The Fancy Mayhem Blog

Shannon Wurst share stories from the road, resources for musicians, DYI projects, thrift store scores, and insight to the daily life of a indie folk singer.
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I know there is SO much to talk about when it comes to promotion and marketing of your music, but the reality is that it’s kind of all for naught if you’re not continually writing better and better songs to promote. It should probably go without saying that the best way to make promotion as easy as possible is by having killer songs that people will be excited to listen to and share with their friends. There’s no better promotion than word of mouth, really.

So today I want to give a big ‘ol list of tips, tricks and ideas to help your songwriting. Ready?

1. Get a new toy

Don’t go crazy with this one… I’m not advocating constantly buying new things, but sometimes a new toy can really inspire some new ideas. It can be as simple as a super cheap instrument from a yard sale or a free software plugin (speaking of which, this one always inspires me).

2. Play an instrument you don’t know how to play

Maybe this one can go along with the previous point. I’ve found that tinkering around on an instrument you don’t know how to play can lead to some really cool ideas and get you out of songwriting ruts. You’re inevitably going to play something simple (which is USUALLY better) and you’ll be free of any ruts you normally fall into on your main instrument(s).

3. Make arbitrary decisions

This one might sound weird, but it works for me a lot of the time. Sometimes songwriting is about getting ideas out quickly and sorting through them later. So while you’re sketching a song out, just make arbitrary decisions without giving them much thought. Repeat this section twice? Sure. Verse, chorus, verse, verse, chorus, chorus? Sure! Fine tuning arrangements and parts can come later. At the beginning it’s about getting something… ANYTHING down.

4. Clean up your room

Maybe this one sounds weird too. But maybe you’re like me in that a cluttered room means a cluttered mind. And a cluttered mind means less ability to focus. And that means you’re gonna struggle during a songwriting session. So be intentional about making sure the space you’re using is clean and ready for some creativity.

5. Take pieces from previously written songs

Just because a song is done doesn’t mean you can’t cannibalize it. Did you really like a certain instrument or part from a different song? Grab it, take it out of context and see if it inspires anything new. (Incidentally, this is exactly what I did with the cello tracks on my new song The Windows Of You (I Sang A Quiet Song)… they’re the exact parts taken from another song of mine called Roaring Forties).

6. Reverse it

Now I KNOW this one is weird. And maybe it applies to certain music style more than others. Got a few parts down and don’t know where to go with your song? Make a copy of your tracks and tell your software to reverse them. Now you’ve got some weird sounding backward sounds or even a completely different chord progression. Instant inspiration!

7. Creative limitations

I’ve said this before, but it’s probably the best tip I have. You likely have WAY too much at your disposal during your songwriting and maybe it’s getting in the way. So limit the number of instruments you give yourself. Limit the number of chords in the song. Limit the length of the song. Limit the number of tracks in your recording software. Give yourself a deadline to finish the song. Limitations are your friend and will help you be creative!

8. Don’t listen over and over and over and over and over and over and over

I typically write songs in sections. I’ll flesh out one section and then move on to the next one. This means that I’m continually looping a section and adding stuff on top of it. If I let this process go on for too long and I hear that section over and over and OVER I completely lose sight of the section. I’ve heard it so many times that it becomes ingrained just the way it is and I can’t add anything useful to it or make it better. So don’t dwell on sections. Move on before you get stuck.

9. Create low-pressure idea sessions and document the results

Instead of sitting down and saying “I’m going to write a song right now”, maybe give yourself some time to just mess around on your instrument. Don’t put any pressure on yourself, just play. But be ready to capture ideas if they come up. I use my iPhone for this. And if you don’t come up with any ideas, don’t sweat it! Try again another time. Sometimes pressure saps creativity.

10. Learn how you work best

Hopefully these tips can help you experiment with songwriting, but ultimately you should figure out the things that work best for you and allow you the most creative inspiration. So as you continually go through this process, step back and note the things that work for you and the things that don’t. Soon you’ll find songwriting is more of a process and a system rather than a crapshoot!

So there’s some ideas for you. Do you think any of these will work for you? Any other weird tips or tricks that have helped your songwriting? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Here is an interesting article from yourdictionary.com

Music and Academics

Music can help with academic success. Poor grades do not automatically reflect poor intelligence; they are often an outcome of lack of interest and lack of motivation in studying.

Studies have shown that music triggers notable improvements in a student’s academic skills when they listen to certain types of music while they are studying.

