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DWTS 21 – Week 4 Thoughts

Welcome back to Casey’s DWTS Obsession!!

Week 4 already, and let me tell you – this competition is FIERCE. In the time I’ve been watching (all 4 seasons, psh), I’m not sure I’ve seen this close a competition. Or maybe I’m just forgetting. Either way, there are a lot of strong dancers this season, and I have a feeling it’s only going to get harder to choose a front-runner as we go along.

Who am I kidding. Second-runner, since I’ll be #TeamSharNick until the end.

This week’s theme was Most Memorable Year, a theme I sort of have a love/hate relationship with. In the past, I’ve felt that some of the stars didn’t really know the meaning of “memorable.” I’m pleased that this year all of them did, and all of them were revealing and emotional and helped us get to see them a little bit more. Except for maybe one, which I’ll get to below. Anyway, I think this theme is always a good way to introduce the stars, and it’s at this point in the season that I think people are starting to either fall behind or fall away from their favorites. It’s a more personal glimpse, and as well all know, the best TV is the TV that touches people. Or something.

Tom Bergeron was off this week as his dad is ill. Alfonso stepped in to help, and while I love Alfonso, I missed Tom. And ABC, please don’t have Erin wear heels if she’s going to be standing next to Alfonso again. (Speaking of Erin, I loved her dress!!)

Tamar Braxton and Val Chmerkovskiy: Finally, some emotion from Tamar! I was beginning to think she was a robot. I was pleased to see Val comment on their lack of connection – he’s right. It’s been missing, and while I don’t think it’s quite there yet, this week was 10,000 times better. The dance was simple, fluid, emotional, and powerful. I also actually really liked Tamar’s song, so now I’m going to go check out the album. Voted.

Carlos PenaVega and Whitney Carson: I wasn’t super moved by Carlos’ story, but that’s my own religious reluctance so keep that in mind. I think he sort of sold himself short a little by saying he had a pot-smoking problem, only because of the fact that a growing number of Americans don’t really think pot is a problem, and therefore probably won’t put much stock in what was obviously a difficult time for him. His point about coming down off the tour high got a little lost. Anyway, as for the dance, I was torn. It was better than last week, but I still don’t see improvement. No vote.

Alexa PeneVega and Mark Ballas: Alexa’s most memorable year was the one that I kinda felt so-so about. It didn’t seem very memorable – it seemed more like an excuse for her to say that she was upset with Alfonso’s Week 3 comment because family is important. I’m interested to see what happens when Carlos gets eliminated, because I think he’ll go first, and I half expect Alexa to fall apart. She danced well, and the theme was really cute. I didn’t realize this was her first ballroom dance – that explains some of the stiffness. Voted.

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: Bindi had me in tears before she even got on the dance floor. Her dance, believe it or not, dried my tears. In a good way. The dance was a tribute, a celebration, and a beautiful one at that. The raw emotion and power, and even bits of joy that came through, were a perfect way to end the night. Voted.

Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya: I was so glad that Gary had a chance to show his most memorable year, because I think it offered a chance to show America just who he is. Yeah, he’s a little off, but between last week and this week, I feel like we now see that Gary is a lovable, hardworking, dedicated guy despite that “offness.” He’s been up and down in the dancing, and this week was a little bit of a down week, but like the judges said…he’s an entertainer. No vote.

Paula Dean and Louis Van Amstel: First of all, does anyone else think Paula’s lost weight? She looks good! I knew nothing about her, so the package softened my attitude toward her a little. No doubt she’s a strong lady. However, her “I don’t think I can” attitude is DRIVING ME INSANE. It’s starting to feel like a cry for attention and not a genuine lack of confidence. The first half of her dance was so boring, I wanted it to be over. Then she suddenly found some energy, and the last half was bearable. Is she improving? Eh? There wasn’t as much standing around this time…..so there’s that. No vote.

Andy Grammer and Allison Holker: Last week I wanted Andy to bring the special. This week, he brought the special. It was also painfully clear that his issue in Week 2 was the band, and not his timing, since he was absolutely fine to his own song. There wasn’t much cha-cha, and he needs to pick his feet up a bit, but it was a fun dance with lots of energy. And he nailed the choreography. And that new song? LOVE. Hope this means another album is on the way. Voted.

Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: Argh. At the risk of sounding insensitive…this dance actually did nothing for me. He looked mad the entire time – which he probably was. Or hurting, because I did get the sense that he’s one of those people who tries to mask everything they’re feeling. Alek has had a lot to process in a really short time, and the shooting in his college town seems to have been the icing on the cake. All of that, and dancing on top of it? The kid gets a vote just for keeping it together. Voted.

Hayes Grier and Emma Slater: I’m officially smitten with this kid. Look at how adorable he is!! Can we set him up with Bindi? I think they’d be a cute couple, don’t you? Anyway, the dance. I agree with the judges’ reaction of what the heck was that? Where did this 15 year old kid find that much emotion and power and grace? I’m gradually rethinking my opinion of him – I’m still not convinced he’s Mirrorball material, but I’m starting to see him in the final 4 or so. He reminds me a bit of Sadie Robertson – quiet, unassuming, and just consistently getting better. One to watch, for sure. Voted.

Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: Can I just say…..Sharna is the luckiest girl in the world these days. SHE DANCED WITH BACKSTREET BOYS???!!! And while I love Sharna, Nick completely stole the show for this dance. Like no joke, I didn’t even see her. It was one of those rare moments when the star outshines the pro. Voted.

Who went home? Gary and Anna.

Who should go next? Paula and Louis or Carlos and Whitney.

