Thursday, August 31, 2006

Project Runway--Travelin' Jet Setters

Jeffrey is still the MEANEST GUY EVER!! I'm pretty sure that the way he hassled Angela and taunted her with remarks about the previous challenge would be considered bullying in any school in America. I really wanted someone to tell him to shut up or give him a suspension. There should be a zero tolerance policy for bullying on the show. Unfortunately, he seems to have most of the designers intimidated and the one's who aren't, like Laura, have other problems to worry about. I SO wanted him to go home and it poured salt in the gaping wound of my dislike that he won the challenge. (Silent scream happening now.) I know Angela was...quirkly...and she certainly deserved to go home..(linen? heck, I don't sew and I know better than that!) I wonder how much of her horrible outfit can be attributed to Jeffrey's constant harrassment. I imagine that made it kinda hard to think...have I mentioned that I dislike jerky Jeffrey?

Whew! Okay, glad I got that off my chest. Maybe now I can recap the episode. Last night's episode of Project Runway was not about a strange breed of Irish Setter, but in fact, about Jet Setters. Hmm, is that one word or two? Jetsetter? Jet setter? You see the difficulty. Do people actually use the word jet setter? It's something to ponder. Anyway, the challenge centered around creating an outfit for a rich/famous person who jets around the world at will. The outfit was supposed to travel well--although I had to re-watch my dvr to see if Heidi or Tim actually mentioned that aspect of the challenge on camera because that part was news to me. They did not, for the record. I assume that was in the extended brief about the challenge, since Uli sort of referenced it. The episode was fairly tame aside from the annoyance of jerky Jeffrey. They sketched, bought fabric, sewed like crazy and oh yeah, had to model their own work this time. Then after the runway show and an abbreviated critique session the designers flew first class to Paris. I felt very badly for the aufed person, having to turn right around and fly home even if it was first class. That's a recipe for swollen extremities.

What can one actually say about the outfits created? Some were great outfits but wildly inappropriate for travel, imho. Let me run them down.

Uli created a wonderful, colorful dress which was almost exactly identical to the dress that she created that won a challenge. Same silhouette, same twisty halter top straps, same mix of different but cool fabrics...well, you get the drift. The judges very intelligently called her out on it and suggested she show them something different next time. Uli is uber-talented but you can't just keep doin' the same ole same ole. I also take issue with whether a long halter dress is really the best thing to travel in, though the wild pattern of fabric made the wrinkles less noticeable.

On that same theme, Laura created a wrap cocktail dress in a pale champagne color. Huh? Seriously, would the jet set schlepp on a plane in something that elegant? I also had a what the heck? moment because she hardly looks pregnant in this outfit yet next week's previews show her with her top tied under her breasts and her belly hanging out like she's five months along. Either there was a phenomenally long break in filming or she really was wearing a girdle under that dress. Idid think that I caught a glimpse of one as she was dressing. Is that good for the baby? The squooshing thing? I was very impressed that Laura took the criticism that the judges gave her in the last challenge (sailor outfit?) to heart. No moaning about the injustice of it, just a determination to rise to their challenge. Laura's definitely one tough chick. (Especially since she was still wearing four inch stilletos after all that time.)

What can one say about Kayne? I liked the shirt. I could see a male celebrity wearing the shirt...I could NOT see a male celebrity wearing the rhinestone KAYNE belt buckle or the bling chains hanging off the waist band. I wasn't crazy about the bootleg cut of the pants or the big ole honking cuffs on the pants either, but I don't like to nit-pick. Well, okay...I DO like to nit-pick. ;0) I was very glad that Kayne didn't go because I like Kayne. However, when the famous designer in Paris told Kayne he looked ridiculous I thought, "Ouch. Harsh. So true."

Vincent got disrespected in this episode because well, he actually made something that a real person would wear in fabric that traveled well. A vee-neck, long-sleeved black top and black pants in a stretch type fabric. He looked like he was comfortable and the outfit traveled well. Quel horreur. Clearly not jet set, but sensible. Vincent did take childish delight in successfully making an outfit for a guy, his first ever.

Jerky Jeffrey's rock star ensemble won raves because it was something a jet set rock star type guy would wear. Okay, I concede that. They'd look stupid to the rest of us, but yes, they would wear that outfit--purple coat and all. It had pants that were tight enought to be leggings and a skull and cross bones sequined t-shirt. Yep. Very rock star. His tattoos went perfectly. But what does it say about Jeffrey that he decorated the crotch of the pants with a long line of sparkling things? He went crazy with the be-dazzler in the male pride area. In fact, it reminded me of a modern day codpiece when he was finished. That's a man who's deeply, deeply troubled by his...well...I'm sure you get my drift.

Michael created a cool white, hip hop inspired outfit to wear to the Hampton's for a P. Diddy event. It was awesome. The whole outfit was fresh and elegant with a modern edge. I loved both parts of the outfit. In addition to looking good, his outfit traveled incredibly well. I didn't see ANY wrinkles in his pants even after that long flight! I wanted him to win again. I am more convinced than ever that Michael will be in the final. He hasn't made a mis-step yet.

Finally, Angela. O Angela. :::SIGH::: My faithul reader knows that I was initially impressed with Angela. I thought she could go all the way. She was different enough, with a unique contrasting viewpoint compared to the others, so that I think she could have done it but for...well...hmm..what was the problem? Personality? No, she came out of that. Execution? Maybe a bit. Experience? Possibly. Flexibility? Yep. That was it. She was too attached to her personal design viewpoint. She couldn't adjust it to fit a more sophisticated style. I liked the yo-yos she made, (my mother made a quilt of those little round doohickey things and it was gorgeous,) but girl--you do not need to be putting yo-yos on every dang thing you sew. Hold off some, will ya? And what about the LINEN. You do not need to be an actual jetsetter to know that linen doesn't travel well. Heck, you cannot go from your bedroom to the kitchen in your own house without linen turning into a wrinkled mess. Finally, what is up with "I don't know any jet-setters so I can't design for them." Do they not sell Life & Style magazine in Ohio? What about People or US Weekly. Apparently Angela is not afflicted with an inexplicable interest in the lives of the rich and famous like so many of us who buy the weekly rags. Go figure. Suffice to say, I don't know any jet-setters either, but I wouldn't put anyone in that outfit she conjured up. Not even my worse enemy.

Next week, I am hoping that Jeffrey will finally get the boot. Or Vincent. Either exit will satisfy me. Right now I'm not worried about who will win, I just want the right people to lose.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Big Brother All Stars

I don't blog about Big Brother All Stars. But given that I have a reality show addiction it shouldn't surprise you to learn that I actually do watch it. I know, I is DREADFUL. I will not argue or defend the show. Julie Chen is also the mostly pathetic show host on tv too, btw. That said, I'm SO disgusted with the way the show is going that I wasn't even annoyed when the Tuesday Orioles game preempted the show in my market. I was relieved because I wasn't looking forward to arguing with Judy about whether or not to watch it. Beware here, I need to rant. See, I know what's going to happen on the show because I read a spoiler board with posts from people who have the live feeds. So--I know Erica has stupidly nominated Danielle for eviction even though it is not in her ultimate best interest. Now see--I don't really care who wins. I think that all the BB contestants are basically creepy. But every tiny particle of feminism in me objects to Erica being played by Mike Boogie. How offensive is the Chill Town credo- "bros before hos?" Boogie brags that Erica is falling in love with him and he has used her desperate need for a relationship to manipulate her. How lame and pathetic is she? She is going to be so wigged out when she gets betrayed and watches the shows outside the house. I don't envy her what is coming. She deserves some of it though because she called him out about his loyalty to Will and asked him flat out who came first--her or Will and Boogie hesitated. He HESITATED. He signalled very clearly that his first loyalty was not to her and still she did not unhitch his caboose from her love train. What is up with that??? Is she a moron? I'm so disgusted I don't think I can watch the rest of the season. I can't stand watching Will and Boogie share their stupid pretend phone calls where they mock the others in the house for falling for their line of lies. It's no longer fun--it's just aggravating.

Design Star Semi-Final

Lest you were wondering, I did watch the Design Star-Semi final which aired on Sunday night--I just didn't watch it until Monday night. Watching the episode late seemed to reduce my usual sense of urgency with regard to blogging. I also thought the episode wa super-boring. Hmm, maybe that's why I didn't blog it right away. Bottom line, there was no surprise for me in the conclusion. I predicted that Alice and David being the best looking, nicest, and somewhat talented would make the final and they did. I didn't believe Tym would make the final, mostly because of his goofy hair and general lack of handsome-ness. Hey--it's a tough tv world out there and looks count. Meanwhile, Tym's complete masculinization of a woman's apartment and total lack of wall art probably didn't help his situation.

