Sunday, September 30, 2007

Health Care & The Stars of "Sicko"

I was tremendously moved earlier this summer when Michael and I first went to see the new Michael Moore documentary "Sicko". I typed up my review of "Sicko" in July, but if you want to read it again, click here.

When protesting the war a couple of weekends ago, I was given a flier that talked about a rally and vigil for health care which was being organized by some of the people who were in the movie. I wanted to go, speak with them, talk to them, get updates. And I decided to take my mom with me, so she could see me get politically active and share that part of my life with me.

We knew the vigil would be at the Lincoln Memorial, and so we got there early, not knowing exactly when the vigil would start (the website only said "sunset"). After a while, I caught sight of 3 bright pink shirts, and I figured it must be the people starting to organize for the vigil, so I went over to find out.

What a nice surprise to find Donna and Larry Smith and Adrian Campbell wearing those shirts! I introduced myself, Joe, and my mom, and asked Donna and Larry how they were doing. They reported that they were doing fine, back out on their own, and things were looking up. Adrian looked just the same as in the film and was also doing great. We posed for some pictures before the vigil, and they were just the nicest, most enthusiastic people--it was amazing to meet them!

(L -> R: Me, Adrian Campbell, Joe)

(Me and Donna Smith)

(Me and Larry Smith)

Then the vigil began.

I got way more than I bargained for. The vigil was in honor of Tracy Pierce, a young man, husband, and father whose life was cut tragically short when his hospital-backed health insurance plan refused to pay for a life-saving bone marrow transplant, calling the procedure "experimental."

It was so moving. Tracy's wife and son got up in front of everyone and spoke, as did the Smiths and Adrian Campbell. Another man got up and spoke about his wife, whose lump was misdiagnosed and not biopsied. After switching health insurance providers, the lump was diagnosed as breast cancer and her new insurance company dropped her. Sickening. Absolutely sickening. Her two young sons were left motherless and her husband is on a crusade now to ensure she did not die in vain.

Additionally, Dawnelle Keys spoke of her daughter, Mychelle, who died from an ear infection which caused a major fever, yet she was denied treatment because Kaiser Permanente wouldn't agree to pay the charges at the hospital the ambulance took her to.

The real dynamo for me was hearing from John Graham, one of the 9/11 rescue workers who went to Cuba to see doctors with Michael Moore. He attended with his two daughters, and in person is such an amazing figure of strength. I had to meet him. Fortunately, he was tremendously gracious in chatting about how his health is today, and he agreed to take a picture with me. I said some inane things about how his story made me cry for the last hour of the film and what an honor it was to meet him. Like most of the rescue workers, he was tremendously modest and humble. I'm in tears just writing this.

When all was said and done, both my mom and Joe were moved to talk about the health care system and how sad it was that our lives have come to this. I think it was a great experience for all of us. To meet and talk with people whose lives have been disrupted by the denial of the most basic need--good health care--something that should be a basic human right, it's horrifying. I reflect on the past year and a half in our own lives and the bills we've paid out of pocket and how grateful I am that our situations weren't worse, and I think of the people I've met, talked to, read about, people struggling to get by on minimum wage, on pensions, and I feel so irate on their behalf.

So, if you want to know what you can do, please call or write your senators or representatives today and tell them you support HRH 676, which provides health insurance coverage to all American citizens--old, young, rich, poor, black, white. It's not perfect, but it's a start. See "Sicko". Get informed. Call the White House talk back number at 202-456-1111 and tell them you don't support a veto on the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Maybe if we all do one little something, it'll turn into a great big something down the line.

So, obviously it was an amazing and moving experience, one I hope I'll never forget. It was a night of hope and inspiration and peace. One person's life (and death) can make a difference.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

September Reading Round Up

Well, I know it's early, but the fit's really about to hit the shan in my personal life, things are about to be in disarray for about 5 days with my mom visiting, the book festival, etc. etc. so I figured I'd better do this earlier rather than later.

This has been another good month--10 books read, which puts me at 86 on the year and only 14 left before I break 100. Amazing. Towards June and July I was positive I wasn't going to be able to make 100, and I'm really close. I suspect I'll get there.

As always, spoilers abound, so beware and don't read more than the title if it's a book you really want to read and haven't done yet.

1. Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst. This is one of my final books for the Armchair Traveler Challenge, and so you've probably already read my review. This is Parkhurst's second novel, and if she keeps it up, she's well on her way to becoming one of my favorite authors. I loved this book, I loved it as much as if not a teensy bit more than The Dogs of Babel, and I loved dreaming of visiting all the places she mentioned in her book. I loved the characters, the writing, the locales. Everything about it was great. Even when it was dancing its way towards a happy ending and everything was sugary goodness, I didn't have any problem with that. Sometimes you just need things to resolve themselves positively. Hell, that's why I read!

2. The Dot and The Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics by N. Juster. I've been really into the power of positive thinking and everything happens for a reason and so forth and so on lately. Even when I'm furious and screaming "I hate my life!" I'm laughing on the inside. So Joe gave me this book, which is the sweet story of a straight line trying to win the heart of a dot. The dot is in love with a squiggle, and the line must prove himself worthy of her love by being the best line he can be, while the squiggle remains a squiggle.

Originally published in 1963, this is the sweetest book, and I'm so glad I read it. Even though it was all of 80 short pages, I'm including it because I read it and it mattered to me. It made me want to be the best line I can be, and that's what I'm shooting for!

3. Death Note, Volume One by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Joe is trying to convince me that Manga is where it's at. He got really into the Death Note series and I have been trying to make him read happy things, non-death things, but he's lovin' Death Note, so I agreed to give it a try.

Death Note is a true Japanese graphic novel, which you read from back to front, right to left. I thought it would be harder to do, but it was actually pretty easy. It still doesn't make sense to me why you'd read that way, but I suppose reading front to back, left to right might not make sense to the Japanese. I don't know.

It tells the story of Light, a top notch student with amazing opportunities in front of him for his future, who finds a notebook dropped by a shinigami god of death. He can write anyone's name in the notebook and they will die. Light vows to use the book for the good of mankind, bumping off criminals and thugs to improve the world. Soon the world catches wise to the fact that there is something unusual happening and send a super duper secret agent called L to investigate. Somehow L instantly zeroes in on the fact that the person responsible is a supremely intelligent teenager with ties to the police force (Light's father is chief of police), and the game is on.

The volume ends very abruptly, which Joe tells me is due to the fact that they simply put a bunch of individual comic books into one volume and then create another. He has volume 2, which I may read eventually, we'll have to see!! I liked this better than I thought I would--it's more of a psychological thriller than a psychotic teenager, and I'd have to say I'm interested to see "who wins"--Light or L or the shinigami. I might even let Joe finish reading the series instead of making him switch to daisies and butterflies.

