Thursday, 30 April 2009

no, you girls never know

Jennie Good news, everyone! I haven't been to the movies in a while and I don't have time to watch an actual movie this week on account of I'M PACKING BECAUSE OMG I'M MOVING ON SATURDAY so you get to hear me babble about my favorite Lifetime movies. Aren't you lucky? Yes. Yes is being your answer.

The "I Stabbed Tori Spelling" Movie: OK, let's break this down. Kellie Martin is not popular. Tori Spelling is very popular. Kellie Martin REALLY REALLY wants to be a cheerleader so she tries out and makes JV or something. Tori Spelling makes varsity because DID YOU HEAR she is totally popular. Kellie tries to be friends with Tori but Tori is all, "no way," because she's not as nice as Cher Horowitz and doesn't believe in charity cases (that was way harsh, Tori). Kellie is like, "eff, I blew it," but devises a plan to invite Tori to a party that either doesn't exist or neither was invited to but IT DOESN'T MATTER because Tori finds out in the car on the way there, freaks out, calls Kellie names, and storms out of the car. And then Kellie Martin stabs Tori Spelling several times, and it's awesome, especially considering how annoying Tori Spelling has gotten in the past couple of years. Unfortunately, Kellie Martin gets payback for this when she is on ER, and that dude stabs her and Carter and she dies (sorry, spoiler).

The "DJ gets R-ed by Zack Morris" Movie: This movie also has Six from Blossom in it. Basically, DJ gets raped by Zack Morris and no one believes her because Zack Morris is such a nice boy. But no he isn't because he totally date raped DJ Tanner and THAT IS NOT NICE. Also, no one believes her because she'd been drinking and was dressed kind of slutty, and everyone knows that if you've been drinking PLUS ALSO you're dressed like a slut, you're basically just giving consent to every man that sees you.

The "DJ Joins Delta Delta Delta Can I Help Ya Help Ya Help Ya?" Movie: Wait. I think this might actually be the same movie as the one above. Hmm. Does Six die in The "DJ Gets R-ed by Zack Morris" Movie? OH WAIT! IMDB has solved the mystery. This movie doesn't star DJ and Six, it stars Hilary Swank and Six. This movie has everything. EVEN ZACK MORRIS AGAIN. Did you see why I got these movies confused? Geez, Lifetime, find some new actors and stop corrupting my childhood.

The "Zack Morris is a Man-Whore" Movie: I don't remember much about this one, but it's one of my favorites because of one thing -- at one point, Zack and his girlfriend run away and are living on the streets, so they have no money and Zack has to whore himself to rich men. Oh, Zack. Ew, also? The reason Zack and his girlfriend have to run away is because his girlfriend is 14 and Zack is 19 and her parents don't approve, probably because they saw what he did to DJ Tanner.

The "Kevin Arnold Beats DJ" Movie: (Before I get to the review, did you know Fred Savage has directed episodes of My Boys, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Ugly Betty, Boy Meets World, AND HANNAH MONTANA? Oh, Kevin.)

Basically, DJ is a wallflower and Kevin is Mr. Popular (not his real name) and DJ can't believe it when Mr. Popular wants to date her! Yay! Then he gets abusey and nobody likes someone who is abusey, no matter how popular he is. I have no idea how this movie ends or anything, but I had to include it because it turned Kevin Arnold all roidy. What's that about?

The "Pre-Oscar Hilary Swank Goes BATSHIT CRAZY" Movie: You guys, I saved this for last because, and this is not hyperbole, THIS IS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE. Hokay, so. Hilary is rebellious, like many teens in Lifetime movies, and meets A Boy. This boy is BAD NEWS, like many boys in Lifetime movies, and you can tell he's BAD NEWS because he makes Hilary do dangerous things like . . . climb water towers. DANGER. Oh, btw, her parents are played by Kevin Arnold's dad and the mom from Growing Pains (another Lifetime movie regular). Hilary starts staying out all night and fighting with her parents and so, naturally, her mom hits the bottle. So does her little brother, who I think is like twelve or something. Somehow her mom never notices that her little boy is all hungover every morning but that's probably because she's counting down the minutes until her awful family leaves her alone so she can hit the bottle EVEN HARDER. Things get really bad, what with the rebelling and the drinking and the yelling, and it all comes to a head one night when Hilary tries to leave to go see her Bad Boy Boyfriend. Hilary is yelling at her parents, her parents are yelling at Hilary and all of the sudden Hilary FREAKS OUT, starts making growly animal noises and threatens to totally kill someone if they don't let her out of the house. There is a lot of ACTING CAPITAL A going on because this is before someone told Hilary you can't win Oscars for Lifetime movies. I think she might even throw a phone at someone. Or a knife. I can't remember which. Anyway, the best part is when her little brother stumbles down the stairs with a bottle of booze all, "whaaaa's goin on down herrrrre?" and that's when Mr. Arnold and Joanna Kerns are like, "parenting FAIL," and I don't remember how it all ends but someone probably dies because, I mean, it's Lifetime so someone always dies. THE END.

Also, remember the time Tori Spelling was a call girl? That was awesome.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The movie review that wasn't.