My Week 4 Votes and Rankings: (10 votes available)
Nick and Sharna – 2
Bindi and Derek – 2
Hayes and Emma – 2
Tamar and Val – 1
Andy and Allison – 1
Alexa and Mark – 1
Alek and Lindsay – 1
Carlos and Whitney – 0
Paula and Louis – 0
Gary and Anna
Kim and Tony
Victor and Karina
Chaka and Keo

So next week is the switch-up, where the pros and stars get new partners for a week. They didn’t do the switch-up last season, and it made me so sad. I love the switch-up because it’s always interesting to see how different pros get different things out of the stars. America gets to pick the pairs using Twitter. I didn’t participate, because Twitter is too much work, but here’s who I’d like to see anyway.

My Switch-Up Pairs
Nick and Emma – Mostly this is because of Emma…I’d like to see what she can do with a partner of Nick’s caliber.
Bindi and Mark – When I heard about Bindi being on the show, I immediately hoped she was with Mark. Now’s the time.
Hayes and Sharna – I think Sharna is a good complement to Emma, and can continue Hayes on the upward trend he’s been on.
Tamar and Derek – I think Tamar needs to stop playing it so safe, and I think Derek might be able to tease that out of her.
Andy and Whitney – Whitney is creative, but in a different way than Allison. I think she might be able to help Andy with some of the finer things he’s struggling with.
Alexa and Louis – Since she hasn’t been in hold much, let’s give Alexa a world-renown ballroom teacher and see what happens.
Alek and Allison – Alek also needs to do something a little funky, and nobody is better at funky than Allison.
Carlos and Lindsay – Lindsay is working wonders with Alek, and I think she might be able to work some of that magic with Carlos…who’s been lacking magic lately.
Paula and Val – Val is steady, solid, and sexy as hell. He’ll make Paula feel all of that.

Unfortunately, they revealed at the end of the show that Tamar is paired with Louis, so there go two of my pairs. Boo. It would have been epic.

Who were your favorites? Who do you think should go home next? Who would you like to see paired together for the switch-up?

DWTS 21 – Week 3 Thoughts

Week 3’s theme was TV night. I haven’t seen this theme before, and to be honest wasn’t super impressed. Alfonso Ribeiro was the guest judge, which was fun. Loved him in season 19, and I was curious to see how he’d judge! I was a little surprised by him – not his scores, but that he was giving pointers. I guess I expected him to just be a “great job” kind of guy, though that’s probably not fair…I mean, he won the Mirrorball, so why not give pointers? Regardless, I thought he did a great job!

Tamar Braxton and Val Chmerkovskiy: I’m sorry. I just can’t get behind Tamar. I thought her tango lacked emotion and was completely boring. I also find her really really off-putting. I think she’s been scored higher than she’s dancing. Loved her dress though. I didn’t vote for her, and after watching the dance am fine with that. (Sorry Val!)

Carlos PenaVega and Whitney Carson: Carlos is starting to wear on me too. I thought the Golden Girls theme was a bit distracting – the routine was pretty fun, but the disparity between all that energy and jumping and the whole old people theme really bothered me. I do think Carlos is a decent dancer, but I also don’t really see him growing or improving. Voted, but I might have changed that.

Alexa PeneVega and Mark Ballas: WOW. Alexa is a force to be reckoned with. That dance was so creative, so unique, and so flawless. I’m not super familiar with Breaking Bad (I know, I know), but what little I do know, the dance captured the show perfectly. Alexa has become one of my favorites, and I can’t wait to see her next dance. She’s getting better each time she steps on the floor….and I totally agreed with what Alfonso said to her. She and Carlos can’t both win. She’s better, and as long as she keeps up what she’s been doing, she’s got a shot. Voted.

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: I’m struggling with Bindi. I love her. She’s so cheerful, so fun, and she’s a good dancer….but she’s not blowing me away. I realize that they only had a couple days to redo their routine, and she’s hurt. I thought her scores were fair, and I still think she’ll be around for a while, but I want to see some more from her. Voted.

Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya: Yay Gary!!! So much better than last week! I also loved that the package showed how hard he’s working, because I think a lot of people are just looking at him like “oh there’s that crazy Gary Busey.” Psh. I enjoyed his dance, and thought the theme fit him perfectly. Didn’t vote, and wish I had.

Paula Dean and Louis Van Amstel: I for one thought Paula’s scores were a little low. I was guessing sixes, so the fives were a slight disappointment. I see improvement every time she dances, though there’s still so much STANDING in her routines. I loved the emotional moments with her and Louis though. If she would keep her mouth shut after she dances I’d like her a lot more. No vote.

Kim Zolciak Biermann and Tony Dovolani: Poor Kim. I’m glad she’s ok, and I wish her the best. I’d have liked to see her stay a week or two more, but honestly I think her withdrawal is for the best.

Andy Grammar and Allison Holker: JEOPARDY??? After last week?? What the crap, America?! I like Andy a lot, but he’s another that I need to see more from. His quickstep was ok, nothing special. Bring the special, Andy! Voted.

Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: Alek is such a cutie. I still have trouble believing he’s only 22. I thought he did well on this dance – he was very much in “control” of Lindsay, but I would like to see a little more presence from him. He’s a small guy, and I think he struggles a little bit with what some of Alfonso struggled with, and that’s the need to make himself bigger in the space. I still think he’s a solid contender, and am still blown away by how well he’s doing with zero dance experience. Voted.

Hayes Grier and Emma Slater: I was really looking forward to this dance, and I felt really let down. Hayes nailed every step, but it was so…..dull! There was none of the energy we’ve seen in the last couple of dances. This reminded me of his first week, where he was just sort of there. Maybe the kid was tired, maybe he was concentrating too hard. Who knows. Voted.

Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: One of these weeks, I’ll stop being worried Nick will screw up. I want him to win so badly that I’m stressed he’ll get eliminated. And that’s ridiculous, because every time he dances I realize that he’s just that good, and surely America will see that and keep him around. SO KEEP HIM AROUND, AMERICA. That said, their waltz gave me chills. The way Nick moves is so elegant, so beautiful that I can’t take my eyes off him. Voted.

Who went home? Kim and Tony withdrew.

Who should go next? Paula and Louis or Carlos and Whitney.

Confession time! I voted before watching the episode. Would my votes have changed? Maybe slightly, but overall, no. This week we had 11 votes, and I used all three methods – phone, Facebook, and abc.com, so I suppose I really had 33 votes. But that’s too much math, so we’ll just go with my Facebook votes.

My Week 3 Votes and Rankings: (11 votes available)
Nick and Sharna – 3
Alexa and Mark – 3
Alek and Lindsay – 1
Bindi and Derek – 1
Hayes and Emma – 1
Gary and Anna – 0
Carlos and Whitney – 1
Tamar and Val – 0
Andy and Allison – 1
Paula and Louis – 0
Kim and Tony – 0
Victor and Karina
Chaka and Keo

Who were your favorites? Who do you think should go home next? Do you have a winner in mind yet?

The Vodka Diaries

That one grabbed your attention, huh?

Good.

I like vodka.

It’s my spirit of choice, really – always has been, probably always will be. Tequila and I don’t really get along, and rum, well…. rum and I don’t always make the best choices. Whiskey makes me gag, and while I like gin with cranberry, I’m not sure I can handle it straight. Vodka, on the other hand….vodka and I are friends.

In my twenties, when I was poor, I thought Svedka and Skyy were top of the line vodkas. Grey Goose wasn’t even on my radar, because, psh, who could afford a $40 bottle of vodka? And then I got old, got my finances in order, and started budgeting for vodka…and low and behold, I realized I was buying mediocre vodka at best.

Truthfully, I’d not really had Grey Goose in any significant amount until we went to Mexico last year, where it was free (ish – I mean, we’d paid for the trip). I still haven’t actually tried Ketel One or Ciroc – both are on my list – and while I realize that life is too short to drink shit vodka, I’m also wise enough to realize that I drink too much of it to really make Grey Goose a habit.

Go ahead, judge me.

Enter….the Vodka Diaries.

Not too long ago, thanks to a trip to Total Wine, we might have had, oh, seven different kinds of vodka in the house. Sounds like a tasting party to me.

Vodka taste test

The contenders: (all prices are from the Total Wine website)

Summum: Our standby, which is a little bit of a hassle since we can’t buy it in Tennessee. It’s from the same region as Grey Goose. A wheat vodka, from France. $27.99/1.75l

Russian Standard: If we can’t get Summum, we’ll buy Russian Standard. A wheat vodka, from Russia. $17.99/750ml

Vixen: Founded by women. A corn vodka, from Georgia. $19.99/750ml

Ivanabitch: I picked this up based soley on the bottle. A wheat vodka, from Russia. $10.99/750ml

Jonathan Drake: Well regarded vodka. A wheat vodka, from the US. $12.99/750ml

Veil: A wheat vodka, from the US. $10.99/750ml

Veil Coconut: This probably shouldn’t have been in there, since it’s flavored. Oh well. A wheat vodka, from the US. $11.99/750ml

Of course, we needed a scale to rate them on.

vodka scale

So what did we think?

vodka rankings

Sigh. This is what happens when you’re too lazy to run spell check on your hastily thrown together Word chart.

And the winner? Definitely Summum, with Vixen a close runner up. Though to be honest, the more of them I drink, the more I prefer Vixen. What can I say…I’m a sucker for good marketing.

In case you’re wondering, yes, this was a fun night.

DWTS 21 – Week 2 Thoughts (Tuesday Night)

Two nights of DWTS, a double elimination in one week! I can’t imagine how tough that was on the stars. Tuesday’s episode continued the theme of Hometown Glory, only this time we got to see the pro dancers’ hometowns. That was really awesome, because most of these pros I’ve been watching for multiple seasons and it was nice to get to know their backstories. I’m amazed at how many of them came to the US for a better life, and how many of them are really living the American Dream. Kind of awesome!

Tuesday Night Dances

Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff: Holy wow. This dance was by far Victor’s best dance. His first two were so-so, but the Rumba definitely suited him. He was graceful and powerful and beautiful. And those abs? Who knew?!

Tamar Braxton and Val Chmerkovskiy: I disagreed with the judges on this dance…I actually thought Tamar was kind of boring. To me, it looked like she wasn’t putting much into the dance. I didn’t think her energy level matched Val’s. I’m starting to see that I don’t really like her, so that could be part of it.

Carlos PenaVega and Whitney Carson: I loved this dance, but the judges were right. Carlos is a small guy to begin with, and he looked even smaller in this dance. That said, he was super entertaining, and I thought he nailed the steps. Thought his scores should have been higher.

Alexa PeneVega and Mark Ballas: Ok, I’ll admit…watching this dance I actually had the thought that TeamBaega might be giving TeamSharNick a run for their money. It was beautiful and moving and so utterly….spellbinding. I loved it.

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: First of all, I agree with Carrie Ann – the lift was distracting. Would have been better if Bindi had kept her toes on the floor. The rest of it was gorgeous, but I actually didn’t think it was super emotional.

Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya: Err…Gary. There was lots of stomping. Lots of swagger. Lots of spinning Anna. Not much else. I wasn’t impressed. And then his remarks to the scores….not a smart move, Gary. Not smart.

