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MHK Public Library Book Sale 

  1. North by Northwest (DVD, starring Cary Grant) 
  2. Amelia's Family Ties - Marrisa Moss 
  3. Prozac Nation - Elizabeth Wurtzel 
  4. The Midnight Raymond Chandler 
  5. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath 
  6. Daniel Deronda - George Eliot 
  7. The China Governess - Margery Allingham 
  8. The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron 
  9. The Angels of Darkness - Caleb Carr 
  10. Seven Types of Ambiguity - Elliot Perlman 
  11. The New York Times Menu Cookbook 
  12. Awakening to the Spirit World - Sandra Ingerman & Hank Wesselman 
  13. Handbook for the Soul - Richard Charlson and Bejamin Sheild, editors 
  14. The Tenth Power - Kate Constable 
  15. Pirate King - Laurie R King 
  16. Folly - Laurie R King 
  17. Creating Women: An Anthology of Readings on Women in Western Culture vols. I & II 
  18. African Pygmy Hedgehogs As Your new Peg 
  19. The Best of Bon Apetit 
  20. The Virtues of War - Steven Pressfield 
  21. The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes - Willie Nelson 
  22. Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert 
  23. Music & Society: The Later Writings of Paul Honigsheim 
  24. Eye of the Crow (The Boy Sherlock Holmes) - Shane Peacock 
  25. Danton: A Life (The Giant of the French Revolution) - David Lawday 
  26. Barbra - Christopher Andersen 
  27. Rag and Bone - Peter Manseau 
  28. Strange Candy - Laurell K Hamilton 
  29. The Go-Girl Guide - Bourland 
  30. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows 
  31. Salad Gardens - Luebermann 
  32. The Incredible Incas and Their Timeless Land

40 Books to Read in 2018 

  1. Music and Mantras: The Yoga of Mindful Singing for Health, Happiness, Peace & Prosperity by Girish, Rolf Gates 
  2. You Are Enough: How To Elevate Your Thoughts, Align Your Energy & Get Out of the Comparison Trap by Cassie Mendoza-Jones 
  3. The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health by Emeran Mayer 
  4. Steering by Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny by Beck PhD, Martha 
  5. Judgment Detox: Release the Beliefs That Hold You Back from Living A Better Life by Gabrielle Bernstein 
  6. Dark Mirror: The Pathology of the Singer-Songwriter by Donald Brackett 
  7. You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You've Got to Get What You Want (A No F*cks Given Guide) by Sarah Knight 
  8. Zelda Fitzgerald: The Tragic, Meticulously Researched Biography of the Jazz Age's High Priestess by Sally Cline 
  9. The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald by Zelda Fitzgerald 
  10. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler 
  11. Something Is Always On Fire: My Life So Far by Measha Brueggergosman
  12. Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive by Kristen J. Sollee 
  13. Warrior Goddess Training: Become the Woman You Are Meant to Be by HeatherAsh Amara 
  14. Saturn Returns: Thinking Astrologically by Tom Jacobs 
  15. The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Deborah Ford 
  16. Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Beck 
  17. Buddhist Scriptures (Penguin Classics) by Donald Lopez
  18. The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within by Stephen Fry 
  19. Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: One Woman's Desperate, Funny, and Healing Journey to Explore 30 Religions by Her 30th Birthday by Reba Riley 
  20. Breaking Up with God: A Love Story by Sarah Sentilles 
  21. Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality by Susan Mcclary 
  22. At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir,Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others by Sarah Bakewell 
  23. Shakti Woman: Feeling Our Fire, Healing Our World by Vicki Noble 
  24. Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life by Graham Nash 
  25. Rise Sister Rise: A Guide to Unleashing the Wise, Wild Woman by Rebecca Campbell 
  26. Own Your Glow: A Soulful Guide to Luminous Living and Crowning by Latham Thomas 
  27. Origin: A Novel by Dan Brown 
  28. The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self by Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson 
  29. Beyond the Self: Conversations Between Buddhism and Neuroscience (MIT Press) by Matthieu Ricard and Wolf Singer 
  30. Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson and Daniel J. Siegel 
  31. How the Mind Words by Steven Pinker 
  32. Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People by SARK 
  33. How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil 
  34. Joy, Guilt, Anger, Love: What Neuroscience Can--and Can't--Tell Us About How We Feel by Giovanni Frazzetto 
  35. Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts by Stanislas Dehaene 
  36. Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) by Daniel J. Siegel 
  37. The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters by Daniel M. Wegner, Kurt Gray 
  38. The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness by David Gelernter 
  39. The Sun & Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur 
  40. Magic and Music : The Language of the Gods Revealed by Juanita S. Wescott

Top Albums of 2017 

In no particular order...

