Friday, November 20, 2009

VA Watches: GLEE

If you're not watching Glee, you're crazy.

A delightful show, airing weekly on Fox, I'm not afraid to say it's my guilty pleasure. With witty one-liners, dramatic plot lines, and the knock-em-outta-the-park show tunes, it's definitely a winner in my book.

Here's what I'll do - a quick run-down of characters and plot lines so you can jump right in watching next week.

The series follows Will Schuster, a Spanish teacher at an Ohio high school that decides to bring back the Glee club. Of course, like typical high school life, the musically talented kids are the geeks and losers of the school. Mr. Schu is trying to change that. Recruiting the star football player and members of the award-winning cheerleading squad, these students, while they battle high school stereotypes, sing their tiny hearts out each episode. Will is married (she'll be listed below), but has obvious love for the HS guidance counselor, Emma. Will can sing and dance amazingly, even though he's a white guy. And, when he opens that mouth and belts out a song, it makes my couch-sittin' heart melt. A guy who loves kids, education, and can sing? Sign me up, please!

Ah, Sue Sylvester. The coach of the cheerleading squad, The Cheerios, and the show's villain. Sue quickly became one of my favorite characters on the show because she's got some AMAZING one-liners. Hell-bent on destroying Mr. Schu and the Glee club so that her extra-curricular budget isn't split, she does everything she can to bust up the show-tune-express. Including throwing some of her own cheerleaders into the mix to infiltrate from the inside. I guess she didn't expect those panel-skirt-wearin' ladies to start glee-lovin'. Sue is known in the small Ohio town for coaching the Cheerios into constantly winning national championships and even has her own segment on the local news, Sue's Corner, where she constantly tries to turn people onto the idea of torture to make champions. "Caning works!"

Emma Pilsbury, the soft-spoken, germaphobic guidance counselor who is hopelessly in love with a married man: Will Schuster. I love Emma's character, with her straight-from-Antrhropologie wardrobe and her obsessive cleaning habits, she provides a stark contrast to the overbearing wife of Will's. She's got a timid voice, but gives good advice and you can tell she and Will have a good friendship. And, though she's only sung once, turns out, she's got quite a voice on her. And, I love her permanent hair flip-out on one side. Must figure out how to get my hair to do that.

Up next is Terri Schuster, Will's neurotic wife who works very little at Sheets-N-Things and does crafts. While having marriage problems in the beginning of the series, Terri has a hysterical pregnancy and is now pretending that she is pregnant in order to get Will to stay in the marriage. Though her sister knows, she advised Terri to not fess-up to Will and instead continue with the lie stating "we're going to have to get you a baby". I gotta give major props to Jessalyn Gilsig, the actress that plays Terri, because she is doing an amazing job portraying a character that is specifically written for all of us to hate. She's superficial and mean, and we (the viewers) desperately want Will to find out her stupid secret (really, how does she expect to hide a pregnancy from her husband for 9 months?!) so he can leave her and jazz run down the hall of the school into Emma's clean arms, and sing their hearts out right into each other's faces.

Let's move on to the chil'ren.

Rachel Berry. The amazingly talented sophomore, who obviously knows that she's good. She's decidedly the lead vocal in the Glee club and everyone else seems to agree on her talent. She's a bit neurotic, practicing all the time and always talking about her "career". She'd be the one that starts sending letters and tapes to Juilliard, hoping that she could receive not only early admission, but a scholarship and a record deal. Not that she's not right - the girl can belt like Mariah and can make any song sound good. Even though she's rediculously talented, she's still considered a geek in the school and is constantly tormented by the "popular kids". Her hope is that Glee will become as popular as it was when Will was a student so she can get a boyfriend. Big dreams, hun. The only thing that really bothers me about Rachel is that she wears pleated knee-legnth skirts, and fold-down ankle socks with mary-jane shoes. No, no, no, no.

