Thursday, August 23, 2012

Project Runway 10- Episode 5 (Women at Work Challenge)

Just a quick nod to Episode 5 and the deja-vu of Raul departing before I move on to this week's episode.

Team Challenge. Those dreaded words to a group of designers who think their skill is too superior to descend to the evil of cooperation. Surprisingly, there wasn't much drama involved with the forced companionship this week.

It was quite interesting to watch the very different psychology of the two teams and the results of two very different styles of designing and manufacturing.

"Team 5" consists of Nathan, Vin (who comments "good choice" when picked), Christopher, who then picks Fabio (although it breaks Raul's heart but Christopher doesn't think the source of his budding showmance could work on a team with Christopher), and Gunnar.

"Team 6" then would be Sonjia, Elena (OMG-WHY?), Melissa, Alicia, and this week's fat kid on the gym bleachers- Raul.

The challenge? To create a "Marie Claire at work- fashion capsule collection." The cohesive line must look editorial but also could work in the real world. Each team would also direct their own fashion shoot and the winning shot would appear in the magazine. (I wonder what effect the magazine's involvement with Project Runway has had on their sales.)

Nathan's team declared that they would use a COLOR scheme. With COLOR. As did the other team. Unfortunately, one team chose purple, the other blue (chosen by Sonijia to match her hair?), and not much more than the standards black and white beyond that. But, it's a start!

Sonjia's decision to have each team member complete two of the same pieces and then planning to match them all together on the Runway just seemed wrong to me. There's no ownership of an actual "look" but rather just the production of an item of clothing. I guess it speaks of teamwork, but this logical approach to assembly-line fashion had Smurfette racing all over Mood (forgetting a shopping bag of supplies), and had their team stressed and frantic in the workroom. Of course, the competing team's zen approach to individual workmanship did not create an enlightened product line either.

So, here's my overshadowing question for the week...

You know how the designers will often say "who" they are designing for, or the judges will ask, "Who is this girl?" Well, my question this week is, "Where does she work?" The most stand-out piece of this collection is the off-shoulder top on the second look, but unless you are a travel agent maybe, are you going to wear it to work? Or perhaps you are employed as a medium and will fashion the turban in the 4th look.  Also, that side seem in the second look? It looks like she went to the loo and pulled up her pants sideways.

The winning look this week, created by Melissa, was also my favorite piece. Her work overall intrigues me. I love this dramatic neck and was surprised by the zipper detail. I would totally love to have a dress with this neck... but with sleeves... that I would never wear to work.
I also like the small panel openings in the back of Dmitry's dress. Again, I question what the appropriate workplace for this outfit would be. But overall, Dmitry quietly and greacefully creates some well-tailored and reserved, yet creative, pieces.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Season 10 runway without a pair of "Elena's shoulders." In future seasons, Kors and Heid are going to refer to outfits on the Runway having "Elena shoulders." The gem of Madame Psychotic this season has to be this week when Elena did not like the was a team mate had posed one of their shoots and she screams out, "It looks like the model is taking a.." Well, you get the point. She's not exactly the model of grace and decorum.

Raul deserved to go home. He had in his mind the garment he wanted to make before the challenge was even announced and refused to alter it when his team mates and Tim told him it didn't belong in the workplace. Also glad to see him go home because I just hate it when any reality show brings back an evicted player.

Big Brother 14- Eviction #6 (Boogie) (and Ashley)

BEST WEEK of Big Brother this season!

Bye Bye Boogie, Bye Bye. I cannot say that it was sad to see you go. One might say that his greed to go for the 10k instead of immunity or HoH in the slip & slide challenge led to his demise. However, he knew the others were game players and he wouldn't have much competition. Not to say he didn't get blindsided by the eviction. Or even more blindsided by Ian's taped admission of orchestrating his departure.
Welcome to the game Ian! The Quack Pack kept referring to him as their "Mole." He was more like the Godfather of the Big Brother house this past week though- everyone was out to protect him. Dan and Britney refused to reveal his name as their source and Boogie is still trying to give him game advice as he is walking out of the house... until Ian tells his Yoda, Get to Stepping, referring to Boogie's departing words on an earlier season, and Chilltown knows he's been had.

Now, in reality, Ian does not possess much power in this game. His "manipulation" to get Boogie out of the house was simply revealing the details of his private conversation to his alliance. Although it made him look even more like a prepubescent teen, Britney's manscaping of the lovable geek obviously gave a lil' boost to his testosterone. And in true bildungsroman fashion, the young lad comes of age, wins his first competition and HoH (abbeviated though the reign will be).

