Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Elle Amberley; A Pinterest addict comes clean!

Too many of my friends live too many time zones away.  One of those, is the talented Elle Amberley.  Elle released her latest novel, Lost in Your Time, this spring and was so gracious to stop by and chat with me today.  I could write a thesis on the reasons I admire and love her.  Instead, I will let her do the talking.  Enjoy!  

Look at Elle and one of her sweet babies... adorable!

Jen:  Tell me a little about your inspiration that led to your latest novel, “Lost in Your Time?”  I think it is so poignant with how globally connected our planet has become with social media.  At any time, any one of us could be “one click away” from making defining choices in our lives.

Elle: You've done your homework Jen, love that. Yes, Lost in your time is all about that moment when Natasha clicks on that link. It happened to me. One moment I was just about surviving and the next I jolted back into life. The power of a memory, something that had happened more than twenty years ago. Another country, another life, a little girl who was a fighter.

I’d like to think I would have regained my “joie de vivre” eventually but I got a massive kick that day. I just stared at the screen transfixed. What I saw was familiar, in the way I’d heard this song before, but it also confused me as the last time I’d heard it was “that” summer back in Corsica. I must have been 10 years old. Yet, more than 26 years later, there it was. I’d never liked French music, yet, I remembered the words. It was such a recent setting too, but very exotic, in a place that didn’t make any sense.

The beauty of it completely floored me, provoked this intense reaction. I recently read a quote about how you never experience music as powerfully as you do in your teens. A few years ago I would have agreed with this, that no band can recreate that intense gut grabbing feeling you get in your teenage years. Life can be full of surprises, especially if you’re open to them.

Pick up a copy here

Jen: Memories can be so powerful!  Especially when they find us after so many moons pass us by.  It always amazes me how a place, a song, and even a scent can send my thoughts into the past.  The mind is an amazing time machine. 
What book is on your nightstand right now?

Elle: Groan. I have no room on my nightstand. I get so many books sent to me, friends, publishers... It’s lucky I’m a fast reader. Let’s have a look.
Night by Elie Wiesel, the new Murakami, Magic Hour by K. Hannah, The Life you’ve Imagined, A Mother’s Wish, The Last Boyfriend... Are you still with me? 

Jen: Girl, I am totally with you!  This past weekend I finished reading three books and a short story.  On my desk, right this very minute, I have Far From Here, Don't You Forget About Me, and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry waiting on me to spend time with them; just to name a few!  Receiving books is fabulous, and has introduced me to authors that I might not have read without the little gifts in the mail.  Right now I am reading Contents May have Shifted by Pam Houston.  I am so thankful it was sent to me, otherwise I might have missed out on a memoir with these beautiful little vignettes of her life and travels.    

Do you have a new project in the works?

Elle: A new project, me? I have so many new projects I'm running around like a mad woman and can't sleep at night. No change there then. I often work on two or three projects at the same time. I know nothing about writer's block. I've come to the conclusion that rather than being slightly schitzo I'm just creative. At least that’s what everybody has been telling me. I’ll take it.

Jen: I love that you take on multiple projects, stories in your mind/on the pages at the same time.  I think so many times, as authors and manic writers, we feel like we have to backburner ideas and finish works in progress first.  I am so glad to see you embrace the manic writer in you!

If you could have lunch with anyone, living or deceased, whether they are important to you personally or someone you find fascinating, who would it be and why?  

Elle: Well, now you’ve done it! Made me go all emotional :)
I would love to have a good chat with my grandfather; he passed away on my eighth birthday. I adored him; he's the only person in my family who never did me any harm.  Over the years I've made my peace with what happened in my childhood and put the ghosts to rest while writing Nowhere Left to Hide. Still I wish somebody could enlighten me about my mother and the rest of our family. So many questions will never have an answer. I wonder how things would have turned out if he had been in better health.

That said, I don't live in the past so I'd love to have you around for a good old chat and also many of the wonderful friends I've connected with thanks to the Internet.
Notice Elle's glass is empty... 

Jen: I didn’t mean to make you tear up; so sorry.  I try not to go Barbara Walters on people and open the floodgates.  *Jen sends hugs across the miles* And I KNEW it was me all along that you wanted to dine with!  Ha!  I think that we would be escorted out of the joint, at closing time, for loud and boisterous behavior that lasted over an 8 hour lunch.
You and I are alone, and have the entire ice cream shop to ourselves.  Can you imagine the joy?  Tell me what the ingredients would be in your favorite sundae, and don’t forget the cherry on top!

Elle: Yum, I picture Italian ice-cream. In France you can order a Dame Blanche, I love that, it's vanilla with hot chocolate sauce and cream. Café Liégeois is also a favourite, coffee ice-cream with hot chocolate sauce. 
How about apricot, rhum raisin and white chocolate? I do love to try lots of different flavours.
Look!  Baby raisins! 

Jen: Because it’s you, I will try a bite of the raisin ice cream.  Just for you.  Only you!  My general rule for raisins is that they should always fly solo.  For some reason, they creep me out in cookies, breads; you name it.  When eaten alone, they make me smile!  Maybe that’s a childhood phobia from a raisin incident gone badly.  Hmm…

Little known secret; you and I are both gluten free girls.  If you came over to my house for dinner, I would make you my fabulous pizza from scratch.  What would you cook for me?

