Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Folks at Apple must be reading my blog!

(Just kidding: Glee sells like crazy without me.)

Just in time for New Music ...Tuesday!

iTunes releases Fox's hit show Glee's latest album: The Warblers! 


Monday, April 25, 2011

New Music Monday: Ten music artists you should check out!

1. Ben Sollee. I've been playing his latest cd, Learning to Bend during morning planning periods for months. He is a cellist and vocalist songwriter who reminds me of a classical Jack Johnson. He was one of NPR's "Top Ten Unknown Artists" in 2007, and I found him through iTunes, where his song "Learning to Bend" was a freebie on New Music Tuesday back in December of '09.

2. Pharrell. He's come a long way from "Shake Ya A--"(cir. 1999); he's now a music producer, musician, fashion designer and he recently composed music for the DESPICABLE ME soundtrack! Check out "Prettiest Girls," and "Fun, Fun, Fun," both from that movie and family-friendly, bringing back the images of the "three little kittens" running around the amusement park.

3. Florence + The Machine.  Recently gaining attention for "Dog Days Are Over" on the Eat, Pray, Love and more recently on the Water for Elephants trailer and on the CW's Nikita with "Cosmic Love", F + TM has been gaining momentum. Download "Cosmic Love." My favorite Florence fan episode is when I was sitting at Tijuana Flats eating tacos and I saw a nurse in scrubs holding up her phone to the ceiling as she danced waiting in line, clearly trying to get the byte for her music identification app: priceless. 

4. The Dalton Warblers (from the Glee Cast). The men's acapella group (in real life the Beelzabubs from Tufts University) led by the capable and scintillating Darren Criss (Harry Potter- A Very Potter Musical) leads the iTunes Glee Cast downloads with their "Teenage Dream" rendition. Download "When I get You Alone," "Silly Love Songs," "Teenage Dream", "Bills, Bills, Bills."

5. HUGO.
A bluesy-countrified remake of "99 Problems"? Yes please! Hugo has been all over the alternative rock radio stations recently with this song, but when I checked him out on iTunes, I liked "Bread and Butter" even more. If he had been out ten years ago he would have been on the Gone and Sixty Seconds soundtrack.

6.  The Dirty Heads. The song you would know would be "Lay Me Down," featuring Rome from Sublime, and Sublime they do sound like in it. Flashback to the nineties! "Check the Level" sounds like a mix of Everclear and Eminem, and "Driftin'," like oldschool Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Dirty Heads are hit or miss: with Rome, a hit, without Rome, a miss. Here's hoping to more musical transactions with Rom in the future.

7. Mumford & Sons. New to the music world in 2010, and famous for "Little Lion Man," a lot of my friends are getting excited about their other songs- now coming to be heard on the radio: such as "White Blank Page" and "The Cave", where they sound a little too much like Flogging Molly. I prefer "Awake My Soul" and "Little Lion Man." I'm looking forward to their next album.

 8. Ian Fitzgerald: a local guy (Attleboro, MA) that I've been listening to for years, ever since he played in the Open Mic Night's at Jaec's cafe where I used to work. He's got three cd's on iTunes, and even though the '04 album I listened to isn't on there ("Until You Bleed," "Southern Girls,") you can hear his Dylan-esque crooning on "Lillian" and "Idle Hands." Still a great sound from an up and coming!

9. Laura Izibor:  Download "Don't Stay," which reminds me of Alicia Keys, and which iTunes tells me I've listened to 55 times since it was a "Single of the Week" back in June of '09. "Carousel"was featured in P.S. I Love You, "Mmm..." was in Tyler Perry's Why Did I get Married?, "Shine" in When in Rome, and with Ledisi, Nina Simone and Simone sang"Four Women" in For Colored Girls. I prefer "If Tonight is My Last" where she rocks that Alicia Keys pop-jazz style again.

10. Miranda Lambert: Country Music's "bad girl" next to Carrie and Taylor, Miranda is coming into her own, with softer singles such as "More Like Her", and "The House that Built Me" and her old sassy staples, "White Liar," "Kerosene" and "Gunpowder and Lead" she's carving a name for herself in country music. Download "New Strings."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Advance Movie Screening Tickets!

