Saturday, October 21, 2006

Halloween Gorp in the Kitchen

Carl had a question in his e-mail and I wanted to start with it. He's a community member and he and his wife have three small kids with the oldest in third grade. Carl wrote that he had always wanted to put a pumpkin on the porch but he's never carved one so each year he tells himself "next time."

There are people who put pumpkins on their porches or by their doors and don't carve them. Some just set a pumpkin out there without anything on it. Others draw a face on, usually with markers. We always have the carved pumpkin on our porch and my husband does that so I asked him for his tips on that.

1) You want an orange pumpkin. Don't get any that are discolored. If there's a bruise or more than one, it's like any other piece of fruit when it comes to spoiling.

2) The lid is the most important part. If you grab a knife and cut downwards, you'll have removed the top but when it's time to put it back on the pumpkin, it's going to fall right in. My husband suggests an angle of at least 45 degrees. That will provide "a ledge of sorts" for the lid to sit on.

3) Scooping out the inside of the pumpkin takes longer than anything else. "Do not ask your wife, partner or roommate, 'Do you think you'll make a pumpkin pie?' Because you're going to be angry." Which is his little jab at me because one year I did ask him to save the insides and never had time to make a pie. I will back him up on this because I know it was irritating to hear, "Are you going to make that pie?" His advice is that you scoop and throw away. Don't offer to save the insides and, if it comes up later, just say, "Well ask me next time." He adds you should do that every year. We joke about it now but about sixteen years ago, it really wasn't funny. I didn't (and honestly, still don't) see the big deal. If you're going to scoop and trash, it seems like you can just as easily scoop the insides into a container. But it did become a big deal and it was just one of those times when it was too busy to cook a pie. There was a recital for one of the kids and a sporting event for the other on top of the usual demands and I didn't want to hear that question again. So I would advise that you listen on this. I have never, and will never, again asked him to save the insides so I can make a pie. So toss it all out, seeds and pulp.

4) When scooping, he says do it outside and place newspapers under the pumpkin. He says you want an area you can hose down after.

5) How close are you scooping? That was my question. He says scoop out all of the fleshy and "really scrape" at the rind but "keep it smooth" especially in the back. Why the back? If you're going to light in any way, it reflects better if the back wall is smooth.

6) On lighting, he says use a little flashlight unless you intend to be standing by the pumpkin at all times. Our oldest son fell over it one year. It wasn't lit. If it had been, there would have been a problem. Unless you're going to be next to it "the whole time, watching it isn't good enough so use a flashlight."

7) Carving the face. He says don't use a pattern. If you draw a pattern on a piece of paper you're going to be looking at the pattern and then looking at the results "paper isn't pumpkin -- one's flat, the other is round." He grabs a sharpie marker and draws on it. He cuts around the marked areas. He also says a sharp pocket knife works better than any kitchen knife for this. "But don't go out and buy one if you don't have one already," he added.

8) This is your first pumpkin and remember it will get easier. He pointed out that Carl's kids are young enough that they'll be impressed with it no matter how it turns out. "When they hit twelve, they'll all be an expert. Enjoy this moment to practice."

9) His last tip is don't think the smaller the pumpkin, the easier it is. If you make a mistake on a small pumpkin while you're carving the face, it's much harder to fix (because there's less face space). To any criticism about an uneven line, "Remember this phrase and use it often: 'It's supposed to be scary, not pretty.'"

When I read Carl's e-mail, I thought other people might be interested in carving as well. This was on his Friday to-do list so I did call him this morning to see how it turned out and he said the only thing he would add is that it's very messy and to stress that you do not offer to save anything for toasted seeds or a pie. He says the mess factor is a headache and, if he had saved anything, he'd probably be asking "Where's that pie?" right now.

I'll offer a tip that my mother gave me when this was an issue fifteen years ago. It came too late to help me, I had tossed it all in the trash in front of my husband after we'd argued about the pie one too many times. Go out and buy a pie. If you don't have time to bake one from scratch and you thought you did, go out and buy one, serve it and don't say anything about it not being made from scratch.

I wish I'd thought of that. While bringing the kids back from this activty or that, I often stopped at the grocery store on the way home and could have easily picked up a pie at any point. So if you've made the mistake of asking that the insides be saved only to discover you don't have time to do anything with it, buy a pie.

