On Bullying

Wow.  It has been an intense past couple days.  My mind is still spinning a bit over it and probably will for some time.

I have to say a hearty thank you to all of those that have commented, messaged, emailed etc. giving me your support, e-hugs and advice.  At first I was a bit terrified of what the hell was going on but you all made it bearable.  If I end up with a few new friends out of this it may have *almost* have been worth it.  If nothing else, it’s the definite silver lining in all of this.  So again, thank you.

However, the negatives… oh what is positive without a negative to balance life out.  The biggest detractors, Emily included, have said (multiple times) that if I didn’t enjoy this drama, I would have just deleted my review and moved on.  I would have never made a blog post and I certainly wouldn’t still be talking about it.  The horse doth hath been beatenth.  Or something like that 😉  I know that I will not turn a single one of you onto my side so to speak but this is my blog and I can write what I want and if I want to defend myself to these claims, so be it.

As a child, I was sexually molested by my older brother.  Yeah yeah, that’s beyond bullying I know but hear me out.  I was 5 years old and in Kindergarten and my brothers friends watched.  They went home and told their parents and the entire small town I was from knew about it.  At that age the smallest thing is embarrassing such as forgetting your socks on “Sock Day” at school (yep, I still cringe when I remember this) so imagine this kind of a story getting out and it being all over town.  I was humiliated but furthermore, I was teased.  I was teased so bad I went home crying almost every day from school.  Kids can be so damn cruel sometimes.  The bullies had found a ripe story and ran with it and I was blamed for what happened to me and even told I deserved it.  Sound familiar?  We ended up moving across the town, I changed schools and thankfully the furor died down.

Fast forward a few years to 7th grade.  Our schools merged and the kids that I had left behind remembered me – and my past.  It all came back with a vengence at a time that I was pretty fragile.  My Mom was dying from emphysema and I spent most of my spare time taking care of her.  My brother was in the Navy and was still a bone of contention between our parents.  My Mom sided with my brother in the “incident” as we called it, my Dad with me.  It was to the point my parents were about to divorce but my Mom’s illness was too bad for my Dad to just leaver her, especially without insurance.  So, life sucked at the time.  Then all of that shit came back up and the bullies, now more experienced and cruel at 13, were beyond awful.  I never stood up to them, instead I used all the strength I had just to get through the day to get home and take care of Mom.  I can’t begin to tell you though how hard those years were and how much anxiety I still feel looking back at 7th grade.

Over the summer of my 7th grade year, my brother, who if you recall was in the Navy – AND gay, died.  The official story we got was that he committed suicide after being outed as gay by his fellow military “brothers” and he was bullied so badly he killed himself.  There is a lot of grey area however and to this day I still can’t say for certain if he was murdered by a bunch of assholes or if he really did kill himself because of the assholes but the cause of either scenario is that he died as an end result of being bullied.  No matter what he did to me in the past (and trust me, we didn’t get along remotely after the incident) he was still my brother and what happened to him was shameful.  You may read that and think “wow” or hell, I’ve even had people ask how I’m still sane after all of that.  Instead, the kids I went to school with thought this was a great thing to leap on and again, I endured more bullying teasing me that my brother committed suicide and asked if I made him do it.  Again, kids are cruel.  Again, I just endured it, not having the strength to battle back.  They did finally stop though when my Mom died that Christmas Day.  Thank GOD.  I guess my life had reached such a sad point that even the bullies didn’t quite know how to turn that one around.

This brings me to now… can you understand why now that I’m “grown up” I don’t tolerate bullies and refuse to let them make me cower?  See why I would stand up for someone that is being bullied?  I sure as hell didn’t want this drama on my doorstep but I also wasn’t going to stand by and not let my voice be heard regarding what happened.

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Authors Behaving Badly: How I Pissed Off Legions of Emily Giffin Fans

I am a reader.  I read a LOT.  I read so much that I am in Amazon Vine and I’ve often passed up pretty awesome gadgets and gizmos so that I could get a copy of a favorite authors new book.  One of those such books was Where We Belong by Emily Giffin.  I read this while on vacation and enjoyed the read but didn’t love it.  For me, the works since Something Borrowed/Something Blue have not reached the bar set by those works (especially Something Blue) however I did appreciate that this novel did not glorify cheating, which the majority of her other works do.  I handed the book off to friends to read during the trip and we all agreed that it was a decent beach-esque read.  I now regret urging others to read this novel.

Around the time of the launch of the book, Emily had started posting and tweeting people urging them to buy her book to make her number one.  The first post kind of annoyed me because it made the fans seem like they were not good enough if she couldn’t reach #1, then her follow up post when finding out she was in fact #2 was equally as awful.  She had another post or two lamenting about it on her Facebook and on her Twitter and it frankly annoyed me to the point of commenting to friends that it was pretty diva like behavior and that there seemed to be an epidemic of crying over being second place (the Olympics were taking place at the same time).  It really turned me off and I was already starting to be sorry I had reviewed her book for Amazon and possibly helped even one person decide to purchase this novel.

 

 

 

This week, I noticed in my feed a link pop up to her Facebook talking about her husband being in a comment war against a reviewer on Amazon and how it wasn’t a 5 star review.  I don’t know why, but the whole idea of authors or people acting on their behalf (and I consider a spouse to also represent the author) and attacking reviewers make me ill.  Perhaps it’s because I am a part of Amazon Vine (have been since 2007) but I take reviews seriously.  I’ve thankfully (up until now!) never had to deal with an author attack due to my less than perfect review but I’ve been reading more and more cases of this happening online.  I rolled my eyes and shook my head and continued on with my work.  Then a following post appeared talking about how her husband was still at it, as if the first post didn’t get enough attention.  At this point I decided to head over to see what the heck kind of review could start this kind of nonsense.

Well… that doesn’t seem bad at all, certainly not attacking the author, tearing the book apart or even remotely spiteful.  Not at all what I was expecting to see.  I then continued to read to see what Emily’s husband had been saying and my jaw hit the proverbial floor.