Elle: You know, I’d love that. Don’t keep tempting me, I’ll end up on the next plane.
I must confess I used to cook a lot but these days I'm spoiled, my husband does much of the cooking. I love fish and I never eat meat. Eating is still very much a struggle for me because of my health problems. My husband was horrified when I was diagnosed with coeliac. What was I going to eat? Well, of course, the coeliac thingy is the last of my problems. Some days I’m able to eat one food, the next not. How are you with humus and avocados?

Jen: I love humus and avocados!  I think if that was all you and I had to eat on a deserted island, we would be just fine.  Speaking of things we love, I know you love Pinterest!  Tell us your favorite things to pin!

Elle: I love pinning. Isn't it so much fun? Mostly I pin pretty pictures of my favourite places and especially the ones featured in my novels. I also pin cute animals, arty and crafty stuff. Often one of my children will peer at the screen and coo 'pin it, pin it...' which is why I now have boards for them.  So addictive!

My love, hugs and sincere gratitude to Elle for stopping by Princess With a Pen today.  Elle, you are one in a million, and I am so thankful to call you friend.   

If you would like to find out more about Elle, you can visit her website here.  You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest.    

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dancing With the Stars Week 10

All good things must come to an end... until NEXT season, that is! 

Thanks for the memories DWTS season 14 cast!

Oh what a night!  The finals were a splashy spectacle last night, and with that said it is difficult to believe this is our last time together this season.  We have laughed, cried, and guffawed with you as the show rolled out on Monday nights.  As the token DWTS virgin of the group, I want to thank my friends Michelle Bell and Tracie Banister for showing me the ropes, and hanging out at my blog.  Thank you, my sweet girl Gracie, for spending time with your mom, and chatting up all things mirrorball related. I couldn’t love you more.  No matter who wins the competition, it was a phenomenal season and we all thank you for stopping by and spending time with us.  Here we go!

Standout Performance of the week:
Tracie: I LOVED Donald and Peta's country-fied Freestyle!  That was just plain ole fun!  Cowboy Troy did a great job with the song, Peta killed it on the choreography, and Donald looked like he was having a blast.  His musicality was fantastic and he made all of those lifts look effortless.  I especially loved the ending to the routine - "Get you some of that!" indeed! :)  P.S.  I loved that their cowboy/cowgirl costumes were gold and green, the colors of Donald's team, the Green Bay Packers. 
Michelle: There was no question about it - Donald and Peta put 110% into that country inspired freestyle dance.  I have watched it a couple of times so far and it was just perfect!  I was so happy to see Len finally giving up the 10.  I love all three of the final contestants and I will be happy with any of them winning, but I have to admit to pulling a little more for Donald and Peta after that fun freestyle dance.
Jen: I was all over the Cheesehead, Packer, Boot Scootin’ freestyle performance by Donald and Peta.  WOW!  That was amazing; fresh and original.  Cowboy and Cheesehead hats off to the duo for giving it their all until the very end. 
Gracie: I super liked the last dance of the freestyle kind of dancing.  Did you see Donald swinging Peta around like a Lalaloopsy doll?  Man is he strong!  I bet he could throw me up so high I could catch a cloud!  That would be so much fun.  But I might throw up too.

This Was Definitely Not Your Dance - Worst Performance:
Tracie: In theory, Katherine and Mark's swing-inspired Freestyle should have been amazing, but to my eye, it was an awkwardly-executed mess.  Mark threw everything but the kitchen sink in there and Katherine seemed to be struggling to keep up.  It was too frenetic!  There was no fluidity, no joy in the movement, and the lifts just looked arduous. 
Michelle: This was the finals...the freestyle dances should have blown my mind with how creative and risky they were.  I felt that William and Cheryl did a very safe salsa inspired dance that, as Len pointed out, relied on William doing what he does best - shaking his butt. The dance was not a favorite of mine.  And I wasn't overly fond of either dance that Katherine and Mark did tonight.
Jen: I was looking for some serious “out of the norm” dances tonight during the freestyle portion of the program, and sadly I think the mark was missed by two couples.  William & Cheryl’s opportunity to show off some other skills was missed.  Katherine and Mark entertained us previously with a flapper-esque routine.  I was left wanting more from both pairs.  Were they great dances?  Sure.  Were they amazing?  Not even close.
Gracie: I liked all the people who danced tonight.  I think that if you dance really hard to be in the final exams of dancing, then all of the dances are the best!
**Mom’s Note: Gracie’s brothers are studying this week for final exams in school, hence the test reference.  It’s the last week of school!**

The Tina Sparkle Award for best use of sequins and spandex:
Tracie: Peta's skin-baring Argentine Tango gown was a feat of engineering!  It might have been those sparkly gold straps of fabric on the sides that kept the skimpy periwinkle blue number in place, or maybe it was just a ballroom miracle, but either way I was stunned that no wardrobe malfunction took place as Peta was lifted, twisted, and dropped by Donald.  The bright blue was gorgeous on blonde and artfully tanned Peta and the body-hugging design showed her rockin' figure off to its best advantage.
Michelle: Peta's blue Argentine Tango dress was slinky and seductive.  It was perfect for her body type and fit her perfectly. I loved it all except for the gloves.  And Donald is very handsome in blue as well.
Jen: I go crazy for a sharp dressed, bald man!  Oh Donald.  Donald Driver.  You had me at your midnight blue colored suit.  Also, I loved the little “pop” of color that peeked out from the lining of Mark’s white jacket during the first dance.  I thought it was a nice little touch. 
Gracie: Cheryl looked like a rainbow!  I knew that she would get a 30 tonight because she had that beautiful dress on!