He even brings an end to the fairy tale showmance that was shredded to pieces the week before on the HoH suite couch. Despite his aggressive grooming habits, Ashley said her date with Ian was "bubble gum" while her time with Frank was "risque." Even admitting the influences of CBS producers, I do have to admit their second date was rather lame. So lame, that it smoothed her path out the door... That is after losing the Veto competition when she unknowingly forfeited the competition to Frank. It seems that in a normal competition, Julie Chen would have pointed out that with only two players left, forfeiting your turn would mean you lose. However, I think even the producers at this point were like- Just get her out!
By the way, Ashley, who has a degree in elementary education,  apparently thought she would sound less dumb to say that she is a Mobile Spray Tanner than an aspiring model. AND, on her audition interview tape, she said that she wanted to start the "Snow White" alliance and the players would follow her around like the seven dwarfs. That didn't work so well, did it, precious?
Also precious? Shane. Who misses his doggie that he sleeps with every night. So, when a poochie pic is added to his HoH suite, he promises to sleep with it at his bed side every night. Can we just share a collection "Awww"- GAG.
Hmmm... what about this picture looks awkward to you? And although Shane was a bad puppet (!) for throwing Britney "under the bus" to Frank and the old man, he did at least protect Ian and credit JOE with telling him that the two were trying to backdoor him last week. You know that's going to earn some brownie points with me. This week's adds to Joe's ever-lengthening list of annoying traits? The "stories" from being the person to name "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" to his family selling the land the White House was built on for a mule and a fifth of whiskey. I missed that lesson in my history book, but perhaps his family could use some lessons on bartering.
What else does Shane do? Nominate Rocker Chick!
When she went to Shane in an effort to keep herself from nominated, I reeaally wish Shane would have said something like, "Who are you again?" She said Dan had to go up if she "had any chance of wining this game." Delusional much? She is WALLPAPER! You can go an entire episode, never see her, and not even realize it. She is being referred to as the "ultimate floater." That is giving her far too much credit. Floating can be a strategy. She is nonessential. She is not even a BLIP in the Big Brother season. It was hard to even find a picture of her to post (although props for the matching leopard ball cap and arm sleeve- ugh.) The only thing better than her trying to be all tough and threatening to Shane, was when she is put on the block and Ian says, "Good Luck Man."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Early Mornings & Late Nights

(Disclaimer: I'm cheating. I am actually writing this blog post on Thursday, but since it starts yesterday and ends today, I'm calling it legit. Also, I want a break between this "Real Life" post and The TeeVee ramblings I'm going to catch up on tonight, and that won't happen with this blog format. So, welcome to my yesterday... and today. Stick around a while, I might confuse you more ;)

I woke up before the alarm this morning. That is I woke up shortly before it was going to blaringly jar me from sleep, not as in the multiple times I wake up through the night ticked off... because I am waking multiple times through the night. (We will also overlook the fact that I had forgot I set the alarm fifteen minutes later the morning before... because that extra five minutes over the frugal ten minutes of the snooze button was so worth the extra effort. That's not even sarcasm.)

So, waking up moments before the alarm sounds is a good way to start the day. (It's also supposed to mean your body is getting the amount of need it naturally needs, but I doubt that is true in my case. More like my bladder has had all the time in bed it can handle.)

My second thought of the day (third if you count the bladder's input) was, "What's on The TeeVee tonight?" This ticked pissed me off for two reasons.

Number One.
I hated that I was letting The TeeVee have such an influence on my life. Seriously? I thought about it before the kids, breakfast, maybe even the bladder. Right now, one season of shows is wrapping up while another season is starting, so my schedule is pretty thick.

It looks something like this...
Sunday- Big Brother, Army Wives
Monday- The Real Housewives of New York City, Gallery Girls
Tuesday- Craft Wars, Dance Moms, The Week the Women Left
Wednesday- Big Brother, Toddlers and Tiaras, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (hanging head in shame)
Thursday- Big Brother, Project Runway

Ten Shows- one three times a week. That's pretty bad for me, typically I only tune in to about three shows. Oh well, the school year started is probably going to bring home too much work to keep stuffing myself with so much Brain Candy.
The Second Reason this ticks me off...
Is because I am blowing the whole day off. I am disregarding any high points, important decisions, cherished moments, just life in general... by waking up thinking about how I am going to end the day. THAT really ticks me off.
I saw this posted on someone's FaceBook status the Sunday night before school started. (I promise that although I did it 2 nights in a row, I am not going to make using FaceBook posts a normal standard for blog fodder.)

The person that posted it wasn't a teacher, it wasn't even someone I really "know." However, the sentiment immediately made me reflect on the school year. The entire concept of school is built on a count down. 180 days. With our 2-semester system, it's a countdown of 90 days dangling over the head of each student. Teachers pass me in the hallway asking, "Is it Friday yet?" or  "How long until break?" I myself, although in pure jest, will always end day one beaming, "Only 179 to go!" Well, I don't like looking at my job this way. I don't like living life this way. I'm not going to all YOLO up in here but I want to shift my internal focus from that countdown mentality- till the end of the day, the weekend, the next break- and focus instead of being fully engaged in the life that is happening right then, right there. Intentional living. I know this is a Utopian ideal, but it's a good goal to work towards.

Segueway to tonight... (No boys & girls at home, do not use this as a transition in your writing!)

Tonight was a real stressor- a stressful, stressing, stressor- on the lunacy of our schedule that lies ahead. After the runing around to pick up Benjamin from day care, get Cameron from Cross County practice, take home our car-pooler, get gas, run to grocery store to get corn (and Starbucks), it had me staring dinner at 7:00 p.m.- STARTING dinner. I almost threw the entire plan out the window, but forced myself to de-stress and follow through. I get "Bad Mom" points tonight for feeding the babe cereal and banana for dinner because it was already so late. BUT, I'm giving myslf some "Good Wife" points for serving the hubs a hot, home-cooked meal as he walked through the door at 8:30 p.m. That's one small benefit of our crazy schedules right now- Jason & Justin getting home late enough that I can pull together an otherwise dysfunctional dinner plan.

What was for dinner?
Meatloaf, mashed taters, corn & biscuts

You better redneckonize!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gotta Go Back, Back, Back to School Again!

Whoooaaa... I gotta go, back to school... AGAIN!

Every school break is the same. Whether it is one week at Spring, two weeks at Christmas, the whole summer, or just a four-day weekend. It begins with plans and goals, to work and to relax. The days drift by... and some things get done. Other things don't get done, but that's okay. Time leisurely passes. Then the final days tumble unto one another and you are left with the mental static of could-haves and should-haves.

Yesterday was the first day of my 9th year of teaching (Does that make me a freshman or a third time repeater of high school?) Yesterday was the "Convocation," a formal and fancy word for all the teachers in the county getting dressed fancy and come together for a formal assembly to kick off the new school year. Except, things weren't so formal this year...

