Saturday, November 8, 2008

A dream and a poll

I almost forgot! Please stop by and visit Mort's new blog. He lost some folks in the transition from AOL to Blogger (including me), but it looks like he's got things squared away now.

I felt really wiped out last night, so I went to bed fairly early for me, at about 1 AM. Earlier in the evening, while I ate my sammitch, I watched "Children of the Corn" on ChillerTV. Oh my God, is that one of the worst horror movies in history? It's pretty darn close. It cracks me up towards the end when Peter Horton runs into the cornfield, and the corn starts wrapping its leaves around his legs, and pummeling him about the head and neck. It's funny!

It had been a stressful week, and keep in mind that good things can be stressors, too. There were just all kinds of feelings flying around, and emotions ran high. Then I had that little matter of ugliness to deal with the other night. (Just an aside, it was odd how many people I got emails from saying that they were pretty sure they knew who my troll was. Apparently someone has been a busy little beaver!) So it's not surprising that I felt wiped, and it's also not surprising that I had some very vivid and strange dreams.

One of them was even a drowning dream, and it's been a while since I had one of those. I was on a beach with some relatives, including some uncles that have passed away. There was a violent storm raging, lots of wind, and big waves roiling up onto the beach. My relatives stopped to discuss something, and I wandered a little ahead. I stopped and looked back towards land, and leaned my back against a post that was stuck into the sand. (Smart move, I know.) Of course, the post gave way, and I fell back into the ocean. I remember I didn't even try to swim up to the surface...I just let myself sink. Someone had seen me fall in, and told a couple of teenage boys close by, so these teenagers jumped in and pulled me out. After they got me out, I hugged them real hard and said, "You saved my life."

Oh boy, dream analysis time! I think this one is pretty easy, but it's unusual in a couple of ways, too. Usually when I have these dreams, I'm struggling to reach the surface, but can't. In this one, I wasn't even trying. Also, I've always woken up with a start, sometimes holding my breath. (Once I had my pillow wrapped around my head. Ha ha!) I've never been pulled to safety before. I liked this version much better! To me, it goes back to the troll incident. When someone started attacking me here, trying to "drown" me with their rhetoric and self-righteous priggery, Ken and my friends stepped in and "saved" me. I could defend myself all I wanted, but having people come to my defense was the kicker. Cool!

Next subject: the choice of Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel as Pres. Obama's Chief of Staff. I don't know that much about the guy, but obviously, there is a lot of talk about him right now. He's Jewish, and I did not know that. From what I'm hearing, he was a good choice, and someone who will jealously guard the President's time. I also heard that the character of Josh, President Bartlet's Deputy Chief of Staff on the show "The West Wing," was based on Emanuel. (Ken and I loved that show, and miss it. I suppose that comes as no surprise.) There has been a bit of a hubbub (bub) among a few Republicans over Emanuel's choice, because he's such a partisan lawmaker. I say chill out, people. I suspect there will be more moderate choices to come for the Cabinet. Considering that this will be the guy who is going to direct and schedule the President's time, I'd say Obama chose wisely.

But to heck with all that. Here's the really important stuff. I'm also hearing little murmurs and discussion out there about whether or not Rahm Emanuel is hot. I wasn't really thinking along those lines to begin with, but when I saw the question posed, I took another look. I don't know that I'd see him on the street and say, "Whoa," but I'd say that he's a good-looking guy. He has that sort of intense eye thing going on which is always striking. He's got a pretty cool name, too. So what do you think? Exercise your right to vote!

Friday, November 7, 2008

"A mutt like me"

Some of you may have heard that snippet from Pres.-Elect Obama's first press conference. He was talking about what kind of dog they're going to get the girls, and said that although their preference is a shelter dog, Malia is allergic so needs a dog that won't aggravate her allergies, and most shelter dogs, he said, "are mutts like me." It was a light-hearted moment, but it did serve to gel a few thoughts that I've been struggling with over the past couple of days.

I first started writing about Barack Obama months ago, after Ken and I read his book The Audacity of Hope. Even back then, some were ridiculing him for his message of hope. No, hope is not a policy, but neither is it a dirty word. Hope is a state of mind, and hope is what drives each of us to better ourselves, to believe that there is a better way, and sometimes, it's simply what gets us out of bed in the morning.

Indigo wrote on her blog about an experience that Paul had with one of his students. The kid (a black student) was motivated to work harder because of the election of our first black president. This has already made a difference in that student's life, and I believe...I hope...that it's only the beginning.

Did I vote for Obama because he's black? No. I've been writing for months about why I like the guy and why I decided to vote for him, so I won't rehash all that. It's not important now, anyway. But in case you missed it, he is black, or as he put it, a "mutt."

