Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Urgent: Holiday Hiatus

Hello ALL! Happy Holidays! Within the next few weeks I will be busy with writing (major deadline due 12/31) and oh yeah...squeezing in a vacation too. Therefore, I am taking a brief hiatus from blogging. I am not posting from now until January 5, 2009 (and by then, I should have LOTS to post about). I may surprise myself by writing one or two blogs while on vacation--but that's only if I feel the utter need to write. In the meantime, twiddle your thumbs and wait for TonyaT blogs to return. HA--kidding. Enjoy the holiday season! May it be safe, blessed, and recession-friendly.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hurry! Save the Princess!

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of one of my favorite movies of all time, The Princess Bride. Well...I don't know about favorite of all time--in fact, I'm quite nervous to even mention how much I adored this movie (my inner machismo). Nonetheless, this is a classic tale of young romance, in which after being missing for many years, a young woman's childhood sweetheart and real knight-and-shining-armor rescues her from the arms of her future husband, the evil prince. With a side of humor and well-constructed story line, this tale won over the hearts of women (and men too) everywhere.

What's the natural progression of a great story? First, there's the written text; then the screen adaptation; and finally...a video game? Yes--that's right. Our lovable movie, The Princess Bride, is now a video game. Although I do not have children yet--I still have nieces, nephews and students that are very much into video games. Oh--and did I mention a husband who is still a child at heart? Thus, I decided to take a few hours to test the game out myself. Before making the purchase, find out the pros and cons of this video game adventure:


1. This is a great educational tool for children ages 6-10. Implicitly, children learn and extend upon knowledge skills such as counting, following directions and mixing colors.

2. Practice the art of multi-tasking. In this busy world that we live in , we are always doing more than one thing at a time. This game helps players to multi-task with various challenges.

3. Excellent backdrop of the original movie. The video game did a fairly decent job of capturing the original movie's key moments. I definitely see the logic behind creating an adventure game based on a man's mission to win back the love of his life.

4. Snazzy animation. The video game even has an intro/outro that displays clips of the movie--that way, if you didn't catch it, you'll know enough about it before you begin playing.


1. Graphics are mediocre. I guess they are okay for a PC game. The game would reach more people if they added more graphics and created this for one of the PC-Generation systems. I guess that's what beta testing is for, eh?

2. For all ages? Yeah right. I know that I am a 27 year old, Master's Degree educated individual--but it took me every bit of an hour to beat the entire game! The questions were way too easy. The creators should consider designating this game for ages 6-10 only.

There you have it. The Princess Bride video game synopsis. Would I buy this for myself? No. But, I would consider giving this game to my 7 year old niece.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

She's Got... Great Customer Service!

Gone are the days when businesses provide optimal customer service. Nine times out of ten, if you are having concerns with an item or service that you purchased, you end up taking many unnecessary steps in order to get things resolved. A good friend of mine recently complained about a major phone company (no names mentioned here--but I'm sure you all know who I'm talking about). This friend simply wanted spend his hard earned money to upgrade an existing service; however, he was given the major run-around and had to end up cancelling service with this company. I do understand that some of these companies have thousands of patrons to deal with each day, but what ever happened to quality customer service? You know the kind where the "customer is always right."

Yesterday, I happened to cross paths with one of those companies--and by golly, my faith in good customer service has been restored! As a shapely gal (yes--I am proud of my size 14/16), I do most of my shopping online. I like specialty stores that carry fashionable and trendy clothes for plus size women. I don't know about all my other plus size ladies, but the trendy+fashionable+plus size combination is a pretty difficult one to find. Although clothing for the normal size woman has gotten more fashionable, I'm not even going to get started on how difficult it is for me to find clothes.

Nonetheless, I was shopping online at one of my absolute favorite plus size retailers: Shes Got Curves. They have fashionable couture for plus size women--all at economy-friendly prices. As soon as I clicked on the home page, I saw this must-have dress--they call it Incognito. I pictured how many heads I'd turn walking into the room with this get up..."Oh...ahhh...Who's that girl in that fabulous dress?" My dreams were crushed when I went to order and noticed that it was pre-order only. How was I going to turn heads this New Year's Eve in Vegas if I didn't have the dress?