There were... BUBBLES! I am ashamed to admit that I can't remember the metaphor upon which the bubbles were based. I know it had something to do with there being many different kinds of bubbles (soap, beverage, waterfall) but they were all basically pockets of air surrounded by a thin liquid layer. Beyond that I was lost because there were... BUBBLES! Seriously, it was shameful. I was like the fish on Finding Nemo who was always thrown completely off track by the... BUBBLES!

I am a total cheeseball about the beginning of the school year. I absorb the messages on having a positive attitude and making "Magic" happen in the classroom and I get excited about the year ahead.

A friend had the following Words of Wisdom posted on her FaceBook the night before the school year started. Her caption was "Think I might keep this on my desk this year!"

I could really connect with this sentiment. There were times last year when I allowed myself to get too wrapped up in the "drama" of the workplace. They were only moments, but even so, I really want to avoid those moments this year. I want to stay wrapped up instead in what's going on inside my classroom.

There's going to be a lot of attention this year on my classroom... and all the classrooms, from kindergarten through Seniors. The state of Virginia has mandated a new Teacher Evaluation Performance assessment that is really going to shake up the foundations of how things have been done. It's as if the state gurus of education have said, "We have spent years telling you WHAT to teach, now we are telling you HOW to teach."

And... I love it!

It's the kind of teaching and  learning that I love to see in my classroom and this feels like an encouragement to see it MORE. It's cooperative learning- peers sharing- and authentic assessments- projects over old fashion tests. There are comfort zones that need to expand, such as worry about students being off-task when working on groups. There are habits that need to be broken, such as relying on worksheets for grades.

A lot of the anxiety right now centers on the fact that 40% of a teacher's assessment will be based on student performance. But this just seems... right... to me. Everything about this system of teaching and evaluation seems right to me. I know it's ideal. Utopian. It will not be easy. Change rarely is. But I have a really positive feeling about this. I feel like things I have always believed are being validated and brought into practice and encouraged. And that feels magical.

I love this time of the year when the floors are freshly waxed and the halls are uncrowded. It's a time full of promise. Perhaps the only good thing about bus duty is getting too work early when the sun is beaming through the doors at the end of the hall and it looks like this, even far into the school year.

So, yeah...
The school year has started... and that's kind of evident around here. The camera's flash card is filled with pics from the park and beach during the final days of "freedom." The Post-Its on my lap-top are filled with notes from last week's episodes of Big Brother and Project Runway. There hasn't been a whole lot of cooking or crafting either. Hopefully, I will back-post the time-dated things. I will figure it out. Find balance between the need-to's (schoolwork) and the want-to's (blogging and crafting). I don't know which of those two categories cooking falls under, Ha!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Big Brother 14- Eviction #5 (Wil)

I will just touch on my personal highlights during last week's game play, since so much has developed since then to make theorizing worthless, but didn't want to completely skip a posting and move to the next week's ousting.

CBS opened the week referring to The Silent Six as a "Powerhouse Alliance." I must admit that I agreed. I felt pity for my nerdy lil' loner that he didn't realize that his entire alliance had turned their back on him to join the Dark Side with Boogie and Frank. While I though Ian was clueless to what was happening, it appears instead, that I was the clueless one!

The Pack is alive and quacking!
Britney immediately questions whether voting Janelle, and not Frank, out of the house was a mistake. She says "Frank wears his hair like that in public which means he has no shame and can't be trusted." Dan doesn't feel safe and thinks Frank is going to backdoor him in the Veto. Shane fears this too. Keeping Frank was a dumb move. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. He is a Powerhouse Alliance all within himself. He had to be taken out of the game when the opportunity was presented because there is no way of knowing how long it will be until that opportunity surfaces again, but show history at this point says that might be quite a while.
I was sad to see Wil go. He did indeed have some beautiful hair. Good game strategy? Not so much. Asking Frank and Boogie not to put him on the block? Smart. Refusing to reciprocate that promise for one measly week-even if in word only? Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. He played a good psychological game. Like a Thespian he could make any player believe he swallowed every lie they told, until he told us otherwise in the diary room. Sharing his high school troubles with Danielle had her caring for him like a puppy left outside in the storm. Still, he wrote his own eviction notice when he walked out of Frank's HoH suite not willing to say who he would nominate the following week if given the power.
Ashley has quickly fallen from my favored player list. The fact that she asked Frank on a "date" (Definitely a BB14 legacy) is smart game play- definitely not something we are used to seeing from her. She came onto the show giggling about how much she liked nerdy guys, but I'm not buying it. I think she feels like she would be a "catch" for any nerdy guy. But as soon as the popular jock asked her if she "wanted to make out on the couch," she forgot all about the resident geek. I don't think it was a big insult to go on the date with Frank- it was smart game play. But her back wasn't looking "out of commission" when she was rolling around on that couch. What lowered her standards even more in my eyes, is that the more attention she is given, the dumber she acts. No, she's not a bright one, as Zingbot says, but you can see her going from being generally ditzy to playing the dumb blond the more attention she is given.
The return of the annoying Zingbot. And his annoying offspring, which Frank releases from captivity when he unsurprisingly wins Veto power. Joking on Shane's pink shirt (borrowed from his niece) wasn't too zingish and Boogie being an old man, not so much a surprise. But when he announce that Shane would be getting something for Danielle- a restraining order- that was kinda priceless.
Also annoying? Still annoying? Shouting Joe! Even his wife and kids made fun of him, shouting into the cameras. As Frank says, "Joe is like a drunk girl at prom. You know she's going to make a mess, you just don't want her throwing up on your shoes."
Or yelling at your TV.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Phones & Cameras

Technology is apparently the theme of this week, or at least the past couple of days.

