Sunday, November 21, 2010

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders. Lazy weekend here at the Pod. Today was filled with some failures, but at least I kept busy at them. (They all had to do with videos and computers.)


What a difference a week makes. Another week, another stew.

Well, kind of. This was actually a soup. I had to choose between kielbasa soup and kielbasa stew, and I chose the soup, it sounded easier and had less chopping involved.

Tomaotes, onions, green peppers, celery, three kinds of beans, kielbasa, then the water and spices. And wouldn't you know, it came out stewier than Some Dude's beef stew.

And it's quite tasty. Slap a salad down beside it, and there was Sunday dinner.

The other one, the kielbasa stew has cabbage in it, though, and since I bought an extra kielbasa I might do that one next.

After all my project failures and a little dinner, I sat down to watch "The Amazing Race" and shake off the day. Milo took a place on the couch, where he immediately sacked out.

That is a happy boy. Then he meandered over and took a closer position. Right on my shoulder.

So, there you go. A nice weekend at home. Now time to gear up for the cooking for other people. Yikes.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Hey! I got two movies watched this weekend!


Thursday, November 18, 2010


For some reason, I know not why, I got all domestic and decided to make a big pot of beef stew.

Now, I'm normally not that high on beef stew. The reason for this is the beef. I always find it rather tough, no matter what kind I buy. I also always find there are too many potatoes in beef stew. I mean, big ol' hunks of potato in every spoonful.

But I was loafing at work on Tuesday. It was an honest loaf. I was caught up on all my stuff, and for some reason we were extremely slow, so I hit the internet and started reading the news. And there at the bottom of the homepage was a little picture. Underneath, the link said, "Coffee + Beer = Beef Stew."

And I'm sorry, but that's just a link I have to follow.

It was a video link, of a segment from my old daily nemesis "The Today Show." Some Dude and Al Roker were in the little fake kitchen there, and Some Dude was going to show Al how to make a beef stew that would knock his socks off.

And here's what he did. He browned up some beef in a big pot. He then threw in, and I mean threw in, and encouraged Al to do some throwing too, but he threw in some chopped red onions (which I like so much more than whites, and infinitely more than yellows). Then Some Dude showed Al how to cut carrots so that each one is the exact same size and they don't get bigger as you go up the carrot's widening face. I liked that, too. Then he and Al threw the carrots into the pot.

The celery was just plain old celery, but Some Dude threw it in with gusto. He then threw in some garlic, and let it all cook and carmelize.

Now this next part made me quite the fan of Some Dude. After the beef and vegetables were nice and carmelized, he said they had to reintroduce the flavor from where the beef bits had stuck to the bottom of the pot. And to do that, well, he just had to use a half a cup of whiskey.

Once the reintroduction had taken place, and really, what reintroduction isn't better with a little whiskey, then the stalwart stew staple potatoes were thrown in, and it was liquid time. Some beef stock, a half a cup of stale coffee, and two pints of Guinness Stout. Neither Some Dude nor Al threw the liquid, and I'm glad about that, although it would have been fun to watch all that beer fizz like crazy. Some rosemary and thyme sprigs were thrown in (but no parsley and sage), and there was a stew right there in the fake kitchen.

And that was it. Video watched. But since the weather's turned cold I've been wanting to make a few soups and chilis I can eat now and freeze for later, and I just decided I'd make this stew with the whiskey and beer and even coffee to sober me up the next day.

I went to the grocery Tuesday after work. It was looking like rain. I forewent the umbrella anyway. I bought a few groceries I needed, then all the ingredients for the stew, save for the whiskey, but I had enough left over from the weekend to keep me out of the liquor store. I came out with my newly-bought groceries in bags in the cart, and walked right into - a hurricane.

Well, I'm calling it a hurricane. The rain was pouring, the wind was blowing. Blowing the rain into my face and on my glasses. Rain had collected in the parking lot till it lapped over my shoes. I did some throwing of my own before the stew even started, throwing bags as fast as I could into the back of podmobile2. When I was through, I looked like I had stood in the shower for twenty minutes with my clothes on.

I climbed into the car and drove home, water dripping from my hair into my face the whole way. I backed into the driveway, unloaded the bags, took Milo out - hey, why shouldn't he get wet too? - and came in to unload my groceries. All the bags had about an inch of rain in them. It was a wet sort of time.

But anyway, after a change of clothes, I got right into putting, no, wait, throwing my stew together. Did it just like Some Dude did it, throwing with gusto. And I have to say, that carrot trick is awesome. I want to have carrots with every meal now just so I can cut my carrot pieces all the same size.