To make a long story short (being long-winded is the English major's curse), I emailed customer service and they responded immediately. The She's Got Curves customer service representative was sympathetic enough to request the dress from the designer so that I would receive it before leaving for my trip. Additionally, when the designer could not fulfill my request, She's Got Curves even offered to help "find me another piece" that looked like the one I couldn't have. Finally, to put the icing on the cake, the person on the opposite end of my email read my blogs and instantaneously became a TonyaT follower. I can't even get people that I've known for twenty years to follow and read my blogs!

What are the odds? She's Got Curves offers more than snazzy outfits--She's Got...GREAT customer service too!

Training Mode

I must admit, the start of the holiday season played tricks on me. After almost four months of training for my first 10K, I was so burnt out--I literally took a one month sabbatical from training. I needed the break, but I clearly took a hit. Just a few weeks "off" and I'm back up a whole five pounds. Granted, I don't focus too much on the scale. I actually HATE the scale, but I was fully aware that I regressed when I went to the track and I could only get around there six times (for the race, I had to run 24 times around). I thought I could substitute running with a few cardio machines at the gym, but nothing works you out like running. And yes--I still gained 5 pounds although I've been going to the gym at least three times per week. Damn thyroid!

In six months, I will be participating in my first HALF MARATHON (that's double the 10K) and I need to get prepared--starting NOW. Despite the cold weather, I must get outside to run, run, run. Four times per week, I have to log my miles. I'm starting slow and only running 10 miles per week, but my goal is to get up to 25 miles per week again. In order to do that, I must go on a strict regimen. That means no eating out anywhere (not even for social reasons), two hours of exercise 6 days a week, proper sleep and minimal stress. The month of May AND the race will be here before you know it. I'll keep you posted on my progress...

In training mode,


Monday, December 15, 2008

My Sour Mood

I'm in a sour mood today--I feel like the taste of squeezed lemons. First, my Ravens lost to a bogus call yesterday. That was NOT a touchdown Pittsburgh! How could they make that call in OUR home?!?! What a crock! Second, I lost my fantasy game because my vets didn't come through with necessary points. T.J. and Marvin Harrison didn't contribute ANYTHING. I should have known not to choose an oldie, but goodie for my starting squad. According to the projections, Marvin was supposed to be a sleeper? Yeah...he literately slept out the entire season. What a bum! Now...I have to fight for third place next. Granted, I did pretty darn well in my league--considering I am the ONLY female in the league. Goodness--you all don't understand the flack I had to go through in the gym, "Why are you in it? You aren't going to be able to pick the teams well because you're a woman." How sexist is that? Because this woman was a mere two games away from winning the championship game! Although third isn't as good as first, I guess I should be proud of myself. Maybe I can teach the other loser guys my strategy before draft time next year. HA!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The holiday season is my favorite time of year. Not because of the materialism either—I honestly loathe people’s obsession with gift-giving. What I do love about the holidays is the sudden acquisition of good spirit. Additionally, I am a huge fan of spending quality time with family and friends.

Every year, I host Cookies with Kids—a holiday celebration where all the children in my family (nieces and nephews) come to my home to bake and decorate holiday cookies. The kids usually have a good time—although I end up doing most of the baking (they like to come in last minute to add their personal artwork to the cookies). I make sure to load the house with unique Christmas decorations in order to enhance the holiday spirit. First, there’s dinner—always an exotic food choice—I like to expose them to different types of foods. Next, they bake and decorate cookies. Finally, we cozy up to watch a holiday movie and share fun stories.

This year, I want to try something a tad bit different. I am a huge game guru—so incorporating Christmas party games is top priority this year. The kids will certainly enjoy the Christmas party games in addition to yummy cookies and holiday stories. Tis the season--can't wait for Cookies with Kids 2008!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fantasia's Forclosure: Recession or Bad Habits?

