Monday, December 29, 2014

Restaurant Review: Mission BBQ

The other day I went to the new Mission BBQ that recently popped up in Laurel, MD. I'd never heard of the chain before, but I enjoy visiting Hill Country and Shane's Rib Shack every once in a while, so I figured this was a okay lunch spot.

At first I wasn't sure what type of "mission" they were talking about; my first instinct was a religious mission to convert indigenous peoples to Christianity. But once you walk in, it's pretty obvious: the restaurant is an homage to those who serve to protect us, either in our military or our local communities as firefighters and police officers. There are photographs of those in uniform all around the restaurant; sport jerseys from the Navy and Army football teams line one wall, local police patches are sprinkled along the half walls around the room, and on the back of their menu, the "Our Story" piece tells us that Mission BBQ is all about giving back to those who have served to protect America, and "there is nothing more American than BBQ."

I ordered at the counter, filled my cup up with sweet ice tea (my favorite!), and waited maybe three minutes before my food was already waiting at the counter. The large room had plenty of seats: booths, regular tables, high tops, whatever your fancy may be. I also noticed that at each table there were six types of homemade BBQ sauce, along with North Carolina vinegar. So I tried all of them with my (somewhat dry) pulled pork sandwich (they also serve "NC pulled pork," which just means the sandwich has "cold slaw" on it.). Here's my take on each sauce:

Kansas City Classic: This tastes like Sriracha sauce, so if you like spicy, go for it!
Tupelo Honey Heat: This is the next spiciest, and is more like a regular hot sauce than a BBQ sauce.
Smokey Mountain (West Virginia): This is the most like a classic BBQ sauce, with that smoky flavor and thick, viscous texture.
Bay-B-Que: Although I'm from Maryland, there just wasn't enough of an Old Bay kick in there to satisfy me.
Memphis Belle: This one has a blackberry or boysenberry flavor at first, then is quite mild.
Texas Twang: I thought this was similar to the Memphis one, but more citrus than berry-like.
My favorite: Mixing the Memphis and Texas two together. The tinges of fruit flavors complimented each other quite nicely!

I had the mac 'n' cheese and green beans with bacon as my two sides. The mac 'n' cheese was delicious, and I only ordered the green beans because they were the only vegetable on the menu of sides (coleslaw doesn't count). I do see on the take-out menu that you can order a salad (full size or a side salad), so either I didn't take note of this on the menu at the restaurant, or it's not available in house. Other sides included cream of corn, baked beans, and the seasonal pecan pie casserole.

My only complaints are these:
1. I would have liked to see more veggies on the menu. How about some collard greens, creamed spinach, or a side of succotash?
2. If you want to have a patriotic, all-American restaurant, you need a dessert menu. So some apple pie, a brownie sundae, and milkshakes would be proper additions to the menu.

Other than  those few things, I think this is a great lunch spot. The food is tasty, the ambiance is feel-good, and most importantly of all, the service was phenomenal. Someone from the staff opened the door for us when we were first coming in, the staff was patient while we ordered, and when I eyed someone else's plate with cornbread and asked how I could get some next time, they immediately gave me some cornbread and even asked if I wanted butter with it. THAT is great service. Everyone working there is so nice and polite; you can't help but leave with a smile. So 3.5 stars out of 5. I will be back!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Movie Review: Holiday in Handcuffs [SPOILERS]

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As all of you should know from last December's blog posts (and a couple from this year), one of my favorite holiday traditions is watching Christmas movies. I usually stick to my favorites, like The Holiday, The Family Man, and Love Actually (duh). But this year, I've been trying to broaden my horizons and watch some other holidays films. Netflix has quite a list, and as I was browsing, I found Holiday in Handcuffs.

I knew it would be a disaster from the start. Not like plain awful (like Happy Christmas), but totally silly and unrealistic. The whole idea of the movie is that Trudie (played by Melissa Joan Hart) is a failure at life: no further education, no full-time job, and now no boyfriend (after he dumps her soon into the movie). So what does she decide to do to turn her life around? KIDNAP a man to impress her parents. Whaaaa? So the whole thing is preposterous.

But at least she chose wisely. She happens to snag David (played by Mario Lopez), who's rich, funny, well-dressed, and, oh yeah, super hot. She drags him up to some cabin in the middle of nowhere to spend Christmas with her family. He puts up a fight at first, but then he's getting along with her parents and siblings, they like him too, and before you know it, after a few days, these two are falling in love (even though she's a nut job and he's a complete stranger). 

