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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Roberts Family Christmas Playlist

Have I mentioned how excited I am to be home with my family for the holidays this year? EXCITED. For the first time in three years I'm able to relive the special traditions that I grew up with, and even better I get to share them with my main man, Spencer. I am truly happy to be home with everyone.

My fondest family memories are of us gathered together literally celebrating Life with themed dinners on holidays, birthdays, and other random days when we just wanted to. Sometimes we miss vacations in Hawaii so much we recreate island life in the backyard: complete with copycat versions of our favorite meals and wave sounds in the background. And now that I think about it the new direction I'm working on for the blog, of valuing the day-to-day story, probably comes from my family's knack for putting in the effort to build these moments for ourselves.

Family Christmas Party Playlist
Christmas, then, would be no exception on the list of times to party it up! There's plenty of tradition and festivities to go around this time of year. Plus you know we go all out. A Roberts family yuletide celebration comes with matching pajamas, a mug of hot chocolate, tons of family time, and the perfect soundtrack to make memories by. There is nothing more important than family and I hope you'll make time for yours this holiday season. To get your party started here's a list of some favorite holiday songs, from my family to yours:

If you enjoyed this playlist sign up for my email list for a secret Spotify playlist carefully selected by me and featuring Queens Over Kings' song About A Boy! Click here to start jammin'.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Holiday Gifts for the Hard To Buy For and Unique Places To Find Them

Hard To Buy Holiday Gift Ideas

Disclaimer: All the opinions in this post are my own. This post contains no affiliate links. I have not been compensated by any website, brand, or product included in this post. I simply wish to share some unique finds and bolster your holiday gift giving.

I have this thing about finding the perfect gifts for people. No matter the occasion I'm resolved that they can't just be anything. And then there's Christmas where I am even more determined that gifts from me reflect the thoughtfulness and whimsy that defines the season. It's easy to go for the gift card. At least the recipient can get what they wanted without you losing the guessing game again right?

Then you wait around for the perfect gift to appear on its own and you run out of time at which point you purchase something, anything out of desperation. Goodness no. There are few things worse than receiving a gift from a friend or relative, even someone at the office, and wondering what the heck made them think of you when they decided to buy this particular item. Do they even know me? Couldn't they have tried even a little harder? The same goes for us, friend. And yes that's "us" as in I have a tough list of special people to shop for too. In case you forgot, we're in this perfect present quest together. Now let's get this holiday party started.

Holiday Gifts for the Hard To Buy For

The Man Who Has Everything (Because He's Always Buying It Himself)
This guy can be a doozy and he tends to come in multiples. The trick is to go for something obscure yet useful, something he hasn't thought of:
  • Amazon Prime Membership - If he buys it all himself make it easy for him. Get his Amazon email and you can gift Amazon Prime for $99. If he already has it offer to pay up when its time to renew. UPDATE: I just found out about Amazon Household. You can gift Prime Membership to the whole family! Click or read on for more information.
  • In Home Custom Suit Tailoring - Yes, a professional tailor will come to a home or office to select fit, style, and fabrics for the ultimate clothes buying experience. There are luxury options, like the world-renowned Tom James, but a quick Google search can help with something closer to home. Bonus if they have gift cards or certificates that let you help towards the bill instead of paying it all up front to keep your costs low.
The Admired Grandparent
It's a toss up between Grandparents and In Laws for toughest gifts on my list. Finding something that is equal parts meaningful and practical seems impossible sometimes. That being said these ideas should at least get the gears moving on something extra special:
  • Keepsake About Me Journal - I have lost family members very unexpectedly over the years and now their stories are gone. So it's no surprise that I think about how I can keep family stories for posterity to enjoy. Enter the Keepsake About Me Journal filled with questions for the writer to answer about different stages and experiences in life. See a high end version here and a not so intense option here.
  • A Special DIY - Did your grandparent teach you a skill or spark your interest in a certain hobby? Put it to work! I'm not talking some cheesy Pinterest find. I mean truly make something. If you learned woodworking from your rustic Grandfather, create a one-of-a-kind family tree. Compile all those recipes Grandma taught you into a family cookbook. If you're into bird watching because of them go on a photo trek and frame your favorites. Talk about a tear-jerker.
The In Laws
My In Laws are amazing. I am so grateful that Spencer's parents have accepted me into their family and they have given us so much. Selecting the right gift for them is top priority. Usually we give them something memorable since we live so far apart. But this year I'm thinking something more fun:
  • Art for the Home - This could be traditional family photos or, my personal favorite, actual artwork. Keep things as simple as possible with the matting and framing already taken care of. Make the gift even better by working with a local artist from your hometown or theirs, maybe even someone they know!
  • Personal Chef Dinner or Professional House Cleaning - I think I would be happy to get this myself so consider this one for anyone on your list. Two things we wish we could get someone else to do are cook dinner and clean the house. With this gift you make the contacts but let the recipients decide when they want to use it. It's like a gift card but ten times better because there's no ambiguity. I'm already jealous of whoever you're giving this to.
The Teenager
I have three teenage siblings and whether they believe it or not I was one of them not too long ago. At this age the things they want are way too expensive and the things they need are seriously boring. What's a cool relative to do?
  • Learn a Skill or an Experience - The cool part about this is not just what you could give them but also where you might find it (see below). I've seen lots of things like cooking, circus training, fencing, maple tree tapping, paintball, zorbing. And all for less than you might think if you look in the right places. Plus they get out and discover life past the screen if you know what I mean.
  • Multi Tool - It's a mad world out there and being prepared for anything is becoming more than a mantra these days. I've been digging on the Wallet Ninja for a while, despite Spencer thinking it's slightly corny. I'm easily amazed... With 18 tools in one sheet of metal the size of a credit card how can you not be?? And ladies we are not forgotten. Check out the Clippa Lady from Monkey Business. It's a hair clip with a screwdriver, can opener, and more. With either of these you'll win best Christmas gift and coolest relative for years to come.

