Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ms. Mankato about (pretty) volunteerism

Natalie Davis was crowned Miss Mankato on Saturday. One of the weird parts of that, for me, is that I actually had a hand in crowning her. Anyone who knows me is having one of those "really?" moments right now. I'm not a beauty queen. I'm plain spoken, plain dressed, plain everything! So at first, it was quite strange for me to be there as a judge. But I have to say, I was surprised by what I learned.

Many of those girls were passionate about volunteerism and charity. It's not a requirement that the contestants be from Mankato or even go to school here, so some were new to the community. Yet, they had taken the time to set up appointments with various non-profits and other organizations so they could talk about their platforms and spread the word about the causes they were passionate about.

Certainly there were swimsuits and perfect hair-dos and high heels and pretty gowns. It's a pageant, and as many girls said, Ms. America is a business and they need a face on that business that can attract positive attention. But it was also about community and charity, and I was glad to see that.

Davis certainly had the whole package. She's beautiful, and she sang the highest operatic notes I've ever heard -- in person, at least. And she was also passionate about autism awareness. Having a brother with Asperger's instilled in her a drive to raise awareness about the disorder, and she has been doing a great job of it for years. Any organization in Mankato who receives a visit from Davis will certainly learn a lot.

Here's a bit more from Davis' website:

Natalie Davis is the current Miss Mankato. As an aspiring Miss Minnesota and Miss America (and of course, as a loving big sister), Natalie is dedicated to increasing awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorders in order to help her brother Trevor and others diagnosed with the disorder survive and thrive in today's society.

Natalie also works on behalf of the Miss America national platform, Children's Miracle Network (CMN), which raises money for children's hospitals across the nation. Gillette Children's Hospital, Minnesota's CMN hospital, is an happy place for kids to be during what could be a very tough hospital stay.

In addition to doing volunteer work, Natalie enjoys emceeing events, acting, modeling, and singing as both a soloist and as a member of the St. Olaf College Chapel Choir. She is looking forward to her third year at St. Olaf College, where she is majoring in Chemistry with concentrations in Education and Biomedical Studies.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Country is just pop in a cowboy hat

I'm not sure what the allure was, but I found myself tuning into the CMAs (in the background, anyway, while catching up on some reading) to watch Gwyneth Paltrow sing. I'm not even that big of a fan of Gwyneth. I think she's a good actress, but I don't follow her work. Yet, still, something about a movie star adding another "threat" to her resume had me interested.

I'm not a fan of country music, at least not contemporary country. I like Willie and Waylon and many other old-school country artists because what they sang, and the way they sang, was simply what came out of them. I have a hard time finding contemporary country artists that can say such a thing. Like pop music, it's a formulaic sound, with equal parts twang, porch stories and guitars.

Loretta Lynn was honored at the CMA's, and she seemed to exemplify the chasm between true roots country music and those of today. She grew up in a shack in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, learning to sing at church and reflecting that meager upbringing in every song she wrote. Even with her millions of dollars, she still could fit in easily in her old Kentucky neighborhood. She even had a replica of the shack she grew up in built on her land so she could go and sit and remember the good times of her youth, even though the family didn't have much. Marrying at age 13 or 14 to a man named Doo, much of her experiences learning to be a wife and mother are reflected in her songs. She says the majority of her songs are about her husband and their life together.

Her plain way of speaking, cutting right to the heart of things, is country music. The twang to her music isn't manufactured to make a song sound country. That's just the way she sounds. Loretta Lynn is country.

I don't have anything against some of the country artists honored at the CMAs Wednesday night. I've actually interviewed a few of them, including the big winner of the night, Miranda Lambert. She seems like a down-to-earth girl with a nice voice, and she seems truly humbled to have become such a success in the industry. Brad Paisley had his assistant call the newsroom at The Free Press to find out how to contact the winner of an essay contest we held: "Tell us how Brad Paisley's music has affected you personally, and you could win two tickets to the show." He wanted to invite the winner backstage to meet him. He also does a lot of great work for charity.

The Rascal Flatts are another story. I dislike their music, anyway, but I was talking to one of them on the phone in advance of their show at the civic center, and I said, "I really like that song Bless the Broken Road. I heard a great version by Melodie Crittenden a couple of years ago and loved it." And I'll never forget this ... He said, "No, that's our song. You couldn't have heard it before. That's our song." And I said, "Um, no, it's Marcus Hummon's song and a few people recorded it after him. You're just the latest to have done so." So then he said, "Hey Jay. That Broken Road song? That's our song, right?" And Jay yelled, "I dunno." ... So, needless to say, it doesn't seem as if the Rascal Flatts' music "simply comes out of them," considering they don't even know what music is theirs.

Anyhow, I guess my point is that with pop music, there's an understanding -- an accepted understanding -- that it's a business, a commodity. Katy Perry knows damn well "Teenage Dream" wasn't written because it speaks to her soul. It was written and recorded because it's a hit and it would sell records. She's fine with that. She's said that very thing. But there isn't that acknowledgment with a lot of these country artists, like the Flatts.

The music's formulaic, the twang is often manufactured, and many of the stories aren't reflections of their own experience (see Reba's "If I Were a Boy" cover during Wednesday's show). Contemporary country music is just pop wearing a cowboy hat.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Latest jerk crowned in 'Runway' family

I was thinking back to previous seasons of "Project Runway." I remember being disappointed when Uli lost to Jeffrey Sebelia in season 3. Or in season 6, when the mean Irina won over the super nice Carol Hannah. In those cases, however, I didn't question the winner's talent. They might have been jerks (a friend pointed out that 5 out of the 7 winners in past seasons have been mean or snobby to other contestants), but they had talent to back it up.

Last night I was disappointed for two reasons: One, Gretchen is a jerk (making it 6 jerks out of 8 winning designers). And two, her clothes are awful. When I see her Native American-inspired fabrics and jewelry, I get a flash to the wallpaper in my living room when I was a kid. My mom went through a Native American phase, and all the fabrics, wall art and accessories reflected the theme.

Where's the taste level? Why would they have gone for the showman/woman in every other season -- forgoing wearability for art -- and suddenly switch to matronly clothes attractive to shoppers at the Dress Barn? Is it a retro thing? Is '70s bargain fashion making a comeback? Is this a new fad I don't know about? Commune Chic?

Mondo at least had the arty element. I can't picture anyone wearing that much print, at least not in southern Minnesota, but he put on a visually interesting show. It had a lot of drama, it was constructed well, and his patterns -- despite being quite loud -- worked well together. Of the three, he was the clear winner.

Andy was the throwaway. There's always one designer you know has no chance. That was Andy. Grey and green jumpers just kept bouncing down the runway. Ho-hum.

I am disappointed, but I was thinking that there wasn't a designer in the bunch I was really passionate about. Nobody stood out to me. So, I guess if they're going to pick Gretchen, this is a good season to do it in -- when there's no one else who's so very much better that it illicits complete outrage. I'm not outraged. I'm just grossed out by her icky clothes, and I'm hoping I don't start seeing brown Navajo-inspired blouses everywhere.

