The Mortal Instrements

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Help [Book / Movie]

The Help is a 2009 novel by American author Kathryn Stockett. The story is about African American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s. 

A USA Today article called it one of 2009's "summer sleeper hits". An early review in The New York Times notes Stockett's "affection and intimacy buried beneath even the most seemingly impersonal household connections" and says the book is a "button-pushing, soon to be wildly popular novel". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said of the book, "This heartbreaking story is a stunning début from a gifted talent".

The novel is Stockett's first. It took her five years to complete, and was then rejected by 60 literary agents before agent Susan Ramer agreed to represent Stockett. The Help has since been published in 35 countries and three languages. As of August 2011, it has sold five million copies and has spent more than 100 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.

The Help's audiobook version is narrated by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and Cassandra Campbell. Spencer was Stockett's original inspiration for the character of Minny, and also plays her in the film adaptation.
I LOVE the audiobook version! It's the reason, really, that I finished the book this year! 

The Help: A Novel | February 10, 2009
Book Description
Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Book Description
Enter a vanished and unjust world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren't trusted not to steal the silver...

There's Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son's tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.

Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they'd be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…


Plot Summary:
The Help is set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi and told mainly from the perspective of three women: Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. Aibileen is a black maid who cleans houses and cares for the young children of various white families. Her first job since her own 24-year-old son was killed on his job, is caring for toddler Mae Mobley Leefolt. Minny is Aibileen's confrontational friend who frequently tells her employers what she thinks of them. Her actions have led to her being fired from 19 jobs. Minny's most recent employer was Mrs. Walters, mother of Hilly Holbrook. Hilly is the social leader of the community, and head of the Junior League. She is the nemesis of all three main characters.

Miss Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan is the daughter of a prominent white family whose cotton farm employs many African-Americans in the fields, as well as in the household. Skeeter has just finished college and comes home with big dreams of becoming a writer; her mother's big dream for her is to get her married, although Skeeter is not interested. What does interest her is that Constantine, the maid who raised her, is nowhere to be found: Skeeter's family tells her that Constantine abruptly quit and went to live with relatives in Chicago. Constantine had been writing to Skeeter the whole time she was away at college and the most recent letter had promised her a surprise upon her homecoming. Skeeter does not consider Constantine's unexplained absence a good surprise and wonders what happened, but nobody will discuss Constantine.

This discussion awakens Skeeter to the realization that her friends' maids are treated very differently from how white people are treated. She decides that she wants to reveal the truth to the world from the maids' perspectives by writing a book about it. Written in the first person from the perspective of Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter, the struggles Skeeter experiences to communicate with the maids and gain their trust is revealed, as well as the issues of overcoming long-standing barriers in customs and laws by all of the characters. The daily lives of Southern homemakers and their maids during the early 1960s in Mississippi are explored. The dangers of undertaking writing a book about African-Americans speaking out in the South during the early '60s hover constantly over the three women.

My Shelfari Review:
On my copy there is a review that says if you want to read only one book this year, let "The Help" be it. A friend told me she read the book but found it rather strange, months later I saw the movie trailer, so I decided I NEED to read this book, I got it and yesterday I read chapter one. If I'm going to review this book for the first chapter than it will be a 5 stars book. Hope the book will stay just as good all through.

One of my favorite things about this book is the title. It has two edges, one being "The Help" as in servants, the other "The Help" referring to a situation that needs a solution.

I'm almost done [‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎21, ‎2011] I watched the movie first but didn't find it great, but when I reached half of the book and re-watched the movie, it grew on me. One of the best things about this book, is that it talks about a heavy subject: Racism; but at the same time, you see that both white and black people are both good and evil in perfect measures.

I hate when I read a book, and the evil person is purely evil and the good person is purely good. I believe that as humans we are both. I liked how the author viewed Hilly, though she doesn't think black and white should intertwine she is a great mother and a wife, who loves her best-friends and cares about their happiness.

The book lost a star for me, because of chapter 24! Can I say EW!! I HATE to read about stuff like that! Disturbing! Thank God so many pieces of the book is not in the movie, like this chapter and Skeeter's weird courtship.