4. Househusband by Ad Hudler. Linc Menner is a man who has just given up his job as a very successful landscaper in California to move to Western New York, where his wife has been hired to be CEO of a hospital. While Jo, his wife, laments her 12 hour days, Linc is left to deal with the whisperings of his neighborhood housewives who don't trust a man around their children (including his own 3 year old daughter), the struggles of maintaining a household, the pressures of being supportive of his wife, and his own struggle to find meaning in a life defined by laundry and cooking.

The book reminded me a bit of an updated version of the old Michael Keaton film Mr. Mom. Linc and Jo have to find their own ways to deal with his being a stay-at-home dad and it's so entertaining to read Linc whining about having to go be arm candy at his wife's corporate events, while she complains that she doesn't get to spend enough time with 3-year-old Violet. When they finally find their balance, it's wonderful. I loved hearing Linc become whiny and dependent and his wife annoyed and distant. It really cracked me up. Good stuff.

5. There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell by Laurie Notaro. *Phew!* I think the title is longer than the book!!!

I already talked about this in my challenge review, but not one of my favorites. It had its moments, but it was just as well that I read it, finished it, and put it away. The book is Laurie's life with the names changed to protect the innocent.

If you love her stuff, you'll probably love this book. I think my sister did--she seemed kinda pissed after reading my review, so I dropped the subject. Try it for yourself, you might like it! The writing was fine, and I guess it was funny, but I don't like it when books and authors try too hard.

To me, this is like Laurie picking you up by the collar, getting right in your face, shaking you, and screaming, "It's funny damnit! Laugh!"

I chuckled twice.

6. Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather Mcelhatton. I actually read this book this summer, and I can't believe I haven't listed it. I did a search through my old entries and don't see it, so I'm including it here.

Remember Choose Your Own Adventure? You were in a haunted house and suddenly you were flying over the rainbow on the back of a winged horse? Well, imagine a Choose Your Own Adventure for grown ups. Thus is the premise of Pretty Little Mistakes.

I loved it. I had my fingers holding the pages, just in case I didn't like where my story was heading, and I always seemed to turn into some drug-addicted nymphomaniac, which I wasn't crazy about. At the end of each story I died too!!! But along the way, I joined the circus, went to Italy, became a doctor, headed for the rain forest, and a zillion other possibilities, and it was a lot of fun seeing what my choices would lead to.

If only life came with that type of manual. Hmmm, Arkansas, don't like where this is heading, let's go back to Boston and try a different path...

7. The Giver by Lois Lowry. This is this month's book club selection, believe it or not, a YA book about a young man chosen for an extraordinary task: to receive all the memories of joy, pain, love, hope, despair, forgiveness, anger, etc. for his community, which lives in detached Sameness. Jonas comes to realize all that is lost in giving up one's feelings and emotions in order to create a "perfect" society, and must make difficult choices in his quest to save himself and his people from themselves.

I won't get into this too much, since book club is Monday, but suffice it to say, I was both intrigued and sickened by this book. I look forward to a great discussion. I loved it.

8. Forever Lily by Beth Nonte Russell. Again, one I've reviewed for the challenge already, but what the heck. I'll try to add something.

The story tells of Beth's journey to China with her friend Alex, who has decided to adopt a little Chinese daughter and bring her home to America. However, upon receiving the child, Alex decides the whole thing is a huge mistake and that she doesn't want the baby any more. Beth has a series of dreams and visions (which were a bit beyond the pale in my view) and realizes that she must bring the baby home to raise her because they were separated in a past life.

Ok, putting aside the craziness of the past life thing and visions of the Virgin Mary, it was a great book. Beth's growing attachment to the infant and her struggles with Alex to ensure that the right thing is done was heartwrenching, and her tales of what she encountered on the streets and in the villages and cities of China were fascinating. I loved reading this one! If you're interested in China or adoption, you might enjoy this book, for sure!

9. The Martian Child by David Gerrold. David Gerrold, a science fiction writer, decided he wanted to become a father. Single and gay, he chose to adopt through the California Foster Care system. One day, while looking through a book of adoptable children, he came upon a picture of Dennis, a troubled young boy that the social workers had labeled unadoptable. Dennis was convinced he was a Martian, got into fights with other kids, and destroyed property. But David was ready to take him on. Together, they built a family.

This was a great book! I happened upon it by accident in Borders and I read it immediately. Gerrold does gloss over almost all of Dennis's behavioral problems, making lists like "of course, he got into trouble, stole money, destroyed books, but he was a great kid". So we never really know much about the real struggles they went through.

The book instead focuses a lot on Dennis's obsession with being a Martian. Gerrold finds other examples of children who think they're Martians too, and speculates that they might, in fact, be Martians! Of course, he doesn't pursue this line of thought, for fear he'd be found crazy and put the adoption in jeopardy.

The book won a Hugo and a Nebula Award, which I gather is a big deal in the Sci Fi community. However, it really was just a heartwarming story of a dad and his son, and the growing pains a kid in the system faces as he struggles to become part of an average family in America. I have great respect for foster parents--I am a volunteer for the Orphan Foundation of America, which helps youth aging out of the foster care system, and I listen to the kids I mentor talk about it and wonder how the system and the families can be improved. It's a tough, tough job. I'm glad it worked out for these two.

10. The Garden Angel by Mindy Friddle. Last but not least comes this debut novel of one of South Carolina's homegrown authors.

From Salvation can come from the most unexpected places, and an unlikely friendship between two women--one strong and determined, the other scared and uncertain-- provides the solutions to challenging problems confronting both. Faced with losing her family's home, a rundown mansion in a once elegant part of town, Cutter will do anything to protect her ancestral birthright. Faced with losing her husband to another woman, Elizabeth isn't sure what she can do to reclaim Daniel's love. And when the other woman is none other than Cutter's sister, the likelihood of finding the help she needs from Cutter seems even more improbable. As Cutter runs out of options for halting the sale of her grandmother's house and Elizabeth runs out of time to save her marriage, their unorthodox friendship ends up being the one thing they both can count on.

I loved this book. I found myself hating it--it's very slow and languid, kind of like a hot Southern summer day, and you kind of have to pick your way through it, but it's a wonderful story and written beautifully. Friddle is the type of writer I aspire to be: she makes you work for it, and makes you want to work for it. By the end, I couldn't put it down. And the book comes with a pretty happy ending, which made me even happier. Things don't always work out exactly the way we want, but they usually work out for the best. Good stuff!