Finn Hudson. God, that boy is hot. And, he's even hotter in person (yes, I saw him at the Glee CD signing in Columbus Circle. And, it's okay for me to crush on him because Cory Monteith is actually a 29 year old playing a high school kid.) He's the star quarterback, but just happens to be a complete idiot. His girlfriend (we'll profile her in a minute), the head cheerleader, happens to be pregnant, but surprise of surprises, Finn is not the father. But, it shows his character that he believes he could actually get a girl pregnant by prematurely ejaculating in his swimsuit while making out in a hot tub. He's got a good voice, and is usually picked for the male lead opposite Rachel. There's definite chemistry between Rachel and Finn and that helps provide a love-triangle situation on the student level.

Quinn Fabray. The bitchy, once Head Cheerio, now kicked off the squad because of her pregnancy. She had sex with Finn's best friend, but maintains that Finn is the father. President of the Celibacy Club (do high schools really have Celibacy clubs?!) her Glen Beck-lovin’ family didn’t take too kindly with the knowledge that daddy’s little girl is daddy’s little got-a-girl-in-the-oven. In fact, daddy kicked ol’girl out of the house last episode and she’ll now be living with Finn and his mom.

This is getting long, so I’ll fly through the rest of them.

Mercedes, the token black girl is the Jennifer Hudson of the group. That girl has got a set of pipes for sure!

Artie, wheelchair kid, also has an unbelievable voice, it’s almost shocking the sound that comes out when he opens his mouth.

Tina, the punk-asian, with a fake stutter and blue streaks in her hair. (They’re really playing up the “loser” stereotypes here.)

Kurt. Ah, Kurt, I love him. He’s the gay kid that every show choir needs. In this show, we’re really seeing Kurt go through a transition where he recognizes that he is gay and is starting to openly display it and hopes that he wont be completely shunned for it. Kurt’s a definite male soprano and that high-pitched voice is to die for. Kurt also has impeccable fashion – apparently not appreciated in the small Ohio town. I feel ya, Kurt, I feel ya.

Lastly, there’s Puck. The bad-ass, Mohawk sportin’ dude that really knocked up the Queen of the Chastity Ball. He’s a bit resentful for Finn, who gets all of the sympathy for being the baby-daddy. I really began liking Puck once he played the guitar and belted out a lovely version of Sweet Caroline.

Now that we’ve blown through the main characters, I’ll leave you with what really makes this show fantastic. The music:

So, stop reading, go straight over to and watch all of the Glee episodes, then tune into Fox next Wednesday to catch the next episode. It's a laugh out loud funny show, but keep in mind that while some of the plot lines are surreal and it's not likely that people belt out in song while walking down the hall, it's supposed to be a fun time - a break from life for about an hour. And please, don't act like you haven't wanted to belt out a version of "Lean on Me" before!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

VA Review: Rembrandt 2 Hour Whitening Kit

Back in high school, I remember looking at photos of myself and seeing nothing but disgusting, yellow teeth. So, I drove myself up to the WalMart in Burlington and bought Crest Whitestrips. At the time, they had just come out and were quite expensive (over 50 dollars!) but I decided that my quest for whiter teeth was worth a few hours at the pool. This was also back when the whitestrips took two weeks. But, the results were astounding.

For reference, before I started a yearly teeth whitening ritual, here's a throw-back photo of my yellowness.

Holy youngin', Batman!
(Note: Not only was this before I discovered tooth-safe-bleach, it was apparently also before I discovered tweezers... and why was I blonde?!)

I remember feeling amazing after whitening. I could smile without feeling self-consious. It was amazing. So, when I checked myself out in the mirror the other day, I was sad to notice a slight yellowing in my teeth. I marched right over to Duane Reade (the NYC drug store for you out-of-town readers) to browse the tooth-whitening aisle. Because of my impatience, I decided against getting the normal 7-day treatment and went for the quick fix. The Rembrandt 2 Hour Whitening kit. 2 hours? Fantastic! I'll have white teeth before dinner! And, at a price of $25.00 I figured I had struck gold.

So, I went home, busted out the kit, and got to work.

The kit contains 2 plastic teeth covers (they really resemble the mouth guards used in sports) that are easily pliable. The instructions indicated to dip each tray in a glass of hot water, melt them a bit, and press them onto your teeth, holding them there to create a personalized mold. Clever, Rembrandt, clever! Once I had made both molds, I started on the first treatment.

