Archive for October, 2011

This morning was Cville’s Zombie Run. Since the Mayor made the race and posted the winners to Facebook, I thought I’d share here:

Terrifying right?

Thanks Dave Norris! As you can see, we here in VA are enjoying a beautiful Fall day, sunny and 50’s just perfect for the walking dead! And if by chance you are powerless and home-bound (hmm sounds like a scary movie) by this Oktoberfest of Snow up North, you may want to practice your make-up skills for tomorrow:

I’ll be on the UVA Lawn with the wee ones in costume and will be sure to report back here. Who or what are you going to be? Happy Halloween everyone, stay safe out there. Guess who and where these Middle School Zombies are….

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…asked the rabbit. The Atlantic just did a story on this strangely Blazing Saddle-like Herman Cain political ad. After hearing about it over my morning coffee, I pulled it up on my iPhone and watched it incredulously, in pieces re-loading itself. And it’s bi-partisan funny/weird at that! Conor Friedersdorf called it a “Dadaist Meta-Western.” He went on to explain that like the Dadaist Art Movement of the early 20th Century, it “…was a protest, but at the same time it managed to be enjoyable and amusing. It was sarcastic, colorful, quirky and silly.”

I remember when one of the kids was in high school, someone ran for student body president who happened to be first generation Polish and he did his big campaign speech entirely in Polish. It may have been around the same time that Reese Witherspoon perfect teen spoof, “Election,” hit theaters. Naturally, the Polish-speaking candidate won. I was a member of the school board then, and he turned out to be an excellent President!

So what is real? If the point of the Dadaist Movement was to hold a mirror up to the times we are living in, Cain is taking our pulse. That slow-mo smile at the end, the simplicity of his 9-9-9 or 9-0-9 plan, his smoking man ad, that irreverence, I just wasn’t getting it until now.  He really wants to get the Republican nomination and go face to face with Obama. Keeping it “Real” may hurt, as the Skin Horse said in the Velveteen Rabbit. It may hurt him like a spaghetti Western. Cain may not have a chance, but his ad campaign should bring home a CLIO.

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We here in Central VA have been closely following two high profile crimes of passion – two beautiful young women who were bludgeoned to death by their sweethearts. The verdict just came in on Eric Abshire, the dump truck driver from the next county with a checkered past who staged a ‘hit and run’ on one of our dark country lanes, after killing his wife Justine, a Kindergarten teacher only 27 years old. It was a circumstantial case; the timeline and an abundance of crime scene evidence helped to frame Abshire in his web of lies. He was suspected of being motivated by an insurance payout of $1.5 million. The jury found him guilty, with a recommendation of life in prison.

The crime happened on November 2, 2006 and many have wondered why it took so long to build the state’s case. Certainly Justine’s parents never gave up the search for justice, but also to be fair, our local weekly, “The Hook” kept the case alive. Kudos to those reporters who dug deep and consistently pointed out discrepancies in Abshire’s account of that evening.

The other crime to hit our little city has been followed by national news outlets since its inception last May – Yeardley Love, a 22 year old UVA lacrosse player, had her head slammed against a wall in her apartment and was left to die by her erratic boyfriend, George Huguely, who was also 22 and a member of the men’s lacrosse team. He has been held in our city’s jail and is scheduled to go to trial February 6, 2012 on charges of first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery, burglary, statutory burglary and grand larceny. Unlike Abshire who pleaded his innocence, Huguely was caught red-handed soon after the event and confessed to beating Love in a fit of alcohol fueled rage when she threatened to leave him.

The Huguely defense team has been asking a judge for Love’s medical records, something I find disturbing. The judge delayed a ruling as of yesterday until the court date, and will then rule on whether to make the records public. All this, while national and local TV news anchors are already naming the ADD drug Love was allegedly taking, and testing the waters of accidental death due to an irregular heartbeat. What ever happened to HIPPA? I guess with enough money and excellent lawyers, Huguely is trying to build his case against the coroner’s finding of the cause of death to be from, “…Blunt Force Trauma to the Head.”

