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(UPDATED WITH STATEMENT FROM JEN LANCASTER) "Orange Is the New Black" Is the New Black

Jul 31, 2013

Note: I am required by Internet and TV and blogger ethics to tell you there are sort of spoilers in here but not really. 

Is anyone else going through Orange Is the New Black withdrawals this week? The theme song, written and sung by Regina Spektor who I normally do not like, has been going through my head for four days and it's the only thing quieting the tiny voice in my head that says, *SPOILER ALERT BUT NOT REALLY!* "Piper didn't need a shank after all! What will happen next?! MY LIFE IS SO HARD BUT IT WOULD BE HARDER IF I WERE IN PRISON!!!"

I remember when Orange Is the New Black was first published (in case you didn't know, the TV show is based on a memoir of a Brooklynite lady named Piper who went to prison for a year), I was kind of annoyed because of my love for Jen Lancaster's Bitter Is the New Black. At a book signing a couple of years ago, someone asked her if she'd considered selling it for a movie, and she told us no, because Orange Is the New Black was taking over that market of titles with anything "is the new black" in it.

You were robbed, Jen, robbed!!


I was pretty disappointed then, but I totally get why Orange was picked over Bitter (nothing against Bitter, which is still one of my faves). Orange has many character with which to work with, each with an unusual story.

Bitter has plenty of characters, but you would probably not relate with many of them the way you would with those in OrangeOrange makes you think you'll be rooting for Piper, which you will, but not necessarily at the expense of all the others. By the end of the first season, you're left wondering what the deal with Crazy Eyes is, not because she's so weird but because you genuinely want to know who she is as a person, much more than why she is in prison. You feel that way about everyone in there with Piper, which I wasn't expecting on account of all the prison documentaries and shows I watched during Unemployment 2013.

From Lockdown, for instance, I learned that all people in maximum security prison should be considered violent and scheming, and you shouldn't trust them for a second. So now I know -- DO NOT TRUST INMATES, EVEN THE LADIES. Orange, however, is set in a minimum security prison, so I'm learning that's not as bad (Washington Post confirms this here). However, Piper is warned not to make any friends.

(*SPOILER ALERT BUT NOT REALLY!* She does anyway, and now every one of us watching that show wants to be friends with her too.)

I want to be friends with BOTH Pipers!

Secondly, I was well aware of "tribal" mentality. During a recent conversation with a couple of friends who hadn't seen the show but had heard it's rampant with racial stereotypes, I interjected, "I disagree. It's actually quite true to reality, and I know because I watch a lot of Lockdown," which immediately made me winner of the debate and instant anthropological expert. Basically in prison the races stick together. So in the show when Red -- *SPOILER ALERT BUT NOT REALLY!* -- starves out Piper, that's a bit of a digression and more for dramatic effect. It was a terrific episode, but in the book Piper explains that Red gave her a good talking to and recommended she keep her mouth shut so as not to incite a prison riot.

Also, I think all the lesbian action is a bit on the embellished side. The peeing on the floor to get back at someone? I'd like to think that's for real.

The thing I love most about the show, though, is how it really digs into humanity and causes you to consider how you'd do in prison. You go on the journey with Piper -- from thinking of resourceful ways to take care of business with extremely limited resources... finally getting past the stuff on the surface and taking a hard look at yourself on the inside.

When Piper begins to do that, you know prison will mean more to her than just working on her perfect wedding body, as she told her fiancee she'd do during those 15 months.

All 13 episodes are available on Netflix, and the second season is in the works. I am now a member of my neighborhood DC Library so I can check out the ebook (I'm No. 35 on a waiting list), but until I get my turn, I'm loving learning more about the show and the real Piper and Larry.

Here are fun facts about the show.

Here's a post on the cutest CO on the block.

Here's the New York Times story Larry wrote (and it's SO much better than the one you hear about on the show).

Here's a Q&A with the real Piper on what prison is like.

Here's the best review I've read on the show.

