American Idol - 10 females

I didn't get to see all of the female contestants last week, so I am taking time out to enjoy tonight's episode.
Already, the hosts are killing time with their aimless banter. Now we get to see some aimless coverage of Katharine and Kelly being silly.

Now, I didn't see much of Katharine during the audition rounds. I personally think she looks like Rachael Ray, which should only help her, as Rachael seems to be everywhere.
Katharine is OK during her rendition of Stevie Wonder's All is Fair in Love. There were some rough spots. I have never heard her sing until now, and thought it was just OK. But it seems like the judges really like her, regardless of tonight's performance.

Next up is Kinnick (sp?) Sky. This is the first time I have heard her sing. She is going to sing a country song from Gretchen Wilson. Let me say - I am not really impressed. She sounds like she is shouting / talking more than singing. It could be that I am not a country fan, (but I do like Carrie Underwood). The song is boring and repetitive. The judges tell her that it was entertaining, but didn't showcase her singing talent. I agree.

Lisa Tucker is next. We get to hear about her experiences of being a stage person, and how she wants to be the American Idol. No kidding. She is singing a song that I don't recognize. It seems OK, it is a bluesy, slow-ish song. I now find out that it is originally from the Jackson Five. Randy says it was "all-right", but didn't showcase her voice. Seems like a re-occurring theme tonight. Paula loves her. Simon says that she will make it through this round without an issue. I like her - she is cute.

Another country song from the belly-button bearing Melissa McGhee. Just OK again. It seems that this week the contestants are picking somewhat safe songs. It did get better towards the end. Randy and Paula seem to be pleased, but Simon didn't like the song choice.

Heather Cox is going to sing one of my favorite songs, Hero by Mariah Carey. We get to see a clip of her holding a boa constrictor on the streets of Hollywood. OK, on to the singing. Well, the problem with singing a song originally sung by Mariah Carey is that you will never be as good as Mariah. And Heather isn't as strong as Mariah - and the judges agree. It seemed like she was singing in a wedding. Boy, Heather looks really disappointed and even angry with the feedback, but manages to eek out a smile for the camera.

Brenna is the one contestant that I hate. She annoys the living tar out of me. She is just too full of herself. She is going to sing Last Dance from Donna Summer. She's not too bad - not so annoying, she looks like Donna Summer and it was fairly entertaining. But then she has to talk and I go back to hating her. The judges were lukewarm again to her performance.

I like Paris - liked her ever since her audition. She was great last week and I think she is very talented. Paris shows incredible control as she sings another wedding standard, Bette Midler's Wind Beneath my Wings. And she is better than Bette! Wow! The judges all agree that she should be singing something "younger", but Paris chose it because it is her great grandmother's favorite song. Sound like she has proven the judges point.

Ayla Brown, who is more used to being in sweats than glamour wear is singing a Celine Dion song. She sounds very pleasant and certainly can sing very well. I would like to see her liven things up in the folllowing weeks. The judges give her the general thumbs up, but still think she is almost too perfect and mechanical. She doesn't have the raw talent of Paris, but she should go far.

Kelly Pickler's clip show us what a sheltered life she has lived - she had her first spinach salad while doing Idol. Hmmm - I would think that they grow spinach in most states. She is singing Something to Talk about from Bonnie Raitt, which is a song I like, although with the country rendition, it was just OK for me. Paula and Randy like her, and so does Simon. Because she is cute. (rolling eyes now).

Last up is Mandissa. She is singing Cry by Faith Hill. Continuing on the country theme. Her clip is hilarious - the dog jaw joke. I only recognize the chorus of this song, but it is fantastic. Where Ayla sounds very manufactured, Mandissa is very real. Even though it was a country song, but it didn't sound too country from her. The judges like her but think she can be even better.

So, who might be going home? Brenna (I hope), maybe Kinnik or Heather Cox.


American Idol - The Guys

OK, I didn't get to watch all of AI last night, and we are AI junkies. So we are watching tonight, from the beginning. And I will be blogging it!

Here we go:
Patrick - don't like the song. I don't care for Melissa Etheridge's version either. He seems a bit stiff and nervous. Not too impressed.....

