I don't have much to say about last night's American Idol. It was Neil Diamond night, and I've mentioned before that I'm not a fan. But, here are some observations:

1. I don't know why the judges continue to say David Archuleta was brilliant, blah, blah, blah. If his performance of "America" didn't sound like it came straight from Kings Dominion (a local amusement park), I don't know what does.

2. I've been meaning to mention this for weeks now--what's with the strong glitter eyeshadow the girls wear? It's so distracting to me, and last night it seemed like Brooke and Syesha OD'd on it.

3. David Cook can sing anything, and was great as usual--especailly his second song. ("All I Really Need Is You"

4. Jason Castro should be the one to go tonight, but he's probably got a bunch of teeny boppers voting for his blue eyes & long eyelashes, so I suspect it might be Syesha.

5. Paula really seemed high on something last night. After the group sang their first round of songs, Ryan asked for the judges' critiques. Paula critiqued Jason on the first AND second song he sang--he'd only sung one song so far. Maybe she had notes from a dress rehearsal or something?? I don't know--everyone was perplexed.

OK, that's it for me. Here's washingtonpost.com's We Watch So You Don't Have To.


My first sweater!

As you may recall, I took up knitting last year. After working on several square or rectangular projects, I decided to try my hand at socks. That didn't go so well. I had to rip them out twice (this is called frogging -- rip it, rip it...you can figure it out) after getting a good way through and I gave up. I could handle the 4 double pointed needles, but I realized I needed a little more experience in some knitting techniques that I couldn't seem to pick up from books.

So, this month, I finally took a class. Our project was a little doll sweater, that I completed over the three weeks of the class. I'm pretty proud of it.

Here's the sweater:

My First Sweater

Some detail:

Up Close

And here it is on my models:

Bear 1  Bear 2

It was a lot of fun and I look forward to more classes and more projects. In May I'm taking a class called "Oops" that teaches you how to correct mistakes without having to frog the whole project. I definitely need that, and then I hear there's a socks class in June. Sign me up!



Carly was voted off American Idol tonight. WTF?????

Jason & Brooke should've been in the bottom two. Period. If either of them win, I will not watch this show next season.

(I tend to say that at least once a year, but I mean it this time!)

ARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHH.....so frustrating.

Brooke looked so guilty that she was safe. Jason looked like he didn't have a care in the world (pretty much like he always looks).

Next week is Neil Diamond week--not looking forward to that....not a big fan.


Quick AI post

I need to finish some laundry before I go to bed, so this will be quick. Tonight the kids sang songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber--he was a great mentor. He actually expressed concern (not to mention amusement and dismay) when he thought someone was making the wrong choices, rather than just smile and say they were great. Here's how I'd rank the performances:

6. Jason
5. Brooke (she actually started then stopped her song because she forgot the words. Oops!)
4. David A.
3. Syesha
2. Carly (she was great tonight!)
1. David C. (great as always)

If you want more details about who sang what, check out "We Watch So You Don't Have To." The paragraphs about Jason and David A. are the best.

I'm guessing Jason will go home, because Brooke will get a sympathy vote for forgetting the lyrics. She looked so upset!



Check out Forgetting Sarah Marshall

I'd been hearing all the great reviews about Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but must admit I was a little skeptical. Richard Roeper said it it was the "funniest damn movie" he's seen in a long time...that's a tall order. I'd heard the same reviews about Judd Apatow's other productions: 40-year-old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad, and while I mostly enjoyed those movies, I didn't find myself cracking up like I expected to. Forgettting Sarah Marshall, written by Jason Segel from How I Met Your Mother (and my favorite show, Freaks & Geeks), was different. Even though there was raunchy comedy like the other movies, it wasn't exaggerated and didn't fill the whole movie. Instead there was a nice romance, smart jokes and funny site gags. It was great to see Kristen Bell again--I've missed her since Veronica Mars was canceled, and I thought Mila Kunis from That 70's Show was great. I definitely recommend this one.


Beautiful Butterflies

On Tuesday, a friend and I went with a group from work to see a new butterfly exhibit at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum during our lunch hour. The new exhibit costs $6, but because we were with a group, we got free tickets. I'd been to one other butterfly exhibit a year or two ago, but found that it was a bit too big...it was hard to find butterflies and see them up close. This exhibit was small and a sign said there wee 400 butterflies on display. There was plenty to see. I brought my camera with me and caught these:

Lunch Time

Black Beauty

Two Blue Eyes

Here's the rest of the set. That black one was my favorite. It looked like velvet. It's hard to tell in the photo, but that butterfly was about four inches long. It was just stunning. If you get a chance, I highly recommend this exhibit.