The Boss/Coworker
Hopefully your Boss is someone you actually want to give a gift to. If not, it's probably still a good idea to slide a little something her way. And just in case that Coworker you didn't know you were friends with presents you with "nothing," I'm here to make sure you're prepared:
  • Business Card Holder - They have them on their desk but do they have them everywhere else? I rarely have business cards with me because they're such a pain to carry around. They fall out of the pocket in my purse, are bent up or dirty, and blah blah blah. I know I'm not the only one so prevent this with a nifty carrying case. Here's some ideas from Etsy.
  • Personalized Notepads - I love love LOVE those notepads from Knock Knock. They're so fun and so spot on for all kinds of situations. This Nailed It notepad is perfect for the Boss that might need help with interpersonal skills. Or try the Office Citation notepad for the Coworker that knows a thing or two about office fouls.
That One Family
The long distance cousin and her kids that you are responsible for this year or the neighbors you enjoy spending time with, they deserve a special something too:
  • Annual Pass to the National Parks - There are all kinds of fun things to do at the parks, whether national or local. An annual pass to the National Parks could be just the excuse they need to make the trip to Yellowstone they've been dying to do. Or simply to get out of the house for a day. Since they can use it all year you can expect they'll try to get as much use out of it as possible.
  • UPDATE: Amazon (Prime) Household - I've already mentioned Amazon Prime for the Man Who Has Everything. Spencer practically lives off of it. I just found out about Amazon Households and I really wanted to share. Amazon Household allows 2 adults and up to 4 children profiles to share Prime benefits like free two-day shipping, Kindle ebooks, games, movies, and more with one $99/year Amazon Prime account. It doesn't allow free two-day shipping for Amazon Student (bummer), and thankfully kids aren't able to shop, but it's definitely a worthy gift that the whole family can use.
The Millennial Young Adult
Okay, okay this is a cliché and I'm sorry. But this could honestly be THE HARDEST person on your list:
  • Webinar - Chances are the Millennial Young Adult in your life is some kind of social entrepreneur. Think blogger, marketing manager, or rooftop farmer. Help build their skills and further their passion with an online class or webinar from a trusted source. There are tons of options out there. Type in your subject and let Google do the rest.
  • Bikeshare Annual Pass - If your Gen Y friend lives in the city it may be safe to assume their rent is more important than a car. The city bicycle rental here in DC is called Bikeshare. NYC has Citibike, and the list goes on. Find the one in your beloved millennial's city and give the gift of transportation!
So you've been through this list and you're not sold but you're still looking... I got you.

Unique Places To Find Your Holiday Gifts

Living Social - This is my go-to for pretty much everything. Living Social is a group discount site that allows local businesses to post promotions for their products and services that they wouldn't otherwise be able to give. There's lots to choose from in different categories (i.e. Experiences, Getaways) and it's usually pretty affordable. The best part is it's local so you know you'll find deals close to home for you or for those on your list.

Local City/County Recreation Calendar - Remember when I mentioned maple tree tapping? Yeah my county is doing that in February. I considered getting it for my 17 year old brother, but I was outvoted. Anyways there is some pretty sweet stuff out there! A lot of times its free and for the whole family too. Take a look at what your locality offers and plan something awesome.

Local Boutiques, Shops, Artisans - I know a few local artisans in my area and I turned to them this year. For example we ordered a print from family friend and fine artist Rose Datoc Dall. Another idea might be to stop by a random gift shop in your neighborhood. My mom and I did that last week which resulted in a pretty good haul, including some Christmas decor, touch screen gloves, and a wooden bowling set. You just never know.

