A Playlist for Creating

danielle ayers jones, freelance writer, creativity, creative mama, workspace

When it's time for me to write, edit photos, or design a logo, I find music propels me forward in the creation process.

But not just any music. For me, this isn't the time for U2, Coldplay, or actually anything with lyrics.

I tend towards soothing instrumental music that doesn't compete with my thought process. I find that no music can be distracting; I notice every little noise. But I need the right kind of music for my particular creative project.

Anyone with me?

Do you gravitate towards certain artists or styles when you have something creative to accomplish? Do you like high energy or low? Care to share a few of your favorites?

I find I almost exclusively turn towards soundtracks. Today I'm sharing the tracks I pull up when I have an article to write or photos to crank out:

El Tiempo Entre Costuras (The Time In Between)
Okay, I know I've already raved about this miniseries. But now I've bought the music and it's newest edition to my creative playlist. A few favorite tracks are Tema de Sira, Al Borde del Abismo, En Marruecos, to name a few.

Mansfield Park Soundtrack
Whatever you thought of this somewhat controversial adaptation of Mansfield Park, the soundtrack is stellar. Some great and interesting pieces here. Some favorite ones are Through the Rain, Glass, I Don't Know You.

North and South Title Theme
I love this theme so much, I wish the soaring melody lasted just a bit longer.

Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack
While I may be a firm believer the six-hour BBC version of the movie is the best, I still enjoy certain qualities of this version, the music being one of them. Liz on Top of the World is just gorgeous and Your Hands Are Cold is another favorite.

The Piano
This music is hauntingly tragic and I love it, but particularly find it suited for a grey drizzly or rainy day. I don't know why, but that's when I usually like to play it. To the Edge of the Earth, Big My Secret, and A Wild Distant Shore are my favorites. The themes play off each other throughout the whole album and I find it great to work to.

How about you?

What I'm Into Right Now (May 2017)


The theme of my media consumption this past month is heavy and weighty. I delved into some important topics that were not pleasant. One, more historical in nature, and another closer to home. But I also have some fun recommendations sprinkled in-between the more dense topics I explored.

One of my more light and delightful enjoyments was listening to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Oh my goodness this audiobook was just SO FUN! Anne Bogel's review on Goodreads described it as "Harry Potter meets National Treasure" and I couldn't agree more. If you love mysteries, books, and bookstores, this one is for you!

Last month I swooned over The Time In Between on Netflix. It was such a good mini series! I also loved the music which led me to purchase the soundtrack. I've been playing it a lot, it is so beautiful.

So now we delve into the heavy.

The Keepers have been getting a lot of press and Josh and I just finished it last night. This series is not entertaining, it is heartbreaking. Yet it is a worthy and important watch. I think anyone in the Baltimore area owes it to themselves to watch it and be aware of past history that still impacts people today.

The story centers on the unsolved mystery of a young Baltimore nun. It also centers on the sexual abuse of women who were once high school students at a local Catholic high school. This I knew going into the show, but I was unprepared for the horrifically graphic detail some of the victims described of sexual and spiritual abuse in a few of the episodes. It was truly disturbing. However, the documentary does not present this material in anyway that is titillating. The hope is instead justice and education.

I felt like it was important as a parent to hear from the victims themselves as well to have a better idea of how a predator uses manipulation to control and intimidate. While all of this may have happened in the past, there are legal issues even today that are impacted by it. I hope now that the documentary has release there will be a break in the case or someone will come forward to give these people the closure and justice they deserve, if possible.

I am reading The Dry, which is my kickoff to summer reading fun. It was recommended in this year's Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide and sounded good. So far, I'm enjoying it.

The other book I just finished was the story of Alice Seeley Harris in the book, Don't Call Me Lady. You've probably heard of William Wilberforce, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass. You've probably not heard of Alice Seeley Harris. However, it was through the lens of her camera that she confronted the rubber trade in the Congo and eventually brought down Belgian King Leopold's hold over that country.