"Runway," I'm quite sad I waited 13 weeks for THIS. You stink.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Skinny Marie Claire writer bullies 'fatties'

In my last post I suggested I should be crowned Queen of the Insenitive for my comments on a blubbering Michael C. on "Runway." Well, folks, Maura Kelly of Marie Claire has stolen my crown.

In an epically rude, mean-spirited and shallow blog post, she posed the question, "Think people feel uncomfortable when they see overweight people making out on television?"

If asking wasn't bad enough. She went on to answer her question.

“I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything,” she writes. “To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room.”

Backlash to Marie Claire was brutal. And warranted.

Read all about it here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blubbering does not a respected designer make

OK ... prepare to crown me Queen of the Insensitive ... that meltdown by Michael C. was just beyond. As much as I did not understand -- AT ALL -- the judges kind comments about Gretchen's hippie rags, there's a point when there's a camera in your face and you've just got to man up. America is watching, and snotting and blubbering all over your fellow designers is not going to make celebrities watching say, "I want to wear HIS clothes!" It's going to make them say, "Jeez, what a child."

Having said that, when did "pretty" go out the window? Michael C.'s clothes are pretty. They're so pretty. And I could practically hear a collective sigh in my neighborhood of all the women who saw his 11th garment and thought, "I would love to look that beautiful." Yet, to the judges, it's not enough. Heaven forbid he uses the same color pallet to design his collection. That somehow makes him simpleminded, despite the fact that his models all looked stunning.

Then there's Gretchen, who's models looked like they live in a commune. I believe it was Nina who said all they needed was a pair of Birkenstocks. Yet, she gets through. She ALWAYS goes through. Her colors are muted and earthy. Her silhouettes are matronly and sackish. Somebody please explain to me how that is cutting-edge fashion. SOMEBODY!

Mondo ... don't really need to discuss. We all knew he'd go through. He's worthy. I'm looking forward to his show.

Andy was another I thought might get kicked off tonight. His silver bikini made absolutely no sense to me. Past seasons have show they should have sent down the following: an evening, a day cocktail, separates with pants. Mondo did this. Michael C. did this (his mistake, apparently, was making them all brown). But neither Gretchen nor Andy did this. I thought Andy would be the one to get auf'd for this, although I secretly hoped it would be Gretchen. Apparently, the judges want to see more metallic jumpers from Andy.

Sigh. Sigh, I say! If only these judges would call me before they make such crazy decisions. It would save us all a little frustration.

; )

Finales next week!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mankato Mag wants your holiday recipes

Hi all! We want to publish reader-submitted holiday recipes in the December issue of Mankato Magazine. E-mail me the recipes for dishes or desserts that your family loves during the winter holidays. Also, write a brief explanation of why the recipe is important to your family. Send e-mails to or mail to: Amanda Dyslin, 418 S. Second St., Mankato, MN 56001.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Gretchen is a big whiner

I just can't help myself. I'm about to delight in someone else's misfortune. ...Gretchen, na-na-na-na-naaaa-naaaaaaaaa!

She's just such an awful person, and I was smiling quite widely as Heidi was sticking it to her. The best part was when she threw her fabric across the room. Dummy.

Let's back up. Last night's challenge was to design three looks that would fit into Heidi's personal line of active wear. Three of the designers rose to the challenge, and for once, they were the designers in the top three: Mondo, April and Andy.

April's were my favorite, but only aesthetically speaking. They were beautiful black and gray clothes, but too fancy for the challenge. You can't wear shear when you're out getting groceries. And I don't know a single woman who would be able to wear those cheek-high shorts.

Andy won, which was cool. His pieces were very much sportswear, and he made this cool design, all swirly like, with the fabric. (see photo) Mondo was good, as always. He managed to make good clothes without a bold pattern. Who knew?

The bottom three also should have been on the bottom. Not Michael C.'s night. He made pumpkin orange pants that looked like folds of skin hanging off the girl's hips.
And Christopher, who went home, looked like he picked random pieces of clothing out of a bargain bin at Wal-Mart. Horrendous. He definitely deserved to go home.

But Gretchen's performance was the highlight of Thursday night, simply because she was such a big baby, and somehow quite arrogant at the same time. She had the audacity to say she designed pieces that were "missing" in Heidi's collection. If she meant the garbage designs that were thrown out because they were awful, then yes, Gretchen, well done.

Her three pieces looked like 1980s jumpsuits. I don't remember if it was Nina who said that, but whoever did, they were right on. Maybe she can sell her pieces to Olivia Newton John.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Yay for Mondo the Brave

Let's just forget about the fashion for a moment. Thursday night's "Runway" was a good one simply for the "awwww" factor and the emotional kick to the gut.

I was so proud of Mondo for deciding, that after 10 years of secrecy, he wasn't going to hide who he was anymore and come out as HIV positive. In this day and age, "the cocktail" has resulted in many HIV positive people living long, healthy lives. HIV is no longer a death sentence as it once was thought of. Still, he comes from a conservative Catholic family and has a mother who told him to never tell anyone else that he's gay. When you feel you're an outcast in society, I can only imagine how much more important your family must become to you and how much more their acceptance becomes important. I completely understand why he felt he needed to keep the secret from them.

That's why I felt it was so brave and such a wonderful step forward for him to come out. Good for you, Mondo! And good for you, also, for winning your third challenge in a row. I'm not sure if it's a "Runway" first, but it was certainly well deserved.

Back to business: I'll make my summary quick today. Everyone except for Mondo sucked. I hated everyone's design Thursday night. I blame the mothers. The show was so sweet and invited everyone's mother (and Christopher's partner and Michael C.'s son) to come surprise them in the workroom. They got the rest of the first work day off to hang with their fams. I think they all got distracted by emotion to turn out good clothes. Everyone except for Mondo, whose outfit was pretty awesome.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The monster has been unleashed

A couple of factors had me worried about the season premiere of "Dexter," my most beloved Showtime program (especially after the incredibly groundbreaking last season ... I heart John Lithgow).

For one -- although completely unrelated -- "True Blood," my most beloved HBO program, SUCKED. Awful, awful season of loose story lines, uninteresting character development and the ever-unfolding "everybody is something" syndrome, i.e., fairies and werewolves and werepanthers, oh my! Because of this letdown, I didn't want to get my hopes too high that "Dexter" would be able to make Sunday nights exciting for me again. (When you're my age, kids, you will start to find good TV exciting, OK? Back off.)

Secondly, the trailers weren't well done. For whatever reason, creators thought it a good idea to make the previews sound and look over-the-top dramatic, in one case even having Don LaFontaine, or someone who does a damn good impression, do voiceover work. (He's the voice of most movie previews, in case you did not know.)

I was concerned. "Dexter" took a step into a whole new level of sophistication last season. It wasn't just a good, juicy serial killer show anymore. It was nuanced. The acting better than ever. The storyline bold and unpredictable! The previews looked dumbed down. Quite predictable. Dex looked as if the murder hadn't sank in, saying things like "But I've always been a very neat monster." Um, yeah, we know that already.

I kept thinking back to my questions and expectations after last season. There was so very much room for this to unleash the monster in Dexter. For the organized, methodical serial killer to unveil his darker self. I was so hoping the writers would take the next step, be brave and show us a whole new side of our favorite murderer. A scarier side.

