Monday, November 16, 2009

monday munchies: post cold food

Now that I finally have energy again (a little too much, I need to go to bed), I have been back at it in the kitchen, trying to use up or preserve my waning supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tonight I made a boatload of applesauce and I still have some heartier apples left to transform.

I also made a most delicious carrot-ginger soup -- complete with my homemade chicken stock (so much better for you, not all that disgusting sodium):

Only two points a serving, so I'm doubling up the servings for my lunches this week -- it's just that freaking delicious.

I also tried my hand at Indian cuisine over the weekend, trying to use up the ton of spinach in my fridge, as well as a couple of the potatoes in my neverending supply. The result, a pretty decent Aloo Palak:

Used a the coriander and turmeric I bought in Delhi, so it was pretty cool to use locally sourced ingredients mixed with a bit of my travels.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

30 by 30: Indie Workout Mix 2

First, I'd like to apologize for disappearing. Unfortunately after my trip to Arizona, I came down with the "headcold of doom" and have been a useless lump for the past five days.

But I'm back and back to the gym. Today I eased back into it with 30 minutes on the elliptical at the Wisconsin Athletic Club. As I did a couple of weeks ago, I made another mix. This week's is a bit more rocking though.

Sixteen - The Heavy
Crown on the Ground - Sleigh Bells
Fences (Friendly Fires Remix) - Phoenix
Big Booty Woman - Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
Bleed 2 Feed - C.C. Adcock
Got Nuffin - Spoon
How You Like Me Now? - The Heavy
Last Dance - The Raveonettes

Thursday, November 5, 2009

time out thursday: phoenix bound

I may be a little quiet this weekend as I'm heading to add a new state. That's right, I've never been to Arizona, but I couldn't resist the Southwest Airlines intro fare a few months back to take the opportunity to change that.

Originally I'd planned to visit my friend Tonia, but as she has shipped off to ports unknown, my parents are coming down to meet me. I get to spend the afternoon putzing around on the light rail line by myself, then join up with my mom at the airport.

Not sure what's on the agenda for tomorrow, but on Saturday we're going to Flagstaff for the day so we can see the Grand Canyon.

I think it's a pretty incredible year when you get to see the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon, if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

one year ago...

My friend Ben started a great thread today asking our friend group (pictured above minus our live updater, Adam) to reflect on the historic night we experienced last November 4.
Seems a lot longer then a year since we witnessed history (Or were tweeting about it). 

 To set the mood.

Any reflections over the past year? Are we where we thought we would be? Does that night still give you the chills?

