Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve "New Food"

Mashing the avocado to make guacamole!
Every year for New Year's Eve as a family we try new foods, though we sometimes do eat some of our favorite foods, too!  Did you know there was such a thing as A&W Root Beer flavored topping for ice cream?  Yes, that was a new food to us!  We will be trying it a bit later with root beer floats.

This year we tried pierogi, a Polish dumpling.  Now we weren't so adventurous that we tried making them ourselves: I admit we tried a freezer version.  But they were tasty, nonetheless.

And somehow, I don't know how this tradition started, I always make guacamole on New Year's Eve.  It's one of my favorite foods that I don't make very often.

And since it is New Year's Eve, here's "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012: Year of the Deno

2012 is definitely the "Year of the Deno."  We adopted him from the Humane Society and have loved every minute with him!

In 2011, our first corgi, Dylan, passed away.  We had him for 12 years.  He was also a rescue.

Dylan (19??-2011)
We loved Dylan and all his quirks.  He was a character.  We didn't want to replace him--how can anyone "replace" a pet who is a member of the family--but eventually we did feel there was another dog out there for the Chastons!

So it was quite a surprise when in May of this year, I was at the Y105 station and Jane McCall from the Humane Society announced on air that a six-year-old male corgi named Deno was available for adoption!  We took him home that day.

He is a very loving guy and just wants to be with his family!  And we love being with him!

Last Christmas, all we wanted for Christmas was to have another corgi with us.  But not just any corgi--THE corgi.  Even though we didn't have him for 2011, now we do.  So here's "You're All I Want for Christmas."

Deno sheds A LOT and he is a sucker for brushing--as long as he can sit in your lap!

Deno even gets into the spirit with his own BYU shirt!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Linzer Cookies

Linzer cookies, those intimidating little sandwich cookies, actually aren't that hard to make!

Erik gave me a special Linzer cookie cutter with removable shapes for Christmas this year.  So Amy and I tried it out today.

It worked great--and they are mighty tasty, too!

And even though we are past Christmas, don't Linzer cookies just make you think of Christmas?  Kind of like "Frosted window panes...?"  So here's "The Christmas Waltz."

Friday, December 28, 2012

Snow Days

I love snow.  I grew up with snow.  I was born in February with snow.  I just love snow!

So it was great that today it snowed a new layer of snow to cover our Christmas snow!

To me, even though the "snow is snowing,...I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm!"

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Post #100: The Next Album Genre Announcement!

Yep, this is blog post #100.  If this were a TV show, lucrative syndication would be just around the corner (well, maybe that's at #200...).  But since I'm not a TV show, I have to make this post special another way: by announcing the genre of the next album!

Although I am a Jazz Studies major and I sing jazz at almost all of my live gigs, I've never released a full-fledge jazz standards album.  But that's going to change in 2013.

My next album will be a collection of jazz standards, my own jazz originals, and a few classic blues.  The album is as yet unnamed, but many of the tracks are already recorded and waiting to be mixed and mastered.

The release date will most likely be summer of 2013.  I'm hoping to release at least one single from the album in the spring.

I will, of course, keep you updated!  And thank you for your continued encouragement and support!

And for those who missed it, check out this incredible review from Stubby's House of Christmas--released Christmas Day--about me, the band, and Jazzy Christmas to You II.  Thank you, Stubby!

Here's an excerpt:

"Jillaine sings "I Wonder As I Wander" as though she were born to it.  I do believe, and it's a risky thing to say this sort of thing, Jillaine's version of "I Wonder As I Wander" is the single finest version I have ever heard.  I've tried to think of one better--there are several I'm quite fond of--but none measure up.  Jillaine's voice flows freely and easily through the song, unrestrained by the music, undaunted by the obstacles.  She's not playing by their rules anymore.  Jillaine becomes the song.  Oh, God, I wish there was some proper metaphor to describe the bliss her vocal performance creates.  What do you do when you work with words and the words fail you?  All I can say is that her performance of "I Wonder As I Wander" is the very definition of the very finest Jazz."

--Stubby's House of Christmas

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Review that Left Me Speechless--And That's a Good Thing

I'm speechless.  Really.  Honestly.  Truly.

Late yesterday, Christmas day, Stubby's House of Christmas published an incredible review of Jazzy Christmas to You II.  I hope you read the original.

Here's an excerpt:

"Now ["I Wonder As I Wander"] is where things, for me, got real interesting and "Jazzy Christmas To You II" took a hard turn towards true greatness and Jillaine, from my limited perspective of her work, blossomed into the fully realized Jazz singer she's destined to be.

