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wonders never cease

Category / a play list for your week

Saturday, June 25, 2016

26 Years!

So, maybe you've heard (because we've been making a pretty big deal out of it ... ), Proper Topper just turned TWENTY-SIX. Which is like a billion in shop years.

Needless to say, we're celebrating. 

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Spotify Your Life!

I love it when visitors to our shop compliment the music we play. We put together our sets pretty carefully, mixing up genres from the last six or seven decades, so I'm delighted to know folks are enjoying.

It occurs to me that there's no reason you can't enjoy our playlists wherever/whenever desired. Like our sporadically-published, themed playlists on this blog, we're also going to release the store playlists over the next few months. Use a Spotify account and feel free to join the party, starting with week one.


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Friday, March 11, 2016

Spring in the Air

Rejoice, good people, for spring has sprung in our nation’s capital! Let's throw off the shackles of our wintery layers and woolen socks and wiggle our toes in new grown grass. Trees are flowering, sleeves are shortening and the city's dotted with camera-wielding tourists. The wise horticulturists of the National Park Service predict an early peak for our beloved cherry blossoms, somewhere between March 18th and 23rd. That’s next weekend, friends. Here's a list of springy songs to help prepare us for nature’s annual art show. Each is paired with a favorite quote about Spring. As always, there's a more bountiful collection of songs on the Spotify play list at the bottom of the post.

1. Concerning Past & Future Conquests – Vandaveer

“What a strange thing! To be alive beneath cherry blossoms.” - Kobayashi Issa

2. Springtime – The Michelles
“The sun just touched the morning;
The morning, happy thing,
Supposed that he had come to dwell,
And life would be all spring.”

- Emily Dickinson

3. Mr. Songbird – The Kinks
“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” - Mark Twain

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Sunday, January 24, 2016


Nature -- and city officials -- are telling us to stay close to home this weekend and enjoy this special snow show. We're following that advice, as you can see! Look for us back in the shop on Monday, and, meantime, make some snowcones, build an igloo, enjoy the winter wonderland, and, when you come inside, listen to some nice snowy tunes by the fire. Click Spotify list at the bottom of this post to hear our favorites.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Uncensored Part 2: Songs for Banned Books & Freedom

We are pleased and honored to be co-hosts for UNCENSORED, a party to kick off Banned Books Week and to benefit the DC Public Library. Books are such a vital part of our lives and our business; we are deeply alarmed when the people who oversee the education of our children deign to limit access to them.

For this playlist, we’ve chosen songs named for great books that have been banned or challenged by school systems in the US. We hope you'll read (we’ve included a choice passage from each work), listen (spotify player below), enjoy -- then join us this Friday night at Martin Luther King Library for music, art and crafty cocktails. Tickets are available online or at the door.



Animal Farm by George Orwell
1. Animal Farm – The Kinks
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” – George Orwell


Howl by Allen Ginsberg
2. Howl – Florence + The Machine
“What is obscenity? And to whom?”  - Allen Ginsberg


The Call Of The Wild by Jack London
3. The Call Of The Wild – David Byrne
“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.” – Jack London


Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
4. Stranger In A Strange Land – Blitzen Trapper
“The slickest way in the world to lie is to tell the right amount of truth at the right time - and then shut up.” ― Robert A. Heinlein

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

22 Songs For The Best Dog Ever

Five months ago, our beloved store mascot and best friend, Cassady, passed away. Thirteen years ago today, in a dusty town in western Georgia, she was born in the home of our saintly friend David, who had taken in Cassady's mom as a stray, unaware that she was days away from giving birth to a litter of 10 puppies. The poor mom wasn't strong enough to survive the birthing process, but she managed to find a loving soul who would care for her pups like they were his own and find suitable homes for each and every one of them. We were lucky enough to be deemed worthy of one of these tiny treasures, and for that we are eternally grateful. We spent twelve and a half years with the most loving, loyal, sweet creature that has ever graced this earth. We miss her every day, but today especially. We’ll never know what we did to deserve such a perfect companion, but we will always be thankful to our beloved friend Nina Black Reid, who entrusted Cassady’s care to us and still has Cassady’s favorite dog in the world, her little brother Buster. Rest in peace, sweet girl. We miss you.