I still need to post pictures from the orchid show--I probably won't get to that until Friday. Stay tuned.


In American Idol news, Syesha, Brooke and Kristy Lee were in the bottom three, and Kristy Lee is finally gone. It happened at the wrong time--she should've been gone weeks ago, but the last two weeks, she was coming into her own and sounding pretty good. Oh well--that's the way AI rolls.


AI's top 7 sing Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey was the mentor this evening. Same day as the release of her new album E=MC2. Hmmm... coincidence? Yeah, right. Turns out Mariah was one of the better mentors they've had on this show. She actually provided meaningful advice and ideas to the contestants.

Once again, it's difficult to rate the performances tonight. I can say straight out that David C. was my favorite (I will be downloading his version of "Always Be My Baby" when it's available on iTunes tomorrow.) My least favorite was Brooke, who wasn't horrible, just boring. (She sang "Hero.") The others fall somewhere in between. If you put a gun to my head, I'd rate 'em like this:

7. Brooke, "Hero"
6. David A., "When You Believe" (again, he sounded fine, but it didn't blow me away. He actually told Mariah that "he's not worthy" to be in her presence. I'm SO over that extreme humility. Mariah told him to stop it. Amen.)
5. Syesha, "Vanishing"
4. Jason, "I Don't Wanna Cry"
3. Kristy Lee, "Forever" (What is going on here?! I clapped AGAIN this week! This time I wasn't alone though...I was with Debbie & my mom, and they clapped too.)
2. Carly, "Without You"
1. David C., "Always Be My Baby"

I take it back. I just re-watched the end of the show where they show a clip of all the performances--Brooke sounded pretty bad compared to everyone else. It really wasn't that good at all. Poor Brooke.

Debbie, my mom and I all called in for David, Carly and Syesha. Just in case. Don't want any bad surprises tomorrow night!

In other news, today my coworker and I went to a live butterfly exhibit at the Natural History Museum over our lunch hour. It was great. Hopefully I'll be able to post pictures tomorrow. I also need to post pics from the orchid show my mom and I went to last Friday....just beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful, Shemar Moore was on Ellen today. *Sigh* I got to meet him once and he's even more beautiful in person, if that's possible. I got his autograph, and he wrote: "To Val, My Girl." And he drew a little heart. See? We're meant to be together.... :o)


Arrrggggghhhh!! WTF America?!?!

Michael Johns was voted off American Idol tonight. He was one of the top three singers (in my opinion) on the show this season, and now he's gone, not even halfway through. I thought he did a great job with Dream On, and he sang it even better tonight as he was saying goodbye. It's so frustrating when this happens.

Meanwhile, last night was the Idol Gives Back episode. It was a pretty good show, with plenty of stories about children to pull at your heartstrings. I'll be making my donation online over the weekend.

Other TV stuff:
  • I've officially removed My Name is Earl from my Tivo Season Pass list. The show came back after the writer's strike and is just awful. It was getting bad last season, but I kept sticking with it in case it picked back up again. It hasn't, and I'm done.

  • I'm getting ready to watch The Office now--I hope it doesn't disappoint.

  • Also, I'm totally in love with the ABC show Eli Stone. Love it, love it, love it. I should've mentioned this much sooner, because I think next week's episode (or maybe the one that was on tonight) might be the last of the season. Sorry about that. Mark: I told you with 100% certainty, that the show was on Wednesdays at 10pm. Guess what? I was wrong. It's Thursdays. That's my Tivo lifestyle for you! Update: Hey, I just saw a commercial that Eli will be on a "special day and time" on Sunday after Desperate Housewives. Check it out!

  • I was watching an episode of Oprah with Dr. Oz the other day. They first discussed night terrors and sleepwalking--which was fascinating--and then they went into the regular Q&A session with Dr. Oz. They featured a woman who wanted to admit her most embarrassing health issue: she's in constant pain because she has, um....anal fissures. Dr. Oz explained that they are little tears in the skin and can be VERY painful and gave her some tips for relief (sitting on a heating pad, eating more fiber, drinking more water). Here's my thing: WHY ON EARTH would she go on OPRAH WINFREY and announce her most embarrassing problem to MILLIONS of viewers around the world?!?!?! Couldn't she just ask that question of her own doctor? I just don't get the thinking of people that do stuff like that.
Alright, I'm off to watch The Office. Can't wait!