It's a kinda funny thing that I was the one who suggested we review movies this week when I can't even remember the last time I watched one. And it's not like I don't like movies, it's just that I've got a lot of stuff on my plate these days. Like going to hockey games and looking at condos and what have you. In fact, I'm getting ready to head out and look at a penthouse across the street from the hockey arena, so for today you'll just have to settle for this really crappy movie I made myself. And I promise that Jennie's post tomorrow will be so, so much better.



xoxo,
Kat

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

AbsRecently I was arguing with an older male coworker (who prides himself on being labeled as an older male coworker) because he was being very judgemental about movies he was labeling as chick flicks (labels are important to him). He was saying that chick flicks were movies that woman watched because women were in them and these women both watching the movies and in the movies had no substance to them but emotions and the movies had no point but to make the (female) viewer feel something. Something stupid, he added.

I've always thought that the label chick flick applied to movies that often starred women and dealt with subject matter that supposedly appealed more to women. I've always been open to chick flicks as a genre because "movies that appeal to women" is a ridiculously broad label and therefore, shockingly, stops being a label. I love as many chick flicks as I hate and I hate all awful lot because um, hello, don't try to force everything into traditional gender roles. IT'S NOT A THING.

Ahem.

So, what I am trying to say is that there are lots of chick flicks that have nothing to do with gender roles. People (like my coworker) might still try to make them about gender roles because people are sheep, but we're all too good for that shit, am I right?

This is precisely why I hated and despised and hated some more He's Just Not That Into You. That movie sucked hard in all the ways, except the part that made Sarah Brown write my single favorite review ever on the internet. So, did you read that? Okay, now I'm going to talk about a different movie that doesn't make get the ALL CAPS RAGE.


Confessions of a Shopaholic

I wasn't sure I'd like this; I was very, very fearful of a "you know how women are with their shopping!" vibe, but it totally didn't exist. Fisher gave the role a very Bridget Jonesian feel and I liked the campyness of naming the fashion magazine Alete (get it? Elite?) and the parent mag company Dantay West (get it? Conde Nast? ha!). I like the very cute boy with an accent that I thought I had never seen before, but forgot he was in another chick flick I love, The Jane Austen Book Club (he's better in this one though).

Here's what else I loved about this movie:
-despite being a lot about fashion, I never felt all small because I don't know anything about it
-their is a genius magazine column with great branding, a clever logo, and a theme that ties in with the movie
-the best friend is multi-dimensional (although vaguely)
-one terrific drunk scene
-CGI mannequins are actually cool and not creep like the Old Navy ones
-Andrew Bernard and Barack Obama and Jessie from Toy Story and Rory Gilmore's crazy Yale friend who dates Marty are ALL in it
-it was cute and fun
-it was funny
-it talked about business cat things like APR and FINANCE
-I wasn't able to read more than 2 pages of the book, but now I kind of want to (but I won't, because I'm still going to trust my first instinct)

In conclusion: very yes. This chick flick makes you feel, sure, but it doesn't make you feel needlessly and it sure doesn't make you feel anything but light and fun. It might make you feel like you should balance your check book or, perhaps, care about fashion a scootch more, but it won't make you feel silly about being a woman, and it won't make you feel like women are silly, so it's a winning chick flick in my book. You should see it because it's fun and because it's probably at the cheap theater near you by now.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Movie Review: "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa"

heatherThe last thing that came to me from my Blockbuster queue was Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. I never miss an animated movie, but I skipped this sequel in the theater because Dreamworks is so hit-and-miss with its animated offerings. (Shrek, Shrek 2 = gooood. Bee Movie, Flushed Away = laaaame.)

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa's screenplay was fifty-eleven times funnier than the original. In fact, it was more than hilarious; it was sharp and warm, just like the stellar animation.



In the first Madagascar, Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (voiced by Chris Rock), Gloria the Hippo (voiced by Jada Pinkett-Smith), and Melman the Giraffe (voiced by Ross Gellar) escape the Central Park Zoo to celebrate Marty's birthday. On their way to Connecticut, they're caught at Grand Central Station and put on a boat to Kenya. Unfortunately, some penguins hijack their ship, and they wind up stranded in Madagascar.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa opens up as the Central Park Zoo animals prepare to fly back to New York. The flight goes as well as you'd expect considering the plane is refurbished and crewed by the same penguins who hijacked their ship in the first movie. They crash land in Africa, where Alex is reunited with his pride, and they meet other hippos, giraffes and zebras for the first time in their lives.



Their initial shock and excitement dissipates when they learn the ways of the wild. Alex the Lion realizes that popularity in Africa is all about brute strength, but he grew up loving to dance. Melman learns that, like him, all giraffes are hypochondriacs, but it's a small consolation because the love of his life, Gloria the Hippo, is swooning over a dude hippo who constantly flatters her heft. And Marty the Zebra? Well, he finds out that all zebras are voiced by Chris Rock.

The thing this sequel really gets right is the amount of screen-time it gives supporting characters. It's pretty standard fare to let main characters grow and develop, while the supporting characters provide comic relief. It's why boring Disney princesses always have quirky talking animals for best friends (except for Belle who is awesome on her own).



Julien, the cross-dressing King of the Lemurs, is voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen. Everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious. ("Oh, suddenly throwing a giraffe into a volcano to make water is crazy!") The kid-favorites are the penguins. When Skipper isn't offering pragmatic flying advice ("Gently now, you just wanna kiss the ground, just a little peck, a smooch like you're kissing your sister."), he's hijacking tourist buses and stealing supplies to repair their plane. ("Pray to your personal god this hunk of junk flies.")