And you know what? I shouldn't have been worried. I won't say much for those who didn't see Sunday night's premiere yet, but I think we're in for a great ride this season. The acting, writing -- just as smart. And Dexter, I think the leash is coming off.

Friday, September 24, 2010



That pretty much sums up my thoughts on last night's "Runway." And that is because: Everybody in the top of Thursday night's judging, I would have put on the bottom. And a couple of people on the bottom? Yeah, I totally would have put them in the top.

What the hell?! I'm so sick of this year's judging. Drives me nuts.

So, the challenge was to design a couture garment using a style of fabric: metallic, velvet, etc. They're told they're given two days, so like idiots, a lot of them were lollygagging around the work room as if they'd never seen the show before. And then all of a sudden, Tim comes in on the second day and says "Designers, you have to design a second look," a ready to wear companion piece to the couture. OF COURSE THEY DO. THIS IS "PROJECT RUNWAY," DUMMIES. So they get all shocked and horrified and boo hoo and whatever. But they all manage to pull it off in time.

So, here's the break down. Gretchen, Andy and Mondo make it into the top. Michael C., Valerie and Ivy are on the bottom.

Where to begin ...

How about with Gretchen, who made a matronly, velvet dressing gown that would have been too dowdy for a lady 500 years ago (see photo). Her companion dress, aside from the slutty slits up the side, would sell well at the Dress Barn. And the judges just lapped it up like kittens. Loved it! Trust me, I was watching on High Def and got a good up-close look at every bead and feather, and I can honestly tell you, there was NOTHING couture about that monstrosity. My jaw dropped.

Mondo won. His was OK. His style always reminds me of traffic signs and police tape, though. Jarring, geometric, structured, off-putting.

And Andy ... All I can say is that his model looked like a Chinese dragon. That's as clear as I can make it.

Michael C., on the other hand, who everybody hates but who has never been in the bottom until last night, made GORGEOUS companion dresses out of bordeaux material that was to die for (see photo). His train on his couture was a little long and too structured, sure. But the bones of the dress were wonderful. A couple of minor alterations, and they would have been perfect.

I liked Valerie's white dress, too, which was her couture. Her black companion dress was totally last minute and not cute, but her white was striking. Hated it -- they just hated it. Uhh, whatever.

My only nice surprise of the evening was watching Ivy go home. She's so very mean, and last night, her couture dress was just a train wreck. Imagine an aqua mermaid got roughed up in a car accident and that's what her dress looked like (see photo). A raggedy mess of aqua and blue chiffon. Despite the fact that her companion dress was a cute little cocktail number, her meanness outweighs her slight bit of talent in my eyes. I would choose Valerie to stay over her a thousand times. Good riddance!

The judges better put their contacts in next week. Getting a little tired of having to come on here and school them. ; )

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Do rich people have an entirely different wardrobe for vacations?

Notes from the "Runway" is back! ...
A pet-peeve to start ...
Michael Kors: Every designer, no matter who they are, he says, will make a resort collection. ... What? Did anyone else think to themselves when Heidi was issuing the challenge tonight "What the hell are resort clothes?" Maybe we're Minnesotan, Midwestern salt-of-the-Earth types who don't do resorts. But hey, I'm betting the majority of "Runway's" viewership doesn't hit the "resorts" on the weekends. Where are these places? Southern California? The Hamptons? And are there seriously specific kinds of clothes people wear to resorts? What makes them "resort clothes" instead of, say, Sunday afternoon garden party clothes, or, say, just plain vacation clothes? Weirdest challenge. Just weird.

One more pet-peeve: I'm tired of the finky finks this season. Gretchen and Ivy need to shut it. Even after poor Michael C. wins TWO challenges, they're sure they're right that he sucks and the judges are wrong. And the abuse continues tonight as Mondo, on the bottom this challenge, explains to the judges how proud he is to have had the opportunity to "guide" Michael C. through this challenge. Ummm, Michael C. was passed through to the next round, Mondo. You're the idiot standing on the runway next to your sailor-inspired adolescent bikini. Ivy committed a similar offense by blaming Christopher for her own shoddy and boring white pants and grey top. That's a design problem, not a construction problem.

I should back up. Thursday night's challenge was to partner up with another designer and have that designer execute your design. So, Ivy sketched an outfit, and Christopher cut and sewed it, for example. The idea is that most designers don't construct their own work in the real world. They outsource. I get that. But in the real world, I must point out, DESIGNERS GET TO PICK WHO THEY WANT TO TAILOR THEIR CLOTHES.

Anyway, my favorites tonight included April, who won the challenge (her first). She made a see-through babydoll dress that was black, with a solid black bra top and black boy shorts underneath. It was really cute and edgy at the same time.

I also liked Andy's, which was a silver and purple bathing suit with a flowy wrap over it. Although I thought it was crap that guest judge Kristen Bell liked how "versatile" the garment was because someone size "12 or 2" could wear it. Well, let's see, the bathing suit showed more skin than Playboy, so I don't know a size 12 who would go there, Kristen Bell, size pre-teen.

Who did we hate ... Ivy, for being rude and boring. Gretchen, because her garment was gold, purple and Old Lady. And Michael C., actually, because I almost saw boob under those thin halter straps.

I actually didn't hate Casanova's tonight, even though he went home. The top was interesting. I liked the belt. I get what they mean about it being old. It was. But it was sophisticated, which is more than I can say for some of those pieces.

Monday, August 30, 2010

And the worst dressed of the Emmys goes to ...

It's tough picking out just the right gown and matching it with just the right jewels and hairstyle. So it doesn't seem nice to tear someone down who obviously took a great deal of time ... oh, what the hell. And the worst dressed award goes to ...

"Modern Family's" Ty Burrell and wife. I HOPE she was joking.

Best dressed, by the way, goes to Claire Danes. LOVELY.

Have a look yourself and decide.

Coolest Emmy intro ever ...

Here's the "Glee" version of "Born to Run," with a little help from Tina Fey, John Hamm, Jimmy Fallon and others.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oscar buzz again for Hilary?

There's Oscar buzz surrounding this Sam Rockwell/Hilary Swank movie already. I'm excited to already be hearing the words "Oscar buzz" again, because I love that season of movies. But I don't know ... looks a little melodrama-y. What do we think?

Monday, August 23, 2010

I love polka-dots!

I love polka-dots! A.J.'s dress Thursday night was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. It was a navy and white polka-dotted fabric. Very Audrey Hepburn. Loved the cowl neck and the black bow around the waste. By far my favorite dress.

The hat challenge overall was pretty fun. The designers had to design garments that worked well with large statement hats provided by a guest designer on the judge's panel. I'd say his name, but I can't remember it, and none of you would probably recognize it anyway.

Most of the designers did pretty well. But for once, I actually agreed on who did the worst: April for her three-tiered panty shorts, and Kristin for her raggish "irish" dress. (Kristin went home.)

I was floored by Christopher being in the bottom 3, though. I thought he was going to win! And they hated it. He made this edgy silver dress with a black floral print and paired it with silver leggings and black boots. Gorgeous.