This just in . . . the wardrobe department hates you!
Tracie: The 1920s flapper look worked for Katherine once, so I can understand why the wardrobe peeps decided to go back to that well again for her Freestyle.  Her fringey white dress was okay, but like Michelle said, the white granny panties under the costume were fugly and distracting.  And I couldn't take my eyes off of Katherine's sensible white shoes that looked like something a nurse would wear.    They drew way too much attention to Katherine's feet and legs (which were a bit wobbly throughout the routine.) 
Michelle: I thought Cheryl's multi-colored dress for the cha-cha was very unflattering for her. It had a weird cut and weird shape to the bottom of it.  Plus her hair extensions are getting a bit unruly and looking too droopy for her.
Jen: I was not as big a fan as my daughter was of Cheryl’s dress for the Cha-Cha-Cha.  She is so lovely; so beautiful.  For one of her last dances, I would have loved to have seen her in something silky, form-fitting, and sleek.
Gracie: I couldn’t stop laughing when Katherine wore that bull fighter costume when she danced the first time.  She made a left turn at Albuquerque like Bugs Bunny did when he fought the bull and people threw roses at him!  *Gracie cracks herself up* Oh, I will miss you when you do funny things like that Katherine.     

What were the judges' smoking?
Tracie: They always punk out in the final and hand out nothing but 9s and 10s so that it's left up to the viewers to choose the winner and that's okay.  But it did annoy me that they were gushing over dances that were clearly not that great (Katherine's Freestyle) and nitpicking dances that were well-done (see Len's comments about William's Freestyle.)
Michelle: Len has been so tough on Donald and very stingy with giving him a 10.  I think the judges are clearly wanting Katherine and Mark to win as they scored them perfect 30's for both dances, which I felt was too high for both routines.
Jen: Did you see Carrie Ann go all Mr. Roboto scoring William’s freestyle?  What was that?
Gracie: HOW DARE YOU, LEN!!  How dare you give Donald and Peta a “9” for their first dance!  How dare you!!!  Carrie Ann, you should not stand on top of desks, even if you like William dancing for you.  If you did that at my school, you would do straight to the principal’s office, and they would call your mom!  You could’ve cracked your head open if you fell, you know!  That was a bad choice!  If I was your Mommy, you would be grounded from Hello Kitty Bingo for many days.

Tom Bergeron's best one-liner:
Tracie: After William and Cheryl got their Cha Cha scores, the camera cut back to Tom who was standing in the middle of the dance floor holding red and green streamers with a perplexed expression on his face.  I cracked up when he said, "Did we get these at a Christmas sale?"
Michelle: "I think Len might be suffering from bum envy" after Len criticized William and Cheryl for resorting to a typical butt shaking dance in the free-style.
Jen: Speaking to Donald concerning Len, “He’s really starting to annoy me…”  Really?!?  Just now?!? 
Gracie: That Tom was just making everyone talk fast and go fast tonight.  Go up those stairs.  Hurry up and finish your talking.  Get your dancing done.  He sure was in a hurry for something.  Maybe he was going to play XBOX Live with his friends after the show and that’s why he wanted to get out of there so badly.  

The "Oh, Brooke!" moment of the week:
Tracie: Brooke was dying to get Donald to say something rasty about Len after he denied Donald a 10 in the Argentine Tango.  I was glad that Donald laughed it off and said that Len was going to love their Freestyle and would have no choice but to give them a 10 then (he was right!)
***SIDEBAR***Rumor has it that Brooke wants to return to the dance floor as a contestant in the fall's All-Star Season, which means we'd get a substitute celebraquarium interviewer.  I vote for Carson Kressley! **Oh! Jen loves this idea!**
Michelle: Brooke's hair looked atrocious.  I didn't really pay much attention to what she had going on tonight so I missed any moments of rolling my eyes at her Brooke-speak. It does, however, greatly bug me when she asks them what they think about the scores they have received and then doesn't give them a chance to do more than say a word or two.
Jen: I didn’t really listen to Brooke tonight.  Gracie and I were doodling on our score sheet in-between dances and perked up when the scores were about to be given.  Professionals might call that my “coping strategy” to tune things out that I choose not to hear.  I just call it enjoying some moments with my baby girl.
Gracie: Brooke looked like Silver Barbie tonight!    

Time to hang up your dancing shoes:
Tracie: I would be fine with any of the Final 3 taking home that mirrorball trophy as I think they've all done well this season and seem like wonderful people.  But based solely on their performances in the Final last night, I think it's going to be Donald Driver.  I'm not sure about second and third place, though.  That's going to be a tough call and will probably depend on the size of William's and Katherine's fanbases.
Michelle: This is a really close final three.  All three have shown vast improvement and all three have amazing talent.  If it comes down to fan votes, Katherine has been shown to not have the bigger fan base of the three and I feel will be the first one voted out tonight.  Between William and Donald, I am truly torn.  I feel that Donald should win, but I have a feeling William has a huge fan base that may take him over the top.   If it comes down to a judges' vote, it will most likely go to Katherine as they have clearly favored her all season long.  The ballroom is going to be rocking tonight!
Jen: Katherine has a very strong fan base that propelled her to the finals.  I think it may come down to Katherine and Donald.  William has been a huge contender all season, yet I am not sure if he really scored big with viewers last night to secure enough votes.  If we scored the stars solely on last night’s dancing; Donald wins hands down.  Hats off to all of the stars who participated this season!  You were all tops to me.
Gracie: I really do like Peta, and Donald too so I don’t want them to lose their shoes.  I would like them to win.  You know, I just really think they all got to have a lot of fun and so I can’t pick someone to lose.  They all took dance lessons, they put on shiny costumes, and they worked so hard.  I wish they could all have the trophy.  If they all can’t have it then they should share it.  That’s what friends do!

