Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pick a song, any song

Poindexter descends stairs. Judges climb over each other awkwardly to get to their seats. Idols make grand entrance and I say, "What the HECK is she wearing?!?!" well before the judges said it.

I guess the Idols weren't able to visit iTunes headquarters so they visited Ryan's radio studio instead and watched him play with the buttons. Good times.

I like Kara. And holy, Randy finally said what really needed to be said on this show: Just because you like a song doesn't mean you can sing it. I threw a victory punch in the air and yelled, "YES!" when he said that. Something not only coherent, but very, very necessary to say!

Ryan's intros: Stage. Stage. Stools. Stairs. Stairs. Mosh Pit. Stools. Stairs. Stage. Way to mix it up, Idol Producers.

Anoop Desai ("Caught Up" by Usher): Hmmmmmm, vocally, it was good, but the overall performance was just okay for me. I need to see more . . . something in his performance. I like him and want to see him do well, but his cocky defensiveness is starting to grate on my nerves. Though I thought it was funny when Kara dissed the Frat Guys and then the camera showed the Frat Guys booing her. Hilarious. And I don't like it when singers pronounce "me" as "may." Tomato. Tomata. It's annoying.

Megan Joy ("Turn Your Lights Down Low" by Bob Marley): What happened to her last name? They dropped it. Corkrey no more. Megan Joy. But Joy is not what I feel when I listen to her. Nausea and discomfort are more along the lines of what I feel. When she sings. And when she overcompensates for her insecurities by lots of winking and head nodding and mouthing the words, "Vote for me!" after she kills (and not in the good way) her song. She isn't in key! And the necklaces and braids didn't help at all. Eric, my best friend in high school, is a huge Marley fan and he got me listening to it all the time. This was an awful thing to do to this song. And I love Paula but even if Megan had a stool, it wouldn't make a difference. It'd just be a really bad song on a "big chair." I'm sick of hearing her saying that she's going to do it next week. Amen, Simon. She's been saying that every week. Enough already.

Danny Gokey ("What Hurts the Most" by Rascall Flatts): Gokey done good. It was a very, very good performance. I love the tone of his voice. Knowing his back story made the song very emotional and believable and moving. He kind of looks like my cousin "Little Johnny" (no lie, that's what we call him even though he's like 30 now). I totally felt like the show started with his performance.

Allison Iraheta ("Don't Speak" by No Doubt): She plays guitar?! Awesome. She chose a good song, but she seemed nervous tonight to me. A little rushed at the beginning while she played with the guitar. Slightly off in parts (but only slightly). But dude, she's SIXTEEN. So if this is an "off night" for her . . . WOW. Her off night is light years ahead of Megan's best performances (assuming we believe she's had any). The judges could've eased up on her outfit, but it really was pretty hideous. I love how she takes it all in stride and laughs it off, though. Amazing talent on this girl. And for those counting at home, Paula has now predicted 3 people into the finale. What is with the female judges and their inability to count?

Scott MacIntyre ("Just The Way You Are" by Billy Joel): He did a fabulous job and it was a very wise choice to not include the band in his performance. I like what he did with the song. It was like Joel meets Manilow. This was Scott's best performance to date even if they did Rick Springfield his hair. And I thought what Paula said about being proud of him was really sweet.

Matt Giraud ("You Found Me" by The Fray): Oh Matt. I so badly want to see Matt do well. But this was not the right kind of song for him. He has so much soul and he really does need to stick to it. I have to say that the judges were right about that. Oh, he looked so nervous from having been in the bottom 3. The song didn't suit him and it sounded way too low for him and he seemed nervous. I know he'd like to be that kind of artist but it's uncomfortable on him. But when he does the soul/R&B stuff . . . wow! That being said, I loved when he went into his false (as usual) and just in general, it would be so very wrong for him to get booted before Megan. So wrong. And I love Kara for saying so.

Lil Rounds ("I Surrender" by Celine Dion): [ sarcasm ] Oh, I am so shocked that she sang a song by a diva like Celine Dion [ /sarcasm ]. You know, I like her hair in the interviews. And then she steps out with extensions or a wig or something and I have to wonder why she doesn't spend as much time choosing a song as she must spend sitting in a salon chair adding to her hair like that. Don't get me wrong. She did okay, but not great. It was very off in many parts. But I AM BORED. I have been bored by her for a long time. She seems to have no idea who she is as an artist. I feel much like Randy on this one--pleading with her to PLEASE do some Mary J. Blige or something . . . anything that might just suit her. The judges constantly say it to her and she smiles and nods and says, "All right. I can do that," and then subjects us to more of the same. Yawn. I'm bored with you now. But she does have way cute little kids. What's with Ryan teaching her child to be violent, though? I'm done with Lil. But not as done as I am with Megan. But it's close.

Adam Lambert ("Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry): OMG! OMG! This guys is freaking unbelievable!! I feel like screaming from the rooftops to those who haven't noticed . . . We haven't had an artist like this in well over a decade!!!!!! And it's about time! This guy . . . I mean, think like Freddie Mercury and Axl Rose and Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler and . . . OMG! OMG! He's so so so amazing! How has this guy not been discovered yet?!?!? What the . . . WOW! I LOVE this guy!! I could listen to him 9 times and not hear any others and be very, very happy. This guy is a star. An artist. Has soul. Has rock. Has funk. HOLY Moses. I can't get enough Adam Lambert. He's in a league entirely his own. I miss his rock hair, but other than that, oh baby, it was hot! When he goes into his higher register and "Adam Lamberts" that song . . . WOW! And hello, he sang "Play That Funky Music, White Boy" and that alone should get a standing "O." LOVE this guy. The passion that exudes from him when he performs is unlike anything I've seen in a very long time. And I love it! And he has such a subdued, kind, likeable personality in his interviews and when he gets his critique from the judges. I was chatting with my SIL Jessica today and she totally got what I was saying, so I'll try to express it here, too: It's not that he's good looking, but it's that he's sexy. In the way he performs, carries himself, etc. Adam Lambert is rocking this season of Idol and I dig it.

Kris Allen ("Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers): I love this song. And this arrangment was fabulous. Strings on the stage? With him and the keyboard? Brilliant. And what?! He plays piano, too?? Way to play that card several weeks in. Holy talented and smart! This boy so so SO has swagger. Absolutely no doubt about it. And he has such amazing control of his vocals. He's surprising in his abilities and I like him very much. And he's so cute. Adorable. The boys are SO carrying this whole thing.

From best to worst:


And I'm okay with that order . . . for the most part. Matt needs to work his way up there and away from those 2 ladies at the bottom of the list.

Who'll be in the bottom 3: Anoop, Megan, Lil
Who'll leave: Lil or Megan . . . oh I don't care which

Top 9 Recap (I Surrender!)

I was all geared up for birth year songs so the very "limited" theme this week threw me for a loop. These nebulous categories are always the worst--more potential train wrecks and plenty of "songs I love." Randy finally articulated what we here at home have been saying for years with this show: just because you like a song doesn't mean you can sing that song. Again, another day at the office for the idols. Kara's counting, Randy's watching paint dry and enjoying people's vocal "prowness," and Paula's talking about furniture. As far as the contestants go, we had a few stand-outs, some solids, a disappointment or two, and a "why, oh why am I subjected to this." You can all decide which performances fit into which categories, but as Simon would say, you can disagree with me but you would be wrong.

Anoop: A disappointment for me. I didn't know the song, but I knew Usher would be one of those "don't do it" kind of moments. Anoop picked a song he likes, but not one that performs well on Idol. And I'll agree with Stacy ahead of time (because I know she's going to say it)--he's getting a little arrogant in his defensiveness. He's been yanked around a lot through the weeks, but something not good has happened along the way. Maybe it's because the Indian kid is referring to himself as a brother and talking about his homies.

