Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Captain's Log

Aboard U.S.S. Enterprise. Crew has sustained surprising events over the past twelve months and now has fielded new challenges. That, and Spock's been acting funny ever since I beat him at UNO.

After losing a job, spouse losing a job, extended guest visit, and spouse's mysterious three-month stomach illness (Bones tells me it was a Klingon parasite), the exhaust pipe fell off the only three-year-old Enterprise while cruising at normal hyperspace speed. Had to call in intergalactic towing vessel. While Enterprise's makers repaired it, crew adjusted to loaner spaceship during asteroid storm ("rainy day" on earth) but failed to make all necessary adjustments. Crashed loaner spaceship. Crew fine but monitored in sick bay for eight hours as precaution ("hospital" on earth). But apparently after my stay in sick bay, Bones' menu didn't agree with me. On way back to base, in crashed loaner spaceship, I was sick all over the deck.

For kicks, made Scotty clean it up. "Arghh, it's too muuch vomitt, sar, I do na' have enuff pooer in my cleanarr to get i' all."

He had it coming. He beat us all at "Cranium" so badly Lieutenant Uhura cried.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Pork Roast Remix

A Pork Roast was mentioned here recently, but unfortunately, the surrounding adventure kept getting interrupted.

Ladies and gentlemen, today, The Pork Roast Remix, live, with no interruptions.

(Clears throat.)

It was a dark and stormy night...(or an average autumnal day).

Battling hurricanes, wildebeests, and killer bees, our heroine travels to find sustenance...(I had to buy groceries).

She slogged her way through a death trap of dead animals and gleaming butcher knives...(Sometimes the meat department has great sales. I shop the sales.)

What's this? A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?...(Some kind of pork cut for a stellar buck-twenty-nine a pound.)

But what does fair lady do with a pot of gold? Ye Olde Stock Market is bad...(I'd never cooked this kind of pork before in my life.)

She worries not. She will Find A Way...(There were basic instructions on the back, which boosted my confidence that This Could Be Done.)

After lugging the pot of gold home on her burro through a bayou of rattlesnakes and Amway salesmen, she presents her treasure to her rugged husband...("Eat something light for supper, I just looked up a recipe online for this huge hunk of sales meat and it won't be
done 'til at least 9 or 10 this evening. In other interesting news, this is the kind of pork 'they' use for making pork barbecue. Now that I have a recipe, I have to go back out and get apple juice and barbecue sauce.")

Our brave heroine follows the ancient wisdom passed from woman to woman on what to do with a pot of gold, putting it in a roasting pan in a hot oven, drenched in apple juice and brown sugar, covering it with foil. She sits in a corner and braids her Rapunzel hair for the four-and-a-half to five hours it takes to roast, then tunes her harp. (I hadn't started watching the new season of "Project Runway," which is fascinating creatively and seamstress-ly, so I caught up on like six episodes.)

But what is this? Disaster! Neither dragons nor invading armies nor the plague can outwit this tragedy...(After following the direction not to open the oven the entire five hours, I opened it when it should be done - to find that not only had the roast failed to be fall-off-the-bone tender, but that it also...still bled when I poked it with a fork.)

Lament! Wail! Rend thou thy garments, woman, and roll around in the nonexistent ashes of thy pork roast. (This oven runs hot: could it be that setting it 50 degrees low like always was too low for a slow roast? It didn't help that I discovered the foil that covered it was wrapped the wrong way. And I don't have a meat thermometer.)

"Sweet husband, fetch thyself some dinner of substance. This pot of gold may be cursed. I have much watching and waiting to do...(From here on out, this Friday night turned into a regular checking of the pork roast every hour to hour and a half. At 1:30 in the morning,
I declared the end to be in sight - another hour should do it.)

After keeping watch over her errant treasure with much trepidation, yon heroine fights the temptation to succumb to despair and rest. She valiantly battles the cursed pot of gold, determined to wrest from it sustenance for her family.

At 2:30 in the morning, as darkness blanketed the heart of the Bluegrass, light shone on the heart of our heroine: 10 hours from starting time, the pork roast was done - tender, falling off the bone. As the heroine felt what little enthusiasm her exhausted heart could muster, she willed to taste the object of her fury.

It was worth it.

Especially since her hamlet grocer kept stores of Stubb's Bar-B-Q Sauce.

