Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Vanilla Soup...a double scoop, please!

Okay, it's Neil Diamond night on American Idol and each contestant is singing two songs. Wow, they really had to squeeze to get all that done in a hour! If they only had to sing that would be one thing, but you've got to allow time for the mentoring from ND, Ryan's cheesy remarks, critiques from the judges...well, the hour went by quickly!

After I went to all that trouble to pick songs for the contestants they just up and did whatever they wanted, except for Jason's valiant attempt at "Forever in Blue Jeans."

Hey, I just realized I've never done an AI recap blog before. I'm trying to type real fast like someone's going to be waiting for my insights with bated breath. Okay, slow down...hmmm...does this need any particular format to work right? Ah, who cares, we'll just dive in.

Jason: 1st song: "Forever in Blue Jeans" I felt like he did a pretty good job on this. He showed off his "lower register" as Paula and Randy like to say. He played guitar and he always manages to keep the tempo up a little better when he plays and sings at the same time. This wasn't a big show-stopper, and it didn't have anything particularly distinctive about it, but it wasn't BAD either.

2nd song: "September Morn" Oh, well, I guess he couldn't be up-tempo on two songs in one night. This one was just okay. I mean he didn't do anything wrong (he said afterward he coughed or choked or something right before he started singing, but I didn't notice that). But he didn't do anything exciting with it.

Jason is reminding me of Bo Bice right now. Their styles are different, of course. But Bo got to a point near this stage of the show where it seemed like he was just too mellow to compete. Every week he came out and sang his songs and every week they sounded like "Bo songs", and when the judges criticized him he smiled graciously and said "It's all good, man!" Now, Bo did come in second, so maybe Bo knows Idol and maybe this is a fine little strategy. We'll have to see how it works for Jason.

David C. 1st song: "I'm Alive" Awesome! He played electric guitar on this one, with the initials "AC" on his jacket and on the guitar...is that in honor of his brother? I listened to this song on Youtube this afternoon after I saw the spoilers of what they were going to sing tonight, and I thought at the time David could do it justice and "make it his own" as they like to say.

2nd song: "All I Really Need Is You" Again, awesome! I was not familiar with either of these songs, and apparently they're not very popular, but that works out so well for David. The way he sang this one reminded me of someone else...maybe Bryan Adams?

David Cook is either the only one of the contestants with the musical ability to adapt these old songs and make them sound fresh, or he's the only one with the savvy to realize that it's the best strategy. I'm really torn because I would like to see him win the whole thing because I believe he's the best one out there, but I also worry about what kind of nasty dreck they'll make him record.

Brooke 1st song: "I'm A Believer" Oh, oh my. Brook is wearing jeans and a ruffly shirt and has her hair flying all over the place and she's playing guitar and singing like she's at a hoedown. Did she somehow get the impression that this was a country song?

2nd song: "I Am...I Said" This is one of my least-favorite ND songs. That line about the chair just to make it rhyme...eek! Brooke changes it up, following ND's advice and instead of pretending to be born and bred in New York she instead travels between the "two shores" of Arizona and Los Angeles. Okay.

I liked Brooke in the early rounds, but she's become tiresome. I'll give her points tonight for not crying and not being too mouthy while the judges tried to talk. But she never seems to quite get it. Tom said she was singing like Dolly Parton tonight; I thought she was going for Sheryl Crow...either way, it didn't work.

David A. 1st song: "Sweet Caroline" Oh, someone please hit me over the head with something! First of all, in order to fit some semblance of story into the time available someone had to chop big pieces of the song out and cut and paste other parts together. Which made it look like David was forgetting the words. Or maybe he really was forgetting the words, but I don't think so this time. This was dreadful, he was not in tune half the time. This was too much song for him.

2nd song: "America" Heh...heh..heh...Simon and I agree about this strategy. :) Oh, how nice, he even got a flag background behind him. "Ticking all the boxes" indeed.

