Yellow Brick Road https://yellowbrickroadblog.com Fun Education Resources | Serious Music Literacy Tue, 12 Jan 2021 20:53:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6 Winter Favorites https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2021/01/winter-favorites.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=winter-favorites https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2021/01/winter-favorites.html#respond Wed, 13 Jan 2021 10:45:00 +0000 https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/?p=60634 Today I’ll be sharing some of my favorite things from the winter season. Like all of you, my interests extend far beyond music education, so I’ll be including all of the other things I’ve loved this season too. MUSIC ED Fostering Social-Emotional Health in Elementary Music (pandemic edition) It should be no surprise that I […]

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Today I’ll be sharing some of my favorite things from the winter season. Like all of you, my interests extend far beyond music education, so I’ll be including all of the other things I’ve loved this season too.

MUSIC ED

  • Fostering Social-Emotional Health in Elementary Music (pandemic edition)
    • It should be no surprise that I love everything Elizabeth posts on her blog, but this post in particular is so important right now. If you’re teaching any form of distance learning, this is a must read!
  • Four Ways to Analyze Repertoire for Racism and Sexism
    • If you aren’t already following Michelle on Instagram, you’re missing out on quality content. This post is full of awesome and practical ways for you to analyze repertoire and ensure that you’re placing only the best literature in front of your students.
  • Research to Real Life: practical applications of music education research for teachers
    • Heather breaks down and summarizes music education research so that it can be applied directly (and practically) to the classroom. I truly can’t pick a favorite post, they’re all wonderful. Instead, I suggest that you head over to her blog and search the tags on the right-hand side to narrow down your interests and let the learning commence!

FOOD

  • Sticky Buns
    • I use a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen for these sticky sweet buns, and they’ve quickly become a household favorite. I would love to show you a photograph of them lovingly plated, but they just don’t last long enough. Here’s the recipe. Also, if you’re on the fence about an America’s Test Kitchen subscription, I can honestly say it’s my go-to for all my baking/cooking needs. I’m not affiliated with them, just a food-loving fan!
  • Lindt Lindor Strawberries and Cream Truffles
    • If you’re not into baking, these truffles are the next best thing. I mean, all Lindt Lindor truffles are amazing, but these just happen to be one of their limited edition flavors, so you have to get them while you can.

TV

  • Nadiya’s Time to Eat
    • If you’re a fan of The Great British Bake Off, then you’ll recognize Nadiya as the winner of season six. She has a new Netflix series called Time to Eat. It’s a feel-good show with lots of tips/cheats for quick meals and deserts. You can even grab all of her recipes for free HERE.
  • Derry Girls
    • I’ve mentioned this TV show before, but I’m watching it again and am reminded of how great it is. It’s a coming of age story that follows a group of teenagers during the 90’s in Derry, Northern Ireland. It mixes historical events of the time period with the typical growing pains of teenagers. If you’re in need of a good laugh, this is the show to watch.
  • The Mandalorian
    • This show is the only reason we have Disney Plus. You don’t need to be a Star Wars fan to enjoy it, thought that does make it more satisfying.

VIDEO GAMES

I have to preface this by saying that I’m not at all an avid video game player. Most games stress me out due to time limits, battle scenes, and motion sickness (I’m looking at you Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles). However, my favorites this season are my ideal type, the kind that are calming, have no time limits, and have a perspective that doesn’t make me nauseous.

  • Animal Crossing
    • This game is why I have a Nintendo Switch (and no longer borrow my husband’s). Animal Crossing is worth triple the price based on how much it’s helped me survive the pandemic. You get to design and landscape your own island with your new island friends. You can plant flowers, go fishing, dig up fossils, create waterfalls, build items with recipes, create pixel art, and more. You can even change the theme tune of your island. It’s lovely.
  • Spiritfarer
    • This game is as equally calming and entertaining as Animal Crossing. It even shares many of the same activities, such as planting a garden, learning new recipes, meeting friends, and foraging for items. However, in this game your purpose is to help your friends pass over from the spirit world into the afterlife. While doing this, you’ll explore new islands using your incomprehensibly large boat, complete tasks for your friends, and gain new skills.