  • Makes task seem easier - Listening to feel-good music while performing a challenging task can make the activity seem a whole lot easier and more manageable to accomplish.
  • Improves motivation - Exposure to music through lessons and other activities may help students overcome their mental block, so to speak. Music has been proven to be an effective tool in encouraging students to explore different fields.
  • Increases confidence - It helps boost the confidence of the students and helps them achieve more success in their endeavors.
  • Music heightens self-trust and sharpens personal discipline.

The rhythm of music has also been shown in studies to aid in the studying of one of the most intimidating subjects for many students: math. Music stimulates the areas of the brain that are responsible for your thinking, planning, and analyzing, thereby improving your organizational skills and making you more capable of handling challenging math problems.

Music Therapy

Understanding how music affects the brain has been a topic of scientific research for years. It still is a very broad subject and scientists don’t yet fully understand all the implications of music on the brain.

Although there is still not yet a full understanding of music’s effect on the brain, modern and alternative treatments have began to embrace music’s effects by making use of music therapy to treat depression, ADD, seizures, premature infancy and insomnia.

Music and Serotonin Levels

Emotional problems and other negative feelings such as anxiety, worrying, and depression create an uncomfortable and sometimes chaotic mood in the brain, thereby affecting its functioning. This is reflected in weaker reasoning ability and increased difficulty in the performance of tasks as a result of a reduction in the levels of serotonin.

Around 50 million brain cells are affected by serotonin levels. Music can cause an increase in serotonin levels thereby creating positive effects on the brain cells that control memory power, learning, mood, sleep functions, body temperature regulation mechanisms, sexual desires, and other processes.

Endorphin Release Due to Music

Studies suggest music also helps in the release of endorphins that aid in speeding up the body’s healing process:

  • It distracts the body from suffering and pain.
  • It simultaneously triggers certain chemical activities that promote healing.

Listening to soothing and pleasant music creates a positive impact on the mental and physical well-being of its listeners.

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Music, Memory and Creativity

Music helps improve your memory. Research suggests that the silence in between two musical notes can trigger the neurons and brain cells which are required for sharp memory. Music from flute, sarod, and santoor, are ideal for the improvement of memory and concentration.

Music with stronger beats causes brain waves to resonate in such a way that is in sync with the music. This brings about higher levels of alertness and concentration.

Music also enhances your creativity. Music has positive effects on the right side of your brain. Music affects the brain’s center which is responsible for creativity development.

Come rafting with me!

August 5th on the Green River on the Gate of Ladore!  Only 20 spots left!
Music and campfire each night!Email Me: shannonwurstmusic@gmail.com 

Come rafting with me!

August 5th on the Green River on the Gate of Ladore!  Only 20 spots left!

Music and campfire each night!

Email Me: shannonwurstmusic@gmail.com 

Here’s a great article on putting together a live show:

Top 5 Mistakes Musicians Make with Their Live Show

376753864 nkut3 x3 300x213 Top 5 Mistakes Musicians Make with Their Live Show[This article was written by guest contributor Tom Jackson, our favorite live music producer! For more great advice on crafting an engaging live show, check out Tom Jackson Productions.]

It was an important day – after 3 weeks of work with an artist on their live show, we were wrapping up a “moment” we were creating for their 55 date tour. I needed a little energy in a cup!

So I stopped at Starbucks just outside Nashville – one of the busiest in the southeast, I’m told. As I waited in line, I overheard a conversation between two guys in front of me about a new record release and upcoming tour.

I’d actually been approached by this guy’s record company and manager about working on his show, so I introduced myself. His reaction didn’t surprise me. He stepped back, looked at me suspiciously, and said, “Dude what are you talking about? Our show rocks!”

Obviously, he didn’t have the same opinion as his manager and record label.

I’m a Live Music Producer, and I’ve been working on artists’ shows for 20 years. I do what a record producer does for the recording – but I go into rehearsal halls and help artists get ready for their live shows, showcases, and tours.

Starbucks and the rehearsal hall are my world. I’ve been in the music business a long time, lived in Nashville 17 years, and the only reason I know where BMI, ASCAP, and a few recording studios are, is because they are on Nashville’s Music Row or a friend of mine owns one. But if you ask me where the best rehearsal studio is in Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, Austin, Orlando, or Timbuktu – I can tell you!

I also get asked to speak at music conferences and colleges around the world to teach my Live Music Method, which will help an artist get a vision for their show, help them be more comfortable and spontaneous onstage, and help them understand how to connect with an audience without changing who they are. It helps them get prepared to work with me and my team.

So I was asked by Kevin Breuner at CD Baby to write about the biggest mistakes artists make with their live show. Here are 5 big mistakes, in no particular order:

1. “Winging it” is mistaken for spontaneity

I constantly run across the attitude of “Dude, I’ve got to be spontaneous – I can’t rehearse my show!” Sometimes my reply is “Awesome – but if you really want to be spontaneous, make up the song right in front of the audience… that’d be real awesome!”