One question that Carl did have on the phone this morning was about storing. We usually leave ours out until Halloween's over and then trash it. But if you're taking it inside, put it in a plastic bag. Carl wanted me to note that a pocket knife gave you more room to carve the eyes and mouth.

Another e-mail I wanted to note was from Becky who's throwing a party and has a problem. A friend will be bringing a dish, everyone will be, and this friend can't cook. Last Christmas, this friend brought apple slices and a "dip." The "dip" was peanut butter and mayonaise. A few people tried it and spit it out into their napkins. The friend was upset at the end of the party that so much of the "dip" was left over. Becky is in fear of what the "friend" will be bringing this time.

I would advise telling them to bring ice or paper towels. Something inexpensive so they don't feel put out. You can explain it as, "I'm not going to have time on ___ to stop at the store and grab ice/paper towels, so I was wondering if you could do me a big favor and make that what you're bringing to the party? I really need someone I can trust to do this and that's why I thought of you."

However, be warned, some people, so grateful that they're your most trusted friend, will end up bringing a dish as well. If that happens, you either have to deal with the fact that no one's going to touch it or try to sneak some servings out of the dish and onto plates or napkins headed for the trash. I did that for several years with a friend. She became convinced that her dish was so popular she ended up taking it to work one year where they were quite vocal about how bad it was. So it's a no-win situation whatever you do.

Denver and Stacey e-mailed to say they appreciated the points regarding diabetic children because their child is diabetic and they're always surprised by how often he ends up left out at parties. They were very nice in the e-mail but I won't be. If you are responsible for a children's party, at school or at home, it is important that all the children feel it is their party. That's not going to happen if there are guests who can't eat most of the foods because of a health issue.

That's true of any guest regardless of age. If you're planning a party, you want everyone to feel welcome. I believe you have even more of obligation when the guests include kids (or are just kids).

Denver and Stacey noted a recipe they found at Diabetic Recipes and that has been a huge favorite of their son's.

"Halloween Gorp" (
3 tablespoons (45 ml) reduced-fat margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) chili powder
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) garlic powder
1 teaspoon (5 ml) hot pepper sauce
2 quarts (2 l) hot popped corn (popped with a hot-air popper)
1 cup (45 g) fat-free tiny pretzel sticks
1 cup (145 g) golden raisins
1/2 cup (73 g) dry roasted peanuts
1/2 cup (60 g) dry roasted sunflower seeds

In a small skillet, combine melted margarine, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and hot sauce. Heat for 1 minute over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
Place remaining ingredients in a large paper bag. Pour on margarine-spice mixture. Close bag tightly and shake vigorously to coat evening.
Pour popcorn mixture into a large bowl.

That's a very simple recipe and one that can be enjoyed by all kids provided you leave out the peanuts. If you check with all the parents and no child has an allergy to peanuts, you can include them but, as I've noted before, I don't include peanuts in any recipe for a party due to the fact that peanut allergies seem much more common these days than they used to be.

Iraq this week? Amara is a big story. The city was taken over and only hours of working on a truce restored it for what passes for order. In August, the British had to withdraw from the area due to attacks and they did so quickly. Their base was immediately stripped and looted. So the fact that militias controlled the town until a truce was worked out is news and indicative of what's to come in Iraq. Another big story this week was Bully Boy agreeing with a comparison between Vietnam and Iraq. Iraq is falling apart and it will only continue to do so while US forces are there. They aren't seen as liberators, they are seen as occupiers. It's time for the troops to come home. In the snapshot, you'll learn more about Amara but Mike just came in and asked me if I'd seen two things online? I hadn't yet. This one is from C.I. this morning:

After arriving in Iraq, the heavy construction equipment operator was reassigned to a security detail. Kyle quickly realized that no reconstruction was taking place with the exception of military bases. "I can't take this anymore!' That's what I thought to myself." A survivor of string of foster homes since he was 13-years-old, Kyle joined the Army in 2004.Faced with few job prospects and wanting to provide for himself and his family, "I was an easy target for recruiters, plain and simple," explains Kyle. "This is not what I signed up for and it’s not what’s being shown to the American public. So, why the hell should I fight?"
Kyle is Kyle Snyder and the above is from Courage to Resist. Kyle Snyder self-checked out of the military and went to Canada. Next month he returns to the United States. FluxView has videos of Kyle Snyder and other war resisters discussing why they went to Canada. I wrote about this last night at Kat's Korner.