"I Wonder As I Wander" is not just one of my favorite Christmas songs, it's a song that separates the posers from the artists.  It's a song which is as much about what's not there as what is, about what you add to it, about the spaces between the notes as much as about the notes.  It's a song that's much more about the passion you put into it than about the notes on the page...Jillaine sings "I Wonder As I Wander" as though she were born to it.  I do believe, and it's a risky thing to say this sort of thing, Jillaine's version of "I Wonder As I Wander" is the single finest version I have ever heard...Jillaine's voice flows freely and easily through the song, unrestrained by the music, undaunted by the obstacles.  She's not playing by their rules anymore.  Jillaine becomes the song.  Oh, God, I wish there was some proper metaphor to describe the bliss her vocal performance creates.  What do you do when you work with words and the words fail you?  All I can say is that her performance of "I Wonder As I Wander" is the very definition of the very finest Jazz.  And, hey, guess what, you lucky, lucky people?  This is the song Jillaine chose to make a free download."

With gratitude and humility, I thank Stubby's House of Christmas for his magnanimous and gracious Christmas gift that totally took me by surprise this morning when I read it.  I am still speechless.

Thank you.

*Note: The free download is not available through my website here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Heads up: I'll be both religious and funny in this post.

I'm so grateful Christ was born and is our Redeemer!

I'm also grateful for my loving family--including my sound engineer brother, Erik.  He's the comedian  in the fam and can always make us laugh!

Erik does a lot of close work, including soldering and fixing audio equipment.  He often wears his headlamp that looks like a miner's light, but it only lights his work and does not magnify.  

So my dad bought him and my older brother, Keith, head magnifier glasses with LED lights since Keith also works on computers.  

Looking like Jordy from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Erik discovered that he could increase or decrease the magnification of the glasses with the attached optical discs.  

Sitting on the floor, wearing his new headgear and in true form as if he were at the optometrist getting his eyes measured for new glasses, he blurts out, "Which one is better, one or two?  Two or one?" as he was flipping the glass magnification back and forth!  

Remember the last time you had the eye doctor check your eyes rushing you to indicate which setting was best?  Erik was hilarious as both the optometrist and patient!

Erik and Keith
Merry, merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Another Review, Free Song, and Christmas Eve!

Christmas Eve brings us to a new review from Stubby's House of Christmas of "I Wonder as I Wander," the free song (click song name for the download link) from my album Jazzy Christmas to You II.  Here's a taste of the review (thank you, Stubby!):

"Well, as good as ["Jazzy Christmas to You!"] was, "Jazzy Christmas To You II" is unbelievably better.  It's simply amazing!  A true jazz tour-de-force.  You should buy it.  Seriously.  Go now (I'll wait)!"

Read the full review!

And, of course, since it's Christmas Eve there is lots of fun stuff happening at the Chaston household!

Today my sister came into the Y105 radio studio with me to be on air on the Morning Wake Up with Chris Farber.  It was awesome and lots of fun!
Loved having Amy in studio!

I couldn't contain my Christmas cheer and had to wear my "White Christmas" dress--even though no one would see it since I was on the radio!  But Chris had a brilliant idea: Amy took a picture of me while Chris held a poinsettia in the picture to make the picture completely festive.  (I think the floating poinsettia is my favorite part of the picture!)

Those are Chris' hands!
The Chaston's Christmas Eve traditions have continued to be just that!  We've already reenacted the Nativity, opened Ornaments, opened our Christmas Pajamas, opened our Children's Christmas Books, Caroled (yesterday), and are currently watching our favorite Christmas movies and shows!

Here is a funny aside:  Today my mom made her almost famous buns (dinner rolls) plus she made a new recipe of dinner rolls today because my sister wanted something besides the traditional Chaston buns.  BUT my mom's buns were not to everyone's liking so my brother, Keith, offered to make them again.  He botched the first batch so he made a second batch and they were VERY light and tasty!  So in preparation for Christmas dinner, we have made four batches of buns!  It is another Chaston tradition to keep finding ways to create joy for each other--even if it means making four batches of buns in one day!

Have Yourself a Merry [Little] Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Review and Christmas Adam and Caroling

So today has three great events:
  1. A new review of Jazzy Christmas to You II from Merry and Bright
  2. The new tradition of "Christmas Adam"
  3. We caroled today (yes, I know it's only the 23rd...)
Here's an excerpt of the review:

"Jazzy Christmas To You II" is another beautiful record. Jillaine gives us a variety of styles, selections, and fresh, original arrangements, nailing them all. The musicians accompanying her are tops, cats, and the bee's knees.

