Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wrapping Up an Era

This is my last post for Editing and Publishing, and I have to say, much to my surprise, I'm going to miss it just a bit.  This class has stretched me in the type of writing I exercise.  I had a blog prior to the beginning of the semester, but I mostly wrote reflective pieces, sort of introspectives.  When writing for this class, I really had to rely on subjects that were more concrete, and think about the audience I was writing for, instead of writing what I wanted and having interested followers read my thoughts.

I have been very envious of fellow classmates to whom this kind of research and writing seems to come easily, although I'm positive their posts are not accomplished with minimal effort. Some of the posts have been very informative, some very entertaining.  Even the names of the blogs have been sheer genious:  "When Drury Gives You Lemmon" & "I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie" are two of my favorites. 

I suppose my favorite post to write was the restaurant review, although I enjoyed writing the film review as well (I just didn't enjoy the film). I found that these two reviews depended on my ability to recall details, so I listened closer, observed more detail, in order to convey to the audience.

I don't think I want to go in to Journalism; but then again, who knows?  When I grow up, I'll decide what I want to be.  By then, maybe something else will have replaced blog writing, and I'll learn a new skill.

Monday, April 9, 2012

May All Your Kitchen Dreams Come True

My husband and I decided, after nine years of looking at the laminate nastiness that was our outdated 1970s kitchen, to splurge for our anniversary and renovate.
The beginning of the project
Armed with a budget of $2,000, we headed off to the big box store to see if we could replace our cabinets, countertop and backsplash with this budget.  Long story short, we couldn’t; not by a long shot. Our cheap cabinets may have been cheap, but the size was custom, and a replacement would have to be custom made to the tune of $1,500 higher than our entire budget, and this was only the base model.  

As my visions of a lighter, airier kitchen were quickly disappearing before my eyes, the gentleman in the paint section of Home Depot asked if we’d taken a look at the new product from Rustoleum: Cabinet Transformations. Well, no, we hadn’t; as a matter of fact, we’d never heard of it. He said that for about $150, we could transform our dark, cheap laminate cabinets into light, custom treated cabinets.  And I, being the eternal optimist, said something like “bullcrap”. Or something similar.

That was before we took a look at the product, before I read any reviews, and before we caved and tried it. Believe me when I tell you, the result was nothing less than amazing. Granted, if I had a nicer house with a bigger kitchen (and a bigger budget), I’d kill for some great, actual wood cabinets, but for a house that was never meant to be our dream home, this is a great fix.

What exactly is Cabinet Transformations®? Quite simply, it’s an innovative coating system that completely changes the look of old, worn cabinets into the look of beautiful hand-crafted cabinetry, at a fraction of the cost of installing new – without the downtime or mess associated with cabinet replacement or refacing. Say goodbye to the thought of a messy demolition, over-budget contractors and weeks of disarray in your home. Plus, there’s no stripping, no sanding and no priming required, so it’s super easy to do!”  This quote is from the Rustoleum website, and if it sounds kind of cheesy and too good to be true, well, parts of it are.  I wouldn’t say you can change laminate cabinets into the “look of beautiful hand-crafted cabinetry”, but you can come darn close.  You will NOT say good bye to messy demolition, at least, not if you’re doing other projects as well, such as countertop or backsplash. And if you have a busy household such as mine, you’ll still endure weeks of disarray.  But it is in fact true that there is no stripping, sanding or priming, and to me, this is completely amazing. 

The product comes packaged in a box with everything you’ll need, except brushes. Depending on the size of your kitchen, kits come in small ($79) or large ($158), and in light shades or darker tones. Kits include the following products: de-glosser, which removes any protective finish or dirt that your cabinets may have; a base coat which is tinted in the store to the color of your choice (choices are shown on the side of the box for your convenience); decorative glaze, which is an optional step but can really give your cabinets a customized look; top protective coat to seal your cabinets and finish so you can clean them; cleaning pads and cheesecloth for the glaze. A step-by-step instructional video was also included.

The greatest pro of this product, for us, was that it allowed us to completely transform our kitchen and afford the other components of backsplash and countertop. Beyond that, it looks great! I truly didn’t think we could accomplish something like this on our own, but we did! The steps were easy to follow, and the results were nothing less than amazing.

As for cons, this is a time intensive project. Each step requires dry time after, so it wasn’t finished overnight. The de-glossing step requires one hour of dry time before proceeding, two or three hours between base coats (our cabinets required three coats, since we went from dark to light), eight hours before applying the top coat, which needed to dry 24 hours before reinstalling the doors on the cabinets.  In addition, the cabinets should really be cleaned with an industrial strength cleaner prior to de-glossing, a tip we are very grateful to the Home Depot man for sharing with us. Otherwise, the grease and dirt adhere to the glaze, and give a dark, dirty look. 