This is the sort of the story we need to pay attention to but, sadly, many in the media don't think so. War resisters tend to be treated like a one-off story when they're covered at all. They're part of a larger mosaic and their stories are important.

Hopefully, unlike some coverage of Darrell Anderson and Ricky Clousing recently, Snyder's story will get the attention and support it deserves.

Please read Betty's "It's Back" (her latest chapter) and here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Friday, October 20, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; an area the British abandoned heats up; Rumsfeld's 'big fellow' vouches for his honor; Max Boot demonstrates he was cursed with not only porcine features but analytical challenges as well; Bully Boy's Iraq to Vietnam comparison continues to be discussed (and will continue); another US soldier dies today in Iraq bringing the total for the month to 75; Ramadi's parade/independence statement is echoed elsewhere in Iraq today.

Starting in Amara. On August 24th, came news that too much violence, too many attacks, led British troops to exit Amara quickly. Spinning would continue August 25th and then it was largely forgotten. Today, actions in Amara have reminded why British troops left and left so quickly. Al Jazeera reports that "overnight clashes left 15 dead" and that the fighting continued today "after police arrested a member of cleric Maqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army on suspicion of killing a local intelligence officer in a bomb attack". Christopher Bodeen (AP) reports that the town has been "seized" and that it's "one of the boldest acts of defiance yet by the country's powerful, unofficial armies, witnesses and police said." CNN reports that 16 people have died and 90 wounded. They also speak with British military flack Charlie Burbridge who stated that between 200 and 300 people attacked two police stations in Amara Thursday. Christine Hauser (New York Times) reports: "The nearest British troops are now stationed more than 20 miles from the city" and that other police stations and "state facilities in Amara were attacked." On the subject of British troops, AFP reports: "A British battle group of 600 troops backed by attack jets and armoured vehicles is standing by to intervene if Iraqi forces need support" according to Charlie Burbridge (so take it for what it is worth).

Kirk Semple (New York Times) reports that the militia have gain "control of entire neighborhoods" and notes theories that that a split between Maktada al-Sadr (whom some are linking the militias too) and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki could impact the "stability" of the puppet government. Meanwhile, James Hider (Times of London) notes: "As in Balad, militiamen set up roadblocks around the town and warned residents to stay indoors."

In some of the other violence today, Reuters notes that one person died and three were wounded in Baghdad from a roadside bomb (Dora district). Also Reuters reports that one person was shot dead near Baiji and three others wounded. AFP reports that three people are dead and three wounded from an attack in Khalis.

It's Friday. News of violence trickles out slowly on a normal day. Events in Amara meant today wouldn't be a normal Friday.

In other news, Frank Jordans (AP) reports that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that "914,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003". This at the same time as Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) reports on the increased dangers in Iraqi hospitals both from the fact that the medical "system is breaking down" and also because of claims that "hospitals are now being used by al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia as its headquarters and hospital basements are used as prisons."

But no need to be concerned about any of the above. For one thing, Peter Pace is standing by his man. AFP reports the US general said of Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, "He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country." God responds, "Don't blame that ___ on me!"

While Pace tells the world he's fond of his fella' Rumsfeld, Tony Blair warns the world that he's the house guest from hell. Philip Webster (Times of London) reports that is bandying around the term "progressive withdrawal" and insisting that Iraqis won't be put out by foreign forces 'staying too long.' At three years and eight months, Blair's stayed too long at the fair and then some.

Meanwhile, AP reports that Bully Boy's poodle-in-waiting, John Howard, declares there "is no reason to for international forces to quite Iraq". Pooh-pahhing Little Willie Caldwell's use of the term "disheartening" yesterday, Howard declared, "In any military operation, you have heartening and disheartening things". Backing him was Australia's former chief of the Defence Force, Peter Cosgrove, who doesn't believe that Vietnam and Iraq are anything alike. It helps his self-serving refusal to focus on the conflict in Indochine and the Indochina War which, for the record, wasn't the question put to Bully Boy on Wednesday. Possibly Cosgrove misunderstood the question?

For those confused, the Khaleej Times brings you up to speed: "At last, President Bush has come to acknowledge what many in and outside US have been arguing for some time. That Iraq is increasingly looking like Vietnam. In a rare confession during his interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulus, the president admitted that as in Vietnam, America faces 'a stepped-up level of violence' in Iraq. Stepped-up level of violence, Mr. President? This is an all-out and free-for-all bloody civil war, which has already claimed 655,000 Iraqi lives, as medical journal Lancet disclosed last week."