Megan Joy: She can't even pick a good one-name name. First she's Megan Corkrey, then Megan Joy Corkrey, and now just Megan Joy. A rose by any other name . . . I honestly don't get it. Even though she didn't pick the Marley song I feared she would ("I Shot the Sheriff") it was still the wrong song (obviously). First, it was out of tune from start to finish. Second, the lyrics actually say "I died," which is not a great choice given the karma of the lyrics. And third, she really isn't a very good singer in the end. Adequate at times, but nothing spectacular. I almost tire of even commenting on her performances, but apparently can't help myself. (And now Stacy is watching a second time to refresh her memory. How lucky am I?!)

Danny: This guy is the real deal. He's got a recognizable sound and great musical ability. One thing that is impressive to me is that despite the emotional heartbreak he has to still carry he has not once (that I can remember) used that to garner votes or sympathy. Really, we know about it because American Idol has used that footage during audition weeks ad nauseum. He's like a man on a mission.

Allison: So she plays guitar, too? Very nice. She has the entire rocker persona down. I'm a little frustrated the judges really made the wardrobe the focus tonight, although I agree it was not a good selection! Her performance was solid, but not great. She is proving she is a force and I hope she continues to get the credit she deserves. And Paula used the word "ax" tonight. Very cool.

Scott: That he would pick a Billy Joel song was not a difficult prediction. It was, in fact, a perfect selection, including going solo on the piano. He doesn't have the greatest voice, but it is very good. And, Scott knows exactly how to play to his strengths. Big props to him for stepping up his game and bringing it this week after a disappointing last week (how's that for three overdone Idol phrases?).

Matt: This was a bad week for Matt so I'm glad Kara tried to come to his rescue. No way he deserves to go home based on his performances as a whole, and not even based on tonight's. He's got to stop choosing songs he likes (a la Megan) and choose the songs that fit him. When he's an established artist he can start to branch out and experiment. For now he has to focus on his "natural" genre, which is toward the R&B side of things. An upside to his performance--I liked how he started in the crowd. Very interesting.

Lil: I'm so shocked Lil picked a diva song. And I'm also so shocked that it came off as less impressive than she thought. Have people learned nothing yet from this show? Not one winner of the show has been a classic diva. A few have had the big voice necessary to pull off songs by Celene Dion, but the winners have found ways to win without resorting to these predictable choices.

Adam: Funky white boy indeed! Ka-ching go the producers. Adam is going to do very well for himself. I feel like I say the same thing over and over again, but Adam is the most current and unique contestant this year, and he's unique in a good way, not in a nasally, what in the world is she doing with her arms, Megan Joy kind of way (sorry, I had to get one more shot in).

Kris: Now he plays the piano. A triple threat! His arrangement was great and I loved the whole performance. I may have even liked it better than Adam in a less obvious kind of way. As a musician Kris is definitely one of the most deserving of all of the contestants this year. I only hope his understated confidence and personality don't get lost in the shuffle.

BOTTOM THREE: Megan Joy, Lil, Matt

Random Thoughts

This is one of my favorite kinds of posts on my SIL Emily's blog. And I have a bunch of random thoughts these days, so here goes. I'm even using her cool right justified format.

I think the theme for tonight's American Idol performances is "contestant's birth year."
I think it's a good theme because of the vast selection,
but often the contestants choose lousy songs.
I hope this group does better than that
(though I don't have much hope for Megan and Lil
when it comes to song selection).


The other morning, Thing 2 was cuddling in bed with me and said,
"Mommy, you're from Africa!"
I said, "Africa? Why?"
He said, "Because you have that red thing on your forehead."
To which I replied, "That's India and it's called a tika. This is a zit."


We attended a community concert the about a week ago.
Mostly older people attend but they're trying to draw in a younger crowd.
While taking Thing 1 to the Ladies Room, a sweet gray-haired woman in a wool suit jacket asked, "Is she your daughter?"
I said, "Yes."
She smiled and replied, "Oh, you look so young!"
So I told her I'm much older than I look and had her guess my age.
She guessed 19!!
I smiled and said, "I'm 35."
To her look of shock, I added,
"I know. I often hear that I'll love it when I'm 40."
She said, "The way you look, you'll love it when you're 80!"


The kids are playing in the backyard.
This is good for 2 reasons.
1. It means it's getting nice out
(I've been rather grumpy about how long Spring is taking to get here).
2. I am at my wit's end today--they can use the energy outlet and so can I.


I thought about having a blog post entitled,
"Our KitchenAid is making me gain 300 pounds."
But that's an exaggeration.


We're TOTALLY hooked on these pretzels.
We've made them several times and they've become an American Idol tradition.
We've shared the recipe with our good friend Peter and they love them, too.
I can't say enough how much you should make them.
You'll never buy a mall pretzel again.
These are SO much better.


I had a mission companion who seemed REALLY annoyed with me for days.
She finally told me why.
She said she HATES being interrupted
and she told me that I would do that to her.
I hadn't noticed, but she was right.
No one had ever told me that before.
So, even though I was a bit embarrassed, I was glad she told me.
Now, I hate it when I get interrupted.
Grumpy even.
I think the main thing that bugs is
I don't like to feel like I'm not heard.


Even by myself.
I think often, many of us drown out our own inner voices.
We do what others (or society) expect of us instead of what we truly want to do.
I'm done with that.
I'm learning to listen to and trust my own inner voice and it's incredibly empowering.
My anxiety dissipates and I feel more whole and in tune.
It's been a difficult, but very good thing.


I've recently had some heart-to-hearts with several people.
I was surprised by the variety of reactions.
People you think you can count on, you find you can't always.
And others totally surprise you.
Therein lies the danger of expectations.
I'm very grateful for open-minded, accepting friends.
Those are the best kind.
They don't have to agree necessarily.
But they can care and listen without judgment
and let me know that I am heard.


Spring can't get here fast enough.
It's been cold for 7 months.
Stupid groundhog.
I love my cousin-in-law Jill's hilarious and creative post on this:
She wrote a letter to the clouds and sun!
We made a cake (and cupcakes for 3D effect) to see if we could hurry things up.


I love getting to know people through blogging.
I've "met" some amazing people.
And it makes me feel good to know that the things we share on here are of any help to others.
It's like a wonderful bonus.
And I appreciate hearing that, so thanks.
(You know who you are).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

And then there were 9 . . .

Well, Ryan did a lot of running around the stage tonight. Did it feel rushed to anyone else?

Were the top 10 performing live on stage or was that pre-recorded? Were they lipsynching? Was that on TV? What? This is very confusing. And now I don't know what a concert show would be like for the Top 10. I'm so confused! This is all very Milli Vanilli for me. (Shut up, I bought their tape and am proud of it. Plus, they're totally cute. "I'm in love with you, girl." Can I download that on Itunes?).

They rushed into that Ford commercial so fast that I was confused--commercial, American Idol, commercial? What? Those tricky, tricky dogs. They so know we TiVo. That's why they've added stupid gimmicks like repeat auditions that you "don't want to miss" in the middle of commercials. It only worked once. If they're not going to bother putting something decent in there to NOT fast forward, I'm not going to bother watching it again.

Oh, but we did catch the preview for Angels and Demons. Yay Robert Langdon!

RUBEN!! Did he lose weight? I think he may have. He used to look "as big as a house." Sort of like a duplex. Now it's more like a single family home. Is it wrong to say that? He's fat! That's a fact. Why is this a taboo subject? In Europe, people would look him in the eye and say, "Dude, you're fat" and it wouldn't be an insult. In America, it's an insult. I don't get it. But I must say, fat, fatter, thin, thinner, sweating like a pig, I think Ruben is absolutely adorable and I can't help but smile when he sings. Plus, he has dimples! I love Ruben. He sounded better tonight than ANY non-Idol guest artist to date. Yes, that means you Randy Travis, Kanye West, Smokey Robinson, and TGSITKU Stevie Wonder (I'm sorry, I don't see what everyone else does with him). Plus I thought he was a miserable, unfriendly guest judge a couple of years ago. Nothing warm about him. And very full of himself. And even hearing that Obama loves him hasn't changed that for me. I can think for myself, after all.