But for anyone with a tight budget and a dream, this could very well be the answer to your prayers.  Rustoleum also makes Countertop Transformations, which can be applied directly to laminate countertop to give the look of granite. We didn’t use this product, but the reviews are even better for it than for the Cabinet Transformation. 

I give this product an 8.5 out of 10!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

Considering I’m not a young adult, I rarely venture into the YA genre of books, but a friend of mine who is in fact a young adult sent me “The Fault in Our Stars”, and being a huge bookworm with no other unread stories laying around, I began to read it. And read it. And read it.  I couldn’t put it down.

 It is difficult for me to describe the mood of this book, so let me tell you what it’s about.  Get your tissue to dab at the tears in your eyes. I’ll wait. Ready? OK, so this story revolves around a sixteen year old terminal cancer patient named Hazel Lancaster, whose particular type of thyroid cancer has spread to her lungs, but is currently being held in check by a sort of miracle drug that is prolonging the inevitable, well, indefinitely.  Hazel is a bit of a recluse, and her understandably overprotective mother insists she attend a support group for young cancer patients, where she meets Augustus Waters, a seventeen year old bone cancer patient who, although he is in remission, has lost a leg to the disease.

What follows is a heartbreaking, realistic look at young love when the outcome is somewhat predetermined. Yet there are some amazingly dark moments of humor (what would a good YA cancer book be without characters who can make jokes at their own expense).  Our own spirits begin to be caught up in the questions of these star-crossed lovers; questions such as will I be remembered when I’m gone, will my life have counted for anything, or will I fade into oblivion?  These characters were raw and real, not glamorized or knighted for sainthood.

 I could easily see this book being made into a movie, but I hope it won’t be.  The beauty of this story is its realness, and I think Hollywood would just fake that up.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Come Sail Away!

If you’re ever up at Lake of the Ozarks, and you're anxious to be on the water but you have no boat of your own, check out the Tropic Island Cruises at Tan-Tar-A resort!  This 75 ft, 150 passenger motor yacht is the way to go, particularly if you prefer to have all the fun, and leave the driving to someone else!
Cap'n Omer ("How-do-you-like-me-so-far") and Firstmate Jacquie Clark
Tropic Island is owned and operated  by Omer and Jacquie Clark, ex-pats of corporate America who decided to make a living doing what they love best- boating. The Clarks owned several personal boats and boated on both lakes and rivers throughout Missouri before taking the leap and buying their investment. Omer earned his captain license, and can be found piloting the Tropic Island most days between March and October.  His wife Jacquie serves as first mate, bartender and, from time to time, chef.

Tropic Island Cruises opened in April of 1994 with a 50 foot craft.  At the time, there was no other business like it on the lake, although currently another motor yacht operates on the lake as well.  In 1998, the current yacht, Tropic Island II, was launched on the water, and operated out of Lodge of Four Seasons.  As the lake became more and more crowded, this arm of the lake was almost impossible to navigate in such choppy waters, and in 2007 the Clarks moved their business to Tan-Tar-A resort.
Upper Deck and Bar, decorated for a Cinco de Mayo cruise
A typical scenic cruise on the Tropic Island lasts about an hour and a half to two hours.  Both levels are air-conditioned, and there is a full service bar with snacks upstairs. There is also outside seating on both levels, for those who prefer to enjoy the sun. Reggae music plays for most of the cruise, although Captain Omer breaks in from time to time to narrate interesting finds along the lake. If you ask nicely, he’ll let you sit in the Captain’s chair and pilot for a minute or two, and snap a picture with a captain hat perched on your head for bragging rights.
Even the smallest passengers have a great time!
 Tropic Island Cruises also offers chartered cruises, and has been host to class and family reunions, weddings and receptions, and corporate retreats and events.  Food for larger events is catered through Tan-Tar-A.

Our family on the Tropic Island Cruises dock at Tan-Tar-A
So if you just want to relax and unwind in a comfortable and inviting setting, and take in the sights, pop on over to Tropic Island Cruises. Captain Omer and Firstmate Jacquie will make you feel like family; and since they are my father and mother –in-law, you might even see me helping out behind the bar or in the galley kitchen!

Tropic Island Cruises
494 Tan Tar A Drive
Osage Beach, MO
Daily Cruises Tuesday through Sunday at 3 p.m.
Call for information on chartering a private cruise! 


Monday, March 26, 2012

Bibiya - For the Korean in You!