I confess I knew almost nothing of the atrocities of the rubber trade, which mutilated, maimed, and murdered the indigenous people of Congo for the harvest of rubber under the rule of Belgian King Leopold. And I found Alice a fascinating individual. A woman of bravery who cared greatly for the people of Congo, yet, left her own children to be cared for years by other people. The tensions in her life show the struggles of the time period for women. 

The only thing I didn't care for in the book was the switching back and forth as to who was narrating. Sometimes that works, but in this case it was distracting and clunky.

That didn't take away from the true story, however.

To find out more check out this video about a recent exhibition of her photography in Liverpool

The weather has been soooo dreary but we've still been firing up the grill! We love these Rosemary Ranch grilled chicken and over the weekend I made this Creamy Crouton Summer Salad. My new favorite kale salad is this one that I've already made twice! And this shrimp recipe is a healthier take on Bonefish Grill's Bang Bang Shrimp.

What are you into right now?

What I'm Into Right Now (April 2017)

Like so many, I binge-listened to S-town. The story-telling was exceptional and fascinating. The main character had so many complications and facets. The ending was so ironic. It was so well done and is discussion-worthy on so many levels. 

One discussion so many are having related to this show are journalistic ethics. Did the narrator, Brian, betray his sources by sharing information that was supposed to be "off-the-record" in a few instances? I mean, I'm sure they legally have all their i's dotted and t's crossed, but beyond that? Was the medium (audio) what made people uncomfortable with the delving into someone's past and what made it feel voyeuristic at times? Biographies are written and published all the time about people and they go deep into uncovering their motives and actions and no one usually seems to have a problem with that format. If S-town had been published as a book, would the criticisms that people have with it have been different?

I haven't come to complete conclusions on any of this myself. But if you want to delve more into thinking through this series, this article was interesting. I don't completely agree with it, but more food for thought. Have any of you listened to S-town yet? Thoughts?

If you've not listened yet, my only comment is that it's definitely heavy in the language department and several episodes are sexually explicit, so if that's offensive, I wouldn't recommend it.

Totally loving loving loving The Time In Between. The book was recommended to me a long time ago but at over 600 pages I was a bit daunted by it. But I'm enjoying the mini-series so much! The story is fascinating, the actress is mesmerizing, the scenery of 1940's Spain and Morocco is captivating, and I don't want it to end! And the music is gorgeous too.

As a family we listened to A Single Shard, which was a heart-warming story. I read The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. This quirky story was one I wasn't sure I liked that much until the end. The end just nailed it for me! 

I checked The Skinnytaste Cookbook out from the library and am using it to get over my meal-planning slump. We will be trying out the Jerk Chicken Tacos with Caribbean Salsa this week.

What are you into right now?

Cromwell Valley Park

A few Sundays ago we took advantage of the perfect weather to visit Cromwell Valley Park. We have been there multiple times, but this time, we went to hike the orienteering course, which uses compass and map skills to follow a trail that pretty much takes you all over the main aspects of the park.

Of course, when you start a hike everyone is excited and exuberant! 

The building are quite lovely with some walled gardens. The Willow Grove farm house contains the nature center, where we saw live animals like snakes, birds, chicks, and turtles. I particularly love the Apple House. Apparently, this building was used as a "finishing room" when there were apple and peach orchards on the property. It is in this space the fruit was boxed and then transported to be sold along the waterfront and in stalls in Baltimore City.

The Lime Kilns were in the midst of being refurbished, which was neat to see. There are three kilns and the oldest was probably in operation from 1785 onward.

The kids had a blast playing in the Nature Discovery Zone, which had a sandbox, playhouse structure, and see-saw.

It definitely was a fun day of exploring and hiking in nature. We're definitely planning on packing a lunch and going back and spending more time playing in the stream sometime soon!