Paula Dean and Louis Van Amstel: Paula gets better with every dance. Her turns have gotten so much better, and I didn’t notice her clutching Louis’ arm quite so much. She talks too much and there are too many moments of her standing still in the middle of the dance, but she’s improving.

Kim Zolciak Biermann and Tony Dovolani: My thoughts on Kim haven’t changed. She’s good, but she’s not performing. If she can do that, she’ll be fine, but I’m not sure she can.

Andy Grammar and Allison Holker: This dance. OMG this dance. Andy was totally in his element here. Expressive, emotive, and breathtaking. I watched this and felt like at times it was just on the edge of falling apart, and then it would come together, and then spin out again. But it was all deliberate, and they did it so well. I sort of see what Bruno was saying about the lift…it was a little wobbly. Who cares. The dance was stunning.

Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: This wasn’t Alek’s dance. It really wasn’t. He kept up, and when it was over he looked relieved that it was done. I don’t blame him – I was relieved for him. I thought his scores were fair, and he’ll come back strong next week.

Hayes Grier and Emma Slater: I am falling in love with this kid. I still don’t think he’ll win – I don’t even think he’ll make it to the final four or five. But, he’s a sweetheart. And I love watching him with Emma. I can’t wait to see them dance a slower dance.

Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: Swoon. Swoon. Ahem. Ok, so watching this dance….I STILL say he’s taking the Mirrorball. There are other dancers who are good, but you watch Nick and Sharna and it’s just…it’s just right. He’s one of the only ones dancing like the music is a part of him, and when he and Sharna dance it’s like watching two halves of one person. Easily my favorite dance of the night.

Who went home? Victor and Karina.

Who should go next? Gary and Anna.

My Week 2 Tuesday Night Rankings:
Nick and Sharna
Alexa and Mark
Andy and Allison
Carlos and Whitney
Bindi and Derek
Hayes and Emma
Victor and Karina
Alek and Lindsay
Tamar and Val
Paula and Louis
Kim and Tony
Gary and Anna
Chaka and Keo

Who were your favorites? Who do you think should go home next? Do you have a winner in mind yet?

DWTS 21 – Week 2 Thoughts (Monday Night)

I’m a little late in getting this posted this week. Part of that is because there were TWO nights of DWTS glory. The other part is that we bought an awesome new mattress and I’m really enjoying going to bed early. Priorities.

I missed voting this week, which bums me out – I don’t want to log in to vote and then accidently see who went home. I need to figure out a better system. Anyway, two nights of dancing. This week’s theme was Hometown Glory. I liked it actually, because it meant we got to see a little more depth from the stars earlier than usual. Which also makes it harder to send people home. But anyway, it worked.

I’m going to post my Week 2 thoughts in two posts, just to keep it from getting super long in here…

Monday Night Dances

Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff: Victor is without a doubt, the most adorable star this season. He reminds me of Robert from 20, just because you can tell he’s absolutely having a blast. As far as his skill as a dancer….well. Part of that is the choreography – I think Karina is giving him too much too soon. He’s fun, so I’d love to see him stay for that reason.

Chaka Khan and Keo Motsepe: So first of all, they wasted a good 20 seconds in that intro mess. Sigh. Once they finally got going, I thought it actually looked decent. A definite improvement over last week. Then Chaka started missing things, and it looked like Keo was just sort of slinging her around.

Tamar Braxton and Val Chmerkovskiy: So did anyone else get the feeling that Tamar and Val don’t really get along? She can dance, no doubt about that. (Although I really don’t understand why she had issues thrusting her hips into Val’s leg….) I’m not sure she’s terribly likeable, which could hurt her.

Carlos PenaVega and Whitney Carson: This dance was a surprise! He’s still one to watch, though I’m not sure he’s terribly likeable either. I don’t feel like we’ve gotten a sense of who he is yet, which could be ok or could work against him.

Alexa PeneVega and Mark Ballas: To be perfectly honest, when I saw the leopard costume I was not sure Alexa was leopard material. She nailed it!! So fun to watch, and it’s nice to see that whatever weirdness was going on with her and Mark last week is gone.

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: I love Bindi, but I actually wasn’t blown away by this dance. I don’t think she did a bad job, I just wasn’t terribly thrilled. Could have been the dance style, could have been the music, could have been the choreography. I’m not sure. I do think she deserved her scores though, and I think she’ll end up going to the finals.

Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya: Last week I said Anna was handling Gary with grace and humor, but I didn’t see that this week. She looked put out with him. He strikes me as this big goofy awkward guy who’s trying really hard but nobody likes him. That makes me sad. His dance was actually not bad, and you can tell he’s working. I think America needs to cut him some slack and give him a chance.

Paula Dean and Louis Van Amstel: Looks like someone (Louis maybe?) told Paula to keep her mouth shut, and thank the stars. 100% improvement over last week. If she keeps that up, she’ll be good for at least 3 more weeks. And good for her for dancing for herself and not everyone else.

Kim Zolciak Biermann and Tony Dovolani: Kim! What a turnaround!! She brought it, and her quickstep was so much fun! I still think she needs to get out of her head, and when she does, she’ll be a great dancer.

Andy Grammar and Allison Holker: Favorite moment of the night….”Dancing is hard.” Thanks for keeping it real, Andy. His performance was a joy, and yeah, he got off time. Was it him? Was it the band? He’d never say, and I don’t suppose it matters. I enjoyed it.

Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: Alek is so surprising. He’s got this gracefulness that you don’t expect, and he’s so incredibly in tune with his body and what it can do. He’s beautiful to watch, and the partnership with Lindsay is rock solid. I hope he makes it to the final also, because I love watching him dance.