Etsy - While this may be a given, sometimes you never know what you'll find on here. Keep in mind that Etsy is only vintage and handmade items so it can get pricey. Still you are guaranteed to find something unique. Also order way in advance to allow time for shipping.

Gifts.com - The site is a curated findall with gifts tailored for every type of person and personality. I'm usually only on the site around Christmas, but they have interesting suggestions all year round. For Father's Day one year I got my dad a plot of land in Scotland that entitled him to a lairdship. He loved it! This is also where I got the idea for the Keepsake About Me Journal mentioned above. Definitely on my rounds for gift finding.

Any of these ideas going on your shopping list? If you still need ideas hit me up, I'd love to help. Find me online and if you aren't on the Everything the Light Touches email list go sign up! You'll not only get posts and updates direct to your email but you'll also get access to a secret Spotify playlist that I made just for subscribers! 

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

10 Ways To Level Up Your Hot Chocolate Game

Christmas has officially made it to the Marrott/Roberts household. We hold off until after Thanksgiving in order for each moment to run its course. So now that Santa has come down 34th Street we can begin!

I'm finally home for the holidays after 3 years and it's marvelous. Being away from my family on these special days was very difficult. I struggled to the point of tears. Traditions are very important to me. They represent unique and powerful memories. That's why they are traditions! Sometimes those traditions are lost with time, like how I'm watching my family grow out of Christmas pajamas (literally, figuratively, and financially lol). And sometimes we have kept memories alive by updating or performing them differently.

For example: My family does a lot of Christmas-related activities with hot chocolate around. Decorating, music, movie marathons, baking - you name it and there's probably a few mugs filled with Christmas cocoa. Back in high school I came up with the idea of Hot Chocolate Specials. Just something a little different to make things interesting. Regular hot chocolate is great, but Hot Chocolate Specials are just cool! It's like having a personalized mug filled with a warm hug and winter miracles. I might be going overboard, but I want to make sure you are getting the right imagery. This is just too good to miss! And it couldn't be any easier to make. Just grab a mug of piping hot cocoa, get creative with whatever you have in your pantry, and voila. Here's some ideas to get you started:

10 Ways To Level Up Your Hot Chocolate Game

  • Drizzle on some Caramel and Sea Salt
  • Sprinkle on Crushed Up Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
  • Stir in a giant scoop of Hot Fudge or Butterscotch
  • Give it a dash of Cinnamon or Nutmeg
  • Put in a few drops of Vanilla Extract
  • Add in some Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • Melt in a couple of Candy Canes
  • Put Sprinkles on a big pile of Whipped Cream
  • Top with a Maraschino Cherry
  • Or do any combination of the above!

YUM. Man, it's good to be home! What family traditions has your family taken up a notch for the holidays? Tell me all about it! Also don't forget to sign up for my email list in the sidebar. I don't want you to miss out on anything new... *hint hint*

Saturday, November 21, 2015

OOTD: Boyfriend Jeans and Neon Heels

Boyfriend Jeans Sparkle Top Neon Heels Business Casual
Boyfriend jeans are easily my number one go to when I am choosing an outfit for any occasion. Blazers are a very close second, but that's for another time. When I'm in need of something sophisticated and comfortable boyfriend jeans are the perfect answer. Dressed up or down, they work in almost any situation.

As a case in point: Last Tuesday the band did a mini video shoot to promote the debut of our single,
About A Boy. Since we were shooting at home and since it was only a headshot I didn't need to focus too hard on the whole look. I put on a fun top with my jeans and called it good. 
Boyfriend Jeans Sparkle Top Neon Heels Casual
Boyfriend Jeans Leather Jacket Neon Heels Casual
SO easy. And I liked the outfit enough to wear it again the next day to a networking event. High Heeled Happy Hour (HHHH) is themed around ladies wearing their sweetest heels so I added the neon coral pointy toe pumps. They were such a hit that I won the shoe contest that night. Yay me lol. (If you're in the Northern Virginia area you should definitely check out HHHH! This is not a sponsored post, I'm just giving them a shout out because it really is fun times. And, hey, maybe we'll get to hang out.)

Qupid Neon Coral HeelsSo boyfriend jeans: yea or nay? Let me know what you think. And don't forget to sign up for my newsletter in the sidebar! There are lots of new things coming to Everything the Light Touches over the next few weeks and you won't want to miss it!!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Playlist for a Bad Day

Shadows Bad Day Playlist
This has been a rough week. Getting out of bed hasn't been easy and it's been taking a lot of extra effort to just get the things done that I'm supposed to do. But I promised myself I would write a post this week. To make it a little easier I've got a new playlist for you - WOO! There hasn't been a playlist post on Everything the Light Touches in a while, and since I've got a couple new songs I'm dying to share, why not? 