PETS

  • Ripple Rug
    • I think it’s safe to say that Doctor Watson (our cat) is as sick of being home all the time as we are, but this Ripple Rug has made a huge difference. It’s the only thing we’ve bought for him that he plays with everyday. If you own a cat, you know this is a huge deal. If given the choice between a milk ring and a $10 toy, they’ll choose the milk ring every time.
  • Yeowww! Stinkies Catnip Sardines Cat Toy
    • I’m thankful that this toy is sturdy, because Watson gnaws on it like no other. If your cats are only mildly interested in most catnips, you might give this one a try. I get mine from my local pet supplies store, but you can find them online.

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4 New Instruments to Try for Music Teachers https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2020/12/4-new-instruments-to-try-for-music-teachers.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=4-new-instruments-to-try-for-music-teachers https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2020/12/4-new-instruments-to-try-for-music-teachers.html#comments Wed, 16 Dec 2020 10:30:00 +0000 https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/?p=60604 I’ve always loved playing instruments that are new (to me). Give me an instrument I’ve never played before, and I’ll be in bliss for hours. It’s a natural interest, but I think it serves a useful purpose too. It reminds me what it’s like to be a beginning instrumentalist with zero muscle memory and nothing […]

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I’ve always loved playing instruments that are new (to me). Give me an instrument I’ve never played before, and I’ll be in bliss for hours. It’s a natural interest, but I think it serves a useful purpose too. It reminds me what it’s like to be a beginning instrumentalist with zero muscle memory and nothing but my own determination to guide me.

For teachers in the states, now is a good time to look ahead to winter break and consider what music you can make just for fun. If you too would like a little challenge, and a reminder of what it’s like to start fresh, here are some of my favorite instruments to try.

Ocarina

I first became interested in ocarinas during a trip to Dragon Con a few years ago. I impulsively purchased one and wondered how it might be used in an elementary music classroom. The company that I purchased the ocarina from was kind enough to give me the name of a teacher who was doing just that! You can read that interview HERE. If you choose to try the ocarina in your classroom, be sure to check out my ocarina fingering charts HERE.

What I love: The purity of sound.

The Challenge: Keeping my pinky down!

Guitar

I know that the ukulele continues to be all the rage right now, but I still prefer my acoustic guitar. The sound is rich, full, and soothing. I also find the guitar more comfortable to hold and play than my ukulele, but that’s entirely subjective. I mostly use the guitar as accompaniment while I sing, and most of the songs I use require only three or four chords. There are many websites offering chord charts; Chordie.com is one of my favorites. It offers a huge library (for both guitar and ukulele), you can transpose songs, and you can save your favorites to your songbook if you sign up for a free account.

What I love: It’s a simple accompaniment for my voice.

The Challenge: Switching to and from barre chords.

Kalimba

I’ve had a kalimba since my first year of teaching, but my husband bought me a new one this year, and I’ve loved having it in my collection. The Kalimba (also known as a thumb piano) is a westernized version of the mbira. It’s sound is similar to that of a music box. It’s also one of the more difficult instruments I’ve played because the metal tines are staggered in pitch, rather than moving step-wise like on a piano. In addition, I find the tabs baffling, so I mostly play by ear. I know how to pick my battles…

What I love: The timbre could put a classroom full of kinders asleep (not really, but it is beautiful).

The Challenge: Remembering that the tines are positioned differently than piano keys.

Nose Harp

If you want to make your students laugh, you definitely need to try the nose harp! The nose harp is a plastic instrument, which fits under your nose and over your mouth. You blow air through your nose, which travels through the instrument creating a whistling sound. From there, you can adjust the pitch of the whistle with your mouth cavity. Here’s a fun video to show you how it looks and sounds.

What I Love: It’s hilarious.

The Challenge: Keeping each pitch perfectly in tune.

Now it’s your turn. What instruments do you love to play for fun? Let me know in the comments section!

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An Easy Lesson on Timbre with the Mystery Sound Game https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2020/12/an-easy-lesson-on-timbre-with-the-mystery-sound-game.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-easy-lesson-on-timbre-with-the-mystery-sound-game Wed, 02 Dec 2020 10:00:17 +0000 https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/?p=60590 Unbeknownst to my nephews, they get a quick and easy lesson on timbre every time they come to visit us. We listen to a podcast called Brains On. Partway through the show they play a “mystery sound”. The hosts try to guess the sound, and then play it again later to reveal the answer. My […]

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Unbeknownst to my nephews, they get a quick and easy lesson on timbre every time they come to visit us. We listen to a podcast called Brains On. Partway through the show they play a “mystery sound”. The hosts try to guess the sound, and then play it again later to reveal the answer. My nephews love guessing what created the sound, and I thought how easy it would be to recreate this little lesson through distance learning.