I can't completely understand what it's like to be looked down upon because of my color. I can try to put myself in those shoes, but I've never experienced that sort of prejudice. No matter how you feel about Obama's politics, I think it's vital to try to understand how important this is for our country. And it starts with that little boy in Paul's class. I saw it on election night when Roland Martin was so moved that he couldn't speak; the following day when Colin Powell became choked up about how he and his family felt as they watched the results come in; and the day after that when the normally unflappable Donna Brazile talked about how the civil rights movement led to this moment, and her voice trembled as she spoke.

To downplay the impact of this is to ignore the feelings of millions. It very simply IS a big deal.

Quick roundup

I feel like I've had a fairly productive day today, although it was just running errands. I made a wide circle in town so I didn't have to backtrack. Planning is everything! I also forgot about all the road construction in the area where I was going, so my detour led me on a route where I ended up thinking, "Where the heck am I going?" But I managed to not get lost, and before you laugh too hard at me (it's not like South Bend is a huge city), you should know that I am road-challenged. I am so awful with directions, and I think MapQuest is one of the best inventions ever! This is in contrast to Cousin Shane, who is a walking, talking road map. I swear, if he's been on a road once, he remembers it.

After I picked up the power adapter for the elliptical (it was missing, and they were nice enough to call the company and have them send a replacement), I swung by Shirk's Piano and Organ, which is in the same shopping center. I found some piano books that I liked! A Christmas one, a classical one, and one with songs from the 40's. And yes, I found the sheet music to "Stardust," so I got that, too. These are all fairly easy arrangements, but some of them are edging close to more complicated, so they should keep me occupied for some time. In the book of songs from the 40's, there are songs like "As Time Goes By" (I channeled Bogie and Bacall when I played that one), and I don't know why I love this song, but it has "Don't Fence Me In." As you know, I love my rock music, but I've found that songs by...oh, AC/DC...just don't translate well to the piano. Ha ha!

Then it was a swing by Target to find a piano lamp. I didn't like what they had, so I decided to skip that and just go to the grocery store. But there is a Menard's by the grocery store, so I stopped there first and found a plain little banker's lamp that will do just fine. I also got a compact fluorescent bulb that will fit in it. Did you know that they're making compact fluorescent bulbs for ceiling fan lights now? That's what I got today. I'll try to start replacing our ceiling fan bulbs with fluorescents.

Let's see, then to the grocery store where I didn't buy a whole lot, but got a couple of pies for tomorrow. We're having a little birthday get-together for my sister Susie at her daughter's (my niece Jana) house. Ken won't be back in time for it, but he'll be back tomorrow evening. I'll be happy to see him!

Perhaps more later...I've got something percolating, but it's got a ways to go before I can get it into words. I also have plenty of blogs to read! I'll get caught up tonight.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Party planning

How is everyone today? Happy and healthy? I hope both!

Today I had a meeting with the event coordinator at the place who is doing the catering for our dinner at the Studebaker Museum. Debbie was incredibly helpful and I believe they will do a really good job! Here's our menu (a buffet dinner):


Bud & Bud Lite
Copper Ridge White Zin, Merlot & Chardonnay
Includes Bartender


50 each Vegetable Tray & Dip
50 each Cheese & Cracker Tray
50 each Assorted Finger Sandwiches
50 each BBQ Meatballs
50 each Crab Stuffed Mushrooms


Mixed Green Salad with Mango Chardonnay Vinaigrette
Rosemary Chicken Breast
Homestyle Roast Beef
Vegetable Lasagna
Herb Roasted Red Skin Potatoes
Rice Pilaf
Roasted Vegetable Medley
Whole Green Beans Almondine
Rolls & Butter
Coffee Station, Iced Tea & Ice Water

75 Brownies & Cookies

I think it all sounds pretty good. We were going to get fish instead of the veggie lasagna, but we needed a couple of vegetarian meals, and with a buffet they don't have an easy way to do that, so I made an executive decision and went with vegetable lasagna. Why? Because I like it! And yes, it's an open bar (beer and wine only). Anyone want me to sneak them in? Now it's just a matter of getting the final count, getting the signed contract to them, and paying the balance. And we did it for less than was budgeted! That should make the powers-that-be happy.

I was up late last night because of dealing with I felt really tired this afternoon. I stretched out on the couch and covered up with my penguin blanket, and Sheeba hopped up and lay on my stomach. He was like a little furry furnace! I had a most excellent nap, and I feel very refreshed!