You don't get a cartoon movie without a moral, but it's never "Thank God for your vegetables and don't talk back to your mom and dad" when Dreamworks is delivering. In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, the lessons are about about non-traditional (inter-species, or penguin/hula doll) love; about embracing your strengths, even if it's dancing instead of wrestling; and about not fucking with New Yorkers, especially the retired ones.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Phone it in Friday: Last Crushes

Ah, Spring! The sun is shining, the birds are singing. Love is in the air. Wait, no. That's not love; it's pollen. Never mind.

It's Friday, kids. Tell us about your last crush.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

I love LARP

Jennie Just the other day, Joe and I were getting in his car to go to dinner, and what should I see in the field in front of me? Why, a sword! Sticking out of the ground! Like Excalibur! And around this sword swooped a fire-breathing dragon! And gremlins! And other scary stuff! Like zombies! And orcs! Remember orcs? They were in that movie! About the ring! They are gross!

Luckily, a knight stood before us! His cape billowed in the breeze as he knelt on the ground in front of the sword, head bowed. Then he leapt! And spun around the creatures that were all, "We are totally going to kill you, knight guy!" And he grabbed that sword and pulled! And the sword was free! FREEEEEDOM! is what the sword would say if swords had mouths instead of sharp, shiny edges.

He was not done, though, oh NO he was not. The brave knight jumped and parried until all of his enemies lay defeated. What bravery! What courage! What style! I had to thank him.

Me: Thank you, brave sir knight!
Joe: Stop yelling at strangers.
Sir Knight: What ho!
Me: Hey, he just called me a ho! YOU SCALLYWAG!
Joe: Sigh.

OK, none of that really happened. Except the first part, sort of, but I have a feeling that only happened in the knight's head. And the knight was really a kid wearing a Spider-Man beach towel as a cape and playing King Arthur or something in the field by Joe's apartment. And if you think it's weird that my current crush is a kid in a fake cape, then you should know that I'm dating the grown-up version of him so it makes total sense.

Anyway. The kid looked like a mini version of McLovin in Role Models. Like this, basically:


LARPer

Here is a very bad video of the event, with some commentary:


video

And then, right after we turned the video off, he started swinging the sword all around and he totally jumped over that bench and did some karate chop moves and kicks and stuff and it was awesome.

The end.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

We stand on guard for thee!

Anyone who has ever known me will tell you many things about me, and hopefully one of those things is that I LOVE CANADA. Because I do. I mean, what's not to love? Their winters are harsh so they are tough and self-reliant to keep them going. Their winters are harsh so they are polite and helpful to keep each other going. Their winters are harsh so they eat poutine and Tim Horton's and drink beer and BEER is SO DELICIOUS. Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh yeah. Hot Canadians. Because they are. Hot, that is. And it has nothing to do with having the most adorable accent in all the world. (Okay, maybe it does a little.)

So, DUH, it's no wonder that my latest crush is Mysterygirl!'s future boyfriend. I mean, LOOK:







SWOON.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

I just want you to know I'm in, I'm all in

AbsI was getting into the zone last night to write this--and, of course, the zone means procrastinating to the point of almost even watching Chuck just because it was sitting in my DVR you're welcome Heather--and I had even spent the day pondering my ineptitude when deja vu hit me hard. I started to think about how I might write his face, his hair, his voice, and I realized that I had I already written about all the hims and explained every other bit too:

I don't fall for guys very easily. Don't believe me? I could name the guys I've liked--all of them, ever--in short, rapid succession starting from the sixth grade to the present and be finished before you finished reading this sentence. ... It's been a particularly dry spell. My heart got broken (years ago) and ever since then, I've had significant trouble meeting someone I like enough to like, let alone date. My stupid boundaries and my awesome friends are both obvious reasons for this.

The first and latest men I've loved nicely represent a whole love history of embarrassment and failure. You're either a douchebag, on TV, don't know I exist, out of my league, only go for girls who sing, work with me, live far away, or come with a serious case of dysfunction. But aren't you glad to know that you're one of a select few? You have something that I find inexplicably attractive even though I shouldn't, and that is very rare.

(from my January 27, 2009 post)

I watched the Friends episode in Barbados when Charlie tells Ross she likes him and Rachel tells Joey she likes him and the whole time I was watching I was thinking, "Schilbot, telling someone you like them is so nerve racking! In fact, it's pretty exciting!" Because of the ridiculous amount of time I've spent neither pining nor moving on I had forgotten the terrible, no good, very bad awfulness that is confessing. I am totally a trouper when it comes to unrequited love, but even I know when to call it a day and realize when something is never going to happen. (And by know, I mean remind myself every few months when I slip back into being a trouper.)

Let's say that right now I'm waiting for my latest crush.

Monday, 20 April 2009

The first rule of being a spy: never fall in love.

heather It would be easy for a person who excels at mediocrity (like I do) to get a real complex hanging around at Collective HQ, while Abiagil!, Kat! and Jennie! make a habit of waking up awesome every day of their lives. They are best at a lot of different things, but this week we get to talk about my best thing: crushes.

We're supposed to write about our most recent crushes this week, which, for me, is kind of the same as writing about my first crush -- there are too many for me to remember their proper order. In a given week, I could literally fall in love twelve times: with people I know, book characters I meet, authors who write the book characters I meet. But today, I'm going to talk to you about my fictional television crush/girlfriend, Agent Sarah Walker fromNBC's Chuck, because despite my cajoling and prayer, none of you are watching this show; so the only option left open to me is to seduce you. Let us begin.



