Friday, December 12, 2014

Food Friday: Pumpkin Soup


It's that time of year when EVERYTHING is pumpkin flavored. With cans of pureed pumpkin going for 10 cents, slight exaggeration, I had stocked up on pumpkin. I wanted to do something a little different, so I decided on putting together a pumpkin soup. I apologize for the terrible pictures. They were taken with my horrible horrible phone.


Ingredients (I adjusted the amounts from a recipe for the amount of chicken stock I had on hand):
  • 26 oz chicken stock
  • 1 3/4 cans pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream 
  • one medium yellow onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic (can use less but I like garlic. 
  • pepper to taste




Put the chicken stock, pumpkin, diced garlic, and chopped onion in a pan and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 40 minutes.  Your soup probably will NOT look like mine above.  I had misread the recipe and initially only used 1 can of pumpkin. About half way through the simmer time I realized that there was no way the soup was right and reread the recipe.  That's when I added the extra 3/4 can of pumpkin. Luckily I have other uses for left over pumpkin.  Next time I think I will just use both cans and add a little water.

Anyway, once the soup has simmered you need to blend it to a nice paste. You can use a good stick blender for this. My stick blender isn't good, so I use my stand up blender which has a  nice thick glass blendy thingy(probably a name for this).  I poured in small amounts of the soup blending as I went. Once all blended put it back in the pan and add the heavy cream. 


You can garnish. I didn't bother and just chowed down.  This stuff is actually really good even if it does look like baby food.


Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Tale of Three Jogs - Illinois Weather


Near the end of October I started jogging again. Every few years or so I get the bug to seriously take up running again.  Serious means being able to run a 5k. I could go all sorts of directions when blogging about running. I could talk about he life lesson learned from the rapid improvement or how it improves my mood. What I am going to talk about is the weather. Stupidly, I've taken up running outdoors as we transition into winter. Even with my cold weather gear we've already had a week were it was too windy and cold to run outside. I might have to jog some on a treadmill... ew.  Most places joke about their weather: "if you don't like the weather just wait an hour".  No place is that more true than in the midwest.

Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I went for a jog.  The temperature almost hit 30F and  brisk wind blew from the south producing a wind chill of 19F. I wore four layers on top and two below the waist.  My fingers and toes got cold and the cold air burned my lungs.. It was not a pleasant experience. I would much rather run when it is 90 than when it is 20. I think sweating is better than freezing.

On Sunday I went for another jog.  Again a gale wind blew from the south. The slight difference was the 60 F temperature. I only wore a windbreaker and sweatpants over my usual summer running gear.  By the  end of my run sweat soaked my clothes.

After work, four days later, I went for another jog.   This time it was 40 degrees with a breeze and a slight rain falling. I had a good run. The best since I restarted running.

So that is Illinois weather for you.  In less than two weeks we had: 19 degree windchills, 64 degree weather with gusting winds, 40 degrees and raining, and also there was a bonus ice storm mixed in. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

NaNoWriMo: Finding Success in Failure



It will come as no surprise but I didn't finish writing the 50 k words for NaNoWriMo. I stalled somewhere around 11k. I wrote nothing for the novel during  the second half of the month. I am trying to see the positive in this failure.  I more than doubled my word output from any previous NaNoWriMos. I also worked through some sticky plot points. At this rate I might finish a single draft of a single novel by the time I'm sixty... maybe.

I have a the quote above printed out and taped to my desks: "If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse." If I apply this quote to my near lifelong desire to be a writer, I have to admit I must not really want it. With saying that, I am unwilling to give the dream up. The desire has been to much a part of my life since my teens.

I understand the only way for me to be a writer is to regularly and consistently write.  It is a complete no duh statement, but it's true. Writing has to become a common and reoccurring part of what I do and who I am. It really is as simple as just do it.  I need to find an hour, heck even a half hour, worth of time a day and write. Before work, after work, it doesn't matter when.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

My Favorite P. D. James novels

Like many I was saddened by the news of the passing of P. D. James. I  have long been a fan of her writing. I wasn't so much drawn to the mysteries, though they were conceived well enough. Her prose kept bringing me back. She elevated mystery writing from being about the who done it, to a more conscientious type of literature.  She could be both poetic and lively descriptive. I remember rereading one long paragraph three times.  In it she described a tree in a courtyard. That was it. I have rarely been so into a scene.  I could smell the fall leaves and feel the coarseness of the bark. She also wrote very believable characters and they came from all types and class. James motivates me to try and be a writer.

In honor I give you my top three favorite P.D. James novels in no particular order:

  • Death of an Expert Witness
  • The Murder Room
  • An Unsuitable Job for a Woman


You really can't go wrong with any James novel but I would start with one of those three.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Thanksgiving post

Top five people/things I am thankful for.

The one thing I am most thankful for is m My Mom.She has been a great example of loving self  sacrifice and perserverance in the face of long term hardship.


smoothcat
Fuzzy wuzzy smushy purr machine of wuv!  Though he often annoys me, he also knows just when to curl up in my lap and purr like a mad kitten.

My friends. They accept me as who I am. They don't ask anything from me and yet are always there when needed.

The fact that each day starts anew with the chance to make it your best day yet.

That God is on the throne not me.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lovie Smith's Ten Biggest mistakes as Bears Head coach




Warning today's post is about Chicago Bears football. It's my blog I'll write about whatever I want.