As for last night's unpleasantness, I was starting to feel like I was in a soap opera. "I loathe you, Jessica." "You'll never get away with your little scheme, Amanda." "*gasp* Derek?!" (That last one is usually when you catch your man in bed with your arch enemy.) Oh, the drama! I see that I've received no emails, and neither has Ken or Dirk. Not surprising.

You know, I'm generally a positive person, and I try to maintain that tone here. I have my feisty moments, but one of my favorite things to do is laugh, and that's a lot more fun than having someone try to turn Nutwood into "All My Children." ("All My Squirrels." "As the Possum Turns." "The Young and the Furry." Okay, I'll stop.) When I encounter someone like my troll, I feel like I've encountered an alien species. I feel like I've been slimed. I would think it would be a sad existence to have that effect on people. I don't think I'm inspirational by any means, but I know it makes me happy when I make someone laugh. Why and how is it that someone would derive happiness from the opposite, from angering people and being nasty? It's like in "Star Trek," when matter meets anti-matter. Good things do NOT ensue. Last night it was Beth and anti-Beth. I know there are no answers to my questions, and all I can do is shake my head in amazement.

If I can get a little mushy here, I want to thank each of you who left a supportive comment and sent me emails. I appreciated it more than you can ever guys are the best. Group hug!

Ken called a few minutes ago and asked how the meeting with the caterers went. I told him that all went well, and I had sent him the contract. He asked, "So...would you say that you've enjoyed planning this?" Uh-oh. I told him I don't know if it's something I'd want to do full-time, but it's been relatively easy. He said that for the meeting he's at (PMI), they don't have a host for next year's meeting. He proposed South Bend, and it would involve planning a 3-day meeting at a hotel. That would probably be relatively easy, too. A couple of evening receptions, a dinner, arrangements for a meeting room...the downtown Marriott does conventions all the time, so it wouldn't be anything unusual for them. What would be fun would be putting together information about things to do in South Bend. I would recommend the Studebaker Museum, the College Football Hall of Fame, and a visit to the Notre Dame campus. (Even if you don't like the school, it's a beautiful campus.) This won't be until the spring, so there's plenty of time. And it should be nice weather!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Live, from Nutwood, it's Wednesday Niiight!

As my Dad would say, "Oh, for Pete's sake."

The Troll of the Day Award goes to Anonymous, for harassing not only me, but also my readers. You only get "the day" award, dear Troll, because I've read much worse on other blogs. Unless you want to up the ante and raise the rhetoric--if not the roof--you are small potatoes. But you get a special nod for this little bit o' honey:

"The fact that Beth made it a point to single out the killing of bears and wolves but neglected to speak of the disgusting issue of abortion is EXACTLY why we have now a president-elect who supports such an act."

Wait a mention the other day of Governor Palin's support of aerial killing of wolves and bears is EXACTLY why Barack Obama is our President-Elect?! Wow!

You heard it here, folks! I am responsible for the election of Barack Obama as the President of the United States! Me! Me me me! ME!

Your little hostess here at Nutwood is grateful and humbled by the honor. To know that my commentary here on Nutwood resulted in the greatest, most positive change in recent global politics is sobering and yes...gratifying. Thank you! Thank you all! Mwah! Mwah!

Although I've given the Troll of the Day award to Anonymous, I have to give the Comment of the Day award to Miss Ginger Grant. I've appreciated all of your comments, but this was pretty damn good: "Get off the cross, Mary- we need the wood!"

But wait! This just in! We have a tie! Our friend Sheria weighed in with her opinion, and Anonymous had this to say in response:

"Ah, spoken like a TRUE bla-- I mean woman."

Oh dear. It seems that my little cocktail party has gotten a tiny bit out of hand. Your little hostess is quite dismayed.

Your little hostess would like to make this statement concerning her little blog:

If you have a problem with me, feel free to email me at I will respond or ignore as necessary. Anonymous, your harassment of my readers is unwarranted, unpleasant, and just plain nasty. You have proven yourself to be racist and judgmental, and if you decide that you want to continue with your comments, be prepared for the response. I invite you to send me an email if you would like to continue a discussion. The folks that have commented here are my friends, and you are a f***tard of the highest degree for denigrating them. Email me. I dare you. If you missed it, my email is Got it?

Double dare.

Of course, in the meantime, you can continue leaving comments if you'd like, because your obsession with me is kind of scary and fascinating. Disturbing, even. Are you a stalker, Anonymous? Wow, that's creepy. Stop it. Stop stalking me! You also seem to have focused on Sheria. Are you obsessed with her now, too? I bet she'd be happy to share her email address with you, so you can continue your discussion.

What say you? Did you see my email up there? I won't give out Sheria's, because that is her information to share, not mine. That whole privacy thing, doncha know.