The winner, Michael, did an OK job. But it was a helluva lot of bronze for one Grecian dress. Not for me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

365 Days. 365 New Outfits. 365 Dollars.

You have to check out this blog by an AWESOME and resourceful young woman who is in the midst of buying 365 dresses, with $365, and transforming them into modern, wearable clothes in 365 days. It's amazing! It all started last October when she lost her job and wanted daily inspiration akin to "Julie & Julia" to lift her spirits.

Here's a link to her blog, New Dress A Day.

And here's a link to a story Mother Nature Network published about her.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Married to the mob, mother of a murderer ... here we go again

Nancy Botwin has wormed her way out of many difficult situations during five seasons of "Weeds." But let's face it, she's backed herself into quite a corner this time. She's married to the Mexican mafia head/governor, and her son just murdered said mafia's PR representative. The Botwins are going to have to move to Alaska and change their names!

Here's a peek at the new season, which starts Monday night!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Casanova's parents couldn't have picked a more inappropriate name

First of all, so sorry dear 'Runway' blog readers! Today was insane, so I didn't have time until now to write about last night's show, which, by the way, was the first challenge where I felt like, "OK, this is the 'Project Runway' I know and love.'"

I've always had a soft spot for the "weird store" challenge, when they've had to go into grocery stores and other unlikely retailers and put a dress together using cabbage and plastic cups and such. Last night, the crew headed into a party supply store. How fun! Think of all the wonderful things in those stores -- streamers and pinatas and inflatable palm trees, oh my!

I must say, the vast majority of the designers totally rose to the challenge. How awesome was Valerie's black and white napkin dress? That would have been a chic silhouette had she made it out of fabric, let alone paper napkins. I also loved Ivy's silver/gray dress. I think those were folded napkins, too. 600 of them!

For once, the person who should have won did. Andy's black and silver braded cocktail dress was so awesome. It really looked like leather!
And once again, for the third time in a row, Gretchen was in the top 2. I liked her outfit. But I liked others better. I also liked other personalities better. What kind of a know-it-all is she? She went around telling everybody what they were doing wrong, and then told A.J. he was only acting pissy to her because he was in the bottom. Noooo, he was pissy at her because she's straight-up annoying and overbaring.

Speaking of A.J., he's supposed to be the expert on working with found materials. But his ridiculous Debbie Gibson-esque party mess-dress was an explosion of suck. I couldn't look at it without squinting. And yet, they let him through to ruin another ensemble on another day.

I couldn't believe they picked Sarah to go home over A.J. or Casanova, who turned in another insane mess. His outfit, first of all, was made out of tablecloths, and they were all discouraged from using materials that could be seen as fabric-esque. And then he goes crazy with it! It was a disco, mermaid, 80s prom nightmare. (It's funny sometimes to think his name is Casanova. He's the least charming designer in the room!)
Sarah's dress, on the other hand, was just boring. And she at least knew it. Give her some credit for self-awareness, wouldya?

The person I thought should have gone home didn't even make it into the bottom three. He just got passed through without a critque to the next round. Michael's dress was like this upside-down blue plastic toulip skirt that didn't fit. And on the top was a cheap, silvery, plastic top that also didn't fit. The moment I saw it, I said, "He's going home tonight." And then I remembered ... oh yeah, a bunch of drama queens are running this show, so they'd never make a decision that made so much sense.

Until next week ...

(Pictured above is Andy's dress.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

A rotten Peach and some very shady business ...

SHADY! That was just plain shady business last night. Did I miss the part where they explained to the designers that on each episode there was a chance for more than one person to go home? Rude. Very rude. That cute little elf-looking guy... ummm ... still learning names ... Nicholas! There he had just watched Mr. Jason Bowler Hat get booted, and surely he thought that meant he was safe. And then Heidi unleashes her suppressed angry German roots: I said Auf Wiedersehen, damn it! ...OK, she said something to the effect of "I'm sorry, you are out, too." But still.

Jeez. I don't know. This season is just weird. Usually I see a designer or two with a really cool vision and style and I latch onto them. I don't see anyone, talent-wise or personality-wise, where I care what they're working on. Is this show over for me? I'm going to stick it out this season, but I tell you, I'm continuously disappointed by casting the past couple of seasons.

Anyhow, another big win last night for Gretchen. I liked it. It was a blue jumper, but I liked it. Still, I thought for sure Valerie's red sporty/sexy dress would take it.

As for the bad garments, there are many to choose from, but I'll just mention Jason's for sure. He got kicked off for good reason with this silver wrap dress held together by safety pins ... ON PURPOSE. Enough said, I think. Here's a little "behind the scenes" video to show you what I mean.

And then poor old lady Peach turned in a polka dotted tea party frock with a brown alien crawling down its back. I posted a picture so you can see what I'm talking about. I don't think Peach is long for the Runway.

That's all for now. Hopefully I'll be excited about something next week. Ho, hum.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The 'Runway' went nutty on us ...

I suppose, after so many seasons, "Project Runway" felt the need to get gimmicky with the first episode. Bizarre is really the only word that comes to mind.

This season, they've already beefed up the show to 90 minutes (and after last night, the extra 30 seemed like uneeded fat). Then to top it off, the 17 designers brought to New York (yes 17!) were told they weren't even on the show yet. One or more of them would not even make it as contestants. Instead, all 17 had to vie for their spot on the show by designing a garment using an item from another contestant's suitcase in ... wait for it ... 5 HOURS. Just 5 hours for a challenge!

Now, granted, the challenge was kind of interesting. We've seen the crazy garb that some of these designers wear each season, so who knows what the poor normal-dressers would have to deal with in terms of fabric to work with. Plus, the 5-hour part of the challenge was pretty interesting because I couldn't sketch a pretty dress in 5 hours, let alone construct one out of fabric and thread.

Still, the whol thing seemed a little forced for ratings. I don't like stunts for the sake of stunts. I like them when they allow us to see some kind of extra ability each designer might have. Make a dress out of newspaper, for example, shows the creativity and construction skills of the designers. Forcing them to throw something together in 5 hours doesn't bring the best out of anyone. But I digress.

My main problem with the season kick-off was the girl who got sent home. Now, there was a designer named Casanova (no joke) who sent a model down the runway in hooker clothing. She was so naked, I thought for sure she would come falling out of that scarf-dress from all sides. Yet he made it onto the show. There was also a designer whose name I don't recall (and the Project Runway website won't load because of so much traffic) who A) wore a bowler hat, B) sent a model down the runway in a backward coat that he stapled up the back, and C) still made it onto the show. I take offense to all three. And the main reason I do is because the adorable designer who did get kicked off the show, McKell -- the only designer to get kicked off the show -- had a BEAUTIFUL dress. It was constructed well on time. It was creative. It was pretty. And it was FAR from the worst dress to get sent down the Runway. Tim even said he really liked it in the workroom!

Gretchen was the designer who won with a pretty black dress. She cut it beautifully and incorporated the fabric, which was really hard to work with, in a beautiful way. She deserved to win.

To see photos of all of these garments and get to know the new designers, visit the PR Web site.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Regarding your hateful anonymous letter ...

It's not uncommon to receive anonymous letters in this line of work. We put an opinion or a story out there, and sometimes they don't always sit well with readers.

I respect and appreciate the opinions of readers that are not hateful, but rather passionate and supported by facts or personal beliefs. I also respect and appreciate readers who sign their names to such letters.