Have you ever heard of Bibiya? No? I would imagine you soon will; it’s quickly becoming a hot spot in south Springfield for those who appreciate healthy, fresh Korean cooking.
Located on S. Fremont and E. Republic, Bibiya (pronounced “bib-ee-ya” which means “mixing house” in Korean) opened in the fall of 2011 to an almost instant success.
My experience at Bibiya began after a somewhat hectic afternoon. I walked into the storefront restaurant and was immediately enveloped in the soft green and brown décor, low lighting, and understated sophistication.  I immediately felt my tension begin to ease.
I greeted my classmate, who was seated at a high top table, pictured below:

I must admit, my first reaction to the seating arrangement was not positive. I’m rarely comfortable at high top tables, and feel as if I’m going to fall off.  However, once I sat down in the faux ostrich covered seat, I forgot I was at a bar height.  The chairs were every bit as comfortable as a regular chair. For those who are most comfortable in traditional seating, there are booths in the back of the restaurant.
I did not realize that Bibiya is not a full service restaurant; that is, you order at a counter.  One down side of this aspect is that both my classmate and I had a dozen questions regarding the cuisine, and the dinner rush came in the door right on our heels, so we felt a bit rushed in receiving our tutorial.  Had our orders been taken at our table, we would have felt no urgency to move along.
 Although Bibiya offers several entrée dishes, their most popular offering is Bibimbap, meaning “mixed meal”.  Here is a tutorial in a nutshell:
Basically, you select the type of bibimbap you want; salad type, traditional, or hot stone bowl.  Then you decide what type of rice you would like, one of the four pictured above. For an additional $1, you can add a protein topping, selecting from Bulgogi(beef), Teriyaki chicken, Tofu, or Spicy Shrimp.  Finally, you choose your sauce; Kochi(spicy), Sesame (Nutty), Bibi (Sweet BBQ), or Lemon Soy(Citrus).  You can select more than one saucem and as many additional toppings as you are willing to pay $1 for .
I selected the hot stone bowl, with black rice, teriyaki chicken, and sesame and lemon soy sauces. The concept of this dish fascinated me.  The bowl is literally a black bowl that is heated and is indeed hot. Next goes your rice selection, topped with a generous serving of vegetables, including zucchini, cucumber, carrots, bean sprouts, shitake mushrooms and Korean Royal Fern, as well as any protein selected. The sauce comes on the side, so the customer can choose the desired amount of flavor.  I also selected a side of edamame, soybeans which are slightly blanched and salted.
Bibiya offers Coca Cola products (a plus in my book), as well as beer and wine and hot tea. The soda beverages are self serve. I was given a number to set on the table for the server to identify my location, and I took my Diet Coke to the table and sat down to wait.
I didn’t have to wait long; five minutes passed, and our server Roy brought my food. I was concerned about the hot stone bowl, trying to figure out how I was going to eat without burning my accident prone self, but the stone bowl arrived on a wooden tray. The presentation was only eclipsed by the wonderful aroma rising from the sizzling bowl. Server Roy (who by the way, is a Drury University junior) explained that the sauces on the side were to be poured over the veggies and meat in the bowl, and stirred with the chopsticks provided. Rounding out the offerings on the tray were a bowl of bean sprout soup and a small dish of pickled cabbage and onion. I did not care for the bean sprout soup, which I found to be rather bland, but the pickled dish was a pleasant surprise.  This dish was more sweet than sour, and provided a nice finish to my meal later.

Now, I’m not very good with chopsticks, so I was a bit nervous, since only chopsticks were offered, but I did ok. There was enough starch in the rice that I was able to use the chopsticks as a sort of shovel, and haul in some decent portions. From the first bite, I was hooked. The flavors simply meshed together for one of the freshest, most flavorful eating experiences I’ve ever had.  Another aspect that I appreciate is texture in my food, and the bibimbap did not disappoint! The rice had a crunchy, nutty texture, probably because it was frying on the sides of the hot bowl.  The vegetables were not overcooked, and each individual texture was distinct. After Roy passed our table and realized that I had used all my lemon soy sauce, he brought me a bit more, and that’s when the flavors really went POW! Although I didn’t finish everything in the bowl- I left a bit of black rice-I would say the portions were just right, and I didn’t have that awful stuffed feeling you sometimes have when eating a dish with a large concentration of rice.
While I understand that the primary reason for going to a restaurant is to eat, I am just as impressed or turned off by atmosphere and cleanliness.  In the case of Bibiya, I’ve already mentioned that the understated décor was immediately relaxing and comfortable.  Once I’d slowed down on my shoveling operation, I sat back and looked around for signs of the establishment’s attention to cleanliness, and those signs were everywhere.  Even out of the way nooks and crannies had been dusted.  The floor was spotless.  A trip to the restrooms showed the same care.
Just before we left, our server Roy came by to see how we enjoyed our meal, and then he did something that I thought was a brilliant move for any restaurant server; he practiced suggestive selling for my next trip to Bibiya, saying that he really thought I would enjoy the buck wheat noodles. Hmmm… I think I’m ready right now.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hawaii 5-O vs. Hawaii 5-0