They look at me like I’m crazy or have 2 heads. Because of course they practice the music, dynamics, tempo, tones, melodies, and harmonies. They know those need to be right. And, if they’re a group, they work on making the music really tight. But instead of learning the right way to be spontaneous onstage, they mistake “winging it” for spontaneity! They jump around onstage and try different things, hoping something will work. And here’s the irony – when they do something verbally, visually, or musically in front of the crowd one night that gets a great response, they do that same thing the next night, too.

So where did the spontaneity go? They do the same thing they did the first night because it worked! That’s because spontaneity and winging it are 2 different things. In fact, if we rehearse right, we will leave room for spontaneity in our show.

Which brings me to the next mistake:

2. Practice is mistaken for rehearsal

Artists know when they go into the recording studio, they don’t lay down basic tracks, add a few sweeteners, and a scratch track vocally, then turn to the producer and say, “Sounds great. Let’s get it to the manufacturer!” An artist who has any sense at all knows there’s more to be done with the recording. You need a final mix. In fact, the mix can even make or break the song. It’s why people like Grammy winner Al Schmitt get paid a stupid amount just to mix people’s songs.

But most artists don’t realize there is more to getting a live show ready than just “practicing” the music. Rehearsal involves the musical, the visual, the verbal, the rearranging of songs that were written for radio so they work live, and more.

Which brings us to mistake #3:

3. Song arrangements intended for radio are mistakenly used for live shows

Some of you have heard me talk about the qualities of a sitcom for TV (22 min. of show + 8 min. of commercials = sitcom). As a musician, our equivalent to a sitcom is a song for radio. We know the rules for getting played on radio: 3-4 minutes long, a certain form, short intro, etc. But a live show and radio are 2 different things!

The Simpsons sitcom was made into a movie a few years ago. As a consumer, if you’d gone to the theater and paid $10 for 22 minutes of show plus 8 minutes of commercials, you’d have felt cheated. Why? Your expectations are different in a theater. Well, your audience’s expectations are different at a club or concert hall than they are when they turn on a radio. If you play your songs just as they were recorded for radio, you’re making a big mistake. Those songs need to be rearranged to create a compelling live show.

Not understanding the audience’s expectations is part of the 4th mistake:

4. Artists assume the audience wants them to sing songs or play music

Audiences go to a live concert for 3 reasons: to be captured & engaged, to experience moments, and to have their lives changed in some way. As musicians, we make the mistake of thinking (partly because it’s us, our adrenaline is flowing, and we’re playing our own music) that we are awesome onstage and there are “moments” all through our songs. And there are – for us. But we need to create moments for our audience!

That’s what a huge part of rehearsal is: finding the moments in the songs, and rearranging them so they become moments for the audience (not just us). Living in Nashville, a huge part of the music industry is still consumed with having a “hit song.” A hit song will compel people (usually listening on radio) to go to iTunes or Google the artist to find the song… because it moved them emotionally. In other words, a hit song is a “moment” that connects the listener emotionally to the artist. It’s a distinct craft and art. And it’s why the best producers in the world get paid extraordinary sums to produce those hits for the artist!

But even well written songs don’t necessarily become hits. (If that were the case, the tens of 1000s of songs written every year around the world that are well crafted, lyrically clever, and well arranged would all be hits.) But here’s the good news: if you have a well written song, inside that song is usually a “moment!” You as the artist know it! And the Live Music Producer’s job is to find that moment and help you deliver it in your live show. But if you’re just playing songs, most people will miss those moments.

That’s why delivering a song live onstage is so important, and you shouldn’t make mistake #5:

5. Artists’ songs all look the same, even though they don’t sound the same

As an artist you know your songs are all different. They have different themes, melodies, rhythms, and tones. They don’t sound the same. But (for 95% of artists out there) they look the same. You need to be as creative with your show as you are with your music. Communication with your audience is 15% content, 30% tone or emotion, and 55% is what they see. So it can be a real problem if your songs all look the same, because to an audience that doesn’t know who you are, your songs will start sounding the same. Most artists typically do the same thing onstage over and over for every song: the same movement from the same place… big mistake!

Oh, by the way, I never did work with the guy in Starbucks. A couple years later I walked into the same Starbucks, and saw him again – this time he was working the counter. A part of me wanted to gloat. But in reality, I felt sorry for him, because I thought he had written some good songs and he had a good band. They were just boring onstage. And it was too bad he didn’t know it.