Our heroine and her valiant Knight husband consumed the pork roast with much merriment and joy. They ate it and ate it some more. The pork roast continued to give forth much bounty as they thawed what they had frozen and continued to sup on the riches of this mysterious pot of gold. Over a week passed before the entire pork roast had vanished into the valiant Knight's ravenous appetite.

In our next adventure, the heroine outsmarts the pot of gold, knowing it must take lo, many hours - but she chooses to best her enemy by means of a crock pot instead of her oven. Will it survive? Will Valiant Knight be fed again for many moons, or will the roast defeat the crock pot strategy?

Only time will tell.

About nine more hours of time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Perhaps I've inherited it from my Grandpa.

Well, it, and a wild passion for puns.

The "it" I'm referring to is a keen fascination for unique foods. Now, unemployment being what it is, there are obviously seasons in life created for indulging in unique foods, and seasons in life in which you return to the familiar comfort of the basic (and on sale).

But I love exposure to interesting cuisine. International, ethnic, global; boutique, cottage industry, local; it's fascinating to consider different foods even within the continental U.S. In Wisconsin, they'll make you try cheese curds (pictured left); in Indiana, you inevitably buy fresh sweet corn from a roadside stand; in New England, you'll find yourself staring at a bright red lobster; in the South, someone will make you taste fried okra and pork barbecue. A trip to Michigan will yield venison stew, and we haven't even touched the unique dinner plates on restaurants in New Orleans.

I'm a fan of homemade, too - different denominations, nay, even different congregations have their own specialties (as we've noted in a review of an unfortunate Episcopalian
potluck!). Recently, I was flipping through a cookbook from my mother-in-law's church and discovered several different recipes for something called "Dr. Pepper cake". (That mystery is solved by knowing that Dr. Pepper has its origins in that very region of Texas.)

So it's with delighted fanfare that I mention Foodzie to you. The Pioneer Woman commented on it recently, and ladies and gentlemen, I'm in love.

Do you ever wish there was a bakery nearby besides the purveyors of hard, stale, tasteless bread in Wal-Mart? Do you think to yourself, "my friends in The City have so much to discover and explore, while my options are limited to new display stands at the gas station?"

Welcome to Foodzie. The site describes itself as "an online marketplace where you can discover and buy food directly from small passionate food producers and growers." So while the site gives you one place to go and browse, you're actually purchasing directly from the bakers, candy makers, and so on. There's chestnut jam, spiced pear butter, and strawberry marshmallows; there's Indian curry brittle, orange pecan granola, and roasted red pepper cheese bread; there's buffalo jerky strips, lavender sweet and savory shortbread bars, and dark cacao macaroons.

Some of the products are pricey; some are about what you'd spend on chocolates from, say, Godiva; and some are fairly inexpensive. There are great gift ideas in here as the holidays approach, if you're the "throw together a unique gift basket" kind of person. And it's also an interesting venue if you yourself own a small business or cottage industry and are looking for more exposure. If you're the kind of person who thinks, "that's an interesting combination of ingredients, I think I could make that at home...", then it's also helpful as a springboard for fresh ideas in your own kitchen.

I love the idea of supporting small businesses, especially in this economic climate. My sister-in-law is blessed with a great local dairy in her region, so that she gets milk in glass bottles straight from the town cows. It's fascinating - though pasteurized, it's not homogenized, so you shake the bottle before pouring.

I long for glass bottles of milk.

And Foodzie is another tiny step in supporting small businesses that function like the northern Ohio dairy.

If you have any experience purchasing from Foodzie, let the rest of us know your personal review!

I should add - especially with Salvation Army bellringers just around the corner - that this post is meant in the spirit of luxury, and not every-day treats; our nation's food banks are taxed to the limit, and my appreciation of fine cuisine does not ignore the need for basics and staples in your local food pantries. So if you need to purchase a pastor's Christmas gift, a hostess present, or a "thank-you" gesture, Foodzie might be a unique resource for you; but if you're looking for ways to reach out to your community, there are plenty of people thankful right now for a few cans of green beans. Both are appropriate in their contexts and seasons.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Jindal's Ideas

Check out the credentials on this guy...

