Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A little unconventional. Just a nice name for weird.

We have UNO hockey season tickets, and we sit next to two other couples (and good friends that we've known forever) from the 'hood. A few weeks ago after a game, we were invited over for a late night winter hot tub, and since it was so spur of the moment, Dwight and I decided to take our own booze. Neither of us was in a wine mood, so we made gin and tonics and put them in our coffee travel tumblers, because who wants glass in the hot tub, right? We're there for about half an hour, and Kirk, who was sitting across from me, looks at my coffee mug and asks if I have coffee in there. Srsly. Who drinks coffee at 11:30 at night?! He said, "I don't know. You've always been a little unconventional." I know he meant weird. Welcome to my life. Maybe I should change the title of this blog....  "She's weird, but she shows up!"

So here's the weird, eclectic mix of books I have read lately:  I have been a reading fiend this month. The last time I wrote about books, I had just started The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I absolutely LOVED this book. It was magical. It was transcendent. It will make you believe in everlasting love. I want to visit this circus. Forget all the tired old animals and acrobats (and odd scary clowns) from the Shrine Circus of your youth. Think what it could be like if the only limit was your imagination. That is exactly what the author did, since each room was held together by magic. I keep thinking about the characters and the circus itself - always a sign of a wonderful book to me.

After that I read a book recommended by my friend Marcy, January First by Michael Schofield. It is the true story, written by a father, of his young daughter's battle with schizophrenia. (It's subtitled "A Child's Descent Into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her". Pretty much says it all.) She was diagnosed at age six, after exhibiting the symptoms basically since shortly after birth. It was a devastating read. He writes a blog, so of course after I finished the book I went and read some of his posts. I also found some scathing remarks about how he and his wife are exploiting their children (in addition to Jani's schizophrenia, apparently their son is autistic.) The parents have posted several YouTube videos, and after reading the not-so-complimentary comments, I found myself looking at the videos in a different light. They are a bit exploitative, in that there are several videos, and you know that the kids didn't exactly give consent. I wonder what they will think when they are grown up and watch them. There is also an Oprah interview from a few years ago, but I was pretty much mental illnessed out by then so didn't watch it. But back to the book - I couldn't put it down.

After that, I turned to Night by Elie Wiesel (also nonfiction.) I am probably one of the few people to have NOT read the book. It's a slim volume and a really quick read, but the words contained inside are immense. If you haven't read it, it is the recounting of his time in concentration camps. Again, and I don't use the word too often, devastating.

So now I am ready to start something new, and hopefully more upbeat. My friend Bobbi recommended The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I loved his other two books, The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, so I'm looking forward to starting this tonight.

Okay, on to real life, instead of my fantasy literary life. (Which incidentally got me through most of my childhood. Which is common among us weird folks, I think.)  I got my four miles in outside this weekend, when the temp was in the 50's. It felt SO GOOD to be outside, on my old familiar trail. There was still some ice on the shaded parts, so I'm glad I wasn't on my bike like some people were. Although it was warm, there was a pretty stiff north wind which made walking across the dam on the east end of the lake quite a challenge. I am not a light girl, but it almost blew me over a few times. One thing I am glad of is a newly acquired skill of mine: ***STOP READING NOW IF YOU ARE EASILY GROSSED OUT!!!*** The ability to blow snot rockets. I got quite good at it last spring with all the miles I put on. I tell you, there is no more effective way to clear your nose!

I really need to stop thinking that because I work hard I should be rewarded. We have a new breakfast place that opened just down the road from us in a building that used to be a laundromat, a used bookstore, and a chiropractor's office, and since we hadn't tried it yet, Sunday seemed to be the perfect time. Breakfast - my favorite meal! I had the "not quite healthy breakfast skillet". I love the name - and that's exactly what it was! It had spinach, turkey sausage, and light monterey jack cheese - on top of potatoes. With a side of pancakes. It was absolutely delicious.

We are in a deep freeze right now, and by deep freeze I mean 27 degrees above zero. My cold tolerance has really lessened the older I get; I went to college in Grand Forks, and it was so cold that when we moved to St. Paul it felt downright balmy. And when people down here complain about the cold, well, they just have no idea. But Monday? It was cold. I decided it was chili night, and I was going to make what is probably my favorite chili recipe: beef and pinto bean chili from (where else?) Cooking Light. It takes a while to make, what with the simmering and all, so I decided to make Dwight's favorite chili as well, Real Texas Chili. This is also pretty time-intensive. He and Alex love it so much that I would make a double batch, and Alex would invite his best friend Pat over, and there would be no leftovers. So with two pots of chili simmering, the house smelled great and dinner was delish. And we have leftovers!

Beef and pinto bean chili on the left, Texas chili on the right

The fixin's

My bowl, fully loaded

In case you want the recipe for the Real Texas Chili:

3 pounds boneless chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 T vegetable oil
2-3 garlic cloves, diced
3-4 T chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
3 T flour
1 T oregano
26 oz beef broth
1 tsp salt
dash pepper

Add beef to oil and cook till meat changes color but does not brown. Lower heat. Stir in garlic. Combine spices and flour; sprinkle over meat. Add 3/4 of the broth (20 ounces); stir to blend. Add salt and pepper. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, simmer partially covered for 1 1/2 hours. Add remaining broth, cook 30 minutes longer or until meat is almost falling apart. Cool thoroughly. Cover; refrigerate overnight to ripen flavors. Serve with sour cream and lime wedges.

Stay warm!