Your life is probably more complicated than it has to be. Cut it out, already.

This post is not a self-help book, but an attempt at justifying life choices that have uncomplicated and improved the past few months compared to whatever I was doing before.

Think of this like an entry from Chicken Soup for the Burnt Out Soul. Continue reading

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Football food: Pulled Pork and Coleslaw

In my household, football is a big deal.  My coping mechanism has been to come up with meal ideas that celebrate what I consider to be the best part of football season: food, beer, and the occasional social gathering.  I first got the idea of pulled pork in the slow cooker from our friend Mandy Love in Gillette, WY (who’s kids made it for dinner, I might add (that’s how easy this is)).  I paired the sandwiches with a delicious slaw of my own invention.  I’ve tried out this cabbage slaw on three people who “don’t like coleslaw”… and it’s worked every time.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • Pork Roast (approximately 3 lb.)
  • 1-2 C. Chicken Stock (homemade, of course)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Mandy’s Special Sauce*
    • Ketchup
    • Worcestershire Sauce
    • Apple Cider Vinegar
    • Onion powder
    • Ketchup
    • Honey
  • *OR* pre-made BBQ sauce

Put the sliced onion on the bottom of your slow cooker.  Rest the pork roast on top and pour chicken stock over it.  Season with salt and pepper and cook on low for 5-7 hours.

Remove the roast from the cooker and dispose of the liquid and onions.  When cool enough to handle, tear into shreds and return to the cooker.  Add sauce and heat on low or warm setting until ready to serve. Mandy didn’t give me specific quantities for her ingredients, and I have to imagine that this sauce can be made a thousand different ways and still be good.  So play around with it until you find the combination you like.

Not-from-the-Grocery-Store Cabbage Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cabbage (red, green, napa, no matter), cut in small strips (chiffonade)
  • Big glob of mayo, light mayo, or Miracle Whip
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add-ins: my favorites include shredded carrots, diced tart apple (like granny smith or macintosh), walnuts, dried cranberries, and grapes (sliced in half).  Pickled beets are also a great treat in this recipe.

Fluff cabbage in a bowl and mix in mayo and salt and pepper.  The amounts of these ingredients is kind of up to you, but I suggest not going too heavy on the mayo… that’s what makes it taste like it’s from the grocery store.  Just enough that the cabbage isn’t dry.  Fold in the other ingredients and enjoy, or chill and eat later once the flavors have combined.  Eat as a side, or mix in some protein like leftover chicken or pork and take it for lunch in place of a sandwich!

Beer, tattoos, boobs, and Jesus

photo by Kelly Soprych

That pretty much sums up Sturgis, SD and the Black Hills Motorcycle Rally. The juxtaposition of sex and Christianity is confusing. The storefront windows with naked women getting their boobs painted is even more confusing.

The Sturgis rally is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

It’s sort of like the Gay Pride Parade but with no parade and more bandanas. Oh, and a LOT more motorcycles. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is solid proof that the Wild West still exists. It’s a whooping good time is what it is…. a chance to completely let down all your defenses and, if you choose, get laid in almost any location or situation. And now that I’ve seen it, I can say that I have, and I probably don’t need to go back.

One of the reasons I like vintage pin-ups so much is the suggestion of sex without the reality of it. Let me be blunt: women in chaps, a beaded top, and a muffin top isn’t sexy, but Sturgis is a man’s game – that’s for sure – so what do I know…

The “welcome women riders” tent had pink studded t-shirts for sale, a bike on training wheels where “girls” can try what it feels like to ride a real motorcycle (!), and a tent selling low-calorie beer.

But,

taking in the whole scene was WELL worth it, and all the vendors, purveyors, and even the attendees were actually really nice. I think Sturgis really wants its tough, Wild West persona, but it’s more like a bunch of dudes who love motorcycles and music, and are looking for an excuse to let their hair down with like-minded men (and a few women too).

The prices were cheaper than any other festival-type-thingey I’ve attended, the weather was fine, and if you find yourself near the Black Hills the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a must-do for your bucket list. Just don’t forget to bring cash and your ass-less chaps and beaded top.

There’s more than corn in Elkhart, IN

Having previously stopped in Elkhart, IN on the way to Cleveland, I wasn’t exactly needing a reason to go there again.  But with excitement rising for my pending trip to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this August, and the promise of lower sales tax in the great state of Indiana, it was only natural to make a stop-off at the Hoosier Harley store.

Elkhart, my friends, does not disappoint (insert rolled eyes here).  Aside from being ignored entirely by every employee in the Harley shop, the marquee sign includes a lovely Bible quote along with the store hours.  Next to the shop is Lucky’s donuts.  that also serves Thai food.  The biker dudes, bible verses, coconut curry / donut smell wafting from Lucky’s, all combined with a full half mile of fast food restaurants and a Wal-Mart made for what I consider to be the ultimate Midwestern small town experience.  And now that I’ve described it for you, you don’t need to go there.