Often -- and in the case of a letter I received Monday in regard to MTV's "16 and Pregnant" teen being filmed in Mankato -- the anonymous letter-writer states that he or she did not sign his or her name because they're too ashamed of the situation that they're writing out. That's bull. They're afraid.

They know full well that when one attacks with hatred, they will often receive it in return. So they use the old anonymous letter as a way to vent frustration. To what end? I have no idea. I wonder if this particular letter-writer thought I would say to myself, "Ah ha! I knew I was missing something. Why in the world was I thinking it would be a good idea to report on an MTV camera crew being in town, filming all over the city and causing commotion and making people wonder what is going on? After all, she's just a 'loser knocked-up teenager,'" to borrow her words.

Well, Anonymous Writer, today your words will be published right here on this blog to give people the opportunity to weigh in on your thoughts. We don't have your name, of course. But whoever responds, I will gladly correspond with you if you provide yours.

Here is the letter (the bolded sections were bolded by the writer, presumably for added emphasis.) ... Please note her presumption, by the way, that this teenager doesn't have a decent family to help care and pay for the child (I know this to be incorrect, by the way) and that the state will be paying for everything from birth to college. Also note that as a decent "married woman" and "responsible person," as she calls herself, who has never met this young girl, she has made the all-knowing judgment that the girl should either abort her baby or give it up for adoption:

To: Amanda Dyslin, Free Press Features Editor

RE: "MTV is among us, probably for a while" (should be awhile?) anyway ------

Your story today was very sobering. Our community will be supporting yet another bastard child born to a loser knocked-up teenager.

I would suggest more stories on this subject to include:

1. This girl is being exploited while MTV is raking in huge dollars and they don't give a crap about what happens to the lives involved.

2. The only happy ending would be adoption.

3. Another happy ending would be abortion?

4. The bill to taxpayers??? $15,000+ labor, delivery, physician visits (If it is uncomplicated), ADC, numerous government programs for counseling, housing, work supplements, breakfast and lunch when in school, a free education, etc. etc. Outrageous, pathetic.

5. Extol the fine work of Planned Parenthood.

As a MARRIED mother, college graduate, and responsible person, I cannot give my name because I am embarrassed for our community and this situation makes me sick and angry.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

'Dexter' season 5 trailer REVEALED!

Hol-ee smokes.
All you Dextees out there, remember the season finale of "Dexter"? How could you forget, right!!!!!!!!?????????
Incredibly daring television.
Well, at Comic-con, the trailer for Season 5 was unveiled. Looks INSANE.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Meet the Rain Kings, formerly ILL-Gotten Booty

Hey there! Check out the latest band to be inducted in The Free Press Meet the Band series: the Rain Kings. Formerly ILL-Gotten Booty, the band evolved into something newer and fresher about a year ago and have been playing southern Minnesota bars and clubs ever since.
Check 'em out HERE!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Back by popular demand ... 'Project Runway' blog!

I know, I know. I let you down. Last season, I just was not into "Project Runway" and therefore could not bring myself to be witty and funny and extremely, extremely amusing in blog entries following each episode. I quit. I failed. Due to numerous e-mails and in-person inquiries (does three count as numerous?), I have decided to bring back the "Runway" blog for season 8. Woooooooooooo! So for the three of you who followed loyally and were saddened when I bailed, this is for you. For everybody else, I'll find other stuff to write about, too. Don't worry.

Curious about this season, which kicks off July 29 on Lifetime? Here's a trailer. Enjoy!

Friday, July 9, 2010

MTV was (is?) in Mankato ... but where are they now?

So, my Facebook pal Diane Winegar is the co-owner of Sweet Peas on Riverfront. It's a store for baby goods. She said an MTV crew came in today (Friday) with a girl for their show "16 and Pregnant." It's a reality show about teens who are pregnant and how their lives are changing as a result. Each episode features a new teen. I'm wondering if this means the girl lives in Mankato and has a TV crew following her pretty much 24/7 right now. I'd love to get to the bottom of this for a story. If anyone has the skinny, shoot me an e-mail at Thanks!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I was a geek, pretending to be a freak

On the Fourth, my family and I were flipping through the channels and came upon the pilot of "Freaks and Geeks" that was just about to begin. So, of course, we watched the whole thing and remembered what a truly great show that was, albeit short lived.

I was also reminded how much like Lindsay I was in high school. She's the main character of the show who, like many teenage kids, is trying to figure out where she fits in.

After a few years distance from high school, you finally start to be honest with yourself about what group you fit into. No more posturing. Just the cold, hard truth: Were you a jock, a geek, a freak or one of the popular elite?

I've decided, after careful consideration, I was a geek pretending to be a freak. I got good grades. As and Bs. I defintely was not part of the popular group or the jocks. In Fairmont, that tended to be blond skinny girls with money and the boys who followed them around. Early on, 7th and 8th grade, I joined the choir and started doing behind-the-scenes work on school plays. Holding the spotlight and coordinating costuming.

But, right around the age of 14, I got the itch to "be cool" in some way. The catalyst? A boy, of course.

He was a naughty kid. Smoked. Drank. Etc. So in high school, I joined the "freak" crowd. The naughty kids who cut class and partied. As I was watching "Freaks and Geeks" and how awkward Lindsay was with that group, I realized I must have looked the same way. My friends were nice kids. But they had no direction. There was no question that they wouldn't be going to college. I knew most of them would probably live their lives in Fairmont, which, at the time, seemed like the worst fate imaginable for a teenage kid in a small town. And, at the same time, even while I was surrounding myself with this crowd, I knew there was no question that I would be going to college. Never once did I question the importance of getting good grades and staying out of trouble, despite the fact that most of the people whose opinions I seemed to value most were dropping out of school left and right.

That draw to be accepted and to find somewhere you feel "cool" is pretty much all-consuming in high school. If only we could all enjoy the comfort of self-acceptance as kids that arrives like a gift one day in adulthood. Suddenly, who you are is just fine. We'd all save ourselves pain and worry that ends up not amounting to much later on, except arguably the character that comes from growing pains.

If you haven't seen "Freaks and Geeks," you should definitely watch it. It lasted less than a season in the '90s, but there's no better show that illustrates the awkward dance of teenage politics. It will definitely have you examining what group you fit into and realizing that, whichever it was, you came out just fine.

Oh, and P.S., Judd Apatow was the executive producer and wrote six of the episodes. I had no idea!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fairmont fun on the Fourth

I love the Fourth. Such a nice, low-key holiday. No gift-pressure. No huge meal that takes hours to prepare. Just family, fireworks and something on the grill.

I'm looking forward to this weekend a lot. Headed home to Fairmont for all of the above. I also have a few Fairmont favorites planned that aren't attached to the holiday, but that most Fairmont natives must have when they return: black raspberry ice cream from the Dairy Freeze, and a Channel burger from the Channel Inn. Occasionally on Facebook someone from high school will post a status update about dreaming about a Channel burger. Truly, the best burger in the world. I would also add "order a Jake's pizza" to the list, but I figure with the grilling out and everything, there probably won't be time for that. But anyone else who visits Fairmont should stop into Jake's for sure. Best pizza ever.