We have had a blast!  Thank you for spending time with us for DWTS!
Michelle, Tracie, Jen & Gracie

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dancing With the Stars Week 9

DWTS May Madness is here with our Final Four!  Hats off to all the contestants who graced the stage this year.  No guts, no glory!  We said “auf Wiedersehen” to Melissa and Roshon last week.  They danced their little beaded tassels off during their tenure.  The remaining contestants have an amazing amount of talent between them.  Tonight, one will leave and we will see the remaining three couples in the finals.  What a long, strangely fabulous trip this year has been!  Joining me to wrap up last night’s moves are blog hop queen and author, Tracie Banister; president of her local unpacking offices and new homes chapter, blogger Michelle Bell; and then there is little old me, Jen Tucker.  Due to circumstances beyond her control, my giggle-giving daughter, Gracie, will not be joining us for comments today.  We know you love her sassy little zingers, and promise that she will return for the finals.  Let’s roll!

Standout Performance of the week:
Tracie: I really loved Mark and Katherine's 1920s-style Quickstep.  It was fun and fast-paced.  Great choreo from Mark and Katherine's technique was spot on.  I really do love a good Quickstep and I'm always impressed when a celebrity nails it.  To me, it seems like such a difficult dance since the majority of it is done in hold and there's so much crazy footwork involved.
Michelle: I absolutely LOVED Donald and Peta's waltz.  It was so beautiful and well-choreographed.  Donald has been a powerhouse; don't count the football player out.   For the second set of dances, I loved William and Cheryl's samba. It was festive and fun, a well-deserved 30.   But I think it was the waltz that stands as my favorite of the week.
Jen: In full disclosure, I am a sucker for anything Great Gatsby or Flapper-esque.  Now that my confession is out of the way, I will tell you that beyond the theme of their dance, Katherine and Mark Quick Stepped into my heart.  They make something so difficult look so fun and breezy!  That, my friend, is talent!

This Was Definitely Not Your Dance - Worst Performance:
Tracie: Maria and Derek's Jive - what was that?  It's not a Jive if there aren't any kicks and flicks and Maria barely got her feet up off the floor!  I felt like I was watching a softshoe, not a Jive.  I know the choreo isn't Maria's fault, but the lethargy in her legs is.  She has no energy below the waist and it's painfully obvious when she has to do dances that require fast and/or intricate footwork. 
Michelle: Katherine and Mark's salsa was weird.  I can't even tell you what it was that made me not like it, but I was not impressed. Of course, the trip at the end threw Katherine completely off as well.  I felt so badly for her, she was so devastated.  I also didn't like the jive by Maria and Derek. I thought it was lazy and the judges fawning all over it was rather annoying.
Jen: At this stage of the game, with the level of talented stars competing, my pick really is what routine I didn’t connect with.  It was cute; it was kitschy (which I usually adore), however Maria & Derek’s Jive just didn’t feel…jivey?!?  I am so confused when I see judges knock contestants for mixing other dance combinations into a predetermined style, and then tonight they praised it as sensational.  If that happened on the school playground, I assure you that Gracie would pout until the cows came home, making sure that the judges knew it was not fair.    

The Tina Sparkle Award for best use of sequins and spandex:
Tracie: The 1920s has always been my favorite era.  I love those colorful, glittery flapper-style dresses and Katherine looked gorgeous in her pink one last night.  Pink is always a blonde's best friend!  Her hair looked really pretty with the marcel wave, too.  In that get-up, Katherine would have been right at home at one of Jay Gatsby's lavish soirées in West Egg (F. Scott Fitzgerald shout-out!).   
Michelle: Katherine's flapper dress was all kinds of awesome!  I loved the style, I loved the color, and it was just all around fun.  Katherine really dazzles when you put her in a bright, vibrant colors.  And Donald was just all around handsome tonight in his suits.
Jen: Oh my mercy, we have a 3 way tie!  I am all about the gorgeous shade of pink that Katherine wore this evening.  She was radiant!   And William Levy?  You have reclaimed the men’s white loafer from Cousin Eddie in the Vacation movie saga.  You brought sexy white loafers back, baby!

This just in . . . the wardrobe department hates you!
Tracie: Donald and Peta's Samba costumes were really boring, which is a worse fashion crime than being fugly IMO.  Their grey/white/black business attire just didn't work for the Samba at all.  Yes, I know Peta had her skirt/blouse ripped off to reveal a fun, fringey silver (or was it white?) number underneath, but Donald was still left looking like he'd just stepped off Wall Street.  It just wasn't the right visual for a party dance.
Michelle: I thought Derek looked silly in his velvet suit jacket and by the way he kept tugging at it, obviously he agreed.  Maria's dress for the jive was very unflattering for her, oddly shaped and not the right style for her.
Jen: I loved the intention; I did not love the costumes Katherine and Mark wore for their Salsa.  I love seeing Katherine in the bold and vibrant colors, such as the fuchsia she slipped on for their first number.  I think they could have carried off the theme of snake charmer and belly dancer with something that had more oomph!  I was reminded just a tad of Carol Burnett’s curtain wearing Scarlett O’Hara dress.  Just a tad…

What were the judges' smoking?
Tracie: The judges' scoring is so schizophrenic!  How many times have they jumped all over pro/celebs for not sticking to the dance they were assigned?  Len even got on Derek about that Bollywood-inspired non-Samba last week.  But last night, when Derek and Maria did some weird, jazzy, Fosse-style riff on the Jive, Len handwaved it and the judges gave them a ridiculously overscored 29.  It's like I'm not even watching the same dances they are!
Michelle: I don't envy the judges this week as all four are good dancers and it is a tough decision for them.  However, it does totally feel like they are pimping Maria and Derek with the consistent high scores on weaker dances.  On the other end of the spectrum, the judges praise Donald and Peta week after week of being so good and the scores do not reflect the praise they are heaping.
Jen: Just as a courtesy, and because he knows MANY large football players, I just have a small word of caution for Len Goodman.  Never – NEVER – call Donald Driver a “tough cream puff.”  Just take it into consideration, Len.  They could hurt you; badly. 