I got a new phone yesterday!

More importantly I went from this...

To this...
The iphone 4S. Yes, I know... everyone said, "Just wait until the iphone 5 comes out in October." But from what I have seen, there is always a new iphone coming out, and never when they say it is going to! And honestly? I just don't care. The keyboard on my old phone stopped working and I was not going to last 2-3 more months texting from the number pad, and once the new Key Club season starts, I will be texting... oh, will I be texting. Like a twelve year-old with her first boyfriend will my phone be blown up with texts planning our many charitable endeavors.

The other reason I don't care? I can barely figure out how to use this one! I know, like anything else, I need to just take the time to sit down and play with it and figure it out... but the only thing I have been figuring out on it is what funny responses I can get from Siri. (I love you. Will you marry me? Tell me a joke. What's your favorite color? Where are you?) I'm not going to even admit how long it took me to figure out how to turn up the volume or turn on the ringer. It was sad, rather sad.

In other news, my Big Momma camera, which was sent to Sony for repairs, returned home today. I have mixed reviews about this experience with Sony. I think the repairs were excessive in cost. And, although it is obvious they stress customer service, the customer service people don't know anything about the products... and the technicians don't know anything about customer service. I would not chose to send it in for repairs again. On the positive, however, Sony sent me an entirely new camera and lens... which, although preferred, is a bit confusing since the technician told me the specific repairs he was making to my camera and lens.

To celebrate her return home though, we took took her to the park in Sedley.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Waves of Summer (ending)

This is a sad antithesis to the "Summer Waves" one would normally think of... involving toes in the sand, and in the... everywhere else.

Exactly one week from today I return to school. Summer vacation ends. The school year begins. The calendar will tell us that the last day of Summer is September 21st. However, for most of us, especially those in school- or with kids in school- we will debate that Labor Day is "really" the last day of summer.

For the McHenrys though, summer is already coming to an end... in different waves.

Football season has officially begun. This is not as easy as simply watching the TV in the other room, as it is for some "Football Widows." No this means that Jason leaves before I get out of bed in the morning and returns home shortly before he is ready to fall back into the bed. Right now the team has 2-a-days. However, I don't imagine the schedule will be any kinder once classes start next week and there is only one practice. With my volunteer work, a (nondriving) son active in sports and other activities and a toddler... this is going to take for some very creative scheduling (and meal-planning).

Cross Country season has also begun, which means I am driving Cameron to and from the high school every morning.Trust me, leaving at 8:15 in the morning is a bit hard after peeling myself out of bed at 10 most mornings this summer.

I might as well fall into the routine of driving to the high school though, because I return next week. (For which I will have to crawl- kicking and screaming... or at least heavily crying- by 7:00... ish.) I thought we would not go back until Wednesday, so I have a doc appointment on Monday and a pending spa day on Tuesday, all of which must be cancelled. I am just a smidgen ready to return though. This has been a very restful and reviving summer, much less stressed than the past two.

This seems a good time to revisit the Summer 2012 Bucket List to see what I want to still squeeze in (before Labor Day).

1. Visit Water Country & Busch Gardens at least 3 times each- We've been to both 1.5 times. The 0.5 times being visits cut short by bad weather or bad attitudes- namely mine. I'd like to get in one visit more to each before Labor Day, and then a final visit before the season ends to each- September for Water Country and October for Busch Gardens.

2. Visit the beach at least 3 times- We've only been once. This one does make me sad. I want to squeeze in one more visit before Labor Day and hopefully one more this season!

3. Complete a scrapbook for Benjamin's first year or for all the old Key Club pics- Did not happen. I did start a scrapbook for Key Club... and realize my OCD-creative detail (oxymoron?) means it is going to take quite a while to complete a lay-out. It was fun, surprising that given my scrapbooking stash, it was the first time I tried it. I learned what not to do, lol (cut the paper smaller, leaving no margin for the binder- ooops). This can definitely be an ongoing stress-reliving creative endeavor. I just have to force myself to make time for it weekly!

4. Visit DC or Baltimore for one (mayyybe 2) days- Did not happen, and that's okay. I couldn't really justify the expense of an overnight stay and was not romanced by the long drive. There was the mini- get away for Harrisonburg. I think I will revisit the idea of a DC trip for Spring Break. That's when I have taken the boys before and it's a good time to go.

5. Picnic at the Chesapeake (or Portsmouth?) park with the train- Did not happen. However, we did visit the local park and rode the train at the zoo. It's a little hard to justify driving an hour to go to the park.

6. Get craft room painted, built, organized, and functioning- Check! I do want need to get a functioning work side to the room. As is, I am going to have to decommission my craft table for school work, and I know that's just going to make me less likley to clean it all up to engage in creative time.

7. Go to an outdoor concert- Well, there was the outdoor concert at the beach when we went. However, it was during that concert when I realized (remembered?) how crowded they are... and at the risk of sounding old, that was just not an attractive idea. I think I want to go to a Tides game instead. I just have to figure out a day Coach can go or figure out how to entertain a two-year old alone at the stadium.

8. Visit the Living Museum once (Dinosaurs exhibit) and the Children's Museum once (Curious George exhibit)- Got a membership to the Children's Museum and went twice! Did not go to the Living Museum. Usually we get a membership to one local museum and frequent that one for the year and then go to a different one the following year. Well, since we chose to do the Children's Museum and Zoo memberships this year, I decided not to to go to the Living Museum this summer. But, we've been to the zoo twice also!