David A. proves, like several others before him, that you may be a prodigy in your own little world, but it just isn't enough when you're placed up against older more-seasoned performers with some life experience. He's probably a nice kid, and if the stories of him being pressured by family are true, well, that's just sad and disgusting. But it's time for him to go home, and AI really should raise the lower age limit a few years.

Syesha 1st song: "Hello" Syesha shows more personality tonight on both her songs than she had been earlier in the season. I think she figured out last week that she could act like she was enjoying herself and people would buy it. She has a good voice, and she's a pretty girl, and this was a good song choice for her.

2nd song: "Thank the Lord For the Night Time" Another good choice, this showed off her voice well. Of all the performers I think she came closest to singing the songs the way Neil Diamond intended them to be sung. You can take that however you want to!

Syesha seems to do really well with the Broadway numbers and she might be a good actress. Several AI alumni have gone on to Broadway, maybe this will be her route to fame. The problem I have in judging a performer like her is that her style of music is one I probably will never love, no matter who performs it.

At our house someone else does the phone dialing on AI night, so it's not up to me to decide who to vote for. :) I think amongst the four of us we all liked David Cook best, but I think Jason is getting some sympathy votes from the dialer, too.

Tomorrow night, Neil Diamond and Someone I've Never Heard Of will perform. Plus a cheesy group number...will they do "Crunchy Granola Suite" or "Red, Red Wine"?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The tutti fruit, with fruity blue cheese!

This week on American Idol the remaining contestants will be attempting to sing the songs of Neil Diamond. (Original title for this week's theme: Songs best sung by Michael Johns.) Who should sing what? We discussed this burning issue in our home this week, and in the process the kids found out that my husband knows way too many Neil Diamond songs. He has two older sisters and he blames them for his indoctrination into this genre of music at an early age. They're also responsible for him knowing many, many Simon & Garfunkel songs, but somehow that is not as offensive to the children.

My suggestions for the Fearless Five:

1. Syesha Mercado: This one is tough because a lot of ND's songs are either very male or very folksy. Syesha can sing powerful songs, but ND's powerful songs are often written so much from a male perspective that it would be hard to change them by just changing pronouns. I don't think Syesha's strength lies in the folksy area, though. My suggestion would be for her to use the Idol fail-safe strategy of appealing to the patriots. Has anyone ever been voted off the week they sang a patriotic song? So, for Syesha:


•You Don't Bring Me Flowers (ballady back-up option, but will then have to be compared to Barbra Streisand)

2. Brooke White: Brooke can do the folksy songs, and ND has some nice whiny ones that would be perfect for her. Tom suggested "Play Me", and I agree that the melody is perfect for Brooke, but there's the gender problem again with the lyrics. Some folksy, weepy options for Brooke:


•Yesterday's Songs

•Hello Again

3. David Archuleta: David (or his daddy) will pick something so very David-ish, so let's not bother finding him something truly appropriate. Whatever it is, it will be forgettable, he will hem and haw about it, and he will win Idol and enjoy two albums worth of fame and fortune. Perfect songs for David:

•Heartlight (from that classic old movie "ET")

•Beautiful Noise (sung in an "Up With People" style)

4. Jason Castro: Poor cute clueless Jason, what can we pick for you...I suspect you're going to pick Heartlight for yourself and it'll be a disaster. There are actually quite a few good choices this week, but Jason's going to have to stretch himself a wee bit to wow us with any of them. Jason could try:

•And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind (this is "grass" as in LAWNS, Jason, but other than that the lyrics are fairly self-explanatory)

•Canta Libre (very pretty tune, en Espanol y con ukulele!!)

•Crunchy Granola Suite (okay, this is a stretch because it requires a lot more energy than Jason usually displays...but it would be funny)

•Forever In Blue Jeans (if Jason could be peppy enough, this could be really rather good)

•I'm A Believer (yes, Rebecca, Neil Diamond wrote this! Jason could do this one up good if he'd try...and that seems to be the operative phrase with Jason. He needs to exert himself.)