For anyone who may still be confused, from yesterday's snapshot:

Starting with the Bully Boy. As Demetri Sevastopulo (Financial Times) noted, Bully Boy "drew a comparison between Iraq and the Vietnam war for the first time on Wednesday when he said Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columinst, 'could be right' in writing that the violent situation in Iraq was the 'jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive." Summarizing the interview, Ed O'Keefe (ABC) notes, "Bush said he could not imagine any circumstances under which all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq before the end of his presidency." Bully Boy doesn't seem to register of what his comparison would result in. Mark Tran (Guardian of London) walks readers through:
"Mr Bush has strongly resisted comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. Vietnam remains a touchy subject for America; the war deeply divided the country, ended in an ignominious retreat for the US after the loss of more than 57,000 American lives, and has become synonymous with political and military debacle. The 1968 Tet offensive was a military failure for the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese, but it turned American public opinion against the war and fatally damaged President Lyndon Johnson, who abandoned his re-election campaign two months later."

The 'crackdown' cracked . . . down. Up? The measure began in mid-June was supposed to secure the capital but violence not only continued in Baghdad, it increased. As John F. Burns (New York Times) reported, Bully Boy "is now left with only a handful of tough and politically unattractive options" as a result of the cracked-up 'crackdown.' Michael Abramowitz and Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) reported, "Senior figures in both parties are coming to the conclusion that the Bush administration will be unable to achieve its goal of a stable, democratic Iraq within a politically feasible time frame." Despite that, CNN reports that White House flack Tony Snow has stated, "There will be no change in strategy." Bully Boy would publicly agree later in the day. Steve Holland (Reuters) reports that Bully Boy, deluded or in denial, insists there will be no changes while Democratic House Representative John Murtha notes: "We've lost the hearts and minds of the people and we've become caught in a civil war." CBS and AP report that Bully Boy's pushing a teleconference tomorrow "with U.S. generals" to determine what to do next. (Those who remember the infamous Hurricane Katrina teleconference will rightly shudder.)

Though Max Boot hasn't lost his heart (can't lose what you don't have), he appears to be losing his grip on reality. Speaking to Michelle Nichols (Reuters), the balding gas bag offered that American troops dying in Iraq has a less of an impact than Americans dying in the Vietnam conflict due to the fact that today "the impact here is more isolated because so many soldiers come from military communities which are clustered in a handful of states." Oh really?

American troop fatalties? Alabama: 47; Alaska: 10; Arizona: 66; Arkansas: 35; California: 284; Colorado: 34; Connecticut: 22; Delaware: 12; Florida: 117; Georgia: 83; Hawaii: 13; Idaho: 16; Illinois: 107; Indiana: 56; Iowa: 33; Kansas: 31; Kentucky: 46; Louisiana: 63; Maine: 12; Maryland: 52; Massachusetts: 45; Michigan: 97; Minnesota: 39; Mississippi: 35; Missouri: 48; Montana: 12; Nebraska: 29; Nevada: 24; New Hampshire: 14; New Jersey: 47; New Mexico: 21; New York: 132; North Carolina: 63; North Dakota: 13; Ohio: 125; Oklahoma: 47; Oregon: 46; Pennsylvania: 135; Rhode Island: 10; South Carolina: 39; South Dakota: 17; Tennessee: 58; Texas: 245; Utah: 14; Vermont: 18; Virginia: 83; Washington: 53; West Virginia: 18; Wisconsin: 60; Wyoming: 7.

A "handful of states"? Can we get some talcum powder for Max Boot? His desk jockeys have apparently left his brain chafed.

The Booty's foolish remarks come as the US military announces another death: a US soldier died in Baghad today from an IED. This death brings the total US fatalities in Iraq for the month of October to 75 and the total of US troop fatalities since the start of the illegal war now stands at 2788.

The news of the death comes as Hamza Hendwai (AP) reports that the parade/declaration of independence earlier this week in Ramadi have now been echoed today "in a string of towns west of Baghdad . . . . the latest parades -- including two less than a mile from U.S. military bases -- were staged in support of an announcement this week by a militant Sunni Arab group that it had created an Islamic state in six of Iraq's 18 provinces, including the capital, Baghdad."

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