*screen capture thanks to Book Goggles as it’s since been removed by Amazon*

One should note that the initial reply from Giffin’s husband was the same day as the review and the activity on the page was slow at best until Emily posted the below on her Facebook.  She did not link directly to the review (although it was linked in the comments by a few of her fans) but it was pretty easy to find, I did so without difficulty.

*screen capture thanks to Pocketful of Books as it has since been deleted*

Now the claims are that she didn’t know about how awful her fans were being and that she never directed people to Amazon to attack (screen capture of this coming later in the post) but both of these comments got me to go looking for the review as well as many other fans.  Many I should note on her FB page were telling her this wasn’t a good idea and she should delete her posts, so not everyone was raising their proverbial pitchforks against the reviewer but one quick look at the comments on the review showed that an overwhelming amount of people were saying pretty awful things against this legitimate review.

At this point I had had enough.  I couldn’t stand the thought of the fact that my review could even get one person to buy her book so I decided to change the review.  I’ve done so in the past when my mind has changed on a product or book and never have had an issue with this in the least.  I changed my review from 4 to 1 star and stated why I did.  The novel was okay but I couldn’t in good faith support an author whom supports the kind of behavior that was going on with the initial 1 star review.  Since this item was a Vine product, I can’t simply delete the review.  I hit save and figured that while I was only one person, at least I’m not longer supporting an author whom encourages this kind of behavior from her husband and fans.

The first few comments surprised me – I didn’t think about my review being seen but I had forgotten about Emily pointing people to the one starred reviews, which would mean that mine would come up.  Crap.  I then went and looked at the comments on the other low starred reviews and saw that already her fandom was attacking.  I girded my loins and prepared for it to get ugly but initially, the support was mostly positive.  Then someone must have alerted Emily to the post as I was shocked to see my review pop up in my Facebook feed being blasted by Emily.

In the comment section, they were pretty quick to find my review and post it and the shitstorm on my review comment page ensued.  Granted, Emily did sort of attempt to call off the dogs but in the same respect she also pointed out my review and posted her feelings on my changing the rating (again, from 4 not 5 stars) which she is entitled to.  If she didn’t encourage bullying though, she would have deleted my review being linked on her page immediately like she did with any comments that supported her.  By this point there were a few people saying this needed to quit and the comments her fans were leaving were quite horrible.  At this point Emily’s assistant decided to jump in and defend Emily as well leaving quite a few comments that were pretty shocking coming from someone that represents the author on a professional level.

*screen capture thanks to Pocketful of Books as it has since been deleted*

This is just one of many comments that Katie left on my review (all she or Amazon has deleted).  However, at this point there were still quite a few people thinking that it was pretty crappy what was going on and supporting me and my right to my opinion on the book.  Then more crap hit Emily’s Facebook.

*screen capture thanks to Pocketful of Books as it has since been deleted*

Personally there is no way that a 1 star review falls under my category of “most unfair things” but I guess that she should consider herself blessed for leading such a charmed life.  Here Emily directly is linking to my review with her assistants plea for fans to comment and defend her against “these” attacks.  Personally, I don’t view my review as attacking the author so much as stating my opinion but I gather that is subjective so I’ll take the “attack” hit.  However, the initial review by AvidReader does not remotely come close to attacking Emily in the least.  With a battle cry like this, Emily’s fans got even more rabid in their attacks against me and her assistant (CrimznTider) continued to do battle.  Most of these have been deleted by Amazon.

So now I’m a stalker, bigot and an infant.  There’s more mudslinging but I think this gives you the overall tone of the kind of comments that I was receiving from the fans of Ms. Giffin after she posted on her Facebook a link to my review. There was also tweets from her account as well regarding this.

 *screen capture thanks to Pocketful of Books as it has since been deleted*

Finally about 2 or so hours after this whole debacle started, Emily finally attempted to call the dogs off on Facebook.

In short order her husband also offered up his apology to me on my review, I did not see this placed on AvidReader’s review however and she’s the one that truly deserves it.

FINALLY!  Although the apology is not perfect but I appreciated him finally apologizing and it did seem to slow (NOT STOP) the attacks on Amazon.  At this time Emily’s assistant finally stopped her postings as well.  Around 11:00PM I received 3 different calls, all blocked, with one leaving a “delete your review!” voicemail and the second stating that I should just kill myself for being such a miserable person for attacking poor Emily.   REALLY?  And yes, I’m talking with the cops about this already.  I mean that’s Misery kind of fan territory.  Not long after I heard a loud bang on my deck and I was legitimately scared that it was a gunshot.  Far fetched maybe but this was quickly sinking into WTF territory.

I went to bed last night shaking my head and completely baffled and amazed at what a turn this whole day took.   When I woke up I decided to check Emily’s Facebook page to see if she’d posted any sort of apology or whatnot but I found this instead.

I just… I don’t… WHAT?  She has also deleted all of her postings regarding the reviews, which is probably a good thing on her end.  I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed this remotely and it’s pretty unfathomable that you would even begin to entertain the idea that someone would ENJOY the shitstorm I’ve endured over the past day.  For the record, Emily posted a link to my review directly asking for people to come support the attack against her.  That’s not saying gang up but it was all but spelled out

Here’s hoping this dies a quiet death.  I for one will never read another Giffin novel and I am happy to hear that others are doing the same.

UPDATE:

Pipe dreams, they are lovely things to have aren’t they?  The only apology I have received from her camp is on my review, she has not reached out to me other than on that platform and that was her husband, not her, unless the account really is hers.  Again, I don’t deserve what happened to me because I dared to change a review.  I also will not be bullied into changing or deleting my review because that’s what Emily thinks is best.  If she didn’t want the drama to continue, she would stop making posts such as these. Sure, I’m adding to the fire now by posting these screen caps but damnit, I’m furious.  I think most would be too if they were in my shoes.

UPDATE #2:

I started getting negative comments on this blog post and low and behold, Emily is making vaguebook status updates.  It’s interesting how I am always able to figure it out when things have hit her Facebook when there is an uptick in negative feedback.