I read a post the other day by Arishwarya from Mindscape In Words in which she describes how music has a magical ability to pick you up when your down. Or at the very least validate you, in my opinion. As this week has been so tough, I've turned even more to music (is that possible?) to make the passing of each day go a little faster. Here's my playlist for a bad day guaranteed to help you get through it:

I'm not a huge fan of Sam Smith's latest Bond song. How do you think it represents the franchise? Let me know in the comments. Also, despite this week, I will soldier on with some new content for you on the blog and on Instagram this next week. Be sure to check it out!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Something Wicked This Way Comes: Harry Potter Costume Ideas

There are a few things that I would hope people come to understand about me (and Spencer):

1. I love dressing up, whether in costume or in pretty dresses.
2. Holidays are a hobby of mine.
3. Spencer and I share a deep love all things Harry Potter.

So given the opportunity to dress up as characters from Harry Potter for a themed mystery dinner as a Halloween event, you can pretty much guarantee we will be there!

This year the actual day of October 31st was uneventful, in terms of the usual holiday traditions. But last week we made a mad dash for Charlotte to visit friends and celebrate HP style. Broad Run High School's Homecoming was Friday night, and since I wanted to attend the game we waited until early Saturday morning to make the 7 hour trek. The drive down was easy, but we barely got a chance to rest as we helped finalize details for the party.

Spencer was cast as Gilderoy Lockhart for the night, which I thought was too perfect. He even printed headshots to bring to the party and sign for people. I was Professor Trelawney. I mean if I wasn't Hermione, was there any other choice?? The party was complete with a Honeydukes candy table, butterbeer, and we even "ran" through Platform 9 3/4 to get to Hogwarts. AWESOME.

I won both trivia contests, one for flavors of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and the other for guessing the names of the characters present. Spencer and I were both voted for best costumes and character portrayals. We really had a blast. Waking up the next morning to come right back to Virginia was pretty rough, and we probably won't make a similar trip ever again, but we did enjoy ourselves. Chelsea, Jack, and their friends were such a great group.

The rest of our Halloween activities were pretty low key. We attended the ward party as a princess and a medieval druid. Sadly we took no pictures that night. For actual Halloween we got dinner from Chipotle since they were giving away free burritos if you came in costume. Dressed in puffy vests, a tiara, and an Ash Ketchum hat we were apparently festive enough for cheap dinner. Then we volunteered for candy duty so my parents could roam the neighborhood with my sisters. We rotated turns playing N64 games and answering the door with Loren.

So maybe Halloween wasn't so simple. Either way I can't believe October is already over. Where has the time gone?!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

We're On A Boat

Carnival Paradise Passport To Discovery
There are two types of emotions you could experience when you're about to try something for the first time. Either you love it, totally get the rush, and enjoy the prospect of taking the leap. Or you are a nervous wreck trying to breathe steadily and act like a normal human being, but instead embody some version of either hyperactivity or absolute dread. I happened upon both of these types of feelings within the last 48 hours.
Embarkation Passport To Discovery

Sister Shoot Passport To Discovery
After a long two days I am sitting in my cabin on Carnival's Paradise going over how the time has gone by. So many moving parts to navigate, literally and figuratively. It all started with a 14 hour drive to Tampa and somehow I'm now comfortably drifting at sea typing away. In between there was dropping off the puppy, hoping my parents arrived safely (they drove through the night...), making sure all of our instruments arrived on board and in one piece, making sure we got on the boat, figuring out the rooms division, finalizing our performance in a couple days, eating and sleeping very little, blah blah blah. I really am exhausted.

But more than that I am giddy and excited to be here. This has been a year in the making. Just the fact that I can say we're on the boat is so satisfying. Each blurry picture from today is a significant memory. I am definitely looking forward to what's next - especially our big stage. This is going to be amazing!
Carnival Paradise Turndown Passport To Discovery
I have internet for the week, but I haven't decided if I'll be writing while I'm here. What would you like to hear about?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Always: A Queens Over Kings Original

Hey everyone! I am so excited to be writing today!

Things have been really moving along around here as we prepare for Passport To Discovery. We've set some strict goals and a schedule to match in order to create outstanding band content leading up to departure. In my next few posts I'll be writing all about what we can expect from the trip with juicy fashion details, travel essentials, and the creative process behind new music.

Until then I'm showing off a Queens Over Kings original. This song, "Always," is one that really touches my heart as I hope it does yours. Soon those who sign up for the band email newsletter will receive a free download of the song! Who will you share this song with?