I'd thrown in the first veggies over the browned beef, it carmelized, and I added my too-expensive-for-this-dish whiskey. Then I added the dreaded potatoes, stale coffee, beef stock, and the two pints of Guinness Stout. Boy, was that Guinness stout. A big ol' thick foam engulfed all the other ingredients. In fact, after tying my rosemary and thyme (but not parsley and sage) in a little string, I threw them in. The beer foam was so thick I had to sink the poor little spices with my stirrer.

I took it to simmer and let it go. I made something else for dinner because I wanted to let this take its time and stew into a stew I could be proud of.

At the end of the night, I got out a large tupperware container and looked at my stew. Then I got out another large container. I had enough stew to feed the whole town. I began ladling it, dividing ingredients between the two containers. And as I did that, I started to notice something. This wasn't really a beef stew. It was a beef soup.

It had no thickness to it at all. It was basically all those things I'd so happily thrown at the pot, floating in broth and beer. I was disappointed, to say the least. I mentioned it to Mr M, and he said I needed to add some corn starch. And he was right. Some Dude hadn't said anything about a thickening agent.

Had I missed something? I ran back to my recipe and pored over the ingredients. Nope, nothing there. Sure, there was some thickness when all that Guinness foam was floating around, just like there was in the video, but when it fizzled out, I was left with a limp stew.

I of course talked to my friend, workmate, and mother figure San the next morning, Wednesday, and she agreed with Mr M. I went home for lunch and heated some of this stuff up, and, well, it just wasn't what I was hoping for. I took the second container of the limp stew back to work and gave it to San. "Here, do anything you want to it, and tell me if you get anything better than it is now. I'll do the same with my share."

After work it was to the grocery once again for corn starch. When I got it boiling, I added some broth to the corn starch and put it in the soup. And I was starting to get some stew! I had stew, people! Near the end of cooking I threw in, at this point I couldn't just lay anything in there, a bit of cilantro. Then when I'd ladled it into my bowl I thought "what the hell," and sprinkled some Frank's hot sauce over the top. (Everything is improved by Frank's hot sauce.)

And it looked like this.

And it wasn't awful. The beef was more tender than I was expecting, maybe the Guinness pummeled it into submission, there were still too many potatoes, the thicker sauce was nice and comfortable. But it wasn't that great. I looked down at my feet, and my socks were definitely not being knocked off.

I'm blaming the Guinness. I can drink it if I have to, but it's definitely not my beer of choice. I started thinking about nut brown ale. Wonder if that would give it a warmer, cozier taste.

No matter. I don't know that I'll try that recipe again. I have others in the bullpen I'm more interested in getting at. All I know is that the equation that got me interested in the first place is wrong. It's not "Coffee + Beer = Beef Stew."

I'm leaning more toward "Coffee + Beer + Regular Beef Stew = A Nice Night In."

Kielbasa stew is up next. And I have plenty of corn starch just in case.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* And the meal I made Tuesday night while the stew cooked? Well, folks, I made the best Reuben Sandwich I've ever made in my life. I can't wait to make it again. As soon as I go to the grocery again for more rye bread.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Confession Time!

Yes, my blogees. I'm Bet, and I'm a wayward blogger. It's been 16 days since my last blog. And I'm back to make a couple of confessions to you all.

The first confession is that I'm going to quit apologizing for not updating my blog more. I'm sorry about it, to be sure, but less and less sorry, and something has to be afoot that's making me not make time to do it. I don't know if it's that I just don't care that much anymore (I'd like to think I do), that I don't have anything worthwhile to say (sadly, I'm feeling this more and more), or that I have that newly-diagnosed mental illness, Blogophrenia, which makes blogging impossible (I don't, and I made that up anyway).

So all I can say is that while I try to get back into blogging shape, I hope you'll all be nice enough to check back every week or so to make sure I'm still alive and still typing. If you do, I'd be ever so grateful. But don't expect miracles. Election day this year should tell you that.

Speaking of election day this year, that's kind of where my second confession comes in. In a roundabout way.

See, my buddy Stennie and I do the Hucklebug podcast together, and we made a solemn pledge to our listeners. We took on the Herculean task to watch Sarah Palin's new reality show on TLC so our listeners wouldn't have to watch it themselves. We were being extremely selfless when we made this pledge, but it was an honest pledge. We care about our listeners, and wouldn't dream of having them suffer through Sarah's reality show.

An aside here, because if there's anything you know about me, it's that I love a good aside like a fat baby loves mashed potatoes. TLC stands for "The Learning Channel," and they have shows like "Jon and Kate Plus Eight," "19 Kids and Counting" (about the horrid and ever-mulitplying Duggar family), "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant," "Say Yes to the Dress" (about bridezillas and their gowns), "Sister Wives" (about a polygamist family), "Toddlers and Tiaras" (about child beauty pageants), and "LA Ink" (about tattoo artists). What exactly we're supposed to learn to enrich our lives about all this is a mystery to me. In fact, my sister has lovingly renamed TLC "The Trailer Trash Channel."