Other observations about the episode..Alice doesn't seem to be respected as much as David or Tym because she gasp is able to change her style to suit her customer. I don't really see that as a fault, myself. If I hired a interior designer I would want them to design to MY personal taste, not their own. That said, Tym's subtle slam that he was not a "decorator" made me think he thinks Alice is just a "decorator". Were you surprised that David didn't take his shirt off in this episode? I was. I note he will be taking his shirt off for the final as seen in the previews. I know I'm a girl and all, but isn't it uncomfortable to work shirtless? Don't you feel all bare and exposed? Unless you think your bare chest and manly physique are going to win you votes I just don't see shirtlessness as being helpful in a project. Hey, maybe it's just me.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Project Runway-Everyday Woman

Just for the record, this episode could/should have been entitled, “Jeffrey is the Meanest Guy Ever”. If Jeffrey treats his celebrity clients as badly as he treated Angela’s mother—it’s a miracle that he has any clients at all. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest…

Episode ‘Everyday Woman’ began with Michael telling us about how happy winning two challenges in a row made him. I was charmed by his phrasing, “I was so happy I grinned myself a headache,” he said. I’ve done that! I knew exactly what he meant.

At the start of the new challenge the designers were told they were designing for the everyday woman and then the models came out and they were, SURPRISE! the mothers or sisters of all the designers. Some were big, some were small in size. No one was allowed to pick their own relative; they had to choose someone else’s relative. Yikes.

Michael chose Robert’s sister. Laura chose Jeffrey’s mom. (Someone commented when she was introduced, “I thought she’d have a mohawk.” She was surprisingly normal looking, very sweet and tender-hearted; completely unlike her evil-hearted son.) Vincent chose Uli’s mother. Angela chose Laura’s mother. Kane chose Michael’s mother. Uli chose Kane’s mother. Robert chose Vincent’s sister and Jeffrey ended up with Angela’s mother. I think I would be accurate in saying that the thinner females were chosen first. I assume this was because the plus size women represented a more difficult shape to flatter and fit.

After a happy reunion with relatives and lots of crying, Tim announced that this week’s guest judge was hosting a special event. So everyone went to Tavern on the Green where they were greeted by Joan Kors, Michael Kors’ mother. We learned that both Michael’s are ‘momma’s boys’. As everyone socialized, poor Kane was embarrassed when his mother hauled out a boat load of pictures of him as a very fat adolescent. “Sometimes the past needs to stay in the past,” he asserted. He was right. We also saw pictures of Jeffrey sans neck tattoo with braces. He looked normal, cute even. It was amazing. His mother shared Jeffrey’s past difficulties with alcohol with the camera. Did we know that before? It was news to me.

While chit-chatting, Michael Kors commented to his mother that Laura had five children. Laura blurted out, “Working on six,” to the shock, dismay? of her mother. She realized right away that she shouldn’t have let that cat out of the bag because her husband didn’t even know she was pregnant again yet. It was a priceless moment. Later in the show Laura told the camera regarding a sixth pregnancy, “Five, six, seven…It doesn’t make that much difference. I’ll just throw it on the pile with the rest of ‘em.” My mother had six children, of which I am the sixth. I agree with Laura, after a certain point one more is just another in the crowd.

Back at the work room, the instructions were given to create an outfit that fits the day-to-day lifestyle of the ‘client’, is fashion forward, and reflected ‘who you are as a designer’. I would love someone to define “fashion forward” to me. Considering all the retro stuff on the store shelves, apparently somebody has missed the memo about being ‘fashion forward”. Anyway, after thirty minutes of client-designer consult, the group headed to Mood for fabric.

Some consults went better than others. Robert noted it is difficult when you are not working with the ideal in terms of form. Vincent’s sister was very definite in her taste and color preferences. When Angela’s mom expressed a preference for a jacket she was very firmly told that Jeffrey wasn’t going to do a jacket—he didn’t have time. (This challenge is one-day only.) We didn’t see all the footage of Jeffrey’s consult with Angela’s mom but at one point she made the comment that she was feeling bad about her size making his job so difficult. He didn’t respond or try to make her feel better. Kane was very simpatico with Michael’s mother, he chose her because she was wearing bright colors and rhinestones. Vincent couldn’t actually communicate with Uli’s mom because she spoke limited English, however, that did not prevent Vincent from asserting that she “knows well enough what I mean.” I guess he thought she was psychic. Angela was a bit horrified because Laura’s mom wanted casual-elegant with an Audrey Hepburn style. Angela just did an Audrey type dress and apparently felt incapable of re-creating that style for a second go-round. Laura’s mom helpfully told us that, “I want Laura to win but I will do nothing to hinder Angela.” I guess hindering Angela was considered but rejected.

After they started working on their outfits, Vincent and Laura both condescendingly opined about how much difficulty the designers with plus size models were having. I found that funny given they both picked slim models. I can’t believe that was an accident.

Vincent continued to speak for Uli’s mother—“She’s very comfortable with me in spirit.”

When the models came into the workroom to check on the progress of the outfits, problems ensued which dominate the show from that point on. Tim interviewed Angela’s mother about her feelings about Jeffrey’s design and color choices. She meekly (she’s from the Midwest—hello—we don’t do aggressive) shared that she didn’t like the color. She never wears powder blue, apparently. (Jeffrey called the color periwinkle.) When Jeff came back to his station and Tim shared this tidbit with him, he got mad. After Tim left, Jeffrey was very rude to Angela’s mother. He actually told her he didn’t want her near him. She ended up crying! Jeffrey in his complaint to the camera called Angela’s mom a “crazy bitch” and said that it was apropos—he didn’t like Angela and he didn’t like Angela’s mom. (Apropos? That’s the word he used—I do not think it means what he thinks it means.) When Angela’s mom cried to Angela she said, “I’ve never been spoken to like that. He had such hate in his voice.” (Again…from the midwest. She would never have been able to make that comment if she lived on the East Coast.) Jeffrey complained to the other designers for quite a while about his problem with his model, trying to get sympathy, I guess. He got none from Vincent who told him, “You broke her down.” Poor Jeffrey’s mom also ended up crying about the situation after making excuses to Angela’s mother about how Jeffrey was under pressure. I guess Angela’s mother could have said the same thing about Angela. Aren’t all the designers under pressure? They all aren’t making their models cry though. Poor Jeffrey’s mother, she was so nice for such a son. When Angela talked to Jeffrey about the conflict we learned that he thought Angela’s mother was going out of her way to make him look bad and he wasn’t going to stand for that. Ooo-kay. I don’t think Angela’s mom was doing anything except answering Tim’s questions honestly. Jeffrey didn’t even hear her original comment. He only heard how Tim represented what she had said--which was that Angela’s mother was “ambivalent” about the color. Ambivalent. Does that suggest that she went out of her way to make Jeffrey look bad? I think someone’s crazy here and it ain’t Angela’s mom, if you see what I mean. (It was kinda funny the next morning when Angela helped her mom put on the ‘dress’ and gave her advice for the runway. “When they ask you what you think, just be HONEST.” No coaching here.)

Let’s leave conflict behind and talk design.

Michael created another great design. It was a fully reversible shirtdress in a black fabric with contrasting collar, cuffs, and belt. It looked great on Robert’s sister who was very slim. The judges loved it, especially after they realized it was reversible.

Laura working with Jeffrey’s mother created an outfit which she said was cruise-wear. It was a long slim skirt, which started very high above the waist. The black (is there any other color for Laura? Or yes, white.) skirt was paired with a white dress shirt. The whole was accented with a silky tie/scarf. It was very unflattering since the model, while slim, looked stumpy and bulgy. The judges weren’t wild about it. This was definitely Laura’s worst showing.

Jeffrey, after all his travails, created a long dress with a collar. It had some kind of jacket but it was hard to tell what it looked like because everything was dark-colored. I think the fabric was navy. The periwinkle fabric accented the collar. The dress fit very poorly. I also never understood why Angela’s mother would need a long dress in her particular lifestyle. The judges disliked it although Michael Kors thought he could see Jeffrey’s viewpoint in the dress. Huh? I didn’t get that. When asked Angela’s mother gave her honest opinion of the dress, “..a lot was lost in translation. I feel matronly.” Michael Kors accurately pointed out that Jeffrey tried to please his client, but not really. Angela was asked to chime in and she said, “I think it’s embarrassing.” Ouch. Harsh. True, but harsh. I think I heard payback on the runway there.

Angela used all black to create the outfit for Laura’s mother. Are you surprised? Laura got her genes from somewhere. Angela put a tunic with fringe and a pair of pants together. She accessorized with a bulky purple purse. It did not look like something Laura’s mother would actually wear. The judges didn’t like it and felt it was age inappropriate.

Kane put together a pair of khaki capri pants and an orange top with a scarf front. Robert’s mother looked great. I thought the orange/coral was flattering to her skin tones and she looked good. There is a school of fashion thought that thinks plus size women shouldn’t wear capris but I disagree with it. Kane was criticized for being too matchy-matchy because he accessorized the top with beads in the same shade. I noticed that Michael’s mother didn’t smile at all while walking the runway. I don’t know it that was a comment on the outfit or not.

