were weeks when I loved and wanted to purchase everything I came into contact with and there were other times when try as I might, I couldn't find a single thing I was interested in buying.

Oh but don't get me wrong, I did buy...a lot. And I thought it would be fun to go through a few of my favorite purchases of the year.

Swirling Villages Dress, Anthropologie (January 2010)

Once I made the decision to spend $20 to have this dress relined, it became a staple in my wardrobe. This dress also carries the important distinction of being part of my first-ever Anthropologie order. I ordered the dress on first markdown for $99 then the next day it got a second markdown to $49. I emailed Customer Service right away and to my delight, receive a price adjustment without a problem! The belt of this dress has also proven quite versatile throughout the year which means bonus points in my book!

Beribboned Buds Cardigan, Anthropologie (January 2010)
Another Anthropologie first: the first item for which I ever paid full price. And I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I had many a sleepless night over whether to return this cardigan. I loved it in the store. Had to have it. Then I got home and it sat in the bag on my dresser for two weeks which I wished and hoped for a price adjustment. When one didn't come, I had a choice to make, return my beloved sweater and wait for it to go on sale or suck it up and wear it. I decided to wear it and could not be happier with my choice: I've probably worn this sweater 25 times this year. In fact, I wore this sweater so often that I wrote an entire post about it (click here)!

Acting Out Skirt, Anthropologie (March 2010)
My last favorite Anthropologie clothing purchase of the year was an unexpected love. I grabbed this skirt for a fitting room review, expecting the size 12 to be a bit snug on my thighs. Imagine my surprise when not only did the skirt fit perfectly but it looked amazing on me! Once I realized that the price was only $88, it came home with me right then and there and I wore it happily through the year. I was tempted to purchase another color, but in the end something about the light grey version worked on me in a way none of the other colors did.

Silk Dress with Ruffle V-Neck, Loft (July 2010)
Artist's Pallette Necklace, Anthropologie (July 2010)
Even if I never wore these two items again (and I have many many times), I'd include them in my favorite pieces of 2010 because they both had the absolute honor of meeting Dr. Brian May with me. Is it insane that even now nearly six months later, I still smile to myself whenever I fasten the clasp of the Artist's Palette Necklace because at one point in its lifetime, it was within a foot of rock royalty? I got the dress on super sale at Loft (I actually paid more for the necklace than I did for the dress!) and suspected immediately that it would be a contender to wear to this exciting event. A reader poll indicated that I was right and I managed to get an amazing picture with the man himself!

In April, I wrote about being a rather bad shoe shopper (click here). I'm pleased to report that I managed to step my shoe shopping up a notch in 2010 with quite a few adorable and yet shockingly functional pairs!

Sofft Fiorella Pumps, Nordstrom (July 2010)
Perfect Exotic Pumps, Ann Taylor (February 2010)
Franco Sarto Panko Boots, Macys (October 2010)
Rennselaer T-Straps, Anthropologie (November 2010)

I have myself utterly convinced that flats make my legs look stumpy. I'm 5'8" so every time I share that piece of information with anyone else, they typically roll their eyes at me: how can legs as long as mine ever look stumpy? Well, I'm sure they do and tend to wear heels to combat this undesirable effect. My heel collection up until this year included two or three black pairs and one or two brown pairs. This year, I ventured slowly into the world of colored shoes with my Sofft Fiorella Pumps and Perfect Exotic Pumps. Then this fall, I treated myself to the newly marked down Rennselaer T-Straps for a brown heel far more interesting than anything I'd ever previously owned. The Panko boots were a total impulse buy: I spotted them at Macy's and the leather was just so so soft. I tried them on and couldn't resist taking them home with me. I was initially uncertain if I could work flat boots into my wardrobe, but surprisingly, I've gotten a ton of wear out of them and have found them to be versatile as well for both casual and dressy occasions! Perfection!

Honorable Mentions:

Wish You Were Here Cardigan, Anthropologie (October 2010) - My sister pounced on this cardigan first, but I decided that 600 miles was a far enough distance between us that we could both own it. It's soft and versatile and the pattern is just so darn cute!

Konnichiwa Sweater, Anthropologie (November 2010) - I splurged and bought this sweater while it was still on first markdown and I'm glad I did. It's really become my go-to casual winter sweater: so cozy, but stylish as well.

Long pearl necklace with pearl flower, Loft (November 2010) - This necklace is a more recent addition that I'm still trying to work into my wardrobe. I admired it afar for so long though, waiting patiently for it to go on sale, that I had to put it on my list!

I'm sure you all had your favorite purchases in 2010 too. Were they your favorites for emotional reasons (like my Dr. May outfit) or for practical reasons (most times worn)? Did I forget to mention something I bought that was one of your favorites?

One more Year in Review post will run on Friday and it will discuss everything from Rock Band to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to my new found obsession with foxes!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Year in Review: Running

As predicted when I began this blog nearly a year ago, my interests have ebbed and flowed a bit. Some months I couldn't get enough of my three favorite obsessions and other months I ignored them completely.

Such is the life of someone with an obsessive personality.

Running is the interest that essentially fell by the wayside in late 2010 for a few reasons. Firstly, this summer was unbearably hot and humid. Waking up early to run is supposed to lessen that misery, but when it's 75 degrees and 80 humidity at 6am, short at running at 3 in the morning, I'm not entirely sure how I can be expected to run! True, I do have a treadmill, but the temperatures inside weren't much cooler and frankly the thought of potentially melting in my den was not appealing either.

The second reason why I got away from running was more personal. In August, I found out I was pregnant. My doctor advised me to stop running longer distances (hence my decision to not run the Diva Half Marathon in October). I didn't stop running completely though and by the end of the month, I wasn't pregnant anymore.