So the plot is over-the-top and unbelievable, but it's the kind of  ABC Family Christmas movie you expect, with the dumb jokes and the happy, romantic ending. It was exactly how I thought it would be. If you know what you're getting yourself into (which now you do), it's not so bad.

Besides, you get to see Lopez shirtless with a towel wrapped around his waist. Even though he will always be Slater in Saved by the Bell, he's still nice to look at.

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And can I just comment that Hart still looks like she's in the 90's? It's like this: She's not a grown-up version of herself, but a grown-up version of Clarissa or Sabrina. She's still the same character after all these years (although I will admit this movie came out in 2007, which is when I graduated from high school...)! Even her recent Walmart commercials are corny! I just feel bad that she's been typecast for so long. But I will say, I do actually like the movie Drive Me Crazy. Bring on the frogs...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

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I realize this post is not very timely, but I actually didn't watch the 2014 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show until this past weekend. But since the show wasn't even live on TV, I guess it doesn't matter. I think that was the thing that annoyed me most about this year's fashion show: there was no surprise! I was seeing tweets and photos about the show before it even aired, and even during the presentation, the moment of surprise was DOA. For one collection all of the models were out on stage all at once instead of coming onto the runway one at a time, and they practically showed the entire "Fairy Tale" collection and wings in the "behind the scenes" filming before we even saw it on the runway! There is something to be said about the element of surprise!

And the fact that the show was in London really ticked me off. First of all, didn't they have a British-themed collection last year? And I'm going to assume that the United States is the biggest market for Victoria's Secret products. So why would you hold the show anywhere but in America? What's next, China? North Korea?

Now onto the actual show. I was quite disappointed this year. I wasn't wowed like I have been in the past. The show can be summed up in one word/sound: "meh." First of all, as time goes by, the uglier the girls get. Okay, ugly is a strong word. But most of the 47 models in the show are not classic beauties like Cindy or Heidi. So the fact that the TV airing starts off with listing the models by only their first names is ridiculous. These are NOT household names! People don't know who these girls are! They are NOT supermodels, just skinny girls who happen to be in the catalog/runway show. I dare you to ask people on the street, "Who is Lily Aldridge?" I guarantee you will be met with blank stares (even her wikipedia page doesn't post a picture of her!). There were even more obscure names; who the heck is Stella?

Then to top it all off, the show opens with Behati Prinsloo, who I do not find attractive at all. Her face shape is so weird (such a masculine jaw!), she looks like she's 15, and the fact that she stole her husband (Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine) from a fellow model, Anne V (who's way hotter), just makes her all the more unattractive.

The first collection, "Gilded Angels," might as well have well been called, "Gladiator Divas" or "The Female Icarus." It's just a bunch of opulent, over-the-top gold costumes, from over-sized puffy sleeves to a disco ball bra. The gold bodysuit was kind of interesting, but that's it.

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Disco inferno! Image found at
At least this is kind of sexy. Image found at

And I hate Karlie Kloss' new hair style. I wonder if they made her change it because her wavy bob looked too much like Taylor Swift's new do...

She looks like a bug. Image found at
Between collections, they showed interviews with the models. Prinsloo actually said that the preparation for the show, like the traveling on planes and buses and all the girls staying in hotels together "is like school." Really? What kind of school did you go to? I never flew anywhere with any of my classmates, and the only bus we rode was the yellow school bus. And my friends weren't 6'2" and skinny either. Then we see the girls going crazy over the runway, as if they've never seen a lit up runway before... And just before Taylor Swift goes on stage to perform, Aldridge claims that she and Swift are "best friends." Gag. Lily, just warning you: If you do something to piss Taylor Swift off, she WILL write a mean song about you. So, no, you're not best friends.

On to the next (and best) part of the show: Taylor Swift performs "Blank Space." I LOVE this song and the music video, so I was pumped to see her perform. She was dressed in a silk nightgown and robe, and could totally pass as a Victoria's Secret model herself. She's hotter than most of them! And some of the models were mouthing the words to the song while they walked, which I thought was pretty awesome.
" 'Cause darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream. " Image found at
Too bad the costumes that accompanied Swift's first number were not as impressive. The collection is called "Dream Girls," though I'm not sure why; they weren't outfits of my dreams. The main theme connecting the outfits was cotton-candy pink, which is NOT my dream color. Leave the pink to Barbie and little girls. More puffy sleeves, feather shoes (how cliché), and unconnected garters (why the hell would you wear a garter belt without thigh highs?! That's what they're made for!) killed this collection (and not in a good way).