On to happier subjects! Ken made it safely to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a business meeting. He'll be back Saturday evening, so I've got a few days here by myself, holding down the Nutwood fort. Look out, folks, I've got time on my hands!

After the party

It's a lovely day here at Nutwood! Record high temperatures are forecast, the sun is shining, and it's a brand new day!

Last night seems like a blur. It took forever to get to the results of the voting, but once they started rolling in, it seems like it was over in a heartbeat. Once Pennsylvania and Ohio went, an Obama win seemed inevitable. (I have a few readers from those states, and I'd like to say thank you to the fine people of Pennsylvania and Ohio!) CNN still hasn't called Indiana, but has it listed as blue. The count shows Obama leading in Indiana by 22,986 votes. Crikey!

Senator McCain's concession speech was very gracious. I hope he can regain his credibility for his continuing service in the Senate, and I hope this campaign will serve as the death knell for Rovian politics. "Win at all costs" need no longer be an option. It IS possible to win with honor and decency.

Pres-Elect Obama's speech was wonderful, of course. But the thing that sticks in my mind the most is seeing Roland Martin of CNN (a black man) so overcome that he couldn't speak. He had his hand up to his face, and was shaking his head like, "I can't believe this is actually happening." For some reason, I think that will be the image that lingers for me.

Thanks to everyone for the nice comments. I was especially touched by those of you from the U.K. who stayed up to get results. It matters to me that it matters to you.

I did have one comment that I wanted to address in more detail:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "And...I'm spent":

From your previous post "...condones the brutal killing of wolves and bears from helicopters;..."

Well, the wolves and bears are safe. What about the babies that will die as a result of Obama's support of abortion? It's not ok to kill wolves and bears, but it is ok to kill human babies?

Posted by Anonymous to Nutwood Junction at November 5, 2008 8:05 AM

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your comment.

You are one smart cookie! All of us who voted for Obama really thought we'd managed to sneak this by with all our talk of the economy, but we couldn't sneak it by you! Our true agenda, and our sole reason for voting for Obama, was because he supports abortion. In fact, we're hoping to stage a real coup and get mandatory abortions passed! And if all goes well with that, we'll expand it to children under the age of three, which we will hunt from helicopters. Next up, frontal lobotomies!

We thought we'd hidden our agenda well, but you were too clever for us. Don't tell anyone about our plans, okay? Thanks!

By the way, I have to tell you that "Anonymous" is a lovely name. Is that African?

Hugs and kisses,


And...I'm spent

Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama!

This is quite an important night, and at 1:20 AM, they still haven't called Indiana. That should tell you something. I was hoping to stay up and see what happens with Indiana, but Obama has already won the presidency, and my brain is fried. I think I might have to wait until tomorrow to see what Indiana does.

I'm sorry I didn't write more tonight (I'm sure you're all thrilled about that!), but I'm seriously mentally exhaused!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

High anxiety

I managed to do pretty well today, keeping myself occupied with little household tasks, blog reading, and some piano practice.

But the first polls, in Indiana and Kentucky, are ready to close in the next few minutes. I'm in a state of high anxiety as I await the first results coming in.

I have CNN on, because I love John King and his Magic Wall or whatever they call it, but we'll probably switch back and forth between that and NBC. Will anyone else miss Tim Russert? I sure will.

And the first polls are closed! ACK! No results yet.

My friend Jillian invited us over for an election night party (they're having Chicago dogs!). I left her a message and said that we were declining for a couple of reasons. Ken is leaving tomorrow for a business trip through the end of the week, and will be packing tonight (although he can pack really quickly!). But I said to be frank, I'm not sure I can be around anyone other than Ken tonight. I know all too well that I am not good company when I get in this sort of state, and I don't know if I'll be able to stand myself tonight!

I'm hearing that some people are having to wait for hours to vote in some areas. Please don't give up! If you are in line before the polls close, you will be able to vote. Please don't get frustrated and give up your right to vote! I've been stunned to hear of the turnout for this election, and reports are that it could be the greatest turnout in a century. WOW!

More later!

The Big Day

I woke up when Ken was getting ready for work, and my mind started racing, so I've been up since about 6:30! I'm so wigged out, and hope I can calm down. We've got a long ways to go before we start getting results. I think Indiana's polls are one of the first to close (6 AM-6 PM), along with maybe Kentucky. Milwaukee Dan #1 thinks that if they declare Indiana for Obama early, it will be a landslide for Obama. We both think that's unlikely, but it's possible. If they declare Indiana for McCain early, it will be close. If they don't declare Indiana for McCain by 10 PM, he's in big trouble. Just my opinions on Indiana. I told Ken last night, "We can be a litmus test!" I believe he called me a nerd at that point.

