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On the Plus Side

Prime time Monday night, I’m hanging out with one of my fairy goddaughters. We’re watching reruns of Bones, and she’s messing around on the laptop. Out of the blue, she says, “Can you change it to ABC Family?”

This news was surprising, as we’re normally one of those close-knit “What do you want to watch?” “I dunno.” “There’s nothing on TV”-type of folks. So I switch it over just in time to see the bumper for the season premiere of HUGE.

If you’ve signed onto Facebook in the last month, you recognize the TV show. It’s about a fat camp. All right, says my inner critic, let’s see what our kids these days are watching.(If you missed it, you can watch it online HERE.)

First off, I liked the dynamic of the show. Everyone can relate to the Fat Kid, regardless of whether or not they’ve been the fat kid, because all of us have something about ourselves that embarrasses us — something that doesn’t usually bother 99% of our friends. So instead of the braniac/clutz/homely/shy/insert neuroses here kid, this show has translated it to obesity, something we can all notice and see. Now that it’s out there, we can concentrate on all the other problems these kids have.

The second reason I liked the show was because Gina Torres showed up, and I appreciate any show willing to fork a check over to that woman. I think she’s a fine actress who can kick her share of ass. I’m interested to see how she fits into this dynamic.

As this was the first show, we were so busy being introduced to all the characters that not a whole lot went on. Willamena (Nikki Blonsky) is our renegade main character with blue-streaked hair that I covet. She was sent to the camp by her parents. She’s totally okay with her body. In fact, as she puts it, she “and her fat are BFF.”

The only other camper we get to know very well is Amber (Hayley Hasselhoff…that’s right, Hasselhoff). Amber is the beautiful and skinny girl that all the other girls are immediately jealous of.

Now, when I say “beautiful,” I mean that Hayley’s princess-blond hair and powder blue eyes eat up the damn screen every time she’s on it. The girl is eye-catching, no doubt — some of you may recognize her from all the years she’s been Torrid’s spokesmodel. She’s also a fine little actress.

And when I say “skinny”, I mean she’s the thinnest girl at the camp. I can’t find weights or sizes anywhere on the site (I’m debating whether or not that’s a shame), but eyeballing it, I’m going to put her at a solid size 14-16. She’s virtuous to a fault and, here at the beginning, seems very set on achieving whatever her personal weight goals are at the camp.

I feel like I’m allowed to be picky about the Amber character, because I *am* Amber. (ABC, if you’re looking for writers, give me a call.) I’ve been Amber my whole life. I don’t have any of those skinny high-school pictures, or jeans I wish I could fit into, because I’ve been a size 14/16 since the 7th grade. It’s an annoying place to be. Everyone thinks you’re gorgeous — including you — until you see yourself in certain pictures and wince. You’re right at the top of the Juniors section, and right at the bottom of the Misses, so good luck finding anything at all. (I get my bras at Lane Bryant, my panties at Target, and everything else at TJ Maxx.) Thanks to the sliding scale of womens clothing, I’ve fit into everything from a 12 to a 20, and I just don’t have the kind of time for that kind of shopping. Plus, in the last 20 years of my being exactly the same size, I’ve been “politely ushered” out of both Victoria Secret for being too large and Lerner Woman for being too small.

So, yes, I completely adore the Amber character. Apart from her being a bit too boy crazy (weren’t we all at one time), my issues with her (and by “her” I mean, the writers of her character) are:
1.) Makeup and a curling iron at camp. Really? Every time we see Amber, she’s perfectly coiffed, with not a smear of mascara out of place. It’s summer. She’s going to sweat. When is she going to have time to curl her hair and why on earth is she going to bother doing it before she works out for 3 hours a day?
2.) Her choice of workout gear. There is a story point in the pilot that revolves around Amber splitting her pants while working out the first week. Look, if this girl is as serious about the camp as she seems, she’s going to have a pair of spandex or Lycra running shorts, decent running shoes, and a good sports bra. (Please let me recommend The Last Resort Bra from Title Nine Sports.)

