Tuesday, May 31, 2011

TV Tuesday: American Idol Takes Oklahoma by Storm

The storms that ravaged our country last week wrecked lives. I'm grateful my loved ones are all safe, but my heart aches for the families who lost everything.  A particular story touched my heart and made me snuggle my little one a little longer and a little closer. Click here to see how you can help. Or click here to donate to the Red Cross. Click here for the Salvation Army.

It may seem shallow of me to write about American Idol and the tragic storms together, but they are linked in my brain. In an attempt to keep Oklahomans safe last week, the news stations across the state preempted all programming--including the final performances of Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina. My little family missed the teens while strategizing whether to drive to my brother's home and leap in his hidey-hole or set up a fort in an interior closet.

If I'd known what happened to the Hamil family, we would have gone to my brother's.  Installing a storm shelter UNDERGROUND is now on our list of to-dos.

I mean, we live on a hill.

In Oklahoma.

We don't allow a lot of tv watching, but my son's internal calendar tells him the nights it's time to snuggle with Mommy and watch American Idol.  I loved when he cuddled and clapped.

What show can I replace it with that is family friendly and inspirational?

Again, click on the above links to help storm victims.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TV Tuesday: Pregnant in Heels

Oh my goodness. 

That's what you'll say when you watch it, too.

Pregnant in Heels is a show about "maternity concierge" Rosie Pope who caters to the "millionaire mamas" of the upper East side in Manhattan.

My pal Jennifer who is a party planner and super-mom introduced me to this show.

I confess it makes me chipper when I'm having a stressful day and feel less-than-prepared for my wee one on its way. 

One eye-popping moment is when Rosie tries to help a completely unprepared mom by introducing a real-life infant.  The millionaire mama holds the teeny-tiny at arms' length before thrusting him at her husband.  She says something like...."Oooh, it's too heavy. I need to go to the gym." The birth is about a week away.  Yeah. Good luck on those biceps, lady. Not to worry. She's planning to have a nanny. And within three days of baby's due date, some other hired hand is expected to set up the crib.

Oh my goodness.

Another couple calls their unborn a parasite.  They don't want a baby messing up their clean-lined, modern apartment. The mom-to-be's solution regarding toys?  She compromises by saying two blocks will be allowed so the space invader can click them together.

Oh my goodness.

Another couple, who is more impressed with themselves than probably anyone else, hires Rosie to help them "brand" their baby.  They need a name. They want his name to suggest to others just how important they think they are. After a panel of people--ranging from a linguist to a poet--suggest names, they have a focus group offer opinions. As if that isn't enough, Rosie throws a dinner party for the couple's closest friends so they can be discredited by the couple, too.  Guess what?  The couple chooses the name that NO ONE likes, except them.

Some people have more money than sense.

Needless to say, Rosie's services prevail. When she visits each couple after the baby is born, I don't feel the need to call child services.

How Rosie Pope manages to keep her cool is beyond my comprehension.  Not only are most of the mama moments over-the-top, but Rosie is enduring in-vitro fertilization. Wowzuh.  I'm hoping to see a major meltdown when her hormones strike back at some pregnant diva.

The show is highly entertaining and offers anyone the opportunity to feel smug.

Grab a martini--or mocktini--and check out the first episode on Hulu.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Favorite: Sesame Street Party

My son's birthday is at the end of the summer. So, of course, I fantasize about his party months in advance.  Last year, the kid was totally Devoted to Elmo. Note the capital "d."

On his birthday he became ill, so we had to postpone.  A week later, fewer attendees, and approximately two days after he suddenly stopped being fascinated with all things Sesame Street, we had his party.  We had a great time.

If you're wanting to have a Sesame Street party, check out these blogs for inspiration.

Kara's Party Ideas: This Sesame Street party is unrivaled.  If you click on no other link, check out this one. Seriously.

Birthday Girl: Gotta love the multi-colored theme--especially the Jones soda.

Hostess With the Mostess: I'm a baked goods sort of girl. The thought of candy buffets makes me queasy, but aren't they pretty?

P is for Party: The street signs, fish bowl, and giant blocks add to the fun.

Lovely Sprinkles: I absolutely fell in love with these invitations which inspired me to include stickers in ours. They were a hit!

Party Perfect: If I were a more patient person, I'd have totally made these cake balls.

Hostess With the Mostess: Is your kid crazy about Cookie Monster? Look no further!