So that's it for this month... Closing in on it... Hard to believe. I won't be getting any reading done for the next few days, so I'll get a late start to October.

To sum up where I am:

The Excellent: Lost and Found, The Garden Angel

The Great: The Martian Child, The Giver

The Good: The Line and the Dot, Death Note, House Husband, Pretty Little Mistakes, Forever Lily

The OK: There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell

Totals for August:

Books Read: 10
Pages Read: 2648

Totals for 2007:

Books Read: 86
Pages Read: 27,532

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Can't Believe It...

I just can't believe it...

I've got the plague again.

I was joking with my mom on the phone tonight about having the Plague when she comes to visit, but I really actually have it again.

I suspect it started last Thursday, when I gave a talk about blindness at a pre-school, and one of the little fellas was crawling with kid cold germs. Three days later, like clockwork, I got a killer sore throat, couldn't seem to drink enough, been blowing my nose like crazy and sneezing like a fiend.

And I am seriously cranky. It probably didn't help that I was pressed into serious physical labor on Saturday and Sunday. When I got up Sunday morning, I had vertigo (always fun) and the clicking has returned to my ears.

Grand. Just grand.

Allergist you say? It is to laugh. Our allergist just charged us over $200 in a "shortfall" with the insurance company for Michael's visit. Not bloody likely.

I'm keeping Kleenex, Sudafed, Cepacol, and Vicks in business this year. I should get a commission.

Blargh. Back to bed.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Armchair Traveler Book Challenge, Entry 6

And just like that, suddenly, unexpectedly, I am done!

I had no intention of reading another book for this challenge for a while, wanting instead to work on the RIP II, as I stated before. However, I got a copy of Forever Lily: An Unexpected Mother's Journey to Adoption in China by Beth Nonte Russell and read it all in one sitting, couldn't put it down, and decided it was a perfect fit. So here we are.


Russell was asked by a friend, Alex, to accompany her to China to help her pick up the baby she and her husband were adopting. While parents usually make the trip together, Alex's husband had to stay home to care for another child. Russell didn't know Alex all that well, but agreed to go anyway. In this offbeat memoir, Russell describes the trip. It wasn't long into it before she noticed signs of Alex's ambivalence— she'd brought no camera to document the baby's adoption, and she'd refused to spend more time in China than was absolutely necessary. Meanwhile, Russell was having heavily symbolic dreams: she was an empress of China pregnant with an illegitimate child who had to be given away for adoption. Before long, Alex confessed that she didn't want this baby after all, and Russell fell in love with the baby herself. In the end, Russell brought home the baby she felt she was meant to have. The foreshadowing's heavy-handed, the dreams perhaps too prescient and some apparitions—the Virgin Mary, no less— strain credulity. But spiritual-minded readers might embrace the concept of linking reincarnation, adoption and fate.

The book is part travelogue, part memoir, and part New Age "talking to my crystals and communing with the spirits" tome.

I really enjoyed the travelogue, it was really interesting to read one of the legends of the Great Wall of China, and to hear about the goings-on in Tiannenmen Square and the contrast between that and the Forbidden Palace. I also very much enjoyed reading about the everyday Chinese and the sights, sounds, and smells which they create and experience every day. Some of it had been explained to me by my sister and father, things I'd rather not thinking about like cages of rabbits, kittens, and puppies in the marketplace awaiting slaughter for fresh food. Other things, like the conditions inside the Chinese orphanages gave me pause.

As someone who is not finding the road parenthood as easy as she was previously led to believe, I've been hot on adoption for about 6 years now. We would never be eligible to adopt from China, but it was a very, very interesting read and I enjoyed reading about the ins and outs of adopting overseas in a foreign country where the reactions of the natives are varied and the headaches of trying to do everything in a land where you can't understand anything.

So, my journeys around the world on this challenge have taken me to the Pacific Northwest, Japan, China, Sweden, Denmark, England, Ireland, Egypt, Cape Cod, Italy, the American Southwest, and West Virginia. The only continents I didn't hit were Australia, South America, and Antartica. That may provide me some direction in future reading. Of the six books I said I would read when starting, only 2 made the cut for the final 6. Interesting!

Thanks, Lesley, for a great challenge!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thanks, Manda!

Star in Your Own JibJab! It's Free!

This is absolutely hilarious. Lovin' it!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Armchair Traveler Book Challenge, Entry 5

Today I polished off Laurie Notaro's There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell.

Maye Roberts is moved to Oregon by her husband, Charlie, who gets a job teaching in a university there. They move to a small town and Maye finds it a challenge to make friends, not only in a new town, but in a place that seems as foreign to her as Mars.

I chose this book thinking it would be a fish out of water story, kind of like my own. There have been two occasions when I moved someplace and was totally out of my element: when I moved to Utah and when I moved to Arkansas. It was then I vowed I would never leave the East Coast of the US again.

Maye's story starts out similarly. She cannot meet people her own age and the people she does meet either don't like her, she embarrasses herself in front of them, or she gets into arguments with them.

Eventually, she decides to join the town's "beauty pagent", where she is guaranteed that if she wins, she'll be friends with everyone in the entire town.

This leads her down the path of a huge town cover up in a mystery from decades ago.

The book is full of little stereotypes of the Pacific Northwest--the town's residents go gaga for organic donuts and wait in line in their cars for hours on Styrofoam recycling day. The town is described well and picturesque sounding, but this was not a book I was madly in love with.

It really pains me, since I met the author earlier this year and she was probably the first author I thought, "Damn, I'd like to hang out with her!" She's so funny, personable, and down-to-earth. But sadly, to me, her books just don't show the awesome person she is! This book was clearly autobiographical, and as I was reading it, a lot of times I felt like I was reading her non-fiction stuff.

So I think this will be my last LN book. I've given it the ole college try with 4 or 5 of them now and every one just leaves me cold and wishing for something more, better, or different.

However, one more closer to finishing this challenge! I'll be sad to see it end. Next up will be the Anderson Cooper book, but I plan to work on the RIP II first.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Trouble With Dinner

This will be my fourth and last post today. (I told you I had a lot!)

So, after the protest, we were both hungry, thirsty, and tired. We decided to go to Union Station, and my sister was all hot to trot on Johnny Rockets, since we could be served there. So we went and stood on line waiting for a table to open up. Finally, a very nice elderly couple left and we got their booth.

So we ordered drinks and I drank a half a glass of water in about 20 seconds. Then we ordered french fries and onion rings.

This was not meant to be my day. I asked Judy for the ketchup, and went to shake it up so I could get it nice and loose and mixed up. Doesn't the cap fly off and ketchup went everywhere!?