Here’s the part where I love Amber. I love that somewhere, a girl or two is going to want to be like her. Not Gabrielle Anwar or Calista Flockhart, but Hayley Hasselhoff. I love that somewhere, a guy or two might also appreciate her beauty. I hope to god the show becomes wildly popular because I would LOVE to see more cute clothes in my size. In fact, I think Hayley should open up a shop for young women sizes 10-18. I think I would cry if I actually had a place to shop for clothes in a mall.

I also hope that ABC Family stops with the ridiculously annoying commercials. Next time I watch this show (if I can actually remember to do it), I’m going to tape it first and watch it later so I can skip past the loud and annoying ads for all the other shows on ABC Family, none of which looked appealing to me at all. I don’t actually remember an ad for a single product — I only remember ads for the other shows on the network. I hope that doesn’t mean HUGE has no sponsorship…surely that’s not true. (You’d think Torrid at least would be first in line.) Is there something about this channel I don’t know? Does ABC just make enough money elsewhere to not worry about it? I’m curious.

But not so curious that I’m not going to click that link and see what Torrid has in that’s new. Life is short. And there is ice cream to be had.

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Cat Fight!

At least someone can appreciate all this sun. Blech.
Sorry, DC. I didn’t mean to bring the TN summers up here with me. Honest.

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Speed Limit

While I was doing my impromptu pre-summer tour up and down the East Coast and Tennnessee, I was thinking about math. (Yes, I’m a geek even when I’m driving.)

So you’re on an interstate for, say, eight hours (give or take pit-stops for gas). The speed limit on said interstate is 70. (Unless you’re on I-81 along the ass-edge of Virginia where they’re speeding-ticket happy for no good reason, and then it’s 65. But I digress.) So you’re trucking along for the good part of the day, until you hit that last hour of your trip, where your destination is so close you can taste it on the wind.

That last hour is always hell. You suddenly have to pee like your life depends on it, but you’re determined to hold it so you can just GET THERE. You probably should have stopped for gas at that last exit, but your dash swears you have enough to coast into the driveway on fumes. You’re stomach is rumbling like its just eaten a maniac (or his hands). You’re sick of your iPod, your books-on-tape, your mixed CD collection, and there’s nothing but God and jazz and hip-hop on the radio so you’ve started scanning for car commercials.

As if that all wasn’t enough–to make matters worse, the closer you get to your destination, the lower the speed limit becomes. 70 turns to 65. 65 turns to 55. 55 turns to 45…and sometimes less if there’s construction. Once you hit the neighborhood it’s 30, or even 25. 15 if it’s a school zone and classes just let out. You begin to feel like the closer you get to your destination the slower you’ll have to go, until you’re stopped right there in front of your sister’s driveway: you can see the house, but you can’t go in. You will never go in. The Speed Limit won’t let you.

There’s a mathematical concept very much like this dilemma that’s called–appropriately enough–a limit. In layman’s terms, it’s one of those numbers that goes on forever, like 1.99999999999999…etc. 1.99999999 approaches 2, but it never really ever gets there. In some circles, it’s decided that eventually 1.99999999999 gets SO close to 2 that it better be using contraception, so for all intents and purposes, 1.9999999999999 = 2.

I think about this as I slowly walk up the steps to my sister’s house, as x (essentially the number of 9s) becomes infinitely large, and I am thankful to those mathematicians who have decided that my limit is infinity enough to bridge that increasingly small gap and ring the doorbell.

My hat’s off to you, sirs and madams. Safe journeys to you all.

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Your Hard-Earned Tax Dollars…

…are paying this guy to sit on his butt all day. Sheesh.

I wonder what he makes an hour.

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Eating Out: M&S Grill

If you’re new to an area, one of the first things you discover is the local dining scene (sometimes not by choice, if you don’t happen to have things like groceries or pots and pans yet). I’m still shiny to this Northern Virginia/DC area, and I’ve been both exploring the area and asking for ideas from folks I know that used to live here (like my parents, and JT Ellison).