Also for those asking, yes I have been to the police station today regarding the voice mails and cyber bullying.

UPDATE #3

After thinking on this whole disaster this evening, I wondered how I could turn this into something positive.  I wished there was a charity for me to donate books to children that are bullied as a child I always lost myself in books when I was bullied in school.  I still do it as an escape from reality.  Since such a charity doesn’t exist (anyone want to start one?) I’m donating to the Megan Meier Foundation instead.  Megan Meier is the girl who killed herself after being cyber bullied on MySpace, a story which still saddens me.  I donated $614: a dollar for every downvote I received (278 – is that a record?) as well as AvidReader (78) and another dollar for every comment on the review (201 for me, 57 for AvidReader).  Granted, not every comment was bullying but I don’t care to go in and figure it all out as reliving those comments is not an ideal way to spend my evening.

I hope this is the end of this, I really do.

UPDATE #4

My review has been removed from the book page of Where We Belong.  You can still access it by clicking on the direct link but it is “gone” for all intents and purposes.  I did not do this, it was on Amazon’s end of things.

UPDATE #5 (December 30, 2012)

Ha, you thought it was all done.  Well, it is but I thought that instead of a new blog post, I’d finish up the “resolution” to this whole debacle as well as finally answer the question of what happened to AvidReader.

• Amazon took down my review of Where We Belong completely, however it still counts toward my Vine reviews so I didn’t have to review it again to stay under my percentage goals.  Huzzah.  Although, reviewing it again could have been interesting as I’m sorry but there’s no way on earth that my debacle wouldn’t have influenced my views in the least.  I know some don’t approve but in the same regards I tend to give authors I adore a kinder/better review based on my love of them so IMHO it can go both ways.

• I never had a direct apology in any form from Emily.  The only apology I got was from her publicist, whom did eventually contact me but it wasn’t on her behalf, more or less was trying to get me to take down this blog.  I refused and he was polite about my refusal.  They did release a somewhat public apology in The Atlantic.

• Despite accusations to the contrary, AvidReader is *not* some stalker of Emily Giffin’s, nor a psycho.  Instead she is a college student who used an email she doesn’t check during the school year for her Amazon profile.  When she got home for the holidays and checked her not-often-read email, she was surprised to see what kind of fuss became of her review.  She contacted me to thank me for supporting her and was glad that she missed all of the drama.  I’m SO glad to hear from her and know she is OK.  I was concerned but hoped something like this was the case.

• Finally I want to say a huge thank you to the authors and fellow reviewers that reached out to me during this mess.  I was stunned, surprised and humbled by your overwhelming support.  I’ve gained a lot of respect for you all and I’m glad to know that some of my favorite authors are on my team and I’ve also discovered a few new ones that I want to support.  It was a crazy ordeal and I couldn’t have asked for kinder people to be in my corner.

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Why You Shouldn’t Rent From Avis

In June my husband and I went to NYC to photograph a wedding and enjoy a few days in the city.  Originally I hadn’t planned on renting a car but since the wedding was in New Jersey with a lot of travel between the getting ready location and wedding venue, we decided to rent a car to make things a bit easier so we didn’t have to get a taxi or try to navigate public transportation with all of the gear.  Originally I had rented a car through Enterprise but decided to give Hotwire a shot on a whim at the last minute to see if I could get a cheaper rate as I was balking a bit at the $400+ rate for the 5 days.  I thought it was lucky (ha!) that I ended up “winning” a full size car for $200 for the 5 days – half the price!

The day of our arrival we got to the Avis location at LaGuardia airport without incident.  Check in took forever as there were few people working and many people waiting.  After a bit of a wait we finally started to get checked in, waiving their insurance as our car insurance as well as credit card both have coverage for rental cars.  When we were done checking in with the woman who was not very friendly, she told us where to find our car and said the keys were in it.  I said that’s it? and her reply was that was it and to give the paperwork she handed me to the gate guard when leaving the lot.  We walked out into the lot and saw the car – a Ford Fusion.  My husband is pretty anal about taking pictures of any damage he sees on rental cars before we drive off so he took a picture of a minor scrape on the bumper that had a red paper dot nearby before we left the lot.  The gate agent asked for the paperwork, which we handed over and he gave us back our copy and we left.  Never once did he – NOR the lady checking us in – ever mention we were supposed to do a walk around with him for the car.  Typically I’ve always had the person checking us in do this but often there are places that don’t even do that due to being understaffed and I’ve never had an issue.

We drove the car very little during our stay.  We drove to New Jersey to our hotel for the early part of our stay and drove to the bride’s parents house twice (rehearsal and day of the wedding) and then into NYC to the Waldorf where we stayed and used public transportation for the remainder of the trip until returning the car.  There were no incidents and the car was never in any danger of being damaged nor was it damaged during our use of the vehicle.

When returning the vehicle to the LaGuardia location, I asked the person who was checking cars in, Derek, what I could do about the fact that I had paid for a Full Size car but was given a Standard car.  He immediately got an attitude and said that he didn’t know about where I come from but at Avis a Fusion IS a full size car.  This got me more irritated as I had checked with their website online their car grades in case I was mistaken and it plainly states on their site that a standard car is a Ford Fusion or similar.  When I mentioned this Derek got even more upset then goes, well what do we have here – and starts in on the scrape on the bumper.  We quickly informed him that we picked up the vehicle like this and he said that we hadn’t.  We again insist that we hadn’t done the damage and had pictures to prove it and he asked if the gate agent had gone around the car with us.  When we said no, he told us we had to pay for the damages then – unless we had purchased their insurance.  We then had to go inside and fill out paperwork stating the incident where I stated we did NOT do the damage and that we had photographs to prove it.  At this time (thank god) my husband went outside and took more pictures of the car, with the damage matching up to the picture from his FIRST picture the day of pickup.  Despite seeing this, the manager still made me fill out the report.  It took well over an hour to do all of this and we almost missed our flight.  I was furious about not only the horrible way we were treated by Derek but by the fact that they were trying to rip us off.