Uli made another fabulous fabric choice. She was working with Kane’s mother, who was also plus size. Uli put her in long khaki trousers and a chiffon top with a paisley print in gold/pink. The paisley was contrasted with a striped fabric along the edge of the sleeves and down the center of the top. The undershirt was also pinkish. She accessorized with big gold beads and Kane’s mom looked great. She also really worked it on the runway. They should have given her an award for being the best model.

Vincent designed a simple black sleeveless dress with a belt for Uli’s mother. It was slim-fitting. The collar was an updated look. I wish I knew the technical name for the king of collar that it was—I would describe it as looking like seagull wings. It was in a contrasting tan fabric. The judges loved it. They thought it was age appropriate. It flattered Uli’s mother. It was elegant…blah blah blah. Vincent ended up winning which should end up making him even more obnoxiously certain of his talent. I’m not looking forward to the fall out from that!

Robert was very literal in following his models wishes. Vincent’s sister told him that red and black were her favorite colors and so he made a black tank dress and added a kimono style red jacket with a scarf collar. Booo-ring. Hey, I wear plus size clothing and I’ve seen that dress and jacket a million times in a million fabrics. The style is just another version of the moo-moo. Sheesh. At least use a print to change it up a bit. The judges thought a print would have helped a lot. Robert actually got criticized for listening to his model. Vincent’s sister also did very poorly on the runway. She didn’t even try to work it…she just walked slowly. So—poor Robert bored the judges one time too many and he got aufed.

As a tribute to his likeability, everyone seemed to cry about his aufing, even Jeffrey! I really regret that Jeffrey didn’t go because he created an awful outfit that didn’t flatter his model and ignored all her wishes. Robert created a boring outfit that flattered his model and followed her wishes but was boring. Which is really worse? Maybe guilt is why Jeffrey was crying? Nah.

I revising my final three prediction--I think that Uli, Laura and Michael will have runway shows. Angela's not doing as well as I thought she would, and Uli has shown such creativity and an eye for color with her fabric choices.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Design Star Recap & Commentary #5

Just so you know, sometimes being a blogger is work! After watching Design Star last night, I didn't stay up to post my usual commentary and recap because today was the first day of school. I thought it behooved me to get a full eight hours so as to be at my professional best. In hindsight, it was a waste because, following a tradition of 24 years of first days; I couldn't sleep worth a darn. I was restless and wakeful, it seemed, until my alarm beeped this morning. As a result, I'm pretty tired from my first day of work after two months off (I hear the boos, never fear). Still, I know my duty. I'm going to give my all to my reader(s) and post my thoughts especially since, many readers have checked the site for the regularly featured Design Star recap. I can't disappoint you see what I mean? Sometimes blogging is work. ;o)

Last night's episode could be called "Studio Apartment: One Color Theme" because that was the challenge each designer individually faced. Each designer was randomly assigned a color and a professional carpenter to assist them in the re-design of virtually identical studios with nearly identical furniture. They had $2000.00 and 24 hours to complete the task. Temple got yellow. Tym got green. Alice got blue, and David got red.

Since the designers were working individually, there was no drama or discontent in the show. Most people find it difficult to fight with themselves, so the focus of the show was on how the designers were progressing in their tasks. The gentlemen seemed to be more interested than the ladies in carpentry projects, because both Tym and David planned to build walls or architectural features to delineate the living space from bedroom space in their studios. Most of the shopping was done at IKEA, although IKEA's name is never used--I just recognized the store and its contents.

Temple: I felt that Temple had a difficult color to work with when she got yellow. Too much yellow can be overwhelming--the wrong shade of yellow and it brings in an Easter/baby shower vibe. She was shooting for "beachy" as she described it later. She painted the walls a pale yellow--which she worried was too bright. She used mostly white furniture and bright yellow accents. She also had lots of baskets in a light beige color. Her floor rugs, which were both white, were placed at an angle to the furniture. She tried to make her furniture multi-functional. Her bed was both bed and couch. It was still a queen size mattress, but she put the mattress in a box and then piled lots of pillows on it. (Personally, I wouldn't want to sit all evening in my bed--wouldn't it be hot when you got 'in' bed to sleep? Ick.) Her dining room table could also function as a desk. (That's not really original--isn't that what dining room tables are doing, even as you read, all across the country?)

Tym-Tym elected to build a a kind of partition--which, as I struggle to remember it--seemed like the canopy on a bed. It wasn't a full wall, it was more like posts or something. He used two shades of green--neither of which were great choices. The shades of green were so close in tone that most people didn't noticed that he had used two different greens. His room looked kind of empty. He described his room as bringing the outside inside...while having no plants of any kind.

Alice-Taking her inspiration from Tiffany Blue, Alice created a very cool interior. She was shooting for serene, and she used white and some black for contrast. I liked her room, but I don't particularly remember details. Hmm, maybe I should have visited the website to refresh my memory.

David-The luckiest of all the designers, David got red for his color. Red, used appropriately can be very graphic and modern. He, wisely, painted one wall red as an accent, and then brought red into the room with accessories and art. He built a five foot wall--with an L-shape which he used to partition the bedroom from the living room. Problem there was, he put the living room in the furthest point of the room closed off from the rest of the studio while the bedroom was open to the rest of the studio and closest to the kitchen and door. I would have flipped those rooms, myself.

As a second element of the challenge, each designer was asked to do their first bit of camera work by taking the camera on a tour of their room.

I think the judges genuinely found it difficult to decide who would go home tonight. There was no obvious failure--just subtle weaknesses. All the judges felt that the designers had been too literal in their interpretation of the color theme because everybody relied on paint to bring the color into the room.

Temple's room was considered to be rather ordinary. It was considered to lack personality. The angling of the rugs was questioned by Martha and Temple's answer for why the rugs were angled amounted to--"I had no time. They didn't look right straight, so I angled them." She had no design philosophy/reason for how she had placed the rugs. I think that hurt her. In her camera tour, Temple got mostly good reviews. She was comfortable and confident--maybe too confident. Vern reacted more positively to Temple, than the female judges didn't as much. I wonder if there is something about the way Temple presents herself that is slightly irritating to other women...Judy (the twin) said she thought Temple makes you "discomfortable"--it's not bad enough to be called UNcomfortable, but you are uneasy. It's a theory, anyway.

Tym's room was considered to be missing something, cold. The overall impression was a dorm room or prison (it's that institutional green he used!) He was too literal in his interpretation of the color--he even painted the kitchen cabinets green. In his camera tour, Tym was "macho". He explained the room's design philosphy so well in his tour that the judges liked it better after hearing his tour commentary. Personally, I shuddered at his red muscle shirt with a brown puka shell-type necklace. That's just not a good look on him.

Alice's room received lots of compliments because of its simplicity. It wasn't overdesigned. Her space planning wasn't great because she had an empty corner, but overall she got a "job well done". In her camera work, Alice was the best of the four. She poured on the southern charm, she's great looking and had a whole Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island vibe going on which the judges loved. (They hadn't seen her white shoes with a black dress yet--I was horrified. In my experience Southern women are usually well-dressed. How did she miss the memo about shoes needing to be darker than your hose and skirt?)

David's room was also highly complimented. He did exactly the right thing with the red by painting only one wall. The partial wall was claustrophobic, however, and the way he closed off the space wasn't considered a plus. His camera tour was good, but rushed. He seemed nervous. He ended with "Peace." What's up with that? I think he threw it in--David--do not improvise coolness. "Cool" people do not watch HGTV. Since I've been keeping track, btw, David managed to show off his bod throughout this show. First, he wore a wife beater for all the time he was working in his room and for his camera work. When he went shopping at IKEA he wore a gray coat which was, I kid you not, SLEEVELESS. In fact, can you call it a coat if it hasn't got sleeves? Maybe it was a vest that was acting like a coat--I don't know anything but David's tattoo was on display through the whole show.

In the end, Alice was the winner of the challenge and David was good enough to continue. Elimination was between Tym and Temple. Personally, I felt either could go, but in the end, Temple was eliminated. As I said in a previous recap, Temple was never going to win. Not because she didn't have professioanal credentials, but because she had been too unpleasant and hadn't gotten along with the other designers. She couldn't win because viewers have to be able to LIKE her. I also don't expect Tym to last because, well, to say this nicely....well...okay, there's not nice way---he's goofy looking. TV prefers beautiful or at least attractive people. Mostly. I know there are exceptions. I predict the final two will be Alice and David. They are both very talented, good-looking, and well spoken. We'll see....

Saturday, August 19, 2006

What is News?