GATHERING THE SOUNDS

You’ll need to give students plenty of time in advance to choose an object/instrument to use for the lesson. It’s important that you stipulate that the object doesn’t have to be a musical instrument, but rather, any object that can create sound. Here are some examples that will give your students’ ideas for what they can use:

  • spoons
  • paper plate
  • pencil
  • book
  • can
  • flip flops
  • a bottle filled with water, beads, etc.
  • a box with a lid
  • a toy that makes noise
  • rubberband

PLAYING THE GAME

Part of the fun of this game is guessing the sound, so you’ll want to make sure all students have an opportunity to do this. Have students record their answers using a simple Google Sheet (as in the example below). You can download a blank copy of this Google Sheet HERE.

You could also do this informally by having them make their guesses inside the chat. It’s really up to you and what you think would be most motivating for your students.

For students who keep their cameras on, you’ll need to remind them to either shut them off while playing the sound or to play behind or to the side of their screen.

TALKING ABOUT TIMBRE

Once students have played the game, then you can have a class discussion about the definition of timbre. Have them break into chat groups (if possible) to compose a definition of the word.

Ask questions, such as:

  • Why did Celestina and Dia’s timbre sound different even though they both played spoons?
  • Do our voices have timbre? Is this helpful to us? Why or why not?
  • Do musical instruments have timbre?
  • How does timbre affect the way we feel about music?

Wrap up the lesson by having students choose their favorite mystery sound and write a description of their timbre. This can be done during class time and turned in before class is over. Voila!

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Go Round the Mountain Reimagined https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2020/11/go-round-the-mountain-reimagined.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=go-round-the-mountain-reimagined Wed, 18 Nov 2020 10:30:12 +0000 https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/?p=60572 Today I’ll be sharing a lesson idea for Go Round the Mountain, reimagined for a virtual classroom. The last time I wrote about this song, which you can read HERE, I shared a circle game along with colored notation that could be used with recorder. This time, I’ll be focusing on a clapping game and […]

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Today I’ll be sharing a lesson idea for Go Round the Mountain, reimagined for a virtual classroom. The last time I wrote about this song, which you can read HERE, I shared a circle game along with colored notation that could be used with recorder. This time, I’ll be focusing on a clapping game and how to infuse student choice into the song and reinforce the concept of strong and weak beats.

Clapping Game

There is no traditional clapping game for this song, so you can make up whatever you want and tailor it to your students. My idea was to use this song to help teach strong and weak beat. So, students would pat their legs on the strong beat and clap on the weak beat.

By patting your legs on the strong beat, you’re reinforcing the concept of “downbeat”, as well as reinforcing the downward motion we would use to conduct in 2/4 meter.

Student Choice

Student choice is incredibly important in a classroom, but it doesn’t always have to be a monumental choice. It can be as little as asking students to choose their favorite body percussion to perform on the final half note. The visuals below give you an idea of how to present this choice. You can download these visuals for free HERE.

In the physical classroom, students would choose a different action to perform in a circle. For example, they could “Skip round the mountain.” Though you’re more limited physically, you could still perform non-locomotor actions with the song whether you’re face to face or virtual. Here’s a brief list of the different actions you can try. It’s always good to ask students what action to try next:

  • sway
  • wave
  • bend
  • stretch
  • sink
  • shrug
  • turn
  • pose
  • twist
  • melt
  • wiggle
  • shake
  • spin
  • roll
  • curl
  • extend

This list is more than enough to get started, but I’m sure your students would have even more ideas for how to move to the song.

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Long Legged Sailor Reimagined https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2020/11/long-legged-sailor-reimagined.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=long-legged-sailor-reimagined Wed, 04 Nov 2020 10:00:44 +0000 https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/?p=60550 I’ve reimagined Long Legged Sailor for use in hybrid and distance learning music classrooms. I’ve been doing this with a lot of my older posts lately, in the hopes that you’ll find new ways to make your old repertoire work. You can find my original post about Long Legged Sailor HERE. Modified Clapping Game (2nd-6th) […]

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I’ve reimagined Long Legged Sailor for use in hybrid and distance learning music classrooms. I’ve been doing this with a lot of my older posts lately, in the hopes that you’ll find new ways to make your old repertoire work. You can find my original post about Long Legged Sailor HERE.

