Monday, December 29, 2014

Briefly, Merrily...

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! Regularly scheduled blogging will resume next week - this week Danny is off for the holidays and I'm joining him. It's been a very busy holiday season with a flurry of food, family, and travel, so we're taking a few days to rest up before jumping back into the fray.

In the meantime, I'm pleased to announce that Contest Entrant Tracey Culley has won the 12 Films of Christmas Book Giveaway! Many thanks to everyone for participating, so delighted by the huge response.

Love and blessings!

~ Hillary

Monday, December 15, 2014

Project Runway All Stars: Luck Be A Lady (Episode 4.6)

Allison here: This week’s challenge starts off with deception. The designers are told they will select their own fabric and event. THAT IS A LIE. They will not select, they will have to roll the dice. Ah, chance. You are a fickle mistress.

(oh, and by the might notice the silhouette of my little Elf in some of the screen shots. He watches everything I do…)

Fabio is first to roll because he was last week’s challenge winner. Fabio gets Denim Masquerade Ball.

Sonjia:  Brocade bachelorette party – perfect for the oft-mentioned “engaged” facebook relationship status of the affianced Sonjia.

Samantha:  Brocade! Awards Ceremony-- (interrupted by Melissa explaining Brocade)

Michelle:  Lace! Gallery Opening

Justin:  Silk! Gallery Opening

Helen:  Brocade! Award Ceremony – unofficial fashion face-off with Samantha

Gunnar: Brocade! Masquerade Ball

Jay: Denim! Sunday Brunch (with Gunnar commentary that he’s going to Texas)

Dmitry Velvet! (he’d rather shoot himself) Gallery opening.

Hillary here: I thought the dice idea was actually a lot of fun, though I wish they’d done something other other than “masquerade ball.”

Off to Mood!

Sonjia feels like she’s making that dress for herself, because she is engaged. She is a bachelorette. She will have a bachelorette party.

Fabio says, “when you think of denim you think of cowboys and construction workers.” An entire village of people.

I’m just saying, when I think of denim I think “PANTS.”

Michelle chooses four really ugly laces. In her own words: “Holy s*$t Grandma!” But, also to paraphrase, it’s a little bit lacy, little bit racy. Which, coincidentally, perfectly describes my grandma.

Here, we see Sonjia’s nails in an homage to last week’s challenge. Cute!

In the Work Room! I’m thinking the producers must have put a bug in their ears to up the drama, mama, because little tiffs popped up all over.

Michelle brings up Brocade-gate - specifically, one of the designers is not using the correct fabric. And that one designer is Sonjia. And the fabric is (not) brocade. She mutters her suspicions to Jay and Justin, and finally summons Dmitry (she calls him Dima!) who declares that said pink fabric is not, indeed, brocade, but a “Queelted Seelk Something…” I couldn’t catch the last word, but I have decided I could listen to a recording of Dmitry reciting different types of fabric.

a.) I loved that Michelle called him “Dima” and b.) it’s quilted silk faille. Which...quilted does not equal damask - and we know this, since Michelle explained to the camera earlier what exactly damask is. Sonjia is usually so good with picking fabrics, but I found both of her picks to be duds.

The controversy brings out the snitty-snot in Sonjia, prompting her to tell the camera to tell them all to mind their own business. Finally, Fabio confronts her and we get a quick “Anything you brocade, I brocade better” back-and-forth between Fabio and Sonjia. Fabio eventually will win her over, but the truly important lesson here is that Sonjia is wearing a man’s shirt as a wrap-around skirt. If they ever have a Walk of Shame challenge, my money’s on Sonjia.


Anyhoo, Zanna walks in to remind everybody that their work needs to be (a)flawless (b)impeccable (c)finished perfectly. There were a few fun moments that came from her visit, though. We get the “twist” that the winning look will be featured by post-baby Alyssa in Marie Claire magazine. This prompted a “Whaaaaaat?” from Michelle. Exactly what we all are thinking.

No. Joke. However, I often give Zanna a hard time, but this week she was almost helpful. She questions Fabio’s fabric (valid), Jay’s dress (valid), and complements Michelle’s look. So...Zanna gets a pass this week. Mostly.

We also learn that Helen is a gambling aficionado, due to the superb teachings of her godmother in the art of Russian Roulette. Thank God the woman is “really good” at it. Zanna says, “We don’t want to play Russian Roulette with this dress.” I’m thinking Dmitry might have joined in for a game when he rolled velvet.

I loved how Michelle explained to Helen the difference between Roulette and Russian Roulette - “I’m tired,” Helen said in her defense.

At model fittings, Helen tells Jay his look reads a little more “club” than “brunch.” So, he is going to Texas. Gunnar breaks the tension with, “Maybe she forgot to say Country Club.” I literally lol’ed at that.

Helen tried to backpedal with “She looks very fashion-forward for Sunday Brunch.” Jay does not respond well.  I think they’re all tired and crabby.

Hair, Make-up. Get your face on.

Models get their dresses on…Dmitry’s model is instructed not to sit.