For an activity that is attached to the Fourth, I will be walking with my family to my grandma's old house on Lake Park Boulevard right across from the lake where they shoot off the firworks. Tons and tons of boats go out on the lake, and everyone else picks a piece of lakeside real estate to park it, get eaten by mosquitos and enjoy the show. I like to sit on the retaining wall in front of my grandma's old house. She doesn't live there anymore, but nobody really cares who sits in their yards on the Fourth. Brings back memories of all of my cousins and me posing for pictures on the front steps and coloring on the front porch.

Also on the Fourth agenda: see "Eclipse." There is no such thing as a sold-out screening in Fairmont, or at least, not any time I've been there. I think maybe the first day the theater opened and they were showing "Dumb and Dumber," I think then maybe it was a full theater. I was 12. And that's the last I remember it being full.
Speaking of which, I recommend everyone who wants to see a big blockbuster movie on opening weekend -- and who doesn't want to sit next to a stranger shoveling popcorn into their mouth in an overcrowded theater -- go to St. Peter Cinema 5. There's always plenty of seats, the tickets are cheaper and so are the concessions. If they'd only get Coke products, I'd be in heaven. Incidentally, they also do not have 3D, so you can save yourself the $3 extra fee for a 3D movie that is forced upon you in Mankato. The "Eclipse" showing you wanted to go to sold out in Mankato this weekend? Seriously, go to St. Peter.

So, anyway, the point of this post before I started rambling was to say Happy Fourth. I hope you have a low-key, relaxing, happy holiday.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Twilight: A guilty pleasure, indeed

I readily admit, I got sucked into the "Twilight" craze, too. A friend recommended the books two summers ago, and I think I had the first three read within two weeks and waited very impatiently for the fourth, which I had read in two days.

The movies have been sort of "eh" for me. It's one thing to read romantic junk, and it's another thing to hear and see the romantic junk on a giant screen. Hearing those ridiculous, cheesy lines of dialogue out loud gets tough, and I'm sure "Eclipse" will be toughest of all, considering half the book could be summed up with these lines:
"You're hot. I love you. Have sex with me." -Bella.
"No, I can't. I'm virtuous. Marry me and then maybe." -Edward.

So, I must admit, it's been kind of fun to read all the terrible reviews before each movie comes out. They're always quite scathing, especially the 40-something men who leave the theater dazed and annoyed. And I find myself agreeing with a lot of what they're saying, yet, I know full well that I'll be there in the theater with millions of other Twihards on opening weekend. It's hard to pinpoint why that is. The "Twilight" saga is definitely one of those phenomenons that only girly girls seem to understand. There's something about love and longing that we can't get enough of. But either way, it's good to recognize that this is very much a guilty pleasure. Here are a few funny reviews of "Eclipse."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Compassion equals good reporting

This post doesn't have much to do with entertainment, but neither does my job when the weather gets bad.

When there's a big story at The Free Press, beats cease to matter. The entertainment writer can easily turn into the tornado-chaser or the crime reporter if something big happens, and I'm the only person available when we hear about it. Weather seems to be the most frequent catalyst. And, you know what? At first it's fun. Somebody like me, who writes about ballets and plays and music, gets that old feeling again when it's time to pitch in on actual news. It's that little rush, knowing I've got a very limited amount of time to go where the action is, talk to as many people as possible and hound police for as many details as I can before deadline. The pressure is exciting. Your job suddenly feels very important.

I had that feeling Friday as I sat home watching the weather deteriorate outside my window. Hail pelted windows on all sides of my house. It was pitch black. The cable and internet were out. The electricity was flashing on and off. And on my radio, I was listening to all kinds of callers reporting damage on the roads and funnel clouds dipping down. I knew when the weather let up, I might need to head to work to help out. One reporter can't be expected to cover the entire region, so volunteers are needed when the destruction is so wide-ranging.

When I finally got through to someone (The Free Press phone system was out for a while), I headed where I was needed. A house in upper North was struck by lightning and caught fire, and it sounded pretty bad. Getting there was tough. Lookout was completely flooded, which I didn't know until I was on the off ramp with six other vehicles, and all of us had to figure out how to turn around and head the wrong way on the off ramp and try and rejoin traffic on the highway. I took the long way around, losing precious time. You always get that feeling in your stomach that if you take too long, you'll miss the flames and the action. The owners will have left. Your story will be gone.

When I got to Rolling Green Lane, I had to park at the end of the blocked-off street. The other end was completely flooded. Firetrucks and hoses were scattered everywhere. Looky-loos were lining the sidewalk across the street, but no one knew who owned the townhome, which was completely destroyed by fire. I could see the fireplace of the front room because the roof was completely gone. The car was still in the garage, completely covered in debris.

At this point, it's still a rush. As a reporter, you're taking all of this in so you can set the scene. You're noting the location of the house, any peripheral damage, you're sizing up people standing in neighboring yards, asking yourself if they look distressed enough to be the owners of the house so you can go get the scoop. At this point, you're still a reporter. You're the job.

But then I found them. I crossed the road, walked past hoses and firetrucks, parted a crowd of people and asked a woman if she knew who lived there. She pointed me to the woman who was standing next to her, the one who was staring with disbelief at what was once her home. And the one next to it was her parents' home. And on the other side was her sister's home. And the last damaged townhome belonged to her friends.

This is when the job starts to strip away a little bit. The rush of the big story is replaced by empathy and sadness. You ask the questions you know you're supposed to ask, but you find that they're not at all mechanical. You want to ask them how they feel, if they have a place to stay. You want to know they're going to be OK. And, even though they're strangers to you, you want them to know that you care and that you're sorry this happened to them.

You hear a lot about objectivity when it comes to being a journalist. Objectivity is very important. We mustn't be biased in our reporting. But when it comes to tragedy, we must also be able to convey hardship in a real and honest way. And I can't imagine how one would do that without empathy and compassion. I am a reporter, but I'm human first. And when I feel for someone who has suffered great loss, it only helps me write the truth about the tragedy.

It's funny how you can be a reporter for eight years and still forget that chasing after the big story is fun at first until you're confronted with reality. Then it's not just "the storm story." It's people in the midst of one of the worst moments of their lives.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

To infinity, and beyond!

I would just like to give two very enthusiastic thumbs up to "Toy Story 3" and recommend you go. All of you. Kids or no kids, doesn't matter. Go.

Pixar really takes the movie to an adult level at one point that I've never seen it go before, and at the end be prepared to weep openly in the theater, but the rest is what you've come to expect from Pixar: touching, funny and full of adventure. Fits perfectly with the other two movies, and if the end hadn't felt like a kick to the gut, I'd go again. As such, I think I'll save fellow movie goers my blubbering and wait until it comes out on video.

You might enjoy this website that lists 60 "Easter Eggs" found in "Toy Story 3." These are little inside jokes and references to other Pixar films and things.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hollywood has gone too far: claymating Smurfs is heresy

What the WHAT!?
Hollywood has ruined a great many cartoons with terrible remakes: the Chipmunks and Garfield, to name a couple.
But nobody -- I said NOBODY -- should be allowed to touch the Smurfs. Who are these idiots! You can't claymate Smurfs! Check out this terrible, terrible trailer, and then scroll down and watch the actual cartoon. Why not just re-release the wonderful cartoons or something?