Don't forget to stay up to date on Bloglovin' for behind-the-scenes cruise prep on Everything the Light Touches. We're just 2 weeks away!
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Saturday, September 12, 2015

We Write About Relationships

Family Band Queens Over Kings Recording
Warning: This post contains a sad story.

Have you ever wondered where a recording artist or songwriter got the inspiration for a song? I am always intrigued by lyrics and their meaning. Basically every song in the 1960s was a metaphor for some kind of social unrest. But the lyrics were written in such a way that the real story is almost a secret. Some recent music has the same effect, and I'm about to give away one of Queens Over Kings song story secrets right now.

In preparing for meeting new people and sharing our stories, my siblings and I have noticed a trend in the lyrics of the songs we write. We write about relationships. Of course there's the usual like having a crush on someone or being dumped. However, for us, more often than not we don't really write about those ideas directly. As siblings in different stages of life our music can focus on a variety of experiences. Sure we've written a song about getting over a bad relationship but we've also written about self-confidence and accepting change. One of our songs, "Unknown Soldier," came from the experience of losing a loved one at a young age.

In 2008, our family lost a cousin when he was just 16. He was killed in a random act of who knows what. We still aren't sure. The whole story is strange, which added to the difficulty of something already so sad. At the time I wrote words for a song about the feelings Jerald and I had about the situation. We spent a lot of time with our cousin growing up and I remember his happy, warm personality very clearly. His sudden death was just unreal.

When we as humans first find ourselves in uncomfortable situations, like an unexpected death, we want to know what is the point. A lot of people describe it as an empty feeling. And it's true. There's a hole because we don't necessarily understand. This reaction can be overwhelming. If we try, though, we can create something out of those strong feelings. In our case, Jerald and I really wanted to write a song in memory of our cousin.

Queens Over Kings Family Band Recording
The lyrics were shelved until recently when we worked them into something Ingrid came up with on the piano. A perfect mix of hard rock instrumentals and reflective lyrics, "Unknown Solider" has become a sort of anthem that describes the ability to overcome and keep good memories alive. There is a line in the first verse that touches on how a sad story can become more as time goes on: "We'll make something of this someday." In working on this song together I have learned that an experience this intense, and maybe even scary, can be balanced out by putting the energy into something creative. Closure comes in many forms.

Even though the inspiration for our song is sad, we are excited by it every time we play. Audiences respond to it which is all we could ask for. Our cousin won't have the chance to grow up and pursue what it was in this life he may have become. Now at least he lives in song,

How has loss or sadness inspired you to create something new? Share your works of art, writing, or anything with me on Twitter and follow me on Bloglovin' for more discussions on inspiration coming soon.
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Monday, August 31, 2015

A Weekend In: VA Beach

It's a rainy Monday and the end of Summer here at QOK headquarters. The three younger ones started school today and to commemorate the occasion I'm reminiscing about the beach.

We were invited to do a show at a Chesapeake Square Mall in Chesepeake, Virginia earlier this month and, with it's proximity to Virginia Beach, the Roberts Clan made a weekend out of it. The trip was stressful at first. Traffic going down was insane - the drive took hours longer than expected and we made it just in time to do a five-minute sound check before getting the party started. But our show and the audience were the best we've ever experienced! Tons of crowd interaction with song dedications, people wanting to take pictures, and totally loving our music. The excitement was so high I didn't even notice that I was noticeably flat sometimes. (Warm ups people. Do them!)

After the show we headed to our "hotel." Next morning the clan hit the beach. Lots of sun and family time! Muggle even got to eat breakfast with us at the VA Beach Lighthouse, which was greatly appreciated. Then some of us took to the water while others soaked up the sunshine. Personally I'm a sand and sun person myself. I prefer people watching to being thrashed by the waves. And I don't like being touched by sea things...

Queens Over Kings performing at Chesapeake Square Mall

Jerald and Hallie from Queens Over Kings

Meeting fans at Chesapeake Square Mall

Hallie road trip to Virginia Beach

bike rental at Virginia Beach
Loren playing with Muggle at Virginia Beach

Me and Muggle at Lighthouse for breakfast
my parents at Virginia Beach

Queens Over Kings pyramid at Virginia Beach
The band isn't planning any shows right now. Instead we're laser focused on finishing our first album and Passport To Discovery, the talent cruise hosted by Barbizon International. Barely a month to go! 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer Playlist 2015

Summer 2015 playlist

It's been a while since I've done a playlist. My last one was about a month ago for a guest post on Jingle Jangle Jungle. So I'm happy to be back home sharing some favorites for the Summer! There's something special in that moment when you're cruising around town and you turn on the radio to hear "your song" playing. Suddenly the resonating melody and the sunshine carry you away into another world. And that's exactly what this Summer playlist is supposed to do.

