Advent In An Hour: Dec 25

December 25, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Thanks for following along on my little Advent project! It’s been a fun (though sometimes stressful) exercise in flexing my creative muscles. These daily doodles have also surprised me in that they caused me to reflect on various aspects of the Holidays I’ve either come to take for granted or failed to notice at all.

But I’m done reflecting and exercising and doodling for now. I’m taking a blogfast for today, and pushing the off button on my laptop to make a concentrated effort to be present and engaged with JJ, Papa, Cordi, Grandma & Grandpa, Uncle Baby and Amy, Uncle Bryan and Tio Danny. I encourage you to do the same and unplug whatever regularly distracts you from real life and the real folks around you.

But be sure and come back and post a comment on how it went. 🙂

Again, thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!

Advent In An Hour: Dec 24

December 24, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, THINGS MY KID DIGS

Every year for the last ten or so, I’ve made a mix of Christmas music for the drive to my parents’ house. This is JJ’s third Christmas — and he’s become quite the verbal and musical sponge — so this year’s mix is geared mainly towards him. A Christmas Mix 101, as it were.

Track list:

1. Jingle Bells – Frank Sinatra (Bonus points for Old Blue Eyes teaching JJ how to spell “Jingle Bells.” And sorry Babs, but your version’s too frenetic for a toddler. And don’t watch the link if you’re prone to seizures…)
2. Welcome Christmas – from How The Grinch Stole Christmas (starts at 5:30 on the clip)
3. The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) – Alvin & The Chipmunks
4. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer – Burl Ives
5. Little Drummer Boy – Peggy Lee
6. Frosty the Snowman – Dan Tyminski
7. Here Comes Santa Claus – The Puppini Sisters
8. The Friendly Beasts – Sufjan Stevens (If you don’t have Sufjan’s Christmas box set, you must. I’d buy it again for the packaging and sheet of stickers alone.)
9. Linus And LucyVince Guaraldi Trio (“Christmastime Is Here” is probably more recognizable, but it’s a little depressing. And nothing beats the Peanuts gang’s wacky dance party.)
10. Santa Claus Is Coming To TownFred Astaire
11. All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) – The Nat “King” Cole Trio
12. Feliz NavidadJosé Feliciano (part of JJ’s unofficial Spanish immersion program)
13. Mele Kalikimaka – Bing Crosby with The Andrews Sisters (…and his Hawaiian immersion. I wonder if the Obamas sing this at Christmas?)
14. Over the River and Through the WoodsThe Chipmunks (Grandma literally lives over a river and through some woods. Just wish I could find a less annoying version of this ditty, which by the way was originally a Thanksgiving song.)
15. Carol of the Bells – The Bird and The Bee
16. Dominick The Donkey – Lou Monte (In honor of JJ’s Nonno Dominick, whose birthday is today!)
17. Christmas Is ComingJohn Denver & The Muppets (Can’t wait to teach JJ to sing in a round!)
18. Joy To The World – Nat King Cole
19. You’re A Mean One Mr. GrinchThurl Ravenscroft
20. Dance of the Sugar Plum FairyLondon Symphony Orchestra (In honor of Daddy’s favorite Christmas character)
21. The First Nöel – Annie Lennox
22. Sleigh Ride Relient K
23. Let It SnowMichael Bublé
24. Hark The Herald Angels SingVince Guaraldi Trio (Everybody now, “Loo, loo, loo…”)
25. Jingle BellsThe Singing Dogs (Cordi perked up for this one)
26. Silent Night – Sixpence None The Richer
27. Twelve Days Of Christmas – John Denver & The Muppets (It wouldn’t be a Christmas road trip without something from this CD. JJ applauds at the end of this classic gem every time.)

What songs did your family grow up on? Any others you’d recommend?

Advent In An Hour: Dec 23

December 23, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

And here’s one last, silly, out-of-order, Twelve Days of Christmas reject…

On the 11th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:


Advent In An Hour: Dec 22

December 22, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

Some of the most fun I’ve had over the last 10 years — both professionally and personally — has been designing my own Holiday cards. They’ve allowed me complete creative freedom, as well as the challenge of creating something to both promote my business and send personal greetings. Maybe someday I’ll show them all off here…

However, this was the first year I sent an e-card for my business in addition to a printed personal card. And with all of the bad news the postal service is getting lately, I hope I didn’t contribute to their demise too much.

I was very pleased with my inaugural e-card, as well as one I did for one of my clients. I felt like I was the director of a mini movie – coordinating the colors, shapes, motion and music to form a quick, yet engaging online card.

While the e-cards were a blast to make, I doubt I’ll ever stop designing and sending printed cards altogether. In addition to being a creative outlet for me, it’s a way to feel more personally connected with the recipients.

It’s so easy nowadays to “connect” with someone anywhere in the world, whether it’s with a call, email, text, tweet, post, like or poke. So the process of choosing/creating a card, writing a message (at least sign the inside… unsigned Christmas cards are as impersonal as any e-card, if not more), putting it in an envelope, addressing and stamping it, then putting it in the mail seems over-the-top in comparison. It becomes more than a chore or a tradition, but a true gesture.

Advent In An Hour: Dec 21

December 21, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

On the 7th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:


Yay, all caught up! Can’t believe there’s only 4 days til Christmas… yikes.