Gov. Bobby Jindal has written an op-ed for the Washington Post on conservative options for health care reform. It offers a variety of ideas for the kinds of ways that health care in the U.S. can be improved for folks; and interestingly, it does so in a way that engages him in a key issue for the current administration's tenure.

And you can tell the difference between a politician and a statesman, which are rarely one in the same: I think he has the potential to be a savvy politician and a substantive statesman. Why? Because he actually knows his stuff. It's not hard to sort out leaders who parrot what advisors are feeding them from leaders who generate their own ideas, from their own experience.

A quick glance at his page on Wikipedia reveals this: "In 1996 Foster appointed Jindal to be secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, an agency that then represented about 40 percent of the state budget. During his tenure as secretary, Louisiana's Medicaid program went from bankruptcy with a $400 million deficit into three years of surpluses totaling $220 million. Jindal was criticized during the 2007
campaign by the LouisianaAFL-CIO for having closed some local clinics to balance the budget. In 1998, Jindal was appointed executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, a 17-member panel charged with devising plans to reform

And that doesn't include his experience at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.

You can read his thoughts here, titled "The Conservative Case for Reform":

Who knows, he might even give former Gov. Sarah Palin a run for her money with the hunting/fishing folk...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jack does it again...

Not Baby-in-the-Womb Jack.

C.S. Lewis. "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once."

Aaaaaand that explains my bookshelves.

On this autumnal day, relish the change of seasons, the feel of a good book propped between your hands, and a nice toasty beverage.

On another note, I'm loving these Estee Lauder ads on the site today. I think it's the color.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


There are so many problems in the world. You can get bogged down quickly by thinking about them. I mean, even just last night, the Detroit Tigers lost a big tie-breaking game. Why? WHY? Why do bad innings happen to good teams?

There are so many problems that one has to be careful which to highlight. I have no rubric, no set, standard criteria for what I discuss here at The Couch (um, no kidding...). Mostly, topics here involve what I'm passionate about, or terribly flawed arguments that irritate me, or recipes that I could make over and over again, or bizarre stories from the family archives.

But today, I'm mentioning an actually serious thing. Not just my chicken and dumplings tragedy, not just my terror at a long, endless aisle full of rows and rows of baby bottles. Not that those aren't serious, in their own way, of course.

"With all the horror in the world," you may quote from What About Bob?, "what difference does it make?"

Well, the fact that President Obama appointed a man to help lead Safe Schools who has publicly declared being inspired by a big NAMBLA supporter does make a difference.

Oh. What's NAMBLA? stands stands for North American Man/Boy Love Association, and no, I'm not making that up, and yes, I wish I was. It's an organization that supports...that supports...

(Eyes shut tight, speaking quickly)

That supports sexual relations between adult men and young boys.

"Wait," you say; "you have my attention now. Could you repeat that?"

(Eyes shut tight, speaking quickly)

The guy Obama appointed to a position of leadership in education has said he's inspired by a famous supporter of NAMBLA. Kevin Jennings is now the Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, in the U.S. Department of Education. On another note, he also failed to report a suspected case of statutory rape when he worked in a local educational system - the case involving an adult male.

I hate bringing up serious things here, Sweetness and Light Central. But it has to be done. I don't care what your political views are, what your ballot said last November, etc. If you want to know what a person believes, don't listen to what they say; watch what they do.

Either A) this is a case of deeply failed vetting - the process by which candidates are screened; B) the appointment was made with little concern about the man's admiration of NAMBLA supporters; C) the guy's views are seen as enlightened and tolerant, and therefore not problematic; or D) the powers that be thought no one would notice.

The gentleman appointed by Mr. Obama is a practicing homosexual. Am I against the employment of practicing homosexuals in political administrations? No. Do I have friends and family affected by homosexuality? Yes. I'm not here today to talk about homosexuality.

I'm here because many people would be concerned that a guy who has a history of activism and extreme educational views** has been placed in a position with a lot of power. What disturbs me most, personally, is that someone with sympathies for an organization associated with what most people still call "pedophilia" now has a national position of power in the educational program "Safe Schools."

It's astounding. Good heavens, it's's like stocking a school system with convicted sex offenders. Not because the gentleman is homosexual; there are many homosexuals that do not support NAMBLA. It's his admiration for a famous NAMBLA supporter that I find astonishing. Further, if I was a convicted sex offender driven from communities by residential laws and living under an overpass (like in Miami), I'd be pretty steamed that I was homeless under a bridge while a guy who actually supported the practice of my crime was appointed to a position of national importance.