There are 4 rounds. You are to put the whitening gel in the mold, pop the molds on your teeth and wait 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take the molds out, rinse the trays and your mouth with water and wait 10 minutes. Repeat until all gel is gone - approximately 2 hours.

While the timing wasn't an issue (hey, you just watch tv!) the tooth sensitivity I had after the 2nd treatment was astounding. Even still, I kept going, putting the 3rd tray full of bleach in my mouth, ignoring the pain and continuing on my path to whiteness. Pain is beauty, right?

By the 4th and final treatment, tears were running down my face as the nerves in my teeth shot pain back into my skull. Almost done, almost done, I waited that agonizing final 20 minutes, I could only think of how amazing it would feel to brush the painful gel off of my teeth. When the buzzer sounded, I rushed to the bathroom, spit out the molds and just held my mouth under the faucet. After rinsing and brushing, the pain subsided and I was very pleased with the results. My teeth were definitely whiter, my smile brighter. It worked! The pain was worth it... for a few hours.

I woke up around 4:00 that morning, a strange feeling in my mouth. I figured there was a bit of swelling because of the treatment, but was certain it would go down by morning. I was wrong. I woke up, groggily sauntered into the bathroom, and when splashing water on my face to do my morning wash, I looked up at the mirror and was horrified with what I saw. My lips were so swollen, it looked like I had gotten collagen injections from the back of a van in the East Village! I couldn't even put my lips together because my gums were so inflamed.

I had 4 days of miserable pain and swelling, with giant ulcers all along my gum line. Sure, my teeth were beautifully white, but it didn't matter because I couldn't even smile! Though, I didn't really feel like smiling because I couldn't eat or drink anything without a straw, and using a straw was basically impossible because I couldn't fully close my lips. I was a hungry, miserable person for days.

So, rating for Rembrandt's 2 Hour Whitening Kit: 2

The only reason the rating is so high is because the kit did what it promised to do: whiten teeth. Other than that, I will never EVER use it again. It wasn't worth the pain.

My advice, don't use it! Sure, whiten your teeth (and I still intend on keeping up my white smile) but don't go for the quick-fix. Spread your whitening out over a few days. Your mouth (and stomach) will thank you for it!

Oh, and just to juxtapose, here's a photo, taken today. My teeth do seem pretty white ;)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trying to heal...

Exactly two months ago, my grandfather drew in his final breaths as my family members looked on, held hands, and cried. I wasn't there.

I haven't dealt with it. Losing him. In fact, I don't think I have said aloud "My grandfather died." I realized lately that I'm very hypocritical. I talk all the time about how it's best to face your problems, deal with them, and put them behind you. But, here I am, avoiding it all. I haven't dealt with and accepted his death. And, it makes sense, psychologically. I haven't had to deal with it. I stayed away, I didn't talk to my family members, I didn't talk about it at all. When I don't talk about it or think about it, it doesn't hurt as much. But, I know that if I don't try, if I don't start on a path to acceptance, I'll never be able to be myself again.

Have you ever had to say goodbye to someone you know you'd never see again? It ranks up there with the top 3 hardest things I've ever had to do. On Labor Day weekend, I went to North Carolina to celebrate my grandfather's 80th birthday. And, before having to rush to the airport, I had to tell my grandfather goodbye knowing that he wouldn't be alive the next time I came into town. I knew all weekend that I would have to say my final words to him and I spent many hours thinking of the perfect thing to say, but when the time came, I failed. I could hardly say anything. I did manage to take his hand and choke out, "Goodbye, Pop. I love you." To which he replied, "Love ya, girlie. Let us know when you get back in the city. Be safe, gal."

There hasn't been a single day since then that I haven't regretted not being able to tell him how much I love him. I should have spent more time with him that weekend. I should have asked my family to give us some time alone so that I could tell him everything, but 5 words was all I could do. How is it possible that when it really counted, I could only come up with 5 words?! Normally, all I have is words. I'm ashamed.