•Song Sung Blue (again with the ukulele or guitar)

5. David Cook: Obviously, I saved the best for last. I think David should have an easy hit with Neil Diamond week. He has enough power and range to his voice to pull off many of ND's songs, plus he seems to be smart enough to understand the emotions that need to be conveyed along with the songs. Songs for David:

•And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind (yeah, I just gave this to Jason, but David would have a completely different take on it)

•Holly Holy (not the Reggae version...PLEASE!)

•Solitary Man (there's a video on Youtube of ND singing this in concert in 1971...his style back then reminded me of David C. Of course, David could also emo this one up a bunch and that would work, too. Some terribly demonic looking bunch has done a cover of this recently, but he wouldn't have to do their version. )

•Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show (because there are people in this house who want someone to sing this, and David's the only one who could possibly pull it off. It would have been perfect for Michael Johns.)

Tune in Tuesday night to see the contestants pick entirely different songs and prove me wrong!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Because all the really cool kids are...

Last week Mandolinartist sent me this questionnaire, and I intended to fill it out and send it back to her. But it's been the sort of week where fun questionnaires get left in the dust.

But tonight I noticed that Rebecca and Natalie both posted their questionnaires on their blogs. So, I thought...hey, what's to keep me from doing that, too? I can't start a trend, but I can follow one!


2. DIAMONDS OR PEARLS? sapphires

3. WHAT IS THE LAST FILM THAT YOU SAW AT THE CINEMA? Do the teeny movie theaters nowadays really qualify as "the cinema"? Umm...hmmm...wracking my brain...I think it was that movie with all the chickens in it. Chicken Run! I used to go to movies all the time; then I had kids.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW? America's Test Kitchen

5. WHAT DO YOU USUALLY HAVE FOR BREAKFAST? smoothie or peanut butter toast


7. WHAT KIND OF CAR DO YOU DRIVE? 1999 Ford Taurus



10. FAVORITE ITEM OF CLOTHING? my lime green polo dress




14. WHERE WOULD YOU RETIRE TO? Colorado or Oregon

15. WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BIRTHDAY? My 16th birthday; my mom and my cousin had a surprise party for me


17. FURTHEST PLACE YOU ARE SENDING THIS? out into the ether, baby!




21. WHEN IS YOUR BIRTHDAY? September 23



24. PETS? 2 lazy diva cats

25. ANY NEW AND EXCITING NEWS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE? Ummm...the President is sending me free money?? :)

26. WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG? When I was 5 I wanted to be a doctor, specifically a surgeon.

27. HOW ARE YOU TODAY? Relieved that it is Friday!

28. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CANDY? Dark chocolate, anything dark chocolate, the darker the better.


30. WHAT IS A DAY ON THE CALENDAR YOU ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO? I don't really think that way.

31. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW ? The dishwasher running, my husband mowing the grass, the kids watching Jeopardy in the living room




35. HOW IS THE WEATHER RIGHT NOW? Too durned hot already

36. FAVORITE SOFT DRINK? RC Cola, the retro kind made with real sugar


38. SIBLINGS? 2 bothers brothers

39. FAVORITE DAY? Friday



42. HUGS OR KISSES? both




46. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? I don't remember, probably while trying to read something sad to the kids.

47. WHAT IS UNDER YOUR BED? Storage box of needlework supplies, wrapping paper box, box of strawberry jam (!), some stuff of Natalie's that she doesn't think I know about.


49. WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT? ate dinner, showered, sat on the couch and talked with family

50. FAVORITE SMELL? vanilla or baking smell

51. WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF? Being trapped in a tight space or intolerable position (physically or emotionally)

52. SALTY OR SWEET? sweet

53. HOW MANY KEYS ON YOUR RING? 3, and only 2 are ones I use...what's the other one for?





58. HOW MANY WILL RESPOND? We'll leave that question to the philosophers.


A quick public service announcement for those listing things for sale on Ebay, Craigslist, or in the newspaper classified ads. Heads up, also, for those of you who write about decor on your blog or in emails.

There's a substance out there that y'all are fond of. It's used to make railings on porches, or decorative arches for the garden. Indoors it can be found made into candlesticks, clocks, stair railings, and many other decorative forms.