Yes, there are a lot of problems in the world. Starving populations, disease, sex trafficking, drug and substance abuse, brutal poverty. Today, I'm mentioning this one, not to start a partisan debate, but to help alert people of all (or no) political persuasions that Something Went Wrong in an important process, and that your feedback to your elected officials is important.

We now return to our regularly scheduled Sweetness and Light.

**This link takes you to an article that references circumstances I deemed Too Explicit for this particular site, because I don't ever want you to associate a gag reflex with reading something on my blog. Well, the cat urine escapade may have already broken that ideal, but you get my drift. You may do your own research from here on out.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Brief Ode to Pregnancy

Soon, I will tell the Real, Authorized Adventure of the Pork Roast (unabridged).


Today, a brief nod to pregnancy. Occasionally, I have "pregnancy is..." thoughts. "Pregnancy is working out by countless trips to the bathroom." "Pregnancy is elastic waist bands." And so on.

It's eternally amusing to sit in the Pregnancy Office waiting room surrounded by bellies. Belly with stripes. Belly with cropped jacket. Belly with outie showing through form-fitting material. Belly with shirt worn last two pregnancies. Belly with rain jacket.

For some reason, it reminds me of Monty Python's "Spam" skit. You can hide that belly, you can expose that belly, that belly can come in tan or pale or rich brown, you can drape that belly or layer over it, but at bottom, they are all bellies. Lots of bellies. Bellies in one room. Belly, belly, belly, striped belly, belly, belly.

I think that waiting room bathroom must get a lot of use.

The Big Red Couch isn't just getting used, I'm pulling over a footstool and a heating pad. The Big Red Couch is getting....stretch marks on its upholstery. Gasp.

But this is Knocked-Up Fun Time. Morning sickness and nausea are traumatic memories of the early summer, heartburn has quieted to a dull roar, for the moment, I don't find myself falling asleep for an hour every afternoon. We know that it's a boy. We are naming him Jack.

("I am Jack's healing umbilical cord stump." "I am Jack's messy diaper." Name that bizarre pregnancy-pop culture crossover...)

Knocked-Up Fun Time includes registering. Wait. Did I say fun time? AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHHA.

Okay, mostly it's fun. Except that if you think Brides and Bereaved are the only ones targeted as a demographic for Rite of Passage cash, think again. Have you felt your brains marketed out by veil options, tuxedo choices, or coffin liners, along with that heavy "this is important" feeling? I thought marketing for weddings was bad. Just wait until you have a baby! 7,000 different bottles, 372 strollers that convert, shield, protect, jog, or have traction for your frequent Himalayan hikes.

Different safety ratings on them all. A deluxe Crayon box full of color choices - and then there are patterns. Pink, blue, and we-don't-want-to-find-out yellow. Monkeys, planes, cartoon characters. Target alone? A $72 stroller that folds up as small as your golf umbrella, or a $700 stroller that I think had a rotisserie chicken function on it somewhere for the luxurious on-the-go parent. It's so bad, Sweet Husband pointed out one ad to me that pitched "we have limited selection for your convenience" - which, to a naive outsider, looks silly, but to One Who Has Been Through the Crucible, looks heavenly.

And then there's used. eBay. Craig's List. Relatives. Garage sales. Consignment shops. From "gently used" and beyond.

Don't even get me started on eco-friendly! There are fair-trade fabric burp cloths, cloth diapers, infant sweaters from recycled wool, "green" baby bottles, and a few things actually not made in China.

Oh, that conversation? It went this way:

"Oooh, let's get this!"


"Wait - let me look. Doggone it, made in China. You know they recently exported a bunch of toys to the U.S. with high lead contents? LEAD? And a bunch of infants in China died from tainted formula they manufactured? And what about their one-child policy and systemic human rights abuses?"

"Honey, everything is made in China."

"I just hate not having many other options, even these famous, name-brand..."


And that was when Sweet Husband took the package from my hand and scanned the bar code. Which, when all's said and done, was good, or it would've taken us twice as long to get through because of The Rant That Happened Every Aisle until he finally sighed, turned, and, through unusually gritted teeth, said, "Honey. Everything is made in China. You're just going to have to deal with it."