Has anyone else had enough of Ryan asking Lil about Detroit? I have.

I'm a little irritable today. Or could you not tell.

Okay, Smokey Robinson. Why doesn't he blink? He has gorgeous eyes, but I can't figure it out. Does he have Parkinson's? Is that Botox? What's going on there? And when the man (who's got to be around 70) who is a legend that has written over 4000 songs finishes singing . . . Simon, stand up and show a little respect. Geesh. (He did. He just took his sweet time).

We saw Joss once on Punk'd.

Nice duet, but a little creepy. This was made worse when our daughter asked, "Are they married?"

Okay, so let me get this straight. Matt is in the bottom 3. And Megan's not. And Michael is overcompensating and it's getting on my nerves. And that has to be rough for Scott--being totally manhandled all over the stage like that. It all looked a bit rough and cruel. But mostly because Ryan was rushing all over the place. It was all very uncomfortable to watch.

I love the camera shots of contestants and judges when they think they're not being broadcast. Kris is grooving. Anoop is jamming. And Megan is . . . holy hell, the girl has no rhythm! She can't even snap or sway on the beat. It's so so sad. Who is voting for her? Stop the madness.

The judges' deliberation? Yeah, right. Paula's dancing (LOVE her). Kara's playing with her hair. And Simon and Randy are deciding where to eat after the show.

And then to pretend they hadn't decided yet? So stupid. And insulting. Do they really think we're that clueless? They didn't save Alexis. They're not going to save Sarver. It's one thing to toy with us about results that are in the hands of the voting public. But we know a bit about the industry by the 8th season of this show. And we know the judges aren't saving his behind. For this, they run over time. The Office is on, you big, big morons!! Argh.

So, goodbye, Sarver. We hardly knew ye. You are the right one to leave tonight. Except for Megan. She should've preceded you. Like 5 weeks ago. But whatever.

Idol: Motown Week

As much as I dislike Country week, I heart Motown Week. And if I had to say one thing about tonight's performance it would be this:

We rarely vote, but we couldn't help but vote over 50 times yesterday for Adam Lambert and that nothing-short-of-stunning performance.

All right, with that out of the way, here goes:

Paula's wearing a tutu. And giving Simon coloring books and crayons. I LOVE Paula. This show wouldn't be what it is without her.

I do have one question for the judges, though--why do they exit the stage in such a way that it creates an unorganized traffic jam at their table? Why don't Simon and Paula exit on the side on which they sit and Randy and Kara likewise? Seriously, a little attention to detail wouldn't hurt. Hire someone. Boost our economy. People need jobs, for crying out loud!!

Matt Giraud: Perfect song, great performance, LOVE this kid. It's about time he get more credit for his abilities. He's AWESOME.

Kris Allen: I have to disagree with Simon. This kid DOES have swagger, just not in an obnoxious way (*cough* Michael Sarver *cough*). In a likeable way. Love his voice, his guitar, his manner. He deserves to be around for a while. He did great.

Scott MacIntyre: I like that he did something more upbeat. If he gets too preachy-Archulettaesque on us, I might like him less. He did a good job. But what the heck is with the fashion people and the pink pants? That's just cruel. Pink pants notwithstanding, I like his personality and sense of humor.

Megan Joy Corkrey: Here's one from me, honey. OMG! Please put her and all of us out of her and our collective misery. That was HIDEOUS. So uncomfortable. She smiles like she's gritting her teeth, mirroring how all of us feel at home. We're gritting our teeth and squirming, too. Oh, she's not squirming? She's dancing, you say? That's right. Megan Wiggles. She was so terribly out of tune. It must stop. Oh please make it stop. Somewhere out there, Alexis Grace is asking, "What the??" The flu actually made her sounds better. That's not good.

Anoop Desai: Great vocals, but a bit boring for me for him. I miss Bobby Brown Anoop.

Michael Sarver: I'm so done with him. I don't think this guy ever deserved a top 12 spot, especially not over Ju'Not. And I didn't think he deserved top 10 either. He's seriously going to tour and Alexis Grace is not? So not right. He's out of his league and yesterday was not good. I don't enjoy watching him. He should've gone home long before now. Which means he'll probably stick around another week. UGH.

Lil Rounds: It was good, but she was shouting at me. I don't like being yelled at. This was her best performance so far, but I'm not sure that's saying much at this point. Oh, Lil, Lil, Lil. You make me miss Fantasia more.

Adam Lambert: 3 words. FREAKING BRILLIANT!

Danny Gokey: I love Danny, but um, hello? He didn't do what Smokey said to do. And NONE of the judges called him on it?! Dude, Smokey was right on. I guess the judges are too busy coloring to notice these things. It was really good and I enjoy his up-tempo stuff, but Smokey's suggestion was better.

Allison Iraheta: Holy Moses, this girl! 16? Wow. If I had to predict based on tonight, it'd be an Adam-Allison finale for sure. Rock on, rockers! She was awesome tonight. Awesome.

BOTTOM THREE: Michael Sarver, Megan Corkrey, and does it really matter?

GOING HOME: Megan Corkrey

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Give Me Mo' Motown!

I was pretty excited when they announced Motown for this week, and it did not disappoint. I'm glad they brought in Smokey Robinson, too. He was great in Season 2 as a guest judge and he was great again this season. We had another "typical" week on American Idol: a few predictable song choices, a few strange ones, and one fantastic performance that was untouchable this week. I noticed that both Randy and Paula are rubbing off on Kara--she had excited Randy-esque sentence fragments followed by incoherent ramblings all wrapped up in one. Welcome to this season, Kara! I'm also wondering where she learned to count--"one of the best performances of the night" is 8 words, not 6, but who cares in the end. Paula's crayon and coloring book routine was inspired, but it did give Simon something else to distract him from judging this week. What's with Randy's Urkel outfit? Anyway . . .

Matt Giraud: I loved his piano/vocal hybrid tonight, especially since it was on one of my favorite Marvin Gaye songs. This was a week very well suited to his style and he, of course, did well tonight.

Kris Allen: He made a great choice this week and it was fairly obvious that James Taylor has influenced Kris. He definitely put some of his own flavor on this one, though. The song itself is pretty simple musically, but he did well enough to justify his continuing presence on this show.

Scott MacIntyre: I wasn't overly enthused about his song choice since it's not one of my favorite songs, Motown or not. With that said, Scott had a solid night again. He showed he can handle an up-tempo song and not be swallowed up on that stage. It wasn't the best performance of the night, but it was good enough for now.

Megan Joy Corkrey: If I knew how to text message I'd probably have all kinds of abbreviations to share. I'm pretty sure I can get an "OMG!" from someone out there, though. Megan is a niche contestant, and her niche is not the stage of American Idol. She was out of tune the entire time and other than her (somewhat) likable quirkiness I'm having a tough time seeing why she's even included in the competition at this point. She should have been a Top 36, one-time-is-enough performer.

Anoop Desai: I can see what Simon was saying about him sleeping up there. His vocals were great, though. He really has a great range and his falsetto is usually right on. Let's see what Anoop can bring next time around.

Michael Sarver: Right now he's got to be thinking something like, "I'm so glad Megan's around this week." That way at least he gets one more chance to "have so much fun" up there. And Ryan, how do you spin "you"re a sincere guy, but you can't win this competition" and turn it into constructive criticism for the coming week?

Lil Rounds: I don't like this song at all, but I am now hungry for a flame-broiled Double Whopper with Cheese (and an order of onion rings). I was having flashbacks to Kimberly Locke and her "Heatwave" days. In the end, though, this was a really good performance for Lil. She could have picked a better song, but she still did a lot to stay this week.