Tom Bergeron's best one-liner:
Tracie: It must have been an off night for Tom because I don't remember him saying anything particularly hilarious.  I did laugh at his reaction to Maria jumping on him after getting her judges' scores.  She said she had to do it because Derek's back was hurt.  Tom looked startled, then bemused.  The poor man is always having his personal space invaded on this show!  I guess that being jumped on is better than having his butt pinched.
Michelle: "I think Maria almost ripped apart the Skybox" after Maria went shrieking around like a banshee.  I was embarrassed for her tonight with how she was acting.
Jen: I cannot wait for the one-liners that Tom throws out to us and reels us in with.  I didn’t bite on any this evening.  So many stars and their partners are injured, or were injured this evening.  Maybe Tom’s Funny Bone was out of sorts.

The "Oh, Brooke!" moment of the week:
Tracie: "Do you have a thing for cages?" Brooke's question to Mark after he and Katherine did their Quickstep.  What did she expect Mark to say?  "Yes, Brooke, I'm totally into cages and whips and chains, too." <eye roll>
Michelle: Brooke was rather tan tonight, wasn't she? Not orange, but she had obviously been spray tanned today.  She had two moments tonight...one that made me roll my eyes pretty hard and the other that made me snicker.  The look on Donald's face when she asked what is was about him as a man that helped him survive was priceless.  She said it in such an "I'm a serious news reporter" voice that my eyes rolled and I shook my head.  When she scolded Maria to "get serious", however, I had to smile.  It was clearly not scripted and unexpected, but it was priceless.
Jen: So my oldest son Wil brought home an art project this week. *Yes, this is going somewhere* It is a vase made from rolled strips of magazine pages.  He placed them in layered coils while gluing as he went along crafting it.  It is so cool!  That was all I could think of as I looked at Brooke because her dress looked EXACTLY like Wil’s creation!  So in all honesty, I was thinking about different color combinations Wil could create for me when making a vase for my office.  Did Brooke even speak?   She did?  My apologies…

Time to hang up your dancing shoes:
Tracie: I'm sorry to say that I think our Welsh Wiggler is done for.  I just don't think she has as powerful of a voting fanbase as the other three and losing three points on her Salsa because of her back spasm was the nail in her dance coffin.  Her elimination might be for the best if her back is seriously injured and she's in pain.  I hate to see celebs continue on with injuries that they'll only make worse.
Michelle: This is a strong final four and hard to say who should go home.  I personally think it will be either Maria or Katherine. While they are both good, I don't think they have the fan support that Donald and William have.  From the beginning I had thought Katherine would win, but over the last two weeks, I'm not so sure now.
Jen: It really pains me to say this, and I think she is über talented; Katherine may not have a place in the final competition.  I worry that her last dance score, with injury factored in, may have an effect on the overall outcome for her.  I am unsure that she has the base of voters to keep her alive until next week, and I would love to be proven wrong.
Time and time again we see it’s anyone’s game, and anyone can go home no matter how much we adore them, or think they were robbed (yes, Jack Wager; nothing but love for you).  No matter who goes home, they gave their best and should hold their head high making it to The Final Four.   

We will see you next week!  Be there or be talked about!
Michelle, Tracie, Jen & Gracie

Sunday, May 13, 2012


This is your last stop for the 2012 Chick Lit Author Blog Hop!  Let's give Tracie Banister a huge round of applause for making this possible.  Tracie, take a bow!  On behalf of Tracie, and all the other authors you have met along the way, we hope you have had a blast.  Don't forget to collect the italicized secret word at each blog you hop to, and email them to CLABlogHop@aol.com ASAP.  We DO NOT want you to miss out on that $150 Sephora gift card!  

What we Wear

     My closet and I have a love/hate relationship.  On a bright and cheery Tuesday morning, I check out my image in the full length mirror that hangs on the back of my bathroom door.  MAN! do I look good!  Lilac cropped sweater with a white tank top peeking from underneath, khaki pants, and my favorite patent leather, purple loafers are the finishing touch.  Did I tell you that I look really, really good right now?  A week later, I put on the exact same outfit, look into the mirror, and the reflection staring at me reads nothing like last week.  This time it reads utter disaster.  So I return to stare blankly at my closet, attempting to find something else to wear.  It’s all downhill from that moment on.  This example of clothes behaving badly is what I define as the clothesfit. 

     A clothesfit is when you try on every outfit in your closet, that you previously loved when framed upon your figure, yet your desire at this moment is to lovingly fold every item you own on hangers, into neatly piled stacks, and then drive a Zamboni right over the crest of your jeggings and capri pants.  In your brain’s current condition, that cute sundress reads Hawaiian Mumu, your oversized sweater could cover you and every member of your Bunko club at the same time, and what were you thinking buying those neon, peep toe pumps?  I am with you; I feel your pain.