David - Not too bad - an upbeat song (Crazy Little Thing Called Love). But it seems a little forced. Generally speaking, I liked it, but he needs to be a little smoother, like Harry Connick Jr. Time for critique - Randy was a bit harsh, and there's this weird thing going on with the females - the girls are acting stupid by yapping like dogs?? What's up with that?

Time for commercials, which means I'll have to switch the channel so that Erica doesn't get exposed to some of Fox's more questionable programming....

Bucky - OK, I will first say that I am not a country person. While Bo Bice was a rocker, he could really sing, and I am not too sure about this guy. A little bit too edgy for me. Simple Kind of Man - don't know the song and I can say it is not my style. The judges' opinions..... Randy is right - a little too hard. "Stretching?". Oh - Simon just gave a dig to Constantine with his comment about "so called rockers who in reality had been playing weddings". Another thing - I seriously cannot understand anything he says - the twang is just a little too much (for me).

Commercial break - a trailer for 8 Below, a movie that Erica really wants to see. Oh, and that cool iPod commercial with Miles Davis - makes me want to get some Miles Davis tunes....

Will is next - Now, do any of you think he looks like Fred Savage? I personally think he is pretty cute, and Paula is right - the high school girls will love him. Don't know why he picked a Jackson 5 song though. The singing was OK, but it was upbeat and entertaining and he is likeable.

"Sway" - I felt for him during the Hollywood week because he had to endure those Britton twins. Now, the song he is singing is a bit over the top - what a tough song. He is sharp and the falsetto is just not really my thing. I think he did get better as the song progressed, but Brian made a comment that he thought he was terrible. I think that Randy and Paula were a little too gushy - it wasn't that good. And as usual, Simon's comments are a bit more realistic. Brian's quote - "I agree with Simon".

Chris - he is singing Dead or Alive, and we get to see flames behind him. Note - this is the first time a singer has impressed me enough to actually look at the TV. Now, I am not a Bon Jovi fan, but he isn't too bad. Not too much edge in his voice, and he is in tune. Erica likes him as well and is writing down his call in number. Randy thought he was hot - I think those flames inspired those comments. Now for Simon.... he liked him as well!

More commercials.....half way there.....

Kevin - another 16 year old, the one who Simon claims that the over 60 crowd would love him. He is singing One Last Cry, with bubbles backing him. He is pleasant to listen to, less pleasant to watch, but overall a Fair performance.

Time out while I put the kids to bed. Will probably miss one or two contestants, but hey, we're too cheap to pay for TiVo, so those are the breaks.

Gedeon - the smiling fool who really didn't get much TV coverage during the audition episodes. I didn't catch a lot of his performance due to the mommy duties of holding Erica's hair while she is watching her face. But Scott was watching and said - hey, he's pretty good. I was amazed how he sounded just like the original artist.

Elliot - another poor soul who had to endure the Britton twins is singing a great Stevie Wonder song, smooth and in tune. I really liked it. And it seems like the judges agreed.

I don't know the next guy's name yet, but as soon as he said he was singing a Barry Manilow song, I cringed. Who voluntarily picks a Barry Manilow song?? I am not impressed. Oh, his name is Bobby - another guy with little advanced coverage. He is out of tune. Paula is now saying that he has great entertainment value, but I am not seeing it. Simon said "that was a complete nightmare".

Erica, being 8 and very aware of all that TV throws at her is now asking us "what does Text message mean?". Scott is explaining it to her, and I can already see the gears working in her head, thinking, "wow - that's cool and another reason why I need a cell phone". Yes, she has been asking about them. I don't even have one, I tell her. How appropriate that there is a Razr commercial on.

Ace - now he is a good looking guy, and has a great commercial name. He has chosen Father Figure from George Michael - now that brings back memories - I love this song. And I am LOVING this performance. Teresa will LOVE it as well. This guy can play the camera, too - in a more subtle way than Constantine. Paula is in love. This guy is a star.

The last guy is one of my favorites, Taylor Hicks, who sounds like Joe Cocker and I can't wait to hear what he will sing. Levon - another great song, and while it wasn't the best vocal, it was still good enough for me. Randy is right - Taylor is very original and I hope he is able to go on.

Predictions for who goes home? I prediect Sway, Patrick, or Bobby. Certainly Bobby. Maybe even Kevin. Stay tuned to tomorrow.