Adam Lambert: Anything more than "awesome" seems unnecessary. What a great interpretation of a fantastic song. This just shows that Adam is a true musician, because to take songs each week and create such original interpretations (or draw from similarly unique ones) takes a real talent, like the talent we saw David Cook bring last year. And how does this dude sing such perfect falsetto? It's unreal. Plus, he gave washboard guy's mother a reason to scream at the TV set this week--"That's my boy! The one doing laundry up there!" Plus, I'd like to play the guitar like the most famous anonymous guitarist on national TV.

Danny Gokey: I feel sorry for Danny since he had to follow Adam. It's almost unfair this week, because Danny did so well again. Again, not one of my favorite songs, but he did well and really got into it up there. I especially liked the "wheels on the bus" move he pulled with the backup singers.

Allison Iraheta: She's definitely got it going on. If she can keep these kinds of performances coming she'll be tough to beat down the stretch. I remember Jordin Sparks getting a bit strained toward the end of her season so I worry Allison could easily strain her voice as well, but for now she's a serious force to be reckoned with.

BOTTOM THREE THIS WEEK: Michael Sarver, Megan Joy Corkrey, ??? (Cop out, I know, but I have no handle on where the voting loyalty is yet)


Friday, March 20, 2009


Speaking of friends, here's a post we've been working on for quite a while now. We've been scanning pictures and strolling down memory lane. And this post is a thank you from us to our friend Jim.

Meet Jim.

Christmas 1989

Jim has been a part of our lives for, well, as long as I can remember! You know how some people are lucky enough to have good friends in their lives that are such good friends, it blurs the line between friend and family? And you have to sort of consciously remind yourself whether or not this person is blood related because they just seem like family? And when you figure out and remember that no, they're not blood related, it really doesn't matter because they're part of the family anyway? Yeah, we're that lucky to have a friend like that. And his name is Jim.

Me and Jim in 1978.
Christmas, over 10 years earlier than the picture above.
I was 4.

I believe the story goes that I sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" for him when I was about 3 years old and that I've had his heart ever since.

Celebrating Jim's birthday at our house, 1979

Jim used to be my Mom's boss before she retired. But even then, he was our friend. He hasn't ever married and had children of his own (and some lady out there is missing out because I think Jim would spoil her rotten) but has sort of "adopted" our family and tends to spoil us totally rotten. I believe that he loves us as his own. You can tell because over the years, he's always there for you. He's the guy who makes it so you don't really need an airport shuttle or a pizza man or a home grocery delivery system, because he takes care of rides to and from the airport, picks up dinner (or takes you out to dinner), and even runs mundane errands if helpful. You can always count on Jim and I hope he knows that I don't take that for granted. I hope he knows that we appreciate and love him, too.

Me and Jim in 1986

After several years, my mother, who has a rather unique way with people, basically told Jim that he WOULD straighten up, that he WOULD make more of his life, that he WOULD take the discussions. She really didn't invite him in the sense of letting him have a real choice. She pretty much ordered him to do so. And we hosted them at our house.

I remember how he used to totally make me laugh with this hilarious "Jimmy" voice he'd do. It was such a riot. And he also has a very sensitive side and can cry at the drop of a hat.

Jim and my sweet Vavo in 1990.
The baby niece in the corner of that picture turns 19 in about a month.

Jim visiting at our house in 1991. That outfit I'm wearing? Jim used to buy me clothes at Petite Sophisticate and I always felt so fancy. This particular outfit is one of my favorites.

Jim at my high school graduation in 1992

Jim doesn't generally miss the important events in our lives. Remember, he is part of the family, so it stands to reason that he comes to things like my high school graduation. Jim was a pretty big part of my adolescence. He helped teach me how to drive. He also drove me to many a youth activity and even chauffeured some of my dates. Some of my favorite memories are of when we'd go someplace far enough away to justify going out to dinner. One of our favorite places to go was El Torito's. And sometimes Jim and I would go out to eat just the two of us before or after an activity. Chicken and sour cream enchiladas was my favorite dish. And fried ice cream of course.

I'm famous for getting doggie bags (I love to eat but my stomach is only so big and I hate, hate, HATE to waste food). One time, the waiter forgot to bring my leftovers and he threw them out (gasp!). So, the waiter gave me gift certificates to make up for it. When I cashed them in, I took Jim.

Mark and me in MA after our freshman year in summer 1993

When I brought Mark back to MA to meet the parents, visit my hometown, visit Boston, see New England, meet the extended family, experience the culture, and generally spend more time together before he left for Japan, Jim took us out for a lobster dinner at one of the fanciest restaurants around. It's sort of tradition to do that for visitors and this was especially important since I was clearly very into this guy who would one day become my husband.

Jim has always been good to Mark and has always appreciated the way Mark treats me and the rest of the family. And Mark has always liked Jim and totally both appreciates him and considers him part of the family as well.

Me and Jim, Christmas 1993

Growing up, it was always part of Christmas to have Jim around for the holidays. Even though he has siblings that he also visits on the holidays, he has always spent at least some part of Christmas with us, usually Christmas Eve. Growing up, he was always at our Christmas festivities. Even since I've left home and gotten married, he has spent Christmases with my parents. And he always works really hard to make it special. Jim is an incredibly thoughtful and giving person.

Jim at my mission farewell in 1995

A couple months later--Jim drove my Mom and Dad and friend Laura to meet me at the JFK airport when they found out that I had a layover there on my way to Portugal. It was so good to see them, but so hard to say goodbye again.

But they were right there to pick me up when I got home a year and a half later. Here we are in September 1996 for my release. I found out about my Dad's Parkinson's Disease during our Mother's Day phone call 4 months prior. This was my first time seeing my Dad after his diagnosis.

Jim has always been the one to drive people to and from the airport, so he has always been there to get me to and from college on my visits home. Jim has been an important part of my childhood, my teenage years, and my transition to adulthood. And as an adult, he continues to be a big part of my and my family's life.

Jim has always been the kind of guy that never takes a day off or misses a day of work. Growing up, I never saw him take vacation. And I don't ever remember him calling in sick. But one day, something came up that was important enough for him to break that streak and actually miss work . . . our wedding.

This picture is the "family only" picture from our wedding day (December 20, 1996)--Mark's parents and grandma were there from his side and everyone else is from my side. Notice that Jim is in the picture. He tries to blend in the background and tries to bow out of stuff like this, but I insisted he be in this picture. Like I said, he is part of the family as far as I'm concerned.

Jim with me and Mark at our reception in MA a couple of weeks later

Jim has always been very supportive of our family. He is someone who has helped us get started as a young couple and who always helps our family out along the way by being at our celebrations and supporting us in our endeavors, from babies to moving cross country to starting our business. He always steps up and makes sure we are able to do it. The faith and belief he puts in us and our dreams and accompanying projects sometimes leaves me speechless.

It would be so easy for people to judge us as crazy for some of the choices we've made that might seem nuts to them. And I imagine it would be easy to refuse to help us out because of those choices. But instead, to trust us and believe in us and support us and, in light of those seemingly crazy decisions, help us make things happen . . . wow. We are humbled by his generosity and love for us. We are so lucky to have him in our lives. And we are so, so very grateful.

Jim traveled to AZ to meet our sweet baby Kate

Jim and his good buddy Max -- here they are playing Legos and working hard to keep things light during a very difficult time for all of us. This is from Christmas time as my Dad lay dying.

Jim always checks in on us, either through catching up with my Mom or phone calls and visits with us or by reading our blogs. When we get together, we can talk for a good, long time about anything and everything--from how everyone is doing to work to school to American Idol to food to philosophies to day-to-day things. I think Jim considers himself lucky to have us in his life. But I hope he knows that we consider ourselves lucky to have him in ours.

When my mom called me several years ago and told me that Jim had cancer, I cried and cried. I was so worried and so upset. Jim is clearly an important figure in my life and I was scared when I heard he was sick. I was very happy to hear that he was able to kick it and hope he continues to stay healthy, because I simply can't imagine him not being around. I have always felt that my parents are looked out for with Jim there. And even from a distance, so are we.