1. Lucky You – The National

2. Born For Me – Paul Westerberg

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Friday, July 31, 2015

33 Songs for Our Pals On The Road

It’s been almost 58 years since Jack Kerouac published the adventures of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in classic road trip novel On The Road.  The nominally fictitious adventures of Kerouac and Neal Cassady captured the imagination of a nation and inspired countless brave souls to pack a bag and hit the highway. We’ve been checking in with some of our friends to hear about their travels this summer and posting their reports here, so we dedicate this play list to those of you just hitting the road or already relaxing somewhere fun. We’ve paired each song with a quote from On The Road for added inspiration. There are a few more hours of traveling tunes on our Spotify play list to help you reach your destinations. Happy trails, amigos.

1. On The Road – Keane
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”

2. Real Gone – Sheryl Crow
“ 'Sal, we gotta go and never stop going 'till we get there.'
'Where we going, man?'
'I don't know but we gotta go.' ”

3. First One In The Car – The Wallflowers
“This was really the way my whole road experience began, and the things that were to come are too fantastic not to tell.”

4. Slow Rollin’ – Lady Antebellum
“... because he had no place he could stay in without getting tired of it and because there was nowhere to go but everywhere, keep rolling under the stars...”

5. Hello? Goodbye! – Lake Street Dive
“It's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies”

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

14 Songs For Le Quatorze Juillet

Happy Bastille Day, mes amis! Oh wait, what? The French don’t call it that? Boy, are our faces rouge.

It turns out that "Bastille Day" is the name given by English speakers to the French National Holiday, The Fourteenth of July. The French call it La Fête Nationale and aren’t really celebrating the storming of The Bastille in 1789. Apparently, we Yanks are so smitten with that story that we renamed their holiday for them. You’re welcome, France. And thank you for those awesome fried potato wedges.

Here at the shop, we are admitted Francophiles. We plan to celebrate Bastille Day with verve. Think St Patrick’s Day, but replace the Irish stuff with French stuff. French music will play in the shop all day, and we’ll request our lunches on baguettes or croissants. Our dinner will be accompanied by the words Pinot or Sauvignon. And everyone is allowed to eat cake.

Here are fourteen songs for France and the French. We wish you Liberté, Fraternité and Egalité on this and every day. Those in the mood can enjoy the whole list on Spotify, where we’ve gathered more than eight hours of nice French music. Vive la France!

1. La Mer – Charles Trenet
“Free people, remember this maxim: we may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.”
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau

2. France – Keb’ Mo’
“I draw from the Absurd three consequences: my revolt, my liberty, my passion.”
- Albert Camus

3. Les Champs-Elysees – Chantal Chamberland
“Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”
- Alexis de Tocqueville

4. Get Lucky – Daft Punk
“We must have constantly present in our minds the difference between independence and liberty. Liberty is a right of doing whatever the laws permit, and if a citizen could do what they forbid he would no longer be possessed of liberty.”
- Charles de Montesquieu

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

27 Tunes for the US Constitution

Like all the country, we have been abuzz with talk of Supreme Court rulings and Constitutional interpretations. In honor of that, and, of course, Independence Day, we present a primer on the amendments to the Constitution, the masterful document that created and governs our nation to this day. To help you remember them, we’ve paired each amendment up with a song.

Happy Independence Day!

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

First Amendment: Freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, the right to assemble, the right to petition government.
1. Say What You Want – Sheryl Crow

Second Amendment: The right to form a militia and to keep and bear arms.
2. Brothers In Arms – Dire Straits

Third Amendment: The right not to house soldiers in one's home.
3. Hit the Road, Jack - Ray Charles

Fourth Amendment: Protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
4. I Hear You Knocking - Dave Edmunds

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Friday, June 19, 2015

25 Songs For 25 Years

Where were you 25 years ago? June 19, 1990. It was a steamy DC day, and, in the shiny new marble-lined West Hall of Union Station, a little shop rolled open its gleaming glass doors for the first time.

The hit movie of the summer was "Dick Tracy," starring Madonna and Warren Beatty, starting an ill-advised rush for yellow fedoras. (We didn't sell them.) JK Rowling had just begun to write the first Harry Potter book as future Hermione portrayer Emma Watson turned two months old. The checkpoint booth at Checkpoint Charlie was removed from the border between East and West Germany, two weeks before official reunification. Things were happening all over the world.