Yes, she's dressed up like a powder puff. Or a poodle. Image found at
Garter straps flapping in the wind. Find original image here:
I had high hopes for the next collection, titled "Exotic Traveler." First of all, that just sounds sexy. "Exotic" is probably one of the most common words connected to "fantasy," and lingerie is all about fantasy, is it not? So of course they brought out Adriana and Alessandra wearing the fantasy bras, bejeweled numbers made with real gems. These pieces were absolutely stunning, and these two women looked like exotic travelers for sure!

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Adriana and Alessandra (they actually don't need their last names listed) are the only women in the show who can say they are supermodels, and who actually deserve the title. I loved their interview together, when they talked about being "devilish"childhood friends and raising their kids together (I can't believe they've had babies! Their bodies do not show it at all.). But I do think it goes a little too far to say, "Where would we [Victoria's Secret] be without them?" There are other models in the world. If these two weren't the famous ones, two other women would take their place.

The rest of this collection just had too much going on. There were feathers everywhere (I guess Victoria's Secret didn't care about the fact that Native Americans would probably be offended by this type of costume...), and there were SO many colors and patterns all over the place! The bright greens and pinks would be more appropriate for the PINK collection. It was all just a rainbow vomit fest. Yes, these looks are new and different, which is what fashion is all about, but would I actually want to wear this stuff? No. Except maybe the burgundy feather vest; that was kind of cute.

I'm not even Native American, and I'm offended by this outfit. Image found at
I mean, did a child put these outfits together? Image found at
I would wear this vest, but with actual clothes underneath. Image found at
Backstage the girls talked about how nervous they were about the show. Mind you, most of them have done this before, and more than once. Grow up already! This is YOUR JOB! Do I get nervous when I send a work email or give a presentation to my team in the office? No, because it's what I'm paid to do, and I'm a professional. So put your big girl VS panties on and do the job you're paid to do and don't act like such a scaredy cat. To top all that off, Prinsloo actually compared hitting the pose at the end of the runway to "scoring a touchdown." I'm certain she has never played football. How would she know?

Ariana Grande performed the next number. She did a very good job, to the point that the cameras paid more attention to her (and her Bambi eyes) and her ridiculous male backup dancers than they did to the actual models. She, too, looks like she's a teenager, and was so stupid asking if she could spank the models' butts as they walked past her on the runway. How demeaning! Can you imagine if a male performer asked to do that?! That is so distasteful.

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"University of Pink" was the next collection, and the PINK outfits are usually my least favorite; this year did not disappoint: they were hideous as ever. Crotch aprons and skirts made out of plastic raincoat are not sexy. The shiny pink outfits were pretty scary (see photo above), as were the stereotypical "ghetto" earrings. I actually want a pair of the leggings, but that was the only positive for this collection.

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I would totally rock these leggings. Image found at
Then we got to go backstage to learn more about the wings. "Wings are a major part of the show..." No shit, Sherlock. Did that actually need to be said? Unless you've been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you know that there are wings in the VS Fashion Show, and that they have only gotten bigger as time goes on. The wings are beautiful; they are real works of art! It was fun to see the wings being made, and learning how long it takes to create the finished product!

These wings are quite unique. Too bad it looks like her snake of a corset/chastity belt is strangling her midsection. Original image found here:

Gorgeous! Image found at
Not loving the rest of the outfit, but the wings are beautiful! Image found at
I love the idea of the "Fairy Tale" collection, because what girl has not wanted to be a fairy at some point in her life? The runway was like the middle of the woods, with trees and leaves, which I thought was very appropriate and cool. But, once again, I was disappointed by the actual outfits. I expected the costumes to be very ethereal, but really they were just Easter pastel outfits with some flowers and sparkles sprinkled in here and there. Prinsloo looked like mold, and the booty tooch at the end of the runway (though Tyra Banks would be proud) was not classy.

Again, disconnected garter straps. But the wings are stunning. Original image found here:
Prinsloo may look like moldy moss, but that doesn't make her as beautiful as Kate Moss. Image found at
Aw, it's Tinker Bell...with a tattoo and armpit stubble. Image found at
I thought the models were supposed to be angels, not dragonflies. Image found at
Candice, you know better. Screen shot.
Then we had the chance to learn about Russell James, a photographer that has been working with Victoria's Secret for more than 18 years. He's an "extreme" photographer, but he really does "capture their [the models] beauty." I think he's very talented, and I definitely want a copy of his new book, "Angels."

The last part of the show starts off with Kloss talking about ballet. First of all, how long did she actually practice ballet? She talked about it like she's an expert, but she's only 22. She didn't even dance pointe on this program. But I do like the comparison between modeling and ballet, since there's no talking involved, both are all about movement, and both can be very beautiful.