I think Dmitry was concerned about the velvet crushing. a valid concern with velvet.

Michelle says, when she thinks of masquerades she thinks of masks and sex with strangers and fun. Which is awesome, because now I have my essay prompt for when I teach Romeo and Juliet to my 9th grade students next spring.

Ha - Danny had a “wait, what??” moment when she said that. I hope it’s inspiring for your students.

The Runway! The Judges!! Georgina and Isaac and…

CFDA Winner Michael Bastian. By the end of the episode, I want him to have a permanent seat at the runway. Or even his own show. He is adorable and delightful and wise. And his voice is like velvet.

Also, he wasn’t stupid. That counts for a lot. But also - GEORGINA IS BACK!! She finally returned from the spa she escaped to after the Jersey Shore Incident. She looks very exfoliated.
Sonjia’s dress, which might have made Alyssa regret her participation in the “twist.” Because if that’s what she’s going to have to wear post-baby, well, let’s just say it’s a terrifying prospect.

Gunnar’s dress…What I really like is this shot of Michael Bastian looking at Gunnar’s dress.


Helen’s dress..going to the award show to win all of the awards. I really, really hated this dress. The close-ups made it look unfinished, and I didn’t see anything original in its design.


Dmitry’s look got about as much screen time as a jump suit deserves. It was beautiful, though…like liquid. Best velvet, ever. I am so glad he didn’t head out to Vegas with Helen’s godmother when he rolled the dice.

Jay’s “Fancy Sunday Brunch”  is this week’s installment of Jay made a dress…

So unflattering. The bust is all over the place, it’s almost backless, and way too short for brunch.

Helen was not wrong.

Justin’s dress. I might have him out of order, but it was such a blah moment, I totally left him out, so I’m sticking him here. I mean, it’s a pretty dress? But -

...But, this is totally not where I would have gone silk (And Michael agrees with me! We are kindred spirits!). You could have done this dress in wool crepe. Silk moves and drapes so beautifully, and this design is so stiff and over-structured that the fabric becomes forgettable.

Samantha’s pantsuit for the VMA’s. And if Alyssa’s judging based on ease of post-baby breastfeeding, well, we have a clear winner.

Fabio’s true to the challenge. Looks like something that would be beautiful for a masquerade.

This outfit? With the pink dress and the lavender gloves? This only works if you’re going as Miss Piggy.


Michelle’s dress is gorgeous, light-catching lace. Which will never be able to be worn with a nursing bra. Just sayin’.

But there is, at least, a form of bustal support (yes, bustal. I may have just made that up.) This was hands-down my favorite - the colors, textures, and shapes worked for me, and worked for the event she was designing for.



Safe—Samantha, Jay, Dmitry

The critique is all over the place. Praise and criticism bouncing around equally. Isaac dubs Michelle to be a “Dirty Little Wink.” Thus she is given the name for her final collection.

High Scores: Helen, Sonjia, and Michelle. Frankly, I was shocked to learn Helen’s look was in the top. And, we learn that the word, “Vegas” isn’t necessarily a word of praise.

I felt bad for Helen - Zanna encouraged that front slit and it totally backfired.

Low Scores: Justin, Gunnar, and Fabio. As Gunnar said, “The judges were in no mood for a masquerade.”

They really dinged Fabio for the pink un-denim denim. It made me think about Kini and his gorgeous waxed denim pieces, and how he would have done something really interesting and architectural with that kind of challenge. And those lavender glove sleeve things? Really, really bad in close-up.

Also - how did Jay not wind up with the bottom?? Did they all blink at the same time when his dress came down the runway?

The debate might take a while, so Alyssa is offered the opportunity to pee. Which explains why, no matter how liquidly beautiful it was, Dmitry’s jumpsuit was not going to win. 

Oh my gosh, the pee conversation. I suspect everybody figured it was going to be edited out - and yet!

This episode had the wittiest, most entertaining of discussion. Fabio’s dress is “aggressively awful,” and Gunnar’s is “clueless” and an “insult to every bird and butterfly out there.” Michael asks what happens when the decision is this difficult, and Isaac hints at a slap-fest. Which might explain why Georgina was absent for the episodes following the guest visit from the Jersey girls.

Michael rightly points out that there is nothing new about Sonjia’s dress, that it looks like about every Vegas cocktail waitress on the strip.

Winner—Sonjia. Which means she might want to say “thank you” to those who steered her into using the correct fabric.

Loser—Gunnar. Alyssa waddles herself out of her chair to give him a hug. Next week, I want to see the process it takes to get her into that chair.
Readers - what did you think of the episode? Who do you think should have won? Who do you think should have been sent home? When do you think Alyssa will consent to wear Sojia's cocktail dress?

Also - the Twelve Films of Christmas event is still going on! Don't miss reading about Allison's favorite Christmas film here on this blog, and mine on Melissa Tagg's, and then enter the contests to win books!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Twelve Films of Christmas, Part I

A few weeks ago, Melissa Tagg and I decided to celebrate our love of Christmas and movies by putting together a blog event combining the two! The idea grew until it became what you're about to read - twelve authors talking about their favorite movies, split into two blogs, and giving away a total of twelve books.