And here are the opening credits sung by Regina Spektor, which holds so much meaning now that I've seen the first season. Also, I can't confirm this, but rumor has it the faces of the women are actual inmates.

P.S. All guys I've talked to about this are not interested in Orange because it's a "lady show." All I can do is roll my eyes. This is so much more than a lady show, whatever that means.

Review: Flavorfy with Dasani Drops

Jul 26, 2013

I know in my last post I freaked out about water, but it's not that bad. What's funny is I grew up only drinking water, really. "Diluting" was a common practice in my family, and as a kid it was synonymous with "treat" -- fill your glass three quarters of the way with water and add some lemonade. Voila! Diluted lemonade is delicious!

But then I found out it's not.

I will say that as an adult, I have trouble finishing a can of anything except La Croix (pronounced "la-cwah" or "la-croy," depending on where you're from. The "x" is silent either way to make you feel fancy.). 

I do love me some lemonade straight up (Chick-fil-A is the best), probably because I was deprived of it growing up, but I really do prefer water or iced tea (unsweetened -- I know it's confusing, me being from Atlanta and all...). 

What can I say? My extremely Southern mother (think Paula Deen morphed with Martha Stewart minus the racism and insider trading)...

(I was hoping this would magically look like my mother, but it doesn't. Creepy, though, ain't it?)

...married a draft-dodging camp counselor/professional student/nurse. Dinnertime was always entertaining.

ANYWHO, since introducing sugar into my beverages in my late 20s, it's difficult to just drink water all the time. And thanks to the geniuses behind the bottled water industry, I won't drink tap water unless I'm at a restaurant where I can confuse myself into thinking the water is fine since I'm paying $20 for three tomato slices with balsamic vinegar and four crumbles of goat cheese. This poses a problem at work because we use a Brita filter (oh believe me, I'm petitioning for a water dispenser).

That's why I'm excited about Dasani Drops. They come in a bunch of flavors (my favorite is the coconut pineapple) and they fit right in your purse. 
Powders like Crystal Light gross me out because they have to dissolve first, and if they don't dissolve all the way you're left with grit in the bottom of your glass. But one little squeeze of Dasani Drops and you've got a bona fide drinkie that makes that 8+ glasses of water a day go down pretty nicely! 

And that means "diluting" can still be a treat!

For more info...

Follow Dasani Drops on Facebook on Twitter and on their review page.

DISCLAIMER: I received this product complimentary from Influenster. I was not paid to write this review.

I hate dieting because...

Jul 24, 2013

Boyfriend Perk (ooh imma make that a new label!): Invited on family vacay to St. Thomas

Need I explain more.

I've been down this road before, and for me, calorie counting is the best way to do it. I've tried the others: exercise, weight-gain-shaming, having a friend hold you accountable, and worst of all a celebrity-endorsed diet. Nope. Those just make me angry, depressed and fatter.

Back in 2009 when I had a personal diet consultant (aka Joanna my coworker turned friend), I used, which allowed me to keep a log of what I ate and how much I exercised, as well as helping me set goals and telling me how much I should eat/exercise each day to reach those goals. But upon my return, they've changed the website to include so many ads that the pages won't load.

A friend, YM, suggested, which is essentially the same thing but works like a normal website. It has lots of options, but the ones I use most are the daily weigh-in and the food and exercise logs.

Exercise. Ha Ha. Ha.

Most foods are already in their database (on FitDay you have to look up nutrition info for a lot of things) and you can make "recipes" where you insert the ingredients into your own database (I drink a lot of smoothies, so I have a Blueberry Strawberry Smoothie, for instance, that I've pre-loaded with how much of each ingredient I use, and the system figures out the calories), and you can easily pick that same recipe the next time you consume it. The recipes option also makes me cognizant of how much stuff I'm putting in as I make it. The exercise log is fun because you can find things like "moderate cleaning" in their database and get to dock 30 calories off your intake, therefore allowing you to eat more that day or feel great about coming in under your daily budget.