So if you haven't voted already, I hope you have plans to do so! I heard from my pal LJ in Ohio, and she said she had to wait about 20 minutes--not too bad. We've got perfect weather here in the Midwest, with record high temperatures forecast, so bad weather is not an excuse! Heck, this year, a freakin' monsoon wouldn't be an excuse!

There's a little email group I've been a part of for the past couple of months (it includes Sheria and Marc), and a couple of weeks ago, we had a chance to submit our predictions. I gave my electoral college vote as Obama 318, McCain 220. I saw later than Arianna Huffington gave the same numbers, as well as Alex Castellanos, one of the Republican consultants on CNN. We'll see if Arianna, Alex, and I called it! Or how close we are.

My Mom called yesterday to find out if the piano got here okay. She asked if I'd played it yet, and I said, "Oh yeah!" She must have sensed something in my voice, and said, "Did it all come back to you?" I said, "It did! Except I need to practice a lot." I'm not kidding, she seemed so happy to hear made ME happy! She went on to tell me that while she really doesn't have any regrets in her life, the one thing that she's always wished she was able to learn was to play the piano. She said it's just something that you'll always have, and she thinks it would be so wonderful to be able to sit down and play. Aww. So I'm really glad that I got the piano back, and I'm playing, and that Mom and Dad know that they've given me a wonderful gift!

We went on to talk about the election, of course. I think she's as relieved as anyone that it's almost over. However, she's mad at Arnold Schwarzenegger for his comments at a McCain rally about how Obama needs to beef up his skinny legs and arms, and she thinks it's wrong to be attacking someone's appearance like that. She said, "I want to write him a letter and tell him so! I wonder how I could do that?" So later, I found the California state website, which contained a link to the Governor's website. There at the bottom was a place to email the Governor. I sent that on to Dad and asked him to help Mom send an email (she wants nothing to do with the computer). I'd sure love to see what Mom has to say to the Governator!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The piano's here! The piano's here!

Not even close to a new one, but I'm so pleased! I'll have to ask Mom and Dad what year they bought this. I wonder if it's an official antique?

Before I get to that adventure, I posted the Black Bean Soup recipe over on Kitchen Chatter. It's the same recipe I posted here, but with a picture of how my soup turned out. If any of you make it (Laini mentioned that she was planning on it), let me know how it turned out for you!

Okay, the piano. Jana (my niece) called around 9 and said that they'd just left, so I knew they were on their way. (While I waited, I was going to read some blogs, but I accidentally hit "mark all as read" for ALL the blogs I follow, rather than the one I was reading at the time. Argh! So if I didn't get by today, it was because of that. If I know you update daily, I tried to get over and visit. I'm back on track now!) About 10 minutes later, Brian (her husband) called and asked me to ask the guys if one of them accidentally picked up his staple gun--he had been using it that morning, and looked everywhere for it...but it was gone.

So the guys get here, and were very happy to be able to back the truck up to the basement sliding glass door and take it in that way. They only had to move it 20-30 feet. I asked the guy about the staple gun, and he said, "No, didn't see anything like that. Unless it's in the bench, and maybe one of his kids did it." Sure enough, when he unloaded the bench, he said, "Yeah, something's in here." And there was the staple gun. When I emailed Brian after they left, he said that he (Brian) had taken the cushion off the bench and put it inside. When the guy carried the bench out, he'd taken the cushion back the lyin' sack of s*** tried to steal Brian's staple gun! And then had the nerve to blame it on my great-nephew or great-niece! Brian said the kids weren't even there--they were already off to school. Granted, it's not like it was an expensive drill or anything, and we would have replaced whatever it was, but what nerve. I told Brian I'm so glad he called me so we could catch the guy out on his lie. They did a good job, but I would never recommend them based on that little piece of dishonesty. Now that I think about it, though, the guy cracked his head a good one on the part of the ceiling that is built around the ducts or whatever--it hangs down about a foot from the regular ceiling, and Ken conked his head pretty good when we first moved in here. I felt bad for the moving guy at the time, but it looks like he got a little payback for what he tried to do, didn't he? You can't hide from Karma! Even in the basement of Nutwood!

Anyhoo, the piano is back with me now. It's a Wurlitzer, and a little dinged up--it was quite the traveler for a while...Georgia, North Dakota, Indianapolis...but all in all, not too bad. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear that it doesn't sound too bad, although it definitely will need a tuning at some point. I also seem to recall that some of the keys were awfully "sticky," but that must have been because it spent a while in the extremely humid atmosphere of the north Georgia mountains. When I sat down and played a little, I didn't notice much sticking. I tried dusting the wood really well, but there are a lot of nooks and crannies, so I'll do it again.