I wasn't that inspired...but then I was

The kids were to sing "songs of insperation" on last night's American Idol. I didn't hate any of the performances, but I didn't truly love any of them either, so I'm not going to rank them.

The biggest surprise for me was how well Kristy Lee Cook did. She sang a Martina McBride song (I forget the name) and was pretty good. Simon said she looked like a star. I even clapped for her! (Yes, I clap for the performers! Doesn't everyone?) So, despite my aversion to country music, and to Kristy Lee, I'd have to say that Kristy Lee will be safe again this week. This is just going to mess up my pool some more. I had her going weeks ago. Oh well.

My least favorite performance was David Archuleta's. It wasn't bad at all--he sounded great for the most part (it was a little shaky at the beginning) and played the piano, but it just wasn't my favorite. The judges, of course, raved over it.

David Cook wasn't as brilliant as usual. I thought he was drowned out by the band and the backup singers. I still love him though.

Carly Smithson looked like she lost 20 pounds since last week. I don't know what she did, but I want to know the secret! She sang Queen's "The Show Must Go On," and I agreed with Simon that it seemed like an angry performance (rather than inspirational).

Marsha Brady Brooke White sang "You've Got a Friend." As Simon said, it was like a pleasant walk down the street. It was. He also told her, "Good on you." I don't know why, but I love that British expression. (I haven't been able to find a picture yet, but Brooke definitely looked like she stepped out of 1978.)

Syesha Mercado sang Fantasia's "I Believe." I thought she did a good job, but the judges made all their comparisons to Fantasia. I think Syesha will be in the bottom 3 again tonight.

Michael sang "Dream On" -- I thought it was great, but Randy & Simon don't like him doing the "rocker" sound--they prefer the bluesy R&B sound. I like that sound too, but I don't see why he can't do both.

Jason sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" -- the Hawaiian version. Well, the version by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who is Hawaiian. Jason did a nice job with his little ukelele.

Okay, I think that's everyone. Tonight is the big American Idol Gives Back show....last year's show was pretty good, so I look forward to seeing how they top it.

Later, I switched over on NBC, and found myself hootin' and hollerin' while I watched The Biggest Loser. Now, this show was inspirational! The last two girls on the show, Ali (in the picture)and Kelly KICKED THE GUYS' ASSES!!!!!! I really, really, really, really want Ali to win this thing. She looks FANTASTIC. And week by week, she and Kelly were picking off the guys as moved closer to the $250K prize.

Last night, the guys weighed in first. Roger lost 15 pounds (for a total of 144)! Then Mark gets up and loses 12 pounds. When Ali went up to the scale, the host, Allison, told her she needed to lose at least 9 pounds to compete in the final. My girl got up there and lost ELEVEN! That brought her total weight loss to 99 lbs! Then, Allison tells Kelly that she needs to lose 13 pounds to stay in the competition. Don't you know Kelly went up and lost exactly THIRTEEN pounds?!?!?! It was SO exciting!!!

Now America has to vote for which of the last two guys gets to compete in the finale. I *like* Roger better--Mark is really annoying and has become such a blubbering fool (he cries at the drop of a hat. He's happy that he's able to show his emotions now--I think we've seen WAY TOO MUCH of his damn emotions). BUT, I think Roger is a bigger threat to Ali winning this thing because he still has more to lose. Mark doesn't have that much further to go, and Ali already has him beat by the percentage of weight lost. I think she has a better chance against him. She'd be the first female to win the prize. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for her, and will be casting my vote(s) for Mark.


Ramiele's gone

Folks, it's late, my heat is not working correctly and my computer room must be about 59 degrees, so I'm going to keep this short.

Ramiele was voted off. Brooke & Kristy Lee rounded out the bottom three. Kristy Lee is getting too big for her britches and I find her REALLY annoying.

No time or desire to do the booted off graphic right now--I'm freezing! Maybe I'll get to that tomorrow.

Just a thought: I was listening to Al Green today and think that David Cook should do his magic on "Love & Happiness." I think it'd be great.

OK. I'm going to sit in front of the fireplace now. Send some heat my way, please!!!!