You may look at the above picture of Agent Sarah Walker and think to yourself, oh, just another smokin' hot CIA agent in black lingerie who managed to beat down a bad guy while tied up with a leather belt. But Sarah Walker is so much more that.

She can drink coffee and weild a gun at the same time:




She loves a good at-home board game night:




She drives a sexy, sexy car:






She's totes a nerd:




This is what her bed-head looks like (+ nice t-shirt!):



And here's the thing about Sarah Walker: she'd a badass, yeah; but she's warm and empathetic and she fell in love, not with an asshole super spy, but with the adorkable underachiever with the crazy big heart, Chuck Bartowski.

Oh, also she's Australian. Funnest country/continent EVER.

The problem with Agent Sarah Walker is that Chuck is on the bubble, and unless ratings tonight and next Monday are super spectacular, NBC is probs going to cancel her. You can support my crush/girlfriend by watching tonight at 8:00.

Or she can just kick your ass.



Chuck is hands-down the best show on TV right now. Better than Lois and Clark ever was. And if you think that's easy for me to say, you don't know how hard I crushed on Superman.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Phone it in, lovers.

Now that you know all about our first crushes -- and about Joe's really intense feelings regarding Winnie Cooper -- it's time for you to pull out your old yearbooks/journals/youtube videos and tell us all about your first crush. Go on, don't be shy.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

love me, love me, say that you love me

Jennie I thought long and hard (heh) about who my first crush was, and the closest I could come was Bobby from first grade. I don't think I noticed him until the end of the year, when we decided suddenly that we were best friends. The teacher told us that to pick someone to sit next to for the remainder of the year, so of course we picked each other (BFF), and when he put his arm around me to celebrate (what a FLOOZY) I thought, "Hmm, I could get used to this," which is a BIG DEAL because I like my personal space. I think there was a crush-worthy boy in kindergarten, although I can't for the life of me remember his name. However, I do remember that this little 6-year-old whore stole my seat one day when we were making mother's day cards, and the seat was next to crush-worthy boy, and so I squirted glue at her. Because she was in my seat! MY SEAT! Ahem.

My parents would probably disagree with both of the above first crushes. They'd say my first crush happened when I was 3 or 4, and we were at my cousin Jenny's wedding. Legend has it, I fell in love with a little blonde-haired boy and made him dance with me throughout most of the reception. I call shenanigans on the first-crush front because I don't remember this at all (pictures do not count as memories and yes there are pictures and no I don't have them so no you can't see them). Ahem.

There were other crushes, of course, some lasting ALL THE WAY THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL, but those are boring because I never, ever did anything about them. Which is good because then they technically wouldn't be crushes anymore. The point of a crush is to sit idly by, watching and waiting for your crush to notice you, and ignoring those nagging thoughts that THEY NEVER, EVER WILL AND NO ONE LOVES YOU AND YOU WILL DIE ALL ALONE SO GET USED TO IT. Ahem.

To be honest, I've always been much more enamoured with fictional characters, starting with Kermit the Frog and moving right along to Jim Halpert, because there's a reason those crushes ignore me. They're not real people (it hurt to type that). And so, here is a list of all of the fictional characters I have had crushes on, in chronological order (I think):

Buster Bunny (this could explain why I used to do imitations of Babs on the playground)

Zack Morris (even though he had weird hair, it still wasn't as weird as Slater's)

Kevin Arnold

Mike Seaver

Oliver Wood (even though he belongs to Abigail)

Mr. Darcy (both the Austen and Firth variety)

Chandler Bing

Fox Mulder

Sydney Bristow/Michael Vaughan (who can decide?)

Marshall

Chuck Bartowski

Dr. Horrible

(also DUH Jim Halpert, obviously)

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

When I was wee my parents up and moved me to Florida, where I at once became a depressed and lonely little girl, wandering up and down the docks we called home, no one but the manatees to take any notice of me. But mercifully came the first day of school, and nervous me I arrived to Mrs. Richardson's kindergarten class trembling like palm fronds in the ocean breeze. (By the way, Ocean Breeze Soap will get you clean.) I took my seat silently and listened while all around me tiny girls and boys brightened and squealed as they reconnected with their pre-school compatriots, while I discovered for the first time that one need not be alone to feel alone.

AND THEN.

David Abate smiled my way and said he knew me from Miss So-and-So's, and though he mistook me for someone else I smiled back and was alone no longer. But David Abate was not my first crush, oh no he wasn't. My first crush was in Mrs. Boatwright's kindergarten class next door, and the first time the wall between our rooms was accordioned back for group storytime I saw him, fair-skinned and blue-eyed, little more than moptopped blonde curls everywhere. And every week when the wall between us vanished, I pined. Boy, did I ever pine.

And though as a general rule I do not like to tip my hat about things IN REAL LIFE, I'll make an exception and out myself to anyone who may be looking. Here he is, my first crush, all growns up:

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Abs
My first memory of "liking" a boy was the third grade (or maybe sooner). Alistar was my mom's best friend's son and was the in the same year as me. We were totally BFF, but I don't think it veered into crush territory until Family Camp when adults started meddling. One of my clearest memories of this phase of my life was sitting on the toilet in our cabin at camp, going twosies, and my dad coming to the door to tell me that Alistar was here to get me. His voice was suggestive, I told him to tell Alistar that I would just meet him at the lake, and then he jokingly asked if maybe he should tell Alistar what I was doing. I was so embarrassed and worried that he might actually do it. I think that's when it becomes a crush. Later that week there was a square dance. Alistar and I danced and our photos were taken. People tittered about how cute we were.