So, I have decided that the thing I really need is to get out those words that are inside of me. Like I had done before, I am going to write a letter. Here is an open letter to my grandfather: the greatest man I will ever know. (Editing note: It took me 7 hours, 1 roll of toilet paper, 1 glass of wine, and 6 glasses of water to write this letter.)


I miss you. I miss you every single day. And I'm so sorry I couldn't tell you what I was feeling when we were together last. But, I hope throughout the years, I told you enough that I love you. I hope that you always knew how much I respected you, how much I valued your opinion and how much I really needed and relied on your wisdom. I hope you know that I wasn't lying when I told you that I enjoyed spending hours at your house even if it was just sitting and watching tv with you.

And, I'm sorry - I'm sorry for all the times I didn't call, for the times I said I'd stop by and I never made it. I'm sorry for not being there with you in this past year, especially toward the end. For that, I'm eternally sorry.

I need you now. I need your advice, I need your encouragement. I feel so lost and I need you to tell me what to do.. or I at least need you to tell me that it's okay for me to not know what to do. The world, my world, feels empty without you here.

I can't hear you like I can hear others I've lost. I constantly hear my Dinnie's voice in my head every time I go outside with wet hair. "Dry your hair," she'd say. "You'll catch your death-a-cold going out with your hair soakin' wet." But, I can't hear you. Why can't I hear you?

I want to be like you. To be wise and successful and hard-working. I want to value fairness as you always had. I want to have your amazing ability to stand up for what is good and right and to expect to be treated with respect. You make me want to be the best. You cared for people; you genuinely cared. And not even people you knew, you cared and respected everyone you ever came across. You thought the same of the man who empties the trash as you did the CEO of that same company. To you, hard working people were all the same. No matter what job they had.

I'm angry. I hate that you're gone. I hate that you had to be taken away from me, from us. And I hate me for feeling sorry for myself. I'm selfish, I know, but I guess I just don't understand. Why? Why couldn't God, the fates, the pull of the universe, or whatever determines what happens just leave us alone for a while? Why you? Why now?

I know your body had failed you. I can't imagine the insurmountable amount of pain you must have been in. You were strong, unbelievably strong. And I, weak.. embarrassingly weak. Even now, I am feeling stupid and powerless because I'm having such a hard time letting you go. Everyone keeps telling me that you're not really gone, that you're always with me. But I can't feel you, I feel nothing, I'm alone.

I learned so much from you.

I thank you for being such an amazing individual. You were wonderful. You taught us all how to love, how to keep your heart open but when to know to close it. You taught us see the difference and know when to walk away and when to keep trying. You're an inspiration. And, if you're out there, in spirit or heart, maybe you can hear my thoughts or are looking down on me. If you are, please reach out to me, because I need you now. I need to feel you, I need to have you in my life. I'm trying to make my life right again and I need you to somehow be in that life again. I know I can't completely let you go.

I know this is probably mostly incoherent and incongruent and just a messy, messy set of words, but it feels nice to finally "pour my heart out" (if you'll allow the bad expression).

I love you, I miss you, we all do. I hope you knew how amazing you were.



VA Review: Bumble and Bumble Salon, NYC

So, I'm starting a new section of the blog: VA Review. Here, I will review products, restaurants, other consumer places, etc. to give people (you, readers) my first-hand experience.

First up, The Uptown Manhattan Bumble and Bumble Salon.

Bumble and Bumble
146 E. 56th St.
(Bet. 3rd and Lex)
New York, NY

Confession: I hadn't had my hair cut in 18 months. So, I finally decided that the dead, splitting ends look wasn't exactly the best for me. Finding a salon in New York City is almost as difficult as finding a job. There are millions, one on every street. But, how do you know if the salon is any good? Did their stylists actually go to school? I started trying to talk to people, get some word-of-mouth recommendations, but didn't really hear anyone really rave about a particular place. So, while walking one day, I passed by a Bumble and Bumble pop-up shop and thought, "hmm. I should make an appointment with them." I figured that Bumble and Bumble products are well respected in the hair-world and after doing some research, I made myself an appointment. I found out that Bumble and Bumble employees are required to have at least 12 years of experience before coming in as a Junior Stylist. I know in NC there was no such thing as a junior or senior stylist, but that's the trend in NYC. Price lists are made based on what level the stylist is. I went with a Junior Stylist. 12 years is enough for me. :)

I have to say, I am immensely pleased with what I found at B&B. The salon is tucked into a cute NYC brownstone with windows all across the front, allowing lots of natural light to enter the lobby area. I was greeted immediately and was taken to the back, where my coat and scarf was taken and hung up. I was given a black silk robe and told to have a seat in the cafe. The cafe, a full service "restaurant", featured complimentary water, sodas, tea, coffee, lattes, and small snacks. It was stacked with magazines and books, a very friendly atmosphere.