Yesterday in the mail (which I got today as I was working yesterday), which is 5 weeks after the incident, I received in the mail a packet from Avis stating that I owe $304 for the damages done to the bumper which I am responsible for.  Furious doesn’t even COVER it.  Included are images they took of the damages, which now includes a rather large scratch that was NOT there when we dropped off the car when this whole mess started.  Thank GOD my husband went back out and took pictures when they started up with this nonsense because we wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, AGAIN, if he hadn’t.  There was $205 in charges for the repair of the bumper and $99 in fees for admin and loss of use.  I am planning on contacting a lawyer tomorrow as well as following up with a body shop to get an estimate on the charges.  I will update this as I hear more.

Talk is cheap so they say and the proof is in the pudding, right?

 

The picture of the damage to the rear bumper when we picked the car up.  This image was taken at 6/14/12 at 12:54PM, our check in process started with Avis per their paperwork at 6/14/12 at 12:49PM.

This is a full size crop of the damage from the image above, the same damage we would later be charged for doing to the car, despite having proof we didn’t do it.

A copy of our paperwork showing that even Avis knew we had paid for Full Size and were being given a standard sized vehicle for rental.  Also note that the car in the agreement is NOT the car we received (we were given a WHITE Ford Fusion) and are being charged for damages on.

A picture of the car when I was inside filling out the paperwork regarding the damage and arguing my case.  Note the insert showing a full crop of the damage on the bumper that is identical to the damage on the car when we picked it up.  The date and time of this image is 6/19/12 10:14AM.

This picture is included in my bill for the repairs done to the car for the damages that they are claiming that I did.  Notice the scrape below the circular sticker that was NOT in the image above upon our return and also notice the date of the image – 6/20/12, one full day AFTER we returned the car.

The full bill for the damages.

The breakdown of the damages to the car and the repair work done.

UPDATE 7/30/12 @ 9:30AM:  I just got off of the phone with Peter from the Claims department and he’s the first nice person I’ve dealt with at Avis during this entire mess.  He said that it was good that we took pictures and seemed surprised that when the pictures were shown to Derek and the manager that they still held us accountable.  He also agreed that the red dot near the damage seems to indicate that they knew there was damage even though there was nothing notated on the car’s history.  I emailed him the pictures and he said so long as things all match up with what I am claiming they will write off the bill against me.  Fingers crossed!

UPDATE 7/30/12 @ 10:45AM:  They closed the claim!  *happy dance*

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April Birchbox

About 6 months or so ago a friend turned me onto the magical world of Birchbox.  For $10 a month you get a variety of samples of beauty products – usually new ones but sometimes they are old favorites.  I love trying new products (I’m a product tester for Amazon) so this was straight up my alley!  The first couple months though I have to say they were ho-hum boxes.  A few good things but mostly meh.  After that though they started getting good and since then I haven’t been disappointed.  Last month’s “Teen Vogue” box was a definite hit with a twist band hair band, full size Essie nail polish, a sample of Kate Spade’s Twirl perfume, a beauty blender (I am already asking how I lived so long without one!) and more.

This month I think is another hit!  Each month has a theme of sorts and this month is “Natural Wonders.”

Here’s what the box looks like when you open it up from the postal box.

The box is simple but pretty and very sturdy.

When you upen it up you will find the card describing the month’s theme and a letter from the Birchbox team with the flipside telling you about your products.

I was taking these pictures as I opened the box so I was good and didn’t flip because I wanted to be surprised.

April Birchbox sample beauty products

All of the pretty pretty products!!!!

From L to R what the products are and the prices.

Pangea Organics Facial Scrub.  $32

Pangea Organics Eye Cream.  $55

Benta Berry G-1 Exfoliating Facial Cleanser.  $16

Wonderstruck Taylor Swift.  $49.50 – $59.50

Pangea Organics Lip Balm.  $12

Weleda Pomegranate Firming Day Cream.  $33

I’m surprised that none of these products are crazy expensive.  Generally there is at least one product in each box that is pretty high end and makes you love to try it but then you love to hate it because you don’t want to buy it!  LOL.  I love being able to try a variety of face creams because my skin is sensitive and I have the craziest randomest allergies EVER so I never know what will make me break out in hives.  So far my running favorite moisturizer has been Fix Malibu The Works.  Amazing, amazing stuff.  I’ve been testing out some others but I may be going back to this as my go-to full size.

Since I literally just got this hours ago I haven’t tried all of the products but as a self confessed lip balm junkie I dove right into the one included and I have to give it a thumbs up!  I do like it, there isn’t much of a taste, the smell is divine and it seems to last pretty long.  No hives or blisters either which is a huge relief after my lips broke out in blisters after the Jouer Lip Enhancer which I was SO excited to try!  It felt amazing until the blisters :(.  I also have to say Wonderstruck smells amazing too.  It reminds me of another perfume though and I can’t place it!  It’s driving me mad!

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Books You Should Read | Outlander Series

I can’t recall when I finally picked up the Outlander series and began reading it, but I want to say in was 2000 or so. A friend whom is also an avid reader had told me about the series and it piqued my interest as I’ve always loved time travel novels.  I think it all goes back to my love affair with Christopher Pike so I’ve always loved anything with a touch of fantasy in it.  I remember going into Walden Bookstores and having a dickens of a time locating this novel because I was under the assumption it was a romance but it was filed with sci-fi.  I don’t miss those days of scouring book shelfs trying to find a novel (or waiting to get the next in a series ordered in to your store!).  Thank god for Amazon and Kindle.  I digress.  When I picked this book up (and the next 2 in the series) I was a bit intimidated by their immense size.  This is NOT a small book by any means.  I am a fairly fast reader but I even was a bit overwhelmed by the mass of this book.  However I quickly found out that the pace is so fast you never feel like this book is dragging.

Outlander is the first novel of the series and sets up the framework quite nicely but I also feel it could easily be a stand alone novel.  Her later novels in the series do leave you hanging a bit at the end but I’ve always loved how this novel finishes and doesn’t leave one completely in the dark.  The series is currently up to 7 books and the next will be released next year (which I am anxiously awaiting for as the last ending was a cliffhanger).  If you start this series, make sure you have time eked out in your reading schedule because I almost promise you that you will not want to stop at one.