Read the full review at Merry and Bright.  Thank you Der Bingle!

The second great event is the start of a new tradition: Christmas Adam.  For those of you confused as to what this is, don't worry, I was confused about it, too!

My sister's friend has four kids and they celebrate Christmas Adam, the day before Christmas Eve because we all know Adam came before Eve!

They celebrate Christmas Adam by having a "hotel night" in the living room (everyone sleeps in the living room and they watch movies like in a hotel, hence the name).  For us, it's a bit impractical to have six adults sleep in the living room, but we used to have "hotel nights" when we were little kids.

So we still have to decide what our traditions for Christmas Adam will be...right now my brother and sister are making spritz cookies (they weren't even on my baking list yesterday).  Maybe spritz cookies could be our new tradition!

In another twist of wordplay for Christmas with Adam and Eve, here's "Santa Send a Fella."

We caroled today!
In our caroling gear!
I admit it, it was too cold to be out without a coat! Note the jingle bells in my right can't carol without jingle bells. I think it is a law.
Erik takes his caroling gear very seriously: jester hat over a BYU Christmas hat, with a Rudolph nose.
Merry "Christmas Adam!"

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Baking

Poppy Seed Bread
We love to bake in the Chaston household!  Below are some of the yummy foods we bake up to give away when we carol each year!

Today my mom, sister, and I made lots of goodies:
  • Poppy Seed Bread
  • Gingerbread Cookies
  • Brownies with chocolate peppermint bits
  • Cranberry Muffins
 Yesterday, my sister made:
The day before yesterday I made:
  • Pistachio Bars
  • Fresh Lemon Cookies
  • Chocolate Rolo Cookies
Yummy foods we still have on the list to make:
I'm sure there are a lot of other amazing recipes we will find and try out!

And in honor of the literal blizzard we had a few days ago that we are still digging out of, here's "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm."

Friday, December 21, 2012

Candy Trails and Christmas Cereal

My siblings and I may all be adults now, but there's something about Christmas that takes us back to our childhood!

I'm not sure how the candy trail tradition started other than we got the idea from some friends.  Even though each of us knew how to get to the Christmas tree, it was extra special to have a candy trail from the girls' bedrooms and the boys' bedrooms to the tree!

Usually the trail involves arrows and words, like "almost there" or "Merry Christmas" spelled out in the candy.  It's fun to see how the trail changes each year!

Every Christmas Day we wake up early--really early!  We love Christmas!

The breakfast table is always set with a fun theme plus our own personal box of a favorite sugary cereal.  The tradition started a long time ago because we usually don't buy sugary cereal.

Christmas is a marvelous time to enjoy simple, favorite foods we usually don't eat any other time of the year!

And just because "It's that time of year," here's "The Christmas Waltz."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Eve Nativity

Every year my family reenacts the Nativity on Christmas Eve as we read from Luke 2.

Two years ago, my mom made all of us Nativity costumes.  Before that, we always used sheets and pillowcases to make our costumes.  So it was quite a treat to have real costumes.

Every year Amy is the narrator--with the costumes, she now also doubles at the angel.  In my younger days, she was also the donkey that Mary rode on, but after I turned seven, I was a bit too heavy for her to carry me on her back!

Keith William always plays Joseph.  I always play Mary, and Erik is always everyone else--innkeeper, wise man, shepherd, etc.

Usually dad films while mom takes pictures, but now that they have costumes, they sometimes join in, mom as a shepherdess and dad as a wise man.

When Erik was nine or ten he built a manger that we use every year.  We put it on the front porch, empty, and then put a doll in it on Christmas morning.  We bring it inside to use in the reenactment on Christmas Eve.

Sometimes pop culture makes its way into the play.  One year, Darth Vader (aka Erik wearing a Darth Vader mask) was, appropriately, the innkeeper.  And when Erik just didn't think that frankincense and myrhh were as good as the gold, he brought gifts that made sense to him--some of his toys that he loved!

This year with the addition of Deno, our summer rescue Pembroke Corgi added to the family, I'm going to finish Deno's sheep costume.  Dylan, Deno's predecessor, wore the unfinished costume, but past away October 2011.  It was a sad Christmas without a dog last year!  But we're excited to share Christmas with Deno!