Are you a board-game family? Call us!!!

Remember board games? Clue, Monopoly, Battleship, Taboo?

Some people still gather the family around these non- electronic games for a night of family fun. If this is you — call us!

Our Country Living issue of Mankato Magazine in August will take you back to a simpler time.

And, as such, we want to feature families who choose Cranium over XBox, Blokus over Wii, Sorry over Playstation.

E-mail Nicole Smith at nicolere­, or call Amanda Dyslin at 507-344-6388, or comment on this blog post.

Monday, June 14, 2010

EXTRA! EXTRA! Lemon-raspberry scones back at Hag!

A few weeks ago I informed you that the lemon-raspberry scones would not be available at the Coffee Hag for a month and that I would inform you when they were. Dear readers, I have failed you. Sometime in the interim, the best scones on Earth made a quiet return to the Hag. When I went in the other day and asked if they had been back, I was horrified to learn I had missed them.

This lead to swift action. Upon learning that the lemon-raspberries were being frozen, while other flavors enjoyed their day in the limelight behind the glass case, I special ordered a half-dozen.

For all of you lemon-raspberry addicts like me, it's important you know this is an option. Special order a half-dozen, keep them frozen, and dole them out to yourself as needed. Your only other option is to keep checking into the Hag every couple of days, praying you don't miss them. The choice is yours.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The origin of the family dish

I'm the fifth generation of woman in my family to own this glass dish. There's no engraved label or logo, no company name, no date. I'm just wondering if anyone has something similar and might be able to give me a clue as to the company that made this and the approximate date. I'm very curious.

I'm mighty "Blood" thirsty

Tonight (Sunday!) is the night! The "True Blood" season 3 premiere. I cannot wait. Five hours left.

My sister has been trying to get me into the mini-sodes released by the studio in advance of the new season. They're these two- or three-minute episodes about each character, but they're pretty boring. They don't seem to say anything to further the plot.

I posted one below. The first video below is the season 3 extended trailer. Very exciting. And the second video is the mini-sode for Jason Stackhouse. I have a new appreication for Jason since I saw him on a couple of talk shows. The guy who plays him, Ryan Kwanten, is actually Australian and wears glasses and is quiet, smart and seems kind of arrogant. He couldn't be anymore different than his character, Jason, who is dumb as a bowl of noodles and loud. Now that I know what he's really like, I'm admiring the acting more.
Anyhow, for all you "Blood" thirsty viewers out there, I hope the show is everything you hoped it would be tonight.

Ultimate Fan Season 3 Preview

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Salma Hayek officially a giant weirdo

OK, between this and breastfeeding a random orphan, Salma Hayek has apparently taken the torch from Tom Cruise for biggest weirdo.
Watch this whole clip. You won't regret it. My favorite part is how she practically tramples her co-star to save herself ... from a snake ... on the ground ... snakes don't jump three feet in the air, by the way.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rocking to tons of summer TV ... Mmmmm, Mad Men

In May I get sad. I love TV, and in May, network TV ends its seasons of shows, and I'm left with the warm outdoors to entertain me. Boooooo.

Just kidding. I do love this time of year, and I do love taking my dogs for walks and to the park. But, sigh ... TV. It's been a love affair since birth. Literally. My mom was quite young when she had me. Just 21 years old. And a new 21. My birthday is exactly two weeks after hers in December. So, as a young mom, the TV was always on and was often tuned into MTV. In the early 1980s, MTV was brand new, and my mom was their target age and audience.

My mom discovered early on how to keep me occupied. She put me in my chair swing, cranked it up, set me in front of the TV and let me swing and watch, swing and watch, etc., etc. My first complete sentence was "Coke is it," the slogan for Coca-Cola in 1981-82. That should give you a good idea of how much I watched.

...Incidentally, guess what I'm doing right now, at the age of 29? I'm sitting in a rocking chair -- addicted to the things my whole life -- and watching TV. Not much has changed in 29 years.

So, I have been mourning the lack of good programming lately. I like watching reruns of Food Network shows like "Ace of Cakes," or any house-hunting/repair kind of show on HGTV. But it's not the same as a good drama you can follow from week to week, wondering what will happen next.

That's why I was so psyched today when I realized a ton of summer shows are about to kick off on the premium channels!!
Here's what we've got coming up:

Sunday -- "True Blood," HBO. When we left Bon Temps last, Bill had just been kidnapped, oh my! Right before he was about to propose to Sookie!!!

June 16: "Top Chef," Bravo. ...OK, not a drama, but still good TV.

June 27: "Entourage," HBO. Will Vince be riding Hollywood high this season, or back in Loserville, a ala post-"Medellin"?

July 25: "Mad Men," AMC. Dear god, where to begin ... We ended with a total cliffhanger. A new firm, a divorce, a completely new ballgame. Can't wait.

Aug. 18: "Weeds," Showtime. OK, well, I don't know. I'm sort of excited, and I will watch this season, but "Weeds" has gotten so out of hand. Remember first season? Mary Louise played a suburban mom selling pot to feed her family after her husband dies. Simple, intriguing and funny plot line. Now, her son just killed somebody, she's married to a Mexican drug lord who wants her dead, she had his baby, and her brother-in-law is in love with her. It's just so far out there. But, as I said, I will still be watching.

Gah! So excited. What shows are you psyched for this summer?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Goonies never say die!

Gooooonies!!! I loved that movie when I was a kid. Still do! There was a Goonie's reunion, and it was super fun to see what the cast looks like now -- especially Chunk. I posted his pic to the right here. Can you believe that? The boy who was once capable of the Truffle Shuffle? He couldn't do it now if he tried. ... sigh.

Read all about the reunion here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tenacious D dude on 'The Five Count'

From Dustin Wilmes, 89.7 FM:

This Saturday, The Five Count will feature an interview with Kyle Gass. In addition to appearing in films like Elf, School of Rock, and Shallow Hal, Kyle is also one-half of the greatest band in the world, Tenacious D! He's currently on tour with his other band, Trainwreck.

Tune in at 11 p.m. this Saturday (June 5th) to hear KG on The Five Count!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Parisian Palace: Sans cracks

In the home-improvement issue of Mankato Magazine a few months ago, I wrote an essay about my first-time homeownership experience. I talked about being single, without any handyman skills, and taking on the upgrades of a 130-year-old home in Old Town.

Mostly, I had success stories: putting in my own sod, landscaping, refinishing floors, renovating a bathroom, putting up a tile backsplash, etc. But the story in my essay that seemed to stick out the most for people was when I wrote about my master bedroom. I moved into a room with wood-paneled walls, no molding along the floor, and old carpeting with stuck-on tiles underneath, not to mention the golf clubs for curtain rods. Anyhow, all went well in the renovations, clear to the floor. But one thing did not go well. I plastered over the wood paneling, hoping to find an inexpensive way to refinish the walls without putting up drywall. However, I did not realize that any time you plaster over a wood product, the plaster will crack. The wood contracts and expands with the humidity and temperature, resulting in floor to ceiling cracks around my bedroom, making it appear like a circus tent, cut up into strips.

Anyway, I got e-mails and calls and even people I bumped into asking me how it turned out. Did I solve the crack mystery after trying so many times to patch it with caulk and joint compound, all to no avail?