In college in Boston, Denise used to get us tickets to see Advance Movie Screenings: free screenings of a movie before it was released in theaters and it was always a super fun activity to do! Nowadays, you can sign up for e-mail notifications: that let you print out the screening passes for yourself and up to three other guests on sites like:

1. FilmMETRO (www.filmmetro.com/) Sign up with an e-mail, click on "Movie Screenings" type in your area and GO! This is a site you have to check regularly (every week, usually on Sunday nights because the screenings are usually Tuesday & Wednesday nights) because tickets go fast.

2. Gofobo (www.gofobo.com) Sign up for e-mail notifications (usually few and far in between) or browse the page by zip-code after you sign up for access to the screening tickets.

These are the best two sites for screening passes: enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Aimee's Earth Day 2011 Adventures!

Aimee's EARTH DAY 2011 Adventures! 

Here were my goals:
1. To Plant a Tree! I was able to plant a tree on the skirt of the forest edge of the preserve behind our house.

2. To raise awareness about Earth Day! I was able to buy the white shoe polish with the built in circle sponge (thank you Marching Band!) to write a Happy Earth Day message on my car windows and to salute the people of Tampa as I drove around today! I also wrote a blogpost about how to get involved locally or on your own. I also texted fifty of my friends and family a Happy Earth Day message (sorry!) and updated facebook with pics of my adventures to try to get people thinking about Earth Day and how they can get involved!

3. To Donate Clothes to Charity! I wanted to go through my closets and to pack, donate and recycle all of the clothes I no longer wear. 

4. To bring my recyclables to the Recycling Center!  It's a bit of a pain drive back to our old apartment complex to recycle stuff (Florida apt/condo complexes generally don't recycle) but I've made it a goal to keep up with it this year!
 5. To buy local produce and support local farmers from a fruit stand! I drove up to Rt. 56 today (with the signs on my car) to advertise Earth Day and to get some locally grown produce. Check out my purchases! (See Photo Left).
 6. To do an Earth-Friendly project: I made some "sweater rack dryers" out of tulle netting, 8 nails, a staple gun and some wood the guys at Lowe's cut down for free for me. The two racks cost about $6.00 total to make and will dry my sweaters without hot dryer air/electricity forever! 

All in all: a great start to the day! HAPPY EARTH DAY! 


Earth Day 2011 Challenge: Get involved!

DO:  Pledge an Act of Green! "A Billion Acts of Green," Sponsored by Earthday.org. Quickly Register with the Facebook App to show your friends what we can do together!

READ: Check out the Huffington Post's "9 of the Best Books You Should Read to Celebrate Earth Day!"

ATTEND: A Local Earth Day event near you! For listings, click here...

CONNECT: See what your friends are doing on Facebook! Challenge them to pick something to give back to the earth today!

CHANGE: Commit to these "five ways you can embrace Earth Day everyday!"
1. Turn off the lights!
2. Use less water.
3. Don't print. (From the printer)
4. Offset your carbon footprint: plant a tree!
5. Talk about "Earth Year" instead!

CELEBRATE! Check out what you can do to help celebrate Earth Day! For 15 great ways to celebrate Earth day: click here!

LEARN: The Top Ten things you can do to make a difference on Earth Day!

My challenge to you: pick one and report back on it here at the end of the day!

Earth Day Google Doodles: A Look Back...



Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Destinations: New Hampshire's White Mountains," by Aimee.

In the heart of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, lies a chain of huts at varying altitudes from the roadside all the way up to 5,000 feet on the shoulder of Mt. Washington. These seasonal high huts, and year-round low huts offer spectacular scenic outlooks of the mountain range and valleys and are run by the extremely eco-friendly and conservation-steward, Appalachian Mountain Club. (Even though I live in Tampa, Fl, I have been a AMC member at the low rate of ($25 (under age 30)-50.00/p.p, $75.00 for a family,) each year for membership, and every year made my savings back in discounts on lodging and gear.)

My Mom and I have been making yearly trips to hike in the Whites since 1994 (for 17 years!) and every year we have stayed at one or more of these fabulously run huts or lodges. (See photo below for huts & altitudes). There are 48 mountains in New Hampshire at an altitude over 4,000 feet and it has been our goal since that first hike up Mt. Washington in 1994 (when I was nine) to hike all of them. Currently: we have TEN left! The AMC huts provide access to most of these mountain summits. (Advance Lodging Reservations usually required, made easily at www.outdoors.org) For trail suggestions and ability level recommendations, please visit the AMC's 4000'er planning guide.