My favorite characters are Celia Foote and Aibileen Clark.

The Help: The Movie | August 10, 2011

The Help is a 2011 comedy-drama film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's novel of the same name. 

The film is an ensemble piece about a young white woman, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, and her relationship with two black maids during Civil Rights era America in the early 1960s. Skeeter is a journalist who decides to write a controversial book from the point of view of the maids (known as the Help), exposing the racism they are faced with as they work for white families.

The film takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, and stars Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Sissy Spacek, Mike Vogel, Mary Steenburgen, and Allison Janney. 

The Help opened to positive reviews and became a box office success with gross of $201.9 million against its budget of $25 million.

DVD Description
The #1 New York Times bestseller by Kathryn Stockett comes to vivid life through the powerful performances of a phenomenal ensemble cast. Led by Emma Stone, Academy Award®-nominated Viola Davis (Best Supporting Actress, Doubt, 2008), Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help is an inspirational, courageous and empowering story about very different, extraordinary women in the 1960s South who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project — one that breaks society’s rules and puts them all at risk. Filled with poignancy, humor and hope — and complete with compelling, never-before-seen bonus features — The Help is a timeless, universal and triumphant story about the ability to create change. 

Plot Summary:
Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) is a middle-aged black maid who has spent her life raising white children and has recently lost her only son. Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is another black maid whose outspokenness has gotten her fired many times and built up a reputation for being a difficult employee, but she makes up for this with her phenomenal cooking skills.

Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) is a young white woman who has recently moved back home to her family's plantation after graduating from the University of Mississippi to find that her beloved childhood maid, Constantine, has quit while she was away. Skeeter is skeptical because she believes Constantine would have written to her.

Unlike her friends, who have all married and are having children, Skeeter is interested in a career as a writer. Her first job is as a "homemaker hints" columnist in the local paper, and she asks Aibileen, the maid to her good friend Elizabeth, for her help in answering domestic questions. Skeeter becomes uncomfortable with the attitude her friends have towards their "help," especially Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her "Home Help Sanitation Initiative," a proposed bill to provide for separate bathrooms for black help because she believes that 'they' [black people] carry different diseases to 'us' [white people]. Amidst the era of discrimination based on color, Skeeter is one of the few who believe otherwise, and she decides to write a book, Help, based on the lives of the maids who have spent their entire lives taking care of white children.

The maids are at first reluctant to talk to Skeeter, because they are afraid that they will lose their jobs or worse. Aibileen is the first to share her stories after she overhears Hilly's initiative and realizes that the children whom she has been raising are growing up to be just like their parents. Her friend, Minny, has just been fired as Hilly's maid (for something she refers to as "the terrible awful") and has gone to work for a wealthy social outcast, Celia Foote. Minny initially declines to participate but later agrees to share her stories as well.

Skeeter writes a draft of the story with Minny and Aibileen's stories in it and sends it to Miss Stein, an editor for Harper Row, in New York, who thinks there may be some interest in it, but requires at least a dozen more maids' contributions before it can become a viable book. Believing that the book will only be publishable during the Civil Rights movement, which she likewise believes is a passing fad, Stein advises Skeeter to finish the book soon. No one comes forward until after Medgar Evers is assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi, and until after having witnessed Hilly's latest maid's brutal arrest (for pawning one of Hilly's rings to pay for her twins' college tuition, after Hilly had refused to give her a loan) – with racial tensions running high, the maids realize that Skeeter's book will give them an opportunity for their voices to be heard, and Skeeter suddenly has numerous stories to include.

Minny shares one last story with Skeeter and Aibileen, which she calls the "Terrible Awful," to ensure that no one will think that the book was written about Jackson, Mississippi. As revenge for firing her and accusing her of stealing, Minny bakes a chocolate pie and delivers it to Hilly. After Hilly has finished two slices, Minny informs her that she has baked her own feces into the pie. Minny tells Aibilene and Skeeter that by adding that part into the book, Hilly will try to prevent anyone from figuring out that she made her eat human feces and will convince the town that the book is not about Jackson.

