Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why I'll Be Voting Obama

With things getting so busy starting this weekend, I wanted to take some time to state why I'm voting for the people I'm voting for. I had dinner with friends on Monday, and it darn near turned into a screaming match in the restaurant. I found the whole thing very stressful--I'm not quick on my feet when it comes to saying what I think. I need time to form sentences and think intelligent thoughts, and after I got home, I was so pissed off with myself for the things I could have said or should have said, things I meant but didn't clearly say. I will be so glad when the elections are over--I'm tired of life revolving around politics. I don't know if it's because I live in the DC area or if it's just because our nation has become so polarized, but all of it adds up to the votes I'll be casting.

First, the issues that are important to me:

1. The economy. I am still seething over the bail out that was passed, something that both major presidential candidates voted to support. I was thinking about it the other day, and as late as this spring, my husband and I were out purchasing new furniture, a nice lawn furniture set, etc. I would no sooner think of doing that now than I would of buying a new car. After a long summer of soaring gas prices and the price of food being stratospheric, we are at a point with our budget that I'm clipping coupons and not leaving the house unless absolutely necessary. And yet, these tycoons who cried for a bailout are taking vacations and holidays and huge bonuses. And no one is doing anything about any of it. The Democrats really let us down when, after taking control of Congress 2 years ago, they failed to act to do anything, and I mean anything, to get to the bottom of the oil prices. And Exxon is reporting record profits yet again.

I want a tax cut. After visiting the site, I discovered that Obama's tax plan will save my husband and I approximately $1800 as things stand right now with no dependents and a higher income than probably is average. McCain's tax plan will save me $60 after I quit my job and have a baby at home. In order to save a meager $60, I have to drop my income by over $40,000 and add another mouth to feed. For Obama's plan, I can keep on working, not worry about whether or not we get a baby this year or next year or the year after, and still save almost $2K. It's a no brainer. Each year, we pour our tax return back into the economy by doing fix-it-up projects on our house. Next year will be a debate--new doors, new floors, new exterior paint and shutters? Or will we just save it, just in case?

But even if I don't get a tax cut personally, I do think the Bush tax cuts should be repealed and businesses should start paying their fair share. I think there should be a penalty on businesses who ship jobs overseas and tax credits to those who create jobs here at home. We need to stimulate the heck out of our economy, and giving money back to the middle class while making it attractive for businesses to remain in the US seems a sensible way to do it.

2. Health Care. The mass hysteria on the right about so-called socialized medicine in this country infuriates the living crap out of me. I have spoken with a huge number of people outside of the US who live in countries where there is centralized health care FREE OF CHARGE to all citizens and they would not give it up for the world. They absolutely love free access to doctors and treatment when they need it. They love not having to worry about a bill and how they're going to afford to pay off their bills when they are done getting the treatment they need.

For some people in this country, yes, there are ways to play the system and figure it out and manage to get a drastic reduction in health care costs. But why should we have to? Why should we have to play a system for access to what should be a basic human right, a right that is guaranteed to all of us in the immortal writings of our founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It's kind of hard to have much life when you have a potentially fatal disease and no health care coverage.

I have top-of-the-line health insurance with a top company, paid for through my husband's employer. However, I have spent out of pocket this year well over $2000 between dental care, physical therapy, my sinus infection in January, prescriptions, co-pays, and other expenses. And the bills keep coming in. I have 6 outstanding bills at the moment: 2 for the dentist, 3 for Quest Diagnostics from my annual physical, and 1 from the orthopedist. And you know what? They all have to wait until the latter half of November before they can find any money from me. I can't spend what I don't have. Other considerations have come first. But I will pay them all off and be done with it shortly. Unfortunately, because of our income, unless we spend something like $3000+ on health care out of pocket, we can't deduct these expenses from our taxes.

This is crazy. We need a health care policy that will pay for people to have top notch care, regardless of their ability to pay. People deserve the right to see a doctor. Long waits? How about 2 years ago, when I sat in a hospital waiting room for 5 SOLID HOURS with my leg broken because the emergency room was overcrowded with people who had nowhere else to go for a basic exam or help with a cough or a cold? Not good for doctors? I'm personally in favor of a system that pays doctors a fair wage regardless of where they live. The people in my hometown have perhaps one doctor. My dad travels 30 miles each way to get to his doctor. Imagine if it didn't matter if you were in a big city or a tiny town. The system could be radically different and radically improved with the right plan.

I fully support nationalized health care, just like I fully support our socialized police and fire departments and public schools.

3. An End to the War in Iraq. There's not much I can really say about this. I firmly believe that the troops need to come home as quickly as possible. I would say they need to come home NOW, but unfortunately, it's not like they can pull up stakes and leave. A phased withdrawal, beginning immediately, however, is something I fully support. Let's face it: Iraq is a mess. We went in and made a bad situation worse. The Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds all hate each other. There is nothing, no-thing, we can do to force them to get along. There is nothing we can do to force them to have American style democracy. They don't want it.

This war was begun under false pretenses, built on a pack of lies. It distracted us from what our one real and main objective should always have been: nabbing the crap out of Osama Bin Laden--who did attack us. Let's get our guys out of Iraq, let the Iraqis beat the crap out of each other, and then we can go back when the dust settles on the humanitarian mission of rebuilding a country we had no business destroying. In the meantime, we can get our butts back to Afghanistan, find that S.O.B., and take care of business.