The process of choosing music for a playlist forces me to think about what I listen to in terms of differentiating what I like and why I like it. This particular playlist has required me to focus on more of the popular music of right now, which according to this article is becoming increasingly difficult for me. It's like kryptonite! These days the jams are hardly recognizable to me, but I still managed to get yet another mix of older favorites and what's in today. I hope the list can be appreciated by most.

Knowing that one is getting old hurts. I'm now committed to listening to the radio a whole lot more in order to keep my musical whits about me. But I need help getting caught up: Tell me what songs I'm missing out on in the comments. Or send them to me on Twitter @love_kristyn!

P.S. Grace Potter is my spirit animal.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Last Minute Genius and The Best Band Practice Ever!

ideas inspiration band practice
I've already explained my lack of inspiration of the last couple weeks. Thankfully I've learned it is not uncommon for creatives to have a sort of ebb and flow when it comes to specific projects. I have been assured that I'll be back to writing like it's nothing in no time. Until then I need to keep working on making the band experience the best it can be at the moment. I did have a little stroke of genius last night at band practice which made for an amazing 30 minutes. Maybe me dull streak is coming to an end - yay!

Queens Over Kings is performing on Saturday as the entertainment for our neighborhood block party. Glam, I know. But it gives us yet another chance to have fun, share what we love, and practice being in front of people. And we need to practice that just like practicing our music. There are different ways to deal with being on stage. For example, finding your own confidence. Last night a performance exercise hit me that is as much clever as it was effective in taking our stage presence up a notch.

Cover songs are easy to do which is why most bands start out this way. The audience knows the music and so you get the expected responses. The less easy songs are original compositions. I've been working on this specifically as the "eye candy" of the band (not my words). Last night's rehearsal focused on our three original songs and how we could make them more fun to play. We played each song individually in three rounds:

Round 1: Find the Groove - Identify what it is about the song that is the easiest to hear, identify with, dance to. Have only the necessary instruments play, no more than two, and practice reacting to the beat.

Round 2: Connect with the Crowd - Add another instrument and practice looking out into the crowd. How would you acknowledge someone that has found the same groove as you or invite someone in to your groove? Make eye contact as much as you can without being creepy... Sing directly to an audience member, nod in their direction, smile!

Round 3: Be One with your Band Mates - Have each member of the band choose another member of the band to practice looking at or dancing with. Be silly and over the top so you get used to being open and flexible, and keep trying whatever comes to mind.

Randomize, rinse, repeat, and you have perfection. You know what they say, "You play how you practice." At the end of an intense half hour we were sweating from playing hard, smiling from having fun, and totally satisfied with how cool our songs are. This is a huge improvement from just two months ago. I'm so looking forward to this weekend and getting the audience going!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Opening Act for Jamie Grace

It should be no surprise that we're a religious crew. Among our long list of influences is Christian Contemporary music. We like to keep it clean and family friendly :) A few years ago we were able to perform at the WGTS 91.9FM Family Fun Festival. WGTS is a radio station in the Washington, DC area focused on playing music the whole family can listen to, especially keeping it safe for the kids. The headliner that year was Jamie Grace. She was a new artist with a well-known song titled "Hold Me."
Jamie Grace WGTS Family Fun Festival 2012Have you ever dreamed of opening for someone whose music you cover? We did once and it was as surreal as you might imagine. I remember walking up to Jamie, shaking her hand, and thinking "Omg omg omg...She sings the song we sing... It's her song!" I wanted to bust out with her in harmony right there. Totally should have. Next time.
Jamie Grace Opening Act 2012Queens Over Kings family band
Queens Over Kings WGTS Family Fun Festival 2012Queens Over Kings 2012
Queens Over Kings Jamie Grace 2012
This was way back in 2012. Look at how little the kiddos are! Have you ever met someone famous/you admire? Share your stories!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Loren's Tips for How to Be Confident

Hope everyone is having a good weekend! I've got another guest post for you which I am surprised and excited about. This time I brought in Loren, my "baby" brother and bassist for Queens Over Kings. He's wise beyond his years talking about how to be confident. See you Tuesday when I talk some updates!

how to be confidnet

There will always be a time when we are consumed by nervous thoughts running through our heads. Think big speaking projects, playing instruments in a performance, or simply introducing yourself to new people. These things tend to draw a lot of premeditated thoughts even if you’ve prepared. Anxiety can easily set in and we start experiencing the stereotypical “bad things” that normally give us the feeling of dread before we present ourselves. Where did all our confidence go? What do you do in that moment? As a person who doesn’t like to be, let alone want to be, the center of attention, confidence can be difficult to find. Today I thought to share how I gain and maintain confidence, specifically when I’m on stage with Queens Over Kings. 