This series follows Jamie, a Scottish Highlander from the 1700’s and Claire, a time traveler from the 1940’s.  I will try not to spoil too much for you (a HUGE pet peeve of mine when reading online reviews) but I will say there are a few other people that the story involves as the series progresses.  When someone told me what this book was about I kind of rolled my eyes thinking it’d be too over the top but I must say this is one of the best written fantasies I’ve ever read.  The time travel in this book is completely believable and makes sense in a way.  Since I love history, I also enjoy how Gabaldon intertwines history with Jamie and Claire.  It’s hard to describe but trust me when I say it’s well done and you’ll feel like you were there alongside them for much of the major events.

If you like Outlander, you also may want to check out Diana Gabaldon’s Lord John series which is a series of novels about a minor character from the Outlander series (none but The Scottish Prisoner involve Jamie but he is referenced here and there).  These novels are MUCH quicker reads than their Outlander brothers.  I also would recommend Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness series as well.  There are a few minor characters that are in the Wilderness and Outlander novels and they have a lot of similar elements (I believe the authors are friends).  This series just wrapped up last year and I was so sad to see it go.  That being said, it’s one of my favorite endings of a series ever.

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Regristries

‘Tis the season for showers.  Not April showers but Baby and Bridal showers.  This year – correction – last year – apparently something was in the water because I know at least a dozen people all due this summer with babies.  Then on top of that there are weddings.  It’s shower palooza over here which means the ever present registry.  Oh… registries.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the idea of them.  I think it’s SUCH a great idea and I even like that they do them for kiddos bday wishes now too.  Since I’m childless, I am clueless when it comes to buying my baby niece gifts for birthdays and Christmas.  The older ones are easy as pie (here’s some cash! don’t use it all on beer!) but the 2 year old is a tough one.  I think they are a great thing so that you don’t end up with 3 different Forman grills or 4 Crock Pots.  Wait.  I had exactly that happen with my first wedding and I didn’t register for either item.  Thankfully more people are sticking to registries since my first wedding in 2000 though so hopefully that problem has been eliminated.

Here’s my pet peeve when it comes to registries.  Ideally you are going through all of this hassle (trust me, I know people say registering is SO MUCH FUN but they are mostly liars, the gun is cool but arguing with one’s fiance about what kidn of towels are more ideal for your home is not fun) to end up with items that aren’t doubled and are things you’ve chosen carefully.  Same goes for babies, you plot out, stalk consumer reports, pinterest and Mommy blogs to make sure you are opting for the BEST of the best.  Who has time for returns?  I am dreadful at returns.  They never make it back to the store.  Then I end up with doubles of stuff.  I never returned a smoothie maker from our wedding shower that was a double so we have TWO things that I discovered suck.  Yay me!  I’ve noticed lately though in my shopping that people are registering in multiple places (which is fine, I get that) but they are registering for THE SAME STUFF!  Why on earth would you do that?  Do you WANT to return that crib or stroller or grill?  I know I don’t!  I just don’t get it, why bother if you’re going to screw it all up. The current wedding I am shopping for is a case in point about this but instead of the exact items (we are talking Walmart vs Bed, Bath & Beyond) it’s very similar items at both places.  *smh*  Then there’s the ADD lists.  You know what I’m talking about I think.  The one I’m currently looking at has 4 bed in a bags, 2 comforter sets and umpteen different sheet sets.  They still live (and plan to live) with parents so I’m really scratching my head on this one.  Then there’s the bagillion towels.  I’m more than happy to give but it always makes me raise an eyebrow when perusing a registry.

Fair warning to those that do this that invite me.  I may get irritated and decide to do my own gift.  Which is usually a creative gift idea I stole from a past bridesmaid at a wedding I photographed.  She did a fully stocked bar b/c she couldn’t think of what else to get them (I guess the registry had been cleared – another pet peeve, make sure you register enough so people can BUY you crap – oh and not just all $100 items either).  So my gift this weekend is going to be a bar: a bottle of all of the “main” alcohols, mixers and utensils.  I’ve yet to do this for a baby shower though, somehow I don’t think someone would like me for that as it’d be a big tease.  My default gift there tends to be getting every small $$ item on the registry, tossing in a shitbrick of diapers and thowing it all in a basket.  Classy, no?

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NKOTB Town Hall

NKOTB Town Hall in Cleveland Ohio at smartspace

I’ve been a New Kids On the Block fan forever and a day.  Everyone that knows me, knows I love the New Kids.  I didn’t get to see them in the 90s (maybe I’ll tell the sob story about that another time) but I DID get to go to the first reunion show they performed in NYC for the Today Show in 2008 and I’ve been lucky enough to see them a few times after that (along with Joe solo, whom I “followed” a lot in the early 2000s).  Today I was one of the lucky ones chosen to see the NKOTB Town Hall meeting in Cleveland.  What is a Town Hall?  Honestly?  I don’t know how to describe it myself but they had three this weekend – two yesterday in CT and PA and then today’s in Cleveland.  Donnie, Danny and Joe were “representing” the New Kids and each venue had about 300 people and they did a Q&A session for about an hour or so and then played a video of their performance at Fenway which was about 40 minutes long or so.  It’s hard to tell time because no phones or cameras were allowed!  🙂

Cleveland’s venue was smARTspace in Cleveland on 78th street and when I got there around 12:15 or so there were two lines – one for invited guests and their +1 and another line for people hoping to get in w/o tickets.  It was all rather organized and unlike the day before, it started pretty close to on time at 1PM.  Mostly everyone was able to have a seat except for a few of the people that didn’t have tickets.  They were just happy to get in so they didn’t mind standing (it ended up working out for them).

The guys came in – Joe first, then Donnie and finally Danny.  Everyone was on their feet and cheering.  Some were holding up signs but thankfully that stopped for the most part early on.  Some signs were creative but damn, they suck to see around!  Each of the guys gave their little campaign speech and as a friend said, Donnie has the Obama DOWN pat!  Ha!  They each said how much they are enjoying this reunion and how no one expected it to be still going strong 4 years later.