I LOVE this cover!

The book is accepted for publication and is a success, much to the delight of Skeeter and the maids. She shares her royalties with each of the maids who contributed, and is offered a job with a publishing company in New York. Later in the afternoon, Hilly hatches a plan to get rid of Aibileen as her help, by falsely accusing her of stealing silver while arranging it for meetings. As Aibileen tries to convince Hilly and Elizabeth of her innocence, Elizabeth's daughter, Mae Mobley, arrives and jumps on top of her, watching Aibileen being fired. Aibileen renounces Hilly as a godless woman and tells her that she will never have peace if she continues her vindictive ways and leaves her in limbo. Elizabeth is forced to accept the unacceptable firing of Aibileen, and Mae Mobley cries by the window shouting for Aibileen, as the maid leaves to start her own life.

In Magazines:

The movie is so similar to the book with few adjustment, like some deleted scenes and twisting the events to suit the movie version better.

Till now I saw the movie twice. Once before I read the book and once after.
Let me tell you this: A world of difference!

I changed my view of the movie after reading the book and understanding the characters better.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lorena Bathey Author Interview with Jean Vallesteros

Surprise, surprise!!

I won again in Jean's blog! This time I won an e-book. Sadly, though I have the link and the password, for some reason I can't get it.

I just wish Jean or Lorena could just send me the book as a PDF file and get it over with.

Beatrice Munson | Book Description

April 13, 2011
In Vista Heights, the women of the neighborhood have started to look like their homes, varying shades of beige. Lost in this world of suburbia, Marissa Lyons learns her high school nemesis has bought the house right across the street from her. Afraid that her arch enemy, Beatrice Munson, will arrive with Marissa's high school crush as her husband and cause Marissa to relieve the insecurity of high school in her her forties, she decides to face the music and head to Beatrice's house with warm cupcakes. But what Marissa finds is something she never expected. How will Marissa and the rest of the women of San Martino deal with someone like Beatrice Munson, whose defining moment in her life was to get a boob job or go on a trip to Egypt.

This story is about friendship, love, learning to look at things differently, and great parties. Step into the world of Vista Heights where you might not only recognize the women, you might be one of them.

Interview with Gretchen McNeil & Spooktacular Giveaway Hop by Jean Vallesteros

[Saturday, ‎December ‎17, ‎2011]
Today, I woke up and decided to head for the post office again. And I was happily surprised by receiving a giveaway I entered a month or so ago, somewhere near October.

It was a giveaway from by author Gretchen McNeil for her book Possess, with cards and bookmarks all signed.

I won a bookmark.

From Jean's blog:

Gretchen and I also chose 3 more Signed Bookmark by Gretchen McNeil & 3 Bridget Liu Art Bookmarks by James Vallesteroswinners for Possess by Gretchen McNeil Giveaway:
Possess Bookmarks
Dana Al-Basha
Tiffany Mahaffy
Martina Koleva

Though I was so happy when I left the post office, a rude woman crashed into my car, hers was damaged mine was not. She was pregnant and I was not. All in all, the policemen were "touched" by her condition and they blamed me for the accident though she hit me from the back (HER FAULT).

To say the least, I'm upset, and very sad. I felt there was no justest for me to be blamed for her stupid mistake. I was on my line she hit me!

Anyway, I was happy but I'm not so happy now.

I want to thank Jean for the sweet giveaway. I was on my way to get her a "Thank You" card when this happened.




Isn't it pretty?!

Gretchen McNeil's autograph!!

Possess | Book Description

August 23, 2011
Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her over-protective mom, by Matt Quinn, the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, the voices are demons—and Bridget possesses the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from. Literally.

Terrified to tell her friends or family about this new power, Bridget confides in San Francisco’s senior exorcist, Monsignor Renault. The monsignor enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession, but just as she is starting to come to terms with her freakish new role, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons. And when one of her oldest friends is killed, Bridget realizes she’s in deeper than she ever thought possible. Now she must unlock the secret to the demons’ plan before someone else close to her winds up dead—or worse, the human vessel for a demon king.