What can we take away from these horrific crimes? Both young men had a history of alcohol abuse and violence, both were extremely controlling and possessive. They came from opposite sides of the tracks. Will Yeardley Love’s family find justice?

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When the Bride graduated from college, she hit the road with her future Maid of Honor (MOH) and BFF Sarah. Like Oprah and Gayle, or Thelma and Louise, only my duo didn’t get arrested, at least not that I know of… So when my MIL Ada called to say that she and her husband, Hudson, (A and H respectively) were hitting the road to bring his WWII Navy ship reunion to his group of veterans, I said, “Bring it!” Hudson had been meeting every Fall with some twenty to thirty vets from their support ship, the Zaniah, for the past few decades. Sailors were ferried to repair other ships in the South Pacific and served at Okinawa. These men are now well into their 80’s and fewer and fewer have been able to make the trip to a resort location – last year the reunion organizer’s wife died, and he had a stroke. Just when it was looking like the end of the road for their reunion plans, A and H decided to bring the reunion to them; a two person/octogenarian/recreational/tourist board.

Their first stop on the way to North Carolina was our house. We always like to save a handyman project for Hudson, because he was the kind of Baptist missionary who built roads and wells in Ghana. He even worked on the Alaskan pipeline; Hudson (known as “Red” by his shipmates since back then he was a ginger) is a regular Jack London type of guy. If he had said he jumped the rails and dug for gold in California, I’d believe him. The Bride asked her Grandpa if he would officiate at her wedding, and sure enough, he came by train with his chainsaw since he was still sculpting a tree on our property. All I could think was, isn’t it good there are no metal detectors on Amtrak. Now retired from Pastoral Counseling, he is happiest on a ladder carving totem poles! Yep, here’s the proof.

My Cardinal Totem

Naturally before climbing up on our roof to install some kind of cell phone amplifier that Bob thought was the project du jour for Red, I had a word or two to say. Well mostly I said, “No way, are you kidding?” The plan was for Bob to get up on the roof and Hudson would hold the ladder and be the logistics guy. While the ladies took off for Chico’s, the guys managed to fly over the Blue Ridge for some leaf peeping and attach the gizmo to the roof. Needless to say, they were very proud of their efforts. And I have to admit, we no longer have to stand out on the deck for 2 cellphone bars.

Happy Trails A and H. Give those vets a dose of your can-do spirit! I’m planning a Roadtrip of my own, after all I’ve never been to Graceland or the Grand Canyon. I wonder if Red would want to come along?

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How would you feel after running about 9 miles through the mountains of Wintergreen Resort, after scooting down a gigantic slip-n-slide, avoiding a fire, swimming through dumpsters and finishing all this off in a 40+ degree morning chill by sprinting through 10,000 volts of electricity? Well let’s just say my hairdresser Christopher and his wife thought this would be a fun way to start the day and have been training for months to participate in this extreme obstacle race, “Tough Mudder.”

The Coolest Stylist Ever with our MOH

Starting out as another iron man race with a twist, this day was all about raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project. To date, $2.5 million has been raised and we here in Virginia hold the distinction of hosting the largest Mudder so far; their next stop is New Jersey! Modeled after the British Special Forces training activities, I wondered what would make someone do this? Certainly not the headband and beer you get upon completion.

When the Bride was born in the Berkshires, Bob ran the medical tent for the Josh Billings (run-aground) Race. It consisted of 3 parts – running, biking, and canoeing – so each team had 4 people. I had a pre-scheduled C-section since she was breech and determined to stay that way. He left me there at Berkshire Medical Center, post surgery, to get to the race. He was a runner then, and granted had responsibilities. It took me a long time to forgive him, we were young, he was eager. Now I’m all for a challenge. I think I’ll hook up Ms Bean and grab my 87 year old MIL who is visiting this weekend and walk down to the Rivanna, slowly. We’ll rest every so often. There will be no floods or fire in our path. But we’ll talk about visualizing the next challenge, and how to overcome it, together. Cause together we are two tough mudders!