Modified Clapping Game (2nd-6th)

I love a good clapping game, and this is one of my favorites. Traditionally this game requires partners, but an easy modification makes it so that students can play it without. Here’s how:

  • “Have” – pat your legs with both hands
  • “you” – clap own hands together
  • “ever” – pat right leg with right hand
  • “ever” – clap own hands together
  • “ever” – pat left leg with left hand
  • “in your” – clap own hands together
  • “long” – spread hands wide apart
  • “legged” – clap own hands together
  • “life” – pat right leg with right hand
  • “seen a” – clap own hands together
  • “long” – spread hands wide apart
  • “legged” – clap own hands together
  • “sailor” – pat left leg with left hand
  • “with a” – clap own hands together
  • “long” – spread hands wide apart
  • “legged” – clap own hands together
  • “wife” – pat legs with both hands

Modified Clapping Game (K-1st)

Here’s another way to modify the game to make it even simpler for your youngest students:

  • “Have” – pat your legs with both hands
  • “you” – clap own hands together
  • “ever” – pat your legs with both hands
  • “ever” – clap own hands together
  • “ever” – pat your legs with both hands
  • “in your” – clap own hands together
  • “long” – spread hands wide apart
  • “legged” – clap own hands together
  • “life” – pat your legs with both hands
  • “seen a” – clap own hands together
  • “long” – spread hands wide apart
  • “legged” – clap own hands together
  • “sailor” – pat your legs with both hands
  • “with a” – clap own hands together
  • “long” – spread hands wide apart
  • “legged” – clap own hands together
  • “wife” – pat your legs with both hands

There are additional verses to the song. They’re easy to include once students have learned the first verse. In the second verse, students sing “short-legged wife”. For this motion, they can hold their hands closer together or rotate them to be sandwiched on top of each other for an added challenge.

Clapping Game Tutorial Download

It’s helpful to have visuals for your students as they’re learning the motions. So, I created four pages with visuals for each of the game’s motions. You can download the PDF HERE.

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Easy Prep Resources for Music Teachers https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2020/10/easy-prep-resources-for-music-teachers.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=easy-prep-resources-for-music-teachers Wed, 21 Oct 2020 10:30:27 +0000 https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/?p=60524 This year has highlighted the need for easy prep resources that can be used by a non-music substitute. This need is tripled when we consider all the tech that is involved in distance learning. In light of this, I’ll be sharing my favorite easy prep resources for those days when you need to call in […]

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This year has highlighted the need for easy prep resources that can be used by a non-music substitute. This need is tripled when we consider all the tech that is involved in distance learning. In light of this, I’ll be sharing my favorite easy prep resources for those days when you need to call in a sub.

Chrome Music Lab (free)

This is an obvious choice I know, but it’s worth repeating. If your students have access to their own tables or laptops, why not give them free rein for a day? Here’s a brief list of the musical concepts they can explore with this tool:

  • Songmaker (any grade)
    • They will explore pitch, rhythm, tempo, and timbre. Best of all, they’ll be composing!
  • Melody Maker (lower elem)
    • This is a pared-down version of the songmaker.
  • Rhythm (any grade)
    • They will explore rhythm and timbre (timpani, triangle, snare, tom, tone blocks, claves, conga, and cowbell)
  • Arpeggios (upper elementary & beginning band/choir/orch)
    • Students explore any arpeggio they want and can even change the tempo and play along
  • Kandinsky (lower elem)
    • This is perfect for your youngest, budding composers. They’ll explore pitches and timbres while composing.
  • Shared Piano (any grade)
    • Students can play the piano and see their own graphical notation. There are several settings which students can use to change the timbre, play using their keyboard, show note names, and more.
  • Harmonics & Strings (lower elem)
    • This one is great for teaching the relationship between length and pitch.

Musical Mansion (paid)

This is a resource that I created specifically for subs without any background in music. It’s an interactive PowerPoint, in which students explore the rooms of a mansion, while finding new musical activities along the way. They’re also encouraged to search for a secret tunnel, and I don’t know of any kid who can resist that.

The activities includes links to interactive games, music performances, movement activities, instruments, composer interviews, and more. It’s really all about letting the students explore what is most interesting to them. Click HERE to learn more about it.

Sing to Kids with Jennifer Bailey (free)

If you’re in need of high-quality music videos for elementary students, Jennifer Bailey is here to save the day, and your voice! Jennifer is an MLT practitioner and shares amazing videos on her Youtube Channel every week. She also reads music books and has a fun mystery instrument guessing game. If you’re distance learning (or not), be sure to head over HERE and subscribe to her channel.