     Although we experience moments of clothing discomfort, digging through our closets can also bring bliss.  You rediscover the little black dress you wore when you met your boyfriend at a friend’s wedding.  Your mom happened to save your letter jacket from high school even though you rolled your eyes at the time; now you have a conversation piece at your next 80’s party.  You never could put a finger on why you saved that raggedy t-shirt you wore while bringing your first baby home from the hospital, but you’re so glad that you did.  These are the little walks down memory lane that we happen upon all the time.  We reflect while digging in our junk drawers, perusing over photo albums, and even when the D.J. spins our favorite songs from days gone by.

     Recently, I met a fabulously timeless woman named Ilene Beckerman.  She likes to call herself a “Post-menopausal Cinderella.”  I like to call her friend.  

Isn't she gorgeous?  Next time we are together in NYC, we're getting tattoos!

     Ilene wrote a book in 1995 titled, Love, Loss, and What I Wore, chronicling items of clothing she wore through the decades.  She lovingly sketched each illustration, from stockings to hair styles, and married them with lovely words about the importance they played in her life.  Ilene also discloses personal events taking place while wearing her treasured goods.  Her words and art empower readers to muse over the fabrics of their own lives.  While immersed in the pages, I would constantly drift off remembering my own revolving closet over the years.  The Shawn Cassidy surfer shirt I wore as often as possible in first grade; the puffy sleeved, polka dotted dress I wore to my senior banquet in high school, and the checked blazer I purchased from the Gap which finished off my look the night of my first date with the man I would eventually marry.  Clothing affects us.  Clothing may not define you; however it does give us some definition for the times and moments in our lives. 
If you think this book looks darling, check out Ilene's other books here

     Ilene Beckerman’s little book of clothing sketches was something she created for her daughters and two best friends to treasure.  It was never meant for publication, yet it was destined to happen.  Ilene’s best friend sent her copy to a publisher.  The publisher gathered the women of the office around the sketches where they all confessed the little book evoked their own personal memories of beads and baubles.  The publication of Love, Loss, and What I Wore lead to its birth as an Off-Broadway sensation in the hands of super sisters, Nora and Delia Eprhon.  This “little book that could” also had a cameo appearance on a show you might remember called, Sex and the City.  All of this beginning for Ilene at the tender age of 60.

Jen, Ilene & Angie Klink at the 2012 Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop

     I am curious what item comes to mind that references an important event in your life.  Whether you share your first purchase of a “big girl” purse or maybe your favorite pair of pink toe socks, tell me about what you have worn and loved over the years that made you smile; perhaps even cry.  I cannot wait to hear from you!

BLOG HOP PRIZES: By leaving your comment AND email address here at my blog, you could win an ebook copy of my book, The Day I Wore my Panties inside Out.  Make sure that you hop on over to the other author’s blogs who are participating for a chance to win a copy of their books as well! 

BLOG HOP RULES: Please read ALL rules and instructions!  
*Each of the 34 participating authors has written a special Chick Lit-centric piece and these posts will go live on Monday, May 14th.  At each blog hop stop, you will have the opportunity to enter to win a FREE Chick Lit e-book from that particular blog's owner/author. All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog post, including your name and e-mail address, and you're automatically entered to win.  If you visit each blog hop stop, that means you have the chance to win 34 different e-books!

*The blog hop will start at Natalie Aaron & Marla Schwartz and end at Jen Tucker.  You will find a list of all the stops on the blog hop at each author’s blog.  Authors' blogs will be listed in alphabetical order according to last name.

*In each of the author's blog posts, there will be a "secret word."  This word will be italicized, so it will be easy to find.  All you have to do is make note of this secret word at each blog hop stop.  Collect all 34 secret words and submit your list to CLABlogHop@aol.com before midnight on Sunday, May 20th and you will be entered into the Grand Prize Drawing!  The winner of this drawing will receive a $150 Sephora gift card!  $150 to spend on make-up, fragrance, bath and body goodies, skin care, and hair products!  How fun is that?  This gift card can be redeemed online, or at any Sephora store in the US.

*Winners of each of the participating author's e-books, as well as the Grand Prize winner of the $150 Sephora gift card will be announced on Monday, May 21st.

*Contests are open to residents of the United States only.

CLICK HERE for the link to the other author's blogs! 

Good luck and don't forget to leave your email and comment below! 

Chick Lit Author Blog Hop 2012 is coming!

Tomorrow begins the 2012 Chick Lit Author Blog Hop!

Get excited because there are opportunities for you to win some fabulous ebooks AND the chance to win a $150 Sephora gift card.  Who wouldn't want some cash to spend on pretty things?

Here are the rules for the event beginning tomorrow!

BLOG HOP RULES: Please read ALL rules and instructions!  
*Each of the 34 participating authors has written a special Chick Lit-centric piece and these posts will go live on Monday, May 14th.  At each blog hop stop, you will have the opportunity to enter to win a FREE Chick Lit e-book from that particular blog's owner/author. All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog post, including your name and e-mail address, and you're automatically entered to win.  If you visit each blog hop stop, that means you have the chance to win 34 different e-books!

*The blog hop will start at Natalie Aaron & Marla Schwartz and end at Jen Tucker.  You will find a list of all the stops on the blog hop at each author’s blog.  Authors' blogs will be listed in alphabetical order according to last name.