They asked people asking questions to line up – each side of the room (it was a long and skinny room) had a line that formed.  I want to say in the end they took around 20 or so questions?  Everyone was very civil and there was NO STUPID QUESTIONS!  I think everyone took notes from some of yesterdays stupidity and decided to be adults.  Whew!

Here’s some of the questions/topics that I can recall (in no particular order)

• Q:  Who/what band influenced your music most?  A:  Joe – anything his sisters were listening to – Michael Jackson, Elton John — anything that one could dance to in the kitchen. Donnie – AC/DC, Van Halen and other rock bands. Danny – New Edition.

• Q:  Are there going to be any more Waffle House events? A:  Donnie – He’d love to do them but it’s become a safety issue. People are following him from table to table and wanting more and more pics if theirs didn’t turn out and it’s getting scary. He never wants to pull into a Waffle House and not want to get out because it doesn’t look safe in there, and doesn’t want us to feel the same way. Joe – crazy bitches! (mimicing what girls say about the girls at the Waffle Houses – got lots of laughs). Donnie wants to continue it but he stressed that when/if it happens girls have GOT to chill and let him say hi and move on and not make safety issues.  He doesn’t want anyone slipping and falling on bacon grease!  There was also talks of heart attacks but I missed how that bit started?  Basically – he’ll  be doing them again if people can be civilized and calm.

• Q:  Will you do a CD with a compilation of bands you have performed with? A:  All – that’s a good idea and something we may want to consider.

• They are currently recording a new CD – have managed to refrain from tweeting about it but said it’s time for new material as they can’t keep performing Full Service.  I think they said 3 songs but I could be wrong.

• Q:  Are you going to include more Face the Music stuff? A:  Joe – They always answer this with they sing If You Go Away but said the fans are not accepting that anymore as an answer. He actually has the goggles from Dirty Dawg and wanted to use it in the upcoming tour but things got cut since they paired up with BSB. Donnie – plans were there to include this in the upcoming tour but the good news is since it wasn’t it’s in the vault for the next tour. Danny – (I’m not sure where this came from?) No one wants us to sing This One’s For the Children. Everyone is “meh” about it.

• Q:  Is there plans for another CasiNO Tour this year? A:  No, there isn’t. There will be one special event, this summer, that brings the best of the cruise, CasiNO tour, Waffle House etc. to land but they are not doing a tour this year in the US. However, they will be doing something in 2013 for US & Canada.

• Q:  Joe – will you perform Twisted like you did on the CasiNO tour again?  A:  Joe -today?!?  No.  (laughs)  He hasn’t done push ups in at least 6 months, outside of running he’s not exercising. He was in the best shape of his life then – perhaps because he was taking his clothes off every night. (laughs) Said he really loved that mashup though and felt the two songs went well together and is open to doing it again in the future. There wasn’t room for many solos with this last tour w BSB.

• Q:  Can we get a live CD from a concert so we can hear the PDGG concert version when we want to? A:  All – good idea, something to think about.

• Q:  For all the fans who aren’t here, are you going to do minutes and post them so others can see/read what is being discussed? A:  All – perhaps? Has anyone yet? Asks about an easel. Not here so someone hands up a dry erase board and Joe proceeds to take notes the rest of the meeting. Donnie states that this was really a special something for the Fan Club and it’s not really something they were planning on posting all about but we can get the word out there via twitter and blogs.

• Q:  Will there be a Cruise DVD? A:  All – There’s a lot of footage and they know that the demand is out there. It was kind of a vague answer – sounds like it is something they are planning on but it hasn’t been put together yet.

• Q:  Can you lower the ticket prices so my husband doesn’t divorce me? A:  Donnie – they’ve fought really, really, hard to keep them as low as they have. They got into a huge fight with the promoters of the NKOTBSB tour bc other similar tours were charging $300/$400 but they wanted to keep the tickets under a $100. They were able to but there are a lot of things at play and they try to do their best to keep things affordable. Mentions that this does NOT include the VIP stuff.  Mentioned that today’s event was free and they are glad to be able to do stuff like this for people that can’t always afford the concerts.

• Q:  Is there any way possible to get more of an advance notice when things are going on sale? A:  Danny – he totally hears and understands, hopes that they can do what they can do.

• Q:  Can you stop adding on dates – esp out of order (like Radio City)? A:  Donnie – they get added on because of the demand so it’s something we can’t control until we see what the demand is.  It’s out of their control.  Joe (I think) – we didn’t expect to have 3 Radio City concerts!!!! Danny – you WANT us to stop adding on dates?!!?!?!?!

• Q:  We need more marshmallow!!! A:  Donnie – now that he has stopped eating all the candy, cookies and brownies he’s been given over the past 6 months, he’s getting back in shape and the marshmallow has been primed and is almost ready for prime time again.

• Q:  Will you feature fans in any upcoming videos?! A:  Donnie – you never know.  It’s a good idea.  We like to do things differently.

• Q: I couldn’t hear this one well but it was something about a fan vote on what songs to release/what other bands to pair up with on a CD.  A:  That’s a good suggestion and it worked well in the past.  — someone yells out Boys II Men.

• Q:  Is there a possibility of getting the New Kids all on Blue Bloods? A:  Donnie – not sure, Jordan was on last year but Joe’s too big time to be an extra and costs more. He got a NK song title in every episode last year, was quite proud of that. Tried to get Rise & Grind in recently but it was cut b/c they said it didn’t even make SENSE. Said they are always there in spirit but may try to arrange something.