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Swift performed during this last collection, and although I hadn't heard the song "Style" before, I loved it (no surprise there). Plus, she looked great in her second outfit, too. I liked that this collection featured black lace lingerie; it was all very classic. They were pieces that "don't go out of style" (except for maybe the weird monocle mask). This was by far my favorite collection of the show. So, maybe they just wanted to save the best for last?

Photo taken by Joel Ryan/Invision. Image found at
Look at the clothes, not their faces. Blegh. Image found at
A one-sided mask? Really? Image found at
At the end of the show, balloons fell from the ceiling, blocking the view of the cameras several times, so the viewer couldn't even get a last good look at some of the outfits. I mean, really?

I thought we were watching a fashion show, not a 5-year-old's birthday party. Image found at
Oh, sorry I didn't mention these two guys. I don't really know who they are...

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In doing research for the photos for this post, it seems like most people responded positively to this fashion show. Am I the only one who wasn't in love with it?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ballet West's "The Nutcracker" ballet

For the past four years, I have made it a point to see "The Nutcracker" ballet during the holiday season, so I went last Wednesday to see it again. I actually saw Ballet West perform this same show two years ago at the Kennedy Center; I wasn't writing a blog back then, so I never wrote about them. However, I did compare their 2012 performance to that of the Joffrey Ballet that I saw last year. I still keep most of the same opinions that I said back then, so I won't write them all over again. But I will share more, new thoughts!

I love seeing the Ballet West company perform. Many of their dancers were on the TV show "Breaking Pointe," which I really enjoyed watching (too bad there were only two seasons!). So when I see them dance, I feel like I know the dancers, or at the very least that I'm in the presence of celebrities. 

Christiana Bennett and Beckanne Sisk (it's strange to list them here with their last names, since I really only "know" them by their first names) were as beautiful as ever, smiling and representing the epitome of what ballerinas should be. I thought they were wonderful as the Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy (respectively). And I will say, I was relieved when I saw that Christiana and her ex-husband, Christopher Ruud, weren't dancing together as a couple; I wonder if they ever dance together.
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I was also pleased to see the two Tilton brothers from the TV show dancing as well. The younger brother, Ronald, played one of the Russian dancers, and his height was quite noticeable next to the other men he was dancing with. Rex, who performed in the Waltz of the Flowers, was just as handsome as I remembered. And just for the record: that man should only be allowed to wear white tights. Ever. No jeans, no sweatpants, no slacks. Just tights. Mmm....

Photo by Beau Pearson, courtesy of Ballet West. Image found at
Allison DeBona performed the Arabian dance in this year's performance (I do not recall what she danced two years ago, or even if she performed that night). While she danced nicely, last year's Joffrey performance of this particular dance was so incredibly sexy that it was hard to beat. I didn't feel that intimate connection between DeBona and her partner, Christopher Anderson. I also thought it was weird that this piece included other dancers; I usually think of this as a solo or pair dance.

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But enough about those from Breaking Pointe fame! Onto the rest of the performance. I must mention the humor that Ballet West includes in this performance. I mentioned some things in last year's Nutcracker blog post, but they brought even more funniness to the program this time. The mouse king at one point did the "running man" and "Gangnam Style" dances, at which point I laughed out loud and the woman sitting next to me gave me a dirty look. And there were baby mice, too!
Photo taken by Luke Isley. Image found at
I also thought it was funny that at the opening party scene, a pair of grandparents were included; the old couple was quite silly, drinking a bit too much and dancing awkwardly. And the "party princess," a little girl who needed to be the center of attention (played by Kya Eman Uzzle) was so cute and endearing with her mini-tantrums.

Speaking of which, as I said in my previous Nutcracker post, I do not like children in ballet. It's just weird. I came to see beautiful ballerinas with their long legs, not a bunch of kids running around on stage and trying to "dance." I also thought it was pretty obvious that a few of the children were wearing "flippers," or fake teeth, which was very off-putting, to the point that I couldn't look at anything but their mouths. But I will admit I thought the children this year did a good job, and I'll even say that the "buffoons" that came out from beneath the ginormous skirt were rather adorable (and very tiny!).
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Katie Critchlow really impressed me as the doll that comes to life; she really moved like a toy, unlike her counterpart Silas Campos, whose bear doll just danced like a man in a bear costume. I thought the Chinese dragon was an incredible addition to the Chinese dance, and Tyler Gum (who looks kind of like Michael Phelps) was amazing dancing with his bowstaff (is that what that was?).