I pondered the question of "What is news?" this morning as I noted the entertainment headline on my homepage from Comcast, Heidi Klum and Seal want More Children. Now I like Heidi Klum. Project Runway is one of my favorite shows, after all. I like Seal's music. I have one of his cds. Brian Boitano used to skate to one of his songs and I was inspired to purchase it as a result. I get that an article/interview with them would be of interest to many people. My puzzlement is over why anyone would write an article about either of them and feel that the headline should announce their desire to have more children, even while Heidi is pregnant with their second child together. If news is supposed to be important. This expressed wish on their part does not meet the standard. If news is supposed to be about unique or unusual happenings--again--wanting more kids is not exactly strange. Or wait--is it? To Hollywood type people is the idea of having two children, one on the way, and then expressing a desire for yet another child so unique and unusual and weird that an entertainment reporter would feel compelled to make it the headline? Hmmm.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Project Runway-Recycl-orama

Tonight's episode of Project Runway featured fashions made out of recycled materials. Given the variety of materials that can be recycled, I can only say, the variety in terms of materials actually used was rather poor. Paper, foil, peanut bag/styrofoamy stuff, and plastic were it. I was not horribly upset by Allison's aufing--she's been talented and creative but she has such a low key personality that I didn't feel personally involved with her. Mostly, in my house, we were crossing our fingers, toes and legs hoping that Kane would not go home. Vincent--on the other hand, I could have happily kicked out the door with a nice big boot.

My impressions--

Michael--Yeehaw! Woohoo! That guy rocks! I stopped the dvr when I first saw the plastic stole because Judy was reading and I wasn't sure she had caught the brief glimpse of it that we were given early in the episode. I thought from that first glimpse that he was creating something special. I loved the gold lame look of the bodice too. In fact, his variety of materials factored with the absolute elegance of the outfit he created put him ahead of the field. He used the foil stuff, plastic wrap, and the peanut bag styrofoamy stuff--something different for each piece. Quel creative! I'm more convinced than ever that he will end up in the final three.

Laura--I loved the dress Laura created, who wouldn't? It was elegant and perfectly made. The flower was an especially wonderful touch--I'm assuming she made that sucker from scratch. That said, did anyone else notice that the black dress she so frequently wears--and was wearing tonight--was practically the twin of the dress she sent down the runway? When Angela made a disastrous poufy skirt for her model and then wore the twin of the skirt herself, she was mocked. What's the difference? Okay, okay....Angela's skirt was hideous and Laura's dress was elegant but you get my point, right? I do think Laura needs to step outside the box a bit. Isn't she in danger of being a one-note? I mean, everything she creates is in this certain, classic style. Isn't that limited? Or is it okay to be limited when everything is exquisitely made and looks fabulous. It's something to ponder anyway. P.S. by the way, her personality is clearly beginning to grate on her fellow contestants. What's with all the unsolicited advice and commentary to the other designers? Hello--these are your competitors--don't help them by giving your critique of their work. 1) It's obnoxious. 2) They might listen and improve.

Jeffrey--If only the world and the judges thought as well of Jeffrey as Jeffrey thinks of himself. Could he be more bitter and nasty about Michael's win? I hope he is embarrassed and ashamed to have his condescending remarks made public. His arrogance is simply not supported by his creations so far. I liked this dress fairly well, I didn't think it deserved to win because it was all one material, paper. I thought the newspaper print idea was cool, but then he painted over the print with the blue and yellow? green? Meanwhile, did I hear a judge comment on how clever he was to layer the paper over some fabric? Wouldn't that have been kinda against the rules? Just wondering...

Angela--She didn't see alot of play in tonight's show. I loved the jumper she created. I loved the blue sparkly squares and the modern, hip feel the outfit had...for the ten seconds it was on screen tonight. I guess from the previews that we'll be seeing lots of Angela in next weeks episode.

Vincent--I would have been happy if Vincent had gone home, as I said earlier in the post. He's a nutball, as we like to say in the midwest. His dress was hardly was a column. Clearly fit was an issue, as in, it didn't fit or why did the model wear a black halter bra under it? Throwing crap down the front and back of the dress didn't improve it. His arrogance and complete and utter refusal to credit the judge's criticism with any validity was also annoying. I thought for a few minutes that he had offended Nina and Michael sufficiently that he would get kicked but no such luck.

Allison--I thought the square skirt made of the colorful paper strips was a fabulous and creative idea. I was very sorry when Allison abandoned that idea for the cream, crinkly paper look. Several times I saw things on the dress form that were better looking than what ultimately went down the runway. I didn't think that the model look so hideous, but I am no supermodel so possibly my eye isn't skewed toward emaciation as beauty. Apparently, for the judges and Heidi, aufing all came down to the horror of seeming fatter than you really are--versus--wearing a stupid looking but slimming dress. As a plus size person I was particularly charmed--NOT, by Heidi's horror that Allison had made her model look like a PLUS SIZE MODEL. Quelle horreur!!

Robert--Great effort this week, although, I hardly remember what it looked like. I do remember thinking, "Barbie would wear that." It make sense, if you see where I'm coming from. The dinner scene between Robert and Kane was a scream. It reminded me of the pillow Alice Roosevelt Longworth had embroidered which read, "If you haven't got anything good to say about someone...come sit by me." I'm tickled Robert will be here for another week, I like him.

Kane--You gotta feel for Kane. He created a horror--and it's not like he didn't know it was a horror--but only when Tim told him it was a horror did he realize he had to fix the horror--in an hour. When you look at it like that, he should have won, right? I was disappointed in the first dress because it was an evening dress and I really wanted to see Kane step out of the pageant dress arena and into something different, like daywear. The gi-normous flower wasn't the worst the skirt, though, that was the bottle tops. What was he thinking? He did a pretty good job of saving the outfit, in the end, and the back wasn't commented upon but it was a lace up which was creative. I liked the color he added as well, but the foil bow was a step too far. Still, I'm happy he survived to create another week. And good for him telling Laura to shut up with her "helpful comments".

Is that everyone? If it's not, then they clearly rate no mention in the blog because I can't remember them.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Insider Tips

Judy and Allison following tradition.

In our house we've found that the best guide books around for anywhere you want to go on a vacation are the ones published by Wiley Publishing under their "Unofficial Guide" series. When we went to Disney World a few years ago we followed the Unofficial Guide to Disney World book religiously and found everything they suggested to be EXCELLENT.

Naturally, when we moved east we promptly consulted the Unofficial Guide To Washington D.C. which we had purchased in anticipation of a vacation in D.C. Many things have changed since 9-11, however, so we also purchased the updated version which reflects the tighter security and changes at some tourist sites like the White House.

The guide often provides cool tips for things to do in Washington D.C. One tip about a D. C. tradition--sitting in Albert Einstein's lap. When you visit the Vietnam Wall or the Lincoln Monument you are right across the street from the National Academy of Sciences on Constitution Avenue where Eistein's cool super-sized statue is waiting for you to climb on and snap.

Albert is wearing sandals and holding a paper with E=mc2 on it, I loved the giant size and cool texture of the sculpture.

Monday, August 14, 2006


To be listened to is, generally speaking, a nearly unique experience for most people. It is enormously stimulating. It is small wonder that people who have been demanding all their lives to be heard so often fall speechless when confronted with one who gravely agrees to lend an ear. Man clamors for the freedom to express himself and for knowing that he counts. But once offered these conditions, he becomes frightened.
Robert C. Murphy

The reason for the popularity of blogging in one quote--as well as the reason for the vacuity of some--including my own.

Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.
A. J. Liebling (1904-1963)

Now, with blogging, everyone owns a press.

The price of freedom of religion, or of speech, or of the press, is that we must put up with a good deal of rubbish.
Robert Jackson

There again, an accurate discription of the blogosphere--nothing's perfect.

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

See, even in the last century intellectuals complained about the stupidity of the common man.

Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained
James A. Garfield (1831-1881), July 12, 1880

Education, then, is the remedy for the stupidity of the common man.

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955), 'Out of My Later Years,' 1950

Thought police are counterproductive to greatness and creativity--a lesson that the Middle East has yet to learn.

I believe that freedom is the deepest need of every human soul.
George W. Bush (1946- ), Press Conference, White House, April 13, 2004

I agree.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our chldren and our children's children what it was once like the United States where men were free.
Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)

The enemies of freedom conspire against us every day, hoping that we will forget this. Among those who are convinced that 9-11 was a self-inflicted government act and every terrorist plot foiled is a fiction--a political ploy to maintain power, this truth has already been lost.

Design Star-Kitchen Remodel

In Design Star's fourth challenge, the remaining designers are given a two part challenge. First, Temple, Tym, Donna, Alice, David, and Teran must present a design concept to a couple who have won a kitchen remodel. The person with the worst concept presentation will be eliminated. Then, the remaining designers will execute the winning design concept in the kitchen. A second person will be eliminated after the room remodel is completed. They have a 32 hour window to complete the work, and $10,000.00 to spend on the project. (I love this show so much, I wish they weren't doing double eliminations.)