It's been three weeks. How am I doing? Oh, I'll tell you how I'm doing, all right.
  1. Limiting myself to 1200 calories a day for three weeks has caused my weight to plummet 12 pounds then skyrocket 15. I now weigh three pounds more than I did when I began.

  2. If exercising was hard before, it's impossible now. Burning stored fat is physically painful and exhausting.

  3. Eight glasses of water a day makes me nauseous. I do not understand how one can drink that much water.
    Wait, I have to drink more than 8 glasses? Is this for real?!?!?! 

  4. Pinterest.

  5. I now know there are 150 calories in a one-inch cube of cheese. (No more night cheese for me.)

  6. This is what 1200 calories looks like. 

  7. Now that I've looked at the BMI chart, I know I am one water weight pound away from being officially "overweight." 

  8. Having your nephew gently put his hands on your stomach and say, "Aunt Mawry El, it looks like you're having a baby," hurts a lot more when you're actually trying.

  9. Lean Cuisines are absolutely tasteless. Eating is no longer fun. 

  10. [FILL IN THE BLANK] (too tired to think of any more reasons)

I should mention that my friend who told me about MyFitnessPal no longer uses it because she felt like it was judging her. 

#MINDBLOWN: Two Amazing Grocery Stores Merge to Make ONE EPIC GROCER

Jul 18, 2013

Growing up in Georgia, our grocery store of choice was Kroger. Clean, good produce, not too pricey, friendly, all that good stuff. Our town being quite small, we didn't have a Kroger of our own and had to drive about 10 minutes to get to the closest one. (Hey, that's a long way in a small town.) And then, during my senior year of high school, the grandkids of one of Tucker's first settlers (whose name Google will not tell me) sold the old farm to developers, and we finally got a Kroger!!! 

The week Kroger opened, I skipped lunch period every day to go get a hot dog and a Coke for $1, and then I'd peruse the aisles for free samples. It was the first and last time I tried Rocky Mountain Oysters, and it was the biggest thing that had happened to Tucker since the M2M program brought Keri Hilson to my high school.  

When I moved to DC, I chose to shop primarily at Harris Teeter, Kroger's Mid-Atlantic counterpart. Google won't tell me the history (what the heck, Google?!), but as a good Southern girl, I know that they had some kind of gentlemen's agreement that they wouldn't compete in the same regions, so Kroger got everything south of North and South Carolina and Harris Teeter, or "Harry Teets" as my neighbor calls it, got everything north of Georgia. 

Let it be known, Washingtonians, that Giant and Safeway are NOT respectable alternatives to Harris Teeter. Safeway is okay if you're desperate, but Giant? Nononononononono. I have bought produce from Giant twice that went bad within a couple of days, including frozen sugar snap peas. How does frozen produce go bad that quickly?!?!?! Sick. It's the only time I've ever taken something back to a grocery store. Everyone loves to harp on Harris Teeter that it's soooooooo expensive and you might as well go to Whole Foods. Well guess what? It's not more expensive, you just think it is because it's so much nicer! And they have crazy amazing deals like buy one get one free London broil and a $20 pharmacy credit per regular transaction (it was a limited time earlier this year, but still, who else has deals like that?).

So imagine my glee when I received this in my inbox last week:

WOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOO!!! I'm so glad the two are finally coming together.

What was WMATA thinking?!

Jul 11, 2013

I don't use the Metro that much anymore with the new job, but I still like to keep tabs on what's going on, especially since @UnSuckDCMetro has retweeted me a lot. Generally I think WMATA (Washington Metro  something Transit Association I think?) gets a bad rap and does a pretty decent job, but these social media sins are unforgivable. I'll let the tweets tell the story.

And then this happened (our boy @FixWMATA is in the red plaid shirt):

I scanned Twitter today for updates but didn't come up with many -- obviously WMATA is way more concerned with the horrible delay last night than how the Twitter thing could turn the situation into a PR nightmare. (In 2011, DC was named the nation's "Top Twitter Town" -- riders are privy to this stuff, y'all!) But @FixWMATA recapped the day's events with some commentary here.