In general, I thought the costumes were amazing. They are everything you imagine from a classic ballet: tutus, tiaras, sparkle, color. This company makes the dance just so gorgeous to watch! There's so much you want to look at, so much that you want to take in! But of course nothing's perfect. I've never been a fan of costumes in which dancers hold things in their hands, so when the Snowflakes danced, all I could focus on were the evergreen twigs covered in glitter that they were holding the whole time. The same goes for the Ladies in Waiting and their pink Swiffer feather dusters. Also, during the Waltz of the Flowers, the ballerina's tutu was so short you couldn't help but stare at her ruffly pink underthings; some modesty, please.

I was also put off by the pyrotechnics that the company used. Now, if I had read my program more carefully, I would have seen that the pyrotechnics company was listed, so I should have been prepared for the bright flashes of light and loud noises. But I didn't notice that little tid-bit, so when a cannon went off during the fight between the mice and soldiers, I practically jumped out of my seat! Not exactly what you have in mind when you're going to see the ballet!

But besides those few things, I thought the performance was amazing. I was so glad that I got to go opening night, and that I was able to see all of the dancers I really wanted to see perform. I recommend this performance, and anything Ballet West does! 5 stars! Encore!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Movie Review: Happy Christmas [SPOILERS]

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I got home early from work the other day, and since neither Divorce Court nor Family Feud happened to be on TV, I started skimming through Netflix. Since it's Christmas time, I figured I'd watch a Christmas movie I'd never seen before. I came across Happy Christmas, starring Anna Kendrick. She's pretty popular right now, so I thought, "How bad can it be?"

Um...I think this may be the worst Christmas movie ever. First of all, it's practically shot like a home movie. The picture is dark and grainy, the camera is moving all over the place, and at times it's difficult to hear the actors. All of this made me think that perhaps this was one of Kendrick's first movies, put onto Netflix now that she's Pitch Perfect famous. But no: this film is from 2014. So she has no excuse for her poor acting, saying "uh..." and stumbling over and repeating lines like she couldn't remember the script. I'm not even sure why she took this role. She plays a brokenhearted, immature young woman who's staying with her brother, sister-in-law, and their baby until...who knows what (she gets her shit together?). While staying with them, she gets drunk, high, and practically burns their house down. It's difficult for me to imagine a bigger loser than her character Jenny. make a long story short, there's a lot of dysfunction caused by this girl, and it's actually not a very happy Christmas at all (especially compared to the many other amazing Christmas movies; see my previous blog posts about those).

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The only redeeming quality about this movie (and I can't believe I'm about to say this) was the baby Jude. He is such a happy, friendly, big baby that even I couldn't help smiling every time he was on screen. He's cute all the time: in the bathtub, dancing in the living room, making yummy noises while he eats Cheerios...Almost makes me think babysitting wouldn't be so bad. Almost.

So, yeah, one star for this one. Don't bother.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Bayside Tigers at Rams Head Live

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The other night I went to see a 90's cover band called The Bayside Tigers at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore. Let's just say they are just a shadow of the 80's cover band The Legwarmers (read my blog post about them here). Although posters, ticket postings and such listed the concert as starting at 9pm, we actually had to listen to a DJ for over an hour, PLUS watch a 10 minute countdown that the band put together, so we waited about an hour and a half before the band actually started performing. I was so annoyed I couldn't even enjoy the music, and we left after the first set.

Here are the members of the band:

There's not too much to say about the two guitarists. Their vocals were pretty nondescript (which maybe is best for a cover band, since they're supposed to sound like other people). I was too distracted by Alex's arm tattoos (which I guess are appropriate for Baltimore) and Danny's uncanny resemblance to my ex to really listen to the music.

Then there was the drummer who also sang (but unfortunately is not as talented as Phil Collins or even Maya Tuttle from The Colourist). He reminded me of the comedian Nick Swardson; I half expected him to start telling jokes from behind the drums. And the lead singer's attempt to sound like Alanis Morissette was pretty sad, but at least her costumes were rather entertaining, especially for the Shania Twain and Spice Girls numbers.

But I shouldn't put all the blame on the band. Maybe the extended DJ intro was due to the venue. This wouldn't be the first time I've had a bad experience at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore. I keep telling myself I won't go back there for shows, and then I buy tickets and have a crappy time. Maybe that will be my first New Year's Resolution: I will NOT go to Rams Head anymore. And I wouldn't see The Bayside Tigers again, either.

The highlight of my night was getting this cute little sheep (or ram if you will) stamp on my hand at the door.
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*All photos of the band members are from The Bayside Tigers' website.