Tom and Kelley, a couple from Stratford Connecticut, have won this 'great' prize from HGTV. In their interview they tell us that the following elements in the remodel are important to them: terracotta tiles on the floor to replace ucky linoleum, granite countertops to replace the ucky linoleum, new cabinets to replace the ucky cabinets, stainless steel appliances to replace ucky ones,(are you sensing a pattern here?) a dishwasher, and oh, yeah, they like Tuscan style. problem---anyone can do a remodel like that in 32 hours with just $10,000.00, right?
The designers head out to a home store to get ideas and samples, then back to the house to prepare their presentations. Anyone who has ever watched HGTV should know what these presentations typically look like, with the little boards and the fabric samples and pictures of furniture and sketches. Teran and Donna are up ALL night completing their presentations. David spends most of his time prepping his presentation shirtless. I am noticing a trend where David likes to be shirtless. Does David think that his buff body being displayed at every available opportunity is going to win him the HGTV job? Or does the camera-person have a crush on David? It's something to ponder. Meanwhile, Temple is very confident that she is going to win. Considering that she is the least experienced and not formally trained this seems strange--perhaps Temple knows something that the rest of us do not, I don't know...she has given the couple EVERYTHING they asked for without regard for the fact that some projects are impractical and unlikely to be completed in the time allotted?

We don't see any complete presentation by any one person but we do get some amusing clips. Teran, for example, has moved the refridgerator across the room in his plan. When the homeowners ask why, he replies, "It'll make sense later, I promise." Tym spends a huge portion of his presentation explaining that most of what the couple want can't be accomplished. Donna is asked where all the counter space has gone in her design and looks at her board in befuddlement--like she doesn't know what counter space is and she doesn't recognize her own design. Maybe she should have slept a teeny bit.

Temple's "promise-them-everything" design has been chosen as the winner. Teran, sadly, is the loser and so he exits the room while tears flow from most participants. Note to designers--do NOT move the fridge to a wierd spot in the room--it will be your doom.

Almost immediately upon beginning the task dissension breaks out in the ranks. All the designers seem to know or believe that Temple has promised too much and that is why she won. Tym and David are particular naysayers. Perhaps because as the only guys they are expected to do the lion's share of the hard physical labor. Tym argues with Temple right from the beginning and that never stops. Now personally, I think the team had a obligation to deliver as best they could on what Temple had promised. The team, however, seemed to think that changing Temple's design was perfectly okay. So--instead of new cabinets, we get the same cabinets with white paint and new hardware. We get wierd two by fours all over the floor. We do get new stainless steel appliances. We get tuscan colors (except for the cabinets--glaringly white) and we get faux granite countertops. We also get a job that is so far from done as to be unbelieveable. The counter tops aren't installed, the walls aren't finished, the floor is poor quality with gaping openings between boards, and the molding and switchplates aren't back's a disaster.

Work-wise, David and Tym do most of the demolition. They refused to do demolition of the cabinets, forcing Temple's design change. The ladies go shopping in a group. They buy the cabinets that we end up not using because Tym refuses that job. They buy the appliances. They buy...well, you get the idea. Temple and Alice, also do lots of physical things, like painting and refinishing the cabinets, staining the floor etc. Donna--not so much. She spent the second day of the task shopping for the table and chairs. She went to shop after shop after shop. She napped in the van while being driven everywhere. She came back at dark. Whoa, way to contribute Donna. I really dislike her, can you tell?

On the second day, since the first was so contentious, Temple hands out notes to the team. These hand-written notes are lengthy, and tell each team member how they are valued and also apologize for any wrong-doing. Most team members are touched by Temple's effort. Donna thinks the notes are a cynical attempt to get on everyone's good side. Apparently, trying to get along is a big no-no in Donna-world. As Temple tries to inspire the troops, Donna on her way out to shop, says, "And if we're good little children we'll get another little note!" See? She's just nasty. She's also, well, dumb. Tym sends her for caulk. He tells her exactly what to get. She gets the wrong kind. After she came in from her day of shopping (it was dark when she returned) the first thing she said was that the cabinets looked like crap. When Temple didn't react too well to that comment, she lambasted her for not making the cabinets a "group" decision. I think if the team had deliberately conspired to sabotage Temple's efforts, they couldn't have done a better job.

In the judging--the initial reaction to the room was that it looked okay. The judges weren't overwhelmed but they weren't vomiting either. One judge commented that the white cabinets were 'off' from the rest of the design--which I agree with. Vern was happy they kept the old-fashioned sink. The coolest thing about the review, however, was that after letting the judges see the design at its best--Clive then had footage that showed all the behind the scenes stuff that didn't get finished. The judges were very disappointed, as a result, in the execution. Clive admitted that the HGTV hit squad had to go in and finish and fix the kitchen before the homeowners saw it. Phew. I was worried about that. The homeowners were very happy with the remodel and cried with joy. I think a kitchen-ful of brand new appliances were mostly responsible for that, but they also were happy with the look of the room.

In the end, the judges had to decide who was going to go home. On the plus side for Temple, she has repeatedly shown real talent and aesthetics with an admirable work ethic. On the minus side, execution of this task was poor and she seems to have trouble getting along with people. Meanwhile, Donna was the other possible eliminee. ( I made that word up.) Donna seems to do little work (yes!) and she doesn't have the "aesthetic". She hasn't progressed or grown as a designer and she's been in the bottom of the pack on all of the three previous challenges. The judges went back and forth on the issue. Some felt aesthetics can't be taught, while organization and management can be. Some thought Donna's leadership and poor decision making were a deal breaker. Finally, Donna's show was cancelled. Yeah! I was so happy.

We are down to the final four, sadly, and from here on out all challenges will be individual. I'm happy that the individuals are going to be responsible for their own fate from here on out. Harping here, I know--but in the real world, if Temple was a designer executing a job that she had bid for, with a team working in her employ--that team would have done what she said. Her difficulty with this group is that they all think they know better than her, and she wasn't confident enough to fight them. When the group is against you and you don't have any confidence, it's a bad dynamic. In the real world, if Temple had over-sold what she could do and her team had followed her instructions but still hadn't been able to deliver, then Temple would have taken the hit for it financially and in terms of reputation. That's how it should be. I'm glad, though, that in this task with too many leaders and not enough followers, Temple didn't get blamed for the fact that no one would do what she wanted without arguing. She folded and gave in to keep the peace and that was a mistake. Better to fight and force your vision and go home when it doesn't work out, then give in and compromise and go home because the finished product sucked.

Now lest you think, dear reader, that I want Temple to win because I've been defending her in this post...I predict that Alice or David will win. Remember, the viewers have to LIKE the ultimate winner because they are going to have a show on HGTV. People typically only watch shows of people that they like and admire. Right now the best "edit" in terms of showing a pleasant, easy to get along with personality is being given to Alice and David, so that's who I think will win.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Arlington Again

On Thursday the weather was cool and rainy but we did not allow that to stop us from following through on our plan to visit Arlington National Cemetery. This visit to Arlington was the second for Judy and me because our newest visitors--Karen and Allison-- hadn't been there yet. We allotted the entire day for the visit, which I think was the right decision. Mapquest planned a route to Arlington that took us through the heart of DC, following highway 50, aka, New York Avenue. It's not necessarily faster to cut through DC following a route with lots of stoplights such as New York Avenue, as opposed to using the Beltway to circumvent the city, but it was interesting to do it that way once because of the views and the cool sites that you pass, like the Arboretum.

I highly recommend going to Arlington National Cemetery, but be advised, it is not a tourist attraction, but rather, a real cemetery. It is a solemn place. Even though you ride a tour bus up to JFK's gravesite and on the the Changing of the Guard and Arlington House amid crowds of people dressed in shorts; the rows of tombstones leave you in no doubt that you are on hallowed ground. On Thursday, as on everyday, there were funerals being held in Arlington. It is very moving to see a funeral caisson and realize that someone is being committed to the earth that day. The newest section of the cemetery is filled with service people from Iraq--people who have paid the ultimate price. As a military brat, I honor their service.

On this visit, our party stopped at all three of the main sites to which visitors are typically drawn. John Kennedy's gravesite, The Tomb of the Unknown, and Arlington House.

The Kennedy gravesite is simple and elegant. The view down across to the Lincoln Memorial and DC is stunning. As I understand it, JFK had visited Arlington House for a state dinner a few weeks before his assassination. He stood on an overlook above the city and the Lincoln Memorial and made a comment about the beauty of the view and how he could stay there forever. When his brother Robert went to Arlington to pick out a site for his grave, he asked where his brother had been standing when he made his comment about the view--and that is the spot he chose for the grave.

This is the Kennedy gravesite from above--at Arlington House. You can just see the Washington Monument in the misty distance. A little to the left and you would see Memorial Bridge and the Lincoln Monument.

We stayed at the Tomb of the Unknown for the Changing of the Guard through two changes. The dedication of the Tomb Guards is impressive. We talked to the security personnel at the Tomb for some time and they have many tidbits to share about the guards if you take the time to ask them. The precision and hours of training required to meet the standards to be a Tomb Guard are just amazing.