Twenty-five years later, we are proud and excited -- and, above all, thankful -- to still be going strong. Much has changed over the past quarter century in the world at large, and certainly in the world of retail. (Online shopping? Who'd have thunk of such a possibility in 1990.)

We are going to take you on a stroll through history in the next few months, starting today with a What We Were Listening To In 1990 Play List. Check back with us when you can ... it should be a fun ride.

We’d like to thank all the people who have taken part in this experience over the last twenty five years. Between our great staff and our wonderful customers, we are grateful and honored that you’ve made us a part of your lives. We hope you continue to do so for the next twenty-five years.

1. Ana - The Pixies
“I think everyone should sell whatever product they want to sell for whatever price they want to sell it for, but ultimately the market will dictate what it is and people will have to charge less money for everything. Record companies have been overcharging people for way too long and now this is the trouble that they're in.”
- Frank Black

2. Nothing Compares 2 U - Sinead O'Connor
“When you're young, you don't really know quite what you're aiming at. You're very impulsive and acting on impulse, which is very important and valuable. But you're kind of swimming in a blind sea. When you get older, you have more of a sense of direction.”
- Sinead O'Connor

3. Born At the Right Time - Paul Simon
“Yesterday it was my birthday.
I hung one more year on the line.
I should be depressed.
My life's a mess.
But I'm having a good time.”

- Paul Simon

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Twelve Songs for May 13th

May the Thirteenth be with you! It doesn't have the ring to it that May the Fourth has, does it? We’re going to keep our play list nice and simple this week. Here are twelve songs for May 13th, chosen for events that happened on this day in history or for people who were born or died on this day. Beware the ides of May!

1. Mexican–American War – K-Bach, Jah Child, Lyrically Twisted
1846 - The United States declared war on Mexico.

2. The Liberator – The Dimes
1862 – A southern slave named Robert Smalls steals the Confererate gunship USS Planter and delivers it to Union forces. He later is officially appointed as captain, becoming the first black man to command a United States ship.

3. Joe Louis – Joe Nisbet Jr.
1914 – Joe Louis is born.

4. Ballad of Jim Jones – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
1931 – Cult leader Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple is born.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Eighteen Songs For Earth Day


Happy Earth Day, Peeps! We’re not going to wax poetic about our love for our home planet because we’re in a rush to get going to an Earth Day art show at Black Whiskey. Come join us if you like the Earth and good art. Or Whiskey. Here’s a link with details The Earth will be there, along with the good art. We’ll let the songs and quotes speak for themselves.

1. What Are We Gonna Do? – Dramarama
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
- Albert Einstein

2. Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell
“Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?”
- Groucho Marx

3. Down To Earth – Peter Gabriel and the Soweto Gospel Choir
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
- Theodore Roosevelt

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Eighteen Songs For Ireland. SlГЎinte!

Faith and Begorrah! Is it Saint Patrick’s Day already? Shakespeare warned us to beware the ides of March. Apparently he foresaw the mayhem that would accompany the day set aside to honor the patron saint of the emerald isle. We wish you well in your endeavors on this night of revelry. Have fun, tip a pint or two and don your greenest greens. We’re all a little Irish today. Remember to be careful out there, and please be kind to your fellow Fenians. We’ve compiled a play list of old classics and modern traditionals and paired them with quotes about Ireland and some wisdom from its shores. We think they'll go well with a Guinness. Sláinte!

1. Raise A Glass To St. Patrick – The Irish Rovers
“May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.“

- Irish blessing

2. Last Ones Standing – Ceann
“The heart of an Irishman is nothing but his imagination.”
- George Bernard Shaw

3. Whiskey, You’re The Devil – The Clancy Brothers
“Drink is the curse of the land.
It makes you fight with your neighbor.
It makes you shoot at your landlord,
and it makes you miss him.”

- Irish proverb

4. Danny Boy – Eva Cassidy
“The Ireland I now inhabit is one that these Irish contemporaries have helped to imagine.”
- Seamus Heaney

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Friday, March 13, 2015

3.14 In Your Face for Pi Day

This Saturday (3.14.15) marks the most spot-on Pi Day celebration of the century. Exactly 53 seconds after our clocks roll to 9:26 AM (3/14/15 at 9:26:53), the time will reflect the value of Pi to nine digits. Oh, and it’s also Einstein’s birthday. Math geeks of the world, divide and conquer! Or be fruitful and multiply! At least eat some pie for breakfast.