And I personally support prosecuting those responsible for starting this illegal war and those who used it to line their own pockets. It is too late for impeachment, but it's not too late for a major investigation into the entire thing and to start holding the administration's feet to the fire and forcing them to answer the tough questions--and if they don't want to talk, they can be prosecuted for contempt of Congress, and any other violation we can get 'em on. Ok, it's all a pipe dream, but it'd be nice if these bastards actually had to own up to ANYTHING. (Nancy Pelosi has been the biggest disappointment to me of any politician in Washington--we all knew what we were getting when we got Bush and Cheney and Company. But I believed in her, and she let us down.)

4. Energy independence. I am well sick of paying for Saudi Arabia's oil. If there is a country on earth I believe should be wiped off the map, it's Saudi Arabia. Their treatment of women is despicable, deplorable, disgusting. And they run around as billionaires with oil and sock it to us, while treating their own citizens deplorably. I wouldn't give money to an organization whose aims I don't agree with, so why should I pay money to a foreign country whose treatment of its women in particular I do not agree with?

There is a windfarm about an hour from my hometown, and I honestly think every time I see it that it's one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. I wish there were more windfarms around. I hope that our next leader will lead the way on new energies, especially wind and solar. Obama promises a tax credit to those who drive hybrids. I don't currently, but I might. And I think it's great to have that added incentive to do so.

5. Women's right to choose. I have always been firmly pro-choice and pro-life at the same time. For me, were I ever to be put in that situation, I cannot imagine making the choice to have an abortion. However, far be it from me to tell someone else what she should or should not do. I don't have to live Jane Smith's life. I don't have to live with the decision to have an abortion and the feelings that one has afterwards. I've never known anyone to get an abortion and feel, "All right! Time to party!" There are attendant feelings of guilt, disappointment, anger, sorrow, and more. But none of us has to live raising a child we never wanted because other options weren't available. For obvious reasons, it would be my wish that more women today would choose adoption over abortion. For some, this is just not an option and I accept that as well. I would fight to my dying breath that women have the right to safe abortions versus back alley hack jobs as we saw in the past. And any candidate I vote for must, first and foremost, be pro-choice.

6. Guns and gun control. This year, I will not be voting for our incumbent representative, Rob Wittman, despite the fact that he voted to oppose the bailout twice. Why? Because in the course of storming his office with the John Birch Society, we were able to speak with one of Wittman's people on the phone. His top aide let it slip that Wittman owns no fewer than 22 guns. I cannot in good conscience vote for someone who owns twenty two guns. I mean, seriously, WTH do you need 22 of them for? Who do you think you are? Rambo? Apart from the sheer number, I think there are way too many guns in this country in general, particularly high powered weapons and automatic weapons. I am all for responsible gun owners hunting and for a WELL REGULATED militia, per our Constitution, but no, I don't particularly believe convicted felons, particularly those with a past history of gun violence, deserve to own guns, nor do I think people need to have vast quantities of them, nor do I think they need hollow point bullets to shoot a damned deer or duck. Firearms were meant to be regulated, not used and abused, and it's damned time we got back to a reasonable system for doing so.

7. Illegal immigration. I break from my usual side on this one. I am fully in support of laws which make it very difficult, if not impossible, to remain in this country illegally. I don't believe that anyone has any right to go into any country without following said country's laws and procedures for entering and remaining legally. If I should up and move to Canada or France tomorrow, I think I should have to obey the laws of immigrating there. And I feel the same about immigrants coming here. My own family came through all the legal channels, which were not easy in the early part of the last century. They too took menial jobs, learned the language, and became citizens. While I appreciate that many illegals perform jobs that US citizens would not want to perform, in my view there should be some system of keeping track of these people, giving them adequate time to learn English and learn enough civics to pass the test, and in the meantime allow them to pay taxes on their earnings. And if they cannot do so, then they need to get the heck out and find some other way of supporting themselves and their families. And while we're at it, let's tighten our border security. Those militia men in Arizona may be bastards, but at least they're trying to do SOMETHING to help patrol the borders. This is more than I can say for the federal government.

8. Vice Presidential Picks. Like many women, I suppose, I was temporarily excited by the prospect that a woman had been chosen as McCain's running mate. And then I started to learn about this woman. And she still has me shaking my head. My father probably put it well when he said the other night, "She's a cute little girl who's in way over her head." I do not appreciate the race-baiting she's engaged in. Anyone who thinks the Earth is a mere 6,000 years old is a crackpot. I do not like the fact that she zips around chasing wolves from helicopters till they collapse of fright and exhaustion and then she kills them. (Give the wolf a fighting chance!) I do not like that she preaches her little abstinence-only policy and then her 17 year old gets knocked up. I do not like the fact that her 7 year old was flipping someone the bird (I didn't know what flipping the bird was at age 7.) I do not like that it took her 5 years and 6 colleges to finally earn a college degree. (There's flighty and then there's not even bothering to try.) I do not like that she appeals to the lowest common denominator, so-called "Joe Six Pack". I don't want someone I can have a beer with running this country. I want someone a hell of a lot smarter than me in charge. I do not like that she chides Obama for his "lack of experience" when she has none to speak of herself, but that this fact somehow qualifies her.

I admit, I know very little about Biden other than that he takes the train home from Washington to Delaware every night to be with his family while Congress is in session. I know that he has a ton of experience. I know that during the rally, he was gracious enough to stop and take pictures with people who asked as he walked the handshaking line. And frankly, that's probably all I really need to know about the vice president. The President is the one who should be the story, who should be on the hook for answers. And I like that Biden is allowing Obama to be President.