This guard stood his watch through the rain. The Tomb of the Unknown has been guarded in all weather, including HURRICANES, 24/7/365 for more than 50 years straight.

Arlington House was inherited by the wife of Robert E. Lee. Her family were Custis'--related to George Washington through Martha Custis Washington's children. When Lee decided to lead the Army of Northern Virginia--the Lees left Arlington House and basically were never able to return. The government refused to allow Mrs. Lee to pay her property taxes on the house and since she didn't pay; the house was sold at auction. Then, purchased by the government, the land was turned into a cemetery for Union war dead who could not afford their own burials. It was an exquisite revenge, you might say. The first soldiers were buried around Mrs. Lee's flower garden.

Here is Mrs. Lee's garden with the earliest graves around it.

Just past the garden, along the path you can see the Pentagon.

Later, Robert E. Lee's eldest son was able to successfully sue the government for taking the property from his mother and himself. FYI--I'm not sure if Mrs. Lee owned the house or if she held it in trust for her oldest son--feel free to look that up yourself. He (the son) was eventually reimbursed $150,000.00 dollars for the property. Meanwhile, I have to say of the many famous homes I've visited, Arlington House is in the poorest shape. It needs some desperate renovation and care, as it is falling into disrepair. The house isn't air conditioned and I wonder how much longer some of the furnishings can last without that. Most historic houses are air conditioned to keep down the humidity and help preserve them. Arlington House is open to the elements and the air is circulated with electric fans. Aiyyee. They are doing some work--don't get me wrong--I just wonder if they are doing enough.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Project Runway Fashion Icon

Tonight's episode of Runway was stellar as usual. I was tickled that Angela rocked again in this episode. I was really torn between wanting Angela or Michael to win. I bragged to Judy that I have predicted her for final three. In fact, I asserted, I predicted Angela, Laura, and Michael all for final three on the first night. Hmmm... Did I really? I searched my blog--here's is what I actually wrote:

"Three designers that I think showed talent and originality and I predict will go far: Angela, Laura, and Kayne."

It just shows to go you that your memory can play tricks upon you. I did compliment Michael's first design in that blog entry about the coffee filter dress, because I thought it should have won. I didn't pick him for final three. Now,I think he's a strong contender but that's not as impressive a prediction after four episodes or so as it would have been if I'd made it after the first episode.

Some observations: I was glad to see Bradley go home. He's been weak for several weeks. I always thought he got a pass on that hideous rip-off outfit that was just like Daniel V's lily outfit. And how could Bradley have existed in this world for the last umpteen years and not have a clue about what Cher would wear is beyond my comprehension. She wouldn't have been caught dead in that shiny martian t-shirt top.

What in the world made Robert switch out that great blue fabric for nasty beige linen? Beige linen was NOT an improvement from his original blue fabric--especially when you consider that boring was an issue. I happen to be fairly well versed in Jackie Kennedy's White House style. I have a couple of books on the subject, and I saw the exhibit of her White House clothes in Chicago just last year. It was a tough challenge for Robert--how do you update a look that is still classic? A-line dresses and simple suits were the bulk of her daywear. One note--she did wear linen--apparently Michael Kors mis-remembers that in his assertion that she was always impeccable. Check out some of the photos of her in Oleg Cassini's book. Her linen wrinkled just like everyone else's does. That said, it's a difficult fabric to work with and I doubt that Jackie would have put that rope belt with any suit. She did wear beige at times, but the blue would have been a much stronger, more interesting fashion statement. Robert was lucky not to go home.

Still--Michael and Angela, WOW! I loved both of their designs and the execution was amazing. Robert made those impeccable hot pants in less than two hours. The top could have been wore anywhere. I loved the pleated bottom. Also, I don't understand the criticism of Angela's sewing skills, especially, after her creation of that complicated, double-fabric dress.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon--note the scaffold in the front--they are painting the exterior.

Years ago, Karen, our oldest sister, made it a goal to visit as many Presidential homes as she could. We thought that was a great idea! We jumped on the bandwagon. To date she/we have seen the homes of: Abraham Lincoln (3x), James Garfield, William HenryHarrison (2x), Benjamin Harrison, Andrew Jackson, Dwight Eisenhower, and now George Washington (3x). Since we've seen some multiple times and many more not at all, we're thinking maybe we should step it up a notch. We've been distracted by our visits to "celebrity homes" for example, Graceland, Biltmore, The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms, The Dana-Thomas House and Casa Loma. Clearly, as a family we enjoy touring notable houses. However, considering our goal to visit all the Presidential homes was made and begun something like 20 years ago--our record in that particular enterprise is not impressive.

Tuesday's sightseeing visit was to Mount Vernon. Judy and I took Allison there for the first time last August. That visit was notable for the fact that Judy didn't go in the house because she was unwell from heatstroke. My memories of the occasion center on the pathetic text messages I kept getting on my cell phone as Allison and I completed the tour while she was recovering in an air-conditioned restaurant with a bottle of water and a snack. I realize I sound unsympathetic, but we waited a looong time to get into the house for our tour and she kept texting, "Where are you?" which does beg one to wonder how impaired she was. Where did she think we were? Judy and Jeri then visited Mount Vernon last fall while I was working. This year Karen, Allison, Judy and I visited there because Karen hadn't seen it yet. Amazingly, we all saw and learned new and different things. Also, happily we got our money's worth for the year long passes that we purchased. Yep. Frugal--that's us.

The rear of the house with its impressive piazza--as Washington referred to it.

The house is currently and constantly in a state of renovation and restoration. During today's visit the shutters were off the front of the house and they were painting the exterior. Big preparations are in process for a grand re-opening in October when they unveil a huge complex/museum/orientation center. The impressive thing about Mount Vernon is that it is run entirely on private money and what The Mount Vernon Ladies Association can earn or raise. No federal or state money is involved.

The exterior is wood--made to look like brick and requires constant maintenance.

The ground slopes down toward the Potomac river from the piazza and the views are spectacular. Today was cloudy so the river was grey. What was lost in sparkling views of the water was gained in tolerance for the heat. In spite of the lack of sun, it was still very hot and humid there. If one is strolling casually, that's not a problem, but many of the paths on the estate are steep, so going to the Tomb, the Memorial to the Slaves, the pier, or the extensive gardens is not for the faint-hearted or out of shape.

See. A hill. A steep hill.

Day three of sightseeing is completed and all parties ended up hot, sweaty, and footsore. After dinner at a Red Robin, a Bridezilla dvd marathon followed. The nice thing about vacation is that you can do whatever you want. Tomorrow, I want to rest.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Photo Obsessed

Ever since I started reading Ann Althouse and The Other Side of the Ocean, two of my favorite blogs, I have been photo obsessed. Ann and Nina post such beautiful photographs of the places they have been and the foods that they eat, that they have inspired me to try my hand at photography. I started by purchasing a digital camera when my sister Jeri and her husband Ron came to visit at the end of July. I'm gradually getting the hang of using the camera in a technical sense, aesthetics are developing more slowly. The thing I dislike the most about my particular camera is that it doesn't have a viewfinder separate from the screen on the back of the camera. When taking pictures in sun, out of doors, it's difficult to see what I'm shooting and I can't really see to review whether I got the shot I was going for...if that makes sense.

Monday our little sightseeing posse set out for Gettysburg. I can almost hear the groans of my two readers. "Gettysburg again? You just went there!" It is true that I did just go there, in fact, Monday's visit made it my fourth in the last year. What can I say? It is a very interesting place with fabulous views and historical significance. There is a lot to see and do and with familiarity the enjoyment just increases.

For Allison, my fifteen year old niece, it was her third visit. She wasn't terribly excited about the site on her first visit, but then she watched the dvd of the movie, Gettysburg and she became a Gettysburg buff. Watching Buford look out from the cupola of the Seminary toward McPherson's Ridge while he talked passionately, almost desperately about the lovely ground. Seeing the men of the 20th Maine when they realize they must stand to the last man or the army will be flanked. Experiencing the frustration of Longstreet as he tries to convince Lee to withdraw and then the futile agony of Pickett's Charge. Movies have distorted and ruined history in many cases, but sometimes--it can make the abstract seem real and reconnect us with past events. I highly recommend seeing the movie Gettysburg before a visit to Gettysburg. It managed to inspire a teenager--she's the reason we went back again this week.

At her request, we visited the Jennie Wade Museum for the first time. Jennie Wade was the only civilian killed during the battle of Gettysburg. She was in the kitchen preparing biscuits for the Union soliders when a bullet came through the door and killed her instantly. Amazingly, her mother finished fixing the biscuits for the soldiers after they helped the family evacuate to the cellar.

Jennie Wade's statue holding bread and water which she provided to the Union soldiers.

After touring the museum, we traced the last two-thirds of the battleground tour. Karen and Allison, in their previous visit, didn't get to spend much time at the end of the tour so we wanted to hit the spots they had missed. Allison was determined to get up close and personal with Devil's Den--a huge collection of rocks which was a focal point of the battle and a hideout for sharpshooters.