Our moms didn't stay friends for long (turns out his mom was kind of an asshole), and we moved to a different city. I faced the pressure of finding a new boy to like at my new school and totally forgot about Alistar. I'm hardly ever jealous of children, but I'm jealous about that part: they can forget crushes instantly. They don't have to whimper about it, they don't have to watch him flirt with another girl and feel like dying, they don't have to obsessively wonder. They just get to forget.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can intimately connected with many of my former crushes via a little social networking site called Facebook. I have several rules about who I will and won't be Facebook friends with, but I tend to only apply those restrictions to people in my "current life." This means that I won't accept your friend request if we met once while I was working, but if I ever knew you pre-2002, I will totally accept. I want to know what you're doing now! I'm so curious.

I also like to play a little game called, "Could We Ever Date Now??" Don't tell me you don't do that. Let's journey into Alistar's Facebook and see if we can answer that question.

Interests include: cubs baseball, the train, banana bread, the lake, and garlic

HOT.

Favorite music includes: The Decemberists, Bon Iver, Spoon, The National, Frightened Rabbit, etc., etc.

HOT.

Favorite movies include: Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Rushmore, Y Tu Mamá También, The Big Lebowski, Trainspotting, Swingers, The Blues Brothers, Lost in Translation, Little Children, There Will Be Blood

Okay, so i haven't actually seen any of those movies, but I can appreciate an appreciator of them.

Favorite books include: Collected Flannery O'Connor, The Coast of Chicago, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, EB White's essays, Amy Hempel's stories

HOT. Plus, I've even written about Hempel on this blog!

Could we ever date now?? I'm going to go ahead and say that yes we could. Unfortunately, he's not single at the moment: he's been dating the same girl since college. However, her name is Abigail. I'd say things bode well.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song, A medley of extemporanea; And love is a thing that can never go wrong; And I am Marie of Roumania.

heatherFilling in for Heather! Anne! today is her dad, Greg! Hogan! This week's topic is first crushes.

---

While Heather Anne was growing up, more than once one of her classmates’ parents inquired, “You’re Heather’s natural father and your name is Greg, so why does Heather call you ‘Chuck’?” The answer to that question is the same as the reason I’m writing this: I have no idea.

Shortly after Heather was born, I moseyed (technical term) down to the local hunting and fishing emporium and inquired of the proprietor as to the most intimidating firearm that might be used to ward off pimply faced, squeaky voiced, young men with immodest intentions toward one’s first female offspring. Given the beauty of this little baby, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before the wolves were at the door. (Spoken figuratively of course. I mean I knew she wasn’t Romulus, and we lived in the thriving metropolis of Flowery Branch Georgia not ancient Rome, but who wants to take chances with wolves at the door whatever stripe of metaphor they happen to be). But I digress -- while spitting nasty streams of foul smelling brackish colored snuff juice into a Waffle House coffee cup, carefully lined with a folded paper towel, he winked with a disturbing twinkle in his eye, smiled where I could see all nine of his teeth and offered this pearl of wisdom, “ You gonna need sumptin with a big ol’ barrel dat’ll be entimedaten ta dem little sons o’ bitches. You ain’t afraid of blastin em in the ass er ya?”

I thanked him for his progressive and most illuminating perspective and decided to go a different direction. I would be the friendly, cool dad who befriended Heather’s young suitors, and while they were confused by the welcoming reception I would use psychology to twist their pliable minds. It wasn’t that I had the desire to permanently damage their young psyches. I just wanted to temporarily maim to the point where they could not function. But only to the point that they would require moderate amounts of psychological assistance in the future in order to have satisfying sexual relationships. (All father’s should have thanked me.)

Honestly, I don’t remember Heather’s first crush. She was all over the place. I’m sure it was someone in a boy band: BozIIMen, or NSYNC, or Hanson or New Kids on the Block. It could have been Zack, Slater or, heaven forbid, Screech. Or it might have been a girl – i.e. Michael Jackson or Sheryl Swoopes. Or maybe it was Mr. Rogers. Hell, who knows. It could have been Mr. Green in the library with a candlestick.

Or maybe it was Craig who lived down the street and played basketball with her all the time. I think she liked to shoot hoops with Craig because she could beat the pants off him, and he’d go into the woods with the snakes and get the ball when it rebounded down the hill. And Craig didn’t mind getting beaten by Heather because he did have a huge crush on her. I think she may have been oblivious to it. Some things don’t change. And it was Craig who helped Heather understand that, like Bill Clinton, she is black.

I knew Heather was susceptible to a crush when she indicated that she had discovered that there was a significant difference in the sexes when at the dinner table one evening she declared, “I’m not afraid to say penis.” And with great delight she proved that she was not afraid by repeating, “penis, penis, penis, penis, penis.” “That’s great. I’m happy for you,” I said, “Could I get another pork chop?” Her mother just groaned from the floor where she had struck her head against the potato box when she fell from the table.