In 1968, Jack Lord starred in a made for TV police drama set in Hawaii, and his catchphrase, "Book 'em, Danno" became a household term, and the iconic theme song was born. Forty-two years later, the catchphrase and the theme song are still the same, but the role of Steve McGarrett has been resurrected by Alex O'Loughlin.  How does the new series compare with the old? Let's find out.

The new series isn't really a continuation of the old, as some people think.  The new Steve McGarrett is not the son of the old character. Rather, the updated series is a re-imagining of the original.  If a viewer followed the original, it would be easy for them to understand this, because there are too many similarities between the two series to be a continuation.  All of the main characters share the names of those in the original, even though the gender is different for one of the characters.  See for yourself:

Now, take a look a the same main characters in the new series:
L to R: Alex O'Loughlin as Steve McGarrett, Grace Park as Kono, Daniel Day Kim as Chin Ho, and Scott Caan as Danny Williams

As you can see, there are some pretty obvious differences in the cast. Jack Lord was 48 when he played the role; Alex O'Loughlin was only 34.  The differences in cast reflect the changing attitudes of our society toward a younger, more reckless hero.

In both series, the chase car plays a huge role; the original sported a 1968 Mercury Park Lane Brougham, while the new series races through Hawaii in a 2011 Chevy Camaro.  Not a bad upgrade, if you ask me.

But what about the story line? Is it the same?  Basically, yes.  The show centers around a special task force called 5-0, so named for Hawaii's distinction of being the 50th state. (Side note: in the original, the letter O was used in the title; in the update, the numeral 0 is appropriately placed in the title.) 5-0 is a task force which reports directly to the governor, bypassing typical police protocol.  The mafia play a large part in both episodes; Woo Fat is the head of the Hawaiian branch of mafia in the original, Wo Fat in the remake.  While Lord's McGarrett spent most of his time combating this group, O'Loughlin's character is usually dealing with murders and unsolved crimes, but the mafia is primarily portrayed as being behind his father's murder.

Ask a diehard original fan, and they will tell you no one can beat Jack Lord as McGarrett. But the new series has been a success, signing on for a second season this past fall, and has resonated with a new generation.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Getting Better With Age

There are a few things that were created in 1922 still hanging around; the Lincoln Memorial, the British Broadcasting Company, to name a few. Most have come and gone since that time; the Premiership of Mussolini, Italy's youngest leader in history, and the original Yankee stadium would be two.  But there is one person born in 1922 who is still going strong and getter better. I'm referring to Ms. Betty White, age 90.

My first exposure to this delightful blonde was as a young child watching the "Mary Tyler Moore" show with my mother. White played Sue Ann Nivens, a character that is hard for me to define.  Nivens was in her own world, slightly out of touch with those around her.  But why try to explain, when I can show you?


White's IMDB page is quite extensive; let's just say this fair lady really hasn't stopped working in over 65 years. Following "Mary Tyler Moore", White starred in several sitcoms including the "Betty White Show" and  "Mama's Family", and guest starred on numerous others.  Then in 1985, she landed the role for which she is known to a whole new generation of TV viewers; Rose Nylund on NBC's "The Golden Girls", alongside an ensemble cast including Bee Arthur, Estelle Getty, and Rue McClanahan. Set in south Florida, the show centered around three fifty something single women who were either widowed or divorced, and the sometimes senile mother of one of the characters. White's role as a Minnesota Swede who had married her childhood sweetheart and lived her entire marriage in ignorant bliss was, for lack of a better word, endearing.  Her naivete was performed superbly,and her innocence was a delightful contrast to the divorced Dorothy Zbornak (Arthur), the rather fast and loose Blanche Devereaux (McClanahan) or age-wizened Sophia Petrillo (Getty).


Since the finale of "Golden Girls" in 1992,  White has been active in various TV sitcoms and made for TV movies, and has even lent her voice to voice overs on "King of the Hill" and "The Simpsons".  She even spent three years on the soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful".  Then in 2009, she starred as the smart mouthed grandmother on "The Proposal", and she's never looked back.  Her most recent success has been Superbowl commercials, last year for Snickers and this year upstaging the judges from "The Voice":
Betty White proves that you're never too old to give those young things a run for their money!