Any hat seller worth his/her salt knows what a helpful friend Archimedes unleashed upon us when he approximated the value of Pi in the third century BCE. We calculate hat size by measuring the circumference of the head, dividing the result by Pi and rounding it up to an eighth of an inch. Pi was in use long before Archimedes and has since been calculated out to more than a trillion digits. We only use the first three to calculate hat size, so Archimedes is good enough for us.

So, what can Pi do for you, you ask? Well, if you need to figure out the height of an elephant, you (carefully) measure the diameter of its foot and multiply the result by two. Then multiply that result by Pi. Boom! You know whether your elephant is tall enough to carry out your nefarious plot. If you don’t happen to have any unmeasured elephants at your disposal, you could calculate a circle the size of the entire known universe down to a proton using only the first 39 digits of Pi. Then all you have to do is find a use for that amazing bit of information. Pi is awesome. It’s employed in harmonic motion theory, superstring equations and in birthday boy Albert Einstein's gravitational theory. Making a play list in its honor is the least we could do. Except for not making a play list in its honor, of course. Math geeks are always so literal. Here are some songs for Pi Day, paired with some quotes from the immortal Dr. Einstein. We wish you infinite enjoyment. (As always, you can listen to the Play List on Spotify player at the bottom of this page, and enjoy some bonus songs we included).

1. A Song About Pi – Lucy Kaplansky
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

2. Pi Day – Chartreuse Boys
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

3. American Pie – Don McLean
“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity.”

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Twenty Three Deep Thoughts for Jack Handey

We were going to write about the Oscars this week -- kicking it off with Everything Is Awesome, wrapping it up with the statue-winning Glory, and having some fun at the expense of Adele Dazeem and last week's Play List hero Glom Gozingo. Maybe we'd have engaged in a brief discussion about Common’s real name (Lonnie Lynn --  who knew?).

But, instead, we got sidetracked by a surprising fact: today is the birthday of one Mr. Jack Handey, genius writer of Deep Thoughts, among other things. Having assumed he was a figment of the imagination of the brilliant Phil Hartman, who voiced the intro for the recurring bit on Saturday Night Live, it was thrilling to discover that Jack Handey is real, still living among us, and still penning humorous thoughts and observations. Now that we know he’s a real person, we have a new hero to salute. Happy Birthday, Jack Handey. We hope you get your kryptonite cross this year and keep cranking out the humor for another sixty-six years. Here are a handful of our favorite Deep Thoughts for you to enjoy with some thematically-paired songs.

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.“
1. Walk A Mile – Holly Golightly


“Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.”
2. Bad Medicine – Bon Jovi

“If God dwells inside us, like some people say, I sure hope He like enchiladas, because that's what He's getting! “
3. The Whole Enchilada – Keb Mo


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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fourteen Songs for Scientology

Want to hear something weird? Fifty one years ago today, the first Church of Scientology was founded in California. On that very same day, famous Scientologist John Joseph Travolta was born in Englewood, New Jersey. It must seem pretty cool to know that you are the exact same age as your religion, assuming that’s how Travolta views of his membership in Scientology. Apparently not all Scientologists do. We aren’t going to pass judgment on L. Ron Hubbard’s creation or those who subscribe to his teachings. We just thought the coincidence was too weird to let pass unremarked upon. Now that we’ve done our remarking, we leave you with these songs inspired by Scientology or created by Scientologists along with some quotes attributed to Lafayette Ronald Hubbard himself. Happy birthday, Vincent Vega.

1. The Way That It Began – Children’s Scientology Pageant
“A science is something which is constructed from truth on workable axioms. There are 55 axioms in scientology which are very demonstrably true, and on these can be constructed a great deal.”

2. You’re The One That I Want – John Travolta and Olivia Newton John
“There were very, very large sums of money that I made when I was very young - 15 million published works and a great many successful movies don't make nothin'.”

3. The Show – Doug E Fresh
“Scientology is the study of knowingness. It increases one's knowingness, but if a man were totally aware of what was going on around him, he would find it relatively simple to handle any outnesses in that.”