To answer Ben's easy question first -- YES, of course that night still gives me chills! Looking back, it's almost surreal. I will truly remember that night for the rest of my life and it's something I'll tell the neighborhood kids about when I'm a crotchety old spinster (after I yell at them to get off my lawn).
I never thought Obama was going to fix everything in a year. I learned at a young age that the Mary Poppins "snapping your fingers and everything returns to place" trick doesn't actually work. This administration clearly had a LOT of cleaning up to do. Screw health care reform, they haven't even gotten around to reversing the tariffs on Roquefort cheese.
That said, despite the unbelievable obstacles to mass change, I think an educated and informed person can point to several initiatives they've begun to dig us out of the pile of sh*t that Bush left the world:
  • At least begun public debate on health care reform. Regardless of all the ridiculous opinions flying around out there, at least people are discussing it. The end solution is going to be political, but at the very least I think all sides are beginning to agree that pre-existing conditions are morally reprehensible.
  • Increasing transparency in government. The White House blog! The podcasts! The videos! Even some of the cabinet blogs (I'm a fan of Ray LaHood's Fast Lane blog, oh yeah, Transportation!) I feel engaged in the process and like these very important people are accessible. I really do believe that social media is the great leveler. (Socialist!)
  • A shift in the mood toward public transportation. Let's just say, when I'm feeling lonely, I drink some wine, put on some Sade, and look at the High Speed Rail map. Okay, kidding! Although our local transit funding is still dire, the stimulus funds will help immensely. Also, there's an upbeat tone nationwide. The transportation industry newsletters have been so optimistic--talking about new projects and services, compared to the previous years of "and the Bush administration cut this again or made this logisitical nightmare of a change so that a handful of private industry players could profit."
  • Emphasizing the importance of healthy eating. This may be the most solid healthcare reform that the administration has done (word to my girl Michelle). It goes beyond the White House garden. She's made it hip to grow your own food, eat sustainably and go to farmer's markets. (Well, actually I made it hip, but that's neither here nor thing you know they'll be having an indie rock concert on the White House lawn).
  • Oh yeah, and there's that whole reducing troop levels in Iraq thing too...
I'm not living in a bubble of joy. I recognize there have been some really boneheaded decisions. I recognize that some programs were hastily thrown together to soothe political pressure:
  • Auto Industry "Reforms" -- hooray for new fuel efficient vehicles on the road through Cash for Clunkers, but what happens to all the clunkers? Couldn't we have mandated public transit reform? Can't GM rebuild all the infrastructure they tore out in the '50s?
  • Increased troops in Afghanistan -- I am very pleased that the focus is back to y'know, where it should've been eight years ago. I don't agree with an increased military strategy however. Why not build schools? Improve infrastructure? I agree we do need a presence though. If you've ever read The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns, you know that the Taliban are bad, bad, bad people
  • Obama's choice at the beer summit. Bud Light? Really. That totally takes away your hip cred. You could've at least had a PBR.
This exercise has made me feel a lot better after watching the conservative circle jerk on Twitter last night. We also have to remember that there's three years in this term and hopefully four more years after that--lots of time to get things done. On a personal level, I still feel incredibly inspired by Obama himself. I don't know if I would have attended The White House Project Go Run training a couple of weeks ago with the same motivation, had it not been for that glorious November night.
After emailing the group, I realized some thoughts had been left out and others had more reflections. Below are the unedited essays.

While I agree with most of what Meghan said, I do want to draw a point on Afghanistan. Much like Iraq, what Bush failed to do here was to employ a strategy to hunt Al Qaeda (even though I can't imagine that this would be an easy thing to do). The other thing that Bush didn't do in Afghanistan was completely dismantle the government of this country. The reason they were able to actually get to work stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq was because they installed a coalition government and trained them on how to run the country. Afghanistan still has a nut job with delusions of grandeur who has now declared himself the winner of a rigged election TWICE.

Not to mention, if there's no buy-in from the existing government and you're left with a rash of suicide bombings and that makes it pretty hard to build a school or two. As much as I hate to admit it, I think we need a troop increase (and the accompanying STRATEGY, which I'm sure exists but the media never seems to get around to telling us about) to stabilize the region. To simply pull out would be a horrible idea, cuz Al Qaeda would see that as an open invitation to wreak havoc not only on the region, but on countries like ours as well.

Just my 2 cents.... I'm glad the media is being critical of Obama but I'm extremely disappointed in the Republicans for not even trying to work with the Dems, and I'm also sort of disappointed in the Dems for just giving up on bipartisanship altogether and pushing their agenda. On the other hand, I don't really blame the Dems for cutting their losses (at least they DID try) and actually getting stuff done. And props on adding sexual orientation to the hate crimes bill!
Yeah, Lilly Ledbetter got me through more than one argument about the Nobel prize. (It's a pretty easy answer to the claim "He hasn't done anything!")

I guess looking back, I feel a bit disappointed in that it seems like democrats in general have wasted a great opportunity. With the White House, momentum and congressional majorities, people on the right were stockpiling and hugging their guns, while people on the left were looking for retail space for "Osama's homo-abortion-pot-and-commie-jizzporium". Of course, it's no shock that Obama smacked into the brick-wall called "the reality of modern politics and bureaucracy" which tended to slow things down a bit, and make those easy to repeat campaign promises magically transform into briefing books, memos, and weird congressional parlimentary procedures (reconciliation! woo-hoo?).