Jim is the go-to person whenever we've tried to figure out from a distance what's going on with my Dad and my Mom. He always knows and we can always count on him. He is the one who called us during medical school to fill us in when my Dad had his heart attack. He is someone we've always been able to call to get the scoop on how my Dad's Parkinson's was progressing or how my Mom is handling things. He is the one I called this week when I was trying to figure out how my Mom was doing with her procedure that day. Jim has always been protective of my Mom and Dad.

Jim on the far left--he was there to help lay my sweet Daddy to rest in January 2008

Jim has visited us in every state we've lived in. He brought my parents to PA to help us move in and get settled. Whenever he's visited here or we've visited MA, taking us out to dinner is always part of the plan and is always such a treat. Eating out as a family is one of my very favorite things to do. And Jim, remember, is part of the family.

Jim brought my Mom down this past year so that they could both be here for Kate's special day. He is the one who thought to make a space in the circle in honor of my Dad. Our kids adore Jim and are always excited to see him. It's wild for me to look back on pictures of Jim with me as a kid and to see him with our children now.

Jim and Kate in August 2008

Over the years, Jim, being a computer buff, has been the one to keep our family connected with the latest technology. Technological gadgets have always been a staple gift from Jim. When I was a kid, we got a Nintendo from Jim. I was kind of a 2nd "only child" since my brother is 13 years older than I am, so that Nintendo was really fun for me, whether I was playing with my big brother or playing by myself. The world of Mario was opened up to me by Jim's gift.

When I was a teenager, I received my first computer from Jim, back when having a PC was quite the novelty! I learned to do simple programming and word processing. I played games and taught myself to type quickly. I did homework. I wrote reports.

For Kate's 5th birthday, he bought her a desktop computer. The kids use that computer to this day. What a boon that has been for us as homeschoolers especially! It is that very computer where Kate has gotten her start as a writer. And where Maxim has honed some mad reading and game playing skills.

Christmas 2008

This past year for Christmas, he gifted our family a whole Wii package and we are having so much fun with that. We play it together regularly on most weekends. It has been a source of fun and laughter for our family. I have a sneaking suspicion he knew as much and had that in mind when he got it for us. We're really excited for when Jim visits next so he can play along. I think he'll love it.

Soon after my Dad died, Jim pulled me aside and I saw that there were tears in his eyes. He said that my parents always wanted to go to Disney with us and that he didn't want us putting it off anymore (we really hadn't ever been able to easily afford it). He then cried as he offered to pay for us and my Mom to go to Disney World! I was overwhelmed and told him that that was too much and that I didn't know that I could accept that. He pleaded and said he really wanted to do it.

I asked him to please come, too, and he shook his head and said, "No, that's not my place. Your Dad should've been there." And we had a good cry together.

Well, in the Portuguese culture, after someone dies, you don't do anything "festive" for a year out of respect, so my mom didn't feel right about going for a year after my Dad's death. And then when my Dad's brother died unexpectedly in early January (right after the one-year anniversary of my Dad's death), I wasn't sure what to think about what would be proper but I was feeling very beaten down. We were all so sad and upset. But we also felt like getting away from the grief and off to some sunshine and fun vacationing would be a really good and healthy thing to do. When we called my mom about it, she jumped at it (and we were all prepared with arguments to convince her). We were desperate for some happy rays of sunshine.

In the meantime, my mom was amazingly able to convince Jim to come along (remember how he hasn't ever really taken vacation?)! So, he joined us on this wonderful trip that he provided for us and we're so glad. He knew we could use this. He knew we probably couldn't easily do it ourselves. He knew that we hadn't had a proper vacation in years really. He knew that our family has had a really rough past year without my Dad. And he knew that we desperately needed something like this--a getaway, some sunshine, laughter, fun, happiness.

"It's A Small World"

Star Tours

Visiting Safari Goofy

Magic Kingdom, Disney World
Orlando, Florida
February 2009

Thank you, Jim.

For your kindness. For your incredible generosity. For being so good to us. For loving us. For allowing us to be part of your life. For being a very important part of ours. For being part of our family.

We love you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Conversations with a 6-year-old

Today Thing 2 was sitting on my shoulders while I did some math with Thing 1. He was mussing my hair in an attempt to, in his words, "give you a hairstyle." Every time I tried to straighten it in anticipation of seeing patients today, he'd sigh and fix the hairstyle. Then we had this exchange:

#2: "Wow! You have a lot of gray hairs!"

Me: "Yes, I know. I've had them for a long time."

#2: "But you're only 36 years old."

Me: "Well, actually I'm 34, but close enough."

#2: "34 isn't really close to being an old man."

Me: "I think you gave me those gray hairs."

So, while I look like an old man, I'm not really close. Thanks, Thing 2. I feel younger already!

What is a friend?

A common theme I see among my clients is that many of them are lonesome. They have friends they enjoy hanging out with, but don't always have friends with whom they feel they can talk about their innermost issues. And this goes for both men and women. I feel for them when they tell me this.

I know people or read stories or see stories about people who have such richness in their lives--so many extended family and friends who surround them with love and support. And then there are those who are lonely and who suffer.

Shortly after getting back from vacation, I found out that a former client of mine took her own life. It's the first time I've ever dealt with that and it wasn't easy at all. She was a lovely person. And very lonely. I wrote a post about it but didn't ever put it up, because I was worried about confidentiality--I didn't use names, but people can figure out timing and put 2 and 2 together. So, I've waited to say anything here. I've quietly been dealing with that on top of the other griefs I've shared. Grief is grueling.

Many people are lonesome. They wish for friendship, for companionship, and they're so lonely. My brain is desperately trying to come up with a creative solution. I often feel like I've got a spark of an idea, but it just hasn't fully developed. I ache for people who are hurting and who are lonely. The song "Eleanor Rigby" has always been a poignant one for me--the lyrics are compelling and the music is beautiful. "Ah, look at all the lonely people." The chorus, yes. But it's the verses that get to me.

And yet, I think there are many who can at times feel lonesome, even surrounded by those who love them. It's a quiet suffering maybe. Which brings me back to the how I started this post. I think many people have friends that are fun to hang out with, but how many have true friends with whom they can share their innermost hurts? When you consider your friends, how many of them can you really, truly share with--your heart, your soul, your fears, your dreams, your worries, your struggles? How many do you feel comfortable enough to call when you hurt and say, "I need a listening ear."

To me, this defines a true friend--they're the ones who are there for you when you're low and who hear you without judgment when you share. They accept you for who you are, don't try to make you into anyone else, and inspire you to be all you can be. Over the years, some friendships wax and wane. Some fade away. Some drop off altogether. And some always remain.

There are many television shows like Friends and Sex and the City and Scrubs where, whatever peripheral story lines there may be (coffee houses and jobs and sex and medicine and love), the main theme is that of true friendship. So is this stuff, these kinds of groups of close friends, just on TV? Do people really have those kinds of intimate friendships en masse?

I've often heard that what's healthy is to have 1 or 2 very close friends and several acquaintances. That people who have LOTS of friends . . . don't really. That you can't have that many truly close friendships.

And in today's day and age, we have "Facebook Friends" and the like. Some fit that "true friend" definition. And some do not. And there are some people who like to feel popular and have a great quantity of friends to show on their list. Is this friendship? What does friendship mean today?

And of course this begs the question, "Am I a true friend?" How do you maintain these kinds of solid, deep, true friendships among the busyness of life? How do you keep friendship strong? How do you be a friend? I think this means different things in different stages of life maybe.

I think there are different varieties of friends, too--the ones you call when you want to laugh, the ones you call when you could use a night out, the ones you call for advice, the ones you call to vent, the ones you call to grab a bite, the ones you call to play, you get the idea. And some overlap.

And some are the ones you can share your innermost thoughts and feelings with. I think that people who have friends like that are very lucky people. I wish everyone could have that.