Kara's Party Ideas: Is your kid in love with Elmo?

Brush up on your Sesame Street characters with this link. 

Wasn't that fun? Don't you feel like you've been to a party?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writer's Wednesday: Forming a Critique Group

 When I first envisioned the critique group that is now our Inklings, I had one primary, selfish goal: to finish my novel. But there were other goals, too. My mother loved writing and was good at it.  I wanted to provide her the opportunity to complete something as well. Friends wanted to write and desired a place to grow. Most English teachers choose the major because they love reading and writing. Unfortunately, once you're teaching students your passion, you seldom have time to indulge yourself unless you carefully--selfishly?--carve out time.
I imagined a group where each member could feel safe to nurture creativity and express herself while improving her writing skills and producing finished works.  I wanted a safe, fun, non-judgmental learning environment.  I wanted monthly meetings. As a result, I introduced my idea to a chosen few, and we carefully selected writers to invite. 
Keeping in line with my motivation for completing writing projects, we had only one rule: Don’t show up unless you wrote something.   
Attending a meeting without going through the writing process benefits no one.  The reasons for attending are different.  What you contribute and what you take away are different.  If you aren't writing, why join a writing group? Plus, if you’re not writing each month, then you’re not producing—which was the primary goal for starting the Inklings in the first place. 
I’m proof our rule of writing each meeting works. The prologue of Glamour came from a journal prompt I gave my students.  I didn’t always write with them, but that day I did because I didn’t have anything for the meeting that night. (Since the meeting was held at my home that evening, I couldn't exactly skip it.) I only gave 15-20 minutes of journal time each day, which means I had far less than that because some boys in the back of the classroom were more interested in one of them getting turned down for prom than buckling down and writing. Thus, “She liked to keep their tongues in her pocket” found paper. That night I read the prologue of Glamour. One of the members pointed out I’d finally found my antagonist.
Over the last 10 years, our group has grown and changed. Membership now encompasses several fabulous ladies who have not taught Shakespeare or grammar a day in their lives. Like all great, living things, the Inklings started somewhere.
People join writing groups for many reasons. Perhaps my goals for creating the Inklings aren't the same as yours.  Next week, we'll get down to the nitty-gritty of creating a group. In preparation, answer the following questions:
  • What is your primary goal?
  • What do you want to get out of the group?
  • How much time can you dedicate to writing?
  • How often would you like to meet?
  • Where would you want to meet?
  • How long would the meetings last?
  • What is your ideal meeting? Describe it from beginning to end.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

TV Tuesday: James Durbin is my American Idol

I've never watched so many episodes of American Idol The feel-good attitude of the new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez combined with the talent and diversity of the contestants pulls me back each week.

One singer who even managed to reel in my husband and anchor him to the television set is James Durbin.

Hubby probably wouldn't be thrilled to know I shared that he watches American Idol, but he does.  Or rather, he did.

James Durbin was eliminated last week.

Now what do we do?

We both love James. He had me at his audition.

He really had me at his story.

Even though his mother claims he's always had perfect pitch, he's had a less than harmonious existence.  Not only does he have Tourette's, but he also has Aspergers.  Meeting "an angel" changed his life. Then he and Heidi had their son.  Watching him each week was special for me because his passion for music and his family resonated.

How many other contestants auditioned because they couldn't afford diapers?

Sure, the remaining three are talented, too, or I couldn't have watched so long.  Read here to see what I said about them a few weeks ago. Scotty and Lauren are sweet with beautiful voices. Hayley is the underdog whose talent and va-va-va-voom led her to the top three.

But James is a well-rounded artist.

Durbin visualized each performance--flaming pianos, marching drummers and all--and created it on a storyboard.  The others admitted to stressing about what to wear each week, but Durbin designed his own costumes.  The guy has stage presence. He included the camera and the live audience in a natural way that many others still haven't mastered.

I'm amazed at his talent.

So, James, you asked in one of my favorite performances: Will you still love me tomorrow? 

Yes, James. Yes, we will.

Let us know when you're on tour, and we'll be there.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Friday Favorite (on Sunday): tea with friends

 Since I moved two years ago, I've been on the hunt for a tea room, so I was delighted when my writing pal Sonia invited me to tea in Tulsa.  She brought her long-time friend Michelle who was visiting from Nashville, and I brought my Ange.