There are two roadside Visitor Centers that offer a plethora of family-oriented activities: the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and the Highland Center (formerly: Crawford Notch Hostel) on either side of Mt. Washington. The others require a little (or a lot) of effort to reach! So here is my review of each of the Appalachian Mountain Club huts:

Family style dining at the Highland Center
THE HIGHLAND CENTER (roadside at Crawford Notch): The Highland Center offers family adventures and activities, year-round, from local hikes (around the lake, 3-mile Red Bench trail (Mt. Washington view), to hiking Mt. Avalon (3,430 ft), Mt. Tom (4,051 ft) & Mt. Field (4,331 ft) or as a starting point for all destination trails of Mt. Washington, this hut sits nestled on the Appalachian Trail in the valley of Crawford Notch, NH. It is one of "The Top 50 Ecolodges Worldwide" -National Geographic, and with several economic lodging options: bunk rooms for families/college groups and hotel-style rooms and the Shapleigh Bunkhouse hostel bunkroom for $40/night, is extremely affordable for singles and families. The meals (dinner & breakfast) are included and a great way to meet new people, fellow hikers/travelers from all over North America with the "family style" dining options.

The Highland Center (and Aimee)
I have stayed here in both summer and winter and have been very comfortable in both seasons. I like their eco-friendly laundry/towel/sheets policies, and the family style dining. They have a great gear store as well in case you forgot anything and want to buy it: otherwise you can borrow any of the gear you could possibly need from the L.L.Bean Gear Room for FREE.  A great way to "test before you buy!" (Although, with Bean's 100% guarantee, I've never been dissatisfied with their products/customer service!)
Aimee & winter at the Highland Center

Mom (Liz) at Pinkham Notch (2010
On the other side of Mt. Washington lies the only other roadside Visitor's Center: PINKHAM NOTCH VISITOR'S CENTER. Pinkham Notch offers the same family friendly lodging and adventure guides for on-site trips, as well as a starting point for all trails north of, and up Mt. Washington, including the legendary Tuckerman's and Huntington's Ravines. The mountains north of Wash include the beautiful, rugged and remote Carter Range (which includes Carter Hut, Carter Dome (4,832 ft), South Carter (4,430 ft), Middle Carter (4,610 ft) and Mt. Moriah (4,049 ft) and the Wildcat Range (which includes Wildcat (A Peak- 4,422 ft,) Wildcat D (4,401 ft) mountains.) Pinkham Notch also provides easy access to the Mt. Washington Auto Road and the North Country peaks: Mt. Waumbek (4,006 ft), and Mt. Cabot (4,167ft).
Aimee & view from Mt. Height, Summer 2010
While the most famous peaks here offer great views: one relatively unknown and uncountable peak (too near the summit of Carter Dome) offers 360 degree views at sky-level: Mt. Height. (See photo right) This surreal bit of heaven should NOT be missed. 

Aimee & Liz almost at Carter Hut, 2010.
CARTER NOTCH HUT offers access to both the Wildcat Range and the Carter Range, and is a both a full service (full meals) and self-service hut (pack in your own food/water) depending on the season. Located nestled in the valley between Carter Dome and Wildcat D peak, the hut is also open for snowshoers and nordic skiiers in the winter. (Be advised: this is no easy winter snow trek, even though the trail is only 3.6 miles, you still gain an altitude of 1,300 feet in elevation from Pinkham Notch.) The notch views of the lake and the rock ramparts are also bucket list views as well. 

Aimee & Liz: Breakfast at Carter Hut, Summer 2010.
The Presidential Range, which includes: Mt. Adams (5,774 ft), Mt. Jefferson (5,712 ft), Mt. Madison (5,367 ft), Mt. Eisenhower (4,780 ft), Mt. Jackson (4,052 ft), Isolation (4,003 ft), Madison (5,367 ft), Munroe (5,372 ft), Mt. Pierce (4,310 ft) and Mt. Washington (6,288 ft) is home to three of the AMC's  high-altitude huts: Lakes of the Clouds, Madison and Mizpah Huts.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut from
descent of Washington cone.
Lakes of the Clouds Hut (Alt: 5, 050 feet)
LAKES OF THE CLOUDS HUT: Lakes was my favorite childhood hut, on the shoulder of Mt. Washington. The nighttime views of the sky and stars from the hut are unsurpassable in beauty and scope. (The views make midnight bathroom runs are that much more fun getting up for!) I've stayed at Lakes about four times in different kinds of weather: torrential downpours, fog, cloudless-vistas, hot and cold weather, and this hut, being the highest altitude hut in the AMC system, does require alternative routes in case of bad weather (as do Madison Hut, Galehead and Greenleaf huts). Lakes features giant bunk-rooms where hikers stay with strangers, which is all part of the experience. Recent renovations have sectioned off the larger old "gender" bunk rooms into smaller bunk rooms. Family style benches and long tables can feed up to eighty people per night, and the hut is usually full on weekends in the summer. There is a library of books to read, and maps to look at and a century of guest logs to check out to find your past trip salutations. 
Josh & I: Summit of Washington in '08.