9. Experience and Demeanor: I got grilled on Monday for stating that I thought Obama had more experience. Let me explain. Of course he does not have more senatorial experience. But he has boots-on-the-ground experience, and I think that counts as much, if not more. Look, anyone can sit in their ivory tower day after day, passing bills, but if you're not in the trenches with the people, how can you possibly understand what people are going through on a day-to-day basis? When one of the candidates isn't sure how many houses he owns and spends more than my husband's and my combined annual salary on househould help, I can't see how he's in touch with what the average American goes through on a day-to-day basis.

Additionally, McCain's temper is notorious. He is hot-headed, curses people out, screams at his wife and calls her nasty names in public, and has alienated many of his colleagues. This is not the type of man I want attempting to build coalitions with our allies when we need them most. As evidenced by Obama's trip around Europe and to Iraq this summer, it's obvious that the rest of the world is enthusiastic about his candidacy and would be willing to work with him. And now, more than ever, I feel like we need the rest of the world to start pulling for us just a little bit.

So, that's where I stand on everything. I will be voting straight Democratic party this year. Had McCain actually won in 2000's primaries and gone on to run against Al Gore, I think I would have had a very difficult time knowing who to vote for--and I'm not entirely sure that I know now who I would have voted for at that time. But this is the wrong time to have McCain in office. We need someone even tempered, passionate, ready to act, ready to reach across the aisle, ready to lead, and ready to serve.

I would like to say that I never was a big Obama supporter until the last couple of months. I did not vote in the primaries, but had I voted, I don't think I would have voted for him. I never heard his 2004 DNC speech until approximately a month ago when my husband sent it to me from YouTube.

And I still wouldn't consider myself a major Obama supporter. I don't have any stickers on my car, nor do I have a sign on my front lawn. But when looking at the alternative, Obama is the clear choice for a change in this bad direction we're heading. He may not have all the answers, but of the candidates, I do think he has the best ideas and hope he'll be able to implement them.

If you are undecided or considering voting for a 3rd party candidate, please consider voting for Obama. I can understand a lot of reasons why people wouldn't want to vote for either candidate, and the other night I said, "Hell, I think we should outright abolish the 2 party system", but this year, I do think it's important to take a stand. If you live in a battleground state, in a state where your one vote could really make the difference in how your state shifts, please considering voting for Obama-Biden. If you and your spouse can't decide, vote one each. Do something, anything, that will truly help shape the future of this once-great nation.

The big questions the candidates are asking are 1) are you better off now than you were 8 years ago? and 2) do you think you will be better off in 4 years if you vote for me?

I happen to think this country is worse off. I happen to believe that we are a much more fractious people than we were--and that this is ultimately Bush's legacy: division. Everyone seems to be arguing over something--Prop 8 in California, evolution, the war, the left, the right, passing blame on who's responsible for the decline of the economy, the foul up with Katrina, the debacle in Iraq, the bailout, everything I've mentioned above... I was speaking with my brother-in-law by phone this evening and asked him whether this was a DC thing or a nation-wide thing in his opinion, and he has been reading up on this very topic. The general consensus seems to be that the US is basically fractured, battle lines have been drawn, and everyone is stressed out and strung up tight.

I really hate to think where this country could be in 2012 if McCain is elected and we have to endure another 4 or 8 years of this type of headbutting. I can't see a good outcome for myself, my family, my friends, or my nation. I'm removing myself from the equation. I can't stand another dinner ruined by arguing politics. I don't want to talk about it any more. I'm tired of arguing with people who disagree with me, and I'm even tired of commiserating with people who agree with me. I'm ready to let the healing begin--at the risk of sounding a little hippy dippy.

If Obama's elected, I do feel like there's a glimmer of hope that things can improve. So if you can, vote Democratic on Tuesday. And if you can't, thanks anyway. I'll still like you when we win. ;-)

Author's note:

Thanks for reading. This took me literally hours to write, and I'm sure I forgot some salient points I intended to make. Tomorrow is my last free day to do anything before the craziness of November settles in, and tomorrow I am working, taking my husband to the doctor, it's Halloween, and I'm partying with friends in the evening. Please feel free to comment, but please understand that for the timing issue and also for the fact that I am flat out sick and tired of this election, I will probably not respond. Thanks for your understanding.

You Are My 5 Friends

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fall Fun Festival Pictures

Pumpkin cookies

Corn in the Corn Maze

A pumpkin in the pumpkin patch

Melissa, Michael, and the 25 pound Pumpkin of Death

Judy and Lucas carving pumpkins

All the jack-o-lanterns, carved to perfection

Mini pumpkin cakes with a jack-o-lantern

Our Jack-O-Lanterns All Lit Up

If I had to pick one thing I love about fall, it'd be carving pumpkins. We sat around last night and just watched them glow for nearly an hour. It was so soothing and relaxing--me and my honey and the candlelight.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Good News in Fredericksburg!

The General and I are getting our lives back!!!

It is official, so I'm going to share the good news without too many details.

The General has been busy applying for new jobs in the area. As much as he has loved his current job and the people he works with, the long days are really hard. Additionally, there are times where getting up at 5AM to get him to the van pool or to help take care of his toe or just because he's up at that hour can grate on the nerves of even the most patient spouse who doesn't have to get up till 7AM.