NKOTB Town Hall in Cleveland Ohio
Joe’s Minutes…have NO idea what the jugs thing is about!?  LMAO

They then played the Fenway video and the guys all dispersed.  I heard a YIPE/squee behind me and noticed that Joe was coming around one side and was hugging en route to the back (the table w/ the computers, Jared, Kevin and sound peeps was right behind me).  Donnie was doing the same en route to the back on the other side.  Eventually Joe made it and only stayed behind the table for a few seconds then went back out and hugged people.  Donnie did the same, dropped some stuff off at the table then went back out to hug.  I never saw where Danny was until later.  For the whole video, the guys wandered around the venue hugging, saying hi and signing random things.  It was pretty low key, no mobbing that I saw (more of a swarm lol) and the guys were super generous with their time and smiles.  Joe’s sweater was crazy soft BTW.  He was the first I hugged b/c he ended up setting up hug camp at our aisle so we had to move out so that we didn’t get stomped.  I did get one heel spike to the foot though… so if they do more, wear steel toes!  ha!  After Joe we went over and got a quick fast hug from Danny and then waited for Donnie.  He was doing more than a super fast hug, he was actually talking with people and being crazy kind.  He was signing anything you’d give him and talking and giving super awesome hugs.  At my first ILAA M&G he was swarmed so I just got a super fast hug in and my second he was mobbed so this was actually my first “quality” time saying hi and seeing him for more than a millisecond.  He was so amazingly kind and sweet, the memory will stick with me forever. 🙂

After everyone had their hugs the guys just meandered around and would crash random groups.  I was talking with a friend and Donnie went to the girls in front of me and slung his arms over their shoulders and they swayed back and forth to the music.  It was a sweet moment and it KILLED me not to have my camera!  🙂  There was a guy there with a camera though and he did take pics of quite a few ladies with Donnie towards the end.  It was cool that they were able to just roam around and people were pretty respectful and not attacking.  YAY Cleveland, ya’ll did me proud!

At the end everyone said goodbye and we filled out and left.  OH!  They also provided bags of chips on the way out – they must have heard the snacks complaint from CT and were ready!  🙂  I thought that was a nice touch, even if I didn’t take any.  I’m not sure if they came out and did any more hugs after – tons of people were hanging around but not sure if that amounted to anything or not.  I left and got lost about 5 different times on my way home (for me it’s not a trip to Cleveland unless I get lost at least once due to their shitacular signage).

I have to say a HUGE thank you to the New Kids (especially Danny, Donnie and Joe) for doing this and for the invite, it was awesome to be able to do something like this with you all!  I also want to say that I’m sad to see that people ignored the rules of no camera/cell phones/recording devices and did it anyway.  Stuff like that ruins a good thing!  This was a FREE event, they only asked that we respect their wishes and you went against that.  We ALL wanted to have cameras and cell phones but we respected their wishes, shameful that not all did and may have ruined a truly good thing.  Just enjoy the moment and tweet later and focus on the now.  Memories last a lifetime!

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Draw Something

When I was a kid my Mom was HUGE into board games and much of my childhood was spent playing games with her.  While we played some of the “normal” games like Monopoly, Life and Chutes and Ladders often our favorites were some of the more obscure games like Hotels, Trivial Pursuit, Stratego and Win, Lose or Draw.  I LOVED Win, Lose or Draw but it was hard to find people to play with.  Still, whenever my Mom & brother would agree it would be HOURS of fun!  When I heard about Draw Something, I knew that I would quickly become addicted and it would be WAY more fun for me than Words with Friends.  While I like WWF – it’s not creative.  You can’t have fun with it.  With Draw Something… you can get as creative as your mind (and your available colors) allow.

Since the beginning I’ve had some serious fun with it.  It’s hilarious to see what my friends are easily able to guess and their interpretations of words vs. mine.  Of course – what fun would this game be without a bit of demented humor?   I have it in spades and luckily – so do my friends.  It all started with a somewhat innocent word, “angelina” and from there on… it got fun.

Draw Something art

I started posting some of my better “drawings” to Facebook and Twitter and people were actually asking for more and more so I then started a tumblr with the “best of” collection.  It’s actually been fun and hilarious.  People keep wanting to play me because they’ve heard I’m funny at it.  LOL!  How funny and random is that?  Below are some of my favorites to date… sorry for the “crude” ones but that’s how I roll!  Ha!

Draw Something Pac Man

Pac Man

draw something art

“Die”

Draw Something Poop art

“Poop”

Draw Something Vader

“Vader”

“Titanic”

“Werewolf”

Beatles

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The Jelly Bean Incident

I am not much of a candy eater, which is ironic because my Dad was a total candy addict.  I go through spurts – that usually coincide with the letters p, m and s – where I’ll eat a few bites of something but generally I’m a potato-chip-junkie and I pass over the candy.  We still have a bowl of Halloween candy left!  It’s kind of funny, anyone that comes to our house always hits the candy bowl because the good stuff is always still there.  It’s not like most houses where the only candy left is the crap you would only eat after the good stuff is taken or ingest after the age of 70.  Honestly, I don’t even know why we have a candy bowl since neither of us ever eat it.  LOL.

However at Easter I usually pick up a few choice bags of candy.  Cadbury Mini Eggs are the one thing that I adore and will sit and eat the entire bag of if given the option (and lack of willpower).  I also like jelly beans.  I think the jelly beans are related to memories more than like though.  My Dad had this hilarious way of eating jelly beans.  He’d eat them in color order.  He’d start with his favorite color (red) and work his way down from there, in order, until the bag was only pink and white jelly beans.  This was the good ol’ Brach kind – this was way before they fancified jelly beans.  Every time I see a bag, I think of Dad.  So I picked up a bag of the Starbust “FaveReds” jelly beans because a) I went to the store hungry, b) I was sick and c) I was hungry.  I’ve had them on my desk since then and munch on a bite or two every now and again – typically when I’m hungry and waiting for the hubs to get home.

Friday I was hitting the sugar lows waiting for the hubs to get home from work and I figured I’d eat a couple bites of jelly beans to tide me over until dinner.  I took about two bites and somehow swallowed the suckers nearly whole.  Of course they went down the wrong pipe and I coughed them up when they hit my lugs.  Let me tell you, that was a fun feeling!  I then got to reswallow the whole mess and felt the scraping – again! – the entire way down my throat.  Oh, my god.  It burned, it hurt and it brought tears to my eyes.  Then, I got the lovely taste of iron.  Yes.  I managed to slice and dice my throat on two jelly beans.