So, what do you think? What makes someone a true friend?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cool Picture

Our good friends recently emailed us this picture--they have a neat feature on their camera that does this . . . how cool is this? This is from September 2007. We hadn't moved in here yet but we'd get together and do work and play in the backyard.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Idol Does Country

There were two kinds of performances tonight--"Good, but not good enough" and "Amazing." There were no in betweens.

Ryan started out the night looking like a total poindexter sporting that ugly dotted tie with the gold bar clip. I would've liked to see Ryan step out in jeans and a green T-shirt that said "I'm magically delicious."

But at least he looked presentable. Unlike the Brit with the ridiculously stretched out shirt (listen to me, critiquing fashion--my SILs Emily and Jessica will be so proud). I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with Simon wearing the same 2 alternating outfits every night of the year. That's fine. I myself could wear jeans, a white t-shirt, and black cardigan every day quite happily. But when you have millions of dollars, dude, at least buy new shirts. You know, so they look like they fit. Or something.

Truth is we wouldn't even notice if we didn't have to watch the 4 of them make their self-congratulatory walk every week. Seriously, this is going to be a weekly thing now? Ugh.

Randy Travis. He's all right, but reminds me of someone too uptight to hear anything outside the box. Is he on some sort of drug? I didn't know whether to be creeped out by his mannerisms or just put out, but he strikes me as an ultra conservative who doesn't know how to consider anything beyond what he deems as "normal." And dude is missing out. He's a one-trick pony and his pony does nothing but twang. Man, the sitar ROCKED. But more on that later.

And just so you know, I'm in the mood for credit. Let it be known that I made three predictions before they happened and I was totally right about all 3. This morning, I totally called what Danny would sing. When Anoop sang, I called that Simon would love it and say he now deserves the top 12. And when Adam was singing, I TOTALLY called what Randy said. Yep, right there. On my back. That's right. Pat. pat. pat.

Michael - Josh Gracin. That's who. Remember this past week when I said he reminded me of someone but I didn't know who and whoever it is is someone I don't like. Yeah, well, we figured out it's Josh Gracin and I was starting to get past it. Until tonight. I've been saying, "He looks like he has a chip on his shoulder, but everyone says he's so nice." I kept trying to see what everyone else saw. But tonight I saw the cocky arrogance that made me dislike Gracin. I hope it's the end of the road for Michael. He did well, but this group is amazing and out of these 11, if 1 shouldn't be on tour, it's Michael. Plus I hate it when people yell, "Whooo!" when they sing. And it's worse when it comes from a guy. And even worse when it's from a roughneck. In case you didn't know what he did for a living.

Allison - She managed to get some rock in that twang. It was really good, but (insert British accent here) "I'm not jumping out of my seat." Still, the girl has mad skills. Skillz? Skills. Skills? Skillz. Skills. Whatever. She's good.

Kris - Tender puppy indeed. Easy on the eyes. Easy on the ears. This boy was smart to come out like he did tonight sans guitar and sans big, flowery arrangement. It was gorgeous and I want to see more of him. He did a very smart thing tonight.

Little - Lil. Little. Lil. Little. Little. Little. Lil. Little. Little. Little. Little. Clearly, this was more memorable for me than the song. Lil has an amazing and powerful voice, but she's not unique. She's too polished. Fantasia would've never pulled this stuff. Even her show-stopping rendition of Summertime was raw. There's nothing raw about Little. Lil. Little. Little. Little. Little. She's a VERY good singer, but it's become passé. She's a few seasons too late, I'm afraid. She's being outperformed by a variety of unique originality. She's coming up on done with her "Lil Rounds."

Adam - I'm sure that his song tonight will get mixed reviews but I am not ashamed that I. LOVED. IT. It was FABULOUS. When I was in high school, alternative rock was my thing and that is EXACTLY what he did tonight on country night!!. I totally, totally called it before Randy even said it. Man, anyone, ANYONE who can pull off that kind of song on that kind of stage with that kind of chutzpah and come off sounding like a mix of The Cure, Mick Jagger, and Kiss to an arrangement that has both electric guitars and sitar music while the audience sits transfixed and mesmerized by his talent, falsetto, and absolute and utter audacity deserves to sail all the way to the top. I LOVE this guy. Love him. He does what only guys like Constantine, Daughtry, and David Cook have been able to do--keep us waiting in weekly anticipation of what in the world he's going to do this time and wow us with his artistry with a big, old "in your face" performance. And to do what he did on country night? He has my vote. Again and again and again. LOVE this guy. LOVED this performance. Nine Inch Nails does country? For once, I am TOTALLY on the Randy train. He is SPOT on. LOVED it.

Scott - You know, he's not perfect in his pitch all the time, but he is fantastic. He has a gorgeous, rich tone to his voice and I want more. He did an amazing job tonight and I think he is just fine behind the piano. I know that he might get boring fast, but hey, so did Archuletta. At least this guy is interesting. I hope he doesn't keep singing Archuletta ballads every single week, but he already seems far more uptempo than that. I like him. He deserves to stick around a bit longer. I think the judges don't want to come across like they're going easy on him because of his visual impairment and so they're sticking their feet in their mouth and, consequently, all landing on their behinds. Good grief, for like 8 weeks we hear, "Oh Scott, we can't wait til you're behind the piano. That's when your magic happens." And then we get 2 weeks of magic and they're all, "Oh Scott, don't use the piano." What? We JUST got the piano. Let him be. And bring on the Elton John weeks.

Alexis - It was okay. I don't know what else to say. It didn't suit her. When they said she kind of looks like Dolly Parton, I was all, "What?! No she doesn't!" And then Mark says, "Yeah, she kind of does." And I'm all, "Ohhh, I guess so." And then sheepishly, "That's not what I thought they meant." And Mark says, "Dolly Parton does have other features." I thought they were mocking Alexis. Hey shut up. We A cups have to stick together.

Danny - I so totally called this song for him tonight. The first part was rough but then it was awesome. I agree with Randy (weird, I know)--he needs to learn to control those lower, more tender notes. But as a power singer, this boy's got soul and this boy can sing the holy crap out of anything. He done good.

Anoop - That. Was. Awesome. I loved it. I like this guy. He's back. He did a smart thing. We got a humbled Anoop tonight and he sang his way right back into our hearts and minds. And bonus, he got the Bo Bice spotlight shining down from above. I like this guy very much and was happy to hear him get well-deserved praise. Anoop Dawg is in the house!

Megan - Wait, more credit for me. I called that she was sick! Pat, pat, pat. Thank you. Thank you. She looked GORGEOUS tonight. But I'm still uncomfortable when she sings. Or dances. Or both. Or something. Her intonation. Or nasal voice. Or something. It's very strange. Sometimes I dig it and sometimes I don't. Mostly I don't. But I do. But tonight, I didn't. Or something.

Matt - WOW! Wow wow wow wow WOW! I LOVE MATT! I have loved him ever since I heard him audition. When he sang "Georgia" in Hollywood, I do believe I applauded from my living room. That's right, I did. And tonight? I applauded again! There's something very sexy about his laid back, kind personality and demeanor combined with that raw, passionate, soulful singing. Add to that that the guy plays piano in a way that only people BORN with those skills can do? And you've got STAR power. This guy is a star. I have never agreed so much with Randy in one night EVER. From Timberlake to Buble? Amen, dawg. Amen. This guy finally got the credit he deserves.

MAN this year is tough. They're all good! My favorites tonight -- Kris, Adam, Scott, Danny, Anoop, and Matt (pretty much all the guys but Michael and no girls).

But Adam and Matt were tops for me by far. Followed by Anoop and Kris. Followed by Danny and Scott. And when I say "followed," I mean like milk follows cookies. As in, "follows" but really they go together. That's my Paula way of saying that I'm trying to rank order them, but they're almost ALL on par just the same for me.

My least favorites - Michael and the girls

Going home and not going on tour - Michael (though I think 'Little' is in trouble, too)

And we've come full circle: There were two kinds of performances tonight--"Good, but not good enough" and "Amazing." There were no in betweens.

