Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday's Top Five - Favourite Old-Country Artists

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that I'm a super-fan of 790 CFCW country radio..... and it's not just for all the free bison meat we get through them.

It all started about five years ago when I'd grown tired of listening to the other country station in town. There was just too much immaturity pop-like music and chatter that no longer held my attention. So one day I up and switched stations and never looked back.

What I did was go back to my roots, to the station I listened to as a kid late at night on my walk-man when I was supposed to be sleeping.

Yes, 790 CFCW plays a mix of today's country hits as well as some long-gone classics by artists that passed on before I was born.... and I love it.

Sure, some of the songs must sound just plain silly to today's modern listeners, but they take me back to a simpler time..... and, frankly, I need that most days.

So nothing pleases me more today than to present you with this........

Friday's Top Five - Favourite Old-Country Artists

5) Merle Haggard

Every now and then on CFCW they have these little vignettes about a legendary star's rise to fame, and my favourite story is that of Merle Haggard.

After finally hitting it big, he mentioned to his friend Johnny Cash about how much he enjoyed hearing Cash play at San Quentin Prison years before, to which he replied, "Merle, I don't remember you being on that bill there."

And Haggard of course said, "I wasn't on the play bill, I was in the audience!"

Yes, Merle Haggard comes by his bad-boy tunes and reputation honestly. He really did spend time in prison, and when he sings lyrics like, "Mama tried to raise me better," you know he's speaking about his actual mother.

And THAT is was country music is all about. Good or bad, Merle Haggard's music is REAL, and he apologizes to no one.

4) Loretta Lynn

I've always liked Loretta Lynn, but it wasn't until I met my husband that I really gained appreciation for her music and talents.

Apparently my father-in-law is a huge fan of hers and was always singing along to her music when my husband was a kid growing up in northern New York.

And, because history of course repeats itself, my daughter now has the priviledge of growing up listening to her dad sing along to Loretta's music. Which is pretty hilarious when you think about one of Loretta Lynn's greatest hits, You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man.

Yes, my husband and father-in-law proudly sing this out loud.

My personal favourite Loretta Lynn tune is the one she's best known for: Coal Miner's Daughter. Just like with Merle Haggard's song above, this one is autobiographical, and that's what makes it so powerful to me. She's LIVED exactly what she's singing about, and she rose from poverty to become the living legend she is today.

And who doesn't love a good rags-to-riches story like this one?

3) Ian Tyson

You know when you listen to artists on the radio these days, and then you go see them live but they sound nothing like they did on their recording? Yeah, I hate that, too.

Which is why I love Ian Tyson.

The man is solid country gold. And Canadian to boot.

You can listen to him live and, much like Merle and Loretta, he sounds just like he did 30 years ago. No gimicks. No pyrotechnics. No fancy dance moves.

Because he doesn't need them! He's just smooth and calm and wholesome and good, and I want nothing more than to bring him home with me and call him Grandpa. (Sorry, is that weird?)

My two favourite songs of his are Four Strong Winds and Springtime in Alberta because -- why else? -- they feature the greatest province in all of Canada, and I feel an ache in my gut each time I listen to him sing these tunes.

2) Kenny Rogers

Oh, Kenny. How I wish you'd stayed away from all that botox.

It's really unfortunate that Kenny Rogers has become the butt of many plastic surgery jokes these days. He -- like all of us -- is about so much more than just the way he looks, and it was so nice to see him inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame last week. (So, at least for one day anyway, no one made any comments about his appearance.)

My personal favourite song of his is She Believes In Me, which is a karaoke staple of my husband's whenever we vacation on cruise ships.

And, yes, I tear up a little each time I hear this played on radio, too.

Kenny Rogers' most popular song, though, is probably The Gambler. During his HOF ceremony last week, he mentioned how thrilled he is to be known for this song. As he put it, this isn't a song about drinking or cheating or abuse or whatever. It's a song about life and making the right decisions.

And it's so much better to be remembered for something like that than just about the way you look.

1) Dolly Parton

My love for this woman borders on the unhealthy.

Even though my concert-going days are pretty much over, this is one artist I'd give anything to see live. And I'd totally bring my mom along, too.

Growing up, I wanted to be just like Dolly Parton. I wanted everything from her big curly wig hair to her southern drawl and even (especially?) her 20-inch waist.

In my mind, she just had it all.

Not only can she sing, but my childhood is flush with memories of her acting on television, as well. At one point in the 80s she even had a weekly variety show that often featured Kenny Rogers and Hulk Hogan, too.

Now how cool is that?

In terms of TV, my favourite film of hers was a Christmas special that aired when I was a kid, titled Smokey Mountain Christmas. At the time, I recorded it off the TV onto a VHS tape and, yes, I still make an effort to revisit it each holiday season. (Yeah, I totally just outed myself for still using a VCR, but whatevs. That's how I roll.)

When it comes to music, though, my favourite SOLO song of hers is Coat of Many Colors because - like I've mentioned with others - it's autobiographical and it makes me tear up whenever I hear it.