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So I was procrastinating and reading the New York Times online the other day, and being a card carrying Francophile, I never pass up a piece on my favorite culture. Combine Les Francais with food, and I’m smitten.  Of course I had to read “There’s the Wrong Way and There’s Jacques Pepin’s Way!” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/19/dining/jacques-pepin-demonstrates-cooking-techniques.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

To quote this 75 year old gastronomic genius, “Who want to die in good health?” Yes, I watched “How To” video after video (sharpen a knife, make an omelet), because I was drawn to his French accent and his hands. Pepin feels that the great chef has technique, which through repetition will turn into talent. “Good cooking is controlled creation,” and in everything we become masters at our craft if we continue to do it day in and day out. That could be playing a guitar, or writing, or tennis, or reading x-rays, anything. Even knitting…

When an interviewer said that Gabrielle Hamilton, who wrote “Blood, Bones and Butter,” called Pepin the greatest living chef, it whet my appetite for her book, which is sitting next in line to be read. Her restaurant, Prune, in downtown Manhattan is known for its comfort food prepared to exacting gourmet standards. Her memoir proves she is that rare combination of chef, one who can write well! A review from the aforementioned newspaper says it all:  “It’s a story of hungers specific and vague, conquered and unappeasable, and what it lacks in urgency (and even, on occasion, forthrightness) it makes up for in the shimmer of Hamilton’s best writing.”

Sometimes I’ll shoot an email link to a story downstairs to Bob’s office, which I did with There’s the Wrong Way with Pepin’s speed and skill. I may have wistfully longed for sharp knives that can slice through a tomato just so. And yesterday, after returning from the grocery store, I caught my husband sharpening the last of my knives in the late afternoon sun in my kitchen. And it was almost as good as catching him holding a baby after letting me sleep through a feeding.

Orange Mountains

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we are now proud participants in a Moneyed Oligarchy.  Democracy, may have another chance.


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This morning I woke to sky-dappled mountains, turning rust colored. We’ve lived on this hill for three years now and it just never gets old. There is a way the wind and the clouds play around the Blue Ridge that offers us an ever changing, seasonal panorama of natural art. I love having my day punctuated by the sun hitting the Blue Ridge in the morning, and then ducking behind it at night.

Bob and I hit the last festival of the season this past picture-perfect weekend. On Saturday we drove north to Graves Mountain Apple Festival. It was our first time in this particular holler, and it really did feel as if we’d stepped back about a hundred years. There were apples in old oak crates with children and grannies bending into them, hayrides for families on a huge tractor truck, Cloggers and the Dark Hollow Bluegrass Band music in a pavilion, and arts and craft tents sprinkled everywhere. Strange how having absolutely no cell service was thrilling and frightening all at once.

Besides my first and last funnel cake of the year, I purchased some bone beads to make a necklace from a Native American Outpost tent. You’d be surprised how many Virginians I’ve met who claim to have this indigenous gene in their DNA. In a curious constellation of events, I also watched Diane Sawyer’s “Hidden America: Children of the Plains” episode on 20/20, and started reading “Empire of the Summer Moon” by S.C. Gwynne. I had absolutely no idea our Native people were suffering through poverty, neglect and addiction still, as portrayed by the children of Pine Ridge Reservation.

The juxtaposition of this picture with this morning’s shot of the Blue Ridge speaks volumes about the Lakota Sioux who live in the southwest corner of South Dakota. As late as the 1940’s children were being separated from their parents to be sent to eastern schools and assimilated. Natives were not allowed to teach their own language until 1970. Now they live in dilapidated trailers with 5 or 6 children sleeping in one room. If you were to watch this 20/20 episode online, you would wonder at celebrities building schools in other countries. And if you were so moved to act – to help bring awareness, to teach or sponsor a scholarship for a school or a boy like Robert Looks Twice who wants to be the first Native American President, or maybe bring a business (as Subway has done) onto their plains – you can find a link here:


Thank you Diane Sawyer, for traveling our country as near as Appalachia and Camden, NJ and as far as Pine Ridge to highlight our neediest children.