Last night, when I Tweeted about my green mashed potatoes, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to someone if I do reviews of some of these restaurants — especially my favorites — not just here, but all around the country. Don’t worry, this is not going to turn into a big foodie blog. My restaurant reviews will probably occur about as often as my book reviews, and will be similarly as searchable. (Check out the Reviews section of the Bibliography tab.)

Last night we went to M&S Grill in the Reston Town Center. Yes, I’m one of those silly people who’s a fan of walking-street-malls that remind you of little European towns. M&S Grill is not to be confused with McCormick & Schmidt’s Seafood — while they are owned by the same company, they are two separate restaurants. At the Town Center, they are across the street from each other.

There is a band every Friday night at the Grill, but they don’t start until 10pm — nice for an uninterrupted prime time casual dining experience, but a little past my bedtime.

I passed on the cocktails, but I did note that Alison must be pretty special if her Sangria recipe got her name on the menu. I also pulled the waiter aside and asked how one muddles a grape, because there was a drink advertising “muddled grapes” as a base. We decided it was just a sexy way of saying “smooshed the heck out of them.” After we placed our order we were brought warm rolls with butter and an olive tapenade that was quite lovely.

My big problem with some of these restaurants is that I just want to order seven things off the appetizer menu and call it good. This time I limited myself to one: the crab beignets, which sounded too yummy to pass up. They were essentially crab hush puppies with a lovely spicy remoulade sauce — good, but not divine. The apple-jicama slaw that garnished the plate was a bit too vinegary for my taste.

For my entree you can see above — I ordered scallops with a lobster saffron sauce and chive mashed potatoes. The scallops were large and perfect, and in the sauce you could just imagine you were eating the most tender lobster ever. The potatoes, which I exclaimed excitedly over when I saw my plate, were mashed with pre-blended parsley-and-chives, to give them that lovely St. Paddy’s Day shade. I was ten kinds of Seussian tickled, and they were rather delicious.

The side dish we ordered, also above, was a lobster au gratin. I was less than thrilled with it, and not just because it couldn’t touch the Tap Room’s lobster mashed potatoes, but because there was too much…lemon, I think. I couldn’t put my finger on it for the longest time…but I’m pretty sure that’s why every time I took a bite I felt like I was eating dish soap. Which was a shame, ’cause I really wanted to enjoy it.

Probably blasphemous that I went to a grill and didn’t order steak, but my companion did, and I had a bite. I thought it a little tough, but tasty — which is apparently what you get when steaks are aged. (I learn something new every day.)

We were too full to splurge and have dessert, though we were *this* close to ordering the bananas foster bread pudding. It was, of course, the oddest selection available…but I’d indulged in far too many green potatoes to enjoy it at all. That, and it didn’t say it came to the table en flambe. I would have had to order it if it was on fire. Kind of a must.

Service: Excellent.
The waiter was knowledgeable, amiable, and had a good sense of humor.

Food: 3.5 out of 5
Because green potatoes are awesome.

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Calling All Junior Arborists

I was going through some old pics to post on my shiny new Facebook Fan Page, and I came across this one. It’s from the tree at Gypsy‘s house, located roughly halfway between Awesome Porch and Awesome Garage, and I love it. Its flowers look and feel like magnolia flowers (apart from being pink), but the leaves are soft and not waxy at all.

What is this tree? Does anyone know?

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As Amusing As It Is Silly

…and geektastic.

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Selecting the Strange

Over the years I’ve developed some quirks, as any decent Crotchety-Old-Woman-in-Training worth her salt would do. I value the truth, however brutal. I appreciate the element of surprise and abhor hints. I don’t read the dust jackets of authors I already know I like. I eat dessert first, whenever possible. And I pick the strangest thing on the menu.

My grandmother was a child of the depression born of immigrant parents, and a single, working mother of five children. In turn, my mother raised us to be frugal. It took me many years as a buyer, after countless dinners where the publisher picked up the tab, to stop looking at the prices on the menu and actually choose something I wanted to eat.

Publishers always wanted to take us to the newest, trendiest restaurants. In the end it was the company and conversation that mattered, but since we already knew that was up to snuff, why not change the ambiance? While lunch was always an endless subject of debate, where to go for dinner never seemed to be a problem.