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fifteen Songs for Freedom

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fourteen Songs for the Fat Man & His Elves

Alright, good readers, the Yule is nigh. We’re into the home stretch of this holiday season and I’m sure we’re all a little weary. For better or for worse, there’s really only a week to go before Christmas, or eight and a half days until Boxing Day, if that’s your big thing. If you feel a bit under the gun at this point, think about how things probably are at the North Pole this week. The sun never rises, the entire operation is illuminated by omnipresent countdown clocks and the blinking lights of coffeepots in various states of disrepair. It makes us glad our parents weren’t elves, no matter how cool Orlando Bloom and Peter Jackson make it look. In honor of our industrious half pint cousins and their hard charging task master, we’re delivering a Christmas play list, as promised. However, to give us all a bit of a break from the mounting pressure of this ever lengthening season, we’re opting for some non-traditional tunes this week. Not a Noel to be found among them. Take your foot off the gas, take a deep breath or two while you listen. Don’t forget to exhale. Try and enjoy the rest of this season with cheer and good will. We’re all in this together. Be kind to each other. Things will be back to normal in no time. Cheers.

1. Champagne of Christmas – The Fleshtones
“Being a traditionalist, I'm a rabid sucker for Christmas. In July, I'm already worried that there are only 146 shopping days left.”
- John Waters

2. Merry Christmas Baby – Vandaveer
“Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.”
- Dave Barry

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fifteen Songs For Huck Finn’s Birthday!

Today marks the 130th anniversary of the publishing of the first great American novel, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We don’t plan to rank the literary importance of this seminal work, nor do we intend to address the controversies surrounding Twain’s language choices or depiction of any of the characters in the book. We just want to tell you that it is one of our very favorites, and if you haven’t read it, pop in to the shop and pick up a copy. Find out what all the fuss is about.

We're on the record as unabashed opponents of censorship and book banning, so the travails of this great novel have never sat well with us. We can learn a lesson on taking criticism with measured composure by studying Twain's response to a report stating The Brooklyn Library had removed his books from their children's section. He retorted “I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote 'Tom Sawyer' and 'Huck Finn' for adults exclusively, and it always distressed me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeased bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again on this side of the grave.”

For those new to this blog, each week we choose a topic and then select thematically appropriate songs, pairing each song with an appropriate quote. In honor of the first publishing of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on this date in 1884, we’re switching things up this week, selecting a quote from the book first, then pairing it with a fitting song. We don't claim to have created a literary masterwork here, but, to paraphrase Samuel Clemens, we’ve never been reluctant to meddle in hifalut’n foolishness, so thank you for indulging us. As always, there are bonus songs in the Spotify player at the bottom of the list.

1. “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons  attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” - Author’s Notice
Your Mama Warned You – Eels

2. “You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth” – Chapter 1
Huck Finn – The Statesboro Revue

3. “It was a dreadful thing to see. Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.” – Chapter 33
Don’t Be Cruel – Elvis Presley

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thirteen Songs For the Twelfth Month

Christmas, Christmas, Christmas! Christmas is coming! Did we mentionChristmas yet? Black Friday has passed, Small Business Saturday has come and gone, and even Cyber Monday is history. Yesterday was probably Too Late Tuesday. If you haven't gotten your Christmas presents for everyone on your list by now, you might as well give up and go back to bed. While you're there, listen to these songs. They can help to remind you that a lovely month started Monday. True, it happens to host a high profile holiday in the fourth week and ends with another fancy, festive one. Trust us, those pressure filled days are ages away. Ask any kid. Today is only the third of 31 days of December. Try to enjoy all them all. We can help. Come visit the shop and listen to some nice songs while we find some great gifts for anyone left on your list, naughty or nice.

1. December – Collective Soul
“How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness, how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”

- Dr. Seuss

2. Air Of December – Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
“When we shall hear
The rain and wind beat dark
December, how
In this our pinching cave
shall we discourse
The freezing hours away?”

- William Shakespeare

3. December, 1963 (Oh What A Night) – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
“Wintry it ain't- no complaints!
Snowier: Storefronts are showier, light displays glowier.
Shoppers are prowling, blizzard howling!
Drifts a-heaping, lords a-leaping,
Yule logs burning, gifts returning.
Winds are keen for 2015!”

- The Old Farmer's Almanac

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wonders never cease