It brought back such a rush of memories to see it! I played it a lot in high school, usually right after I got home. Some of you wondered what I liked to play. Mostly classical (nothing too complicated), but I remember I had an old, ripped up book from the '40's, I think, that had songs like "Don't Fence Me In" and "I Got a Gal from Kalamazoo" and I loved to play those! Ha ha! I'd give anything to find out what happened to that book. Maybe I'll see if I can find something similar on eBay. One of my favorites in that book was "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael. I also did Christmas songs at that time of year. Oh, and I had the sheet music to "Glow Worm"! I loved that was an old piece of sheet music, too. I remember it included the German name of the song, "Glühwürmchen." Mom told me she always enjoyed hearing me play while she was getting dinner ready. That was so sweet of her, because I'm really not very good.

Ken mentioned that I'm self-taught. That's correct. I'm sure that if I'd said "I want to take lessons," my folks would have said yes, but both of my sisters took lessons, so we had all of their lesson books, and I had music classes in grade school, so I learned how to read music there. Once I knew the notes, it was easy enough to start playing. A few of you were kind enough to say you'd like Ken to tape me playing. I thank you very much for your interest, but I have to respectfully decline. It's for your own good, believe me! Since I never took lessons, I'm not very technically correct, and I definitely hit some clinkers! But I just do it for fun, so I'm cool with that.

I started looking for music books on Amazon, but thought, "Hey, I wonder if there's free stuff online?" Well, of course there is! Everything from the very basics to more advanced pieces. I printed out a few things, including "Ode to Joy" and one of what was always one of my favorites, Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata. I actually printed out a couple of versions of that one, one that was really easy and one that was a little harder. I sat down and played for the first time in probably 15 years, and was surprised to see how much I remembered! I still need to work on my low notes, but I can still read music, at least enough to get by. I was delighted, and I'm not ashamed to say it brought a little tear to my eye. I think when I finished one of the "Moonlight" Sonata versions without butchering it too badly, I actually actually clapped a little bit and said, "Yay!" as in "I can still do this!"

Welcome back, Mr. Piano!

Getting back to normal...or what passes for it

I'm up earlier than I usually am, because this morning my piano is being delivered! It's been at my niece's house, and we finally have a place to put it so we made arrangements to have it moved over. Mom and Dad gave it to me many years ago, but I ended up in an apartment that didn't really have a place for it, so it ended up with my sister, then her daughter and her husband bought their house from them, so poor Mr. Piano has been around the block, and lonely for a long time! I'll write more about it later. I think Mom and Dad wanted me to have it because I'm the one who played it the most. Diana was already out of the house, and Susie was in nursing school, so I probably spent the most time with it.

Hey, the black bean soup turned out great! Ken put more chili powder in his, but it was just right for me. The blend of flavors was really good. I'll have to find another soup to try!

We finished watching "Hostel II" last night. I can't remember when I last said this, or IF I've ever said it, but...don't see this movie. I found nothing whatsoever that would redeem it in any way, shape, or form. It is a vile piece of cinematography. It was almost unwatchable, and there were a couple of times where I almost said I couldn't watch any more of it. I soldiered through, but I absolutely cannot recommend this to anyone. In fact, just the opposite. I recommend that you NOT see it. Yes, it was that bad. Quentin Tarentino made one of my favorite movies, "Pulp Fiction." Now it seems he has made one that is probably my least favorite, "Hostel II." Jeez, find some middle ground, will you, Quentin?

Milwaukee Dan #3 left me a comment about my political letter to my undecided friends. He wrote that he'd be glad on Wednesday when he can stop by here without wincing and ducking. Ha ha! I wrote back and said that frankly, so will I, and I thanked him for being a good sport. My brain is just about fried from all this stuff. Yesterday, I took an "election quiz" that was on AOL. Here are my results. That's right, a perfect score. That tells me that I'm probably a little too caught up in it all, and I'll be happy to leave the anxiety behind. There's definitely excitement there, too, but it's time to be done.

In fact, that letter to my friends was probably the last thing I'll write about it, until results start coming in tomorrow. It was sort of my closing argument. Unless something really big happens today, like we find out one of the candidates is an alien or something. (And I'm not going to speculate on who I think might be an alien! But her name kind of rhymes with alien. Hahaha! Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

I'm really looking forward to getting back into reading for fun, and I've got plenty to occupy me. Books, magazines, and getting back into the book club (I took a hiatus during the election season). There are letters to be written, piano to be relearned, songs to be sung...! Scratch that last one. Anyhoo, I feel like I'm getting ready to rejoin the human race. How exciting!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Calling it like I see it

I had an email from my friend Jillian, and she informed me that Aubrey and Erin (former coworkers) have yet to decide about the election, so maybe I should harass them a little bit! I don't know how often Aubrey checks her email, and I don't have Erin's email, so I sent Jillian a letter to print out for both of them. After I read it to Ken, he said that I should consider making the letter an entry.