One of my favorite religious Christmas songs is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Caroling Lives!

Every year, my family and I go Christmas caroling on Christmas Eve...okay, some years we carol on the 23rd or maybe even the 22nd, but that's only when there is some projected inclement weather.

But it never fails.  Every year we don our Christmas hats (I dress up either as an elf or as Mrs. Claus) and we carol to friends and strangers.  We prepare ahead of time and bake up lots of goodies like baklava, molasses sugar cookies, chocolate Rolo cookies, shortbread, and other yummy Christmasy treats!

The best part?  People love it!  They love the fact that there are people in the world who still go caroling for Christmas.

We choose two songs, one secular and one religious, then another one that suits our sense of fun all before going up to the door.  If my sister has her soprano saxophone, we also choose the key.

Some of our favorite songs to sing are:
  • Joy to the World
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Jingle Bells
  • The First Noel
Since we can't make it out to carol to everyone, here's "Jingle Bells" from my album Jazzy Christmas to You!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Traditional Christmas Movies and Shows

Okay, I love Christmas!  I also love all the cheesy, silly, crazy movies and shows that celebrate Christmas!

Favorite Christmas Movies/Show List:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Children's Books

Opening the 2011 Christmas books!
Another Christmas tradition in the Chaston household is opening the yearly children's Christmas book.  In recent years it turned into a two-book deal for each of us kids: the idea was to get one serious or religious book and one funny book (though it doesn't always turn out that way...).

I think the funniest book last year was one of Amy's: The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket, Illustrated by Brett Helquist.  It was satirical and witty, and somehow also sweet at the same time!  Exploring the psyche of a lump of coal at Christmastime!

The most profound book was hands-down Lighthouse Christmas by Toni Buzzeo, Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, one of Keith William's books.  You really will have to read it.  A story about how a little girl  and her family (sans the mother who recently passed away) give up their one day to go to town for Christmas in order to stay at the lighthouse and search for a lost ship.  The ending is extraordinary.

Appropriately, one of Erik's books was The Snowman Band of Snowboggle Bend by Cheryl Hawkinson, Illustrated by Mike Esberg about a band that encounters all kinds of trouble getting to their Christmas gig!  Erik always overcomes obstacles when he is setting up the audio for my performances!

One of mine was The Magical Christmas Horse by Mary Higgins Clark, Illustrated by Wendell Minor. It's about a little boy who helps fix up a toy rocking horse for his little sister.  It's a tender story, with beautiful illustrations.

Over the years, we've collected many, many books.  Some of our favorites are:
I could put down every children's Christmas book we have, but that would make this the longest blog in blog history, so I only put my absolutely, positively favorite books on the list!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Pajamas

2011 Christmas Pajamas

The yearly Christmas pajamas!  Each year on Christmas Eve we re-enact the Nativity, open an ornament (read Our Christmas Ornament Tradition), open a Children's Christmas book (tomorrow's entry) and open our Christmas pajamas!

When I was younger, the pajamas were usually a top and pants.  The past few years it has been just a top and we reuse the bottoms due to lack of options given by manufacturers.  Santa does not like to sew!

That change could be due to many factors:

  1. The aforementioned clothiers being stingy with Christmas fashions,
  2. We're all adults now and not growing out of the pajamas yearly,
  3. We remember the "gray sweat pants debacle" of 2007...when we all got the ugliest gray sweat pants and a red long-sleeve shirt for our Christmas pajamas...a definite disappointment (we don't reuse the gray sweat pants).
Either way, last year's tops were quite a hit!  The girls got somewhat generic reindeer shirts, but that was made up for the fact that the guys got official "Elf" shirts.  Seriously, they were the funniest pajama tops we've ever had in the history of our Christmas pajamas!

I helped Santa out this year with the Christmas pajama selection, and I can honestly say we have some pretty funny ones...definitely good laughs in store for Christmas Eve!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Our Christmas Ornament Tradition

When my oldest sister was born, my mom started a family tradition that has lasted through the years: every Christmas each person in the family gets an ornament.  Now the idea was that once each of us married, we would have a tree full of our own ornament memories.

All four of us are still single (check out Santa Send a Fella), and let me just say the tree is pretty full!  But each year we anxiously await to see what ornament we will receive.  The new ornament is opened on Christmas Eve after we re-enact the Nativity.

We have many traditions, one of which I will talk about each day until Christmas!  Tomorrow I'll write about our Christmas pajama tradition...!  Here's to great family traditions!