How does your (Salt) Garden Grow?

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
How does your garden grow
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row

I guess in the winter, there aren't too many gardening opportunities, unless you happen to set up a Salt Crystal Garden. My friend, co-worker, and fellow engineer geek came across this neat science experiment to grow a salt crystal garden. Using chemicals found in the supermarket, you too can create a garden full of salt blooms and coral structures. The recipe is found at Mrs., and only requires table salt, laundry bluing, water, ammonia and a sponge (or charcoal or other absorbent medium).

We combined the water, salt, ammonia and bluing and poured it over the charcoal. 5 days later, this is what we have:

with close ups of the crystalline growth:

And I can tell the crystals are really growing now, as the thing is getting bigger by the hour. My friend's daughter's garden has "exploded" and has over grown its container. We'll have to see how big ours get.

Geeky, yes..... but an easy and kind of cool thing to do when it is FREEZING outside!


Defensive Driving Class

Or, what a way to spend a Saturday morning.......

I had to attend a Defensive Driving Class this morning - of course, not by choice, but because back in December, I received a speeding ticket while driving Erica from her violin recital back home so that I could get Brian's things to go to a birthday party. My first ticket as well. Oh, and I didn't have my license on me and didn't realize that it is the Law in Illinois which requires you to have it on your person. I really think that if I had my license on me, I would have been let off with a warning, because the officer didn't ticket me for that......

Well, since this was my first ticket, Illinois has this program where you can have the ticket taken off your record if you attend a defensive driving class and don't receive another ticket in 6 months. I didn't want my insurance rates to go up, so off to school I went this morning.

First, the class is from 0800 - 1200. And it is 1 degree outside - with the wind chill it is minus 17! Needless to say, I really didn't want to go, but I had already paid for the class, and this is just one of those "just do it" things. What amazed me were the other people (or should I say - teenagers) in the class. More than half of the students were 16 or 17, and many were there because they had their license suspended and they had to take the class as part of getting their license back. Oh yeah, some of the students had already been there at least once, as the instructor knew them! Ai-Ya! I think the minimum age for a license should be raised to 17 - too many inexperienced drivers out there and a lot of distractions for those kids. When I grew up, I can only recall one teenage death related to driving during my HS years, and now there seem to be so many more.

Well, the class wasn't too painful, and it's done now. Hopefully, I can go another 21 years (or more) of driving before getting another ticket......


Monster Truck Pictures

This is a little late, but better late than never!

Brian, Scott and our neighbors went to the Monster Truck Show last weekend. This show comes to our area once a year and is a pretty big draw for the younger kids.

Brian, all excited and ready to head out to the show, poses with his Rammunition hat:

The Rammunition Truck crushes the competition!

The Raminator goes airborne!

The boys get into the show.

Soo, everyone had a good time. Even Mommy and Erica, who had a very successful shopping trip. And Mommy ordered her books from and just received them TODAY!! She is especially excited about the Becky Higgins Sketch book.


Questions and Answers

I received this list of questions from a friend from Scott's college days, and thought it was a fun list of questions. So, you know the drill - if you are so inclined, copy and paste into your own blog!

1. What time did you get up this morning? 7:08 a.m. Awaken by Brian who wanted to snuggle.

2. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds, though jewelry in general not a big deal to me.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - it was very good! I would like to see Memoirs of a Geisha, but will probably be forced into seeing the Pink Panther.

4. What's your favorite TV show? Lost, and then Alias

5. What did you have for breakfast this morning? Blueberry muffins - yum!

6. What's your favorite cuisine? In a traditional sense, Seafood. In a modern sense, I like variety more than anything, so probably “fusion / eclectic” style.

7. What foods do you dislike? Hmmm - nothing in particular, except for some of the very exotic, traditional ethnic stuff - like Pig’s feet, chicken feet (some of the stuff my parents eat). And anything particularly fatty.

8. What is your favorite chip flavor? Cool Ranch - Doritos, of course. Then for plain chips, I love Blue Corn Tortillas by Garden of Eden.

9. What's your favorite CD at the moment? Michelle Branch, The Spirit Room. I just purchased Santana’s latest, All that I am, but haven’t listened to it yet!