After a little deliberation, I think he's right. We're getting down to the wire, and just like various newspapers are doing, I'll give my official endorsement to Barack Obama. Yes, I know I'm not a newspaper. Just a little silliness, but I'm very serious about my feelings on this election. I know not everyone agrees, but for what it's worth, here is my letter to my friends.


Dear Aubrey (and/or Erin),

Jillian tells me that you have not yet decided who to vote for on November 4th.

I would like to make my plea to get you to cast your vote for Barack Obama. Although I hate to admit it, I voted for Bush in the last election. I thought the fiscal policies of the Republican party were sound, and to some extent, I still feel that way. However, the Bush presidency has proven to be a fiasco for our country, and the recent economic meltdown is the final verdict: the deregulation and complete free market policy that the GOP lives by and that John McCain supported has resulted in the worst economic disaster since the Depression.

Yes, Barack Obama wants to raise taxes. But only on those families who make more than $250,000 per year, and on individuals who make more than $200,000 per year. I used to work in the same profession, so I know damn well that you aren't close to that! Under Obama's tax plan, you will pay less in taxes. Under McCain's, you will pay minimally less than under Obama's plan. McCain's pledge that he will cut taxes is ludicrous. Our national debt is huge, and we cannot continue this way without raising taxes. That's reality. Under McCain's plan, those making millions of dollars a year will pay LESS in taxes than they do now. When I see people losing their jobs all across the country, and people who are unable to pay their mortgages, utilities, or medical bills, I seriously question anyone who says that it is in any way feasible or reasonable to cut taxes on the top 5% of earners in the country.

I have read both of Obama's books, and have studied his policies. Despite what some might say, he does not believe in "handouts," and feels strongly that personal responsibility and hard work is key to getting ahead and making a better life for ourselves. His own life reflects that philosophy, and he worked hard to get scholarships and gain his degrees, as did his wife.

Throughout this campaign, Obama has shown steadiness, extreme intelligence, and the ability to consider all sides of whatever problem with which he is confronted. McCain has proven that he makes ill-considered decisions, has an ill-tempered personality, and is ill-prepared to guide our country with the calm hand needed at this time.

Speaking of ill-considered decisions on McCain's part, the Big One has got to be his choice of running mate. As a reasonable, intelligent, thinking woman, I cannot begin to tell you how appalled I am at his choice of Sarah Palin. She has shown that she is ethically challenged, using her power as governor to put pressure on others to bow to her will; she has a complete disrespect for the environment and nature, and condones the brutal killing of wolves and bears from helicopters; and most recently, has shown that she is so incompetent that she accepts that someone calling her and claiming to be the President of France really IS the President of France, and when the "President" claims that he loved the documentary about her, the Hustler one called "Nailin' Palin," she laughed and said, "Ohhh, gooood. Thank you!"

There is NO WAY I could ever cast my vote for a ticket that includes someone who is so obviously incompetent and in no way prepared to lead our nation. McCain's decision to choose her showed me that he was pandering to the extreme right wing of the party, and that he was putting his own interests first, rather than the good of the country that he claims to love. Bottom line: he wants to get elected, and to hell with what is best for America. The man who for many years seemed to put honor above all else has sold his soul and given up that honor in order to get elected, at whatever cost to our country.

If you're getting the impression that I feel strongly about this, you're right. Both Ken (a lifelong Republican, by the way) and I were proud to cast our votes for Obama this past Monday, and we both believe that he is the best hope for our country to begin to pull out of our current morass. While those overseas have no voice in our elections, the choice for Obama will do much to repair our damaged reputation around the world. As the recent economic problems have shown, our economy affects the global economy; we have a responsibility to reassure our allies and speak with potential allies and try to heal the wounds that have resulted from our recent disastrous foreign policy. The person to do that is Obama, not McCain.

I couldn't feel stronger about this, and I hope you'll take that into account as you make your decision.

Much love,

Beth's what's for dinner!

I didn't take this picture, but I'll try and get one when the black bean soup is done, and I dish it up. (That will be a while yet.) It's already smelling pretty good to me, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will taste as good! I'll post the recipe here now, as well as later at Kitchen Chatter, Deb's cooking blog--she was kind enough to add me as one of the "regular cooks" and contributors!