———————————

TOM JACKSON BIO:

A Live Music Producer and master of creating moments onstage, Tom has taught 100s of artists of every genre – major artists like Taylor Swift, The Band Perry, Jars of Clay, & others – and countless indies, giving them a foundation and direction to define their unique voice and style to showcase their talent from the stage. A highly demanded speaker, Tom shares his knowledge at music colleges, conferences & events worldwide, impacting tens of thousands of artists every year. For more information and resources for your live show, go towww.OnstageSuccess.com.


 I have spent the morning booking shows for a northeast tour in April, southeast tour in late May, Texas tour in June, and Colorado Tour in August.  It’s like putting together a complicated puzzle.

Here’s what I do to break down the steps.

1. I first establish my destination (aka anchor date). Sometimes an anchor date is a good gig or it could be a date you want to visit a friend. Either way, it is like writing a good story: you need a beginning middle and end and fill in from there. Your anchor date is your middle!

2. Then, I plug in my hometown and destination in google maps to view cities along the way. 

3. I use icalendar and have three different color codes: routing (blue), possibility (green), confirmed (red) , other (orange). I put the anchor date on my calendar then add (in blue for routing) in each previous day with a city that is 3-4 hour driving distance. This is the “ideal” route that I want to take to be most cost effective, but I stay open to the surrounding cities.

4. Next, I email people that I know in these cities and musician friends who tour a lot to ask advice where to play in the selected areas.  So, when I get suggestions I put those cities in green for possibility and add there information to the MASTER VENUE LIST. I like to play house concerts, so ideally, I can set up a show in my friends’ living room. 

5. MASTER VENUE LIST. I keep an excel file that is called Master venue list. I have a page for each state, so if I know I am driving through Ohio, I have contact for every venue I’ve previously played and venues that others have suggested. I suggested that you research your favorite artist that are on your level and a few steps ahead of you and see where they play.  Do some research to add the booking contact info and which days of the week they have music. I also recommend calling for a more personal touch and follow up with an email. 

6. The trick is to remember who you’ve contacted, so that you can follow up to get that date confirmed in red!! SO, I add a note to my icalendar 7 days later to follow up. 

7. FOLLOW UP! Then confirm your date. Be sure to get all relevant information. How much you’ll be compensated, food provided, sound system, start time, end time, housing, etc. 

8. PLAY A GREAT SHOW so you’ll be asked back. The more you play and the better you become, more folks will contact you asking you to play instead of you beating down the pavement. But, you’ll want to continue to raise the bar of the types of venues you play, so keep contacting new places to branch out to new audiences.

GOOD LUCK!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at shannonwurstmusic@gmail.com