On the Northwest shoulder of Mt. Washington, sitting nestled between Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams, is MADISON HUT. One of my most memorable hikes, (because I hiked both of these 5,000'ers with mononucleosis in college) this is a popular night-time summit hike from the hut up to the top of Madison. Many hikers have dinner, then grab a bottle of water to run up and see the sun set from the top of the Mt. Madison and then hike down with headlamps and flashlights back to the hut for the night. I remember hiking Mt. Adams in June of '97, and being surprised to see a huge patch of snow of the side of the mountain! Like Galehead Hut, and Greenleaf Huts, Madison offers a bit of that remote wilderness to only be reached only by foot on the rugged climb in. 
Aimee at Madison Hut in 1997.

Propellor Blade at Lakes Hut
Moving away from Mt. Washington, south, are the rest of the huts. Directly south of Lakes of the Clouds hut is MIZPAH HUT, with an infamously high ceiling inside, one that hosts a few signs from the other huts, impossibly out of reach for the midnight hut crew thief in the AMC Hut Croo's infamous game of Raiding. Most famously, the 75lb airplane propeller blade, which was showcased at Lakes for years has gone missing. Mizpah is a moderate altitude hut (3,800 ft) but it boasts proximity to one of the best trails in the Whites: the Webster Cliff trail. (See photo below) This trail is a part of the Appalachian Trail, but should not be traveled in inclement weather because the trail hugs the cliff for it's entirety. Also: I do not recommend this trail if you are afraid of heights because some of the rock scrambles are formidable!

View from Webster Cliff Trail

Aimee & Liz at Mizpah Hut, 1996.
Traveling further south, you would hike down from Mizpah to the Highland Center (roadside) and then (if you are continuing on the Appalachian Trail) to ZEALAND HUT. Zealand is a family friendly 2.8 mile moderately flat hike in, (from Zealand Rd. via Zealand Trail). It is open year-round as a full and self service hut (see AMC's webpage for details). 

Aimee & Liz at Galehead Hut in '94.
The next hut in the chain of day hikes is GALEHEAD HUT: which is my family's favorite. A vigorous hike to in any direction, getting to Galehead is a truly satisfying accomplishment that also rewards you with delicious meals, crisp clean mountain air and spectacular views from Galehead (4,024), North (4,760 ft) and South Twin (4,902 ft), Garfield (4,495 ft), Bond (4,698 ft), West Bond (4,540 ft) and Bondcliff (4,265) over the untamed Pemigewasset Wilderness.
Galehead is still my favorite hut, even after reaching it at 8PM after twelve solid hours of hiking in torrential downpour, thunderstorms and hail from Greenleaf Hut on July 4th, 2009. (Probably suffering hyponatremia, dehydration and mild hypothermia.) Which reminds me to remind you to make sure to pack warm wool gear even in the midst of summer in the Whites.
Aimee & Mom at Galehead Hut, '09

In reverse: the next hut would be (heading south) GREENLEAF HUT. On the shoulder of the infamously treacherous and deadly Mt. Lafayette (5,249 ft) and the Franconia Ridge: which also includes Lincoln (5,089 ft), Haystack (4,780 ft), Flume (4,328 ft) and Liberty (4,459 ft).

Aimee & Liz at Greenleaf Hut in 1995.