Well, as a matter of fact, I think I did. I am in no way endorsing this method for people who want to do home improvement the right way. But in desperation for anything to work, I used double-stick Scotch tape along the length of each crack and plastered over it one more time, hoping the crack underneath would expand and retract as needed behind the tape and not on the surface. And you know what? That seems to be what's happening. For a few months now, I've had absolutely no cracks, and I've been so confident they won't come back, that I repainted the room. I think this is it, folks.

I've posted pictures of what I now deemed to be my FINALLY FINISHED bedroom. Only took 18 months to solve, but it's over. I call it my Parisian Palace, sans cracks.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"Sex" in the desert is DISGUSTING

Well, I went to "Sex and the City 2" as promised, and I actually felt sorry for the four women on the screen who I had once admired. Insulting to women, abhorrently insensitive to Muslims and just plain silly and boring throughout.

Musical numbers with Liza Minnelli and the girls singing a karaoke version of "I am Woman"? Carrie's former boyfriend Aiden shows up halfway around the world, just where she is, so he can add to the Big problem? (Yes, ANOTHER Big problem.) I think, worst of all, was the film's view on Middle Easterners. There's a scene where a group of women remove their burkas to reveal New York designer fashion underneath, because clearly the modesty of their culture must be a myth and that all women MUST be as shallow and wealthy as they are to care about such things. Although rivaling this moment for "worst of all," was Samantha's insistance on insulting the Abu Dhabi people by dressing scantily and engaging in blatantly sexual conduct in public. This movie made a joke of a major reason people in this area of the world hate us: Because Americans think we can go anywhere, do anything and say anything we want and nobody can touch us. We are the supreme beings, and everyone with different world views should watch and learn. ...Makes me sick.

I'm honestly disgusted. I hate that such a piece of trash could sour the series a bit for me. If there's a third film, and I honestly hope there is not, consider me "dead inside," as Lauren Graham said. I won't be there.

Here's a good review that sums up what I was thinking the entire time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Another "Idol" letdown; I'm out

"American Idol" season finale: Bloated, ridiculous, WRONG.
What the ... ? If anyone was convinced otherwise, it's clear that singing and performance ability don't have a whole lot to do with how people vote. Lee sang three songs Tuesday that were sub-par, and the judges told him as much. Crystal sang three songs that blew him away, and the judges told her as much. And then, Wednesday night we wade through two hours of silly guest stars (OK, Janet was pretty cool), doing collaborations with kicked-off "Idol" contestants, only to learn that YET AGAIN America chose POORLY.

Remember last year? Everybody had Adam Lambert pegged early on as the winner? And then this quiet nobody takes top prize? Do you even remember his name? He has had one hit, but it's nothing I'm going to be thinking about for very long.

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I'm done. DONE, DONE, DONE. I'm not watching next year. I'm boycotting this ridiculous show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Meet the Band baby has been born

Curious which band is the latest to join The Free Press Meet the Band series? Does it keep you up at night with anticipation? If you have to wait even one more second, are you sure your held will explode? The wait is over. Click here and read all about it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Perfect storm for reality TV

It was the perfect television storm tonight (Tuesday): "Biggest Loser" finale, "Dancing With the Stars" finale, and the final performances of "American Idol" contestants Crystal and Lee. I had to do some serious flipping to make sure I didn't miss big moments.

Mike, once 526 pounds, shed 264 pounds to become "The Biggest Loser." But the two main events for me were "Idol" and "DWTS." My Erin Andrews didn't win, sadly. She came in third. The front-runner all season ended up winning: Nicole from the Pussycat Dolls. She beat out Evan Lysacek for the coveted mirrorball trophy.

And if people vote by performance alone, then the front-runner all season for "Idol" will definitely be the big winner Wednesday night. Crystal Bowersox absolutely blew away Lee Dewyze during the finals tonight. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If Mama Sox doesn't take it home, I'm boycotting next season. You better bring it, America. Mama Sox or bust.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tonight's the night: The freestyle is on

You haven't been watching the 10th season of "Dancing With the Stars"? Really? So you're the one ... Well, you've missed quite a season. Finally, FINALLY, we've had stars, actual stars on the show. Pam Anderson, Kate Gosselin, the CURRENT "Bachelor," not one from several seasons ago who nobody cares about anymore.

However, it's the somewhat lesser known of the group who have made it to the end, having wowed us the whole way.

Tonight (Monday, 5/24), Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough, Erin Andrews and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya will dance their final two dances for the judges and America's votes to go on to win the coveted mirror ball trophy Tuesday night.

Even if you haven't been following the season, there's no reason you can't tune into this most exciting of "DWTS" nights. It's when the couples have the chance to go completely off the grid and dance the freestyle, combining any style of dance to any style of music and using any number of lifts and jumps and maneuvers that normally would be illegal in ballroom. As many winning couples of seasons past can attest, the freestyle is what wins it or loses it.

Tonight. 7 p.m. ABC. Be there.

P.S. My vote is for Erin Andrews.

"Sex" in the desert? Doesn't sound fun to me.

A couple of weeks ago I was watching NBC's "Parenthood" (mostly because I'm not willing to let Lauren Graham slip out of my life just yet) and the subject of the new "Sex and the City" movie came up, with someone asking Graham's character if she was going. "Well, of course, I'm not dead inside," she said.

Hilarious, and oh-so true. "Sex" was a beloved Sunday night EVENT for many, many women, and when it was gone, it was the end of an era -- an end to millions of women's relationships with four women we grew to love. When the movie came out, I was pretty excited. ...

Then I saw the movie. It wasn't the same. Sure, it was the girls. But the script was awful. Did we really need another fight with Big? Really? We're talking about recycling six seasons YET AGAIN to make that script. There was nothing new or groundbreaking. I was disappointed.

This time around, I'm actually afraid for the opposite reason. I might just get what I want, and now I'm not sure I want it. The girls are taking a trip to the Middle East. ...Why? Good question. It seems Samantha got an all-expense paid trip for the group. It just seems so very silly and not very likely at all for them to spend an entire movie there. I'd much rather see my girls in New York and have the writers earn their paychecks by coming up with something new and different to happen to them on their home turf.

Of course, none of this will stop me from being there on opening day. Like Lauren said, I'm not dead inside.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Casey's gone, sniff sniff

I was a big Casey fan for the past few weeks on "American Idol." I always appreciate it when the contestants are really great musicians on top of being good singers. He's got a soulful way about him and is nothing like the kind of "Idol" contestant I absolutely can't stand: pop teens. David Archu-whatever is an example.

So I was sad to see Casey go. Wasn't it sweet when he picked up that little girl and sang with her on his lap? Awwwww. Any other year, I think he easily could have made it to the finals. But the competition was incredible this year. I still remain firm on one thing: If Mama Sox doesn't win, I'm boycotting next season. She's dominated all year.

Lee is definitely "most improved" of the season. He was forgettable and just kind of OK for a long time. But the last couple of weeks, when it's really counted, he's stepped up his game. Tuesday's "Hallelujah" was pretty incredible. Although, I think that song makes ANYONE sound pretty damn good, because it's an incredible song.

Until next week! Go Mama Sox!