9. Make an entry (or two) in the County Fair- I decided against this. When, the time came around for fair registration, I did have a few available crafts to enter (especially a Recycled Metal Jewelry that I felt pretty confident for the win). However, the more I thought about all those entries sitting on open display in the "barn" for the three days so the public could peruse them, the more I thought that I treasured my new creations more than I would a blue sheath of satin with "Southampton County Fair" emblazoned on it.

10. Start the school year with a functional curriculum and set of lesson plans- Haha! Well, there's three weeks before Labor Day, right? 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Coconut Chicken with Apricot Sauce

Being from the Eastern Shore of Maryland (home of Perdue chicken, and Perdue stadium and Perdue School of Business, and many other building named in honor of the lucrative poultry business), chicken is a staple of my diet. Jason joked something to the factor of me trying to "turn (him) into a chicken" when we first got together because it was all I cooked. However, since Banquet frozen chicken was a staple of his diet, I overlooked his lack of love for my feathered friends.

I am also a big fan of coconut (preferably in tall drink glasses sporting little umbrellas). The only recipe that I use coconut regularly for involves Christmas cookies. Thus, when I saw this recipe for chicken + coconut, I was rather anxious to give it a try.


Coconut Chicken and Apricot Sauce

Yield: 4 servings
1 egg
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup apricot preserves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lightly beat the egg in a medium bowl; set aside. Mix the coconut, flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Working with one chicken breast at a time, dip the chicken in the bowl with the beaten egg and then coat with the coconut mixture. Place on the baking sheet. Once all chicken breasts are coated and on the baking sheet, evenly drizzle with the melted butter. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, flipping once halfway.

To prepare the apricot sauce, mix the apricot preserves and the Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Freezer Friendly: After baking the chicken, let cool completely then freeze in a freezer bag for up to 1 month. To reheat, bake in a preheated oven at 400˚F for 20 minutes.

Avoid the temptation to sprinkle extra coconut on top of the dish before baking. I did this and those extra coconut flakes simply burned. I do wish it had more of a coconut coating though, so I will work on a method to accomplish that next time I make this dish.

I was also iffy on the sauce. It tasted very "mustardy" to me. So, I would strongly suggest adding half the recipe amount and taste-testing before stirring in more. I think I would prefer more of a Pina Colada sauce like what restaurants typically serve with coconut shrimp... maybe using the Yoplait pina colada yogurt, which is yum.

Recipe Source: Pennies on a Platter

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Girls in Trucks

Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch

Don’t let yourself be seen in a truck in town.
Men and buses are two things you should never chase.

Men are like pots on the stove. Keep the burners going- more pots, more pots.

These are among the many rules of etiquette and life lessons for the Camellias, one of the oldest debutant societies in Charleston. One does not join the Camellias. One is born into the Camellias. And with that inherited membership comes a group of girls with whom you learn to dance, learn to socialize, learn about boys, and remain friends with throughout your entire life. Or at the least, are expected to maintain friend-like attitudes and invite to all social functions and events.

This is Sarah’s world, which welcomes the reader to follow her from eighth-grade Cotillion dance lessons to an adulthood defined by a mediocre job, drugs use, and obsessive relationship with an abusive boyfriend. It is the story of a fairy tale gone wrong, for Sarah, her Camellia friends, and even her mother. As young ladies they are taught the tools needed to find the ideal husband and have the perfect marriage. Yet, this is not the life any of them grow into.

The novel occasionally expands beyond Sarah’s perspective to look into the adulthood of her childhood friends, who did try to follow the rules of life they were smothered with as adolescents, and yet have lives plagued with the same frustrations as Sarah, despite her flagrant disregard to all childhood and Southern traditions. (Very poignant in this is the chapter written as a letter from one friend dying of cancer to her husband’s girlfriend that will take her place.)

Life is organic, a cycle, that in some way always ends where it began. For Sarah, this regeneration brings her back home to Charleston, where she sees that the life she once lived is just like she remembered it, and yet nothing like what she expected. I often define an entire book on my reaction to the ending. This one took me by such surprise that I found myself talking aloud to it- What? No way! Oh my god!

Much more of this novel is spent on Sarah, and her friends, adult years in New York City. So, don’t be dissuaded by descriptions of the genteel South. This is a good find for readers that like slice-of-life or fiction-memoirs. It is also appealing for the psychological conflict of women making decision that are odds with their belief systems, and the way in which women will redefine themselves in desperation for love. All people introduced to the reader are rich, some in wealth, but all in depth of character. Although Sarah will find resolution in the novel’s end, the reader will question what happened to this friend, to that relationship. Characters you can connect with at this level makes for a good read.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Big Brother 14- Eviction #4 (Janelle)

"Always the Big Brother bridesmaid, never the Big Brother bride."

Finally, the masterminds of the CBS production team gives some spotlight to the budding romance between Ian and Ashley, instead of force-feeding us the lustfest between the two attractive players. It was a total gagfest when CBS slow-mo'ed Shane tackling Danielle with a hug after winning the HOH competition. Danielle said she was "like hey." And, I was like, "he knows you are in power this week, duh!" Ugh...I would rather follow the fairy tale of "The Princess and the Frog" then endure much more gushing from the Southern Belle over her shirtless iron-pumping beefcake.

That Southern Belle was definitely drunk on HOH power this week. Before her Queen's Suite is even ready to ohhh and ahhh over, she proclaims that Janelle is jealous of her and she can "float her jealous @$$ out of here." That, of course, proved to be a wise premonition when the power in the house danced right into Mike Boogie's hands and pushed Janelle out the door.

Poor, poor Janelle. So surprised by the back door that she didn't even think to put on make-up for the Veto ceremony.