I should get a copy of the book now!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Suburgatory [2011] TV Series

When I'm usually bored, I go and surf the net for new TV series, and on September, I found out about Suburgatory, I downloaded the first episode and fell in love.

It's one of the funniest shows I've ever seen! Tessa is priceless! Jane Levy did a great job acting the part of Tessa. I know she's a redhead, but sometimes while she's acting, the way she sets her mouth reminds me a lot of Kristen Stewart.

Actually another actress does as well her name is Tresa Palmer, she starred in The Sorcerer's Apprentice and I Am Number Four.

Back to Suburgatory. Though I HATED Jeremy Sisto as Earl Hunterson in the movie Waitress. But he won me over as Tessa's father George. Carly Chaikin as Dalia Royce is hilarious!! She makes me laugh so hard by just standing there with her "sleepy-dead" eyes! I adore her! And her mom Dallas Royce played by Cheryl Hines is adorably fake! I love them both!

Suburgatory is an American television series created by Emily Kapnek. The series premiered on September 28, 2011, airing on Wednesday nights at 8:30/7:30 Central following The Middle. The title is a portmanteau, developed by former CNN Senior Producer Linda Keenan, of the words "suburban" and "purgatory".

After initially ordering 11 episodes, ABC picked up Suburgatory for a full season on October 13, 2011. [YAY!!] which includes 22 episodes.

Main cast
  •     Jane Levy as Tessa Altman
  •     Jeremy Sisto as George Altman
  •     Carly Chaikin as Dalia Royce
  •     Rex Lee as Mr. Wolfe
  •     Allie Grant as Lisa Marie Shay
  •     Alan Tudyk as Noah Werner
  •     Cheryl Hines as Dallas Royce
  •     Ana Gasteyer as Sheila Shay

Recurring cast
  •     Chris Parnell as Fred Shay
  •     Parker Young as Ryan Shay
  •     Abbie Cobb as Kimantha
  •     Kara Pacitto as Kenzie
  •     Katelyn Pacitto as Kaitlin
  •     Maestro Harrell as Malik

The series follows a single father who decides to get away from New York City to the suburbs so he can give his 15 year-old daughter a better life after he finds an unopened box of condoms in her drawer.

However, the move to suburbs has the daughter wondering if they just entered the world of The Stepford Wives after they see how "perfect" their new locale is, right down to the neighbors who welcome them into the cul-de-sac.

Episode 1: "Pilot"
Single dad George (Jeremy Sisto) decides to move himself and and his 15-year old daughter Tessa (Jane Levy) out of New York and into the suburbs, where George hopes that the move will help him get closer with his daughter after finding a box of condoms in her drawer. However, Tessa is too horrified by all the big-haired, fake-boobed mothers, over-manicured lawns and shallow classmates to bond with her father. 

Episode 2:"The Barbecue"
Tessa finds herself attracted to her exact opposite, jock next-door neighbor Ryan Shay (Parker Young), much to the dismay of her new friend and Ryan's sister, Lisa (Allie Grant). Meanwhile, George is pressured into throwing a barbecue. 

Episode 3:"The Chatterer"
When George joins the PTA, he becomes well-liked by all the moms, which has Sheila (Ana Gasteyer) feeling threatened. Meanwhile, Tessa joins the school newspaper and with some help from fellow outcast Malik (Maestro Harrell), turns it into a tabloid-style paper. 

Episode 4: "Don't Call Me Shirley"
When Sheila's precious Shirley Temple doll collection is stolen, Tessa can't help but be amused, until she faces the consequences. Meanwhile, afraid of being burglarized themselves, Dallas (Cheryl Hines) and Dalia (Carly Chaikin) stay at the Altman's house. 

Episode 5: "Halloween"
Tessa believes she has found the perfect costume for Halloween when she channels her inner "suburban girl", but her fellow students get more of a fright when her costume reminds them of their recently "departed" classmate. Lisa and Malik attempt to exorcise Tessa to remove the former friend's spirit. George tries to help Dallas find the fun in Halloween, but receives a shock of his own when Dallas' husband Steven (Jay Mohr) returns home from his business trip. 