Top 11 Recap (From the Doc)

Let's just start by saying I'm not anti-country per se, just picky about country music. For example, I'm not a fan of Randy Travis, either as a musician or an Idol mentor. In past seasons the good mentors can take a performer who doesn't fit perfectly into his or her genre's little box and appreciate, as Paula would say, the authentic authenticity of the authentic you. In other words, whether the style is from the Middle East or Eastern Tennessee, nail polish or not, let's celebrate true artists. Heaven knows the pop world has adapted enough country songs to validate the musicality of the Grand Ole Opry. Randy Travis seemed to miss the boat on that whole crossover phenomenon that's expanded the career of many a country star. Rant. Off. (How's all of that for judging an artist's entire body of work based on a dozen or so sound bites during a hyped up Idol show?)

So I was pleasantly surprised (what's with all the Paula references this week?!) with the evening and saw fewer disappointments than I'm accustomed to on country weeks. Even Simon seemed to enjoy himself on more than one occasion, but not many more! What's with all the contestants talking to the judges so much this year. And "having fun" is a given for me. Singing well is the bigger task and the one that will get more of my votes. Randy Jackson has become really stale for me for a long time because he just seems to parrot Simon a lot, and he's so focused on getting his "dudes" and "dawgs" out there he doesn't say any thing intelligible, but tonight I liked him. He finally showed why they keep him around. He actually seems the most in tune with current music and how different artists can blend styles to suit their own strengths. Without saying much more about it, let's get to it.

Michael Sarver: And there it is. It's Josh Gracin all over again. Am I pop? Am I country? I'm "just having fun up here." Talk back. Don't listen. Criticize Simon. Wave to the crowd. Michael is a good singer, just in way over his head here. Next.

Allison Iraheta: I didn't really like the song this week. It was a bit too straight-up country for my liking, especially since she didn't really rock it out. Her performance was solid enough to stick around, but not my favorite. When they rolled the phone numbers at the end, Allison was one of the contestants that made me say, "Oh yeah. She sang tonight."

Kris Allen: I like this guy. He is very understated fashion-wise, which is a plus. He seems very comfortable up on stage and his voice is great. I think Simon was spot-on with his praise tonight, too. Kris is shaping up to be one of the four or five legitimate contenders.

Lil Rounds: She's so Season 1 or 2 for me. She has that power voice and can sing, but the music industry just isn't celebrating that kind of voice any more. Whitney, Mariah, Christina. They've had their places, but the artists of today are more artistic and less "wow!" And she did herself no favors by trying to prove she can sing other things. She can't, so stick to what you know and do it well.

Adam Lambert: If I thought Randy T. knew many songs outside of the Grand Ole Opry I'd figure he'd be humming "Dude Looks Like a Lady" to himself when he met Adam because he sure seemed to have something he wasn't saying about his experience with Adam. I am most disappointed in the judges after Adam's performance. If we want to discuss indulgence, we need to take a closer look at all of Simon's wedding singer analogies. Adam's performance was the #1 most original song this week. Randy J. hit it on the head for once--Adam sounded like an alternative rock band interpreting a country hit. I thought Kara's inability to say anything worthwhile on this one was shocking, and Simon hates country music so much I thought he would have had a bit more positive to say about this one. And anyone that can substitute the sitar for the slide guitar on country week deserves mad props.

Scott McIntyre: I can see what Paula was trying to get at here, but I think she's way off. I've long said Scott reminds me of Billy Joel in that they are both serviceable, but not fantastic singers who have a gift for using the piano to enhance their performances. Take away the piano and Billy Joel is just some guy in a bar looking for spare change. "Sing us a song, you're the man" just doesn't work. The audience sure seems connected to him each week so something's working. David Archuleta sure seemed to sing different versions of the same song each week last year and made it to the finals, so Scott may do just fine.

Alexis Grace: It was a good replication of the original for me, too. It was solid, but nothing great. I don't really have much more to say on this one.

Danny Gokey: Randy J. had the best comments on this one, too. Danny needs to support his lower register more to stay in tune so we can fully appreciate how great he is when he goes up to his higher register. Danny seemed to connect to this song and did really well with it. He would have made a greater splash if he'd parachuted from the top of the set, though.

Anoop Desai: What a great song choice and arrangement. You could really hear his own voice coming through. I like what Simon said about his attitude. There's no sense in talking back and complaining about songs and judges' opinions. Just take the criticism, use what you can, and come back stronger. I'm glad to see him redeem himself.

Megan Joy Corkrey: I'm still not convinced I like her much. She seems nice enough, and I'm sure she's a lovely person, but I can't get on board with her singing style. From her strange pronunciation (I've lived in Utah and Megan's singing accent isn't from there) to her awkward torso twist I just don't get it. She did pick the right style in which to sing this incredibly overdone song, though. I don't know.

Matt Giraud: If I had to vote for only one performance tonight it would be Matt's. I loved it. He's a great pianist who knows exactly how to use it in his presentation. His work on the ivories wasn't overdone, but was perfectly appropriate. He sounded way more confident this week and I'm glad to hear Simon give him his due. I did find it interesting that Paula didn't tell him to lose the piano at some point. When you give a great performance all that peripheral stuff doesn't matter.



Grand Ole Opry Theme Tonight on Idol

Lord have mercy.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


My mom got me a beautiful red KitchenAid for my birthday (okay, Mark picked it out, but still). We have debated getting one for a while. I couldn't figure out why anyone would pay so much for a mixer and a bowl when you can get that for like 20 bucks. So we informally interviewed about 18 owners of KitchenAids and all 18 said it's totally worth it. So, we debated some more and now we have one! Ohmigoodness, the power! The ease! We got it Monday and we've used it at least 5 times so far. We LOVE it.


Here is what we've made so far:

Homemade breadsticks (absolutely delicious!)
Chocolate chocolate chip and cinnamon chip cookies
Flan (yep, why not use the whisking attachment, too?)
Homemade Orange Rolls (wowzers!)

And it doesn't stop there! We're having so much fun in the kitchen (we really do like to cook and eat) and I recently read an inspiring post on a blog (here's a little shout out for Lena--thanks!) all about meal planning. The simple aspect that inspired me was the part about choosing a bunch of meals and simply shopping for them so you have the stuff on hand (we can get pretty buy-as-we-need-it with a 24-hour grocery store literally across the street). Well, we combined this with the fact that we all love to try new foods, so we've done the same basic thing with a twist.

As a family, we got on Allrecipes.com (my FAVORITE online recipe site with all of its reviews and ratings and suggestions) and together chose 20 new-to-us recipes (well, with some of our favorites thrown in, too) that simply look good to us. We chose sides to go with them all and Mark took the kids shopping while I got some work done. We have all the ingredients on hand and a wonderful list of meals on the fridge for us to cook and enjoy over the next month or so. YUM! Wanna hear some? No? Well, too bad. Here's the list. Lena inspired me and I want to share:

Chicken Satay with peanut sauce, coconut rice, and a green salad with mango, avocado, and fresh red grapefruit (that we brought from Florida) This was sooooooooooo good and such a big hit with everyone--it has definitely been added to our list of favorite recipes, no question.

Garlic-Lemon Double Stuffed Chicken
, oven-baked potatoes, and Caesar salad This was very good and on the rich and filling side.

Clam Chowder (the secret? Add a splash of red wine vinegar before serving--YUM!) with Mini ham and cheese rolls and salad We make whatever creamy clam chowder recipe we like and add a bit of red wine vinegar before serving--wow, what a difference a splash makes!

Twice-cooked Coconut Shrimp, sticky rice with mixed veggies This one didn't turn out so well. We might try a different recipe. Or not. This one was a mess.

Thai chicken salad with grilled Na'an bread This chicken wasn't very flavorful, but our recipe for grilled Na'an bread is one of THE most requested recipes from our friends. We discovered it when we made it with afghani chicken kebobs (also very good) for our book club when we read The Kite Runner and it has been a HUGE hit ever since!