Word on the streets is that Fantasia Burrino has foreclosed on "one" of her homes (the million dollar one in North Carolina). Allegedly, the signs are up and the home will be auctioned off soon. I'm a little confused about something: how did she owe $58,000 of taxes with $1 Million home? I'm no financial expert, but why on earth would you purchase a large home with NO money and a crap load of debt?!?! Come on Fantasia! First, I'm mad about the cost of living crisis here. What happened to the good old days when you purchased a home with cash--and it was yours to keep (with no mortgage)? I do realize that there are numerous social and economic factors that have contributed to this housing foolishness--but people should be a tad bit smarter. Even when you buy a home--it's not YOURS if you are still paying on it. The bank owns it! So besides the extra space and the "tax breaks" that you get from owning--you are essentially renting it. Well--I guess it helps to build credit--the same credit that could potentially ruin your financial stability if you make one slip up. Nevertheless, I hope Fantasia learned a simple and valuable lesson: don't get what you can't afford. If you're not making over $1 million a year, why buy multiple homes for that price? Sounds like lack of knowledge, terrible financial advising and bad habits to me...

With the economy in a wreck, everyone seems to be taking a hit. People are losing jobs, homes, retirement funds and their patience. The good thing about a suffering economy is that it forces people to become humble and appreciate each others as opposed to material goods. How much of this are we to blame though? Really--we all had a part in this whole big mess (although everyone is quick to blame everyone else for their financial troubles). When it boils down to it, the only person responsible for your bank account is YOU. Granted, there is a class division--but I've always believed in "working with what you got." If you can only afford a trailer park home as opposed to a luxury mansion, enjoy the heck out of your trailer! Work towards that mansion...but appreciate what you have. Above all, live within your means.

P.S. I love Fantasia's music--and I really wish her well with her financial troubles. Like everything else that is cyclical, this soon shall pass and people will be on their feet again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I LOVE music! All kinds--from R&B to country to rock-n-roll to jazz. There is just something about music that makes me happy. Music plays a heavy role in many aspects of my life--exercising, stress relief, social dancing and I even incorporate music in my lesson plans. Quality music these days is "hard to come by." When I hear good, classic music I feel like I've taken on the view that my parents and their parents have expressed..."you just don't hear music like that anymore." It's true that there is a lot of musical crap being shoved in our ears. Commercialism has granted access to those who really have no musical talent, but a marketable look instead. Although this is the case, with each passing year, there is always someone who finds a way to innovate music and make it pleasurable to listen to.

Every now and then, it's good to reminisce about those classic tracks that make you say, "Good Lord! This is some good music..." I had the unexpected pleasure of saying this over the weekend. Brian McKnight..."Good Lord! This is some good music...now that's what you call SINGING!" Thanks to my friend Lori (who happens to be the world's biggest Brian McKnight fan--she calls him B-MAC for short), I was blessed with the soothing sounds of B-Mac the entire weekend. For both concerts in Atlantic City and Westbury, NY, B-Mac blessed the audience with some classics, holiday tunes, and my favorite--a sampling from his anticipated album. His two sons even performed that night (they were great--watch out world for them).

I'll be the first to admit it. I didn't understand Lori's obsession with Brian. I mean--I always thought he was a great singer, but I wasn't super enthusiastic about him. I heard many of his songs on the radio, but I never really heard him sing live. Additionally, Brian is 13 years my senior...so 10 years ago as a high schooler, I wasn't too impressed. Boy was I wrong!

BET-she-didn't-tell-you-bout-way-back-when-SHE-gives-me-love-love-love-love-crazy love-ONE-just-like-a-dream-come-true-CHESNUTS-roasting-on-an-open-fire...

Brian's melodic tunes have been in my head since Sunday. I can't stop humming his songs for some reason. Lori...I think I might be coming down with a fever--B-MAC FEVER!!
P.S. Anyone know when the next performance is...?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Battle of the Beltways: Baldimore Vs. The Deadskins

Battle of beltways tonight. I'm a little torn because I have close ties to both cities. While Baltimore is my hometown (that's right--not too scared to admit that I am Baltimore born and raised--City Forever!), I have been in love with the district for quite some time now. I love the diversity and social atmosphere of DC. Although the structure and street labeling nearly, along with morning traffic, nearly drive me BONKERS--the DC/Metro area is my second home. I went to College Park (home of the Terrapins), which is in close proximity to DC. I've had numerous gigs there--and most importantly, I've had some get-down boogie moments in some of hottest night clubs on the east coast.