  1. Aubrey Logan - Impossible 
  2. Camille - Oui 
  3. Sarah Slean - Metaphysics 
  4. Jennifer Knapp - Love Comes Back Around 
  5. Bjork - Utopia 
  6. Dhani Harrison - In///Parallel 
  7. Kate Dowman - Whispering Tides 
  8. Halsey - hopeless fountain kingdom 
  9. Cécile McLorin Salvant — Dreams and Daggers 
  10. Lucky Soul — Hard Lines 
  11. Viva Trio — Nothing Else Matters 
  12. Alice Francis — Electric Shock 
  13. Carly Paoli — Singing My Dreams 
  14. Nolwenn Leroy - Gemme 
  15. Brigitte - Nues

Bonus: Older albums I discovered in 2017

  1. Dorothy — ROCKISDEAD 
  2. Ivy Levan — No Good

Christmas Wishlist 

Here's a little peek at what I asked Santa for this year!

[Left to right, top to bottom]

  1. Sprouted Kitchen cookbook
  2. QI DVD set
  3. "Leatherbound" tea blend
  4. SodaStream Jet
  5. "Cool Story, Poe" mug
  6. "The Leonard Bernstein Letters" book
  7. "Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds" book
  8. Danielle LaPorte Desire Map 2018 Daily Planner
  9. Remi - "Into My Imagination" CD

Hygge 

Lately, I've been obsessed with the Danish concept of "Hygge": a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cozy, charming or special.

Here are some hygge concepts that I've been incorporating in my life.

 

  1. Fresh flowers
  2. Coffee-shop coffee (today I ordered a peppermint breve)
  3. Knitting a hat with bright, beautiful yarn
  4. Burning candles
  5. Snuggling with a cat & reading a book (yes, I do this a lot (see: previous list on self care))
  6. Sitting by a fire in the backyard while writing / if the weather is nice enough, just sitting on a blanket on the grass while writing
  7. Shopping at a used book store
  8. Laughing with friends while playing Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity
  9. Baking homemade bread
  10. My daily power combo of Danielle Laporte's "Desire Map Planner" and Sarah Ban Breathnach's "Simple Abundance" daybook

Chantelle's Songwriting Tips 

Don't take my word for it, because I beat my fist against the blank page as must as anyone. But here are 10 of my personal songwriting tips. 

  1. Write songs you would listen to. Pretty self-explanatory. 
  2. Write as someone else. Future you? Alternate reality you? Fantasy you? Put yourself in the someone else's shoes. 
  3. Write in the voice of someone you admire. Have a song idea but stuck on execution? How would your favorite writer say it? 
  4. Outline your song plot. You don't have to write the words, just the structure. To start with, verses usually set up the conflict, and choruses offer resolution. 
  5. Get out of the house. Take just your notebook and pens. Go to the coffee house, the library, or any other favorite place. My favorite place to write is the back patio of a local restaurant, with pita & hummus and a cold gin & tonic close at hand. (Shoutout to Rock-a-Belly Deli!) 
  6. Unlined paper. Really, just be sure to work with tools you really love. But I highly recommend unlined paper, especially in the song-plotting stage. 
  7. Write in a different style; re-arrange later. Two of the songs I've written recently took shape in my head as modern top-40 pop songs. Will I record them in that style? No. But the lyrics flowed, and it was fun. Later I can arrange them as the folk ballads I usually sing. (But don't force it, just let the song happen in whatever style it wants to happen.) 
  8. Use a word generator. For when you're really stuck, or you're looking for a starting point, try https://www.textfixer.com/tools/random-words.php
  9. Sing into a recorder, then transcribe. Unless you're NOT like me, and have perfect pitch, then sometimes your initial idea for a melody can get lost when you sit down at the piano. When composing your melody, hum into a recording app on your phone (I like WavePad Free for Android) and then sit down to transcribe it. 
  10. Random chord progression. You don't have to write the melody first. Pick a key, write a random progression of chords (best to do this quickly, don't over think it!) then play them repeatedly until you start naturally humming along. There's your melody.
  11. Bonus: Read. Read, read, read, read, read, read, read.
  12. Bonus: Imagine yourself performing the song live. Sometimes visualizing performing the song in front of an audience can help pinpoint words or phrases that do or don't work best for the song. Also, writing the song along to a music video in your head can help generate some great visual/imagery lyrics!