Confidence was never my strong suit. Obviously I’m a musician, but that doesn’t mean I’ve mastered the feelings of being on stage. I’ve definitely had those moments where I’ve messed up a rhythm or missed a note thanks to nerves. Oh, and school presentations? Yeah I’m not really good at those either. I’m pretty sure that everyone has had an issue with confidence at one time or another. My most recent trial of confidence was while working on one of our songs, “Always (All Ways).” For a change of pace it was recommended that I do a bass solo. Now I do not volunteer for solos in the first place, so this was new to me. I am fine sitting on the back line. But I had to do it. I just didn’t know how.

Reaching the point where you decide how to be confident is important. However it’s not always easy to do again and again. It might be easier if you find what works and then do it every time you need it. I've got a few suggestions.
  1. Listen to Music - Of course I'm going to suggest this one. Choose a song that either calms your nerves or gets you pumped up. I was always confident in my abilities without putting them in others’ faces. But the bass solo? I just didn’t feel like it. I started to focus on lyrics from our first original song, “Lock & Key.” I can’t count the ways, but I sure can count the miles... Basically it hit me that if I was comfortable with my talents standing in the back, then I should be comfortable up front too.
  2. Portray A Positive Attitude - Come up with a confidence pose. Think about a pose in which you feel the most important or confident. It sounds silly - believe me I thought it was too - but it’s something Kristyn says makes a big difference for her. Maybe something similar would work for you.
  3. Pick A Place - Pick a quiet room or “happy place” that you can make yours. I often go to my bedroom. It’s the best place to get away from everything (and when sharing living space with 12 people you have to find a place to hide somewhere). Your happy place could either be in your house, or maybe it’s out back under that one tree. It doesn’t really matter where it is, what really matters is whether or not it makes you feel comfortable.
My bass solo is a work in progress but I’m becoming more comfortable with it thanks to time and trying to do better with self confidence. I’m realizing that I can’t sit around and do nothing because I have something to contribute too. I consider confidence a life saver of sorts because it makes a final product that much better. You earned success after all the work you put in! Best wishes to all of you lovely people out there. Think of these ideas next time you have to go out there and remember that you're awesome. I hope this message brought some form of confidence to you.

self confidence

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Stand By Me/I'm Yours Mash Up

Things have been really busy around here with trying to get some festival appearances this Summer, news from California, and the rest of life. I didn't have much time to write this week so instead I arranged this today as I've been wanting to do something for Ben E. King since he passed recently and "Stand By Me" is one of my favorite songs of all time.

So here are two of my favorite songs in my first video ever with the only instrument I know how to play.

I have a guest post with an awesome playlist of family favorites on Jingle Jangle Jungle that goes live this coming Sunday, May 24th. I'd love for you to check it out and tell me what you think!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

DIY Gifts for Music Lovers

The Queens Over Kings Goes to Hollywood Kickstarter campaign ended this weekend. Sadly, we did not meet our goal and there are still about two months left until the trip to California. Instead of choosing another crowd funding website, we've decided to be straightforward and accept donations through PayPal. We have also added merchandise to our website featuring one-of-a-kind QOK swag. One-of-a-kind meaning we make it ourselves! Way cool. You can do the same thing for gifts for music lovers in your life, saving you money and creating personalized items from their favorite artists. As long as you DO NOT sell the items you make there is no end to the awesome things you can create. Note Muggle's #BeRoyal puppy bandanna above. Get some inspiration from the band merchandise we've made below.

As you know, we have our own in-house graphic designer(s). My sister-in-law, Christina is amazing at it and we use her artistic talents for many things. I also dabble in some creative design. Together Christina and I have come up with lots of different brand visuals. To make our shirts, my mom and I print what we want onto iron-on transfers and put it all together right in our kitchen.

You can purchase the paper at your local craft store along with the things you wish to embellish. Choose T-shirts, bags, bandannas, anything you want. Get images from whatever band you're looking for, print, and iron. Be sure to read the directions for the transfers before doing anything! Different brands and styles require different processes.

Guitar Picks
A couple years ago I bought Jerald a guitar pick punch as a Christmas gift. As I was putting together our merchandise table for recent performances I knew I wanted something extremely unique and that could be made from things around the house. I came across a tutorial for making guitar picks out of CDs and decided to try it out. I grabbed Jerald's pick punch and went to work. 

CDs work well, but they are a lot more effort than plastic cards (think expired credit cards, old hotel room keys, gift cards). The makers of the pick punch sell sheets of colored plastic as well. We put labels on our picks to make them QOK, but they can be left alone to highlight the designs of the materials you use.

Personalized Image Items
Since we've been performing more we have been getting more pictures of us doing what we do. I cropped and uploaded pictures to a drug store photo website and created a collage with our main logo. I added our signatures from the website and BAM! A simple memorabilia and promo piece.