Then we drove through the Spangler's Spring section of the battlefield. We discovered the Indiana Memorial. Most of my family is from Indiana and we looked and looked for Indiana's Memorial while Ron and Jeri were here. with no success. I'm happy to say the two Memorials we found were well-done.

The Indiana Memorials on Culp's Hill

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Design Star Challenge 3

In this week's episode of Design Star the designers finally got to work on their own. This was a problem for some. Hee Hee. Having company, I don't have time to work out a full-fledged recap but here are my quick-takes impressions from the episode.

Temple--proof that you do not need a "degree" to be a design star. She did a FABULOUS job. I actually thought her room was the winning design. She had a sleek, minimalistic, elegant room. The gray paint on the walls was inspired. The four chain license plate surrounds as art--very pleasing aesthetically. The best thing in the room? The shiny grill displayed above the sofa and the doohickeys that she attached to the front of the sofa.

Vanessa--proof that big talk often masks little talent. Her room was horrible. I feel for her because she had next to nothing to work with in that she had to shop in the beauty supply store. Seems like she could have done something better than hot glue makeup stuff all over some boards for art, however. I particularly enjoyed the way she pouted everytime someone else got a compliment after her own dismal review. I think part of the reason Vanessa went home today was because she led the judges to believe, in the first challenge, that the credit for the design in the bedrooms was all hers. She was declared winner and the expectations were high for her after that. She was disappointing in challenge two, and crashed and burned in this one. Buh-bye.

Teran--proof that lines from the Princess Bride come in handy. He kept using this word--"Victorian" to describe his big blue room with gold circles and modern accessories. I do not think that means what he thinks that means. His room was nearly empty, possibly because he kept spending his time giving Teman advice. Note to Teran--take the tags off your accessories next time.

David--proof that fish bowls are versatile. David's design was judged to be the winner. He did do some very cool things in the room. The orange wall with a positive/negative design of squares was striking. The square geometry of the walls contrasted well with the circular theme of the rug and the art over the sofa and the sculptures. The fishbowl sculpture was very sharp. It sparkled in the room with the lighting. The dog chew sculpture very creative. I disliked intensively his "rug" made of animal bedding which I didn't think was practical. His design was more comprehensive than Temple's, ultimately, so I understand why the judges gave him the win. He rocks as an artist.

Donna--proof that people who like things on a slant can't help themselves. Ignoring what she was told about positioning furniture on a slant in a small space being a bad idea--Donna positioned her sofa on a slant. I really hate slant-y furniture. Overall, not the worst of the designs but not even close to the best. I thought it was an insult to Temple and Alice who performed with excellence to be dismissed from the room at the same time as Donna. Setting various automotive filters around the room isn't particularly creative or original either. Lucky to get through to the next round again.

Alice--proof that nice people can keep trekking in a reality competition. Alice shopped in the camping store and made inspired use of the fabrics she found there. I loved her color palette--admittedly, green is my favorite. I loved that she de-constructed the shelves to make shadow boxes and so did the judges. Very solid performance, overall.

Teman--proof that you can lose sight of the big picture. Teman spent so much time taping his back wall in order to give the room color that he hardly spent any time on the rest of the room. It was unfortunate, because he started out with a coverlet for the couch which was wonderful and graphic and could have been the focal point for the room. Instead he created this bizarre taped wall that ate all his time and competed with the coverlet. I really believed that Teman might make it through when it came down to between Teran and him. I wonder if they got rid of Teran just because they didn't want the two people who shopped at the beauty store to be eliminated? That would have revealed the challenge to be unfairly weighted against the beauty shop people. I hate to see conspiracy theories everywhere, but the beauty shop people didn't have access to near the supplies that the others did, particularly fabrics. In the end Teman's how was cancelled and Teran will now compete for the both of them. I felt the twins' pain, though, because I know in that situation while they both wanted to stay, they each knew their twin would have to go to make it happen. It's tough when you are rooting for two people at the same time. Singles don't have that conflict.

Tym--proof that you can run out of ideas for using a catch phrase in your blog because I can't think of what Tym is proof. Tym chose not to use his money for paint and used dog food bags for art and to add color. Paint would have been an improvement. He made interesting use of de-constructed animal cages but some elements of the room were wierd--ie, the dog leash hanging from the wall like a "hamster noose" as Vern Yip put it.

Next week, two more eliminations and another group challenge--something to do with a kitchen remodel. Sounds like Temple might have a rough time of it. I'm rooting for Alice or David to win at this point, with Temple doing respectably well.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Fort McHenry or Oh, Say Can You See?

The entrance to the park

Fort McHenry is a notable historic site because during the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key viewed the ginormous flag which still flew over the fort after a night of bombardment by the British with relief and was inspired to compose our national anthem.

The Star-Spangled Banner
Francis Scott Key, 1814

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Personally--I was clueless about the verses after the first. I've tried singing them but the tune is so connected with the words in my mind that without music to look at while singing, I found I couldn't sing the other verses accurately.
The flag at the fort is a replica--but it's the same size: gi-normous or in more technical terms--42 feet by 30 feet--waving from the original flagpole.

On summer afternoon's re-enactors demonstrate soldier-y skills, such as marching and loading cannon (pretend) etc. Their heavy uniforms must be murderous to wear in the heat. They are very friendly and happy to pose for photos, however.

My niece Allison, and my twin Judy touring the earthworks. Allison is trying to pull off her Paris Hilton impersonation with her big, white sunglasses. Meanwhile, I told Judy--never carry a pink purse and wear a pink hat with an orangy-red shirt again. Eww. The fort is a star-shape with a pentagon interior. Totally cool looking and the views of the water are spectacular.

Here are Allison, Karen, and Judy in front of the statue erected to honor Major George Armistead the commander of Fort McHenry during the British Bombardment in 1814. He was the uncle of the Armistead who later served on the Union side of the Civil War and was killed at Gettysburg. The second Armistead figures prominently in the movie, Gettysburg.

More Company & Sightseeing

Judy (my twin) told me on the way to the airport this morning that the people in her office asked her where she was going for vacation. I love her answer. She informed the curious, "I don't go on vacation anymore, I'm a destination." Thus, the difference between living in Baltimore versus east central Illinois is described.

We were on the way to the airport to pick up our latest company--Karen and Allison at that time she shared this gem. Karen (our oldest sister) and Ally (our youngest niece) are making the seventh family visit here. Yea!

After catching up on family news for an hour or two, we are now off to the first of many historic spots. This afternoon we'll be visiting Fort McHenry. Don't know much about Fort McHenry? Neither do we, but I expect I'll have photos to post and information to pass along at the end of the day.

Btw, do you know what a gleek is?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Michael Flatley

Remember the late '90's dancing sensation? You know, Irish dancing?? Riverdance? Lord of the Dance? Ringing any bells? Tapping any toes?

How 'bout now?

I came to learn about Michael Flatley when my mother channel hopped (that's tv speak in our family for using the remote to run the channels) her way to a PBS station one evening and happened across Riverdance with Michael Flatley. It was love at first sight for her. She became obsessed with him and the show. She watched him daily and nightly, toes wiggling and tapping, as she leaned forward in her chair. She was housebound, battling Lymphoma, so there was plenty of time in her routine to watch Michael dance. I'd say she had a crush. She wore her videotape down to a nub. Everyone who visited was forced to sit through the show--she would fast forward through the singing bits of Riverdance, being a bit deaf, in order to get to the good parts--that is, Michael dancing. When we discovered Lord of the Dance, well, the excitement that caused was a somewhat unnerving.

Being a loving and considerate daughter (ahem) I got the idea that we could see this dance sensation in person--maybe even meet him back stage if we could. A quick trip to TicketMaster and I was all set with three tickets to see Lord of the Dance in Columbus Ohio. That was a short three hour drive from my mother's home in central Indiana. Sadly, she never felt well enough to make the trip. Judy and I went. My niece **Emily** used the ticket that would have been for my mom. She enjoyed hearing about the show-- and we had great seats-- but I've always regretted that her window of wellness closed that little bit too soon for her to enjoy the show in person.

I happened to be browsing on Amazon the other day and discovered a DVD of a seemingly new show by Michael Flatley. New to me anyway--I haven't exactly kept up with his career. I didn't know he still had one. I felt a little surge of excitement, though, and quickly hit the button to order it. My mother died in August of 1998, and this year I think I'll watch Michael strut his Celtic Tiger stuff and raise a glass in her memory.

By the way--that picture of Michael Flatley at the top of this entry? It's identical to the poster I bought at the Columbus show. I had that poster framed and it hangs, big as life, in the entryway to my apartment. Seriously. The workings of my mind are a mystery to me, as well.