OK. So the premiere of the Palin show, which if I'm not mistaken is called "Sarah Palin's Alaska," like it's actually about Alaska, was Sunday night.

Sunday was not an especially stellar day for me. I learned while visiting the parents that day that one of our neighborhood gang of kids when I was young, a guy one year older than I, had passed away. It was also the 40th anniversary of the Marshall University plane crash (which wiped out their football team), and I spent much of the evening watching the documentary about it, "Ashes to Glory." It's an amazing documentary, and though it ends on a high note, the interviews about the actual crash are just gut-wrenching.

Then I watched "The Amazing Race," and got all pissed off about winners and losers. Then - it was time for Sarah's show.

I duly turned in, just like I said I would. I watched. Well, I watched until I decided I absolutely could not watch anymore. I looked at the clock at the point I could not watch anymore. It was six minutes into the show.

Yes, apparently six minutes of Sarah Palin is all I can stomach.

And I marveled at that. I mean, I'm the person who rails against Glenn Beck on the podcast while Stennie yells, "Quit watching that shit!" I can watch over half of his show, screaming at the TV screen, blaspheming. I don't know how I do it but I do, vitriol at the boiling point.

But I couldn't stand more than six minutes of Sarah Palin and her brood.

Because, in six minutes, here's what I saw.

Sarah in her palatial estate. Not the Governor's Mansion, her own home. Now, I thought her husband Todd was a fisherman. She lives in a huge waterfont estate. They obviously didn't move into it after the book deals and money from the TV show. And I'm sure there's dirty money involved in that house.

And - Sarah and her neighbor. Of course, a guy writing a book about Sarah rented the house beside of hers, which is his God-given right, and we got to see Todd and Sarah making fun of him and talking about how he was writing a "hit" piece on them, and playing the "victim" card at every turn.

And - Sarah whoring out her youngest daughter. There she was, cutely licking cupcake batter off a spoon. Sarah's already whored out Bristol (and we see how well that went), and the little disabled one (and she should be ashamed), and the middle daughter, Willow - well, I don't know if you've seen it yet, but Willow and Bristol got involved in a Facebook flame against someone who dissed this very reality show that, well, I don't even know what to say about it. Willow was calling people "faggot" all over the place, but what distressed me more was that the poor girl can't distinguish between "your" and "you're." Uneducated heathens.

And - Sarah talking about, to counter the "hitman" author writing the piece against her, they're building a higher fence around their huge estate. And Sarah said, with a wink to the camera, "Just like people think we should build a big fence around the country to keep illegal aliens out."

And that was it. That was the point where I said "enough."

Because that's when I also realized, "Holy Lord and Holy Shit and Jesus H Christ, this is nothing but a nine-week political commercial." Which I knew anyway, but wasn't expecting it to be so obvious, for some reason, there on the Trailer Trash Channel.

And that pisses me off. I mean, I can't tell you how this pisses me off.

While other politicians who are hoping to be president someday have to wait till election season and then pay millions of dollars to come up with 30 minutes of show for their campaigns, here is this empty-headed vacuous shithead with a nine-week reality-show-campaign commercial - that she's being paid for!

And that's just not fair.

Our country is fucked. Our country is fucked beyond repair.

I could go into the whole "Dancing With the Stars" thing, which I'm only watching with one eye (I promise), and how Bristol Palin was one of the three worst dancers in the stable and has now made it to the final round, because her mom shows up in the audience and right-wing websites beg people to call in and vote for her.

But I won't.

All I can do is hope that somehow, somewhere, Sarah Palin will fuck up enough that even the "on the fence" crowd will see what a sham she is. (The teabaggers wouldn't care if she killed puppies with her bare hands.)

But something tells me it won't matter. You know, when she and the whole teabag thing started rearing its head, I talked about how it scared the shit outta me, and everyone said, "Aww, you're crazy. People will see through that."

I won't say, "I told you so." I hope I won't, anyway.

But I probably will.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* You know, my regular camera is broken, that happened the last night of Oktoberfest. (Don't ask me, I was drunk.) So I'm using an old camera and the pics just aren't that good. However...

* Saturday the 13th was Mr M's birthday. He came down to the Pod, and we had a lovely evening. Helped by the fact that the Gang at the Poderosa spent the whole weekend making him a birthday card. I tried to get some photos.

The inside contained pictures of all the Poderosa Gang, plus some added hijinx (Sherman and Huckie playing Jenga, and even the Dwarves). Mr M was happy.