We all met in Tulsa at Dragonmoon Tea Company.  Apparently they have fabulous lunches, but they also serve afternoon tea by reservation. It's so worth it.  That afternoon we had the cozy little house all to ourselves.  Vladimir was our server.

Doesn't his name alone make you want to go?

Vladimir didn't flinch when I asked--in all my pregnant concern--if he would mind heating the deli meat and the chicken salad.  (Somehow I didn't feel like the annoying customer I do now as I write this.)  He simply told me that he understood and his wife had done the same thing. 

See? Wonderful. 

Plus, he shared that he never went to bed the night of the royal wedding. He just stayed up and watched it.  A sweet guy who loves tea and watched the royal wedding? Gotta love him.

The ladies and I enjoyed scrumptious yummies and delicious tea.  My favorite was the Versaille Lavendar Earl Gray.  Ange and Michelle seemed to enjoy the Dragonmoon. I'm not certain which Sonia preferred.  She's quite the tea expert, so I should find out.

Here's a pic of our tea tray.

Here's a pic of one of the adorable cakes.

Although I look ridiculous in this next picture, I wanted to show you my lovely tea companions.

If you're looking for a fun spot to gather with friends--new and old--check out Tulsa's Dragonmoon Tea Room.  If you're in the Tulsa area, give me a call. I'd love to meet you there!

Don't just take my word for it.  Check out this article. And this one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Writer's Wednesday: Bring out the tiara!

My writing group is amazing.  Just ask us.

Ten years ago, I carefully selected a small cluster of friends, and we formed a writing group. Later, we decided we needed a name. Since then, The Inklings have grown as writers and in number.  One of my favorite traditions is going to the Oklahoma Writer's Federation, Inc. each year.

My mother and I went first--way back in 2003.
Martha and Brandi after OWFI in 2003
She'd attended previously and thought I'd enjoy it as a birthday gift. We had such a good time that we decided to bring our pals and enter the contest the following year.
The Inklings at our first OWFI banquet. (Photo taken by William Bernardt!)

The first time The Inklings attended OWFI, a member said, "What group are you?"

"We're the Inklings."

"Never heard of you."

We smiled. "You will."
Kelly and Brandi with certificates and checks from our first OWFI contest.

So true.

We make new friends each year. That's part of who we are. Gabbing with others who are passionate about writing is a favorite past time.

Inklings and friends at our 2011 banquet table

In 2005, Lisa introduced the "hallelujah basket."
Hallelujah basket 2006

She's stowed various items of celebration in it over the years, but there's always, always a tiara and jingle bells.  During the banquet in which contest winners are announced, we shake the basket to get those bells jingling as we applaud.  When the winner returns with her prize, she is crowned with a tiara--until the next winner claims it.  It's. So. Much. Fun.

I love seeing my friends crowned.

Dee Dee Chumley
Kelly Bristow
Sonia Gensler

Karuna Clark

Shel Harrington
Martha Bryant

Lisa Marotta
Karen Coody-Cooper

Don't get me wrong. I like a tiara, too!

This year, the announcer even joined in our fun as she announced. "Well, get out the tiara."

Next Writer's Wednesday: How to start your own critique group.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Favorite: Birthday wishes

My birthday was Wednesday and it was wonderful.  So many friends and family members made my day a happy one.

The best birthday greeting of all?

When I pulled into the garage after work, my little guy rushed out the door and climbed in my lap. He flung his arms around me and said, "Happy birthday, Mommy." 

The hubby claims he wasn't coached. 

Simple goodness melts my heart.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Writer's Wednesday: Sisterhood of the Traveling Jewelry

Ange, Katie (wearing necklace), Brandi in James Avery

I've been a big fan of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants over the years.  The story speaks to me.

Enduring friendship is something I understand. Throughout life I've been blessed with many unique women who are truly friends.  I am fortunate to have so many amazing ladies in my life.

However, I have a certain trio of friends who, as a unit, have been close for almost a quarter of a century. Katie and I met when we were three.  Ange entered our lives in middle school. (Katie and I are on the left. I'm in the polka dot disaster.  Ange is in the center wearing the green.)