But it is official as of this morning. The General was selected and has been hired to being working at a new job at Quantico on December 8th. His round trip commute to and from work will now be less than his one way commute at his current job. That the job comes with a small raise is a nice bonus, but frankly, we are ultimately thrilled about a future we can envision where as a family we sit down to breakfast together, where God forbid there is an emergency (like me breaking my leg again) it doesn't take an act of Congress for him to get home, and where if his carpools don't come through, I can drive him to work ON MY WAY TO WORK, or stop and have lunch with him if I'm in the area, or a hundred other wonderful things. The end is in sight to his 4AM wake up calls, his $200+ per month vanpool payments, his 2 and 3 hour commute times each way in bad traffic.

Even more beautiful is the fact that these people wanted him based solely on his merits as a candidate. They did not know about his disabilities until after the selection was made. His work speaks for itself. No special hiring authorities this time. His reputation made it happen.

I am so, so, so proud of him and thrilled that our lives are going to be immeasurably better in so many ways for this opportunity. In the immortal words of George Peppard, "Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?"

Kosior Fall Fun Festival 2.0

So this weekend was the 2nd Annual Kosior Fall Fun Festival. Of course, it poured all day on Saturday, so the outdoor festivities had to be postponed. However, we made the best of it.

Judy and Lucas came down Friday evening, for what Lucas has determined is their last trip till after D. is born. Because NaNo starts this weekend, I won't be traveling up there on weekends, so it should be quiet.

We had dinner and sat around chatting and planning for an unplanned rainy day. We decided to do some baking. I had found directions for making little mini pumpkin cakes, plus one of the girls from my book club made some delicious pumpkin cookies and sent me the recipe, plus Melissa had brought some pumpkin pie fudge over 2 weekends ago, plus we always make a batch of my mom's donuts every fall. So that was the plan.

Saturday morning, we got moving and did the shopping (got all my book club goodies too, so ladies, be ready!), then came back and baked all day. When I say that we baked all day, what I really mean is that Judy baked all day. I acted as more of a gopher, grabbing ingredients and letting her do all the hard work. This appears to be part of her "nesting" as my sister has never been particularly domestic, nor has she ever shown the slightest inclination towards baking.

Everything came out great and the kitchen smelled SO GOOD. And I managed to keep it clean. I love baking and making a big mess, but to me, the ultimate accomplishment is doing all that AND still managing to come downstairs to a clean kitchen in the morning regardless.

Somehow during the day, we all got into a big debate about what our favorite Billy Joel song was, so we wound up singing along to Billy Joel CDs all afternoon as well.

Sunday morning, we ate donuts and played Yahtzee, and then Melissa came by and we went to Belvedere Plantation for their fall festival, just as we did last year. We did only one trail of the corn maze this year--Lucas's orders that Judy was not going to give birth in a cornfield (not that I considered this a problem). It was fun, but due to all the crappy weather, a lot of the corn had been trampled down and so it was pretty easy to see where you were going. I don't think their heart was really in it, I think they were just humoring me, so I was disappointed, but oh well. At least we did part of it.

Afterwards, we took in the pig races, which was real cute. Those pigs were so funny running around the little track. Our section's pig won the last two races, which felt so good, considering our first pig got out of the gate, thought better of the whole thing, and started running back the way he came. But he got the hang of it and finished dead last by about 15 seconds. So cute!

Then we took the hayride to the pumpkin patch and picked pumpkins. I don't do anything halfway--I wanted PUMPKINS. I found a real nice specimen, so I grabbed him for the General and then found a second one that looked quite nice as well. It was all I could do to stagger back to the haywagon with those things, but finally I was able to, and we got back to the main part of the farm and got a wheelbarrow for all of us to tuck our pumpkins in. I noted at that time that my wrist was feeling a bit funny, but I figured it was just because the pumpkins were awkward--the big one didn't have much of a stem.

After a nice snack of kettlecorn and apple cider slushies, we checked out. My big pumpkin weighed in at 25 pounds!!!! The littler one was a respectable 17 pounds! That is a lot of pumpkin to be hauling. I wound up pulling the car up, because my arm was really hurting by then, and it turned out I managed to pull a muscle in my left arm. Go figure.

We got home and the General came downstairs, flush with a Patriots victory. I started cleaning out the big pumpkin, thinking that it would be much lighter to carry afterwards. WRONG! That sucker had walls at least 2 inches thick! It took me a good while to hack through it and even a good while longer to clean it out. There were pumpkin seeds everywhere--we all had good sized pumpkins. It was crazy.

The General wanted his pumpkin to look "surprised" or "frightened"--I can't remember which and looking at the pumpkin now, it looks both surprised and frightened--so I did a passable job (I think anyway) of making the pumpkin look that way. Then I got to cleaning out my pumpkin, which I wound up letting Lucas carve because I was wiped out after cleaning that sucker out. It is a traditional smiling jack-o-lantern, with triangle eyes and a smiling mouth full of teeth.

Both pumpkins came out great.

And then it was time to pack up and head out. The great "Big Broadcast" Halloween spectacular was going to come on, so we wanted to haul ass to a spot where there was good reception before it came on--which is all of about 6 miles from the house.

Got back to Judy and Lucas's, and he must have been feeling his oats, because he said he felt the decorating choices were a bit "ghetto". So we worked on getting the artwork re-hung, and then Judy and I put the bedding that Michael and I had bought D. into the crib. Judy got kind of sappy at that point, saying she knew it had been hard and she wished she could have made it easier, but I pretty well had to cut her off because any type of talk like that gets me supremely pissed off and I was having a nice time. So we just let it go. I let her know that due to NaNoWriMo and then D's arrival, this would be my last night up there except for staff meeting days, which she seemed OK with. And then it was bed time.