Cool as a cucumber

Who am I kidding?

Life has gotten a little overwhelming these days, and so has my cucumber patch.  Back in July I planted two cute little cucumber plants, that have proceeded to take over the rock in front of them (meant to divert them from growing into the grass, the fence, the neighbor’s side of the fence, and a big lady statue that came with the house.  As a result, we’ve been eating cucumbers every day since late July and making lots, and lots, and lots of pickles.  Basically, friends and family can expect pickles as  Solstichristmakwanzukah gifts and we will still have enough to get us through the winter.

I’d love to say that I’m thriving in the excitement of the 58 hours of work, home renovations (we plastered and painted BOTH bedrooms last weekend), and part-time freelance dance gigs.  Generally speaking, I crave a busy schedule and function better when I have plenty of things to occupy my head space. 

But I think last week I realized what my limits are.  When you can’t find the time to go to the dentist, brush your hair, or feed your cats, maybe it’s become a bit too much. 

If I’m to be my best self, all the time, I’m going to have to figure out what the balance is between busy and TOO busy.

I guess you have to experience the extremes before you can find that sweet spot where you have enough things on your plate to feel important, but also enough time and energy to putts around at home and pick cucumbers.

Two doors in two days

This is not my bike.

I received such generous support on my Facebook post yesterday regarding one idiot driver who perceived the bike lane on Halstead St. as a free ticket to exit his vehicle without looking in the side mirror.  I mean, it’s not like bikes ride in the bike lane anyway.

Let me recreate the scenario:

I’m riding through Greektown during the lunch hour (against better judgement).

Car driver X opens his door at the precise moment I’m passing his car.

I swerve.

He continues to get out of his car.

I yell. “Jesus!”

He mutters “…sorry…”

“…sorry…”

I’d like to emphasize that the ellipses and all lowercase letters are meant to indicate the relaxed, nonchalant tone with with the driver responded.  Awesome.  However, I lived to ride again – and today I was decked head to toe in electric green.  This afternoon, as I was riding home on Diversey a lady opened her door on me.

Let me recreate the scenario:

I’m riding West on Diversey wearing an electric green jersey, neon blue and green flowered helmet, matching sunglasses, and bright red shoes, with my super bright “Mr Blinky” light turned on.

Car driver Y opens her door at the precise moment I’m passing her car.

I swerve.

She continues to get out of her car.

I yell. “Jesus!!!!      Lady!!!”

She mutters, “I saw you….”

Okay.  Look: 

*steps on soap box*

Bike lanes occasionally have bikes riding down them.  Look in your mirror.  Roads without bike lanes also occasionally have bikes riding down them.  If you look in your mirror and see a bike coming, don’t get out of the car.  Count to two, and let the bleeping bike pass.

I’m not a bike messenger.  I’m not even a hipster.  I’m just a girl who doesn’t have her own car, doesn’t want to pay for the bus, and likes to get a little exercise from time to time.

My very life is in your hands, drivers.

Share the road.

*steps down from soap box*

Jesus.

Living simple is complicated

After returning from a weekend trip away, the cupboard is bare. I always make a point before traveling of using up any fresh ingredients that might spoil while I’m away. But this was a rather whirlwind trip, and it didn’t occur to me that (1) it wasn’t really long enough for everything to spoil, and (2) there was no time before returning to work to go to the store and replenish the bounty.

As a result, the past few days have been really-creative-meal wise. Determined to eat at home and not order food (having eaten in restaurants for the entire weekend), I was nearly brought to tears standing in the kitchen at 11:30pm on a Tuesday night mashing pinto beans by hand into refried beans (for which I have no salsa or chips) with a red sauce made from frozen tomatoes and a slightly past-peak summer squash on the stove, and a mystery casserole in the oven.

Tears of joy, or tears of pain?
Yes.

It feels pretty good to take a pantry of nothing and freezer of next to nothing and make four full days of food out of it. It is envigorating to make things from scratch; if I have one goal in life it’s to make as many things from scratch as possible. And, I feel as though I could definitely survive an atomic bomb or the apocalypse given my uncanny ability to create a variety of meals from dried beans, rice, chicken, frozen tomatoes and slightly off squash.

On the other hand, no one should be mashing beans after 9pm on a school night.

When people lived in a time where everything was made from scratch they had the whole day to mash beans, churn butter, bake bread, whatever. I, on the other hand, am required to spend eight hours of the day with my butt in a chair and have few precious moments between, say, 8 and 11pm to try and “live simply”. I’m not saying I work harder; butt-in-chair is not hard, it’s just extremely time consuming.

So what, then, is the point? Why do I do this to myself when I could, with a lot less effort and a roughly equal amount of money, eat a TV dinner every night? It almost feels like in this day and age, living “simply” is less simple than living a technological, busy-body, microwaved life. Why does everyone say “I’m so busy,” or “I don’t have any time” when we spend SO much time sitting on our butts?