Back when I was 8 or 9 years old, McDonald's started making salads, and I got one once, and got a packet of thousand islands dressing. The packet was damned near impossible to open, so when I finally got it open a crack, in my gusto, I squeezed the packet hard, and the dressing exploded all over the place--me, my clothes, my hair, the window of the McDonald's, the table, everything.

This was a very similar experience. There was ketchup all over my shirt, down my sister's waterglass, all over the table. I looked like I'd been shot (which we agreed would make an awesome protest story--"yeah, but you should see the other guy!").

So we clean that all up. And Judy orders a chocolate malt. She goes to pour it into her cup, and a huge clump of ice cream falls out and splashes chocolate malt all over the table. So we're giggling and trying to clean that up.

Seriously, that meal, we must have gone through about 100 napkins easily. The table was sticky, covered in ketchup and milkshake, it was a mess.

We got out of there.

So I get home last night, and I called Michael and told him, "i'm not moving, I'm not cooking, what do you want for dinner?" So he says I can get him McD's. Stop in and pick up a couple of drinks and his dinner, and get home, we eat, and I take a hot shower and get in bed.

I offer him the last of my Coke, and he's laying there talking to me while I'm trying desperately to stay awake, and then it happens... He spills the Coke right down my back. It is icy cold, and I shot out of bed like a cannonball from the barrel of a cannon.

He's there, oblivious, I'm squealing and jumping around, and he's all "What happened?"

"You just spilled Coke down my back!"

"I did?"

"Yes, and on the sheets!"

"I did?"

"And look at your shirt!"

He got it on himself and didn't even notice.

So we cleaned up, and I gave up on food and beverages for the day and passed out cold... :-\

Hopefully everything cooperates better today!


So, yesterday was yet another protest for which the Pwesident decided to leave town (COWARD!), but we decided to go anyway, and do our part in adding numbers to the crowds who are protesting the war. This one seemed like it would be fun and really symbolic, as we were marching from the White House to Congress. Then, last week I heard on the news that the counter protesters had finally gotten themselves organized and were planning a rally of 30-40K on the National Mall at the same time, so I thought, "Well, finally we're going to get some action!" instead of the same crowd of 20-30 "Hippies Smell" types.

This was our fourth protest this year, the first being in January from the National Mall to the Capitol, the second being in March from the Mall to the Pentagon, the third in May from Arlington Cemetery to the Capitol, and then this one from the White House to the Capitol. We decided to start out with Code Pink, which was having a rally on Freedom Plaza and would then meet up with the main group of protestors in Lafayette Park.

So, we decided after the morning's events not to bother making signs, plus I was too busy arguing politics with Lucas who is convinced that trickle-down economics is the way to save our country. We got off the Metro at Navy Memorial and started walking down about 5 blocks to where we had to meet up with the group, and this guy stops us to shake hands with us. It turned out to be Carlos Arredondo, who we have seen at every single protest this year. His son Alex was killed in Iraq in '04. He shook hands with us, introduced himself, thanked us for marching, and was on his way. We were blown away.

So, we got down to Code Pink and they were just getting organized. We stopped by the area where they had all kinds of pink things and picked up some pinks that said "Pro-Soldier, Pro-Peace", a pink tambourine, pink bubbles that read "Bush Blows", and pink crowns. Then we met one of the women who'd been kicked out of the Patraeus hearings and she showed us the bruises on her arms from the Capitol police. She wore those bruises like a new Cadillac, so proud of them and herself. She was 70 years old. I wanted to hug her.

We were sitting around waiting, and people started taking note of Judy's T-shirt, which read "I love my country. It's the government I'm afraid of" and she was asked to pose for a number of pictures. She was quite the little celebrity!

Finally, they got going on stage, and talked about the hunger strikes they had in California, actions with Nancy Pelosi and Joe Lieberman, and then they had a woman come on stage and start singing. They passed out song sheets, and they wanted Code Pink to be singing the whole length of the march (which didn't happen), so we sang songs for about an hour. It was kind of like being back at Girl Scout camp, a very warm and friendly atmosphere and all kinds of singing and dancing around. All that was missing as a campfire. It was truly the most fun I've had at a rally since we started this stuff. I felt like jumping up and yelling "Women Rule!"

Finally, they announced that it was time to head over the Lafayette Park, so we all got in a line and they started handing out banners. Judy and I were given one, unfurled it, and eventually we started moving. The minute we got the park, it was like the parting of the Red Sea. Everyone moved aside and we were given free reign to walk straight down the line and everyone was cheering like mad. I felt like a celebrity. "Go Code Pink!" "Here come the pink ladies!" It was awesome.

We made our way to the stage, stood around for about an hour, and then decided we should make our way over to where the line up was, since we were supposed to be 3rd in line, behind the Iraq War Veterans for Peace and the student group. We found them and headed over, and we were standing smack dab in front of the White House. WOO HOO!

We stood there another hour and everyone was getting aggravated. Seriously, they need to plan these freakin' rallies better--with the exception of the one in May, we have spent hours and hours just standing around, at which point everyone's feet are hurting, we're all hot, and everyone gets cranky.

Fortunately, the guitar lady kicked off and started everyone singing, which helped.

We got underway shortly thereafter, and two very enterprising guys set up a beverage cart smack in the protest route, so we were able to get some water and a Mountain Dew (the blueberry muffin didn't last that long!). Then we hauled it to the Capitol.

We discovered the bad things about holding a banner: 1) you have to walk pretty far apart to have it properly displayed and 2) it puts you in a position of some responsibility with your group.

So at first, we were supposed to be at the end of the line, and we were asked to bring up the rear with a couple who had a banner. Ok, fine. Then we were told to catch up to everyone and walk in the middle. Ok, fine again. Then we were told to go up towards the front. Okie dokie. Fine again. Then they decided to pull us all over to the side. We had people cutting in and out of the group, and some of the older folks were a full block behind, so we pulled over by the Code Pink bus and stood there for a while until everyone caught up.

Along the way, we encountered a couple of hundred counter-protesters, and this time they were really quite vocal. There was a lot of screaming and yelling going on with both sides, and the requisite "Hippies Smell" sign proudly displayed. We just flashed them the peace sign and kept on moving.

Eventually we got to the grounds of the Capitol, and that was where the "Die In" was supposed to take place--anyone who was willing to get arrested was supposed to lie down on the ground and wait for the police to haul them off. Judy wasn't too keen on that, and I was really wanting to do it, but figured that Michael might get in trouble, so we decided to leave. As it turned out, they only arrested the people who jumped the barricade, so we could have participated safely. Bummer. At that point, I could have used a nice nap in the sunshine.