So that was this year's fall fun festival. I'll try to get some pictures up soon for everyone to see the pumpkins, which all came out really, really cute. I took my half of the goodies to work yesterday for a little party, and it was gone in no time. Everyone absolutely loved all of it. The fudge was gone before lunch, and the cookies were gone in no time as well. I left the cake there when I left, so I'm not sure what happened with them, but I'm willing to bet they didn't last too long either!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Planning and Shopping

This is week 2 of the great experiment. I went this morning to buy the paper and get my coupons for the week, and spent another 20 minutes or so downloading coupons before going out. Michael and I sat down yesterday and worked out our plan for the week's meals.

However, in a twist, we decided to try shopping for 2 weeks instead of just one. I figured it was worth a shot. We will be eating out 3 times in the next 2 weeks, so we didn't need 3 meals; however, we will be having company next weekend, so we will be feeding a crowd. This makes up for the three less meals.

Our menu plan looks like this:

Week 1

Sunday: (Susan out volunteering--gets free dinner, Michael flying solo)
Hot dogs

Monday: Dinner out with a friend

Tuesday: (Hubby's choice)

Wednesday: (Wife's Choice)
Fettucine with chicken and broccoli

Thursday: (Adventurous New Recipe)
Cowboy Stew
Tortilla chips
Left over quesadillas

Friday: (Start cooking for a crowd)
Aussie Meat Pies
Green beans

Saturday: (It's looking like Saturday is turning into pizza night)
Homemade pizzas--sausage and mushroom stuffed, pepperoni, and white

Week 2

Sunday: (last night cooking for a crowd)
Stuffed shells

Monday: Dinner out with Friends

Tuesday (Hubby's Choice)
Sloppy Joes

Wednesday: (Wife's choice)
Sausage, Pepper, and Onion heros

Thursday (Adventurous New Recipe)
White Burgundy Chicken with Egg Noodles
Mixed veggies

Friday: Dinner Out with Friends for Halloween--Melting Pot is having a BIG discount on their Big Night Off dinners--only $33 instead of $48 for coming in costume. Oh yeah, we're all over that.

Probably pizza :-)

We decided to shop at Super Target this morning. They have printable coupons on their site and a few things I needed were things they were couponing, so I was happy with that idea.

I made a pretty comprehensive list, although I did leave off 2 items that I didn't want to keep around until next week (mushrooms, Italian bread) and I couldn't find the wine for the chicken at Target.

We did get absolutely everything else. We also picked up breakfasts (cereal for me, breakfast sandwiches for him) and lunches (bread, yogurt, deli meat, etc), snacks, supplies for a cake I am going to make for our next staff meeting, beverages (milk and soda), some first aid supplies for M's toe, cleaning supplies, and organizational aids (pre-printed shopping lists for the fridge from Real Simple--all I have to do now is check off what we're out of).

Our total bill for all this for two weeks, minus the approximately 6 dollars in coupons, was just over $185.

Our previous 1 week total used to be $160. And I would never have anything to actually cook. I had lots of food and no ingredients.

What's more, I managed to get everything put away in the fridge, freezer, and cupboards. UNUSUAL! Usually there is food stacked on the counters.

I'm starting to feel a whole lot less stressed about quitting work. I don't plan on quitting soon, but I do plan on quitting in the next year. And with a little one coming home, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, we need to learn to conserve and budget.

It's almost a game at this point. Jacalyn is a real expert at the CVS game--though a lot of the things you have to buy to make the CVS system work are things that I don't actually need, so I've pretty well decided against going whole hog on the stuff for now. I mean, honestly, what the hell are we going to do with Just For Men? Michael has approximately two gray hairs. I also don't need 10 toothbrushes, Halloween buckets, or fun lights. So while I'm intrigued by the process, I don't think it's something I'm going to do just to get money back on spending money on things I don't need.

I have 2 major house projects that we're going to wind up saving for in the spring--one involves the nursery and one involves the kitchen. I really, really need more storage in the kitchen. The previous owners knocked out a wall between the kitchen and dining room. I would like to have that wall put back up and a pantry built along the wall where my hutch/china cabinet is currently located. Then I could buy more items in bulk and actually have some place to store things. In the nursery, I would like to knock out the ridiculous closet, which is chockful of wasted space, and put in two closets on the other wall, with a bench between then. So this is the plan for next year's tax return. In both rooms, we will gain much more storage and the use of space will be a lot better.

Hope everyone has a great week. Time for lunch!

Powerful Message to Sarah Palin

I don't know how to steal this and make it appear in my blog, so follow this link instead:

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's Coming...

...National Novel Writing Month is a scant 2 weeks from tomorrow.

Are you participating?

I stopped onto the NaNo site last night and caught up with my old writing pals from last year--people I see once a year to write with. The last 2 years, I've used NaNo to write to different sides of the same story and have worked on combining those stories into one book this year. It is far from finished. I've just been working on cutting and pasting and so far I'm up to chapter 7 of my book, with plans for 18 chapters and an epilogue. I thought I would like to get it cutand pasted together before starting this year's NaNo, but every time I sit to work on it, I feel a wash of despair.

Why? I'm not really sure. I have it planned out. I think the story is excellent. I've got a lot of people desperately interested in reading it. I just can't seem to seal the deal.

So my goal for October is to try and get it done. I have 2 weeks. I want those chapters cut and pasted together, regardless of how crappy they sound. And then I will move on to this year's book on November 1.

My Facebook is burning up with messages from fellow NaNo'ers, and i've been getting PMs on the NaNo site for meet ups already going on to plot and chart and plan our upcoming tomes.