But, for personal reasons, my all-time favourite Dolly song is actually a duet she did with Kenny Rogers, called Islands in the Stream.

If there is one song that takes me back to my childhood, it's this one. And I'm not even ashamed to admit that out loud on the Internet.

There you have it. The artists of yesterday that I love still today.

Now it's time to head over to Divulge with Dani's blog to see what she's got cooking on this topic.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday's Top Five - Fitness goals for 2013 (and beyond!)

So do you remember a few months ago when I boldly stated that I was actually feeling really good and was optimistic about my health this year? Well, umm, as could be expected, I've hit the proverbial wall. And it's only spring.

Yes, I'm back in my usual rut and am doing what I can to claw my way out and get back on track.

Story of my life. Ahem.

To paraphrase one of my favourite lines from Life of Pi, one of my biggest mistakes is to always hope too much but do too little. So I need to stop just 'talking the talk' and begin doing some walking as well. Both literally and figuratively.

And how better to do that than to set some definite goals for this year and to put them in writing for all to see and harass me about later......

Friday's Top Five - Fitness goals for 2013 (and beyond!)

5) Walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week

Once upon a time, I used to walk everywhere I went...... but now I rarely even walk to the bus stop anymore. (It's true, lately I've been getting a ride to the bus stop each morning. Convenient? Hell yes. But oh so bad for my already sedentary lifestyle.)

It's simply not realistic for me to get up any earlier in the morning to exercise (my alarm already goes off at 5 am, yo.) And since I'm usually in bed by 9:30 pm, there isn't much time in the evening for working out either. (Not if I actually want to spend time with my family anyway.)

So all that's really left is for me to workout during my lunch hour at work. And, lucky for me, there's a private gym not even 30 seconds down the hall from my office. And they have a beautifully clean shower room as well.

Seriously. It's ridiculous just how spoiled I am at work.

So, on days where I'm not working through my lunch hour, I've been spending it at the gym. Sadly, I am my own worst enemy and often talk myself out of going on most days. (What's wrong with me??)

Thus, my goal for this year is to up the frequency of my treadmill workouts. At the moment I'm speed walking for 30 minutes just 3 times a week, and my goal is to up the frequency to 5 days a week. 

Totally achievable, right?


4) Reintroduce myself to my abs, via Pilates

"Hey, babe, remember when we first met and you had some rockin' abs? I miss those."  - said my husband to me several years ago after having given birth to our daughter.

I could have slugged him.

In all seriousness, though, I've NEVER had rockin' abs..... but I've definitely been much slimmer around the mid-section. Pregnancy ruined me, and I still haven't gotten back to my pre-pregnant body, but at least it's something for me to aim for.

Pilates used to be a staple in my lifestyle and, though I took it for granted at the time, it really did help strengthen my core muscles and improve my overall health. So remind me again why I have yet to do a single Pilates session since becoming a mom?

No more excuses. I just need to do it. My goal for this year is to incorporate Pilates into my fitness regime at least 3 times a week.


3) Improve my posture, via a balance ball

I'd been debating this for years, but I finally just went and did it this week. Yes, I ditched the cushy chair-on-wheels I had at my desk and just started sitting on one of those giant bouncy exercise balls instead.

What I wanted was this:

But what I just ended up getting is a regular run-of-the-mill ball that I purchased at Wal-mart.

I've read some reviews on these balls, and so far I can't find any conclusive evidence that they actually work in improving posture or strengthening your core if you're just sitting there at a desk, but I'm giving it a try anyway. 

Does anyone out there have any experience in substituting desk chairs for a ball? Feedback, please!

2) Start running again

I used to run 2-3 times a week, but then I just stopped after my daughter was born because I had difficulty keeping up with my running partner. And that was my fatal mistake.

It was understandable at the time that it would take a while for me to get back to where I was pre-pregnancy, but, instead of pacing myself and taking small baby steps, I just stopped running altogether. And that only served to compound my problems now.

So, even though my pace is painfully slow, I need to incorporate some running intervals into my daily walks. I did start doing this again earlier this week, and it was incredibly hard. More so than the first time I took up running but, then again, my body has changed drastically since then, so this should come as no surprise.

Unlike before, though, this time I can't quit.

I'm not going to kid myself into thinking I'll one day be able to run a half-marathon, but I would like to think that one day I'll just be able to run again, period.

1) Lose fat

I know it sounds silly -- redundant, even -- but my number one fitness goal this year is to lose fat.

I've mentioned this before, but, back in my 20s, it was all about vanity. These days it's just about getting healthy, and for me that means decreasing the percentage of fat on my body.

I don't care so much about the number on the scale; I just want to be healthy and relatively fit so that I can enjoy life again and actually look forward to all of the activities I listed above. 


Okay, so these are the things I'm striving for this year (and every year thereafter). For more fitness motivation, go check out Divulge with Dani's blog next to see what she has in store for this year as well.