Ok, so today’s post has nothing to do with being a DIY musician, shopping at junk stores, or any up coming projects of mine that I think you should be interested in. Well, actually this is a project and perhaps you may be interested. I digress. Anyway, when I am on tour, it is always an interesting transition to get back home and find a routine in cooking and grocery shopping.  It is true that I in fact see that molded left over in the fridge that I should have removed before I left on tour, but there were more important issue like making sure I remembered my guitar, etc.  
So, being the dork I am, I googled “how to stock at fridge.” Don’t make fun, I was curious.
FYI, this is what I found.
Taken from “Real Simple”:
Healthy eating would be a lot easier if someone would clean out the refrigerator, get rid of the junk, and stock the shelves with nutritious choices. If high-fat, high-salt, low-fiber foods aren’t in sight (Chubby Hubby, anyone?), they are more likely to be out of mind―and out of mouth. But until you find a nutritionist-slash―personal assistant to do the job for you, take a peek into this healthy refrigerator. Look at it again before you head to the supermarket―it might keep you away from the Cool Whip.
Dairy and Staples
HummusKeep tubs on hand, plus bags of baby carrots. The combo is a low-fat, high-protein snack alternative to hunks of cheese or a fistful of cookies.CheeseReplace mellow, soft cheeses with sharp, harder ones. A small amount packs lots of flavor, saving you both dollars and fat grams. Look for aged Cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano.EggsKeep eggs in their carton on a lower shelf to guard against the loss of carbon dioxide and moisture. The shells may look impermeable, but they are covered with tiny holes that can absorb odors and flavors.Butter and margarineUse real butter where it counts, but sparingly. Keep sticks in a covered dish. (Freeze sticks you’re not using.) When it comes to margarine, soft kinds in tubs and those labeled “trans-fat free” are the only healthy butter substitutes.Chicken brothBuy it in resealable cartons. Use it to cook rice, mash potatoes, or saute vegetables for rich flavor without butter or oil. (Add broth to a warm skillet with the vegetables; cover and cook until tender.) Look for low-sodium or organic broth.YogurtAs with milk, go for low-fat instead of nonfat to enjoy more flavor. You can bake with it or drain it through a coffee filter for yogurt “cheese.”MilkOne percent milk has enough fat for baking but isn’t unhealthy to drink. Buy milk in opaque containers to protect it from light, which can reduce the vitamin content.Orange juiceSelect juice that is calcium fortified. There’s barely any difference in taste, and drinking one glass will give you a third of your recommended daily allowance of calcium.
Oils, Water, Produce
Salad dressingsYour healthiest bottled-dressing options are vinaigrettes made with olive oil, but if you have a weak spot for creamy dressings you can make them last longer (and eat fewer calories) by thinning them with milk, mild rice vinegar, or herb tea. Tossing a salad with dressing before serving it is the key to using less.MayonnaiseGo for low-fat mayonnaise rather than the low-cholesterol kind. Regular mayo doesn’t have a lot of cholesterol to begin with, but it does have a great deal of fat.DrinksKeep filtered water or seltzer in the refrigerator and you’ll always have a cold, refreshing, healthy drink on hand. (Soda consumption in the United States surpassed milk consumption in 1994 and is still shooting upward.)LeftoversSpoon leftovers―even the take-out kind―into glass or plastic containers that are microwave-safe. Some take-out trays and yogurt tubs are made from a kind of plastic that can leach chemicals into food at high temperatures. Avoid reheating in plastic containers that aren’t designated microwave-safe.Bagged lettuces and vegetablesConsider bags of baby spinach and other salad greens a shopping-list staple. For longest shelf life, buy prewashed greens in single-variety bags (the fragile leaves in salad mixes spoil first and can ruin the whole package). Combine them with more economical lettuce, such as iceberg, as needed.ProducePut produce in its place. That generally means either out of the fridge entirely (tomatoes and tropical fruits) or in one of the bottom bins, where the humidity is controlled. When vegetables lose moisture, they get limp and may lose vitamins. Spinach can lose as much as 50 percent of its vitamin C if left out overnight.OilsOlive, canola, and sesame oil are your healthiest options. If you have all three, you’ll be ready for just about any kind of cooking. All are best kept in the refrigerator, because they oxidize when exposed to heat and light. Oxidized oils taste rancid and may release free radicals, which are linked to many health risks. Chilled oils may become cloudy, but they’ll clarify at room temperature.

The Freezer
Prepared foodsPackaged meals come in sensible portions―but with sky-high sodium content. (The bulk of the sodium in the U.S. diet comes from prepared foods, not from what we use in cooking or sprinkle on at the table.) With homemade frozen foods, wrap tightly, label, and date. Meals stored in the freezer should be used within three months.Whole grainsBrown rice, whole-wheat flour, and oatmeal are the best grains to stock, but they should be kept cold. Unlike refined grains (the white ones), whole grains contain the outer bran as well as the inner seed, or germ. The germ contains some fat. And, like cooking oils, that fat can oxidize at room temperature.Sweet snacksWhen frozen, marshmallows get caramel-chewy and grapes end up tasting like cold gumdrops. Either will give you satisfaction without giving you fat.BananasWhen bananas are too speckled to pack in lunch bags, throw them into the freezer unpeeled. The skins will blacken, but the fruit will stay sweet and ripe inside. Blend one with orange juice, berries, and yogurt (no need for ice) for a breakfast smoothie.NutsFreeze an assortment―peanuts, pistachios, almonds, and walnuts―all of which are loaded with antioxidants. Don’t worry about the fat. Nuts are mostly made up of monounsaturated fats (the good kind). Like oils, nuts need to be kept cold and out of the light to remain fresh.Ice creamA University of Pennsylvania study found that the larger the container, the more careless we are about indulging. Buy ice cream in four-ounce individual servings or pints.SoybeansHere is the healthy, high-protein snack that will break you of the potato-chips-before-dinner habit. Edamame (soybeans in their pods) are the best-tasting tofu alternative. Drop them frozen into boiling water for a few minutes, drain, and salt. Serve warm or chilled (with a separate bowl to collect the discarded pods).

Ok, so today’s post has nothing to do with being a DIY musician, shopping at junk stores, or any up coming projects of mine that I think you should be interested in. Well, actually this is a project and perhaps you may be interested. I digress. Anyway, when I am on tour, it is always an interesting transition to get back home and find a routine in cooking and grocery shopping.  It is true that I in fact see that molded left over in the fridge that I should have removed before I left on tour, but there were more important issue like making sure I remembered my guitar, etc.  

So, being the dork I am, I googled “how to stock at fridge.” Don’t make fun, I was curious.