We headed out, and talked with the Capitol Police on our way, and they turned out to be very nice and helpful in getting us out of there safely. Judy and I speculated there were 50,000 or so people there, but the organizers were guessing at 100,000. It was definitely a huge rally. And lots of fun!

I won't be protesting at the next one, not only because of the book festival, but also because the focus of the protest is so diffused and I don't happen to believe in everything they're marching about next time. However, there is a rally for health care at the Lincoln Memorial on 9/28 with all the stars of Sicko the Movie, and I'll be attending that (and dragging my mom!).

I think if this stuff is going to work, they need to have a concentrated effort--we want an end to the war and we want the President impeached. Then we can worry about the other issues they're bringing up... One thing at a time... But I guess that's why I'm not organizing these things :-)

Saints Preserve Us

In the history of embarrassing moments in my life, there have been only a few that stand out. I've got a new one to add to the list.

Yesterday was another big protest in DC for impeachment and an end to war. Seeing as how most of us have come to terms with the fact that the not-so-newly elected Democratic Congress is a bunch of "candy-asses" (to quote my husband), everyone is getting increasingly pissed off and the protests this month started with getting kicked out of the Patraeus hearings, the march yesterday, and then a week long rally on the Mall from 9/22 to 9/29, where another march is planned (but I won't be attending, due to the book festival).

In any event, I was going to Judy's to pick her up, and then we'd head to DC together via metro to attend the Code Pink rally in the morning, and then Code Pink would join up with the main group and we'd all march to the Capitol building.

So I told her I'd be up at 8:00 to make our signs, and we could then leave. So I left home at 7:00, got all the way up there and realized I had forgotten the key card that lets me into the garage, so I call over to her house and no answer, I figure she's asleep! So I start singing into her answering machine. That doesn't work, so I have to pull an underhanded maneuver to get into the garage, and find out that her landlord is parked diagonally across the parking spots, so I have to try and fudge my way into the sort of open spot so I can go wake up my sister.

I manage to do that, and get out, and lo and behold, the landlord is there sleeping in the car! I was kinda pissed off, so I made sure to set my car alarm twice for good measure.

So, I go into my sister's, and knock on the door, no answer. Now I'm really fuming because I know she's not up and we had plans for the morning, so I let myself in and look around. Dead quiet. Her door is open about 6 inches, so I decide I'm going to really surprise her and I open the door, and instead, it is I who is surprised, as my sister is not alone and is up to her eyeballs in Lucas, who is laying there looking for all the world like the cat who ate the canary.

So, I assess the situation, suavely say "Oh, good morning Lucas" as if I am accustomed to finding my sister in bed with conservative Republicans every day, walk in the room, and promptly lock myself in the bathroom--a dead end wherein there is only way out, and that's back through the bedroom.

What follows is my internal dialogue:

Oh shit. Shit! Why did I come in the bathroom?? SHIT!!! What am I going to do? I can't get out of here except to go back through the bedroom. And they're still out there... Because I know they're going to be waiting for me to get out of here so they can get up. Shit! Well, ok, I have to just act cool. Act cool and it'll be fine. It'll be fine. I guess I better flush the toilet so it looks like I planned to come in here all along. Ok, ok, here goes nothing. Be cool, be cool...

So, I come back out, smile at the two of them in what I hope is a supremely cool and non-threatening way, and say, "So, Judy, is everything OK with Alfie?" Judy looks at me like I've lost my mind, which I probably have at this point, and says, "Um, yeah, I think so, why?"

So I say, "Well, I just saw him sleeping out in the garage in his car, isn't that strange?" "He's probably just staying here till it's time for work or something."

So, to spur things along, I say, "It's probably best that we get moving, busy day ahead and all! I brought muffins!" and scurry out of the room.

At which point, the self-flagellation starts all over again...

Hammin' 2: The Return of Geronimo

I have SO MUCH to blog about, I scarcely know where to start. So I'll go back to Thursday night and work my way forward.

It was time for the weekly net, and were quite sure Geronimo had gone back to the midwest, so we were sadly thinking that it would be another sedate evening on the net. We put the radio on just as Jack started the net, and as soon as he finished, someone came on with very low audio. I couldn't make it out, but as soon as Jack read back the call sign, we realized: He's baaaaaaaaaaaack!

So Jack tells him, "Your audio isn't on" and suggested he do this or that or something else, and the guy does it and comes in loud and clear. "This is AA1AAA and I'm at the mall walking around the roadhouse in the parking lot near Rte 3 and I-95."

And so Jack notes him and continues, and the guy chimes in again, but his audio is back off, and so Jack tells him that, and the guy apparently says his battery is dying, so Jack says, "Well, that's a shame. Have a good night, we won't expect to hear from you again!" and we all heave a sigh of relief (although, frankly, I was kind of hoping for a show down).

So we go through the net, and there were only 4 or 5 of us who had called in, so when we all finished, and Jack calls for anyone else who wants to join the net. Well, if you haven't already guessed it, guess who's back?

"This is AA1AAA and I'm at the mall walking around the roadhouse in the parking lot near Rte 3 and I-95."

Then a bunch of other guys call in. So Jack is talking to each of them and between each one we hear: "This is AA1AAA and I'm at the mall walking around the roadhouse in the parking lot near Rte 3 and I-95."

I was about falling off the bed I was laughing so hard. The guy literally wasn't saying anything else. We were picturing him walking around in circles at the mall, in the parking lot.

Then, disaster strikes. Our HT's battery goes dead. So I was going to spend the night at my sister's so I could be at work early, and so I head out and as I'm hauling up 95, my phone rings.

Michael's listening to the net with the radio plugged in, and a new guy took over for Jack to run the swap shop. Finally, this guy got tired of "This is AA1AAA and I'm at the mall walking around the roadhouse in the parking lot near Rte 3 and I-95", told the guy, "I'm trying to run a net here and you're making it impossible" and shut the net down completely.

Michael's speculating that the guy is going to get a letter in the mail that he is persona non grata not only on the net, but on the entire repeater. We can't believe he's still in town! Will he be back this week? I guess we'll see. The battery is fully charged, so if there are any fireworks, we'll be ready.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Armchair Traveler Book Challenge, Entry 4

I have completed my 4th book in the challenge, this one being Carolyn Parkhurst's Lost and Found.


