Tuesday, June 3, 2014

40 Years of Tradition - A Fond Farewell

This has to do with chili. I've been using the same recipe since we were first married and was flabbergasted when the family's response to a new recipe was overwhelmingly positive. Who woulda thunk it? I tried it because it's more Weight Watchers friendly than my usual recipe and because I just need to change it up sometimes. I warned everyone about the change, worried that the addition of jalapeno was going to make everyone hate it. Again, surprised. I had almost no leftovers.

The recipe comes from Bon Appetit - how long ago, I don't know.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large red onions, chopped
1 jalapeno chili, chopped (they included seeds, I seeded it)
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 pounds lean ground beef
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
28-oz can of diced tomatoes in juice
2 15-oz cans kidney beans, drained
14-oz can of beef broth

Garnishes: sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro

Saute onions in olive oil until they're brown - about 6 minutes. Add jalapeno and garlic, saute another minute. Add ground beef and brown, breaking meat up with a fork as it cooks. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 45 minutes.

(I'm inputting this recipe from memory, so if I've made errors, I'll correct them when I get home.)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Book Series

I can get a little manic about reading a book series in order. When a panicked mom stands in front of me at the reference desk, tearing her hair out because book three of her kiddo's favorite series is in, but he hasn't read number two yet, we don't have it, and he won't read them out of order, I side with the kid. Then every once in a while I throw caution to the wind and just read the book that's at hand, no matter where it stands in publication order. And it always bites me in the butt.

I realized that this week, not while reading the seventh book in Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street series, but in reading the first one. Bertie Plays the Blues enchanted me, gave me respite from the chaos that reigns here most of the time. It was new. It was on the shelf. It came home with me and I devoured it. Hmmm. Had I read any others in that series? Went back and looked, and no, so let's get number one. I spent so much time trying to remember what each character was doing in number seven and I almost missed the charm of number one, titled 44 Scotland Street. Finally, I reined myself in, reminding myself that I never remember endings of books anyway, so I can always go back and read it again to put things in order. But I'm not doing it again. Until next time.

The lure of garden tomatoes is so strong. We've had three ripen, with about 20 more on the vine, most of them very green. I don't suppose it does any good to stand out there and try to shame them into ripening, but the idea's tempting!

And our pool is down. A cat-claw puncture meant it wasn't holding air for long. A new one, a little bigger, is on it's way. So we're without a pool until next weekend. We'll survive, and have something to look forward to!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me

This is a much less public way to say thank you to all of you for your birthday wishes. I feel very loved and cared for - I hope I can do the same for all of you.

In spite of having to compete with Groundhog's Day and the Super Bowl (thank you, Scott, for what I think is sympathy), I have a pretty laid-back, me-oriented day planned. Jim made breakfast; we're skipping church because we still have a super-cough in the house; we'll have lunch at Bad to the Bone (bbq). In between I think I might scrapbook, I'll probably knit, and I'll watch self-indulgent tv.

I just finished a really good book - The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher. I guess it was kind of like a Nicholas Sparks book without the gut wrenching. The heroine is a widow with a young son who is still wrapped up in her grief two years after her husband is killed in a car crash. Her family tries valiantly to help her overcome her grief with little effect until she returns to the family home in Provence, where circumstances intervene in her return to happiness. The device of a house as healer is a little contrived, but the author manages it very well. I felt a strong desire to have such a place of my own.

Thank you again for the birthday wishes. Maybe turning 63 isn't so bad, after all.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Another Book Review

Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George

I'm finding I prefer Elizabeth George's earlier books better than the last couple I've read. Her writing is just as good, the settings are different. Basically, she's evolved, I haven't. Her characters have become old friends to me, and she succeeds in adding depth to them with every book. However, after eighteen books, the stories move more into the circle of the newer characters, which I'm certain will keep her series going but makes the series less interesting to me. If one of you has not read any of her books, I'd recommend you do, starting with the first in the series, A Great Deliverance.

That being said, the story here was complex and moved forward well. I would recommend it for people who are more into thrillers than straight mysteries.

I've not been the only one reading around here lately. Christian and I started on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for bedtime reading. Mackenzie still doesn't care much for chapter books, but she likes to read aloud to anyone who will listen.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Book #3 - Longbourn by Jo Baker

I am a "usual" Jane Austen fan - I enjoy her books, loved the movies based on them, but not really able to discuss her writing, etc., with any real knowledge. When I read about "Longbourn," I was looking forward to retelling of one of my favorite stories from a different point of view.

That being said, I didn't love this book. As a different point of view on a familiar story, I was ready to like it, but it seemed like the author was just intent on letting us know how hard servants had to work and just how dirty life in the early 19th century was. Having hit us over the head with that, she took well-known and loved characters and almost took the life out of them.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Books #2 - Stella Bain

This was not at all what I expected - enjoyed it thoroughly. The main character is a woman on the battlefront of World War I. She is injured and has lost her memory. The story of how her memory returns and how she deals with the realities of her life were fascinating. There were so many topics the author drew together: spousal abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, women on the battlefield. It was a very modern story, not at all a period piece.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Christmas Gifts

The best gift I got this Christmas wasn't under the tree. It didn't even arrive on Christmas Day. I don't usually share much about how our day-to-day lives go, but most of you know it can be a little hairy sometimes. A lot of people, a few problems, some necessary boundaries - it's sometimes hard to keep it all under control. I try to capture the high points and to share the fun times we have. It helps me deal with the rest of it.

I imagine all of us have that wish for an Ozzie and Harriet kind of family life, even though we know it's an unrealistic expectation. Honestly, it would probably be kind of boring, and as we know, the Nelsons didn't even have it. One of my little secret sorrows has been that building our family the way we did, we weren't able to create that cohesive feeling that I share with Mom, Ed, Mike and Scott. No matter what, we always pull for each other. I haven't seen that in my kids. There may be very good reasons for it, but for my kids, it really isn't there. In some ways, it's like separate families living under the same roof.

But something's changed. It may be because of Christmas, but I think the effects will last. Christian and Mackenzie were so excited about James coming to visit, and with everyone trying at least a little, it turned into a grand visit. When James arrived, Christian hugged him so hard he lifted him off the ground. And James didn't mind. Gil put himself out to include Christian in some of his treats for James, which made Christian feel wonderful. Gil relaxed enough to spend a little bit of time just talking. He looked better and acted happier than I've seen him in a long time. He and Rosanne actually had conversations at the dinner table - and that is not at all the usual.

So the best gift I got this Christmas was family, and fun, and a feeling that maybe we haven't done a bad job at all. Wherever it came from, thank you!