FYI, this is what I found.

Taken from “Real Simple”:

Healthy eating would be a lot easier if someone would clean out the refrigerator, get rid of the junk, and stock the shelves with nutritious choices. If high-fat, high-salt, low-fiber foods aren’t in sight (Chubby Hubby, anyone?), they are more likely to be out of mind―and out of mouth. But until you find a nutritionist-slash―personal assistant to do the job for you, take a peek into this healthy refrigerator. Look at it again before you head to the supermarket―it might keep you away from the Cool Whip.

Dairy and Staples

Hummus
Keep tubs on hand, plus bags of baby carrots. The combo is a low-fat, high-protein snack alternative to hunks of cheese or a fistful of cookies.

Cheese
Replace mellow, soft cheeses with sharp, harder ones. A small amount packs lots of flavor, saving you both dollars and fat grams. Look for aged Cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Eggs
Keep eggs in their carton on a lower shelf to guard against the loss of carbon dioxide and moisture. The shells may look impermeable, but they are covered with tiny holes that can absorb odors and flavors.

Butter and margarine
Use real butter where it counts, but sparingly. Keep sticks in a covered dish. (Freeze sticks you’re not using.) When it comes to margarine, soft kinds in tubs and those labeled “trans-fat free” are the only healthy butter substitutes.

Chicken broth
Buy it in resealable cartons. Use it to cook rice, mash potatoes, or saute vegetables for rich flavor without butter or oil. (Add broth to a warm skillet with the vegetables; cover and cook until tender.) Look for low-sodium or organic broth.

Yogurt
As with milk, go for low-fat instead of nonfat to enjoy more flavor. You can bake with it or drain it through a coffee filter for yogurt “cheese.”

Milk
One percent milk has enough fat for baking but isn’t unhealthy to drink. Buy milk in opaque containers to protect it from light, which can reduce the vitamin content.

Orange juice
Select juice that is calcium fortified. There’s barely any difference in taste, and drinking one glass will give you a third of your recommended daily allowance of calcium.

Oils, Water, Produce

Salad dressings
Your healthiest bottled-dressing options are vinaigrettes made with olive oil, but if you have a weak spot for creamy dressings you can make them last longer (and eat fewer calories) by thinning them with milk, mild rice vinegar, or herb tea. Tossing a salad with dressing before serving it is the key to using less.

Mayonnaise
Go for low-fat mayonnaise rather than the low-cholesterol kind. Regular mayo doesn’t have a lot of cholesterol to begin with, but it does have a great deal of fat.

Drinks
Keep filtered water or seltzer in the refrigerator and you’ll always have a cold, refreshing, healthy drink on hand. (Soda consumption in the United States surpassed milk consumption in 1994 and is still shooting upward.)

Leftovers
Spoon leftovers―even the take-out kind―into glass or plastic containers that are microwave-safe. Some take-out trays and yogurt tubs are made from a kind of plastic that can leach chemicals into food at high temperatures. Avoid reheating in plastic containers that aren’t designated microwave-safe.

Bagged lettuces and vegetables
Consider bags of baby spinach and other salad greens a shopping-list staple. For longest shelf life, buy prewashed greens in single-variety bags (the fragile leaves in salad mixes spoil first and can ruin the whole package). Combine them with more economical lettuce, such as iceberg, as needed.

Produce
Put produce in its place. That generally means either out of the fridge entirely (tomatoes and tropical fruits) or in one of the bottom bins, where the humidity is controlled. When vegetables lose moisture, they get limp and may lose vitamins. Spinach can lose as much as 50 percent of its vitamin C if left out overnight.

Oils
Olive, canola, and sesame oil are your healthiest options. If you have all three, you’ll be ready for just about any kind of cooking. All are best kept in the refrigerator, because they oxidize when exposed to heat and light. Oxidized oils taste rancid and may release free radicals, which are linked to many health risks. Chilled oils may become cloudy, but they’ll clarify at room temperature.

The Freezer

Prepared foods
Packaged meals come in sensible portions―but with sky-high sodium content. (The bulk of the sodium in the U.S. diet comes from prepared foods, not from what we use in cooking or sprinkle on at the table.) With homemade frozen foods, wrap tightly, label, and date. Meals stored in the freezer should be used within three months.

Whole grains
Brown rice, whole-wheat flour, and oatmeal are the best grains to stock, but they should be kept cold. Unlike refined grains (the white ones), whole grains contain the outer bran as well as the inner seed, or germ. The germ contains some fat. And, like cooking oils, that fat can oxidize at room temperature.