10. What kind of car do you drive? A 1997 Tahoe, with 112,000 miles on it!

11. Favorite sandwich? I make a mean muffaletta. Or grilled chicken with spinach and chipotle sauce.

12. What characteristics do you despise? Incompetence.

13. What is your favorite type of clothing? For hanging out in the winter - sweatpants. In the summer, shorts and a nice fitted T-shirt.

14. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? I think I would have to say China right now, as it interests me more as I get older.

15. What color is your bathroom? Neutral tan - very boring!

16. Favorite brand of clothing? I have a ton of stuff from the Petite Sophisticate / Casual Corner - too bad they just closed all of their stores. After that, I have a lot from Talbots, but I have been disappointed in their current stuff - very “old” and non trendy.

17. Where would you retire to? For the Winter months, North Carolina or Florida. For the Summer months, the Berkshires.

18. Favorite time of the day? During the summer - at the break of dawn, as I am taking my morning run and watching the sun rise. During the Winter, any time after the kids are asleep and I can relax.

19. What was your most memorable birthday? Probably my 21st - I passed out right at midnight!

20. Where were you born? Seattle, WA

21. Favorite sport to watch? NFL Football, Then Illinois Men’s Basketball

22. Who do you least expect to send this back to you? ???

23. Person you expect to send it back first? ??

24. What laundry detergent do you use? Wisk High Efficiency, only because it is cheap at the WalMart

25. Were you named after anyone? No - but my English name is taken from my Chinese name, which means “Spring Water” (or something like that).

26. Do you wish on stars? No - Praying is the way to go

27. When did you last cry? Last night, while watching Bambi 2, when Bambi is talking with his mother in his dream.

28. Do you like your handwriting? Yes - it’s not too messy

29. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you? Heck, yes!

30. Are you a daredevil? Not really

31. Do looks matter? Unfortunately, yes - I agree

32. How do you release anger? I run or workout.

33. Where is your second home? I guess that would have to be Massachusetts, although my parents recently moved out of the house I grew up in.

34. What were your favorite toys as a child? I loved my ONE Barbie.

35. What class in High School was totally useless? Hmm - this is a tough one.... probably my health class.

37. Favorite movies? When Harry Met Sally, The Wedding Planner, The Horse Whisperer. I’m sure it changes with time....

38. What are your nicknames? Shirl, maybe

39. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? No....

40. Do you think that you are strong? Emotionally, not really; physically - yes, for my size

41. What's your favorite ice cream flavor? Right now, Edy’s Girl Scout Cookie ice cream - Mint Cookie.

42. What are your favorite colors? Jewel tones - greens, deep purples, garnet, etc. Black. I used to hate orange, but have gotten used to it in Illini country.

43. What is your least favorite thing about yourself? I wish I were less shy around people I don’t know. I wish I had better presentation skills.

44. Who do you miss the most? My friend, Barney.

45. Do you want everyone you sent this to, to send it back? I’m hoping that people will copy it to their blogs

46. What color pants are you wearing? Black running tights (just got back)

47. What are you listening to right now? I decided to put the Santana Album into the computer - it is playing I am Somebody.

48. Last thing you ate? Blueberry muffin.

49. If you were a CRAYON what color would you be? Aubergine

50. Last person you talked to on the phone? Scott

52. Favorite Drink? Water. Alcohol - Gin and Tonic (glows under black light!)

53. Do you wear contacts? Yes, only on the weekends. Not to work because I work in a Chemical plant.

54. Favorite Day of the Year? Probably Memorial Day, as it always falls close to my birthday, and it is normally wam

55. Scary Movies or Happy Endings? Happy Endings.

56. Summer or winter? Summer, I guess..... I really prefer Fall.

57. Hugs OR Kisses? Both! But hugs are probably nicer.

58. What is Your Favorite Dessert? Bread Pudding. Or chocolate cheesecake.

59. What Book(s) are you reading? A Photoshop Elements book

60. What's On Your Mouse Pad? Sadly enough, some statistical propaganda for Six Sigma, from GE.

61. What Did You Watch Last night on TV? Part of Bambi 2.

62. Favorite Smells? Lilacs in Spring, the leaves in Fall

63. Rolling Stones or Beatles? Neither, I don't understand the hoopla - same here

64. What's the furthest you've been from home? Taiwan, when I was a little girl. On my own, Berlin, East Germany, 3 months before the Wall came down. And I am scheduled to travel to China for work later this year.