Luckily, this novel about a reality-TV show is a satire, if an often muted one. Addressing the comedy and tragedy of missed connections, bestseller Parkhurst uses the forum of Lost and Found, an Amazing Race–type competition, for a mostly somber (but occasionally very funny) set of character studies. As two-person teams journey from Egypt to Japan to Scandinavia, the carefully constructed, TV-ready personae of the competitors slowly unravel. Employing a constantly shifting perspective, Parkhurst admirably juggles a large cast of characters, with a number of competitors emerging as standouts: squabbling mother and daughter Laura and Cassie, tormented by a secret neither of them wants to publicly acknowledge; Justin and Abby, an "ex-gay" married couple wrestling with unruly desire; and Juliet, a former child star desperately angling for a return to the limelight. Parkhurst treats the game show as an opportunity for the contestants to decide, as the producer asks of them, "What have you found?" The answer for readers: heart and wit to spare.

Carolyn Parkhurst recently attended a meeting of my book club, for which we read her first book, The Dogs of Babel. I had purchased Lost and Found as a kind of "show and tell" as to what else she had written and she graciously autographed both of my books after the meeting. I really loved Dogs, so I was hoping I'd like Lost just as much, and I'm pleased to say that in some ways, I liked it even more!

The story rotates through the team members, each of them adding to the story in their own way. All the folks above are noted, as are a pair of brothers, one of whom is worrying about his 3 year old son who needed a liver transplant. The story starts with the teams coming to Egypt, and eventually they travel to Japan, Sweden, drive through Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, wind up in England and then Ireland before coming back to the US for the finale of the game.

The game show is supposed to challenge the contestants physically and mentally. Each pair is given clues as to where they're heading next, and once they figure it out, they must complete some challenges in the new country. I loved reading the clues and trying to figure out where they were heading next. Not only were the clues clever and well written, but I learned something about each country and found myself thinking, "I'd really love to see that!" I've never considered a trip to Scandanavia before, but after reading about the Oresund Bridge, I really want to go and drive across it!! I also want to see the World's Longest Art Gallery (Stockholm's subway is also known as the world's longest art gallery at 68 miles (109 kilometers). The majority of the subway's 100 stations include paintings, sculptures and mosaics.)

So perhaps when I plan my European tour for 10 or 20 years down the road, I'll have to include Sweden in the trip, something I'd have never considered before reading this book.

The only disappointment was that the clue in London was created for a 20 minute stop over, basically, so there wasn't much about London but that's my personal Anglophile shining through!

Definitely a great book, and it was a great selection for this challenge. Next up will be Laurie Notaro's There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell, about the Pacific Northwest.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thanks, Lauren...

Well, Lauren at A Catalog of Bitch tagged me, so I guess I can't say no. Who can say "no" to Lauren? She's awesome.

Here are the rules for this Meme:

The Rules:

1) You have to post the rules before you give the facts.
2) Players must list one fact that is relevant to your life for each letter in your middle name. If you don’t have a middle name then use a name that you like.
3) When you are tagged, you must write a post containing your own middle name game facts.
4) At the end of your post, you must tag one person for each letter in your middle name. Don’t forget to comment them telling that they are tagged and to read your post to get the rules.

Like Lauren, my middle name after marriage was changed to include my maiden name. So you're in for a treat. However, I don't know enough bloggers to do #4, so I'll just tag a few of you.

My middle names are Katherine Cherepon. Here goes.

K: Kittens. I brought home lots of cats when I was growing up and they were all pregnant. We had more kittens than I can remember.

A: Applesauce. I'm so glad it's fall so I can make homemade applesauce. My husband about swims in it when I make it.

T: The Road to Omaha: one of my favorite books.

H: House. I bought my house in 2005. It has 2400 square feet. It is the thing I am most proud of.

E: Everett, MA, part of my old territory in Boston.

R: Royal Family: I am a huge Britannia buff and love reading up on the Royals, particular Princess Diana.

I: Ice: that which caused me to break my leg out on my driveway.

N: New Kids on the Block. My first boy band love.

E: Exercise: Slowly but surely, me and Mr. Simmons are makin' it happen.

C: Caliber: my new vehicular baby.

H: Hair: brown and thin, short now. I have a love-hate relationship with it.

E: (Damn these E's! THEY'RE HARD!) Electrical--one area of my house I have not yet learned how to manipulate

R: Rabbit: my bunny TomTom is the best rabbit in the entire world.

E: Ender's Game: a book Joe is after me to read and I haven't bothered to get to yet.

P: Paris, the one place I've been in Europe that I didn't like.

O: Orange: a county I cover for work and a color I find myself strangely in love with these days

N: Noodles: I love eatin' 'em.

So there we go. Now, there's no way I can tag 17 people, so I'm going to tag Annette, Tal, Sera, Lesley, Judy, Nancy, Melissa, Jill, Cindy, and Manda. Judy's got it easy, only 4 letters. Let me hear from you! :-)

Overcoming the Hurdles

Well, last night with all the craziness of the day, I had ZERO desire to go downstairs and exercise, but Michael encouraged me, and together we were able to accomplish a full routine for me and more than 20 minutes on the treadmill for him.

Today I went to Fairfax to work my butt off and try to get some paperwork filed before the end of the performance year on 9/28, and we stayed in Fairfax for dinner and wound up getting home at 8:30 after running a couple of errands in F'burg. Neither one of us felt like doing a damned thing, but we suited up and started going at 8:45 and both of us managed to finish again.

Even when neither of us feels like doing anything, it's like we're daring each other to be the first to say "Let's not do it tonight." So consequently we wind up exercising anyway. There are worse ways to get motivated.

Miracles Never Cease

Yesterday was a crazy day. Monday night, I had book club. I wound up leaving book club at 10:45, driving to Judy's house where it was raining pretty good, and then heading south into the storm from hell, where I finally arrived at 12:15. The house was a mess, but I didn't care. I dropped a quick email to the girls, and headed to bed.

I had to get up at 5:15 because we went through all FIVE of Michael's carpool drivers and back up people and no one could give him a ride to the van pool yesterday. So I drove him up to Stafford, got home at 6:00 and went back to bed for an hour and a half, until I had to go to work. Worked yesterday, came home, took a nap, and woke up to go pick him up from the van pool. In total, he woke me up 3 times yesterday, and all 3 times I had to roll out of bed and get into the car.

By the time we got home, with all that up and down, I was half crazy. I didn't know if I was coming or going.

So my wonderful husband offered to cook me dinner.

First time in 8 years he's done the cooking. It was so sweet. He heated everything up and then called me upstairs, where he informed me I should start eating without him so it wouldn't get cold. He delivered my meal on a warm plate with a potholder with all the finesse of a butler at the Ritz Carlton, and a cold drink was waiting at the table.

It doesn't take much to about reduce me to tears, but I was about crying last night. What a guy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

R.I.P. II Challenge

I'm not yet done with the Armchair Traveler Challenge, but I was sitting around thinking about my quest to read 100 books this year and I was thinking in October I'd read creepy books. Then I read Lesley's blog and read about the RIP II Reading Challenge and figured "What the heck!? I'll kill two birds with one stone!"