Citrus Passion Body Butter

Now that the weather is warming, the flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining, it's time for lighter, fresh scents.

I recently whipped up some body butter with one of my favorite essential oil blends to create a moisturizing and delicious smelling cream that contains no harmful products.

I used this recipe to create my body butter. All you need are four ingredients: Shea butter, Coconut oil, Almond oil, and your favorite essential oil.

The oil I chose was Rocky Mountain Oils' Citrus Passion blend. I love Rocky Mountain Oils! They are a direct-to-consumer essential oil company (which I love!) and are very transparent about the quality of their oils. Customers can even find their oil's individual batch code on the bottom of the bottle and then input that number into their website to pull up the GC/MS test results. Citrus Passion is a wonderful blend of blend Bergamot, Mandarin, Grapefruit, Lime, Lemon, Tangerine, Orange, and Vanilla oils. Of course, you can also create your own blend or choose a different oil blend from a company of your choice.

Once your body butter is whipped and ready to be stored you need the right container. Essential oils need to be stored in airtight bottles that are dark to keep out sunlight. Exposing oils to light can cause the oils to oxidize quickly and therefore lose their fragrance and therapeutic qualities.

So I am delighted to partner with Infinity Jars today to introduce you to their airtight ultraviolet light filtering glass jars. I chose from their assorted glass cosmetic jars to store my body butter in and I couldn't be happier. I will be able to wash it and use it again and again.

I also got the glass push pump bottle to use this summer to store my homemade bug spray in. The bottle I used previously was really too large and this is small and easier to pack and carry around for all of our summer adventures!

If you are a person who likes to create your own cosmetics, essential oil blends, or save dried herbs from your garden, Infinity Jars makes storing easy and keeps your products from spoiling. Check out their products on their website as well as follow them on social media.

Do you like to make your own body butter or cosmetics? If so, drop me a line in the comments section letting me know your favorite recipe!

What I'm Into Right Now (March 2017)

I've got a new audio book on tap. It's a completely fascinating look at the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, affectionately known by English majors everywhere as the OED. Who knew there was insanity and murder in the mix? I'm completely loving The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. And, apparently Hollywood found it compelling enough to be filming a movie based on the book!

Musically I've been enjoying the album If You Leave by Daughter. It's not particularly new, but I love their melancholy, moody sound, such as in the tune, Winter.

We finished season 2 of Hinterland. Wow, I don't know what it is about the U.K. but they certainly know how to produce a good crime series! British-produced shows come across as so much more rugged and real-to-life than the more glossy American-made series filled with super-model type actors. Although there is action, there is also time spent on creating a great character. Can't wait for season 3, whenever I can get my hands on it!

We've also enjoyed a few documentaries. The award-winning The White Helmets was exceptional and Minimalism was thought-provoking. 

I'm almost done How the Light Gets In (isn't that a great title?) and last week as a family we finished, Where the Red Fern Grows. That certainly was a powerful book, and one I missed as a kid but am glad to have read now! We've started listening to Gone-Away Lake at lunch and The Secret Garden for our next homeschool bookclub title. I'm reading from my tattered old hardback beautifully illustrated by Graham Rust.

The Vanilla Bean Baking Book has sent me into a baking frenzy. Goodness, I've made Chocolate Meringue Pie (pictured above), Coffee Blondies, and Mint Chocolate Bars. I'm eyeing Orange Pie, Amaretto Tartlets, Lime-Mint Bars, and Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes with Basil Buttercream. And I've added this book to my Amazon wishlist. The library does not allow me all the time I need to bake such lucious-sounding baked goods! 

What have you been loving?

Mason-Dixon Trail Rebels

My husband, Josh, is a ultra runner and had been asking me for a long time to design a logo for his trail running group. Finally, I had a chance to start creating their logo! 

They are using the logo to promote their group to help build up a local community of trail runners. They will be using it on various social media platforms, as well as creating some products in the future, like hats and stickers!