Explain this one to me please... Did she think that the camera would not pan over to her at any point if she was not on the block? Or, does she think by prettying up for the "Time-Out Chair," the other house guests are going to be persuaded to not vote to evict her. Oh no, can't vote for Janelle she's so pretty... with her make-up.

Of course, we have already proven that she is not the brilliant player she thinks she is and far too transparent in her meager attempts at game strategy. We see this yet again when she bemoans in the HOH Room how desperate she is to get Frank out of the house and then goes directly down the stairs and to the bathroom to whisper to Frank about the game. This whole scenario reminded me very much of when the mean girl runs for Homecoming Queen and will fake-nice with everyone just long enough to get the vote... which, like, totally works because everyone thinks it's super awesome to be, like,  her friend!

It's understandable that Janelle's questionable allegiance would make her a target in the house. Ultimately though each player in this house needs to allied to just one person and that is himself. That being said, it was plain stupid not to send home Frank when the chance was given. He is like the roach of the Big Brother nuclear fall-out. His neck has not left the guillotine all summer. Yet, he survives. He continues to survive, and win competitions, and control the fate of others in the house. I think it was the wrong move for everyone involved except Frank and Boogie, who wants to be his Puppet Master.

The Frank & Boogie Show is likely to be the only showmance to last through the season. Even Ian felt like the puppy dog left outside during the storm and sought alliance elsewhere. Realizing there is no room for him in this Bromance finally sent him for the PLAY the game and not just experience Big Brother. Although there is no doubt he will be the outcast of "The Secret Six," at least this may buy him a bit longer in the game. The floaters aren't going to see him as a threat and the powers are going to see him as a vote in their pocket.

Britney's rank will be only slightly higher than Fido's in this new power structure. Did she not learn anything the first time she joined a male-dominated alliance that pawned her and then dismissed her? She just signed her name in BB blood with the Brigade II. Her honest commentary will be truly missed when this day comes though, from her sarcasm about the circle of obligatory hugs following each ceremony to her applauding Rocker Chick for wining the vacation, "a well-deserved reward for all her hard work and strategizing in the game."

Should there be any doubt of Frank's power in the BB house, let's consider the trend he has influenced among the menfolk.

The list of annoying traits about Frank is long. On that list would be the 4-inch wide wanna-be gangsta style of wearing his bandanna. As weeks pass though, this ridiculous trend gains new followers in the house... much like The Red Tie becoming a symbol of power during Bush 2's reign.

This anointing of the Secret Six certainly has Boogie more interested in the game, after Julie Chen pointed out his pouting tantrum when forced to join his fate with the houseguests'. The other coaches express such shock at his "honesty" at not being willing to get rid of Frank or trusting Janelle. Well duh, Frank is his ONLY ally and Janelle is his biggest threat!

His fake-virtue of wanting to be "just a coach" quickly dissipated when there was a greater chance of him not being sent straight out the door. He even criticized the HOH for not nominating him. Oh me too, me too Boogs.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Project Runway 10- Episode 4

Women on the Go Challenge ("Dropping Like Flies")

First, let me start off by saying that I thought the previews last week said that Elena disappeared in the middle of the night, not Andrea. Or maybe I just got the names and faces crossed in my mind. Occasionally I make mistakes. However, the Project Runway staff obviously changed their mind and let her have her anti-psychotic meds after last week's outbursts, realizing that withholding them was not going to create the rating boost they were hoping for. Perhaps, she is just not able to sanely work with teams. I am sure her report card said "Does not play well with others."

But no, our seasoned veteran Andrea snuck out in the middle of the night like a boy brought home from the bar. Not much of a loss. I think she may have been able to stay in the "safe" level of designing for a few more weeks, but only due to there being a couple more really-bad-how-are-they-possibly-still-there designers still sending fashion bombs down the runway.

Of course, Andrea dug the hole to fashion freedom and Kooan crawled along right behind her. He felt that he needed to find his own way to make it in the industry. Apparently, he thinks selling spray-painted t-shirts with pom-poms on the street corner will give him more exposure than a nationally broadcasted platform showcasing upcoming designers. Hmmm... well, it's not his fault all these rules makes him "sad, not happy." Really? The only niche he has a chance of succeeding in is that realm of conventions where people dress up like video games characters, but I doubt he will come to see that opportunity.

So, the challenge this week was to create a look that is "stylish, practical, comfortable- and must last throughout the day." The designers were taken to Michael Kors flagship store (where, disappointingly there were no actual ships) for their inspiration. When I looked amongst the Kors goodies, there are lots of accessories- heavy yellows and oranges, clothes with an almost nautical feel (or maybe I am just influenced by that "flagship" label) in bright yellows and turquoise blues.

And, the designers creations? Black, gray, brown, tan, Guldens-mustard-yellow. Can we please get some color this season?! Ok, can we please get some color from a good designer!

The winning looks had a similar feel/taste/inspiration. On the runway, I preferred Christopher, but seeing the dress better in still photo makes that side knot rather sloppy and overdone. Maybe I was just dazed by the pretty little leather jacket. Usually, a well-tailored jacket will always push you toward the win. I liked Dmitry's dress best- think it had the most style and skill, but will grudgingly admit that Sonjia met the challenge better. There was something about that shoulder that I didn't like. The whole outfit just looks a bit too easy, but I guess that relates to comfort.

The top three designers were very good this week... and the bottom three designs were really... bad.

Buffi- I think Kors nailed it on the head when she says that she uses kookiness to hide a lack of talent (and yet... she got on the show...) This was just a mess. Early in the show she said that it's not a big deal that Andrea left because she wouldn't be around much longer any way. Umm, total denial? Her personality will surely be missed among this crop of bland folks, but alas, we can only let that keep her around so long, especially when designers are "dropping like flies."