Advent In An Hour: Dec 20

December 21, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Some things this son (and grandson) of a Baptist preacher man has learned about Hanukkah over the years:

1. How to spell it. Hanukkah or Chanukah.
2. The proper greeting is simply “Happy Hanukkah.” “Chappy Chanukah” is not an acceptable alternative.
3. It’s not Jewish Christmas. There’s no such thing as a Hanukkah bush to decorate or a Hanukkah Harry delivering gifts for eight nights.
4. Yom Kippur is the fasting holiday; Hanukkah (like all other holidays) you get to eat! But not matzo.
5. As far as Jewish holidays goes, it’s not that big of a deal. Certainly not one of the top three. Or even the top six.

But while it may not hold the same level of importance that Christmas does to Christians, I’m glad Hanukkah’s around, reminding us Gentiles that we’re not the only religion on the block. So I’m spending Hanukkah being thankful for all my friends who happen to be Jewish. Like with any other community, there are plenty of differences among them. But the one thing they have in common is they’ve brought joy, warmth and friendship to my life, and made me richer for it.

So HAPPY HANUKKAH to Ira, Polina & Gary, Gabby, Craig, Steve, Andrew, Victor, Bob, Dallas, Devra, Gregg, Julie, Ian & Pauline, Justin, Larry, Billy, Jon & Jessica, Sharyn, Mike & Hannah, Harrison, Jeff, Wynn and anyone I might have missed!

Advent In An Hour: Dec 19

December 21, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Okay, back to a couple of quick, silly ones…

And on the 6th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

…this one’s a bit trickier (and not very PC). Correct guesser gets a shout-out!

Scratch that, I’ll just put the answer here… SIX GEESE PÂTÉ-ING!

Advent In An Hour: Dec 18

December 20, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Here’s my (hopefully) last retroactive Advent doodle, inspired by another of the songs I performed with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington last weekend at our annual holiday concert.

Our big finale was a medley called Winter Party, which consisted of the following:
1. The full chorus singing “Winter Nights,” composed by one of our own choristers;
2. “White Christmas” was sung while another member performed a ballet (pas de un?) I admit I’m not a ballet aficionado, but this guy was lovely to watch;
3. “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, complete with a gaggle dancers in shiny booty shorts, one emerging from a furry, white egg;
4. and concluding with “Winter Wonderland,” which served to serenade a parade of increasingly over-the-top, glittery, feathery, snowy showboys. It was a sight to behold.

While I readily admit not every song or show we perform is my cup of tea (I still don’t get the “Born This Way” connection to Christmas*) I’m always amazed the quality, variety and originality of our performances.

And what makes GMCW great is illustrated in today’s doodle… While we share a love of music (oh yeah, and the gay thing) we are as disparate as any community you’ll find, each their own distinct little snowflake. But when all 250+ of us come together, it’s quite the singular sensation…

*I still think we should have had a dancing Baby Jesus emerge from the snowy Gaga egg, since the song is called “Born This Way.” But that’s just the rebellious preacher’s kid in me stirring up trouble.

Advent In An Hour: Dec 17

December 19, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Since I was busy all weekend singing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington I am posting those days retroactively… and basing the Advent doodles on some of the songs we performed…

In memory of Peter Fox, who passed away on January 2, 2012, 16 days after this post was written…

Recently a member of our chorus fell gravely ill. As part of our efforts to wish him well, we sent a video of ourselves singing “Merry Christmas, Darling.”

Merry Christmas darling
We’re apart that’s true
But I can dream and in my dreams
I’m Christmas-ing with you

One of the many comments made about this person over the weekend struck me in particular: “No matter who else was around, whenever you were speaking with him, you felt as if you were the only person in the room.”

I don’t know him well, but from the few conversations I’ve had with him, I can echo the sentiment wholeheartedly. The comment has added impact because this man seemingly has it all: great talent, good looks, a Donny Osmond smile, etc. Someone with the potential to be quite intimidating if he wanted to be, yet he chooses to wield his charm for good purposes.

So over the course of this very tiring weekend of rehearsals, concerts, celebrating, and holding out hope for our chorus brother, I was reminded of two things:

1. What a great community of friends and family I have in GMCW

2. When you take the time to talk to someone — no matter how intimidating or good-looking or popular or grumpy or aloof they may seem on the surface — people are generally pretty decent. I know I can’t be best friends with all 250+ members of my chorus, but every time I’ve made the effort to say hello or get to know one of them on even the most basic of levels, I’ve left pleasantly surprised and feeling a little more connected.

So whether you’re with family, friends or going it alone for Christmas, find a way to stay connected. If not in person, then over the phone, through email, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, or even by commenting on a blog. 🙂

Logs on the fire
Fill me with desire
To see you and to say
That I wish you Merry Christmas
Happy New Year, too
I’ve just one wish
On this Christmas Eve
I wish I were with you

Advent In An Hour: Dec 16

December 19, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF

Alrighty, I am VERY much behind on my Advent doodles, due to the fact I was singing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So the drawings for those days are going to be done retroactively (Ghost of Christmas Past, anyone?) and based on some of the songs we performed…

Today (December 16th) illustrates “Angels We Have Heard On High” and also happens to be my Dad’s birthday, so this one’s also for him…

I grew up an Air Force brat, so our Christmases looked a little different from year-to-year. Some years we had live Christmas trees and snowdrifts up the side of the house, others were spent in tropical climates, where Poinsettia bushes grew in the front yard. But one of the few enduring holiday traditions of my childhood (and beyond) was my Dad sitting us all down to read the Christmas story (from the Bible, not the movie) before opening presents. As a child that was pretty annoying at times — it certainly killed our amped-up, pre-present-frenzy buzz. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it a nice way to ease into the mayhem, remind us of the love we have for each other as a family, and that what we get/give really doesn’t matter in the end.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Luke 2:1-20

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