It appears I should read a minimum of four books, but can select more than that if I so desire. So, I'm going to make the following list of potential candidates and I will read at least four of them, and possibly more as time permits...

  • Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner
  • Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern
  • The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook
  • Disturbing the Dead by Sandra Parshall
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  • The Anniversary by Amy Gutman

I'll start reading them after I complete the next two books in the traveler challenge. I'm looking forward to something creepy after all the cream puffs I've been into lately!

Saturday, September 08, 2007


You know how sometimes you have been with or around someone so much you can complete each other's sentences? My sister and I and Joe and I do that all the time.

My husband and I officially crossed into "married too long" status today.

We both woke up with wanderlust, and both of us wanted to go to the same place.


We have not discussed going to Charlottesville, apart from me going for work, we haven't talked about it since going to tour Monticello with Melissa last year. Why on earth I wanted to go, I have no idea, considering I go plenty and usually hate driving on the weekends. Why Michael wanted to go, I have even less idea.

But we both had the desire to go down there, find a little hole in the wall place, eat lunch, and enjoy the town.

So that's what we did today. And that is why it is now 10:15, Lucas's cake is half-done, the scones are only just baked for Monday's book club meeting, and there are a ton of dishes in the sink.

But we found our hole in the wall.

Ain't love grand?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hammin' It Up

For the most part, being an amateur radio operator (AKA ham) is not something I find the most thrilling thing I can be doing with my time. I only have my most basic privileges, which means I can use a little handheld radio and talk to people locally. In New England, I used to get lucky and hit Rhode Island once in a blue moon, but here, I only know the one repeater (which I think is a tower where you send your signal from) and no one is ever on it. My husband, Mr. Technician General Super Operator, can use the big rig and contact people all over the world. But even then, they might talk for 15 seconds to swap call signs and be done with it. So I don't much see the point--I live vicariously through his far hits. The night he hit New Zealand was pandemonium here, let me tell you.

There is one bright star in my ham world, which is the weekly nets run by the amateur club here in town. On Thursday nights, everyone who wants to can tune in and listen to a little roll call of sorts. It is run by our neighbor and dear friend, and I love listening to him run the nets, because he always sounds so happy and he always says, "Yeah, okay..." after each person's check in, which just cracks me up for some reason.

So, last night we were listening, and usually, it's a pretty tame session. You check in, say your comments, and then listen to everyone else's. Comments range from "I'm sitting in my car on I95 trying to get home" to "nothing to report, just thought I'd check in" to "we had chicken for dinner at the new place in town". You get the picture.

Well, last night, someone blasted a hole in the calm. There was a guy in there from out of town, and he showed up just as the net was closing for the night. After the net, we have a "swap shop" where people who want to buy, sell, trade, or acquire new or used ham equipment can list their goods or wish list. Kind of like free classifieds.

So, our friend closes the net and this guy jumps on and announces himself on the net. So patiently, he is wished a good evening, and the swap shop is open. Our friend is rattling off the various and sundry pieces of equipment and all of a sudden, this guy jumps in again and rattles off some stuff. So patiently (but perhaps a bit firmly), Friend asks the guy not to interrupt (very bad ham etiquette breach!).

Finally, Friend finishes off the list and asks if there's anyone else who wants to list anything with the swap shop, and guess who?

And all of a sudden, it's pandemonium. This guy starts rattling off his own system of phonetic letters, strings of numbers, and he's confusing himself about what he's actually talking about.

Most of us, hams or not, know some or all of the phonetic alphabet(alpha, bravo, charlie, delta...). And if you are a ham, you should know all of it. This guy was making it up as he went along.

"I need quantity three, quantity three six geronimo [G is golf in phonetics] sevens"

"I need one six geronimo kilowatt three"

"I need three, quantity three six bobwhite tango five"

So finally, after two or three minutes, another guy gets in there and says, "Forget all that stuff, just give me the numbers and the letters, I don't want the Mickey Mouse." We were cracking up. It was clear the old timers were not pleased about their swap shop getting hijacked. "Don't give me the Mickey Mouse!"

So then, the guy starts in again. "Six G 7, that's quantity three, six geronimo--no, wait a minute, six seven--wait, quantity three six geronimo seven tubes."

Meanwhile our friend is trying to keep up with what this guy is saying and valiantly tries to read back what the guy wants. "So I have you down for needing three 6G7's, a 6GK3, and three 6BT5s. Thank you and good night."

But the guy won't be deterred. He's somehow convinced that it's wrong. So he starts rattling it off again. Then Mickey Mouse gets in there and says, "They never manufactured a 6GK3!"

So this guy says, "I didn't say I wanted a 6GK3, I said I wanted quantity three six geronimo kilowatt threes."

So Mickey Mouse says right on the air, "Can you believe this guy? Did you hear that?" and our friend says, "He just said three times he wants the 6GK3's and now he's denying it!" There was an aura of disbelief, outrage, and hilarity eminating from the radio.

Finally, they tell the guy they have the information and quickly close the swap shop. Undeterred this dude again starts rattling off information, including his home phone number, and then seems to think better of it and says, "Yeah, but don't call me for any other reason than you've got my stuff. Have a blessed night."

So we shut the radio off, Michael's running in and out of the office to email our friend to take an informal poll as to whether this dude is drunk or maybe not quite right in the head, the two of us are on the bed laughing our heads off, and about 30 minutes later, when we've calmed down, I turned the radio on again, and the guy is still in there!!! He's talking to absolutely no one. So I keyed up the radio (tuned it into the repeater) and I guess he must have heard that, because he starts saying, "To the station tuning in, I can't hear you!!!" He'd wait a few minutes, say his call again, and then say, "Station!? I can't hear you! You aren't hitting the repeater. Try again!"

It was the general consensus that the dude was d-r-u-n-k. It was so damned funny. Makes being a ham just a bit more enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Week One: Done

Our first full week of exercising is complete. Ya know, it's not that bad. I do a tape and Michael's on the treadmill. We're yelling over the music and it's more fun than doing it solo. He's improving his stamina, and I'm getting more coordinated. WOO HOO!

Look Out, Georgia!

Team Kosior is riding through...

We're spending Veteran's Day with Mike and Lesley in Atlanta. The tickets are booked. We're ready to go! Can't wait to see you guys :-)

Thanksgiving week, my sister and I will be hauling on down 95 en route to Florida. Any stop recommendations for refreshment would be appreciated, especially since so many Georgians read this thing!