Episode 6: "Charity Case"
Tessa attempts to get her fellow students motivated in helping a charity, however the charity they choose to help isn't what Tessa was hoping for. So Tessa decides to introduce her classmates to a transsexual homeless person as a lesson, but the plan backfires. Meanwhile, a huge dental bill from Noah (Alan Tudyk) puts a strain on his and George's friendship. 

Episode 7: "Sweet Sixteen"
When Tessa tells Dallas that she wants a simple get together for her sixteenth birthday, Dallas convinces her to let Dalia plan the ultimate birthday extravaganza at the country club, complete with a live performance by Tessa's favorite indie band, specialty drinks and go-go cages. Noah even uses the over-the-top event to promote his dental business. Meanwhile, George throws out his back and Sheila becomes his obsessive caretaker, even though George is terrified of her. 

Episode 8: "Thanksgiving"
Tessa can't stand the thought of spending Thanksgiving in the 'burbs, so Dallas takes her for a day in the city. While out having fun, the two come across George making out with a woman, even though he said he'd be working. Tessa openly confronts George about his lying at the Royces' Thanksgiving dinner. Meanwhile, Sheila and Lisa are at odds over a special dress Sheila wants Lisa to wear for dinner. 

Episode 9: "The Nutcracker"
Tessa decides to reunite George and his old flame Zoe (Gloria Votsis), because she blames herself for their breakup. But George is instead captivated by Aimee (Ellen Woglom), Tessa's art teacher. George then throws a tree-trimming party, where he finds himself under the mistletoe with a special someone. 

Suburgatory: Twisted Tales from Darkest Suburbia

Book Description

October 11, 2011
Suburgatory lampoons the absurdities and contradictions that Linda Keenan has witnessed since leaving New York City, where she was a thoroughly urban CNN news producer for seven years, and settling down as a hapless stay-at-home suburban mother. The original proposal for this book was picked by Warner Brothers in 2010, and you can see their imagining of Suburgatory on the ABC show of the same title this fall.

Keenan was forced by the man in her life to leave her beloved New York City for a supposed suburban utopia. Instead she found herself trapped in a place where conformity is king, and where she often felt like she had been taken hostage by an adult Girl Scout troop. So Keenan decided to train her twisted reporter's eye on the strange inhabitants of this new foreign land. Thought of as a local town newspaper or website, Suburgatory includes “news stories” (Mom Plans School Auction During Dreary Sex) that go after the tiger moms, breastfeeding nazis, frustrated swingers, crypto-racists, barely-there dads, and power-mad principals..

In addition to the irreverent news stories, Suburgatory features faux op-ed "Shout Outs" (Let’s Do that Key Party Right the Next Time), witty advertisements (Briarcliff Academy—Educating the Stupid Rich Since 1903), and an over-the-top totally toxic advice columnist: Dr. Drama.

For more info check: 

I copied them from ABC official website for the show, so I don't own them. But I liked to share them here in my blog, Tessa's blog sounds like her! Funny and ironic.

Tessa's Blog - 9/28/2011

Since George doesn't like to hear me complain while he sleeps and I've grown a bit hoarse, I figured I’d gripe online about Chatswin. So, here's the thing about this place -- it turns people into idiots. For example, I'm blogging. I'm fifteen years old and I’m sharing my unfiltered thoughts with the world. It's a bit much, no? It is. And the only reason I feel okay about it is because of the crap my classmates are putting online. I make no pretense of being a wordsmith -- though I did just use the phrase "make no pretense of being a wordsmith" -- but these people's posts are hopeless, both intellectually and grammatically. Below are the greatest violators I could find on short notice. Bad as they are, something tells me we’re nowhere near the bottom of the barrel.

"Tissa’s a lesbian. Check the boots." Boots are not a sign of lesbianism, Dalia. If they were, every cowboy and foot soldier in history faced one hell of an uphill battle. (Aside to the reader: Dalia wrote this while I was within spitting distance. How do I know? Because she showed me the post mid-Tweet to ask if she spelled my name right. And then spelled it wrong anyway.)