Hayes Grier and Emma Slater: We saw a much softer side of Hayes in the package, and I think it went a long way in reminding us (me, at least) that he’s just a kid. Yeah he’s a cute kid, but he’s a 15 year old boy from North Carolina who misses his mom. He’s goofy and lanky and he’s another I enjoy watching, if only because I like him.

Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: Still Team SharNick. To be honest, I thought his slip was part of the dance. His kicks and flicks weren’t quite what I’d hoped for, but I didn’t see anything to make me concerned. Love him, love her, love them.

Who went home? Chaka and Keo.

Who should go next? Honestly….probably Victor and Karina.

My Week 2 Monday Night Rankings:
Alek and Lindsay
Alexa and Mark
Carlos and Whitney
Bindi and Derek
Nick and Sharna
Hayes and Emma
Andy and Allison
Kim and Tony
Tamar and Val
Paula and Louis
Gary and Anna
Victor and Karina
Chaka and Keo

Who were your favorites? Who do you think should go home?

How To Get Rid of Flies

I’m guessing some of you read that post title and are now thinking “what the hell.”

I know, it’s weird. Let me explain.

This morning I walked into the living room and was greeted by about 15 flies hovering around the patio doors. Now, before you get all judgy and tell me you never get flies….you’re not normal. You either clean every single day, or hire someone to do it for you. Those of us who are normal, and who have “clean enough” houses and a tendency to open doors….we get flies. Shrug.

So anyway, this morning I had my own personal fly army. We’ve been dealing with them for a few days, so I grabbed the fly swatter and went to town. After about 3 minutes of frantically jumping and swatting and cursing, I realized I was venturing into serial killer territory and that’s not the kind of person I want to be. So I did what any rational person would do…I got on Google.

There are about 900 different ways to kill flies, believe it or not.

The more I read, the more I realized I didn’t really want little fly bodies all over the place, and despite his begging, I’m not ready to let Jimmie buy one of those horrific bug zappers. I was fairly certain that the flies weren’t a result of leaving food out or anything like that – at least not directly. (We did have a situation last week with the trash can, but that’s been remedied.) I didn’t want to leave the house, so I was looking for an easy (read, lazy) solution…which meant I was still looking at a death trap of some sort involving apple cider vinegar. Then I stumbled on lavender oil.

You might remember a few months ago I reviewed a couple of essential oils. At the time, I really had no clue what to use the lavender for, but I’m slowly finding ways. So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised, and while I’m not going to turn into one of those “oil-crazy people,” I like using them. They’re natural, and they’re easy.

The internet said that flies like sunlight, which explains the congregation on my patio doors. The internet also said that flies hate lavender oil and will stay away from it. So…I got to thinking.

What if I get them all outside, then put oil on the door so they have no interest in coming back???

Friends, that’s exactly what I did, only in reverse order. I put the oil on the door FIRST, then shooed them all outside. Believe it or not, those little guys were begging to get out of the house. Within 5 minutes my house was a fly-free zone. And it’s stayed that way.

All I did was put lavender on the outside of the patio doors, the inside of the door jam, and along the threshold. Then opened up the blinds so they’d “see the light,” waited until I had a good number of takers, and opened the patio door. I didn’t even have to use the fly swatter, as most of them were all too happy to oblige. I did the open door thing 3 or 4 more times, and that’s all it took.

Then I put some lavender oil in one of those diffuser bottles with sticks. The house smells, but we’re officially a no-fly zone. (giggle)

And the best part? I don’t have to deal with fly bodies, and they’re all free to go pollinate the outdoors.

Dancing With The Stars Season 21 – Week 1 Thoughts

Guys, I have a confession.

I am seriously obsessed with Dancing with the Stars.

Like, for real.

It’s a newish thing, really – I watched Season 18 after it wrapped up, before 19 started (and yes, it took me months to stop shipping Meryl and Maks). And then, season 19 I fell in love with Sadie and Alfonso – actually, more Whitney but still – and last season I was torn between Riker and Rumer. I’m only semi-ashamed to admit my level of commitment to this show. And even less ashamed that I’m blogging about it.

I’ve read all the arguments about how the stars are B-list, and frankly, I’m glad they are. We get to see these people for who they are, and they become much more than just some random celebrity. Plus, the pro dancers are amazing, the judges are fun, and it makes us wish we were dancers too. I mean, let’s be honest….who hasn’t fantasized about being on the show? (For the record, I’m constantly torn between who I’d want to be partnered with.)

Anyway. I anxiously awaited this season’s cast list, and I was thrilled when it came out. I actually knew who most of them were!!! We have cable, but we don’t have it connected (there’s a reason, promise), so I have to wait until the day after the show airs to actually watch it. It’s TORTURE. Not even lying.

So today I rushed home and got my computer and my pizza and beer ready, and settled in for two hours of dancing goodness. And I was not at all disappointed. It’s going to be a great season, and I figured…why not blog about it? It’ll be fun!

So get ready for DWTS recaps for several months. Cause we can.

Hopefully, you’ll either have watched it live (you lucky, lucky person you), or you’ll have streamed it the day after like me. I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, because well…your choice is your choice. And if you haven’t watched it by the time you read these posts, it’ll be too late, so….vote your way. K? K. And now. Thoughts on Week 1.

First of all, it took me two seasons to love Tom and Erin, but I do. And her hair was killer. I love the judges, have very few complaints with them, so let’s just agree that these posts will be about the dancers. Fair? (These are in no real order.)