Responding & Reflecting (paid)

Several years ago I compiled over 60 of my favorite music video links from Youtube, and put them all in one organized PowerPoint. Then, I created worksheets to accompany each video, so that students could respond and reflect on what they’d heard or learned. I also added in a few videos that were “just for fun”. My goal was to create something that music teachers could use on sick days with a non-music sub.

I received so much good feedback on the resource, that I ended up creating another PowerPoint geared more toward lower elementary students. You can find both presentations, along with a free sampler, in the “no prep” category of my store HERE.

Musication (free)

If you’re teaching from a distance or if you have the access to and time to disinfect instruments between classes, Musication continues to be an amazing resource for percussion practice and performance. If your students are learning from home, simply substitute the traditional rhythm instruments for found objects, such as a wooden spoon, a cardboard box, a metal sheet pan, or any other object that creates noise.

Basics Series (paid)

If you need something for older students that will solidify their understand of core music concepts, while still giving them the freedom to explore, then I’d highly recommend checking out my Basics Series. I made this originally to fulfill my own need for a presentation that could succinctly define a musical concept using a variety of real-life examples (using touch, sound, and sight). I also wanted it to be dual purpose; something I could use easily in class, but also something that students could explore on their own.

If this sounds like something that would fit in your classroom, you can see all the resources in the Basics Series HERE.

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Doggie, Doggie in the Elementary Music Classroom https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2020/10/doggie-doggie-in-the-elementary-music-classroom.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=doggie-doggie-in-the-elementary-music-classroom Wed, 07 Oct 2020 10:30:19 +0000 https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/?p=60499 Today I’m revisiting the lesson, Doggie, Doggie and looking at how it can be adapted as we continue to wear masks and social distance. I wrote about the song, Doggie, Doggie, years before the pandemic hit; you can read that original post HERE. Today, I’ll share ideas for using this song with barred instruments and […]

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Today I’m revisiting the lesson, Doggie, Doggie and looking at how it can be adapted as we continue to wear masks and social distance. I wrote about the song, Doggie, Doggie, years before the pandemic hit; you can read that original post HERE. Today, I’ll share ideas for using this song with barred instruments and how you can infuse simple improvisation into your lesson.

BARRED INSTRUMENTS

I’ve seen tons of ideas for how to quickly sanitize instruments; from covering them with plastic table cloths, to press n’ seal plastic food wrap, to shower caps, to shower curtains.

If you don’t have access to physical instruments, but your students have tables or laptops, you can use a virtual instrument. I love this one because it has a simple, clean design and it’s color-coded. However, there are many more available, which you can find by searching “virtual xylophone”.

LEARNING PITCHES

My idea for sequencing this lesson is as follows:

  1. If possible, take away the bars that students won’t be playing.
  2. Play a recording of the song several times through. Ask students to pat the rhythm as they listen. Have them play the rhythm in several different ways to keep interest, such as patting their heads, snapping their fingers, or using their chairs as drums.
  3. Have students listen to the song as they play the rhythm again, but this time, have them follow the same hand pattern as they would while playing their barred instrument. For example: Doggie (right hand), Doggie (left hand), etc.
  4. As students grow comfortable with alternating their hands while playing the rhythm, ask them to sing the song in their heads.
  5. Finally, transfer their rhythm pattern to the actual instrument or app.

PLAYING THE GAME WITH IMPROVISATION

Typically, students would play this game as a question and answer song, in which the “dog” and the student holding the bone would sing solos. In my adaption, the game would be played as follows:

  • All students play (and sing in their heads) “Doggie, doggie, where’s your bone?”
  • The solo student would then play the phrase “Someone stole it from my home.”
  • All students play (and sing in their head) “Who stole the bone?”
  • The solo student plays again, but this time they improvise four beats worth of music.

When I think of solos in the elementary music classroom, two thoughts come to mind; students who are introverts and Feierabend’s belief that any response is the right response. Being an introvert myself, I’m extra sensitive to the needs of these students. I know the type of safe and secure environment many need to feel confident with improvisation.

That’s why I like the idea of having the same student play both parts. The first time, when they play what’s written, serves as their warm-up. This is their comfort zone because they know what to do, and they’ve done it already with the rest of the class. If they end up repeating the phrase again during their improvisation period, so what? I too believe that any response is the right response, especially when we’re asking students to do something that would terrify most adults.