"mi dog Thru up in Mi purse!!! no Dog! no! =P" I sit behind this girl in AP English. AP English. Not going to touch the mi’s because I wouldn’t know where to begin. What I will say is that a teenager owning a purse dog worries me more than a kindergartener owning a smartphone.

"Gonna dress you up in my love." I don’t know who the dressee is here, but the dresser is Mr. Wolfe, my high school guidance counselor. So that’s normal.

These took five minutes to track down. I’d dig deeper tonight, but aneurysms scare me. I miss New York.

Tessa's Blog - 10/5/2011

For all its predictability, from time to time Chatswin exhibits a real knack for surprise. And it shouldn't. It really, really shouldn't. People move here to get away from surprises – muggings, frotteurism, flashmobs. They take comfort in knowing the streets will be safe, the lawns will be watered and the housewives will be "real," which is why my encounter with Ryan Shay is so disturbing. On so many levels.

On the surface, Ryan seems like any other idiot suburban teenager -- he calls his muscles "the gun show" without irony, thinks the current president is, quote, "that dude" (he means Morgan Freeman) and has twice choked on chicken bones someone else already picked clean. No surprises yet. But somewhere slightly north of his rock hard abs and due south of his Neanderthal brain lie the lips of a spectacularly good kisser. Ugh! It's terrible!

How I came by this information isn't germane to the conversation, but please believe me when I tell you that it is true. Extremely true. Gut-wrenchingly so. Imagine, if you will, Marilyn Monroe having a child with Dizzy Gillespie (we'll call him Diz-Mon because we can) who then kissed the lips of God and studied that scene in "From Here to Eternity" from cradle to grave. Diz-Mon might -- might -- equal Ryan’s make out skills.
I don't want to obsess, but it does feel as though the suburbs should have protected me from, not ambushed me with, these events. Maybe this is Chatwin's latest attempt to try to win me over, but it only makes me more determined than ever to resist this wasteland. I shall overcome, and when I do, I will be a far stronger person. Nigh invincible. A paragon for all holycrapheswashingthecarIgottago!

Tessa's Blog - 10/12/2011

I was perfectly content spending my elective period reading in the handicapped stall. But apparently they don’t hand out grades for that. And since I didn’t have a burning desire to analyze Celebrity Rehab, I signed up for the school paper, which was its own version of sad. “The Chatswin Chronicle” and its editor Malik had a penchant for breaking stories on the cafeteria menu and other things high school students don’t care about. So I decided to liven things up by turning “The Chronicle” into “The Chatterer,” the school’s premiere gossip rag. Never again.

For a school that loves gossip, Chatswin High has no idea what qualifies. Ashton and Demi on the rocks is gossip (well, to people who care). Pamela Swifty hiding croutons in her salad is not. But this is what my life has become since creating “The Chatterer.” AP English yesterday was a flood of non-stories. Chris Kelso has snow on the mountain because his prescription dandruff shampoo stopped working. Laurel Harvey shops at thrift stores unironically. And Megan McGillicuddy just found out she has a legitimate peanut allergy, not to be confused with her fake chocolate allergy. Thank God she’s been pretending she can’t eat Rocky Road.

I’m going to right this ship before things get out of hand. After that, the school can obsess over Zoe Derr’s muffin top without me. I’ll be in study hall watching Dr. Drew help Amy Fisher make a breakthrough.

Tessa's Blog - 10/19/2011

I don’t know everyone’s feelings on crime.  I doubt most people are pro, and I would agree.  Murder, grand larceny, loitering – there are laws against them for a reason.  But the people of Chatswin really need to scale back their reactions to fit the crime. For instance, Sheila Shay calling out the entire Chatswin police department for a few moon-faced dolls carries some moral baggage of its own. It also does not count as kidnapping, despite the fact that she treats the dolls better than her own daughter.