I don't get to do logos that often anymore, so it was a really fun project.

How to Prepare Your Family for Easter

A few weeks before Easter I start rummaging around for our Easter-themed books and decorations. I pull out picture books like The Colt and The King and The Tale of the Three Trees to stack in a basket on the coffee table. I find the plastic eggs. I cut branches off the dogwood tree.

The grey buds will be knobby and tight—not yet open. They look dead. I will pull my green pitcher from the shelf and arrange the bare branches in some water. Now they are ready to be transformed into a Resurrection Tree.

As a family, we’ve looked for ways to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection in tangible, hands-on ways. To prepare our hearts during the busy organizing of Easter baskets and planning of a Sunday dinner. Ways that build up to Easter morning, so that we have a clear idea as to why we celebrate. 

And it all starts with remembering.      

Join me over at iBelieve to read more.

What I'm Into Right Now (Feb 2017)

I've discovered two new podcasts that have been helping me with Instagram and writing. Hashtag Authentic has been a fascinating look at how to be strategic as a creative on Instagram and is hosted by the delightful Sara Tasker. I've enjoyed her guests too, like Philippa Stanton, who I've followed for some time. Check out her gorgeous feed!

The second show is the Ann Kroeker Writing Coach podcast. First, I love the format. The podcasts run 5-7 minutes but are jam packed with encouragement and information. It's a real boost to my writing life.

Josh and I are loving Hinterland. First of all, it's set in beautiful and rugged Wales. Since one side of Josh's family are originally from the Welsh motherland he has always wanted to visit. The episodes are long--movie length, so it's nice on a Friday night. The pace is a slow build. Lots of time to develop characters and Richard Harrington (also of Poldark and Lark Rise to Candleford) is excellent. 

We're watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix as a family. I never read the books, but my youngest sister loved them. It's a bit scary at times for the kids but so smart, witty, darkly funny, and packed with wonderful actors. 

I'm slogging my way through The Nightingale. Yes, shoving my way through. All my friends give it a good many stars on Goodreads and it was recommended and loved by so many who have the same taste in literature as I do, but I'm just forcing my way through it. Sorry to those of you who loved it. I hope the payoff is worth it. Once I'm done I'll post a review on Goodreads.

The kids and I are reading Listening for Lions which we are LOVING. Also listening to Nim's Island on audio, which is just as fun and delightful as the movie.

I've been getting lots of menu-planning inspiration from Megan's blog lately. She does a Menu Monday series I never miss. Our most recent win was Garlic Butter Pasta with Herbed Pork Bolognese. Just go make it. OHMYGOODNESS! It was incredible! The noodles creamy, the meat and sauce flavorful, the kale crispy and salty on top. We will be making it again and again! It felt like I was eating in a restaurant. 

What have you been loving?

Smoothie Favorites

About a year ago our blender died. I always swore I'd buy a Vitamix next. But in the end we didn't have the funds for such a large purchase so I went with something way more powerful than my original blender but not as expensive as a Vitamix: The Ninja Professional Blender

I couldn't be happier with our purchase. It blends everything I've tried with ease and has a nine-cup capacity. I no longer have to make smoothies in "batches." Although a Vitamix has lots of options and would have been great, the truth is I really mainly use a blender for smoothies, so my Ninja has been perfect for this. 

I've missed smoothies, and so have the kids! They are a cool treat in the summer and in the winter help us get our veggies to fight colds and sickness. My boys are terrible vegetable eaters, so also, it makes me feel good to know when we make green smoothies they are getting a powerful helping of spinach or kale--and with no complaints!

Some of our favorite green smoothies are the creamy Coconutty Green Smoothie, and the Green Banana Blueberry Smoothie. My daughter loves Strawberry Peach Smoothies and I'm partial to this Peanut Butter Banana & Oatmeal smoothie.

Are you a smoothie maker? Drop your favorites into the comment section!