Another way to ease students into this lesson, is to allow students to volunteer to go first. This way, students who are extroverted will go first, giving students who are introverts a chance to see how everyone (including you) responds to each new improvisation. This is also why I think it’s important to give positive feedback every single time. You don’t necessarily have to respond to their improv, you could simply marvel at how well they alternated their hands, or how amazingly well they played their rhythms, or how they held their mallets beautifully. Look for the good in every performance, and share this with the rest of the class.

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Fall Favorites https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2020/09/fall-favorites.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fall-favorites https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2020/09/fall-favorites.html#comments Wed, 23 Sep 2020 10:00:55 +0000 https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/?p=60468 Fall has just arrived, but my husband and I have been thinking about what interesting projects we can work on during the upcoming longest winter ever. Since we’re both working from home, we need activities that don’t involve our jobs. For my husband, that means building a computer. For me, it means a variety of […]

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Fall has just arrived, but my husband and I have been thinking about what interesting projects we can work on during the upcoming longest winter ever. Since we’re both working from home, we need activities that don’t involve our jobs. For my husband, that means building a computer. For me, it means a variety of different things. Here’s a list of my fall favorites that should help me to stay active during a long, isolating winter.

Entertainment

The Cadfael Chronicles

I listen to audiobooks every night to fall asleep, and my genre of choice is cozy mysteries. Wikipedia defines these mysteries as, “a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence occur off stage, the detective is an amateur sleuth, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.” Since finishing up all of the Miss Marple Mysteries from Agatha Christie, I turned to the Cadfael Chronicles. This series is set in 12th century England and follows a monk, Brother Cadfael, as he works to solve murders. If you’re also a fan of cozy mysteries, you can find the first book in the series HERE.

The Repair Shop

If you like the Great British Bake Off, then you may like The Repair Shop. It follows expert craftspeople as they restore family heirlooms ranging from violins and gramophones to toy Daleks and stuffed pandas.

Animal Crossing

I’ve not been super active with this game lately, but since my husband has given me a few million bells, I’ve decided to rearrange some houses and add some more sidewalks. If you’re not a gamer and/or you don’t like games that give you anxiety, then this one’s for you! It’s relaxing, you can be creative (hello pixel art), and there’s no time limits.

Food & Drink

Cold Brew Coffee

A few seasons ago I learned that my body (and mind) can no longer tolerate large amounts of caffeine. As a person who once drank espresso shots like water, this was a huge change for me. Thankfully, my local coffee shop shared with me the secret to great-tasting decaf coffee; Swiss water processing. I won’t bore you with the details, except to say that it’s the best tasting decaf I’ve ever tried. So now I’m back to creating cold brew coffee at home. Here’s my recipe:

Dirty Chai Latte

If you order a dirty chai latte at your local coffee shop, you’ll get a chai latte with an espresso shot mixed in. It’s delicious, but I have my own decaf version that I like to make at home. I mix one part cold coffee concentrate (using the recipe above), one part chai concentrate (this one is my favorite), and two parts unsweetened vanilla soymilk. It’s delicious.

Snacks Around the World

One of my favorite parts of traveling, whether it’s out of the country or in state, is trying new food. So when the pandemic hit, and all of our travel plans were canceled, I knew I needed to find something to bring me that same type of joy. The result was a subscription to a service that delivers snacks from around the world right to your door. We’ve received two boxes so far, and my favorite snacks have been the lamb and mint potato crisps from Wales and the white chocolate cookies and cream clusters from Columbia. We signed up with Universal Yums, but there are TONS of services available, and we likely won’t continue the service once we’re able to travel again. Until that time, it’s something fun to look forward to each month.

Activities

Treadmill

After years of saying I wanted one, I finally invested in a treadmill. Of course, fitting it into our small, apartment office has been…interesting, but it’s already paying off. I love walking, and the treadmill allows me to do that no matter how terrible the weather. Walking as exercise isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s my favorite. It has the added benefits of lifting my mood, increasing my energy, and giving me the time to watch all those Youtube videos I wouldn’t normally bother watching.

Music

Despite how much I played and enjoyed music in the past, nowadays, it only seems to function as research for my blog posts. I plan to change that this year; my newly reformed guitar callouses are proof of my commitment. My instrument collection currently includes: guitar, ukulele, piano, ocarina, clarinet, soprano & alto recorder, tin whistle, and kalimba. So, if you have any music suggestions for those instruments, please share them in the comments!

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