I can understand wanting to use whatever advantage a new president has in the first 6 months or so to get things done. And in that mindset, it makes sense to tackle the hardest issues first, like healthcare reform. But now we're about 10 months in, and it seems that no amount of perceived political capital can just gloss over all of the crap that has to go into an overhaul this big. It doesn't matter how popular Obama is, Olympia Snowe will still want attention, Joe Liberman will be a jerk, and Max Bacaus will still have no spine.

So, instead of taking on something so huge, I wish they would have tried to win more of the small battles that are doable. There are a lot of areas where Obama can affect major change, and it's hard to see all of the rest of them fall away as we tackle healthcare. It's certainly one of the most important issues facing us as a country currently; it's just not THE one most important.

I also think Obama is learning what it takes to get things done in a position of this much power. It was clear in both the stimulus and the inital healthcare bills in committee that he put too much faith in the congressional committee leaders to iron out the details, while making overarching statements that didn't touch on the sticky small stuff. I think going forward, he'll be better about clearly outlining exactly what he's looking for in legislation. Although, he's still only saying things like "yeah, sure, I'd like a public option" as if a waiter offered him some extra mayonnaise. (I just like the idea of slim mcgoo eating anything with that much fat in it.)

Maybe he'll learn to be more forcefull in other ways too. While I've heard a bunch about how hard he was courting Snowe in committee, I'm surprised that Liberman and a number of other Dems have gone to the press to say they won't vote to stop the fillibuster of healthcare with a public option. Obama really should be taking responsibility for this, whipping people into shape, and doing what it takes to get this to pass. Maybe crazy Joe (who it seems just really really really likes the insurance companies for some reason, now that Dodd has distanced himself from them) is beyond help, but I thought Rahm's job was to kick ass on the hill to get their priorities accomplished.

I know none of this fits into the world Obama described during the campaign. (Or even earlier.) While we may not be separated into a red America and a blue America, we definitely have a majority pary and an opposition party. And while I'm dissapointed in the dems, I'm just completely exasperated by the Republicans (and not just McConnell's stupid press releases). I guess I'm like Jon Stewart, in that I'm a hopelss optimist when it comes to this kind of thing, and I assume that when someone is sent to Washington to help fix our country that they would much rather be part of the process, as opposed to willing to sit it out until they get a majority again. I don't think the the Republican's strategy of immediately opposing Obama on anything is working, at least not in a way that helps them.

By just saying no to everything, it allows the fringes in the Democratic party to get more of a say. Both Ben Nelson and Jay Rockefeller get much more attention, which leads to more party in-fighting. What results is a watered-down, more useless bill that still gets passed, which has none of the reforms the GOP actually wanted, since they weren't part of the process. If the Republicans are looking to actually get their own issues and concerned addressed, they are totally failing. If their only goal is to destroy the Democrats then they're succeeding.

So, where do we go from here? I'd like to see Obama stand strong on key issues, and make congress accomodate his concrete plans. I don't know what you do to get the Republicans to engage in actual debate on key issues (more self-tanner for Boehner?), but until that happens, you need to pass things through with the situation you've got, instead of hoping that things improve.

Oh, and with Afghanistan I'm actually starting to agree more with Matthew Hoh. I really liked his point about how al-Qaida isn't looking for a safe haven in Afghanistan anymore. He feels that they have enough places like Somalia and Yemen to hide in, and that we can't keep treating this like a war against one country, that exists only in a single country. I would also add to Meghan's list this book too to read about the situation in the region.

What are your thoughts and reflections on that historic night and the last year? On a highly personal level, I shudder to think what I would have done with myself had we lost. My three-year relationship was crumbling, I was at the heaviest I've ever been (due in part to the crumbling relationship) and in massive debt. Working on the campaign truly did fill me with hope, and I'm pleased to say I rode that hope throughout 2009. I've lost almost 30 pounds, digging my way out of debt and am (not always, but mostly) happily single.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

maine taught me my first lesson about marriage equality

Astute readers of The Accidental Wisconsinite may know that I was born in Portland, Maine, but grew up in Portland, Oregon.