It’s obvious that Chatswin isn’t a beacon of crime like New York City, and that’s a good thing – at least according to George.  But is there not something more productive our boys in blue can be doing?  Directing traffic, arresting loiterers, enforcing the strict “Two samples per person” rule at “The Gurt Locker.”  On second thought, their crime-solving probably isn’t honed enough to manage any of those tasks.

You see, the dolls were right under the authorities’ noses the entire time.  This wasn’t just a random figurine heist.  This was a crime of passion.  The means, motive and opportunity were all under Sheila’s own roof.  If I hadn’t been so busy trying to pin the crime on myself as a means of getting out of Chatswin, I could have solved it. Probably in twenty-two minutes.  

Tessa's Blog - 10/26/2011

If a place can build an entire festival, nay, several festivals around chowder, you’d think it would go all out for holidays.  And while that may still be true – I’ve heard they throw a wicked Election Day here – what I’ve seen of Halloween in the suburbs doesn’t bode well.

Halloween is, apologies to Kwanzaa, where a town shows its true colors.  I will shake the hand of any citizen who takes this holiday seriously.  Anyone who skins a grape to feel like an eyeball, dons a hook for a hand or jumps out of bushes to scare the hell out of kids -- put ‘er there.  Really, anything short of putting razors in apples is fair game.  But we’re talking about an entire town that puts up unicorns and candy canes.  What does that even mean?  Are we celebrating Christmastime in the Enchanted Forest?  So many mixed messages.

The frustrating thing is there’s so much potential for Halloween here.  But Dallas Royce, whose front yard could fit a haunted corn maze that would be the stuff of legends, doesn’t like to be scared.  And the entire town follows her lead.  So what was her idea of a great Halloween last year?  A dance.  Sound good?  It was called, “Let’s Boogie Man, Not Bogeyman.”  And, while I’m sure a roller-disco can be terrifying, it’s not Halloween.

I understand if Dallas doesn’t like being scared – most overly sheltered individuals don’t – but let that be her problem.  George hates chowder and you don’t see him trying to shut down its blessed festival.  So take a lesson, lady, and let us have our Halloween, or I will do everything in my power to make sure you never have another chowder.  Especially not Manhattan.

Tessa's Blog 11/2/2011

I admit I should have known better than to bring up “giving” in Chatswin when I wasn’t talking about hickeys or Christmas gifts.  But what’s happening here is out of control.  All I proposed was that the student body not dump their untouched lunches into the trash and now… now, it’s a blur of animated videos and Sarah McLachlan ballads.  Oh, and the coup-de-grace: Clarisonic Face Brushes for Floridians, courtesy of Dalia’s bogus trip to Orlando.  Why didn’t I run when she raised her hand at the assembly?  Why did I call on her?  I’m a sucker for a raised hand.

There’s so much more we could be doing.  Credit where credit’s due – at least Dalia didn’t suggest “Red Bull for the Decaffeinated” or “Nose Jobs for the Lower Class.”  But let’s dig a little deeper, people.  How about donating blankets to the homeless or volunteering at a free clinic?  Something – anything – other than cleaning Florida’s pores. Besides, I’m sure the Red Cross already has that under control.

I thought introducing my homeless transsexual friend Gladys would clear things up.  It didn’t and, again, I should have known better.  I should have expected it to make George and me Chatswin’s charity case, precisely because we don’t need to be.  It would be a stretch to say we’re well off, but we’re certainly not hurting.  And we don’t need all the items Dallas has bought on Sky Mall.  Correction: All the duplicate items she bought on Sky Mall. Although the rechargeable salt and pepper mills are quite lovely.

In the end, I figured out what to do.  So, I guess – shudder – thank you, Chatswin. Thank you for teaching me it isn’t what you give, it’s that you give.  Since I wasn’t the ideal candidate for a glow in the dark bocce ball set, I decided to give it to someone who is – Gladys.  She loves it.  And the money pawning it got her.

Tessa's Blog - 11/16/2011

As hard as it is to relate to Chatswin most days, from time to time it’s hard not to get swept up in the town’s insanity. For example, how do you turn down an offer to have your favorite band play your sixteenth birthday party? You don’t is how. It’s impossible to resist because Chatswin’s excess can have its own gravitational pull. I tried to fight the tug once Dalia, go-go dancers and a pony got involved, but – again – favorite band. At my birthday party. My. Birthday. Party. Fortunately I came to my senses once I realized it meant nothing without Lisa, Malik and George by my side, but it was a close call.