It all started with dessert. Appetizers are fun, salad ends up being whatever has goat cheese (I’m a sucker for goat cheese), and the entree was usually divine, either deliciously or artistically (more often the latter). Dessert was just a bonus–a reason for us to order coffee and keep talking just a little bit longer. By then, you’re not actually hungry for anything (thus the “dessert first” rule). So what does it matter what you order? Most creme brulees and cannolis and tiramisus–while yumtastic–are usually the same (unless the chef specializes, so it’s always good to ask). You know what you’re going to get. So why not go a little crazy?

Inevitably, there’s something that sticks out on the menu. Hand-churned ginger ice cream. Cake made with a cheese you’ve never heard of, topped with a berry you’re fairly sure doesn’t really exist. Chocolate fish. The ominous ingredients are like a dress that looks hideous on the hanger. If there is a reason for everything, then there is a reason that chef (or that designer) put those exact things together in such a way. It wouldn’t be on the menu if it wasn’t edible. You’re not even really hungry anyway…so where’s the risk? If nothing else, it gives the table something else to talk about over coffee.

Next time you’re in a fancy restaurant–you know, one of the ones with a seasonal menu and words you swear are English but still can’t interpret when put together–pick the strangest thing on the menu. Go on, I dare you. If you’re not quite so brave, just try the dessert. And get spoons for everyone.

That’s another rule. Like magic, dessert is meant to be shared.

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Cool Stuff, Stumbled Upon

It’s nice to trip over something like this in a really obscure Google Alert about some search results done on a health website. Apparently, www.childrensbooksguide.com did a Top 100 Children’s Books of All Time. AlphaOops didn’t make Top 10 on their ABC book listing (DARN YOU, CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM!), but it did make the Honorable Mention. I’m cool with that.

AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First: If you have a kid who enjoys thinking outside the box then this title is sure to please! Illustrator Bob Kolar joins forces with author Alethea Kontis for a group of twenty six of the most unruly letters any alphabet has ever seen. Picture a classroom of disobedient and belligerent kids (complete with repeated requests for bathroom breaks, second turns and more) and you have a pretty good idea of what you are in store for with this wonderful book. A sure fire hit with anyone whose name has them commonly delegated to the end of any list, this time the end of the alphabet demands first position!
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Well, That’s Done It

About a month or so ago, I accidentally clicked on the “Facebook Chat” icon, putting myself out there in the intarwebs available for interaction. Within about 15 seconds, I had 10 people open chats with me. Seven of them were from people I hadn’t heard from in a long time, all of whom I wanted to talk to. Three were folks that were total strangers trying to hit on me.

This–coupled with the fact that I’m edging dangerously close to 3000 friends on my Facebook page–forced the decision to cave and go ahead and make an official “Fan Page”.

For the most part, it’s not going to be much different from my personal page. I can post just as much on there as I do on my personal one, and probably will. And I’m not going to do a massive purging of folks from my personal page — I’ve made a lot of new friends there and I’m always up for making more.

Instead, I’m going to slowly edge people out the door if they:
1.) Post on my wall just to promote themselves
2.) Send me a creepy stalker email
3.) Initiate a chat with me with the sole purpose of telling me how beautiful I am. (Send me a Tweet about it. There’s nothing much to chat about beyond “thanks.”)

I’m also going to stop adding friends I don’t know, willy-nilly. You can send me a personal message — tell me you’re a D-H fan, or that we met at a con, or that you’re an aspiring writer/reviewer/editor. If I’d met you at a party you’d tell me something about yourself, wouldn’t you? I’d totally ask anyway.

I’m also not going to massively spam folks asking them to add my fan page. That’s silly. I’ll promote it on my personal site, and here on my blog, and you’re welcome to share the link. It will grow, in time, as all things do.Ultimately, this is just one more way I’m easier to find. You’re welcome. It’s nice to meet you.

Link to the fabulous (and as of 5 minutes ago completely bare — guess what I’ll be working on this afteroon?) Facebook Fan Page: HERE.

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