I'm about to pack up for the night, but wanted to point something else while I fall asleep to an absolute nailbiter.

The gay marriage debate is often likened to that of interracial marriage. A half-century ago it had several states up in arms, and now we look back (with the exception of some freakazoid (former) judge in Louisiana) and ask "what were we thinking?!?"

Little did I realize a quarter-century ago, when I was a child attending one of my earliest weddings in memory, that some close-minded people may have had a problem with it. To me, this wedding stands out in my foggy reminiscences because it was the first ceremony I recall not being in a church. It was in a house and there was a super fun party in the backyard with lots of tasty food and live music. I remember running around with other kids for hours and having a total blast. In my memory, the house was a yellow Victorian. Only with my societally-influenced adult mind do I recognize that the bride was white and the groom was black.

What difference does that make to me? None. They could be purple, but my Auntie Willow and Uncle Foris were a major part of my childhood and I love them like they were my blood relatives. That's why I don't understand why it would be any different if it were two Aunties or two Uncles getting married? If they were a loving couple and a model to young people of a happy, healthy relationship...why should a law stand in the way of their commitment?

Why can't we get a referendum on the ballot that says "Marriage shall be a recognition of love between two consenting adults, it doesn't matter what is between their legs?"

Monday, November 2, 2009

monday munchies: fall food

A bittersweet haul from the last Easttown Farmers Market of the season will provide me with some morsels for the week. Still sticking it out with Weight Watchers, I'm trying to create some healthy and nourishing fall foods.

After a failed attempt earlier this summer, I was pleased that my potato leek soup turned out freaking delicious this time around. I opted not to puree after my grandma recommended enjoying the flavor of the chunks.

This is a really crummy photo of a pretty darn amazing creation. Quinoa cakes -- super filling and loaded with protein. Just sort of made them up using 2c quinoa, 1c each of spinach, red pepper, red onion, and 2 eggs. Cooked 1/2 c of mixture at a time in olive oil. Use a spatula to hold together, or it does fall apart (like the photo above). You can top with cheese to make even more tasty.

My delicious "hangover" dinner on Saturday...baked potato with yogurt and cilantro and just look (!!!) at that sauteed kale with shallots. Doesn't it just look full of healthy things?

Finally, my lunch for the week: Cream of Celeriac soup. Celeriac may be the ugliest root vegetable out there, but dang, does it make one mouthwatering soup treat.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saying Goodbye: Jake, the best dog ever

Jake Arnold was the best family dog a girl could ask for that she didn't grow up with. Jake came along after I'd been written off the "Arnold Show"...away to Milwaukee, never to return to Portland except for the occasional extended break. Despite not living in the same house with him, he was my dog.

I don't know how anyone couldn't love Jake. He was just such a goofy, loving pup....

...okay, I can't write this now...I'm crying too much on the keyboard. Just know you'll be missed...

30 by 30: Indie Workout Mix 1

Always mixing things up over here at the Accidental Wisconsinite, and today is no different. I restarted my membership at the Wisconsin Athletic Club today and took it easy with just over a half an hour on the elliptical (2.75 miles).

While I plan to spend most of my WAC time initially going to structured classes (and thus being subjected to the musical whims of the instructors), I needed to create a good mix of fresh tunes to get me motivated on my own. Here's my playlist for today:

Dream City - Free Energy
Something in Common - Free Energy
The Laurels of Erotomania - Cold Cave
True No. 9 Blues (True Romance) - Golden Silvers
IRM (Diskjokke Remix) - Charlotte Gainsbourg
Songs Remind Me of You - Annie (my new dance jam of the year)
Here to Fall (Popular Songs Version) - Yo La Tengo


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