(My 20-year-old HVAC system is going to be replaced next Thursday--I hope I can make it until then! Where is the warm spring weather???)


The adventures of Flat Stanley

As I hinted last night, I'm going to tell you about my new little friend, Flat Stanley. My friend Jeanene told me about him...he was visiting one of her coworkers, and asked if I wouldn't mind showing him around D.C. for a little while. I had no idea what she was talking about, but said sure!

I then did some research and learned about The Flat Stanley Project. The namesake of the project is the title character of a 1964 book by Jeff Brown. Stanley is a normal boy who finds himself flattened (though not hurt) by a bulletin board. He's soon taking all kinds of adventures as he is sent through the mail to places all around the world. The Flat Stanley project was created by a school teacher as a way to teach children about different parts of the world. The children create their own Flat Stanleys and then mail them off. The recipeints are then asked to show FS around, take some pictures, and write a journal of his experiences.

Flat Stanley at the Washington MonumentSo, Flat Stanley arrived to Maryland a couple weeks ago. He's from London, and had been to Texas, North Carolina and Atlanta before his arrival. Last week I took him to D.C. to the National Mall where we saw the Washington Monument, the cherry blossoms (which thankfully had started blooming) and the Capitol Building. I gotta tell you--it's a little strange to be among a bunch of people while you're taking a picture of a small cut-out little boy. At the Washington Monument, a lady commFlat Stanley at the Capitol Bldgented, "Oh! She's taking a picture of Flat Stanley!" She obviously had heard of him before. At the Capitol Building, I needed some help, so I asked a gentleman who was sitting on a bench to please hold Stanley while I took his picture. The guy definitely looked at me like I was crazy, but held Flat Stanley anyway.

Flat Stanley at the National CathedralOver the weekend, my friend, L, and I went to the Washington National Cathedral for a tour of the gargoyles. In the car, I told L, "Hey, I have to tell you about the new man in my life." She got a little excited ("Do tell!") until I pulled FS out of my purse! I later wrote about Flat Stanley's adventures and then sent him to his next destination: New York. It was fun to have him around.

Master SculptorThe gargoyle tour, by the way, was very cool. The tour guide had been friends with one of the sculptors and had a lot of information about what goes in to creating a gargoyle. At the Cathedral, several of the gargoyles are donated by various people. There's a sculpture with two hands around the water pipe in a golf grip that was donated by.....you got it, a golfer. There was another with a man working on the teeth of a huge walrus. It was donated by a dentist. In case you didn't know, by the way, gargoyles are water spouts; other creatures sculpted around the building are called grotesques. There was a contest for school kids to design some grotesques, and one oWhistlerf the winners was Darth Vader. Yes, Darth Vader is on the building of the Washington National Cathedral. This little guy (a grotesque) to the right is whistling at the girls' school across the street.

I'd love to do that tour again some day when the weather is nice and warm. When we went, it was SO cold and windy--it was hard to enjoy the experience.


Quick ratings

I'm beat and am getting ready for bed, but wanted to give my rankings for tonights American Idol. I didn't take notes this time...really wasn't in to the country thing. (Dolly Parton was the guest mentor this evening. I do really like her as a person--she's seems so sweet & genuine.) Anyway, here goes:

9. Jason - Dolly touched his hair and I was afraid one of the dreads was going to fall out. (Remember he told the story about one falling out while he was on a date?) Ew.
8. Brooke - she was just off tonight
7. Ramiele - better, but still a little off key
6. Kristy Lee
5. David A. - judges raved that this was the best of the night. To me he sounded good, but it wasn't all that.
4. Syesha - did "I Will Always Love You" - a song that I've come to loathe. The judges spent their time comparing it to Whitney Houston's version, instead of judging it for what it was. I thought she did a nice job, and she held an amazing note at the end that was very impressive.
3. Carly - Simon dinged her fashion style. Who cares what she's wearing? It's a singing competition.
2. David C. - LOVE his new haircut!!
1. Michael - did a bluesy thing--it was great!

On to other things: stay tuned tomorrow when I share with you the adventures of Flat Stanley, my little friend who visited me last week.


washingtonpost.com posts an annual gallery of animal pics from around the world. I just had to share this week's gallery.

Photos 3 (polar bear), 14 (white tiger), and 16 (siberian husky) are my favs. So cute!!!