This week, we'll hear from Allison Pittman, Becky Wade, Katherine Reay, Kristin Billerbeck, Kristy Cambron, and Melissa Tagg!

Remember the Night with Allison Pittman

My favorite Christmas movie is a classic—one that not a lot of people have seen. Remember the Night, 1940, stars Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in a story that’s experienced different incarnations. Stanwyck is a petty thief, arrested on Christmas Eve, and remanded into the custody of the District Attorney until her case can be heard after the holiday. From there, we follow the two on a road trip to his idyllic hometown for a family-centered celebration. Along the way, we get a glimpse into her past, and we understand her choices. This film, though, makes the brave choice of allowing us to understand, but not forgive. Not yet. MacMurray’s character struggles with his attraction, fighting  it with every hooded look, restrained touch, every stoic turn of phrase.
Remember the Night is a film that brings both of its characters to a true moment of crisis. A choice that will challenge what they know to be true and good in the world. What sets this film apart from other Christmas offerings is the fact that you, too, will have to make the same choice. And if you’re like me, the first time you watch it, you’ll be surprised at the direction of your own heart.

In 1989, this movie suited my goofy teenage sense of humor to a T. I remember laughing all the way through it. In those days, I related to the kids in the movie, but nowadays I relate to Chevy Chase's character. I'm the one who feels the desire and pressure to provide a 'perfect' and 'memorable' Christmas for my family. I'm the one whose efforts often bomb. 

It's easy to long for a picture perfect Christmas, isn't it? In trying to achieve it, I'm sometimes tempted to exhaust myself because I want to do it all and I want it all to be wonderful. And in the busy-ness, I can miss the Christ of Christmas.

This year, I'm trying to do less and concentrate on Him more. He's the one who never disappoints. Our expectations can never, never, never measure up to the greatness of His reality. I wish you all a Christmas filled with His peace. God bless! 

I get three movies! The Santa Clause (1994), The Santa Clause 2 (2002) and The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006). Okay, I love these movies. They showcase Tim Allen at his best. I love his Santa’s reluctance then sold-out enthusiasm for the job – and even the delightful mayhem that develops in the 3rd movie as he questions the cost of his unique vocation. 

As for the kids – they’re all delightful. Charlie warms your heart in the 1st movie and his little sister, Lucy, is an absolute charmer in the 2nd and 3rd. And the scenery! I want to live at this North Pole. It’s one of the best visual depictions of this magical place that we all secretly hope (know) exists. Curl up, grab some popcorn and cocoa and enjoy!

It's a tradition at my house to have the 24-hours of "A Christmas Story" running in the ba`ckground as we prepare for Christmas dinner. There are so many memorable parts of that movie that have worked their way into our household vocabulary and my dad is a huge "Jean Shepherd" fan. My dad grew up in the same time frame, and just loves to tell us how true everything in the story is and appreciates the nostalgia. It's a tale that brings my family together and isn't that what the holidays are all about? To appreciate what God has given us? The Ultimate Gift?

Meet Me in St. Louis with Kristy Cambron

I love so many Christmas movies, that it's difficult to choose a favorite. But as a huge classic movie fan, nostalgia is going to win me over every time. The top spot on my favorites list would have to be claimed by Meet me in St. Louisstarring the stunning Judy Garland. The song is iconic. The story is warm and the characters unforgettable. And for this writer gal? It will always remind me of drinking hot chocolate by the fireplace, watching this film with my family while Christmas snow blanketed the world outside our window.
I like to think I’m a pretty nice and even-keeled person, but once a friend told me he thought It’s a Wonderful Life was *gasp* “boring.” I had to work really hard to convince myself not to a) stick my tongue out at him and b) chuck our years of friendship out the window after that one snide comment. 

This should tell you how much I love — nay, adore — the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. It is nostalgic and sentimental and tear-jerking, all things a good holiday movie should be. But it’s also poignant. The moment when Jimmy Stewart finds Zuzu’s petals in his pocket and realizes his mouth’s bleeding…it’s jubilant perfection. When he runs through town yelling, “Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls…Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!” my heart is celebrating along with him. 

Plus, Donna Reed is from Iowa. And that’s happy.

All For a Sister ~ Meant to Be Mine ~ Lizzy & Jane
What a Girl Needs ~The Butterfly and the Violin ~ Here to Stay

Each of today's authors are contributing a book to the giveaway! And as much fun as giveaways are, you know what's also fun? Supporting authors! Each one of the books would make great reading for a Christmas getaway or an ideal Christmas gift. And for the next six, check in next week with Melissa Tagg!

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Project Runway All Stars: Designing for the Duchess (Episode 4.5)

'Allo Designers!

This week's installment takes us across the pond...but let's not get ahead of ourselves. We open with Alyssa introducing the Promotional Challenge of the Week, inspired by Paddington Bear.