This year's book will be a fun romp through the Civil War in Virginia, the story of one brave little Yankee who nearly brought down the Union Army. It will take place in and around Fredericksburg, Wilderness, and Culpeper. My working title is Pep Goes to War. There aren't enough comedies written about the Civil War, and I aim to fix that this year.

So, 30 days, 50,000 words, the madness begins in 2 weeks. So grateful it's in November this year, I'm proving to need the distraction. Who's with me!?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pork Tenderloin Recipe

I want to heartily endorse the pork tenderloin that was our adventure recipe of the week. We just finished dinner and it was oh-so-good! It was also REALLY easy, cooked up fairly quickly, and was easy to modify for special diets.

The basic recipe is this:

In a large ziploc bag, place a 2 lb. pork tenderloin. Add 20 oz. pineapple chunks with juice, 1 tsp. minced garlic, 1/4 c. packed brown sugar, and 5 oz. soy sauce. Turn to coat and refrigerate over night.

I didn't bake it per these directions, which said bake at 350 for 90 minutes. The package from the pork said bake at 425 for 25 minutes, which is what I did, and it came out just fine.

Also, I used pineapple that had been sweetened with Splenda instead of the high test stuff, I used Splenda brown sugar, and I used reduced sodium soy sauce.

We about ate it up. It was really, really good.

This is from Take Five: A Holiday Cookbook by Debbye Dabbs. I haven't tried anything else in there, but they look pretty interesting. Anything this easy has gotta be good!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Menu Planning

A whole bunch of my friends have lately started planning meals and menus for their weeks. At WW, they have taught us that planning is a key to success. And frankly, I'm a little tired of going to the store 3, 4, 5 nights a week to get dinner, a forgotten ingredient, a snack, etc. I honestly don't know how my mom did it--going to the store once every two weeks. But maybe since that was the option, she was a better planner.

Regardless, my intention now is to start planning better. I plan to shop once a week, probably on Sunday mornings when the stores are least crowded around here. I don't want to keep going after work. I don't want to add anything else to my Saturdays.

But also, culinarily speaking, we are stuck in a deep, deep rut. For some reason, Mister and I decided to make a list of "acceptable foods" and we rarely strayed from the formula. Joining WW leads me to want to find new and interesting foods to enjoy while staying on plan. And trying different things has given us good and bad results, but has definitely led to some interesting dishes.

So my hope is also to try one new recipe per week. It may get to the point it's one new recipe every other week, but I have tons of recipes and cookbooks and I never, ever use them. So I've started reading them and it's time that we try some new things.

Ok, so this week's menu is as follows:

Tuesday night (Hubby's Choice):
Hot dogs
French Fries (for him)
Mac N Cheese (for me)
Peas n onions (for me)

Hebrew Nationals 97% FF hot dogs clock in at a mere point each. Usually I skip the bun.

Wednesday night (Wife's choice):
Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas
Corn (for me)
Salad (for me)

Thursday night (Adventurous New Recipe Night):
Hawaiian pork tenderloin
Green beans

Friday Night (Least work possible and low cal foods before weigh in on Saturday):
Bisquick Heart Healthy Pancakes
Brown & Serve Lite Sausage

Saturday Evening (I'm volunteering at the library--something quick and easy is called for):

I went to the store to pick up all these items, plus rabbit chow, breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the week, and spent a mere 97 dollars. Beginning this weekend I'll start buying the Sunday paper to get coupons. Still, this is about 60 dollars less than I usually spend, so I will consider week 1 a success.

A lot of this food is real easy to make. I would like to eventually get to the point where I'm not relying so much on pre-processed foods, but honestly, I don't see myself making hot dogs with my own sausage press any time soon.

What I also like about this is that hopefully I will be more likely to stay on points for the weekend, which I think should help with my weight loss goals. Up till now, I've been really letting go on the weekends. This weekend I did not track for three days and according to Wii Fit, I haven't gained a thing, so maybe I'm getting better at this WW thing. However, I am back on points today, and intend to continue this week with tracking and planning. Meanwhile, I'll be scouring the recipe books for new ideas. This week's pork tenderloin recipe is from a 5 ingredients or less cookbook and is the first recipe I've made from that book. I'm excited to try it out, it sounds so good!

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I haven't posted too many reading choices lately, as I kind of quit keeping track of the numbers. I got rather bored of it, and was reading so quickly that I just didn't want to stop.

However, I must point out this little gem of a book, which I stumbled upon while trying to find a cheap audio book for my state car. This little baby never saw one second of state car travel, I've listened to it all week in my own travels in my own car. It's been a crazy week of back and forth with work and extra-curriculars, so I've had lots of time to get to know the inhabitants of the post-WWII England that Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows have created in this exquisite tome.

No, there is no speech to florid that will possibly describe how wonderful I thought this book was. It is an epistolary novel--that is, all written in letters between the main characters. The story centers around Juliet, an author in London who receives a letter from a gentleman on Guernsey inquiring about a book of hers that he has come into posession of. They begin corresponding about the experience of Guernsey's occupation by the Nazis.

I can't comment too much, as I've actually chosen this book for my book club selection in the coming year and we aren't discussing it until next summer, but the book deals with the power of literature to transform people's lives under even the most dire circumstances, and deals with themes of courage, goodness, honesty, love, and hope. It's got its harrowing Holocaust parts, but refuses to stray into too much devastation and at the same time refrains from becoming overly sentimental.