The better story is the long list of young men who had crushes on Heather. She was like Tristan Ludlow in Legends of the Fall. “As much as he (she) tried to protect them he (she) was the rock they broke themselves against.” (Rent it if you haven’t seen it). Another great quote from the movie that applies to our Heather Anne, “Some people hear their own inner voice with great clearness and they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends.” (No charge for that one). I’ll leave it to your judgment as to which act of the play we’re witnessing today.

The list of would be suitors is long, distinguished and disparate. There were the jocks, the nerds, the “I’m with the band” guys, did I mention the jocks and the wannabe jocks. It wasn’t that she wasn’t interested; it’s just that they were so inept in their displays of affection. They rolled our yard, destroyed our mailbox, and of course nothing says I love you like writing on the hood of your mother’s car with lighter fluid.

But the story of a journey isn’t about where we start but about where we are in this moment, and where we plan to travel from here. So here’s how I end this story of Heather Anne’s first crush. (Both my kids hate my stories.) Crushes and loves are an important part of the journey to where our life ultimately leads. We have crushes and loves because we dare to dream. We dare to dream of what might be. While we are strong and independent we also want to belong. There is an old cliché that people come into our lives for a reason or a season or a lifetime. A cliché becomes a cliché because it has proven itself true over time.

So my precious Heather Anne, celebrate your crushes and your loves. Whether they have been your crush or your love for a season or a reason. Celebrate the one that is yet to be found for your lifetime. Celebrate the one’s you’ve had. The one’s you lost. The one’s you’ve wished for and missed. The one’s you’ve been too busy to see. Embrace and celebrate them all. Every love teaches us more about ourselves and who we are. Each love takes us one step further down the path along our journey to our dream. Don’t stop dreaming. Love is worth it.

I love you,
Chuck

Thursday, 9 April 2009

my other hobby is phoning it in

Jennie Here's my problem when it comes to hobbies -- I love to start them but I never stick with them very long. I decided to learn how to knit about four years ago and have yet to finish the scarf I started at the time. And I only used one kind of stitch because I wanted to keep it simple and finish it as quickly as possible. I figured eventually I'd be spitting out full sweaters in no time, and sooner or later some hotshot designer would see them, call me a genius, and I'd be rich and/or famous.

Another time, I tried to teach myself sign language. I even signed up for a class at the community college FOR NO RAISIN, other than I really wanted to learn sign language. I saw myself working in a school and becoming a translator. Well, I remember how to say "my name is Jennie," but that's about it. I don't foresee any schools needing my translating skills in the near future.

I bought a guitar in high school, thinking I'd automatically be really gifted and I'd write songs for famous people. I didn't want to sing the songs myself because A) I can't sing very well and B) I have horrible stage fright. Not a good combination. Just ask Ashlee Simpson. Zing!

Anyway. I also used to draw in high school. I found my old sketchbook the other day. It's not bad, but it's not great, which probably explains why I quit. If I'm not good at something, I quit immediately. That's the responsible thing to do, so you don't waste resources. Yep.

I wouldn't consider running a hobby because I don't like it all that much, plus I quit running like every other week. I'm still doing the Couch to 5K program, and I'm on Week 5, AND that's probably the longest I've ever stuck with any running program. True story.

The only hobby I've ever had, that I will never, ever give up, is reading. I don't really consider it a hobby, though, because it's a necessity. When I think of a hobby, I think of something that would fall by the wayside should other priorities and responsibilities creep up, as they are wont to do. But reading? That is a priority. Most of the time, I prioritize it over things like cleaning and cooking and writing and um, going to work. I would read ALL THE TIME if I didn't have to go to work or, you know, sleep. I tried to figure out a way to read while driving when one of the Harry Potter books came out. I sometimes read while I'm brushing my teeth or vacuuming or waiting for files to download on my computer or during commercials. I carry a book with me AT ALL TIMES just in case(s) I have five minutes to kill.

So, there. My favorite hobby is reading. Even though it's not really a hobby, but something that is TOTALLY NECESSARY FOR ME TO LIVE.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

All work and no play makes Homer something something something.

Have you heard? I do stuff. I read and write and 'rithmetic. I make balloon animals and origami Star Wars characters and baby booties and pirate ships and tank tops. But no matter how much stuff I try and make, more often then not I fuck 'em up. I pop balloons and tear paper and drop stitches and pour glue all over the place and knot up embroidery floss like you wouldn't believe. So yeah, I do stuff--a lot of stuff even--poorly.

EXCEPT.

If I had to pick the one of the stuff I do most competently, and I have to because Jennifer in our Facebook group asked, I'd say the one hobby I would ever even attempt to yell LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! about would be the hobby I have that is called cooking.

I can cook alright.

And so, since Schilbo put herself on the line yesterday, so I will put myself on the line tonight, and attempt to walk you through a typical Monday night dinner in our home, typical if for no other reason than it was just this past Monday. Ladies and germs (wait, is that how that joke goes?), I'd like to present my Chicken with White Wine and Mushrooms. It ain't no SpaPeggy and Meatballs, but we'll make do.

Lets start with the shopping list, hmm? To serve two, because Winston doesn't eat people food, you'll need:

* 2 chicken breasts or thighs, skin preferably on. (I generally use thighs, because hubba hubba.)
* A package or so of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced. (Monday I used creminis, but man oh man, if I had access to San Francisco's Ferry Market on a regular basis you'd better believe I'd be using handful of about a billion different wild mushrooms.)
* 2 large shallots, minced. (For the record, I use shallots in just about everything. They're so boss.)
* About a tablespoon each of chopped fresh tarragon and thyme, preferably from your garden. (Or AeroGarden, if you're an 8th-floor apartment dweller like me.)
* 3/4 cup of low-sodium chicken broth. (I made mine from scratch the night before. I'm just sayin'.)
* 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
* Salt and pepper for seasoning, and flour for dredging.