This substance is Wrought Iron. As defined by Webster, wrought iron is " a commercial form of iron that is tough, malleable, and relatively soft, contains less than 0.3 percent and usually less than 0.1 percent carbon, and carries 1 or 2 percent of slag mechanically mixed with it."

Wrought Iron, wrought iron, WROUGHT iron! Not "rod iron", not "rodded iron", and not "rot iron".

Please! And thank you, very much.

Oh, and while we're at it? That room you have between the kitchen and the living room? That room with the big table, buffet, and china cabinet? That's a dining room. Notice the number of "n's" in that word "dining". Two of 'em, not three. You dine in a dining room. What would you do in a "dinning" room? Eat "din din"?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

With Half My Brain Tied Behind My Back

...just to make it fair, ya know.

•Yesterday, the bad migraine (as opposed to those good ones).

•Today, the after-effects...making me slightly less than half-witted.

•My children are multi-tasking today, apparently in an effort to drive me to drink.

•Natalie is sewing, cooking, and gardening simultaneously. When means she's not giving 100% of her attention to any of them. Disaster lurks in the offing.

•Colin is trying to get in trouble as many ways as possible today, also simultaneously. There are too many possible ways.

•Monday I spent several hours researching health insurance because Natalie is about to age out of the group policy we have through Tom's work.

•For a healthy young person, private-pay insurance seems to involve picking as high a deductible as possible as the parents feel comfortable with and paying a medium-ish chunk of change every month.

•From the horror stories I've read online, this works out splendidly as long as one never has to make a claim. Apparently the insurance companies are quite skilled and professional at the tasks of taking one's money and providing one with a little plastic card. Beyond that, forget it.

•Tuesday night I watched a PBS Frontline special about health care in other industrialized nations. They briefly covered Great Britain, but spent more time on Switzerland, Germany, Japan, and Taiwan. Since I've only heard much about the health care systems in Britain and Canada, it was good to get a broader perspective.

•IF everything in the report is accurate, these countries are managing paying for medical care in a way that satisfies their citizens more than we in the US are satisfied with our system.

•In each of these systems someone is getting less money than in our system in the US. Either it's the doctors, the hospitals, the drug companies, or the lawyers. Is it likely, in the US, that a majority of people in any of those categories would willingly give up a significant amount of their income in order to make a new health care system work? I'm not familiar with the health care proposals of any of the presidential candidates. I wonder what provisions each of them have considered to deal with this decrease in income?

•Oh, yeah, another category of people whose income would decrease...people like my husband. Obviously if doctors and medical schools don't have the big bucks to do research and education they also can't pay support staff as much.

•It might be easier for a government to implement a new system if the country was in a financial crisis. Think Roosevelt and the New Deal during the Great Depression...

•That does not add up to a conspiracy theory or anything woo-woo in my mind...just giving my opinion of one way it could be pulled off.

•Okay, anything fun going on? We got a bunch of blueberry plants yesterday! Maybe in a few years we'll have some blueberries to eat. Blueberries are very healthy. :)

•Kristi Lee Cook is gone from AI, and there was very great rejoicing. Although in some ways she was the least objectionable of the women on there this year. I never like the women contestants, how misogynistic of me...can women be misogynists?

•The rest of them should leave in this order: Carly, Syesha, Brooke, Jason, David C, and then David A.

•I am so not a fan of David Archuleta. My reason for picking this order is because the winner has to make a sappy diva album with goofy songs about living up to one's dreams and never finding true love and seeing rainbows above us and the stars are God's daisy chain. This is David Archuleta's destiny. The boy was born to make an album like that.

•Yes, I still call them "albums"...I am a dinosaur.

•My favorites, Mr. David "I'm emo in a way that middle-aged ladies can understand" Cook, and Mr. Jason "I represent the kind of lad the middle-aged ladies would have fallen for when they were 14" Castro...well, if they don't win then they can make real albums that showcase their styles and talents. Albums that even I would buy.