I read the audio version, which was performed by a stellar ensemble cast of 5 voice actors, and I strongly recommend it as a wonderful way to read the story. I was chewing on my cheek through most of it, commanding myself not to cry. Not because of sorrow but because this book is truly worthy of the word poignant without any of the negative connotations (saccharine, cloying) the term poignant can suggest.

If you have a couple of hours to devote to a really great book, make it this one. Seriously. I am researching a trip to Guernsey as I type, dreaming of seeing it for myself, all based on this little book. A must read for Anglophiles and literature lovers alike.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The News Keeps Getting Worse

So, they passed this freakin' bailout plan that many if not most of us were opposed to. And this weekend, the news only got worse.

President Bush in his weekly radio address stated "it may take a while for us to notice any effects from the bailout." Economists around the country have said it may not work at all. And at least one commentator stated that the bailout was akin to "pissing on a forest fire."

There are also many places where there is a shortage of gasoline. I was chatting with a friend the other night and she was saying she has had a difficult time getting gas on occasions. Now fortunately, I live near the Nation's Capitol, so I'm hoping that protects us from shortages for a while, but I'm not holding my breath either.

So I was sitting here thinking about how best to prepare us for a coming economic collapse, should the worst case scenario happen. (Hey, what else is there to think about when you can't sleep?) So I did a Google search for "How can I prepare myself for the coming economic collapse?" I must say, the results are riveting. For instance, the very first site, which I clicked on, led to a white supremecist website. This, frankly, led to very little useable information, as you might imagine, although they do recommend having a crapload of ammo on hand.

The next site was a site which compared the US to the USSR and how the citizens of the USSR were better equipped to deal with the collapse of their economy because "they know how to share better". An interesting hypothesis, but again, not entirely useful, considering I can't feed my family on a hypothesis.

The third site is Ron Paul's site's bulletin board, in which a guy suggests stockpiling 4 years' worth of canned and dehydrated goods. Ok, now we're getting somewhere, but considering that I don't have the cabinet/shelf space to put this week's groceries away, I'm not sure where the hell I'm going to put 4 years' worth of food.

Next site is a video gaming site, in which the dudes are suggesting generators, condoms, the Bible, and beer are key components to survival. Also, one gentleman wrote, "I spent $1000 on cheap gold rings, necklaces and crap like that. Nobody will know they are cheap when the time comes." Caveat Emptor. These guys also seem to be big fans of guns and Kevlar.

I then watched a riveting preview on YouTube for a film called "I.O.U.S.A." Looks like a winner.

Then I was led to, which again suggests guns and ammo, water purification tablets, and learning to raise rabbits and chickens for food. If I'm going to have to kill an animal, and then skin or feather it, I think we're doomed. Seriously. Now, maybe that's just the attitude of someone who can afford to not kill their own food, but I don't think I have the killer instinct in me. On the other hand, Ehow also suggests stocking up on "luxury" items which will be valuable for bartering. Such items include tobacco, chocolate, and alcohol. So maybe I can make a deal with someone else to kill my chickens and rabbits for me in exchange for inebriation.

Anyway, the general consensus seems to be this:

1. Convert all liquid assets to gold, or at the very least, into silver dollars.

2. Buy some non-perishables, preferably enough to last a nuclear winter, get lots of water and water systems, generators, gas (and gas stabilizing agents), and seeds to grow a victory garden.

3. Stock up on items that can be traded, luxury items and essentials that people around me may not have been bright enough to buy for themselves.

4. Make plans to get out of major cities, as the residents of said areas will be the first to be herded to concentration camps and systematically exterminated.

There are approximately 13 shades of hell that are going to come down on us, is what it basically comes to. I briefly exchanged several notes with Lesley about the possibility of seeking asylum with her family in New Foundland, and barring that, I'll probably try to make my way to my dad's house. The question is how I'm going to do it with 4 years worth of Spam in the back seat.

Friday, October 03, 2008

One Sentimental Thought

Last time I saw NKOTB in concert, I was sleeping really late the following morning after all the excitement, and the phone rang, waking me up.

It was my Granddaddy, checking in to see how my mom had survived the concert. I remember getting on the phone with him, though I could scarcely talk and he asked me about it--despite the fact that I'm sure he had not one iota of interest in the band or the music. He had asked because he knew it was important to me.

I wish I could have called him this morning, when I was delirious on only 4 hours sleep, and could have told him about it again.


Well, it happened. It was last night. What can I possibly say? Where can I possibly start? I still can't wipe the grin off my face, and I am dead-dog, bone-weary exhausted. So tired, in fact, that I just had to re-type exhausted 3 times before spelling it correctly.

Let me just say this:

They've still got it. 150% have they got it. In fact, I would be willing to say it was better than when I saw them in the heyday of their youth. The heyday of my youth. Which in an instant, I regained last night for two glorious hours. From the moment I walked into the Verizon Center last night, 18 years fell away, and I felt 15 again.

It wound up being just the 3 of us: me, my hubby, and my sister. Melissa had to cancel last minute, Jacalyn wasn't sure about going (due to getting up there and back) so told me I could ask Lucas if he wanted to go, which he did, but then cancelled last minute due to insanity in the Senate. We got inside via the handicapped accessible doors and went to guest services to see about handicapped accessible seating. We got 2 accessible seats at street level, which was 1 level down from where our tickets were, so Judy had to sit solo up in our normal seats, unfortunately, but I think she was about twice as close to the stage and she said the seats were very, very good, so she had no complaints. The General and I were in section 104, directly straight back from the stage. We found our seats and I was sitting next to a girl my age who was gleefully expectant, as was I. She was with her friend, and the two of them were going to burst.