For a while, there has been an annual tradition for both of our area's football teams to play each other--the battle of the beltways. Only 45 minutes and two major beltways lie between the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins. Am I a fan of both? Of course--I have players on both teams that I am counting on for my fantasy team. But in all honesty, I believe that all the hype for no reason. We ALL know who's going to win. Jason's Campbell's short passes will not work on the Raven's defense. Additionally, I believe the offense will come through and help to win the game for my hometown. My allegiance goes to my home town. Go Ravens!!

You KNOW you're from BMORE when (none of these apply to me--because I know longer rep Bmore--I'm getting a little too grown for reppin a city don't you think?):

1. You say "DUG" instead of "DOG."

2. People from New York say that you are a country bumpkin because you say "Two" funny.

3. You make room on your calendar for the annual City/Poly game rivalry.

4. You type Baldimore into your GPS instead of BALTIMORE.

5. You have a small urge (even if you haven't eaten it in a while) for a chicken box, extra pepper/extra salt--with a half and half on the side.

6. You're over 21 and you STILL go to the Paradox.

7. You own more than one CLUB CD (R.I.P. K Swift).

8. 92Q is programmed in your car.

9. You've had a crazy bee-hive hairdo at some point in your life.

10. In the late 80s, you can ate at Mama Lucia's before heading to a baseball game at Memorial stadium--before they tore it down that is...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bye Bye Bratz

Call me a big kid--but I actually love the Bratz dolls! They are a more trendier and diverse version of Mattel's Barbie doll collection. As a young tot, I liked Barbies--but I wasn't in love with them. Besides having little variety and choice, my brother would pop the heads off and fling them high across the room. When replacing the head on the Barbie dolls, they didn't look the same. However, I tested a Bratz doll a few years back--I removed the head and replaced it: miraculously, the doll looked the same when I replaced the head. Amazing. Nonetheless, in a recent court battle, Mattel has ordered the doll to be removed from shelves after Christmas. It was discovered that Bratz was created by a former Mattel employee. Come on!! Isn't this a capitalistic society? Mattel is jealous and outraged because the Bratz dolls are bringing in more revenue than Barbies? I don't see the problem with creating a trendier doll, but I guess nowadays, you can innovate something without being taken to the cleaners. Mattel isn't just pulling dolls off the shelves, they're taking away some one's livelihood--AND they are disappointing thousands of little girls worldwide. For goodness sakes--there was even a Bratz movie! Oh well--Bye Bye Bratz!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thank You's Go a Long Way...

"Tonya...I just wanted to say THANK YOU and I really appreciate your help..."

--A former student

I didn't realize how much those two words really mean. As a former teacher (and in some regard...although I am no longer in the classroom, I will always be an educator at heart), "pleases and thank you's" didn't come often. I'd pour my heart and soul into my lesson plans, only to have students laugh, struggle through the assignments or wonder "what the lesson exactly had to do with their life." I understood where they were coming from because my students didn't know this at the time, but when I first started teaching I was only 4-6 years older than most of them. Despite the lack of interest, respect or resources, I showed up each day with the same goal: to reach at least one student, but encourage them all to dream. The three years that I taught high school, I really thought that all of my hard work was in vein. Late nights grading papers when all of my other twentysomething counterparts were out partying the night away; placing all of my wants and worries to the side in order to help someone else; feeling guilty that I couldn't solve each and every one of my students' problems...most of all, no murmurs of "please" and "thank you" within reasonable reach.

I guess what they say is true: you never really see the rewards of your hard work until after you complete it. Years after teaching, I am fully gratified that I was in those particular places at those particular times--because I didn't know it then, but I was actually there to help other people. I don't have many adult friends and I try to keep a small circle of people around me--but I never thought that I would have hundreds of former students calling me, asking for advice, telling me that my help has made a difference in their life and saying, "Thank you."

Thank you really goes a long way--not long enough to get me back into the classroom, but far enough to make me realize one (and I say one because there are many) of my callings in life: to give people a reason to say, "Thank you."

Extra, Extra Read ALL About It: Shapely Girl News Here

Greetings to all my fitness enthusiasts and plus size divas! Ever desire the perfect workout that caters to the needs of shapely women? Well--look no further! Let's Get Steppin! is available in approximately 24 hours. As a Shapely Girl Fitness model, I can tell you that the workout is invigorating--while at the same time it helps women to appreciate their natural curves. Debra and the team put lots of hard work into this video, so if you're interested in the workout (or just want to support the Shapely Girl mission), order a copy from the Shapely Girl website, Amazon.com, or Collage Videos.