I dealt with it. After all, registering is supposed to be fun.

And then, for better or worse, I opened up the feedback lines on Facebook and asked for opinions on the registry items from Those With Parenting Experience. I got no less than about four differing opinions on bottles alone. I decided to rein it in and consult Some Experts: my sisters-in-law. (They have four, soon to be five munchkins, between them.)

Why did I start this post again?


Work-out videos.

In these economically burdensome times, one cannot always continue one's gym membership, but of course, wellness and fitness are important in healthy pregnancy. And the fall weather may prohibit extended outdoor activities. But in these times, one also gets very bored very quickly with eight-year-old Tae Bo tapes.

And then I thought of YouTube. Oh, YouTube, what would we do without you?

And in the land of YouTube, there's a fantastic woman with a very pregnant belly who provides 8-10 minute workout segments, including warm-up, specific muscle areas, and stretching. And the Fantastic Woman from the land of YouTube is a doctor, and a nutritionist, and uses YouTube as her video venue, so you don't have to worry about accessing copyrighted material. Did I mention she has a big belly?

A fitness instructor with a big belly is such a comfort.

Go here to her profile page; it includes all her Pregnancy Exercise videos, as well as a few videos of healthy recipes...

I promise, someday, you'll hear about my pork roast.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Adventure of the Pork Roast

Before I get to the gripping saga of me and a certain pork roast, class, we have a new student today. Class, say hello to...

"US Gov Info"

"Hi...US Gov...Info..." (trailing off in confusion)

Class, US Gov Info comes to us from...well, I'm not sure, but I'm sure you'll all be friends in no time. We're glad to have you, US Gov Info.

US Gov Info can sit over in Janie's old seat...which is next to all of you in the "Followers" section on the right-hand side. For those of you gone with the flu lately, US Gov Info joined us a little while back. I hope you do what you can to show US Gov Info around the halls to classes.

And now we're going to return to our topic: The Adventure of the Pork Roast.

Oh. You have some questions. Yes, Becky? No, no, I'm not sure why US Gov Info moved here. Maybe you can ask at lunch.

Now, the thrilling tale of the pork roast - yes, Tyler? Well Tyler, I'm guessing that we inadvertently did something to get US Gov Info's attention as a school that looked desirable to attend. Now, who can tell me - what IS it, Lauren? - Lauren, yes, it is possible that US Gov Info isn't our new student's real name. Anything is possible. I suppose you're right, Lauren, it could be "marketing web trawler" or something, but that doesn't seem very likely.

Really, now, we need to get to our lesson. This diagram of hog butchering will show us that the pork roast - this really has to be the last interruption. What is it, Ron? Ron, I've already explained, we don't know why US Gov Info's family moved here.

I do wonder in retrospect, though, Ron, if it has something to do with these words, that I've realized have been in recent discussions: chemicals, dying, government, Nazis, doorstep, explode, Republicans, Democrats, cannon, China, Iraqis, death row, evil, blast, and Nazis again. Now of course, Ron, as we learned in English, context is important in interpreting meaning. But Ron, if you're a web trawler searching for combinations of certain words, context isn't taken into consideration.

Like chemicals in an artist's studio. Or Ernie Harwell dying of cancer. Or Nazis forcing the British to live on rations for years and years. Or doorsteps being a place in Loony Tunes animation where packages are left to explode in Elmer Fudd's face. Or Republicans and Democrats...existing. Or antique cannons being used by history nerds. Or China harvesting organs on death row. Or Iraqis having oil problems involving Chinese companies. Or the philosophical problem of evil. Or "blast! This mop is defective." Or "I have a charming childhood anecdote about a parent inadvertently scaring me with stories of Nazis."

You see what I mean, Ron. In this fearful age, sometimes things are taken out of context. Like Democrats like to claim that Fox news takes things out of context. What, Ron, what? We're never going to get to the pork roast now. You think I use a lot of violent imagery, Ron? Well, I think there's a lot here that isn't - like acorn squash recipes.

Yes, US Gov Info? What's that? It was the - it was the acorn squash recipe that drew you here? Now you see, class, this is what happens when you jump to conclusions about new students. Here you were, with all your questions, and it turns out our new friend collects recipes.

You should be ashamed of yourselves.

We'll revisit pork roasts tomorrow. Class dismissed.