Awesome honey pecan pork chops with mashed sweet potatoes and green beans These were good but VERY sweet, almost candied . . . but very tasty (I'd tone down the sweet next time).

Mexican baked fish with beans and rice, salad, tortillas, and virgin lime margaritas Omigosh, SO good. Everyone loved it. YUM!

Our VERY loaded lasagna (our recipe) with salad and homemade garlic bread. We basically load up our lasagna with lots of meats (ground turkey, Italian sausage), cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, etc.) and veggies (mushrooms, green peppers, olives, tomatoes, onions) and we mix some silken tofu (for health) and spinach in with the ricotta. It's a very FULL recipe and very delicious! And our homemade bread turned out PHENOMENAL. I'm seriously so proud of us for making bread that both looks and tastes so professional!

Grilled teriyaki salmon with brown rice and mixed vegetables (our recipe) This is a regular meal for us--it's pretty simple . . . grill salmon with teriyaki sauce on it, that's it! The kids LOVE it.

Rotisserie ribs with spruced up mashed potatoes and creamed spinach (using our half-a-farm-raised-hog for these pork recipes) We use the Boston Market recipe for the spinach (a favorite with our kids).

Breakfast pizza with fruit salad (We're not big on breakfast for dinner (brinner), but we'll try this) This was okay, don't know that we'd do it again.

Tex Mex corn chowder with salad Delicious!! SO delicious! And spicy. Very, very good. A very pleasant surprise. Everyone likes this recipe.

Seared tuna with wasabi butter sauce, roasted potatoes, and sesame green beans (Thing 2's favorite way to eat green beans)

Creamy chicken enchiladas (our recipe) with corn and beans (we have garden corn in the freezer and we're making room for this year's crop) This is a favorite standard recipe of ours--also very simple and delicious--you pretty much mix your chicken with cream cheese and roll them in whatever sauce you please (we like green sauces).

Tacos with refried beans It's tacos. It's simple.

St. Patrick's Day Surprise (Mark's got something up his sleeve for this) -- we also eat out at a local Irish Chippy for their Irish breakfast that they serve on St. Paddy's Day Words can not begin to express the DIVINE taste of this meal. I think I Mmmmmed and Ohhhhhed throughout the entire meal. It was PHENOMENAL. And phenomenal doesn't begin to do it justice. Oh. My. Gosh. So good. So incredibly good.

Hot and Spicy Tofu
with rice noodles and salad We LOVE this recipe--BIG hit at our house! Very different, mixes up the mundane nicely, tastes like something out of an Asian restaurant. In a very good way. Yum!

Carne de Porco Alantejano (Portuguese pork cubes with potatoes and little neck clams) with grapefruit-avocado-red onion salad (Mark is the MASTER at this recipe--it's a lot of work and no one can touch what he does with it. It's amazing! He really is the BEST Portuguese cook in the family when it comes to pork). This is Mark's favorite food. We're waiting to do this when Peter comes next week.

Chicken and shrimp kebobs with garlic angel hair, salad, and butternut squash This is the only other meal (along with the one right above this one) that we haven't made yet but it's pretty straight forward.

Grilled tips/chicken with baked sweet potato and green beans We're trying to eat sweet potatoes more--I don't know why we haven't been. They're Awesome! Think Outback stuffed. Yum.

And we're baking all kinds of breads to go along with the meals. YUM. Ah, cooking is fun. And it's nice to be stocked with groceries and good recipes. Weeha. We're on a kick and I can see this one lasting. :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Pi Day!

Today is Pi Day. You know Pi.

As in .

As in 3.14159 . . .

So, today is March 14th. Or 3-14. Or Pi Day.

It's essentially a holiday for nerds. So we celebrated it. Because, well, do the math.

We talked about what Pi is.
We talked about why today is Pi Day.
We did some fun Pi activities.
We went out for Pizza Pie (and root beer) as a family.
And we're making Toll House Pie.

So, happy Pi Day, everyone!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Top 13 Recap

Holy Moly!! This is the BEST first night we've ever seen of ANY season to date!

One of the most overused lines on this show is "This is the best Top 12 we've ever had" but man this may well be! Well, 13.

Seriously, what a night! WOW! I had SO MUCH FUN watching that!!

Who's in the bottom 3? Jasmine, Megan, and Michael (Anoop, sadly, would be deserving but since he's a favorite, I don't think he'll see the bottom 3 for a while).

Going home? Who the heck knows if the judges are going to mess with it. This show is 'jumping the shark' WAY too many times this season already. Now this? Honestly. If they make it not worth voting, they'll ruin the integrity of the show. Grrrrrrrrr.

My favorites: I TRULY liked most everyone! That's unusal for me. There's no one I don't like, but there are a few I think weren't as good as others, but seriously, WOW, what a show. My top favorites are Adam, Danny, Adam, Scott, Adam, Matt, Adam, Kris, Adam . . . I pretty much can't get enough of Adam. I love Anoop even though this wasn't his night. But I DIG Adam.

Other observations:

The camera people never quite get it together the first night.

This show wouldn't be what it is without Paula--I love Paula.

It drives me NUTS that they do so much stupid banter in the beginning and then rush through their comments for the final few singers. So stupid. It's Season 8. They should have this down by now. Forget jumping the shark and do your normal job already.

Quick Recap:

1. Lil Rounds - Wow! I think we might tire of her without more originality, but she can sing.

2. Scott - What a voice! I love to hear him with the piano--he's so much more comfortable. I think he'll go far. I hope so.

3. Danny - I love Danny! I love his raspy voice, his presence, his singing--he's fabulous! Love, love Danny.

4. Michael - Nice guy, good voice, I think he's out of his league and knows it, but I like him. He reminds me of someone and I don't know who and whoever it is is someone I don't like, but I'm trying to get past that bias, because it's not even clear what that bias is. He did a good job but is overshadowed by this group.

5. Jasmine - I'm not a big fan. They're constantly telling good singers that they don't have enough personality (Simon: "charismar") to make it through, so it puzzles me when they put through an inconsistent, mediocre singer/performer who doesn't have a lot of personality. Huh?

6. Kris Allen - He's SO CUTE. And I'm loving the crusties his wife sends the camera every time they say he's cute or shouldn't mention his wife. I REALLY like him and I dig when he plays guitar.

7. Allison - She has GOT to be the first authentic, REAL rocker chick we've seen on Idol. Okay, maybe Carly. But this girl is the real deal when it comes to rocking. And she's 16! Heart and now Michael Jackson? Wowzers.

8. Anoop Dawg - I like Anoop and was so excited to hear that he'd sing "Beat It" but it was just aw-right, unfortunately. I think he has a following and will stick around, thankfully.

9. Jorge - It was okay. I like Jorge. How can you not? But it was good, not great.

10. Megan - I laughed through the whole thing. Something about her (and thinking about how uncomfortable Mark gets when she sings) makes me not be able to help it. She did a good job, though. She's a feel-good artist. Weird song choice, but she's likeable.

11. Adam - HOLY SMOKES. I can NOT get enough of Adam!! I have ALWAYS liked him and I like him even more now. I love how he carries himself. I love his confidence. I love his look. I love his personality. I love his chutzpah, stage presence, and voice. I love how he hits "ridiculous" notes and his screechy way. He's like a male Fantasia and I can get down with that. LOVE him. He's giving us what we've been missing since Constantine's untimely exit.

12. Matt - I really like Matt. I love how he plays piano. I love anyone who can play like that. WOW! He did a good job. He really hit some notes, fell off a bit, but it was still good. I like him and want to see more of him.

13. Alexis - HOLY. That little petite thing can seriously SING. Dirty Diana? Are you FREAKING kidding me? She looks like she's 11 but sings like she's a cross of Tina Turner/Fantasia/I don't even know who but I am speechless at the power and control that girl has. She NAILED that song and was stunningly amazing on it. An Adam-Alexis finale would be incredible.