After a hair consultation with my stylist, Katrina, I was taken to the back again to have my hair washed by a woman named Yolanda. I was surprised to find the chair reclined completely back (with your head in the sink), lifting your feet off the floor, and to my surprise, massaged my back. I had my hair washed, conditioned, my neck and shoulders massaged, all while Yolanda took extra care to protect my dress and keep my face and neck dry. Very impressed.

Back with Katrina, we talked about wanting my hair to look healthy (translation: cut off the dead) while keeping it long. For those of you who've had long hair, you know that there are essentially 3 options for "changing up" long hair. 1. Bangs, 2. Blunt-cut trim, or 3. Long layers, frame the face. Katrina and I decided that #3 would be best since I've started getting a bit of wave in my hair, the layers would allow the natural wave/curl to come out.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with the experience. There was only one thing that I didn't really like; my stylist hardly spoke to me. Granted, I'd much rather someone focus on what they're doing instead of making sure to be chatty, but a little bit of conversation would have made things a little less uncomfortable.

VA Rating: 8

The rating isn't a 9 or 10 because I was just a little bit uncomfortable while my hair was being cut/styled (maybe because she looked a little uncomfortable while I was "watching her") and because of the price. With the wash, cut, blow dry, 2 styling products, and tip, I ended up throwing down $160. While I understand NYC is a bit pricey when it comes to salons and styling, I feel that it was a little bit on the expensive side for an appointment that didn't include coloring or other professional services.

But, I am pleased with how my hair turned out. It looks healthy, has lots of body, and is incredibly soft. I can't wait to play with some new looks. Have a look-see, what do you think? It's hard to believe that I had almost 4 inches cut off the bottom!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dating Virginia: Don't Fall In Love With Me

I wish I didn't have this problem. Not that it is such a horrible thing, but it is certainly obnoxious. For the third time, I went on a first date and had the guy fall head-over-heels for me. Yes, my friends, I got a marriage proposal (hypothetical, of course, there was no ring involved) Ring or not, the dude said he liked me so much that he wanted to marry me after one date. ONE DATE!

I should be flattered, right? Well, I don't find it flattering, I find it terrifying. Why in the world would anyone leave a first date thinking that it was going to immediately go into a full-blown relationship? I mean, I use these first dates to really test compatibility and figure out if we can stand to be around each other. Are guys these days using first dates as a bridge to immediate marriage?!

I had 3 dates this week. The first brought me stinky stinky lilies, ordered my food for me, and read my palm during our meal. He's pushing hard for a second date and called me "my love". I'm busy.

The second, a spur of the moment date, he was touchy-feely, a bit clingy, but the conversation was good. 2 days later, he loves me, wants to marry me. I actually decided to tell him that I wasn't interested instead of just ignoring him and we had a stupid conversation that lasted over 30 minutes. It felt like I was back in high school. He said that I broke his heart, that he really wanted to be with me, that I was a stupid whore who led him on. Lame.

Date #3 wasn't nearly as bad. We had a nice conversation over coffee, ended with a hug. Nothing really to report there.

I think I'm going to take a break from dating for a bit. It's really getting overwhelming. Seriously, if I put the amount of effort I use to meet guys into trying to find a job, I'd probably be employed right now. So, no new dates until after Thanksgiving. I'll allow myself to go out with people I already know or have already met, but no new prospects. We'll see how it goes.

I think the biggest issue is that I'm not communicating enough with these guys before deciding to meet them. So, maybe I'll start talking to guys now, and then after Thanksgiving, decide to meet them. Your thoughts?