After I got the General settled, I went back outside and bought a program. And in perusing the various concert programs I have here and how much I have paid for them ($20-35), I have to say, this one was worth the money. Very heavy, lots of good stuff in it, excellent. I perused the merchandise table, and I was tempted to go on a little shopping spree, but I restrained myself due to the fact that our mortgage is due.

There was an opening act wherein the General and I had a panic attack because we heard what we thought was "Cobie" as in that chick who sings the song about "Starts in my toes, makes me wrinkle my nose" which we both HATE. Instead, some dweeby little dude strolls out on stage with 2 homeboys and they start singing and dancing, and they pretty much sucked. The girls next to me were cracking up as I said, "Well, at least we're not up front and we don't have to pretend we're interested." Finally he left the stage, mercifully only after 3 or 4 songs.

Now, about 3 months ago, I came to the conclusion that I needed to break out of my rut and start listening to the music "the young people are listening to these days", so I started trying to find a station that wasn't too namby pamby, but wasn't too edgy either. In Fredericksburg, your choice is B101.5. I have, after listening to them for 3 months, come to the conclusion that they have purchased approximately 10 songs and they just loop them. However, this stood me in good stead last night with opening act number 2: Natasha Bedingfield. I actually knew 2 of her songs. And I have to say, she was really very good. I enjoyed her a lot.

Well, she sang 7 or 8 songs and then got off the stage. The girl next to me said she had heard rumors that NKOTB wasn't going to take the stage will 9:50, which gave me a few flashbacks to the Magic Summer Tour in 1991 (I think) when I saw them in concert and Dick Scott in his wisdom decided to pimp his products before his most successful product and NKOTB had 5 opening acts. So, I can say I have seen Perfect Gentlemen in concert, but when you tell most people that, they think "Um, who the hell is Perfect Gentlemen?" On the plus side, I also got to see Tommy Page in concert, and prior to parting ways, Judy and I shared a little "Wouldn't it be awesome if Tommy Page opened for them again?" But 'twas not meant to be.

And good thing too. For I was not in the mood. I was ready to see New Kids. And I suspect the others there were ready to see New Kids. The audience was 99% female and 99% in their 30's. Most of the men there had beer. :-)

Well, at 9:00pm on the dot, everyone was in there seats, and it was show time. Thank God we did not have to wait another hour beyond that. And it was pandemonium. From the minute the little video show went up on the screen for the next 2 1/2 hours, I relived my youth. I was on my feet with everyone else, and we were all screaming, clapping, dancing, and singing at the House of the Block.

And let me tell you: they have not lost their touch. They have only gotten better. 150% showmanship, 150% fun, 150% music and sound, 150% gorgeous. If anything, they're all better-looking. I got a message from one of the girls in my book club who attended and she summed it up thusly:

OMG that concert was AWESOME. I went bat sh*t crazy when Jordan had his shirt off.

Yeah, me too, and I was not even a Jordan Girl, I was a Jon Girl.

Now, about a decade ago, probably even a bit more, my sister and I took my dad to see The Beach Boys, who were giving a concert in Watertown, NY to support D.A.V. (they must have owed someone a BIG favor). And I remember watching my dad dance around and sing and clap and thinking, "Gee, Dad's back in the '60's." And afterwards, my dad said, "Well, you can tell they're getting old, they stand there and sing and they let the hot chicks do all the dancing."

If I had one quibble with the concert it was that NKOTB had hot chicks doing some of the dancing. Let's be frank here, Jon is the oldest and he ain't turning 40 till next November (no, I did not have to look that up--pathetic). They are all in terrific shape. They did not need hot chicks dancing up there. But I didn't really care about that either. It was petty niggling.

The really moving part in the concert was when they all got back to the main stage and I thought sure they were going to do Step By Step, since they were all lined up on a staircase, but instead Donnie came down and he was preparing to make a little speech, but instead we all started screaming and he couldn't really say much. After 2 or 3 minutes of this, he started speaking about how people have been saying "Thank you" to them, and then we all started screaming again, and then he actually started to look choked up. Finally he just put his hand over his mouth and ducked beneath his Celtics cap for a bit. I know, I know, he's an actor, it could have been a charade, but I really don't think so. It appeared to be genuine emotion. I would imagine that the whole lot of them are probably somewhat surprised that this comeback has worked out so well--I was on their tour page this morning and they have dates scheduled all across the US, Mexico, Canada, and Europe. (Including Providence, which I could go to and stay with my in-laws, and Connecticut, which I could go to and stay with my uncle.)

Anyway, they wound up doing two encores--the first being Step By Step and the second being Hanging Tough, and the place was really going wild. It was unbelievable. The screaming, I haven't heard screaming like that since I saw them the first time--and I was just as guilty of screaming as anyone else. In fact, it is now 3:00 and my throat is only just starting to feel better.

It was magic. What a night. This morning, I ordered their new CD off Amazon, plus one of their old ones, which was only $4. If they do the tour again, I'll be there. I've got "I'll Be Loving You Forever" stuck in my head. Judy was impressed Jordan could still hit those notes and we were both impressed at Joe's improved stage presence (now that he's not 14 any more, plus he had Dancing With the Stars to help him out--and he did some dancing on stage last night which was GREAT).

So there it is. I took a few pictures and shot a little video, but I'm speculating they didn't come out that great. We'll have to see. If they're worth anything, I'll post 'em later.

Blockily yours,

PS: WW Thought: How many AP's do I get for dancing for 150 minutes?