*In each of the author's blog posts, there will be a "secret word."  This word will be italicized, so it will be easy to find.  All you have to do is make note of this secret word at each blog hop stop.  Collect all 34 secret words and submit your list to CLABlogHop@aol.com before midnight on Sunday, May 20th and you will be entered into the Grand Prize Drawing!  The winner of this drawing will receive a $150 Sephora gift card!  $150 to spend on make-up, fragrance, bath and body goodies, skin care, and hair products!  How fun is that?  This gift card can be redeemed online, or at any Sephora store in the US.

*Winners of each of the participating author's e-books, as well as the Grand Prize winner of the $150 Sephora gift card will be announced on Monday, May 21st.

*Contests are open to residents of the United States only.

Click here for the link to the other author's blogs! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dancing With the Stars Week 8

  It was a night of pairs and trios on week 8 of Dancing With the Stars, and the contestants were ready to rumble!  The energy the guest dancers brought to their trios helped each couple step up their game tonight.  Last week, we said goodbye to Jaleel White as he was eliminated from the competition.  Tonight’s stars face a double elimination this week; be still my beating heart!
     Joining me are my favorites gals bringing you their take on the performances in the ballroom.  Author Tracie Banister, blogger Michelle Bell, and my little peanut pie Gracie.  Due to DVR technical difficulties, Gracie did not have the opportunity to watch the entire lineup of performances.  However, her looksee into the first 28 minutes of the show will keep the conversation colorful.  Let’s roll!

Standout Performance of the week:  
Michelle: William and Cheryl's foxtrot was definitely my favorite and I think they deserved the 30 that they received.  Cheryl is such an amazing choreographer for most dances and the foxtrot is one that she does well with. Their costumes, the song, and the smooth dancing...all perfect.

For the trio dances, I really enjoyed almost all of them, but I think the best was Donald, Peta, and Karina.  Donald takes risks and he is the one that keeps improving more and more each week.  Don't count him out as the possible winner of it all.
Tracie: No question - it was the trio jive that Donald Driver did with Peta and Karina.  The joint was jumpin' with that number and Donald killed it!  I just loved everything about his performance.  He was so relaxed, his musicality was fantastic, and he kept up with those two amazing female pros who were dancing their butts off!  I have already re-watched that Jive three (ha!) times on You Tube this morning.  That Jive was THE dance of the season for me.  So much fun!
Jen: William and Cheryl earned that 30!  Classy, brilliant; bellissimo! 
Topping any of the duo performances was Donald and Peta’s trio!  Joined by Karina, I felt that sparkly Elvis had entered the building!  Amazing timing, brilliantly choreographed; kudos!
Gracie: Maria really made me smile today because she made me forget all about her vampire issues last week.  She was like a dainty flower that spins in the wind.
Mom’s note: Aww……..

This Was Definitely Not Your Dance - Worst Performance:
Michelle: While the judges loved Maria and Derek's dance, I found nothing about it that pulled me in. But it was, unfortunately, Melissa and Maks that had the worst dance of the week.  Maks was clearly frustrated with Melissa this week and was visibly unhappy with the way the dance went and the fact that they showed the rehearsal footage that they did. (Maks has a fiery temper, it doesn't even faze me when he goes nutballs on someone anymore.)  The dance started out with some stumbling errors and at that point, Maks appeared to shut down. 

For the trio, the worst thing Roshon and Chelsie could do was bring Sasha in to dance with them.  It showcased how talented HE was and how well he and Chelsie danced together, leaving Roshon hanging out there as the weakest link.

Tracie: Oh, geez, I don't know.  It's hard to bag on anyone at this late stage of the game.  But if I'm honest, I wasn't crazy about the trio Bollywood number with Derek, Henry, and Maria.  I'm actually a big fan of Bollywood musicals and could boogie down to "Jai Ho" all day long, but that was supposed to be a SAMBA, Derek!  And Len was right about there being very little Samba flavor or technique in that dance.  I didn't think that Maria danced that well with two partners, either.  The whole routine gets a big "Whatever" from me.
Jen: You know, I think the remaining contestants have all fought hard to remain in the competition and came to play tonight.  Tonight it was a matter of whose dance I did not connect with.  While lovely and dreamy a dancer as always, I did not connect tonight with Katherine and Mark’s performance.  Katherine shines as a dancer, and the routine did not woo me.  I would have loved to see her challenged with tough moves.   

The Tina Sparkle Award for best use of sequins and spandex:
Michelle: Shallow moment...I loved Maks and his nerd glasses! Okay, now that is out of the way...I think that Katherine looked like a sweet princess in her lovely pastel and lace dress tonight.  The upswept hairdo was very flattering for her.  In the trio dances, I absolutely loved Cheryl's purple and black dress.  Very sexy and Spanish, the perfect dress for the Paso.
Tracie: I was seriously in love with Cheryl's Paso Doble dress.  Body-hugging purple lace with black fringe?  How could any woman go wrong with that combo?  It was sexy and perfectly suited to a Latin dance.  Cheryl's slicked back chignon with the purple flower tucked behind her ear was aces, as well.  I'd also like to give a shout-out to Brooke, who looked gorgeous from head to toe last night!  That beautifully fitted peach gown (with no boobage for a change!) and her straight, softly swept to the side hairstyle were the epitome of understated elegance.  Brava! 
Jen: Remember when I complained about William not being naked nearly enough?  There is nothing like a tuxedo to make me swoon.  William was dashing!  Married with Cheryl’s lovely gown, hands down the loveliest costumes of the night. 
Gracie: When I saw Katherine walk down those stairs when they said her name, I just felt like she was Cinderella walking down the stairs to dance at the ball.  Do you think Katherine has mean stepsisters in her real life?  How could anyone be mean to her?