I got this recipe from eHow. Have you ever used that site? I love can find everything from how to get red wine stains out of the carpet (not that we'd ever need that, hahaha) to how to format a manuscript to send to a publisher, to this recipe for black bean soup in the crock pot! I've found lots of great information on there, but didn't realize they have a recipe section, too. Excellent! I'll provide the recipe, but will add the changes I made (nothing major).

Black Bean Soup

1 16-ounce bag dry black beans, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes (I used regular diced tomatoes)
1 ½ quarts (6 cups) chicken broth (I used sodium-free)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin (I used 1 tsp)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (I omitted this--I don't like it too spicy)
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper (I just ground up some without measuring--Ken always adds more, anyway)
*I also added 1 lb chopped ham

In a 5-6 quart crock pot, combine presoaked beans, chilies, tomatoes, broth, garlic, and spices. Stir to combine.

Cook on high for 6 hours, then turn down until ready to eat.

When beans are tender enough to mash easily with a fork, taste soup and adjust seasonings. Puree soup for a few seconds with a stick blender to thicken, but leave plenty of whole beans for texture. Alternatively, remove a few cups of the soup to a food processor and process until smooth; return to crock pot and stir in.

The recipe also states that if you don't presoak dried beans, you can substitute 6 cups of canned beans (about 4 16-ounce cans). Rinse and drain canned beans before adding to crock pot, and cook on low instead of high.

I plan on serving this with some bread for dipping, and I'll top mine with a little sour cream and Ken's with a little shredded cheese. Hmm, maybe I'll put a little cheese on top of mine, too! I get to use my stick blender. Yay! Emeril calls it a boat motor.

I added ham, but this could just as easily be a vegetarian soup (and Deb at Kitchen Chatter is a vegan, so she will probably appreciate that!). I'll probably give most of the ham to Ken and keep mine mostly vegetarian. Boy, I'm hungry already!

I commented somewhere the other day that Ken and I have always talked about doing more soups. I think this might be the year. My Mom makes a killer potato soup, and I'd love to do that; Cousin Ros made us tortilla soup when we were visiting a couple of years ago; and I've made beef vegetable soup and beef stew before and both turned out really well. I think I'm going to start looking for some more soup recipes, both in my cookbooks and online.

Borscht, anyone?


Keeping the evil spirits away

Rabbit rabbit rabbit!

I forgot to do that yesterday. Gotta keep the evil spirits away from Nutwood at the start of each month! Someday, I'll see if I can find the origins of that. I learned it from the Bob & Tom Show, so that should tell you something! Although now that I think about it, it has been a few years since evil darkened our door! I guess it knows when it's not welcome.

Today is Sherry's birthday, so pop over and wish her a happy one. She's a sweetheart!

I don't know what it is this morning, but I feel wondrously refreshed...almost as if I had an extra hour of sleep! (wink)

Russ (Who was my 100th follower, by the way...wish I had a Kewpie doll for you, Russ!) left a comment about the movie "Hostel," in which he calls it "torture porn." I don't recall the first one being that extreme...I found it very creepy, at least situation-wise, and fairly scary. Last night, we started watching "Hostel II," although we didn't finish it before SNL came on. Oh my God, it's awful! There is one scene where I turned to Ken and said, "I wouldn't and couldn't recommend this to anyone." (Two words: Elizabeth Bathory.) We'll finish it tonight, but Tarentino jumped the shark on this one. It's not amusing, it's not suspenseful, it's really not all that's just sadistic. So I'm with you on this one, Russ.

Next up is "The Hills Have Eyes" (the remake), followed by "Hellraiser." We might have to watch a non-horror movie in there somewhere. I think it was Joann who asked if I'm brave enough to watch horror movies when Ken isn't here. Generally, no. Ha ha! It depends on the movie. If it's something campy (we recently watched "Fright Night"), or only mildly creepy (I picked up "Carrie" not too long ago), that's no problem, but some of these would definitely creep me out if I were by myself. Ken has a business trip coming up later this week, and I'm probably more likely to watch something like "Airplane!"

I remembered to soak the black beans last night in preparation for the black bean soup in the crock pot. I'll get that going later. I sure hope it turns out okay...this is an experiment!

Oh, SNL! Ben Affleck hosted, and the skit where he played Keith Olbermann was brilliant! We'll see if NBC lets me embed. Again, a little long, but I've been watching Olbermann lately, and Affleck gets his outrage down perfectly! I hope Miss Precious Perfect isn't too badly emotionally scarred.

No, it is not letting me embed, although it gives me an embed code. Darn you, NBC! (shaking fist) Okay, click here to see the clip.