Aimee & Mom at Greenleaf Hut w/ whiteout views, '09
Bill Bryson wrote in his famous book A Walk in the Woods about stopping at Greenleaf Hut for lunch, after a dismally dangerous hike in icy fog over the Franconia Ridge (a summer trip) writes, "Every guidebook, every experienced hiker, every signboard beside every trailhead parking lot warns you that the weather in the White Mountains can change in an instant. Stories of campers who go for a stroll along sunny heights in shorts and sneakers only to find themselves, three or four hours later, stumbling to unhappy deaths in freezing fog are the stuff of every campfire, but they are also true...I understood now [after climbing Mt. Lafayette] how people die in he White Mountains even in summer."

South of Greenleaf, is only LONESOME LAKE HUT. Like Zealand Falls Hut, Lonesome is a four-season hut, and is easily accessed for families. For the peak baggers, it is located in proximity to the Kinsmans: South Kinsman (4,358 ft) and North Kinsman (4,253 ft).


1. With knowledge and gear. Become self reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.
2. To leave your plans. Tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you will return and your emergency plans.
3. To stay together. When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.
4. To turn back. Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. The mountains will be there another day.
5. For emergencies. Even if you are headed out for just an hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don’t assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.
6. To share the hiker code with others.
  •  Get Maps and the 28th AMC White Mountain Guidebook for essential trail descriptions and information: 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Book Review: THE HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY," by Aimee.

The Hunger Games trilogy was introduced to me by a now infamous seventh grade student of mine whose taste in books I will forever respect and appreciate. After reading the trilogy, and due to an annual Christmas present tradition begun by my parents of gifting books, (my mother is a Children's Librarian) I then bought a copy of The Hunger Games for my brother Nate for Christmas, knowing he would love the series if he would get into them, but was tickled and surprised when his lovely fiancée Beth called me to berate me for not getting him numbers two (Catching Fire) and three (Mockingjay) because she hadn't put it down all night as well. When this same addiction story was shared by my friends Dan, Carlen and Sarah, all trusted literature afficianados whose opinions I also trust I realized: this is bigger than Twilight. Especially when Stephenie Meyer herself admits that she was reading these books under the table while out to eat at a restaurant! So be warned: fire is catching.

Last Warning: DO NOT BEGIN THIS TRILOGY MID-WEEK. (Unless you plan to stay up all night reading these addicting books! I should also mention that numerous people who have read these reported, like myself, to have a few days of nightmares about arenas, mutation wolves and killer lizards. I wouldn't recommend these books to anyone under the age of fifteen.)

The Hunger Games introduces Panem, a future civilization which arose from the ruins of the contigious United States. The twelve states left (the thirteenth was wiped out by the Capitol seventy four years before the book begins after an uprising) must send two teenaged tributes to compete in the Hunger Games, an area competition where there can only be one survivor. Our main characters: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are the tributes from District Twelve who must help or hurt each other's chances in the arena and beat out the other 22 contestants for survival.  What follows is haunting teenage violence including a "Gladiator" style epic massacre and subsequent hunting of other human tributes with a surprise ending. Needless to say: The Hunger Games delivers.

Catching Fire is surprisingly even better than The Hunger Games, in that the author Suzanne Collins seamlessly and believingly puts Katniss back in the arena against impossible odds with twists and turns, danger and mayhem. I cannot reveal any of the details without spoiling the plot, but it was most interesting to watch Katniss develop as a character: first from innocent child, to hunter, to competitor and tribute, to a victor, and now to a force to be reckoned with. A true female warrior made from a normal girl by chance. Also interesting to follow in the series are her relationships with her best friend Gale, who waits for her back home during the games, and with her competitor Peeta, with whom she battles herself over killing and keeping alive.

In Mockingjay, Katniss evolves into the symbol of the brewing revolution against the Capitol, and in the finale of the trilogy, truly embodies the heroine she has been training to become throughout the series. Not wanting to reveal anything about the book: the action picks up and then flies you through battles worthy of the original Star Wars films, the recent embedded feel of the action scenes in Battle Los Angeles: 2011, and with all the glamour of a Lara Croft film. Which brings up the newly cast film for The Hunger Games which will be released in 2012. (See the IMDB post here.)

(Liam Hemsworth as Gale, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen.)

What do you think of the cast so far? Post comments below:

There are a few blogs worth visiting for information about the upcoming movie: firstly, my favorite: http://hungergamesmovie.org/ which is hosted by the same author of the Breaking Dawn blog I've been reading for years now and previously the other Twilight movie blogs, and also http://mockingjay.net/.