Happy Health and Fitness!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Prevention Blog Temporarily Down

Hello ALL!!

For the entire month of December, the Prevention.com blog will be temporarily out-of-order. No word as to when (and IF) it will be back in commission. However, you are still able to read the blogs that I posted there: http://buzz.prevention.com/community/category/tawnee. I want to thank everyone (Tose and Dad) who contributed REGULAR comments, which kept the blog going. Check back at the end of January to find out if it is back up and running...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pop, Pop, Pop Me Some Popcorn

In my attempts to put my wallet on a strict diet plan this holiday season, I realized that I have a deep desire to give more sentimental gifts (and cost efficient might I add). I don’t know about everyone else, but many of my friends and family have been skipping trips to the movie theatres. At $9.00 per ticket, more and more people are opting to rent DVDs and watch them in the comforts of their own homes. Other benefits of dodging the movie theatre include being able to escape the temptation of the snack counter and its buttery, salty popcorn.

Popcorn is one of my favorite Brain Foods, but movie theatre popcorn can be detrimental to your health with the loads of butter and salt that is added to the kernels. If you make your own popcorn at home, you can leave the unhealthiness behind by popping a light snack to watch with your favorite movie. Popcorn is low in fat and a great source of fiber. A single serving is a mere 90-100 calories with only 2 grams of fat. Believe it or not, popcorn also actually aids in the digestive process. Avoiding popcorn that has trans fat is imperative when choosing healthier versions of this treat. Healthy popcorn recipes include: Garlic Chili Popcorn and Barbecued Popcorn. For the holiday season, popcorn baskets and popcorn tins make the perfect gift for popcorn lovers otherwise known as your family and friends (you can purchase these items from specialty stores such as The Popcorn Factory).

A Great Holiday Gift Idea: Yummy Antioxidant Rich Cocoa

I am a frequent consumer of 1800 Flowers products—brightening up someone’s day with flowers has been my specialty for years. Have a birthday coming? My philosophy: Get flowers. Is someone graduating from high school or college? Get flowers. Starting a new job? You got it—get flowers. This year, I want to do something different. Although I love flowers, I thought I’d surprise my friends and family with an even tastier gift—CHOCOLATE.

Now, some people think that “chocolate” is an evil word—especially when one is trying to live a healthy lifestyle. However, here’s a newsflash for you: chocolate can be healthy for you—that’s right, chocolate can be HEALTHY. According to Dark Chocolate can Pack a Big Antioxidant Wallop, small daily quantities of dark chocolate actually contain more antioxidants than red wine, fruits, white and green tea, and veggies. Approximately 1.5 ounces of dark, high cocoa chocolate is rich in B1, B2, D vitamins as well as magnesium and iron. Chocolate is also known to reduce stress and depression, for it stimulates good feelings through the increase of serotonin—the neurotransmitter that produces calm and relaxation. Finally, a few pieces of dark chocolate have as much caffeine as one cup of coffee.

With any other nutritious goody, there are benefits as well as disadvantages. Here are a few do’s and don’ts of incorporating chocolate into your healthy lifestyle:

Do eat small pieces of dark chocolate in order to get a quick bolt of energy—after all, the right dose of chocolate is equivalent to a cup of coffee.

Don’t overindulge. Too much chocolate is high in calories and fat. To be safe, try morsel eating—only eat a small morsel of dark chocolate per day.

Do couple dark chocolate with red wine. Together, these two treats are power-packed with polyphenols and antioxidants. These anti-aging components help to strengthen bones too.

Don’t forget to brush and floss. Although chocolate can be yummy, it can stain and get stuck in between your teeth. Too much chocolate can be a dental nightmare.

Do purchase chocolates as holiday gifts. What an inexpensive, edible and yummy gift idea.

Want to use chocolate in your next dessert recipe? Check out these chocolate recipes from Prevention.com: Dark Cherry Chocolate Sauce, Reduced Fat Chocolate Cake, and Mint Chocolate Chip Muffins.