Sweet snacks
When frozen, marshmallows get caramel-chewy and grapes end up tasting like cold gumdrops. Either will give you satisfaction without giving you fat.

Bananas
When bananas are too speckled to pack in lunch bags, throw them into the freezer unpeeled. The skins will blacken, but the fruit will stay sweet and ripe inside. Blend one with orange juice, berries, and yogurt (no need for ice) for a breakfast smoothie.

Nuts
Freeze an assortment―peanuts, pistachios, almonds, and walnuts―all of which are loaded with antioxidants. Don’t worry about the fat. Nuts are mostly made up of monounsaturated fats (the good kind). Like oils, nuts need to be kept cold and out of the light to remain fresh.

Ice cream
A University of Pennsylvania study found that the larger the container, the more careless we are about indulging. Buy ice cream in four-ounce individual servings or pints.

Soybeans
Here is the healthy, high-protein snack that will break you of the potato-chips-before-dinner habit. Edamame (soybeans in their pods) are the best-tasting tofu alternative. Drop them frozen into boiling water for a few minutes, drain, and salt. Serve warm or chilled (with a separate bowl to collect the discarded pods).

I have been in rehearsals for a play called “Bear State of Mind”, in which I sing my originals tunes and puppeteer. Memorizing lines is exhausting (and challenging), but I don’t like the idea of coming home and zoning out to a TV to wind down. I actually don’t even have one.  Today I have chosen to blog to you!  I came across this website about other things to do beside watch TV and thought you might like to see the list!

(Taken from the website wholenine.com) 

174,203 THINGS YOU CAN DO INSTEAD OF WATCHING TV

This is the first post in our Kill Your TV series, designed to help you navigate your television-less existence for the next 30 days. (You didn’t think we’d spring it on you and then leave you hanging, did you?) Today’s post is all about helping you through the first week without your beloved plug-in drug – and filling those hours with something meaningful.

While it may seem obvious to those of you who have been without cable for a few years now, we’re here to present the rest of you Kill Your TV participants with 174,203 (almost) things you can do with your life instead of watching TV. (We’re also giving you links to products we like in our newly opened Amazon store, to help get you started.) Take back those hours this month and do something productive, fun, enriching or restorative. Like what? Glad you asked.

Improve Your Training Performance

  • Stretch
  • Perform self-myofascial release
  • Go for a recovery walk/bike/swim/paddle/row
  • Read training-related books or articles
  • Do some skill work
  • Practice yoga
  • Update your training logs
  • Get a massage
  • Take an ice bath
  • Connect with your trainer or fellow gym-goers
  • Lay out your short-term and long-term training goals
  • Get acupuncture

Improve Your Sleep

Improve Your Nutrition

  • Prep and cook food for the week
  • Try a new recipe
  • Visit a local farm or market
  • Clean out your pantry
  • Take a cooking class
  • Prepare a new vegetable
  • Read a cookbook
  • Make a weekly meal plan
  • Find a new nutrition book
  • Sign up for a CSA
  • Host a dinner party

Improve Your Family Time

  • Call or visit a family member
  • Play a board game or cards
  • Read a book together
  • Go outside and play
  • Cook dinner together
  • Help your kids with their homework
  • Take a family walk after dinner
  • Plan a family trip or vacation
  • Have a date night with your significant other
  • Work on a puzzle
  • Do a craft project
  • Write a letter or send a card
  • Organize family photos
  • Plan a party or an event

Improve Your Household

  • Train your dog
  • Finish that project that’s been half done for 6 months
  • Clean something
  • Organize something
  • Start a garden
  • Mow the lawn
  • Plant a tree or flowers
  • Have a yard sale
  • Start a compost pile
  • Wash your car
  • Send stuff to Goodwill
  • Get your oil changed
  • Do laundry
  • Go through stacks of papers and mail

Improve Your Fun and Play

  • Pick up a new sport
  • Go rock climbing
  • Learn to swim
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Have a picnic
  • Play with a slackline
  • Play boccee
  • Play ball with your kids
  • Climb a tree
  • Have a block party
  • Throw a frisbee
  • Go for a hike
  • Nap in the grass
  • Go to a local baseball game
  • Shoot some baskets

Improve YOU

  • Take an adult education class
  • Get a pedicure
  • Plan your dream house
  • Go to church
  • Volunteer
  • Learn to knit
  • Write something
  • Take an art class
  • Browse your local bookstore
  • Get involved with your neighborhood
  • Get involved in local politics
  • Finish your will
  • Join a book club
  • Meet with a financial advisor
  • Organize your business receipts
  • Take yourself out for dinner
  • Go to the dentist
  • Test drive a car you can’t afford

What Will YOU Do?