Victor Espinoza and Karina Smirnoff: I was sooooo stoked to find out Victor was going to be on this season. We were in a bar when he won the Belmont….I hadn’t been following the races, but was blown away. Even got teary. (I used to ride as a kid, and realized within about 20 seconds they were something special.) I thought he’d be with Whitney, just because she’s closer to his height. I’ve not seen a ton of Karina, so I don’t have much of an opinion on her yet. But the dancing. How adorable was Victor!!?? I can’t wait to see more of him. He clearly had a blast, and while he may not have been the best dancer, he was definitely a treat to watch. He gets my vote.

Chaka Khan and Keo Motsepe: I hate to say it, but I’m not a Keo fan. Oh, he’s a good dancer, I’ll give him that. But I think – and hear me out – he’s not a good teacher. What’s her face…LoLo? From season 19 had zero rhythm, and certainly wasn’t very likeable. Ok, he gets a pass on her. Charlotte, aka Burger King Boobs, from season 20, had potential. Call me crazy, but she did. Yeah, she was a little…odd. And awkward. But frankly? Not terrible. Just not well coached. And Chaka last night? Same thing. Watching the package, it’s clear she’s got rhythm and it’s clear she’s got moves. I saw none of that in her dance, which says to me that Keo has no idea what to do with her. That’s too bad – I think she’s better than she showed.

Tamar Braxton and Val Chmerkovskiy: Oh, Val. Be still my heart. Amiright ladies? I’ll be honest here, I had no clue who Tamar was, and of course, I was reluctant to give her a chance because I mean, she wasn’t Rumer. I was wrong. Tamar is good, damn good, and her partnership with Val is going to be tons of fun to watch. She gets my vote too, and I can easily see her in the top 5.

Carlos PenaVega and Whitney Carson: Another I didn’t have a clue who he was. But I love Whitney, ever since that glorious “Do you need a snack” episode. She’s a great choreographer, and damn endearing. I was a little skeptical about the whole Carlos and Alexa thing, and still am, but he was good. It was nice to see Whitney with someone energetic again – no slam to Chris (who actually kind of won me over by the end last season), but Carlos is a natural. Love his dancing, and he gets a vote.

Alexa PeneVega and Mark Ballas: Mark’s one of my favorites too, so anyone he’s partnered with automatically has me interested. Didn’t know who Alexa was either. That’s ok. She was cute, looked a little terrified, but there’s potential there. My big thing with her is that I really hope the producers stop playing on the “married couple” thing – it’s cool that they’re both competing, but I want to see them as two separate people. Time will tell, but she’s got my vote for now.

Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough: Um, Bindi, can you please stop being so freakin’ adorable? Come on! I love love love her. Loved her outfit, loved her expressions, and the girl can dance. And she seems genuine. Can’t fault her for that. As for Derek, glad to see him with a fun partner again. No, I wasn’t a Nastia fan. This team will go far (I’m predicting runner-up), and will have my vote for the run of it.

Gary Busey and Anna Trebunskaya: Ok, I know I said I wasn’t going to tell you who to vote for. I lied. Please please PLEASE vote for Gary and Anna. He.Is.Hilarious. As a dancer? I mean, he did ok. He was entertaining as hell, and wasn’t the worst out there. And come on, we need him to stay for at least a few weeks. Anna is a new-to-me pro, and I’ve got to give her props – she appears to be handling Gary with grace and humor. Good for her. Voted.

Paula Dean and Louis Van Amstel: Oh Paula. Paula, Paula, Paula. I wasn’t really ever a Paula fan to begin with, but after the whole “I have Diabetes” situation, she was already on my “meh” list. Then I watched the GMA reveal, and could do little but groan. But, I figured, I’ll give her a chance. And her dance? I was willing to concede that she might do ok for a while. And then, she opened her mouth. Rude, crude, and not someone I have any interest in seeing on the show. Too bad, because I’d like to see Louis stick around a while, as he’s new to me too. (By the way, did anyone else get the feeling that he can’t stand Paula?)

Kim Zolciak Biermann and Tony Dovolani: So I kinda feel like Tony gets shafted in the partner area. He’s not been paired with anyone strong since I’ve been watching, and after Week 1 it looks like the pattern continues. It’s a shame, really. That said, I’m curious about Kim – she actually nailed most of the dance, it was just boring as hell. If she can open up and really perform, I think she’ll be good. I gave her a vote for now.

Andy Grammar and Allison Holker: I feel like I should apologize to Allison. I hated her in season 19. With a passion. And then season 20 we saw a whole new Allison, an awesome Allison. This is one of the pairs I’m most excited about. Love Andy, have loved him since his first album what, 4 years ago? Yeah, I’ve been listening to him that long. If you’re one of those people who’ve fallen into the “hey who’s that new guy” trap, go back and download his first album. It’s awesome. He’s a bit of an oddity – he’s fairly popular now, but in my book would have been considered a “B-list” musician until Honey I’m Good. Not because he’s not talented, just not well promoted. Anyway. They did well, and there’s a lot of room to grow. Solid performance, solid vote.

Alek Skarlatos and Lindsay Arnold: I’ve loved watching Lindsay in the troupe. When I heard Alek was cast, I pshawed him. Alek, I’m sorry. Not only does that make me a royal class jerk, it makes me wrong. (For the record, I think what he did in France was heroic and commendable. I also do not think it makes him a “star.”) I think what Julianne said was right….he’s representing the millions of normal Americans who wish we could be on the show. And the boy can move. I truly hope he’s there for the long haul – I’d put him up there with Tamar. Definitely gets my vote.

Hayes Grier and Emma Slater: No clue who this kid was, and to look at him, he’s super goofy. Generally the younger dancers don’t have too much trouble picking things up, and Hayes was no different. He’ll stick around for a bit, and while I liked him, I don’t think he’s Mirrorball material. Too bad, because I adore Emma, and really would love to see her win one. Your turn’s coming, Emma. Voted.

Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess: I’ll just go ahead and say it now….I’m #TeamSharNick all the way. ALL. THE. WAY. As is every other 30-something woman in the country (and most likely a fair amount of men too). Show me one girl who didn’t have a crush on Nick Carter in the 90s, and I’ll show you a liar. I’d have voted for him regardless, but he was actually really. freaking. good. My guess? He’ll win it. Yeah. I’m saying that. Week 1.

Who should go? I hate that someone has to go every week, I really truly do. And next week is going to be a double elimination, which really stinks! But there are always strong dancers and weak dancers, personalities aside. After just one week, though, I can’t say who should go. Victor was probably the weakest dancer (or maybe Gary?), but I want to see him stay. I didn’t like Paula, but she wasn’t terrible either, at least on the dance floor. And Chaka and Kim, though neither were terribly interesting, both have potential. So for this week, I’ll reserve judgement.

My Week 1 Votes and Rankings: (13 votes available)
Nick and Sharna – 2
Bindi and Derek – 2
Alek and Lindsay – 1
Tamar and Val – 1
Carlos and Whitney – 1
Andy and Allison – 1
Alexa and Mark – 1
Hayes and Emma – 1
Gary and Anna – 1
Kim and Tony – 1
Victor and Karina – 1
Chaka and Keo – 0
Paula and Louis – 0

Who were your favorites? Who do you think should go home? Are you as obsessed with this show as I am?

Sorry for the lack of photos – but I dont’ want to get in trouble with ABC!

Pizza Night Recipes

Time for a pizza recipe!!!

It’s been a while since we had one. (Well, ok, it’s been a while since we had any sort of recipe, or any sort of anything. But who’s keeping track?) I think the last one was the Garden Veggie Pizza, which still makes me drool every.single.time. I look at the picture or even think about it.

It’s been a while since we made pizza, too. Probably since that last post, or close to it at least. I’m not sure why – we’ve had dough in the freezer – other than we’re perhaps slightly lazy.

I shouldn’t say that.

That makes you think pizza-making is hard work. It is most definitely not. (I mean, yeah, it’s harder than ordering a pizza. But way more satisfying and way less expensive.) I’ve said it before…making homemade pizza is FUN. It’s an experience, and while it takes a little while, it’s a great way to spend time with someone and be creative and have a delicious meal at the end of it. Pizza night is sort of a date in and of itself. Don’t believe me? Try it. Then talk to me.

Anyway, I’ve got not one, not two, but THREE pizza recipes for you. And yeah, I know. If I were a smart blogger I’d make this three posts. I’m not. This is more convenient for all of us.

Without further ado…..

Pizza Dough Recipe

We adapted this from Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from a cookbook. So, we’re just going to call it my recipe. Hope that works for everyone. You need:

  • 4 cups of bread flour (22ish ounces – weigh it, that’s easier)
  • 1 package of active dry yeast (or instant yeast, if you like that term better)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cup room temperature water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

Wait, what? Maple syrup in pizza dough?? I haven’t lost my mind. Mellow Mushroom uses molasses in their dough, and that’s what gives it the sweet taste. I will never use molasses for anything besides pizza dough, and therefore do not see the point of buying it. Besides, we all know I’m somewhat lazy, and maple syrup is something 95% of you have in your kitchens. I’m already asking you to buy the expensive bread flour, I’m not going to ask you to buy molasses too. Sheesh.

  • Pour the ½ cup warm water into a measuring cup or bowl, and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let it sit for a few minutes while you weigh the flour.
  • Combine the bread flour and salt and mix briefly.
  • Pour the 1½ cup room temperature water on top of the water/yeast mixture. Add the oil and maple syrup and stir.
  • Pour the water mixture into the flour mixture and mix until wet.
  • Then knead the dough (I do this by hand but you could use a stand mixer) until it’s smooth and elastic. Tip: It helps to use copious amounts of flour on your hands if you do this. It’s also lots of fun. You’ll know when it’s done – it stops being hard to manipulate and starts looking like pizza dough.
  • Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise on the counter until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  • After 2 hours, divide the dough into two equal pieces. If you’re planning to freeze it, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, then place inside a freezer bag. (It’ll need a day in the fridge to thaw once you want to use it.) Otherwise, let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes, until it can easily be rolled into a pizza shape.

Now…..Put your pizza stone in the oven and turn it on to 500 degrees F. Yes, that’s hot. It’ll be fine.

Roll out your dough into a pizza shape. Brush the edge of the crust with an olive oil/garlic/Parmesan mixture. Then put it on your transfer surface. We usually use a cookie sheet with parchment paper on it (though we used plates this time, which didn’t work as well). You’ve got to be able to transfer the pizza to the stone and then off the stone again once it’s done cooking. We cut the paper to just a little bit bigger than the pizza so we have something to grab onto.

Ok, now for the rest of it. It’s pretty simple…brush on sauce, then cheese, then toppings, then more cheese (if you want). Then transfer to the hot pizza stone and cook it until it’s done – anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on how thick your dough is and how browned you want it. Just keep an eye on it – this isn’t the kind of thing you necessarily want to set a timer and forget about.

I’ll be honest and admit that we didn’t make the sauces from scratch. They still turned out fine. I need to dedicate some time to working on a red sauce. I’ll try to do that soonish. (Yeah I know, I said that last year.) Also, I’m showing you the uncooked pizzas so you can see the ingredients more clearly. We made three: White Veggie, Buffalo Chicken, and Pepperoni Mushroom. I’m not giving you measurements because pizza is a personal thing…however big your pizza is, and however much stuff on it you want, GO FOR IT. This is your pizza. I’m just here for inspiration.