Monday, November 01, 2010

A Fable

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a small village in the dales of the Land of Nod. She was a good girl, for the most part, and she had many interests, one of which was playing the licorice horn.

She had played her horn for many years and with many people, and loved music of many kinds. But one fateful day, she went to a special happening. She went up the Big Green Hill, to have dinner in the Magic Stable and listen to the Red Cabbage Orchestra.

The little girl was amazed. She sat, feasted on treats, drank the Magic Elixir, and listened to the orchestra. "That must be so much fun!" she exclaimed, wide-eyed. "That must be the most fun thing in the great wide world!"

And so every single year, the little girl would travel up the Big Green Hill and visit the Magic Stable. And listen to the Red Cabbage Orchestra. She would eat treats, and drink the Magic Elixir, and laugh and sing. And it would fill her will enough glee to last her till the next year.

And then one day, something wonderful happened. See, the little girl had a friend, Grinchmond, who was a troll, but an affable sort of troll, and he had recently become a member of the Red Cabbage Orchestra. He had set about to have the little girl become a member of the orchestra, and he finally became successful. The little girl was asked to join the Red Cabbagers as a member and play in the Magic Stable.

While over the moon with excitement, the little girl was very nervous. Could she do it? Could she play her licorice horn well enough? Would the other members of the orchestra like her?

After the first night in the Magic Stable, all fears were put to rest. The other Red Cabbagers were extremely welcoming, she played her licorice horn well enough, and everything fell into place.

And the little girl had realized happiness beyond her wildest dreams.

And so for years, the little girl went up the Big Green Hill, ate treats and drank the Magic Elixir, played in the Magic Stable, and was a full-fledged member of the Red Cabbage Orchestra. She went to other places, too, traveled all over the Land of Nod to play her licorice horn with the Red Cabbage Orchestra. She came to regard the Red Cabbagers as her best friends ever.

Of course, in the Magic Stable, as with all other places over this great wide world, it was not all sweetness and light. Sometimes the golden blarehorn players could be very obnoxious, and the little girl had to travel many, many miles up the Big Green Hill to the Magic Stable, and the little girl also had to balance playing with the Red Cabbagers with her real job, making yummy cupcakes in the little village for some very demanding villagers.

But when things got obnoxious or tough, the little girl would simply roll her eyes and shake her head and accept it as part of the wonderfulness that was being a member of the Red Cabbage Orchestra.

But alas, the little girl started to become tired. Making cupcakes for demanding villagers and dealing with obnoxious blarehorn players started to take its toll upon her. She still truly loved the Red Cabbage Orchestra players and being in the Magic Stable, but she often became of a foul demeanor, and often swore that a monster, a mean monster that looked like a tornado wearing a diaper, would visit her once a year and make her very, very sad.

And still, she loved the Magic Stable and the Red Cabbage Orchestra and kept traveling up the Big Green Hill.

But, sadly, the day finally came when the little girl realized that it was all becoming too much. The blarehorn players were still obnoxious, and the cupcake-wanting villagers were still demanding, but now the little girl had ugliness in her knees and had grown old, and found she had to have the Magic Elixir to now enjoy her nights in the Magic Stable. She also had duties to perform for her mother and father, who were quite old and needed her help.

It was a very troubling time for the little girl, but she finally made a decision. It was her time to leave the Red Cabbage Orchestra and stop playing in the Magic Stable.

The last night of the Magic Stable season ended, and she knew what she must do. She gave hugs and kisses to all the members of the Red Cabbage Orchestra, tears starting when she hugged and kissed her fellow licorice horn player, then went to the conductor of the Red Cabbage Orchestra and told him this was her last season there.

When the little girl told him of her decision, the conductor hugged her, grabbed her tightly, then threw her in the Magic Stable oven and baked her till she was done. He then fed her to the Magic Stable kitchen staff, all great people who work for too little money, and they enjoyed her greatly as a feast that night.

Actually, this is not true, of course, for the Red Cabbage Orchestra would never cook the little girl, and the underpaid kitchen staff would never get such a feast. Instead, the conductor said this could not be true, and made the little girl promise to think about her decision down in the dell in her little village during the off-season. And the little girl said she would. Because the little girl was a good girl, for the most part, and didn't want to hurt the feelings of the conductor of the Red Cabbage Orchestra.

The moral of this fable?

Do not continue to do something you love if it wears on you so much it becomes something you hate. Unless you are like the little girl, a good girl for the most part, but a bit of a wimp, and promise to at least think about it during the off-season from the Magic Stable.

But unless things change a lot in the Land of Nod, the little girl has already made up her mind.