Okay, so we don’t quite have 174,203 things… but this is a darn good start. And we bet you can come up with even more ideas to fill those TV-watching hours. So what will you do instead of watching television during the month of May? Submit your best ideas to comments.

- See more at: http://whole9life.com/2011/05/instead-of-tv/#sthash.UwjEK6cn.dpuf

Prison Story Project
The first time I met with the ladies at the prison, I just sang them songs and let them ask me questions. They asked “what is your favorite song? “How long have you been playing?” They asked “Do we have to sing the song we write?”  I of course replyed, only if you want to.
I talked a bit about songwriting, but really we just talked. By the end of our meeting, I did give them an assignment to write a story about a moment of clarity in their life. By the next time we met, they shared their stories. Heart-wrenching. 
These ladies have endured more than most and are incredibly strong women because of it. Our next task, after the tears, and the settling of the heavy stories that were read, was to create a song. I had each lady pass there page around the group and everyone had a chance to underline words or phrases that stuck out or resinated with them. We took those phrases and words and created a skeleton for our song. I am looking forward to going back on Monday to do a song edit at the women’s prison. I love how these women are hands on and really care about this song and are willing to open up about painful past in order to improve and move forward. So much can be learned from their sharing of their lives. This song that they create as well as their stories will be turned into a play and performed once for the prison inmates and once for the community on April 18th in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  

Prison Story Project

The first time I met with the ladies at the prison, I just sang them songs and let them ask me questions. They asked “what is your favorite song? “How long have you been playing?” They asked “Do we have to sing the song we write?”  I of course replyed, only if you want to.

I talked a bit about songwriting, but really we just talked. By the end of our meeting, I did give them an assignment to write a story about a moment of clarity in their life. By the next time we met, they shared their stories. Heart-wrenching. 

These ladies have endured more than most and are incredibly strong women because of it. Our next task, after the tears, and the settling of the heavy stories that were read, was to create a song. I had each lady pass there page around the group and everyone had a chance to underline words or phrases that stuck out or resinated with them. We took those phrases and words and created a skeleton for our song. I am looking forward to going back on Monday to do a song edit at the women’s prison. I love how these women are hands on and really care about this song and are willing to open up about painful past in order to improve and move forward. So much can be learned from their sharing of their lives. 

This song that they create as well as their stories will be turned into a play and performed once for the prison inmates and once for the community on April 18th in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  

One of a kind, collectors item for Shannon Wurst fans, available (and the adventures of selling a car)

So, I have sold only a few cars in my life time. The first one was pretty easy since I ran it out of oil and it went for $500 to someone who worked on engines. Yup, I was that girl. I had a pit so deep in my stomach and I vowed to never neglect car maintenance again. And, I certainly have taken much better care since then.

The second was in the Wal-Mart parking lot. He had cash and made an offer.  I had to unload my guitar and sound equipment and called for a ride. Luckily, the bills were not counterfeit.

Last year I knew I was going to be on the road a lot and I needed something I could put a lot of miles on, and sleep in while at festivals, and something that got decent gas mileage. SO, I put my blue volvo up for sale and purchased a dodge sprinter. I LOVE IT! 

I didn’t realize how hard it is to sell a car when you aren’t actually home to sell it.  Yes, I am just now getting around to selling this thing. I’ve had a few folks on craigslist look at it, but no serious inquiries. So, I am home for a bit, and I would like to find BLUE a new home in order clear the driveway, give someone a good deal who needs some wheels, and pay off album debt from my latest release!

She’s got a lot of folk highway miles, 210,000 to be exact. She’s got a slow oil leak- don’t worry I’ve kept a close eye on it and add oil once a month or so.  Brand new tires!  The AC and heat works great. It use to not have a heater and boy, it was cold in the winter. Glad to report it has been fixed.

Blue-she’s practically raised me! I have spent more time with her than most of my family members.  She has quite the back story before I got her. She belonged to a wonderful Fayetteville artist family who unfortunately were killed in a tragic accident.  I have always felt great vibes from this car-it has good artist mojo! 

I want to find her a good home. She runs and will get you from point A to B.  Will you be stylin? Well, yes, in the “I drive a volvo wagon and listen to folk music and bring my own bags to the grocery store sort of way.” Asking $1900 which is the remaining album debt. (Bluebook is $3000). 

And yes, since you are wodnering, the car comes with an autographed album in the CD player ready to go for your listening pleasure. Oh, it has a tape deck too, but my album is not yet available on tape.  

Delivery available for an additional fee. 

DON’T WANT TO PURCHASE THE CAR, BUT WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE?  

www.shannonwurst.com/coolstuff