My feeling is WMATA needs a lot of help in their PR department, but overall I think they get criticized more harshly than necessary. I'd still rather ride on Metro than the NYC Subway any day, and if I had the choice between Metro and my car, I'd choose Metro. Unless I had to ride on the Red Line. 

2013 Wedding Wrap-Up

Jul 10, 2013

A couple of years ago I decided to cap the weddings I would attend each year to four, the idea being one a quarter. After being a bridesmaid seven times and attending at least three times that many weddings over the past 10 years, it's gotten a little expensive. Last year worked out nicely, timing-wise and travel-wise:

1) My friend Andrea's in DC in February (I take full credit for them getting together...aside from God of course.) (Can you guess who I am in the story?)

2) Joanna's in Maine in July, my first time there

3) My cousin's in Virginia in August where we all wore the same color as the bridesmaids by accident (lighting's not great, but the dresses are all purple except for one)

4) The Boyfriend's friend's in Maryland in October (just a month after we started dating -- that was a pretty nerve-wracked request on his part)

{no picture because we weren't doing that yet}

This year I haven't hit my quota (three so far with a secret fourth one but was just invited to another in October so I'm not sure how this works anymore), but they all happened right around the same time. And while that's been somewhat crazy/expensive/time-consuming, I have to say it's been a blast, especially since my guy has attended all of them with me.

1) Jamie's in San Diego in March: 

We flew into San Francisco...

...took a detour to Bodega Bay for the 50th anniversary of "The Birds"...

...then drove down the PCH for a week looking at this all day...

...happening upon these guys along the way...

...and laughing when we saw this...

...then flipping out when this happened...

...and stopping to eat lots of local cuisine...

...and finally arriving in San Diego to see Jamie and Zack get married...

...on a day like this.

2. Former Roomie Margaret's in Boston in June on a record-breaking hot day...

...but it was still Pinterest-Perfect.

3. Kelly's in Atlanta in June two weeks later, where we took the opportunity to have some qual-time with my fam (read: eating A LOT). First stop: The Varsity (think of it as Atlanta's Ben's Chili Bowl, but better) for chili dawgs, onion rings, frosted oranges and peach pies...

...then World of Coca-Cola (a giant marketing tool where you get to try Coca-Cola products from around the world, find out that Coca-Cola is responsible for creating Santa Claus as we know him,  and can't help yourself from buying vintage merchandise at the end of the tour)...

...then the Laser Show at Stone Mountain (not the version you know from "30 Rock")...

...and finally the wedding, with Georgia (actually probably South Carolina) peaches on the tables...

...and a banner outside that we hoped was edible but found it was not.

With all the weddings behind us, we got a big group together and headed downtown to Southern Art, a new restaurant of Art Smith, who owns Art & Soul in DC. It was in a hotel, which we didn't realize till we got there, and there were lots of security guys blocking us from parking in the hotel garage. We noticed a couple of guys with video cameras and got excited that something was being filmed there. I offered:

"I bet it's Real Housewives of Atlanta. NeNe's in there, up to somethin'."  

At the end of our meal, we found out that I was incorrect. Turns out they were filming I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding.


And Southern Art -- the very restaurant where we were eating!!! -- catered the wedding.

Want to know who was there?!!!

I only got one legible photo, but it's a good one:

Kim Zolciak and the Hubs

Also in attendance:
  1. Gretchen and Slade
  2. Phaedra Parks
  3. Portia Stewart
  4. Kandi Burruss
  5. Lisa Wu
  6. Judge Greg Mathis (who officiated) 
and my favorite...


Tell it sista!

Also, Lauren and I made fun of this lady...

...who I later realized looks an awful lot like world famous fashion designer Iris Apfel...

...and what the heck do I know about fashionable glasses when I pay $5.99 for mine?!

But perhaps the best part of the evening was this:

And that's what we call full circle. If this is my last wedding of 2013, I think it wrapped up the season pretty nicely!