For gifts get a set of postcards or other stationery made from an image of their favorite artist, such as an album cover. Photo websites can make just about anything from mugs to calendars to mouse pads. These are all inexpensive, and maybe a little cheesy, but a good meeting point between functional and frivolous. Who wouldn't love stuff with their favorite band on it that they will actually use?

Musical Memories
To round out our merchandise offerings I grabbed a couple other ideas from our Kickstarter. On our website we offer a YouTube song dedication/cover and a digital download of a behind-the-scenes documentary Jerald will be working on. We are also looking into transcribing our music for others to download and enjoy.

If you're looking for a gift for your music lover, learn a song or instrument then play them a little something. When he or she next performs, offer to hop on stage for a duet.  If you know their favorite song transcribe it into sheet music and frame it. Or create your own tour documentary starring your favorite musician! It doesn't have to be perfect, just a little thought out.

All-in-One Swag Bag
Queens Over Kings offers a miniature swag bag, similar to those we gave out for Teacher Appreciation Week. We put some of our offerings together in a bag decorated with a graphic of lyrics from our first original song Lock & Key. 

You can do the same with all the items here and more. Other ideas for DIY gifts for music lovers I've seen include Sharpie-drawn coffee mugs, concept art, underwear (what??), burned CDs or online playlists, buttons/pins, or lyric posters. There are so many options.

Now that the Kickstarter is officially over, the feelings are bittersweet. In some ways the process felt like watching a test flight crash and burn. Yet in other ways it is oddly relieving to see the whole thing go. Overall, we are happy with how things have gone this past month. We have learned a lot about our music, with a current tally of four original songs. Two of those songs will (hopefully) be on Soundcloud later this week. I'm so excited to have music for you guys to listen to! Our online presence is growing. Aside from the band getting notice on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I have a couple guest blogging appearances coming up this month that make me feel pretty cool. Huge shout out to the friends I am making in the blogosphere :) There has been a real creativity boost around here. To see what else we come up with or to get the items you saw here today go to our website and start representing!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Weekend In: Salt Lake City, Utah

Our Utah weekend trip was a whirlwind adventure! We left on Friday night and were back on Monday morning. It was rough but so much fun. Being back West was kind of crazy, considering we had only left three months before! We missed those mountains though.
Rocky Mountains Ogden Utah
Our hotel was really nice. I found an awesome deal via Booking.com for The Little America Hotel. The breakfast was amazing. We recommend the french toast, house-made granola, and the Chuck Wagon meal. We started both our mornings at their restaurant. SO GOOD!

On Saturday we spent the day celebrating with the new Mr. & Mrs. Boyce! They were sealed in the Ogden temple, right down the street from our old place. That was fun being so close to where we used to live. Waiting outside the temple made for a little more practice time with the camera. The luncheon and reception was good food and good times at a reception hall right across the street from the temple. It was really funny because a couple of the Young Men and Young Women from our old ward worked at the reception hall, The Grand View. I scared one of my old Laurels haha. 

the Ogden Utah LDS temple

Spencer taking pictures for another wedding

Ogden Utah LDS temple grounds

Mr. and Mrs. Boyce

selfie with the newlyweds

It was a great day! We headed back to Salt Lake City a little early so that we could relax before the day ahead on Sunday. There was checking out the Hogle Zoo planned before getting on the plane Sunday night. Told you it was a whirlwind weekend!

Breakfast at the hotel restaurant was again amazing. The zoo was easy to find but parking wasn't. Who knew so many Utahans went to the zoo on Sundays! The animals were of course wonderful.

This bear was so funny. He was playing in the water with tiny pieces of wood and reminded us of Muggle when she wrestles with her toys. And the otter was cute too. Spencer made us go back to check the exhibit 3 times to make sure we saw the otters. It was worth it to see him show off. Isn't that baby orangutan cute?!
Grizzly bear at the zoo

otters at the Hogle Zoo

photo op at the Hogle Zoo

baby orangutan at the Hogle Zoo

Kristyn and Spencer at the Hogle Zoo

The trip back home was intense as we arrived back in Baltimore at 7am on Monday. Needless to say we slept all day. But overall a worthwhile trip! Wish we had more time to spend with family in Utah. Hopefully we'll get to see you all soon.

The weather is getting warmer around here meaning we'll get to have more fun outside. The National Museum of the American Indian is hosting a Hawaii Festival in a couple weeks that we are planning to check out. And we are looking at a camping and fishing trip during Memorial Day weekend. I'm interested to see how Muggle handles that.

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Kristyn here. I'm really good at Googling, dreaming, and thinking outside the box. Someday I'm going to save all the puppies and perform on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float.

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