Shave it Off! 

A few weeks ago I shaved my head. It's the most liberating thing I've ever done.

Today, as I re-buzzed it down to nothing, it occurred to me that shaving my head is a kind of self care for me. When it gets "too long" (a mere fuzz!) I can just buzz it all away -- buzz away that unnecessary extra -- the fluff -- the unwanted. (Sorry, hair. Love you.)

After a long day at work, shaving my head was as much of a relief as hopping into the hot shower afterwards. Shave it all away, wash it all away...

In that vein, here are ten of my favorite self-care treats.

  1. Shaving my head
  2. A hot cup of a new flavor of tea
  3. Snuggling with my cats while reading a book
  4. Working through the questions in Jennifer Louden's "The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life"
  5. Eyes closed, headphones on, music blasting (Mahler, anyone?)
  6. Sitting down to play piano, just to play. Not to practice, not to write, just to play and feel the weight of the keys under my fingers.
  7. A trip to the library, coming home with a stack of books. Maybe a stop by the coffee shop.
  8. "Dressing up" and taking a cute selfie
  9. Inner child artwork -- coloring, making a messy painting or scribble drawing. I'm no artist, but I love my crayons!
  10. Pinterest. Lots of social media can bring out the green-eyed comparison monster, but there's something very soothing about scrolling through recipes, crafts, gardening ideas, or pretty dresses.
  11. Bonus: This time of year, I love gift shopping for my friends!

A Simple Supper: Tomato Soup & Garlic Flatbread 

Sometimes you can't beat the classics. ;)

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce Recipe makes an excellent tomato soup, as well. Up the tomato content, thin with chicken broth, and/or add evaporated milk, all to taste. This summer I've been cooking with fresh tomatoes from the garden, so very rough measurements.

Then, make TheKitchn's "The Best Homemade Thin-Crust Pizza" recipe, mixing in a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic to the dough. Flatten small sections of dough (very thin!) with a rolling pin, and fry in a dry cast iron skillet on high heat. Brush with butter as you remove the flatbread from the skillet.

Serve warm, and enjoy!

Van Gogh Blues 

I've been reading "Van Gogh Blues" by Eric Maisel, and already I have several paragraphs of quotes copied! This is the first book I've read that accurately portrays the relationship *I feel* between my depression and creativity (with a nod to Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic").

 

"Creators have trouble maintaining meaning. Creating is one of the ways they endeavor to maintain meaning. In the act of creation, they lay a veneer of meaning over meaninglessness and sometimes produce work that helps others maintain meaning. This is why creating is such a crucial activity in the life of a creator: It is one of the ways, and often the most important way, that she manages to make life feel meaningful. Not creating is depressing because she is not making meaning when she is not creating. Creating but falling short in her efforts is also depressing because only insufficient meaning is produced if her products strike her as weak or shallow. Even creating well can be depressing because of the lingering sense that what she is doing is only veneering meaninglessness." - Eric Maisel, Van Gogh Blues

 

"The cliché is that creativity and depression go hand-in-hand. Like many clichés, this one is quite true. But creators are not necessarily afflicted with some biological disease or psychological disorder that causes them to experience depression at the alarming rates that we see. They experience depression simply because they are caught up in a struggle to make life seem meaningful to them. People for whom meaning is no problem are less likely to experience depression. But for creators, losses of meaning and doubts about life’s meaningfulness are persistent problems—even the root causes of their depression." 
"What is clear is that some people grow up doubting and questioning while the majority don’t. These meaning investigators are our creators, and they are prone to meaning crises and consequent depression by virtue of the fact that they find meaning a problem and not a given." - Eric Maisel, Van Gogh Blues

 