Raul- Holy 80's Batman? I know fashions recycle, but this one should have been composted. What a waste of a chance to be back on the show.

Fabio- It's a shift dress. It's Home Ec 101. It's far too short (insert Christopher's vulgar comment about just how short here.) I could not believe how much the judges (and Tim) were complimenting this fabric choice. It screams K-Mart to me! It looks like it would be used to create an over-sized top with an elastic waist-band. Not exactly Project Runway material.

There were some bad designs, oddly curious designs, and hinting-at-brilliant designs that fell in the middle of tonight's runway critiques. It will be interesting to see  how all of these "safe" designers scurry as the competition narrows.

Elena- Tim pointed out that she was, YET again, recycling THE SAME design we have seen from her in every.single.competition. So, what does she do? Cut open that boxy-shouldered creation and call it a jacket! It looks like something in the wardrobe closet for Golden Girls.

Melissa- This is the design that I find intriguing. It's not "good"... but it's not bad... you just keep looking at it saying, "What exactly is it?" For the sake of this challenge though, no one is going to wear that outfit all day long unless they are on the set of a Star Wars movie.

Gunnar- I was disappointed in this look this week only because I wanted more of it. I like the ombre layering of that skirt but I wish it had a few more flaps. I know it walks a thin line between classy and Southern Belle  fluffy skirt, but a couple more panels would have been nice though. I like this look and think it is very high-end, but it doesn't speak "comfortable." That skirt is among my favored pieces this week though.

And next week...
A group challenge. Drama, much?
I really wish they would slap down a challenge that demands more color.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Virginia Zoo in Norfolk

Today was THE day not forecasted for rain this week, so the boys and I went to the Zoo.

When Jason and I took Benjamin to the zoo a couple of weeks ago, we bought an annual pass for the family, so I am determined to feel like it was money well spent. The cost of admission is $11 for adults ($10 for military) and $9 for children ages 2-11. So, the cost of admission for one family visit would be $49. That is i-n-s-a-n-e. The cost of the annual family pass with $75 (with military discount), so with more than two visits over the next year, it will feel well paid-for. It also includes a reciprocity agreement for free admission to other zoos and aquariums that we can hopefully take advantage of.

The Norfolk Zoo has undergone several renovations over the past few years and is continuing in those improvements. Still, I would say this is a 2-hour zoo. You could push it to a 3-hour adventure if you breaked for a snack or to let the kids play in the splash fountains. The lay-out of the zoo is divided into continents with landscaping inspired by the natural habitat of the animals housed there.

"Africa" was the first animal community built under the new park design. A design so authentic that the encaged animals fought one another as if trying to survive in the wild- Rhino killed rhino, Zebra killed rhino, Zebra fought lion, Lion killed lion. No, none of these exhibitions were included in the admission price justifying the $49 price tag. Actually, thankfully, the greater minds of the zoo staff seem to have figured out how to resolve these issues because they haven't made the news in a long time.

The "Australia" exhibit is just one big cage with a couple of kangaroos and emus. They are really cheated in the whole park theme. Hopefully, some focus of the renovations will go there soon because I have never seen the kangaroos hopping about as if they were happy to be there. (Yes, the animal-lover in me really battles the right vs. wrong of caging animals in zoos.)

"Asia" is the newest addition to the zoo mega-exhibits and structurally, it is beautiful.


There is a lot of open area throughout the zoo, filled with gardens and waterways. There is also a "farm" area that is currently closed for renovations. That's about it. The kids certainly enjoyed themselves, and we will enjoy our year-long pass, but then probably take advantage of the many other museums and attractions in Hampton Roads before coming back to visit or renew the membership.

Just a few tips if you plan on making a visit.

1. The bathrooms by the snack shack in Africa are FAR more larger than the ones at the newly remodeled entrance. It makes no sense. For a kid-focused venue, the new bathrooms have one changing station and you have to go into a REGULAR-sized stall and pull it down over the toilet to us it. Don't even bother, go to the other bathroom.

2. Check the big map at the entrance. It will tell you the feeding times for different animals- something fun to add to your agenda for the day.

3. Planning to buy lunch at the zoo is going to cost you about $7 a person. Not bad, but will add up quickly for a family. There are various different ice cream options stationed around the park- Dip'n Dots (butterfly gardens), Flavored Soft Serve (farm), and sandwiches/ other freezer-bought types (snack shops). These average $3 each. Bottled sodas and water are $2. (They do not do a bag check at the gate... just saying.) If you buy a fountain soda at the snack shack, they are refillable in the restaurant, but there are no lids and straws (animal hazard), so be sure to have a sip cup for the kids needing that.

4. There is a small splash area with spurting fountains at the park's entrance for kids to play in. It's not a very adventurous area but it will give the older folks a chance to rest... especially if you are embarking on a long ride home and want a sleeping kid! Outside of the zoo entrance is a park area with lots of new playground equipment also. I personally did not venture there, but the boys took Benjamin and said that it was very littered. Since the area probably gets some questionable visitors at night given it's location in Norfolk, you may want to just be mindful.

5. The snack shack and the reptile house are two places to get cool on a hot day.

Today was the first time I saw the armadillos active. Their water dish was empty, and one of the two would climb up and look in the dish, then go over to a faucet on the wall and try to turn it. It was rather amazing how smart and agile these guys were.

6. Lastly, there is a train ride around the park for $2 per person. Unless you have a young train enthusiast like I do, it's really not worth it. The ride is a 10-15 minute circle of the park. The conductor is pointing out different exhibits and sharing facts about them, but the view is from the back of the exhibits and there is nothing interesting to see.