Middle School Graduation

We've celebrated and suffered the wins and losses of life.  Even when none of us resided in the same state, we maintained our bond. Many young friendships end once that high school diploma is delivered. Not ours.
10 Year Class Reunion

Throughout the undergrad years, we visited each other at college. (They actually met my husband at a party. Pointing to him in his bright blue sweatshirt, they asked, "Why haven't you dated him?") We celebrate milestones. (When Katie had her firstborn, Ange and I drove thirteen hours to see that little miracle.) We offer suggestions. (They both think Baby Girl should be named after them, and Ange informed me it doesn't matter what I call her, she'll still call her "Junior.")

Technology is readily available, but we think what kept our bond strong in college and into adulthood is simple.  The written word.  We kept in touch the old fashioned way--letters. Who doesn't like to get a real card or letter in the mail--especially in college?  I remember scanning their penmanship to see if what they were writing matched the emotions conveyed in their scrawls. Unlike email that needs to be deleted, those letters were kept and reread.  It was nice to know that somewhere in the world, two girls had known me a long time, understood my major flaws, and still loved and supported me in spite of them.

So, last week when we met up in person for the first time in almost two years, we did a very girly thing to celebrate our friendship. 

We shopped.

At James Avery we found a simple, free-form infinity pendant and three chains.

At Barnes and Noble we found the accompanying journal.

Instead of inked up pants that can't be washed or cuffed, we plan to mail the pendant and the stories that go with it on a rotating basis.

Stolen from the rules of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, we inscribed instructions in the front of our first journal:
 Write the most important thing that happened to you while wearing the necklace. 
Write the most exciting place you visited while wearing the necklace.
Remember: Jewelry=Love. Love your pals. Love yourself.

Many journals and pendant exchanges from now, I imagine we'll gather and recall our lives together.  It's probably a good thing it will be in writing, since we probably won't be able to hear too well by then!

Does anyone else have a special way to celebrate enduring friendships? Do you and your high school plans have a way of staying close? Have you gathered inspiration from a book and used it in real life?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

TV Tuesday: White House Correspondents' Dinner

The White House Corresondents' Dinner was on CSPAN.  Seth Meyers, Saturday Night Live's head writer, was the comedian/host of the event. I laughed while reading about it, so I wanted to watch it.  I thought you might, too.

Didn't Donald Trump know the event is traditionally a roast? (Sure, it usually primarily roasts the president, but everyone is fair game.)  I'm a little concerned for the mogul because he seems to have lost his sense of humor. Sir, if you're going to run for office, you need thicker skin. You can't "fire" the American people when they displease you.

Our elected officials must keep many secrets and guard their emotions carefully. I marvel at how Mr. Obama flashed the big smile when Seth Meyers cracks the joke about his inability to locate Osama bin Ladin--especially since the president and a select few knew exactly where bin Laden was and had helped plan an attack for the following day that would result in the end of the terrorist's reign.

So, for a few political chuckles at everyone's expense....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Friday Favorites...on Sunday

Friday began early with the royal wedding. I'm trying to figure out when I'm going to bake scones, brew tea and watch all the recorded footage. As you know from Wednesday's post, I eagerly anticipated this wedding and, like the 2 billion watching around the globe, was happy to share in the couple's joyful day.

And who can deny it was anything but joyful? They looked so happy--as a couple should on their wedding day.

If I were planning a wedding ceremony--especially to a military man, I'd imitate the clothes.  The only man more handsome than one in a tux is one in uniform. The bridesmaids wearing white to match the bride was lovely. Some say that the bride should be the only one wearing white. Pshaw!

The Brits know how to rock a hat! I'm totally getting one. Who's with me?

Since I've studied so many royal weddings recently, as soon as I saw the bride, I said, "She looks like Grace Kelley!" Many commentators mentioned it throughout the day. Upon closer inspection, however, I notice the gowns aren't entirely similar.
Princess Grace and The Duchess of Cambridge
Perhaps the designer had something in mind. I read somewhere that Grace Kelley's dress style was chosen to make her appear more regal since she was merely an American actress.  Do you suppose the same intent of raising her status from commoner to royal went into the selection for Kate Middleton? If so, the move was unnecessary.

Her poise did that.

If you haven't had your fill of the royal wedding, check out this site for the royal photos.

I watched this the wedded bliss from a condo in Branson, MO. My parents, grandmother, hubby and son spent a long holiday weekend in the Ozarks. Our entire purpose for going was to give our son the opportunity to ride a real steam engine. Although he knew it wasn't really Thomas the Train, he loved it; although, I suspect he might have liked the popcorn more. And he learned a new word: caboose!