I’d like to think history won’t repeat itself next year. But just in case, I’ve drawn up plans for my seventeenth birthday and nothing will shake me from them. Actual friends will be present. Pizza is a definite. Music – there will be no music. Music is what got us here. Also, we will screen two movies. “Twilight: Breaking Dawn,” (because, holy what? That’s how they solve the pregnancy problem?!) and “A Thin Red Line” (Because if it’s good enough for Kimantha, it’s good enough for me.)

It will be a small party. It will be a simple party. And it will be eminently better than this year’s because it will be my party. I will never again choose flash over substance. As much as it’s the Chatswin way, it’s not my way.

Though, I’d still like to take my picture with a pony.

Tessa's Blog 11/23/2011

Since commentary on George’s hypocrisy will only hold so much weight with those of you who haven’t met him, I thought I’d focus instead on Thanksgiving in Chatswin.  Suburban Thanksgivings might be equally difficult to care about, but they do offer some pretty spectacular visuals worth describing.

First off, the invitations.  The tradition of gilded invitations remains alive and well thank God.  I scraped enough gold leaf off ours to buy a car.  It’s the personal reminders, though, that really make the holiday.  We had a six-foot-four Pilgrim struggle through Victorian-era English to invite us to the Royce’s dinner.  Despite the anachronism, or perhaps because of it, that’s a pretty perfect snapshot of a Chatswin Thanksgiving.

Then there’s the actual dinner.  It could be that only the Big Apple doesn’t dress as Indians or Pilgrims for the occasion, but I doubt it.   And now, whenever I think of Thanksgiving, “Founders or Feathers” will be the first thing that comes to mind.  The second will be Dallas in her size-zero Native American princess costume.  I’m not disparaging her – she was kind enough to take me to the city and have us to dinner, so I will be gracious and call her outfit tasteful.  But I would rather not have seen Dalia’s take on Pilgrim call girls.

There is more I could discuss – arguments during Thanksgiving dinner are not unique to Chatswin, passive-aggressive posturing over self-published works on Pennsylvania wine counties is – but the tryptophan is starting to kick in.  It’s worth noting, though, while my first Thanksgiving in Chatswin would have been memorable no matter what, the memories are not wholly terrible. 

Tessa's Blog 12/07/2011

It wouldn’t do anyone any favors to rehash this year’s Christmas party, so let’s not.  Let’s take what we can from the experience and move on.  Below, please find the top five lessons to be learned from the Altman Tree Trimming.

1) Lisa needs to wear more clothes. It seems a bit strange she didn’t latch onto this after Thanksgiving, but people rebel in their own ways and under-dressing/not dressing seems to be her go-to. Hopefully in time she’ll discover less pneumonia-inducing means of rebellion.

2) Don’t make Ms. Ainsley angry. You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry. Well, you would. She’s like a corgi in a huff. It’s pretty cute.

3) Juicy buns are a thing, and they’re great. The secret’s in the pork, which should be lean and lightly seared. If you try to make sticky buns, I recommend buying your pork from Joe at Chatswin Meat Market – he has an unbelievable selection – but you can ask the butcher at your local grocery store and he should be able to help you find the right cut.

4) Mistletoe doesn’t belong in the most public room of a house. People think it’s cute putting it where it will get the most foot traffic and visibility, but they’re wrong. No one should have to watch two people kiss because of a random plant. It’s weird.

5) Mr. Wolfe is a less than ideal party guest. Pushing his food on other guests, mocking our wreath, lurking in corners – I was uncomfortable for him. I don’t know how he wound up at the party – it seems entirely possible he invited himself – but he needs to scale back his social calendar until he cools down a bit.
And that’s it. If you were at the party and think I missed any lessons worth learning, please let me know, but I really think I covered just about everything. Happy Holidays!