So, overall, it is a good place to visit, but you need to take your time and see everything it has to offer (unless you will be returning with an annual pass), but plan it wisely or it could turn into a $100 venture.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

there's a (slight) chance i may be going to hell

there's a slight chance i might be going to hell: a novel of sewer pipes, pageant queens, and big trouble by Laurie Notaro

There are few things in life as fun as randomly stumbling upon a book that turns out to be a really good read (at least for this English nerd). This book was one such serendipitous find. It's among the booty I picked up at the thrift store on my visit to Harrisonburg and once started, I kept my nose buried in it every free moment I could scrounge, until I finished it the next day.

Maye Roberts leaves her friends in Phoenix behind to follow her husband's career to Spaulding, Washington, where he is the new assistant English professor at a small rural college. Spaulding is a town once notorious for the invention and early mass production of the modern day plumbing and sewage system. Following a series of fires devastating the town over fifty years ago, Spaulding had to rebuild, and grew into a tree-hugging community that gets organic sugar highs at the Hoo Doo donut shop and saves their Styrofoam all year long to camp out overnight for a good spot on the one day that it is accepted for recycling. The one tradition that remained in Spaulding to honor the town's history is the Sewer Pipe Queen Pageant, now open to both sexes and all ages.

In a world so different from the one she knows, Maye struggles endlessly to find new friends, and fails miserably from finding even just one. Her attempts to join a book club leads her a coven of sparkly witches that want to chop off her hair and bathe her. She manages to find welcome with a militant group of vegetarians until she is discovered devouring a "pretty cow." Alas, when she thinks she has found a town newcomer suffering her same fate, she is audience to her dinner partner's drunken menstrual rage. All this after an unintentional striptease, in her granny bra, at her husband's faculty party upon their arrival to town.

Maye decides to multiply her efforts at friendship en mass by entering the Sewer Pipe Queen's Pageant but to do so she must be sponsored by a former queen. An unexpected friendship (that ends in a way that will totally tick off the reader and is incompatible with the entire rest of the book) sprouts between the Maye, the town's newcomer, and Ruby, the town's outcast- a chain-smoking, alcoholic, dog-breeding, former pageant queen recluse that agrees to be her mentor.

Notaro's writing style is conversational and hilarious. The parody of small-town life and the new-hippie culture is humorous yet believable. Maye Roberts is a character that you want to embrace and hold close so that you can have her all to yourself as a friend. And, the narration unfolds like a neighbor on the back deck during a mosquito-laden late night telling you about this crazy period of her life.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Harrisonburg, Virginia

Due to a ugly blend of schedules and finances, vacation was not on the Summer 2012 agenda for the McHenry family. Sadly, no family reunion... and more sadly (sorry family), no week at the beach. This in mind, I planned to really savor my two days away at an English Teacher's conference at James Madison University, which timely fell during the beginning days of August, when I was mentally shifting back in "school mode."

There definitely wasn't a lot of "free time" during the trip. The drive time should have been just at three hours to get there but that stretched into four and a half. It started with a whole lot of...

And ended with a whole lot of...

mountains on the horizon.

I got in very late Wednesday night and just checked directly into the hotel. The conference was all day Thursday and Friday... and I do mean allll day, with scheduled activities from 7:45 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. There were a couple of pockets of time Thursday when I could get out to explore though and I tried to make the most of them. The first was about ninety-minutes free between the last session and dinner. Adventurous world traveler that I am, I went to the Goodwill. Several other teachers had talked during the morning about the books they found for their class libraries at thrift stores and I saw the big Goodwill when I was searching for the hotel the night before. I will never have the patience to look through clothing racks, but a new universal truth to second-hand shopping is that College Towns are JACKPOTS for books!

The other pocket of free time was after dinner and before a meeting back at the hotel. The conference gave us dinner vouchers at a schmasy place in the downtown "Historic & Arts" section, Clementines. I was far more impressed with the bathrooms and fancy sink than the over-priced and under-sized entrees.

Before dinner, I ducked into a couple of Free Trade shops, one for clothes and accessories, the other with home interiors and jewelry. The second shop had a few interesting items, but I was too rushed to make a decision. After dinner I explored the rest of downtown... and absolutely fell in love. It reminded me of sections of St. Augustine, but with a modern hippie vibe.

Lots of cyclists, a yoga studio next to the bike shop next to the "Organic Acai Bowls and Smoothies" shop. There was a magical blend of old shops and new businesses, like a 50's sandwich counter next to a tarot card reader.

There were ducks just randomly wandering the streets. Hopefully, not on the menu at "L&S Diner," which reminded me very much of The English Grill, where I grew up, once a trailer cafe, now demolished.

Why did the ducks cross the road? Because the diner ran out of chicken!

(This pic actually is the parking lot across from the diner.)

The best part of visiting Harrisonburg were the mountains.

It was like a mythological landscaper many centuries ago just scooped out part of a mountain and planted a town. In any direction you drove there were mountains before you, behind you, all around you. I had family visit when I lived in Maryland and they would comment how "flat" everything was and that would seem like a very odd thing to say. Then, when you visit somewhere like this, when you drive down winding roads with warning signs to "Watch Out for Falling Rocks" from the mountains that sandwich the road (umm... WHAT?), you begin to grasp just how very different that mountainous region is from home. It gives you a real appreciation, admiration for nature. It makes you want to grab a backpack and hike off to camp in the middle of the forest... until you remember there are no bathrooms amongst the woodland creatures.

The best part of the trip overall was MY BOOTY!

The conference gave us 11 books and I, with great restraint, bought another 8 at the Goodwill. I liked Harrisonburg, not just for the books bounty. I know JMU is a college that Cameron is considering so I look forward to making another visit soon!

And, I will hit that Thrift Shop book shelf again!