Meanwhile, my husband’s friend Paul decided we should all go out to dinner so wanted ME to make reservations.  So I had to call and gasp out our reservations.  My throat bled for about an hour and that dinner??  I don’t recommend following the jelly bean incident up with spicy sausage.

I finally can swallow easier today but it still feels sore.  I have a feeling though I’m going to be teased about this one for years.  Already my husband is saying. “you are the one that nearly died on a jelly bean.”  Great.  LOL

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Dad’s Awesome Meatloaf

After my Mom died (the main cook in the house unless it was cooked on the grill) I was somewhat concerned about what dinner would be like.  When Mom was sick generally our meals consisted of take-out or frozen meals.  However I was stunned when it turned out that my Dad was an awesome cook – MUCH better than my Mom.  Mom’s cooking was okay but to be quite frank, there are few meals of hers that I miss (I DO miss her potato soup though, yum).  Dad turned out to be an amazing cook and I’m still kicking my own self for not getting him to write down more of his recipes.  I really miss one of the most simple meals of his – hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes.  I’ve found a few recipes but none have quite hit it.  Anyway, one of my favorite recipes of his is his meatloaf and it’s often the meal I make to wow guests.  Most people – my husband included – turn their nose up when you say “meatloaf” and start grumbling like Randy did in “A Christmas Story” but this meatloaf will change your mind!  I also tend to make this meal when I’m missing my Dad.  It sounds weird but it makes him seem closer whenever I make meals of his.

This was my first experience with the step-by-step recipe thing so I apologize for the suckiness of the photos.  It was dark and storms were rolling through so the light was just not great but I was on a mission to take pictures of this so I persevered.  Then the card got corrupted so half the photos I took are missing.  Fun fun!

meatloaf recipe from my Dad

Assemble the cast of characters.  Here we have the extensive ingredients that I promise you anyone can get a hold of.  Salt, pepper, dry mustard, bread crumbs, tomato juice, hamburger, onions, ketchup, brown sugar and eggs.

Personally I go full bore with it all and screw the fat content.  I have tried to make this “healthier” with turkey burger and it just didn’t taste right.

As far as substitutions, that’s your own perogative, just don’t come slamming me for bad meatloaf when you didn’t use anything listed LOL.  Those reviews always crack me up on food sites, well I did this this and this different and it tasted like crap so I’m giving you one star!  Hilarious.

I use premade breadcrumbs in a can but you can use your own homemade kind if you have that kind of patience or cracker crumbs.  I’d probably nix the salt if you use cracker crumbs with salt on top.

I’ve also used V8 in lieu of tomato juice and it’s been fine.

Preheat your oven to 350.  I always forget this but thankfully the oven doesn’t take too long to preheat.  Oops.

Mix together hamburger, bread crumbs and juice.  If you are pansy about getting your hands dirty/germs you may not want to read further but after trying a few different utensils I discovered that using your hands to mix the meat is the easiest way.  Just wash them please?

Once done smashing this all together, it should look like this.  Again, apologies for sucky pictures.

Next beat the eggs together (if you need pictures on this you’re screwed… and kind of scaring me) and dump them into the mixture along with the salt, pepper and diced onions.  I buy prediced onions because I’m allergic to onions and turn into one big hive if I attempt to handle them and god help me if I try to cut them (my face swells up).  My Dad used to use one small yellow onion and I decided that’s about 1/4 cup or so.  Use your best judgement.  Again, mash with hands or pansy it with some sort of magic stirring stick.

Oh and yes, even though I’m allergic to onions I still put them in this.  Cooked onions don’t bother me as much as raw so I put up with the discomfort for this meal.

Toss the meat mixture into a loaf pan.  You shouldn’t need to grease it.  It will look like this.  Apologies about my back splash, it’s a mess.  Hubs and I can’t agree on what to do for the back splash so for the past 5 years it’s remained plain paint which doesn’t wipe off so easily.  One of these days, he’s going to come home and I’m going to have tiled it all while he was at work.  If you’re curious he wants only slate tile, I want slate + tumbled glass detailed.  I will win.  Someday.

Toss that sucker in the oven for 1 hour.

Next is the good stuff.  I double the recipe because a thin glaze doesn’t cut it for us, if I could I would just eat the glaze.  You’re going to combine ketchup, brown sugar and dry mustard to make this good stuff.  I use a fork to combine because it makes it easier to get the lumps out.  Lumps are OK though and I usually don’t manage to get them all out when I’m using brown sugar that isn’t new.

Pull out the meatloaf which will look disgusting and be bubbling.  No matter what the fat content is on the meat, there’s always excess fat. If you wait a couple minutes it usually will start to congeal and I scrape some of it off.  That’s as close to “diet” as I get with this stuff.

Slap on the glazing.  Keep in mind this is a double batch so if you go with the recipe amount you won’t have this much on top.  Put it back in for another 30 minutes.

Then the house starts to smell REALLY good.

Make your side dishes and hopefully time everything right so that everything is done around the same time.

I rarely do that element well.

Then pull out the loaf and cut into slices.  It will be VERY moist so it may crumble a bit if you don’t let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  I rarely can wait so mine is always a mess.

meatloaf dinner from scratch

There is my plate of food!  See what I mean about the meatloaf falling apart?  I did have a picture of the meatloaf COOKED in the pan but thank you mr Sandisk for failing me so you’ll have to deal with this shot instead, sorry!

Dad’s Meatloaf

Meatloaf:

1 1/2 pounds hamburger
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1 cup tomato juice
2 large eggs, beaten
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup onion, diced

Topping:

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon dry mustard

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Combine meat, breadcrumbs, and juice by hand until well combined.
3.  Add eggs, pepper, salt, and onion and combine until mixed.
4.  Put in loaf pan and cook for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
5.  Combine brown sugar, ketchup, and dry mustard.
6.  Place on top of meatloaf after 1 hour of cooking and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
7.  Double check for doneness and enjoy!!!

 

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