This just in . . . the wardrobe department hates you!
Michelle: I LOVE Sheldon Cooper in a plaid suit on The Big Bang Theory.  On Roshon, not so much. It was a very silly look for him that I think fell flat.  Peta looked like a ballroom dominatrix tonight.  Not a good look for her, either.
Tracie: I'm not sure if it's the wardrobe dept. that hates Melissa, or if it's Maks since he's the "mastermind" behind all of her costumes, but dear Lord, her tiger-striped Foxtrot dress was Hideous with a capital H!  I hate dresses that have huge bits of flesh-colored stretch fabric for modesty purposes.  It's always an eyesore and it didn't even work in Melissa's case because she had tons of cleavage showing down the center, as well as major side boob!  So tacky on a woman of her age!  And the shape of the dress made her look like she had no waist.  Just UGH!
Jen: Holy boobalicious Batman!  Yikes on Melissa’s dress this evening.
Gracie: Oh my goodness…  Did you see that tiger lady (Melissa)?  I say it every week!  Put your clothes on, people!  Why do you have to be naked on tv?

What were the judges' smoking?
Michelle: "8" seemed to be the magic number of the night.  Bruno was in his typical lecherous mood, but Len and Carrie Ann were a bit cranky. Of course, we are heading to the semi-finals and they want to see massive improvement and the wow factor. I do NOT agree with the two 10's that were given to Roshon and Chelsie for their first dance.  I think the judges feel bad because he had his grandmas in the audience.

Bruno was the first to take the trio aspect and run with the one liner - "It is so hard keeping in sync with a threesome."  Bwahaha!

Tracie: It really irks me when the judges' comments don't match their scores.  They all flipped out over Donald's trio Jive and praised it to the high heavens, then gave him a combined score of 28?  That means they thought Roshon's and William's Foxtrots were BETTER than that awesome, crowd-pleasing Jive?  Ridiculous!
Jen: We three seem to have the same difficulty tonight with scoring not reflecting accurately compared to comments by judges.  The scoring for trios was difficult for me to swallow.  I find it very difficult to come to terms with the judges giving a ravishing trio score to Roshon and William’s teams respectively against Donald’s Jive.  Something is amiss in the ballroom.

Tom Bergeron's best one-liner:
Michelle: I had figured that Tom would get that threesome line in first, but he refrained.  He called out the fact that Len obviously had it in for Derek tonight with "They got two nines and one mood swing."
Tracie: Hee hee!  I'm still laughing over Tom saying that Maks and Val were wearing outfits from "The Larry King Chippendale Collection" (they were shirtless with suspenders holding their pants up.)  Funny, and so true!
Jen: In reply to Len’s comment to Roshon’s trio, that the men looked like, “two skinny fries chasing the ketchup” when dancing with Chelsie; I loved that Tom said, “WOW!  Someone just had a Happy Meal!”  

The "Oh, Brooke!" moment of the week:

Michelle: Brooke clearly was hoping to get something more out of Melissa and Maks when she brought up the rugged rehearsal footage that was shown, especially with the query of "Maks, are you okay?"  The look on his face was all "sit down and shut up."
Tracie: Brooke is in my good graces this week for holding both Derek and Maks accountable for their unprofessional and borderline abusive behavior towards their partners in rehearsal this week.  She didn't let either one of them off the hook and basically got them both to apologize, so kudos to her for standing up for the ladies!
Jen: Tonight was the night that Brooke asked questions I wanted to hear answers too!  I loved that she asked the teams that struggled with relationship strain in rehearsals about the tension.  Great job, Brooke!
Gracie: Peanut Butter Noise?  That’s that girl’s name??  Brooke said it was Peanut Butter Noise! 
*Mom’s note: Gracie would be referring to Peta Murgatroyd*
Time to hang up your dancing shoes:
Michelle: Melissa and Maks should not make the semi-finals.  Yes, they have a pretty strong fanbase that MIGHT save them, but if it comes down to talent and not a popularity contest, then they will go home tomorrow night.  As much as Melissa tries, she isn't improving enough to go any further.

Joining them should be Roshon and Chelsie.  They have been barely skating by for a couple of weeks now and I think tomorrow they will finally be escorted off the show.  Besides, how boring would their free-style be when you know they would just pull out a Michael Jackson dance since that is what Roshon falls back on all the time.
Tracie: Although she did improve a lot this week, I think it is way past time for Melissa to hit the Jimmy Kimmel show and have her dancing shoes burned.  She seems to have a huge fanbase power-voting for her, though, so who knows?  Roshon had quite a comeback and got good scores from the judges.  I fear that Katherine may be in jeopardy, along with Maria.  This whole double elimination thing is scary!  If I had my druthers, it would be Melissa and Maria going, but I wouldn't be at all surprised by a "SHOCKING!" elimination (Katherine, William, Donald - please, no!)  Tonight's results show will definitely be a nailbiter!
Jen:  Roshon and Chelsie finished with high scores this week, and worked hard to improve.  I am not convinced it is enough to keep them from the bottom two again this week.  I think we will also see Melissa and Maks meet up with Roshon and Chelsie as most likely to go home.  Although both teams worked hard this season, I think we are down to the best of the best staying, and the remaining four couples are just that.  In my Final Four, that does not include Roshon or Melissa. 
Gracie: *sing songy voice* People go home… People hug their dogs…  People eat ice cream…  So really, losing just means you sleep in now and quit breaking your feet and bumping your head when you practice your dancing.  I think that is a great reason to go home and lose!

See you next week!
Michelle, Tracie, Jen & Gracie