Mentally, I know that I didn't do anything wrong. My doctor didn't tell me to stop running altogether: he just said to cool it a bit with the long distances, especially in the heat. But Husband and I have been seeing this doctor, a specialist, since early in the summer and if there's anything I can do, or in this case not do, that might increase the odds of our being successful, I want to do it.

The last few months have been exhausting, mostly mentally, but not surprisingly that has translated to physical exhaustion as well. Since October my body has been playing tricks on me: I feel tired as if the treatments have worked and I give in to my body's request to rest, rather than be active. Husband encourages me to take care of myself, to listen to my body, and more and more I've been allowing myself that indulgence. Then I find out that we've been unsuccessful and all my resting turned out to be just laziness and, if I'm being honest, a bit of depression.

It's been hard to convince myself that I shouldn't have done something differently and my response has been to all but eliminate running completely. Obviously this isn't the healthiest of choices for me, particularly if I'm hoping to actually sustain a pregnancy in 2011. My resolution for the new year is to slowly get back into running short distances at a slow pace because I know that ultimately, that's the best thing for me.

Likewise my running shopping was virtually nonexistent this year as well. True, I did acquire a capri running skirt which proved to be suitable attire when the heat finally broke late this fall. And a good friend gave me two navy athletic skirts leftover from an event that she coordinated at her office. Other than that, I've really been making due with the gear that I already had.

My intention in sharing this information is not to be a downer, but rather to be honest about why a formerly significant aspect of my blog has virtually disappeared. I also know that I'm not the only person to have gone through the things I've experienced this year and as much as I've not really liked talking about it, I know that I've appreciated hearing others share their stories. Perhaps my writing this will help someone going through the same thing.

Stay tuned on Wednesday and Friday for 2010 Year in Review posts on Queen and Shopping, the other two subjects about which I frequently write. I promise that both of those posts will be slightly more uplifting!

Happy Monday!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone who celebrates has a very Merry Christmas!

We opened our presents early this year because my sister and brother-in-law left on Tuesday to spend Christmas with his family, but this morning we woke up to stockings and yummy French toast prepared by my dad! Delish!

On January 6, we'll be celebrating our third Christmas when Husband's father and wife come into town so I still have a small pile of presents under the tree just taunting me for two more weeks!

Luckily, I've done quite a bit of shopping at Anthropologie's pre-Christmas sales so stay tuned next week when I start debuting all my new Christmas buys!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Queen Songs of the Week: Now I'm Here & Dragon Attack

I'm featuring two Queen Songs of the Week this week since I've already reviewed Now I'm Here, the next song in the band's 1982 concert at the Milton Keynes Bowl.

This is one of the last concerts where the boys played Now I'm Here, one of my favorite songs and, of course, it's awesome!

Courtesy of queenofficial.

Dragon Attack was written by Dr. May and appeared on the band's 1980 album The Game. The song was the B-side to the single Another One Bites the Dust and the song is reportedly one of Deaky's favorites.

Courtesy of queenofficial.
In the commentary for the Queen: Rock Montreal blu ray, RT laments that the drums on this song were particularly difficult to play, especially on his right wrist. Fellow Queen fan and Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins has listed this song as one of his favorites due to the great guitar riff and awesome drum solo.

The song itself is a bit repetitive and in the studio was created using a mix of looping and live instruments. I imagine that makes it terribly difficult to play live, but the boys do a great job. This song was a staple in the set list in the early 1980s and here concludes, as it often did, with a reprise of Now I'm Here.

Though I'm not the biggest fan of the studio version of this song, the live version can't help but get you tapping your toes to the beat!

Happy Listening!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Somebody to Love

This is a very timely Queen song of the week as we make our way through the set list of Queen's 1982 concert at the Milton Keynes Bowl: after a year of waiting, I have finally gotten to sing the harmonies to this song on Rock Band 3!

And readers? It was everything that I dreamed it would be.

Three-part harmonies are indicated on the screen: the low part sung by Dr. May, the mid-range vocals that Freddie sang, and RT's high parts. Truly amazing.

Also amazing is this version of Somebody to Love, considered by many fans to be the best performance of the song, if not the best live performance by the band.

Somebody to Love was written by Freddie Mercury and appeared on the band's 1976 album A Day at the Races. The song was released as a single where it peaked at #2 and #13 on the U.K. and U.S. charts, respectively.

The song itself has a gospel-type feel to it, which is a style of which Freddie was very much a fan: specifically, he was focused on recreating a Aretha Franklin sound. To accomplish this, the harmonies and background vocals are very prominent and perhaps the most recognizable aspect of the song. True to form, the band recorded layer upon layer of harmonies to give the impression that a full gospel choir was in singing on the track, when, in fact, it was just our three boys!

This song is a fan favorite and a favorite by many who don't even consider themselves Queen fans and is still played frequently on the radio nearly 35 years after it was first released!

Happy Listening!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Staying Power

We're still working our way through the set list of Queen's 1982 show at Milton Keynes.

Staying Power was written by Freddie Mercury and appeared on the band's 1982 album Hot Space. It was released as a B-side to the single Back Chat, which peaked at #40 on the U.K. charts. The song was released as an A-side in Japan where it did not chart.

Video courtesy of queenofficial.

The studio version of this track contains a fair amount of synthesizers, drum loops, and the main beat has likely been sped up in the studio. To that base, RT added some electric and accoustic drums, Deaky played some rhythm guitar rather than bass, and Dr. May harmonized his Red Special (though most of that was removed, leaving only a few harmonized riffs throughout the song). Freddie sang all the vocals in this song, including the harmonies. Source: Bechstein Debauchery.

Happy Listening!