What sort of task is the task of meaning-making? The painter Dianne Albin summed it up beautifully: "As a woman and an artist, and also having reached my 50th year, I find I have many questions about the life I have chosen. Having searched the literature on what it means to be an artist, on what it means to be creative, I am no less puzzled. As with art, there is no all-embracing answer or point of view. And perhaps that is the crux of this paradoxical life. We embrace a life of solitude in order to embrace our creativity. We live outside the mainstream of life and struggle endlessly to survive both emotionally and financially. And we wonder why do we do this thing that causes so much pain and also joy. In seeking therapy for a bout of depression, I began to search for answers and then better questions. Both the depression and the deep creative block I was experiencing prodded me ruthlessly to find some meaning in my dilemma, some way to survive the ordeal and heal the wounds if possible. Most self-help books were too shallow and offered merely a Band-Aid remedy to deeper issues, while current psychology was a theoretical nightmare. From the many bits and pieces, I did garner a pair of essential questions. Why have I chosen this life and to what end? Obviously, it wasn’t for financial gain or success, as measured by contemporary values. Nor can I say the endless solitude or financial dependence is something one would actually choose if given a more practical, thoughtful moment. What then is the answer? Whom can I ask? In the end, I think it is the search for the real, but also the search for the self, the search for what it means to be human. Perhaps this will sound trite to many, but it really is that simple, I’m afraid. With the dawning of human consciousness, the search for meaning entered the equation of survival. It was not enough to have food and shelter; the questions of who am I and what is it that brings meaningfulness to life also became significant. It is our ability to think and feel, I believe, to see beyond the immediate concerns of the given moment that plunges us into an eternal search that seems to defy our finite existence. We are limited by our frailties, our fears, and yet we pursue the endless question to find some meaning. For an artist, it is a driven pursuit, whether we acknowledge this or not, that endless search for meaning. Each work we attempt poses the same questions. Perhaps this time I will see more clearly, understand something more. That is why I think that the attempt always feels so important, for the answers we encounter are only partial and not always clear. Yet at its very best, one work of art, whether produced by oneself or another, offers a sense of possibility that flames the mind and the spirit, and in that moment we know this is a life worth pursuing, a struggle that offers the possibility of answers as well as meaning. Perhaps in the end, that which we seek lies within the quest itself, for there is no final knowing, only a continual unfolding and bringing together of what has been discovered. For years I have struggled with discovering my own voice as an artist, a way of seeing that came from deep within myself, that belonged to no other. Why this deep and abiding need to have one’s own voice, one’s own vision? This struggle in itself has proven more difficult than I could ever have imagined. Why this need to separate and distinguish my deepest self, my own true thoughts, feelings, and beliefs from the accepted norm of society? That, I think, has been both the gift and burden of human consciousness. As much as we cling to one another and desire to be part of our human group, we know that we are truly separate. For all the many devices we utilize, we can never quite overcome our separateness. We find some solace in our groups of shared belief, thinking this will mollify the sense of isolation, and to some extent it does. But as we grow older the question “Is that all there is?” becomes more paramount, more insistent. For those called to the life of an artist, this question of meaning, of singular identity, comes sooner rather than later. My own experience came at the somewhat early age of six when I encountered the artwork of another. What was it that I experienced at an age when I lacked the words or understanding to process this encounter? In time I have come to understand more clearly that what I felt was quite simply that I was not alone—separate perhaps, but not alone. That there were those who had the capacity and ability to invest paint, canvas, stone with our deepest feelings, thoughts, and experiences and make an art that both embraced and explored our humanity. To create, to express the depth and experience of our consciousness of being alive, all the while knowing that death hovers nearby, that is what we do. If all this sounds a bit esoteric, I can only suggest that after we fill our bellies and find shelter from the raging elements, we occasionally pause—and in that pause we desire more than anything to understand and feel our humanness and perhaps see more clearly, if only for a moment, the wonder that surrounds us. I can only shudder when I think of life without our handiwork. The sheer paucity of living only for the sake of survival and empty diversion would be that of an empty vessel. My own life as an artist helps me to fill that vessel, and on occasion I am able to share that with another. Is there meaning in my struggle, my endless solitude? Yes, I believe there is, for at the very least I have found greater meaning for myself in that search. And as those artists who have come before me have perhaps more clearly expressed, our ability to ponder the questions that denote our humanness are worthy of a life of solitude. That is where I find my solace and my courage. In the final analysis, it is the art that I make that allows me to pause and briefly see. Only now do I begin to understand and accept both the burden and joy of my life." (Eric Maisel, Van Gogh Blues)