White Veggie Pizza

White Veggie Pizza

  • Bertolli White Pizza Sauce (I actually would not recommend this sauce, but it’s what we had)
  • Fresh mozzarella slices
  • Summer squash
  • Mushrooms
  • Shredded mozzarella

Buffalo Chicken PizzaBuffalo Chicken Pizza

  • Steak n Shake Buffalo Sauce
  • Cooked chicken breast tossed in buffalo sauce
  • Bleu cheese crumbles
  • Shredded mozzarella

Pepperoni Mushroom PizzaPepperoni Mushroom Pizza 

  • Pizza Sauce (ours was Kroger)
  • Shredded mozzarella
  • Mushrooms
  • Sliced pepperoni

And the end result? Heaven.

Enjoy!!!

Welcome to September

Bonus points if you can tell me what that’s from.

Anybody?

Ok, I’ll tell you. It’s from The Fantasticks, the first musical I ever saw. My mom and not-yet-stepfather were both in the show in community theater. That’s how they met. I was just a munchkin, and remember almost nothing about the show but that song. Funny how vivid some memories can be, right?

Here’s the song, in case you’re curious.

Happy September, friends.

So that last post was a doozie, wasn’t it? Not exactly happy fun town. But real, and honest, and to a point, just what I needed. There’s power in sharing and reaching out for help, even if it’s on a completely open and exposed forum like blogging. Or maybe that’s my ego talking. Either way, I feel better.

And it’s September. Which….really, is the unofficial start of fall. Right?

Right. I mean, pumpkin beers are out. Totally fall.

I know, I know. Who am I? I actually said to Jimmie a few days ago that I was ready for it to get cold. Blasphemy.

Usually I love summer, can’t wait for it to get here, don’t want it to end. Ever. I love the heat, the sun, the clothes, and the possibilities. But this summer has been a tough one, and frankly I’m ready to see it go. I’m ready for fall, I’m ready for layers and cooler temps and turning leaves. Maybe it’s that longing for the West that seems to have taken hold of my heart. Maybe it’s because I’m ready to put these last few months behind me. Maybe it’s that super cute vest I finally bought myself.

Maybe it’s fall.

I have ideas. Taking the majority of a week off work to do nothing…to just be….was needed. I didn’t do much of importance or excitement. Instead, I took care of myself. I did things I wanted…if I wanted. And by the end of the week I felt refreshed, refocused, and ready to face another week.

I colored, with the most gorgeous coloring book and pens.

?

This, friends, is the work of Johanna Basford. She’s got two books out, this one and Secret Garden, and a third coming out in October. They’re coloring books for adults, and they’re amazing. It took me a while to get this one – it’d been on my radar for months – because it took so long to come back in stock. It was worth the wait, and worth every penny. All $10 on Amazon. Buy it here. (No, I don’t get anything for this. Just being helpful.)

The pens are Staedtler Triplus Fineliners. Not going to lie, they were a splurge, but they were worth every penny also. I even ordered a second set in “nature” colors. They don’t bleed, they’re very fine tips, and the ink is pretty close to the cap color. They even come with a handy dandy built-in stand.

Linda and I had a picnic of epic proportions. I take credit for nothing but the wine (imagine that). I needed the girl time more than I knew.

picnic

I also worked on my gallery wall, figured out my 1980s sewing machine, read some books, and actually ate things that were good for me.

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad – just tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and a splash of olive oil and garlic powder. I was too lazy for the balsamic reduction.

It was productive, cathartic, and restorative, and now I have a plethora of blog ideas and life ideas and all sorts of other ideas floating around. From floating away to floating around. Huh.

I still have moments of darkness, and I’d be lying if I said I was back to normal. I’m not. I’m still struggling most days, and my anxiety has reared its ugly head again. But, I’m working on it. I’m exercising again (and in the mornings too!) because I need to stay sane. I’m looking at things with a creative eye again, seeing possibilities where before I saw problems. And I’m blogging. That’s a win right there.

Here’s to September.

An Open Letter on Marriage Equality

I don’t usually engage in political debates. I rarely speak out publicly for or against a cause (the exception being animal abuse). I seldom post my thoughts to social media, and I generally avoid inflammatory commentary. But today, I can’t keep silent.

This post may lose me friends, followers, and family. So be it.

I support marriage equality. I am a heterosexual ally. I am a firm believer that love comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

I believe in a world where people have the freedom to make their own choices. Where a man can choose to love a woman, a man,  both, or neither. Where love is love and we don’t feel the need to “come out” or justify our hearts. Where acceptance reigns and it’s no longer news who is gay and who is straight. Where sexual preference is nobody’s business and nobody’s persecution. Where religion is not used as a sword to cut others down.

But more importantly , I believe in humanity, and compassion, and kindness. Some people clearly don’t.

And so, I have this to say:

To the LGBT community….thank you for showing the world what it means to fight for something. I wish you all the best in your marriages.

To my fellow heterosexual allies….thank you for believing in a better world, an equal world.

To those who are quietly accepting a decision they do not agree with….thank you for being gracious enough to refrain from name calling and unkind words. I respect you immensely for your beliefs,  and for your compassion. You embody your values and are a true testament to your faith.

To those spewing hatred….thank you for reminding me of what I believe, and for challenging me to respond to you without anger or condemnation. For forcing me to question my own values and why I hold them so dear. For showing me that a life filled with judgement, prejudice, and ignorance is easier than one filled with acceptance, inclusion, and understanding…but far less enjoyable.

Love always, always wins.

 

Hate-filled comments on this post will not be tolerated. Healthy disagreement is fine, but this will not become an area for disparaging others. I require approval on all comments, and will not allow cruelty.