•I would also buy the 8-track versions to listen to in the car.

•I am fully aware that my knowing the term "emo" means it is totally not a trendy word anymore. I also know about "emo pants", which are really nothing new, but we called them something else back in the day.

•I have 5 more things on my to-do list for this afternoon and it is 5:11 PM...this does not bode well for a completed list.

•Note to my brother...is a MWAH a "man with a headset"? There was one of those in our backyard once...walking around carrying a laptop and looking like he was lecturing the trees.

•High Five, everybody!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Today Is....

National High Five Day

How will you celebrate such an auspicious day? More info here. More random blatherings from me to come later....Lord willing and the creek don't rise.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ten Things Tuesday

Today Rebecca's theme is Ten Literary Characters I'd Have Over For Dinner. This was fun, but I realized as I was compiling my list that many of my favorite literary characters would not behave well in polite company. I narrowed the list down to the ten who would most likely be able to get through a meal without killing each other...which meant that, tragically, Madame Defarge had to stay home. Jeeves, of course, will be there anyway to cook, serve the meal, and solve everyone's problems.

Mr. Arabin from Anthony Trollope's Barchester Towers (don't read the wiki if you want to be surprised by the ending!!)

Admiral Croft and Sophia Croft from Jane Austen's Persuasion

Shasta and Aravis from The Horse and His Boy


Hercule Poirot...and if you have M. Poirot you also have to have....

Captain Hastings

Galahad Threepwood

Paddington Bear

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Memory Triggers

Colin wanted a PB&J sandwich for lunch today. Actually, what he asked for was a "jam sandwich"... because he is British.

So, I was making his sandwich and thinking about how he likes jam or jelly on his PB&J and Natalie never has. And that triggered a memory from years ago.

I had a friend who I had never met in person. We were pen-pals, the real pen-and-paper kind. She and her family lived a few hours away from us, and they were going to be in our area for some reason. So, we invited them over for supper so we could all meet.

They were "health food" eaters, and we were, too, but not quite to the extent that they were. So I struggled a bit figuring out what to feed them, finally deciding on a taco/burrito build-your-own buffet. I found miniature corn taco shells that I knew the kids would love, and I got plenty of whole wheat tortillas because I knew the mama would feel right about eating those. We had taco meat, cheese, veggies, salsa, sour cream, the whole nine yards.

I was stumped for dessert ideas, because I knew my friend didn't believe in using sugar, white flour, or eggs in her baking. I might have been able to pull off a cake or cookies with wheat flour and honey...but I couldn't get around the egg obstacle. She used some sort of soy flour egg replacer stuff that wasn't in my budget, particularly for a one-time use. I decided dessert was going to be fruit salad.

We had a great time with the family. The kids hit it off right away. My friend and I started off a bit awkwardly when I temporarily forgot her name as I was introducing the family to my husband, but they laughed it off and we got on with the meal.

Everyone loved the taco idea except for one of their toddler boys who balked at the whole concept. I offered him a peanut butter sandwich and his mother said he would love to have that. So I popped out to the kitchen and whipped him up a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread...making it exactly as I would have for Natalie: bread, very light skimcoat of butter, peanut butter of medium thickness, nothing else, cut in quarters.

The second bump in the road was the dessert. I handed around bowls of fruit salad and we adults got back to our conversation. From the kids' table across the room I heard a very distinct loud whisper, "Mom, why aren't we having REAL dessert?" Mom whispered back, "It's okay, eat your fruit, I have cake in the car you can have on the way home." I pretended not to hear any of this. :)

All in all, it was a very nice evening. The kids didn't whine to me about the lack of cake; they were well-behaved children. My pen-pal and I got to meet each other in person, our husbands found a few areas of common ground they could talk about. I blew it on the dessert, but I still don't know what I could have done differently given the restrictions.