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The first time I heard the phrase, “A law of unintended consequences,” it hit the right note of understanding – that intuitive feeling that no matter what we mortals try to plan, chaos is just one or two steps away.Take our poor Attorney General, Eric Holder for instance. A House Republican has subpoenaed his documents dealing with the farcical operation called “Fast and Furious” that originated out of a Phoenix, Arizona ATF office. Here was a plan destined to go horribly awry. Why not allow ‘straw’ aka illegal gun buyers to sell more than 2,00 firearms in order to track them to drug cartels in Mexico?

It’s as if Shakespeare wrote a play for Cheech and Chong. What could go wrong? According to the experts, there are three categories of unintended consequences.

1) Unexpected benefits – For example, research has shown that after Roe vs Wade, there was a statistically relevant drop in crime in the 90’s. Now the House is supposed to vote tomorrow on a bill that would deny women a life-saving abortion in a hospital taking federal funds. We all know this would only have an effect on the poor – if this passed, we may have the opposite of “unexpected benefits.”

2)Unexpected drawbacks – Let’s look at Prohibition. Watching Ken Burns’ series on PBS this week was compelling. Congress passed the Volstead Act leading directly to the rise of organized crime. It seems we are still trying to legislate morality by our so called War on Drugs. Drug cartels and the increase in our prisons of non-violent drug offenders are the direct result of not treating this as a public health problem.

3) Perverse results – This is exactly what happened in Mexico. Two of those guns registered to that ATF sting were found in Arizona near the killing of a federal agent. The Mexican government has reported finding these guns at more than 170 crime scenes. So I guess the questions for Holder will be along the lines of “….what did you know and when did you know it?”

Anytime we hear about a horrible massacre, like the one in Norway, or this morning’s smaller tragedy at a beauty parlor in California, Bob – who has pulled many a bullet out of patients – will always say, “It’s the guns.” Maybe it’s time to look at gun violence from a different angle.

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The news this morning is grim: Mitt is a flip-flopper on Roe vs Wade; the President’s Jobs Bill has a tough road to climb; the NBA is shut down for 2 weeks; the NYPD has to shell out almost 2 million in overtime to patrol the Occupy Wall Streeters…who are being called an “unruly mob” by certain GOPers. Now for some good news – Mobsters of another type are heading to Canada while their second album, “Dogs,” drops into iPods, Phones, Pads and stores near you! And if those revolutionaries on Wall Street want an anthem, how about this one, Hard Times?

Since it’s Tuesday, I’ve got a savory recipe for all those apples you’ve been picking. I was never much of a pastry chef, but when I saw this simply delicious take on a potato gratin, I had to tweek it to my liking. Pull out your madeleine again, and thinly slice one apple (peeled) and and half of a big sweet potato (unpeeled). Next layer them with little pats of butter and spread on a mixture of (1 carton) Greek yogurt and honey with (half a box) goat’s cheese. When done, sprinkle on some corn flake crumbs and more butter. I actually made this in a small casserole, for the two of us. Bake for 35 minutes at 375 covered, then uncover for 15 minutes.


If you are in the mood for learning how to make sauerkraut, or can fruit, or maybe make a delicious new sauce for your everyday pasta, my Facebook friend, Steffanie, someone I briefly met at a wedding in MS but came to love like family through her blog, has started something new called Food Porn: for an Audience of Two.” I faithfully followed her adventures on her old blog, “365 Days in Pictures,” and was in a panic as the days wound down. Luckily for all of us, she not only cooks, has a way with words, but is a breathtakingly beautiful photographer. Plus I love the name – http://foodpornfor2.wordpress.com/

Although the two independent music stores in Cville have closed down, I’ll have to stop in at Best Buy and rummage through the CDs today. It’s like the Book vs Kindle – it’s a tarty tactile thing.

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