To start, gather your mis en place. (Which is fancy French for "get your shit together.") Also, preheat your oven to 400 F degrees.



You'll see I rather heavily salted and peppered both sides of the chicken thighs for FLAVA. Heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat (every stove is different, and since mine is super hot I use a 6 out of 10), and while that's heating up, dredge your thighs in flour to coat and shake off all the excess. (You want a very thin dusting, sort of like a freshly diapered baby's bottom. This is not only important to build the fond, but also too much will burn and give your sauce a scorched taste.)

Once the oil looks all shimmerey like a wishing well and is starting to smoke like a really pissed off genie in a bottle, add the chicken to the pan. Let it sear on that side for about 6 minutes. It's important that you DON'T TOUCH IT during that time, because once you start fiddling with it before it's ready it starts sticking all over the place. Kinda like... never mind. ANYWHO, once you're all brown and crispy flip your bird pieces over and sear off the other side, another 5-6 minutes. Then remove to a plate.



This is important: your chicken isn't actually cooked through yet. AND THAT'S OKAY. You'll get there soon enough, and no, you won't get food poisoning letting your chicken sit there for a few minutes. And if you don't believe me, I suggest you never ever eat at another restaurant ever again. Also, I feel bad for you for missing out on all of the awesomeness this awesome world has to offer. ANYWHO, there may be some excess oil accumulated in your pan; carefully spoon out all but about a tablespoon of this, and then add your sliced mushrooms, minced shallots, and chopped herbs.



Saute that all up for about 10 or 12 minutes or so, until your mushrooms release all their liquid and brown up, and the shallots get all caramelized and gooey, and the herbs smell SO GOOD.



And now, we deglaze the pan! (This is my favorite part.) First add the wine and scrape the bottom and sides of the pan real good so you get up all those lovely brown bits. (Brown bits = flavor.) Then add the chicken broth. Stir it all up and let it come to a boil.



Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, This? Is supposed to be a rich, velvety sauce? This is nothing but mushroom water! But like all good things, you, uh, gotta wait. Or whatever. ANYWHO, just let that keep boiling down for a while until about half the water in there has done the thing it does over heat, namely, vaporize. You should notice that it's thickened up considerably, but that it's also still a bit runny. Kinda like this:



Well this is the perfect stage to nestle your chicken back in to all that mushroomy goodness. So do that, skin side up. (I assume you want your skin to stay all crunchy and delicious.)



Then stick it in the preheated oven for as long as it takes for your thighs to reach 163F and your breasts 158F. (I use a probe thermometer to keep track of the internal temperature of my meats while they are in the oven, but an instant-read will work as well. Just start checking after about 8 minutes.)

MEANWHILE, get some salted water a-boiling, and throw a couple handfuls of egg noodles in there, and boil them so long as the package says to boil them for.

MEANWHILE, chop up some more fresh herbs (this time I used tarragon and parsley) and throw them in a bowl with a blob of melted butter.



STAY WITH ME HERE, because this might get busy. When your meat has hit temperature, pull the whole pan out of the oven and remove the chicken to a separate plate. Loosely tent it with a piece of foil. This accomplishes two things: (1) The carryover heat allows the internal temperature of the chicken to rise a bunch of degrees and fully cook without drying out, and (2) the loose juices redistribute themselves about so they don't go running out all over the place as soon as you cut into your piece of chicken, thereby drying it out. In case you couldn't follow along with me, DRY CHICKEN SUCKS.

ANYWHO, take a look at the remaining sauce. Is it thick enough? If yes, let it be. If not, pop it back on a burner over medium heat and reduce the liquid until you get not-nearly-the-consistency of jarred Thanksgiving gravy.

POSSIBLY AT THE SAME TIME, your egg noodles will be just about done, so drain those in a colander and then toss them about in your bowl with the melted butter and chopped fresh herbs.

Now it's time to plate, and if you're anything like Jennie this is where I kill you a little. Basically it goes like this: buttered herb egg noodles, topped with a piece of chicken, and doused with the mushroom and wine sauce. OH MY GOD YOUR FOOD IS TOUCHING EACH OTHER.



Man, that is so brown. But remember, brown is good. But so is green, so here, have a salad:



(Baby greens and cherry tomatoes dressed in freshly squeezed lemon juice and Spanish olive oil, and garnished with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.)

Bon appétit!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

hobbies... inspired by hobbies!

AbsI'm never, ever bored. I can't really remember a time in last five years that I was bored because, well, I have a lot of hobbies. I am entertained easily, I own practically everything I want (and the things I don't own I obsess about via research), and I am constantly surrounding myself with people who say very funny things. I have two TV shows to keep up with for each day of the week, I have 152 subscriptions in my Google Reader that I read 80 percent of, I usually work at minimum of 50 hours a week at my day job that I love, I have a fitness routine, a video game routine, and a library card. I spend plenty of time practicing my mirror face. I'm happy nearly all of the time.