As they were leaving the dad was carrying the little guy for whom I'd made the PB sandwich, and he asked him "Did you thank Beth for your peanut butter and jelly sandwich?" The little fellow glared at me over his dad's shoulder with what looked like hatred in his little eyes and mumbled something. "You're welcome, Sweetie!" I said, and got on with saying goodbye to the rest of the family. It occurred to me very briefly to wonder what I'd done to him to upset him, but I didn't think much of it. I'm not the sort of person other people's little children like a lot. I would make a lousy kindergarten teacher, and I'm okay with that. My own kids love me. Usually.

But after their van pulled out of the drive, it suddenly dawned on me what I had done! He had expected a proper PB&J and I had given him the jam-less version Natalie favored! He had had to choke that down, not been given any proper dessert afterward, and then was expected to be thankful!

I can only imagine the family's conversation in the car on the way home. Over cake.

If you come to my house and want a peanut butter sandwich, you might want to be real specific in how you ask for it. :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Nuttin', Honey...

Me: (whining) I can't think of anything to blog about...(dramatic sigh)

Natalie: (eye roll behind my back) So, blog about nothing!

• The problem with my random/meandering/about nothing blog posts is that they end up sounding cranky too often.

• I think I write crankier than I really am. Curmudgeonly.

• So, an 18-year-old kid (and his underage buddy) admitted to unintentionally setting Sauratown Mountain on fire. Hmmph. And that's probably all the more I should say, because if I start pontificating about boys playing with matches the Lord may see fit to give me a lesson in humility. And I have a 6-year-old boy.

• Of course there are forest fires all the time, especially during a drought. This one just particularly hits home because Sauratown Mountain is home to Mountaintop Youth Camp where Natalie went to camp for 5 years. We were talking the other day about the impact the fire will have on this year's camp weeks. None of the buildings were damaged, so they should be able to have camp. But Natalie pointed out that some of the areas where they do rappelling and rope courses and hiking and stuff might have been damaged. Natalie's not going to regular camp this year (she wants to go to Extreme week if they have it) but her friends Z and S plan to go. I'm sure they've been keeping an eye on this situation, too..

• Over on Natalie's blog she mentioned a cleaning issue she was dealing with in her bathroom. Some of her blog readers are a just a tad shocked and appalled that she would mention this on her blog. Last night as I was falling asleep I wrote a one-act play in response to some of the comments. I planned to send it to Nat as a blog comment, but when I rehearsed it for her this morning she said I shouldn't. She has met a bunch of proper young ladies (Maidens of Virtue!!) and their kin via her blog...I think she's afraid they'll find out what kind of (insert adjective here) family she comes from.

• On Friday, our fair state will be infested yet again by former president William Jefferson Clinton...on the campaign trail for his lovely, ever-so-feminine wife. See, if I were running for President, and I were married to the likes of Bill, I think he's about the last person I'd want campaigning for me. Oh well...not mine to try to understand. Do the folks who vote for Hillary really want four to eight years of Bill toodling around the White House with lots of free time on his hands?

• When did Hillary Clinton drop the "Rodham" part of her name, anyway?

• It is 62 degrees outside, but I have the windows closed and the air conditioner running. Why? Because it is apparently official Mow Your Lawn Wednesday around our neighborhood! Someone needs to invest in some sheep.

• We could take up spinning and have all the yarn our hearts desired. Unless our hearts desired cotton or acrylic. But we're way classier than that.

• This year's homeschool convention looks promising. I haven't been for a few years. I was trying to remember how long it had been, but all I can come up with is that Colin was still young enough to be in a stroller and not walking. So, maybe 2002? Somehow I didn't think it had been quite that long...hmmm...

• Best thing about this year's convention? Near as I can tell there is no Man With A Plan speaking!! Or, if there is, he has disguised his bio sneakily so I can't spot him. Well, one guy looked like he might be developing A Plan, but he's only leading a workshop. When they're keynote speakers they're harder to avoid.

• Favorite convention workshop title: Ballistic Learning: Teaching and Appreciating Boys

It's 4:40 and I need to get supper started! Chicken with basmati rice tonight. Adding the "basmati" qualifier makes it sound so much more gourmet than just "chicken and rice", doesn't it?