UPDATE: My niece Emily wrote to alert me that SHE was the niece that used Gramma's ticket to see LOTD in Ohio, not Andrea. Thank goodness for the accuracy of youthful memory. In my own pitiful defense, I have seen the show three different times. Stuff runs together. I'm old-ish... I'm kind of embarrassed about this, can you tell? I guess I should call Andrea and find out if she even ever went to LOTD at all. At least if she went to it once, I won't think I'm completely senile. Maybe.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Surprised by Poetry

In my youth, (lo, those many years ago) I enjoyed poetry so much that I collected my favorite poems in a spiral bound notebook. I have been pondering about whatever happened to my notebook since I began blogging because I thought the poems would be very bloggable. I couldn't imagine that I would have thrown it away, it was quite a project in its day. As time went by, and I didn't stumble across it, I kept wondering if in a fit of madness I had tossed it--as you sometimes do when you go on a super-organizing cleaning jag. Happily, I found it today while unpacking boxes of books onto my new bookcases. Here is a gem from Stephen Crane:

The Wayfarer

The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha”, he said,
“I see that no one has passed here
In a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well, “ he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.”

Design Star Recap #2

Designed to Sell

This is a show that is getting better and better. I can’t emphasize enough its similarity to Project Runway. In this episode, the nine designers are split into three teams of three and given $2000.00 dollars (each team) to revamp a room in a Long Island tutor style home. That is a generous budget compared to the show Designed to Sell. This home has been on the market for eight months and desperately needs an intervention in order to sell. The three rooms are Kitchen, Living Room and Master Bedroom. I don’t remember how it was decided which team would get what room. (It’s been two days!)

The designers each opened a paint can and the three designers with a star on their paint can lid are made the team captains. Donna, Joseph, and Tym get stars. The team captains chose their teams, playground style. The designers were chosen in this order: David, Vanessa, Teran, Teman, Alice, and Temple. Donna makes a production out of her pick by giving a speech telling Teran how much she enjoyed working with him on the last challenge. He thinks he has been picked—but, oops…she was just trying to say she liked him but wanted David. (I cannot hide it…I do not like Donna.) The edit immediately shows Donna making a snarky remark about Temple being difficult. I do not know what she is basing this on—Ramona was the horror story in the last episode, not Temple.

Team Kitchen consisted of Donna, David, and Temple. The kitchen is a horror show with weird yellow wallpaper covered with teacups. The floor is a very rustic and assertive rust tile. The counters are black granite and the cupboards are a dark cherry. There is an ornate breakfast set of wrought iron.

The team plan in the kitchen was to tone it down. They elected to paint the wallpaper (I hate that) and chose a color called latte. Temple suggested antique-ing the cupboards to lighten their shade. Temple threw out many many, many ideas that were ignored and disregarded by Donna. She and Temple clashed right away. I can’t speak to whether or not Temple’s ideas were good or bad but at least she had ideas. Donna seems to have no design philosophy except mediocrity. While Temple and David worked in the kitchen, Donna shopped. She made five separate trips back and forth to the store in one day, as Temple pointed out in their big argument. She and Temple fought about how little Donna did in the room. Donna was indignant. She shopped! She managed to cattily taunt Temple for her beauty queen background. Apparently Temple prances around acting like a beauty queen in Donna World. Frankly, that’s the pot calling the kettle copper, because they are both dressed to the nines and wear heels.

Team Master Bedroom consisted of Tym, Teran and Teman. As a twin, I was annoyed that Tym chose both Teran and Teman. He made some remark about wanting to see them working together or something, but they deserved to be picked because of some positive quality about themselves not because they are a side show of similarity.

The master bedroom has a horrible mural all over the walls and ugly carpet on the floor. The bed is set up in the middle of the room. The team plan was to redo the floor and walls and reset the room so that the furniture isn’t plopped into the middle of the room. Team Master Bedroom got very lucky, because the mural was overwhelmingly horrible and just painting over it made a huge difference. That said, the team had time management issues. Tym was gone most of the day—getting wood? It appeared that Teran and Teman had to do the bulk of the labor. They didn’t finish priming the room in the first day which put them behind. They pulled up carpet and made their own wooden floor which had to be polyurethaned in 15 minutes. (I have NO idea how to spell that word, thank goodness for spell check!) Other than the time problem, this team agreed on most things and got along well which was a nice change.

Team Living Room consisted of Joseph, Vanessa and Alice. Joseph picked Vanessa because he thought as the winner of the previous challenge she would be an asset. Unfortunately, Vanessa isn’t a team player and isn’t really capable of following another person’s lead. She also is a liar, but more about that later.

The plan for the living room was to make the space work better. The long narrow room had a blah sectional, which the team said was too big for the space and some other oddly placed seating areas but overall the space is awkward. None of the furniture matched. For reasons known only to them, the team wanted to make the challenge MORE challenging by using only half of their budget. Stooopid. They cut the sectional down (can a sectional be too big for a big room? I question that) and recovered it. There was some disagreement about the fabric. Vanessa insisted on a gold lame which she contrasted with burgundy brocade. When Alice didn’t agree with her choice of fabric, she hauled Joseph out to the store. He rolled over and agreed with Vanessa, who very smugly told the camera that she knew she was right about the fabric. There is a lengthy crisis for this team involving the painting of a table which was supposed to be left alone according to the contract with the homeowners. Everyone is upset. Vanessa cries in the bathroom. They got the paint off the table without any injury to the piece. At first, everyone took responsibility for the mistake but gradually, Vanessa began to try to distance herself from blame. It was smarmy.

In the judging—

Team Kitchen spent $1500.00 of their $2000.00 budget. Donna claimed that their design strategy was “simple, rustic”. They wanted to tone down the room. They painted and bought new breakfast furniture. They changed the accessories. Cynthia Rowley said that while they staged the room very nicely, they didn’t change the design very much. Vern Yip thought that the big problem was the floor didn’t change much. Even though the judges didn’t rave with joy, they didn’t bash the room either—still Temple and Donna elected to argue like three year olds in front of the judges. Their behavior was bizarre and I think they both effectively lost the HGTV job in that moment. Don’t forget—these people are trying to get a design show--if we don’t like them, in the end, we won’t watch them. I’m figuring the producers know this.

Team Master Bedroom spent an unknown amount of money. They probably flashed it on the screen but I didn’t notice it. The judges all agree they made a major improvement in the room. They win kudos for the floor that they put down. Vern Yip thought they could have done more with color…painting the fireplace wall a slightly darker shade. If that’s the worst they say, Team MB will take it.

Team Living Room spent $1057.00 of their $2000.00. The judges felt the room looked emptier than before and that they ruined the couch. The new upholstery was not a hit. They complimented the addition of drapes to the room. They focused on the “eating” area of the room. The team salvaged the wrought iron breakfast set that the kitchen team discarded and put it at one end of the living room. They decorated the wall with three plates. Those three plates came under a lot of fire from the judges. They are too small for the space and they made Vern want to play connect the dots. Vanessa, again, shot her mouth off. She interrupted the judges. She could not control herself AND she used bad grammar. “Him and I” was the notable way she began one sentence. When the story of the table that was painted but shouldn’t have been came out—Vanessa defended herself saying “I’ve been a designer seven years and I’ve never done that.” Okay—you’ve never done it BEFORE—but you did do it this time so what’s your point? When Vanessa was criticized for the plates, she immediately said, “The plates weren’t my idea!” in a loud whisper. Okay—what’s with the whisper? Is it because she was interrupting the judges again? Or did she think that the rest of her team wouldn’t hear her throw them under the bus if she whispered?

The Decision—

Team Master Bedroom won the challenge. Team Kitchen had been ‘good enough’. (Although they told Donna her work was mediocre and she had barely scraped through to another round.) It was clear that Team Living Room lost the challenge and one of them would go home. Alice made a tearful speech about how they succeeded in the challenge in two of the three areas—they stayed under budget and they got along. She commented on how Team Kitchen fought the whole time. She felt they all should go since they acted as a team. She did make a remark about Vanessa telling Joseph where to put the plates so that the judges would know that Vanessa was involved in the debacle of the plates. Cynthia Rowley appeared moved by her comments. Alice was told that her work on the team was solid (she was against the fabrics Vanessa chose, remember) and she left the room. It came down to Joseph of the big sideburns and Vanessa motor mouth. Joseph went home, I think, because as team captain he had greater responsibility. Also, Vanessa because of her previous win, had earned some credit with the judges which allowed her to survive this round.

After the judging, the designers gathered in the green room. When Vanessa returned, she approached Alice. Alice was cold to her and Vanessa wondered why, apparently. Alice told her that she was mad at her for her comment about the plates not being her idea. They had agreed before the judging that they would represent everything to the judges as joint/group decisions. Vanessa denied that she tried to squirm out of that deal with her comment about the plates. Temple and Donna began fighting again. There was annoying weeping, as Temple said, “I don’t want to be portrayed this way.” I was thinking—then girl—SHUT UP! They can’t show you saying things that you don’t say, after all.

Next week—individual challenges. I’m looking forward to this because the weaker designers have been able to skate on the ideas of the stronger designers with the team challenges.