PSA: Awesome DC Festivals Coming Up

I'm so excited! :) There are 2 awesome festivals coming up in DC that suit our fancy just fine, so I'm putting them here in case my fellow Washingtonians want to go as well.

The first is this Sunday, September 9th, from 12-6 in Annandale. The Slavic American Festival! WOO HOO!! Oh yeah. I can hardly wait. They're having a polka party, handmade Slavic crafts, and of course, FOOD! :-) The list is amazing of the stuff they're going to have--all the old favorites from my great-grandmother, grandmother, and the stuff they taught my mom how to make, and she made it like she was born in Krakow. *Sigh* My heart is a-flutterin'! Oh, and of course, they're having bingo.

For more information, visit and click on Upcoming Events.

The other festival is the St. Nicholas Russian Bazaar at the St. Nicholas Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America (could these church names run any longer?!). It's running from October 12-14th. We went last year and Judy almost cried when she tasted the food. It was delicious and authentic, plus they have a big flea market, cathedral tours, crafts, and music. For more information, you can visit although right now they just have a little paragraph up, not any details.

I'm lucky to have the British side of me in Fredericksburg and the Eastern European side not too far away :-)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Lessons Learned from the BFC

Ever since I got my new mixer, I've been dying to make things in it, but haven't really had much to mix. This weekend seemed a good opportunity to use it and I was watching the Barefoot Contessa and she was making some beautiful little mini linzer cookies, a take off on linzer tarts.

They looked delicious, fairly simple, and best of all, she used her mixer to make them.

In fact, there was nothing simple about the freakin' things, and it took me all damned night to make them (I literally pulled the last pan of cookies out of the oven at 2am Monday morning). They were delicious, sure, but I put in hours of work for a yield of about 20 damned cookies.

So, I've learned that baking is easy if:

1. You have a small army of sous-chefs at your disposal (my sister and I have dubbed the BFC's sous chef "Armand");

2. You have a kitchen the size of my entire house;

3. You live in the fabulous Hamptons and have fabulous friends for whom you fabulously cook all the fabulous time (fabulous friends? check! Ha, BFC!);

4. You start cooking approximately 15 hours before you want to actually eat anything;

5. You actually have all the ingredients handy and don't have to run out to the store a few times to find those impossible-to-locate ingredients;

6. You snag a nip of hard liquor now and again during the process;

7. You have a refrigerator the size of a small cavern.

I must confess, it was the best damned shortbread I've ever sunk my teeth into, but the rolling and cooling and heating and re-refrigerating and dusting and kneading and baking was a royal pain in the ass.

By contrast, I made the Queen's scones from Cooking Royally the next morning, and it took me approximately 20 minutes from bowl to oven. And that's for HRH for cryin' out loud!!!!

Still, I love watching BFC on occasion just to laugh at the utter pretentiousness of it all and get a glimpse of the other side (after the debacle last December, I will confess BFC is one of my top 3 favorite FoodNetwork chefs, and I think it's in part because she bring a shrimp salad picnic to the beach and not get one grain of sand in the food). This is my second recipe of hers I've tried, and the first, while delicious, produced enough chicken stew to feed a crowd of 300 hungry sailors, but wasn't to the liking of either my sister or my husband. And the miracle of that was I prepared it in Centreville, where I had approximately 2 square feet of counter space.

That was 3 years ago. I wonder which of her recipes I'll try in another 3 years...

The BFC's Mini Linzer Tarts

This is a variation of Eli Zabar's delicious shortbread cookies. (SK's note: But of course it is!)

3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup good raspberry preserves
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/4-inch thick and cut 2 3/4-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter. With 1/2 of the rounds, cut a hole from the middle of each round with a heart or spade shaped cutter. Place all the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Spread raspberry preserves on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust the top of the cut-out cookies with confectioners' sugar and press the flat sides together, with the raspberry preserves in the middle and the confectioners' sugar on the top.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Footloose and Fence-y Free!

The last poles came down this morning. This is all that remains.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Hear Us Roar, Part 2

I went out to finish the demolition on the chain link (I wanted to pull down one more section after all) and turn around, and there's the General. He decides we can take out the cross bars, which basically fell apart in our hands after we unbolted them (or, I should say, Michael unbolted them, I wasn't strong enough, much as it pains me to admit it).

So we're hauling that and then he says, "Let me just see the vertical poles a minute" and next thing I know, he's got them loosened up in the dirt. A shovelful of dirt later, they were popping out like nobody's business!! One side of the fence was out (I'm sure the neighbors were wondering what we were doing as M was yelling 'Come on, you bastard!' at the top of his lungs), and we're going to finish tomorrow morning.

We're both exhausted. My hands are killing me. I've just been granted a reprieve on taking a trip to the grocery store. So I'll clean the bunny room and head to bed.

The debris pile is the most impressive thing I've ever seen. I'll take a picture!

We Are Married, Hear Us ROAR!

The General and I slayed the 800 lb. gorilla in our back yard today--our chain link fence. As Perez Hilton might have said, it was 'shiteous'.

All rusty, and neighbors on both sides had built lovely wood fences along the property lines, allowing weeds and grass to grow between that they couldn't see, but we could.

Today, I went to Home Depot and bought a bolt cutter. I cut all the metal ties and the General picked up the pieces and hauled them to a central location. We still have to figure out how to get rid of the poles that held the fence up, but the chain link is gone and that in itself is an improvement.

We both feel rough and tough!


A Feat of German Engineering

The General's electric razor crapped out this week, and we contacted a friend at Gillette to see if she could get us a good price on the brand new Pulsonic Razor, which just came out and has ever bell and whistle you can imagine. Well, in fact, she could, and sent it along this week.

She told us that all we'd have to do is get a charger for it, since the one she was sending us had a German plug, and she figured that would cost about $25 and we'd be ready to roll.

The Pulsonic is a thing of beauty. And it's twice as quiet as the old razor he had bfeore that. We hit the store trying to find a compatible charger, but no dice. So finally, we went on the website for parts for the Braun razors, and there was the Pulsonic staring us in the face. OK, we'd have to order one. No problem.


We couldn't find the plug anywhere. So I emailed customer service. I got a very nice response that read:

Unfortunately, the cord for the Braun Pulsonic line of shavers is not currently available at We hope to have this item stocked in our inventory by late September.

For immediate availability, we recommend you speak with Braun Consumer Service at 1-800-272-8611. Customer Service Representatives are available to assist you Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

So I send this to Michael, and he immediately calls because we need a cord for this thing before it runs out of steam.

He finds out that Customer service isn't even sure the American plug has been manufactured yet. So we have this gorgeous razor and no way to charge it!

*Sigh* Don't it just figure?