But the thing I love most of all--and smugly think I'm pretty good at--is giving advice. Oh do I love giving advice. I love hearing people lay out their problems, and then I love them saying "what do I do??" and asking me (me!) to tell them what to do. I love thinking it over and then assuredly explaining the steps to the right answer. I love knowing I'm right.

(In contrast, I hate annoying people, I hate when I know I shouldn't be the one making the decision so I sadly take the high road, I hate it when my advice isn't taken when it's certainly right, and I hate people assuming I'm judging them.)

So, I think I want to try something. It feels a little risky, but how about we play advice column today. I was planning on slacking off at work anyway, so you ask away and I will tell you what to do. We'll call it Dear Schilbo.

*titled inspired by kittens!

Monday, 6 April 2009

In case of a loss of oxygen, please place your masks over your faces to hide your terrified expressions from the other passengers

heather When I told Amy we were writing about hobbies this week, and that I didn't know which one to talk about, she started listing off the things I do for fun (hiking, reading, painting, writing, photos, cooking, video games) and stuff I collect (comic books, Harry Potters, Moleskines), but I kept finding reasons not to mention that stuff.

"You love taking photos," she'd say.

"Yeah, but I'm not very good at it," I'd say.

She'd say, "You're really into painting these days."

And I'd say, "I paint like a five-year-old."

Amy, of course, has to say things like, "Your writing is hilarious! Your chicken marsala doesn't make me gag! Your Harry Potter collection isn't lame at all!" But the more she protested my protesting I realized that I am barely adequate at all the things I love most in life -- except for one: my travel spreadsheet.

Every day I participate in a hobby called Planning A Trip Abroad. Here's how it works: Each morning, I open up my email, and lo! Yahoo Finance has sent me a list of exchange rates for countries I want to visit. Also,Suntrust bank has sent me an email with the balance of my travel savings account. So, I open up my Travel Spreadsheet and go to work.

First, I key in the current exchange rates, and my travel savings amount:



Look how rich I am in Iceland!

Pretty much all of these cells are linked to the other sheets in this workbook. See the other sheets there? Ireland, Iceland, Thailand, Australia?

Next, I go to Clark Howard's Atlanta Travel Deals page to see what good airfares are waiting for me.

Once I find a reasonable fare I go to the corresponding country on my spreadsheet and key it in, along with the number of days I'd like to holiday. (Things in pink on the spreadsheet are keyed-in numbers; things in blue are foreign currency conversions; everything else is basically a formula or conditional formatting.)

Then Excel just does its work. See, it multiplies the total number of days I want to travel with the per-day cost of lodging and meals and such. (Estimated by Lonely Planet or Let's Go Travel Guides.) Then it adds that total with the total of the airfare, compares it to the amount I have in travel savings, and uses a little conditional formatting to tell me if I should book the trip.

Today it is excited because I can go to Thailand!



But look how upset it would get if airfare increased, say, another thousand bucks. It's practically hissing it's so angry.



I'm also really, really good at Mario Kart. And watching cartoons.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Phone it in Friday: Phone it in, bitches!

Hey-oo! Clearly this is Abigail because I couldn't sign out of my Blogger account to be ANONYMOUS. Want to know why? Because when I sign out of Google my Firefox crashes. Which is very annoying because then I lose all my tabs. ALL MY TABS.

Tabs are very important to my obsessive internet gleaning skills. What is important to you? Tell us YOUR favorite place online!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Is this real life?

Jennie It's no secret that I spend a lot of quality time with The Internet, except maybe to my (almost-former) boss. Zing! Anyway, at my (almost-former) job, the workload has been slowing down for weeks and I have to fill my days SOMEHOW. Sure, I could take a stroll around the building but I try not to do that very often because then people like, stop and talk to me. Nobody wants that. Especially at work.

My first order of business each and every morning is checking my email AND THEN, of course, I see what Google Reader has to offer me. I consider it a bonus if anything at all in my "awesome blossom extra awesome" folder has been updated. Once I finish Google Reader (lies, Google Reader is never finished if you're doing it right), I mosey on over to Facebook, even though it's practically useless to me because I can't play Wordscraper at work anymore. And then Tumblr, which is my new favorite form of blogging because I can write less than a sentence and it still counts as a post. At that point, I usually feel like I'm about to run out of Internet so I may go ahead and blog myself, although there were a few very scary days where Blogger and all blogspot sites were BLOCKED on my work computer. Luckily, those dark days passed and have never returned. And I don't care if they do return to this particular computer because I'm saying goodbye to it FOREVER as of 2 o'clock tomorrow and good riddance, because it is the slowest piece of crap since . . . well, my old personal computer.

If I get really desperate, there's always Etsy. And Amazon. And ThinkGeek. Free Rice*. Craigslist cheap/free crap. Lately, both because Heidi and I are moving AND because, as of next week, I will be working less than 10 minutes from one, I've been frequenting the Ikea website.

And if I could search The YouTubes at work, well, you can bet I'd be watching this over and over. Also this. And this. Maybe this. DEFINITELY this.

But still, my favorite place on The Internets (besides The Collective, of course) is here:



Always has been, always will be.

*Joe: Free Rice?
Me: Yes.
Joe: "I like to define words!"
Me: Shut up, it's fun!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Ugh.

Before he flew back to the East Coast on Monday morning my boyfriend managed to give me a computer virus. Whether it was from poker or porn I know not, nor do I want to know, but from this hobbled laptop I can tell you definitively that my favorite site on the internets is now and ever after McAfee.