Weekend Plans

Wow, I have been very busy and unable to keep up with this blog! I seem to have more time on the weekends, so there may be activity here today and tomorrow.....

It will be a pretty busy weekend, and it started last night with our monthly scrapbooking crop at Church. We had a good group last night, with four new people. I am happy with what I accomplished - I planned two DPS and stuck one page down. I would have stuck the 2nd page down, but I ran out of one of my papers. I have them here at home, so it will be easy to finish up today.

Tonight is the Monster Truck show at Assembly Hall. Scott and Brian are going, along with some neighbor friends - our neighbors who live behind us have three boys, and Brian and George are in the same class at school. The catch is that their youngest is only 3 years old, and has never been to one of these shows, so their mother, Jill, will be attending as well, "just in case Henry doesn't like the show". I feel for her.
Erica and I, on the otherhand, will be going shopping - to the Barnes and Noble and then to the Mall. Erica has her eye on a series of animal books, called "Animal Ark", and I want to look for a couple of items - the newest Rachael Ray cookbook, 365:No Repeats, and the Becky Higgins Sketches for Scrapbooking Volume 2. Then again, I may just order them from Amazon - we'll have to see!

Tomorrow, Erica has a birthday party to go to, and then there is the endless preparation of Valentine's goodies for all of the school parties on the 14th. And I guess I need to squeeze in some grocery shopping in there.


Happy Birthday, Zach!

It's Cousin Zach's 5th birthday today - WOW - how can that be? 5 years old!! So I found a cake picture just for you.

OK, it's pink, but I figure that's OK.

Happy Birthday!

Love, Auntie Shirley, Uncle Scott, Erica and Brian


In Preparation for Tomorrow's Big Game

Or is that big commercials, bloated commentary and big egos?
I just hope there aren't any commercials - last year I forced someone to change the channel which then resulted in the group missing a Budweiser commercial. Well, I guess one can always watch those over the Internet the following day.

But I digress..... we are having a "small gathering" tomorrow for the game. Small, as in 10 adults and 10 children. I must be dillusional - that's a full blown party - shin dig - whatever!

OK, so I am planning what we will be having. This is what we have so far:

  • Chinese Dumplings, made by hand
  • Assorted dips & salsas - Chipotle Dip, Black Bean & Corn Salsa, Ranch Dip, Spinach Dip.... is there any other dip out there? And the chips / crackers / veggies to do the "dipping".
  • Pasta Salad (that sounds very boring)
  • BBQ Chicken wings - compliments of Tyson and the oven
  • Drinks (I calculated out how many litres of soda to purchase - isn't that geeky?)
  • Beer
  • Gin and Tonic - because that's what I want to drink
  • Pizza - compliments of Dominos
  • Brownies and Blondies (brought by others)
  • Cake - it's M's birthday, even though she doesn't want others to know and make a fuss!
My list has been made - time to load up that shopping cart!


More Chinese Astrology - Sheep

So after Melissa determined she was a Sheep, but didn't know what that meant, I thought it would be a good idea to add some links to a site which describes the Characteristics of each animal in the Chinese system.

Since I am a Sheep (or Ram or Goat), I thought I would add its characteristics, which are taken from the Cultural Center of San Fransisco:

People born in the Year of Ram are elegant and highly accomplished in the arts. They seem to be, at first glance, better off than those born in the zodiac's other years. But ram year people are often shy, pessimistic, and puzzled about life. They are usually deeply religious, yet timid by nature. Sometimes clumsy in speech, they are always passionate about what they do and what they believe in. Ram people never have to worry about having the best in life for their abilities make money for them, and they are able to enjoy the creature comforts that they like. Ram people are wise, gentle, and compassionate. They are compatible with Rabbits, Pigs, and Horses.
Hey - some of that is accurate! I am normally shy and timid by nature (I force myself to socialize, but once I am comfortable around someone, I am no longer shy). I do find myself tongue-tied. I don't consider myself overly artistic, but I do have some artistic skills (I like Pretty things - does that count??). My DS is a Rabbit and I do have to agree that we get along (at least more than me and my DD!).

The link above outlines the characteristics of all the signs. Have fun checking it out!



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