Today, Sunday November the 23rd, Lovie Smith will return to Soldier Field in Chicago where he coached for nine seasons. With his return I've noticed some mythologizing going on.  There seems to be a general trend of turning what Lovie was, a good and solid coach, into a great coach. People seem to forgot how strong the calls for his firing were back in 2010 and how much general criticism he received.

So I am going to list off what I consider the top ten mistakes Lovie made, from least to greatest. 

#10 Trading Thomas Jones

I put this at number ten because this may have mostly been a Jerry Angelo call. Thomas Jones' successful running was taking precious playing time away from fourth overall pick Cedrick "Bust" Benson.  As his nickname implies, Cedrick "Bust" Benson was a complete bust with the Chicago Bears. He went on to have a minor blip of success for the Bengals, but has been out of the league for years. 

#9 Hiring Ron Turner

This one might just be a personal issue with me. I've never liked Ron Turner being hired. He seems to be a classic example of someone elevated just above their competency level. I didn't like when I ran the Bears offense the first time, I didn't like him being the head coach of the Fighting Illini and I didn't like him during his return stint with the Bears. He was the most successful offensive coordinator Lovie had but that aint saying much.

#8 Devon Hester as a wide Receiver

Devon Hester had an electric start to his career on his way to becoming the most prolific returner in NFL history. Wanting to maximize on Devon's abilities Lovie moved him from returner only to wide receiver.  The goal was to have him get is hands on the ball a lot more.  It never did really pan out.  Devon was a mediocre wide receiver and his return ability suffered. What success he had came on bubble screens. He seemed incapable of accurately running routes. 

#7 Signing Jonathan Quinn

I am a bears fan, this means I've seen a lot of bad quarterbacks in my time. Henry Burris, Rick Mirer and several others have bumbled their way around the Soldier Field turf. But the worst I've ever seen was Jonathan Quinn.  New Offensive Coordinator Terry Shea was bringing an exciting and different offense to Chicago.  He demanded a competent backup who knew the system in case Grossman got hurt... again. Shea sold everybody on Jonathan Quinn, a fourth year player that had rarely seen the field. It quickly became obvious why he hadn't been playing. Quinn didn't seem to know the basic rules of football. He didn't seem to have clue what plays were called. He would fall back look around confused as if he had never seen a football field before and then get sacked by large men.

#6 Not Retaining Ron Rivera

Awash with new power, and some might say hubris, after taking the Bears to the Super Bowl, Lovie decided to flex his muscle. Rivera was given many accolades for the Bears effective defense.  He was so highly regarded that he interviewed for several head coaching jobs. Whether Lovie felt threatened by Rivera or he really just wanted to take control of the defense himself, Lovie hired his yes man friend Bob Babbich as defensive coordinator. All the time telling people to "trust me".

#5  Signing Adam Archuleta

To secure the success of his friend, Lovie signed safety Adam Archuleta to a three year contract. Archuleta had been a very good player in his prime, but most NFL observers said he was past it and had lost a step, or two, or three. Lovie, ever loyal to his friends, rewarded Archuleta. Archuleta was horrible and ended up being benched not long into the season.

#4 Hiring Mike Martz

 At the end of the 2009 campaign after three seasons of missing the playoffs, the calls for Lovie to be fired where thunderous.  Many fans thought it was a sure thing.  Somehow Lovie convinced the Bears to keep him but fire the entire offensive coaching staff.  So Lovie was looking for his third O coordinator and also a defensive coordinator since we would no longer be allowed to call his own defensive plays. Lovie targeted some big names to be the new coordinators. There was one problem though.  Everybody knew Lovie was on the hottest of hot seats and it was playoffs or unemployment in the coming year. Who would want to take a job with a high chance of losing it in only one year. That doesn't look good on your resume.  So after over a month, Lovie finally called up his old buddy Mike Martz and offered him the job. Lovie initially rebuffed Martz and wanted to look elsewhere.  Best of all, after specifically saying that d-line coach Rod Marinelli would not be considered for the d coordinator position, Lovie hired Marinelli because no one else would take the job.

#3 Hiring Mike Tice

Beginning to sense a theme? After the 2011 season Mike Martz was forced to resign because of "philosophical differences" with Lovie. The "differences" being that once again Lovie was in the desperately trying to save my job mode. A new sheriff, general manager, was in town and Lovie could hear the gallows being built. Once again Lovie was faced with the problem of trying to find a qualified candidate with the sword of unemployment hanging over every bodies head. This time Lovie didn't bother with the embarrassing month long search and named Mike Tice, who was the offensive line coach, as the new O coordinator.  Tice was horrid and Lovie was fired a year later.

#2 Not cooperating with the media

Lovie was known in Chicago for  having a tense and acrimonious relationship with the media. He provided little access except for the required press conferences and those were usually filled with terse responses. You could sense the contempt for the media members in his face and body language. I get it. The Chicago sports media can be very tough and I find most of them unlikable. But your relationship with the media is your relationship to the fans. I have heard that member of the bears organization encouraged and explained to Lovie that he needed to be amicable to the media to win the fans.  My guess is Lovie didn't care. As long as he had the locker room, it didn't bother him what the fans thought of him. He came off as arrogant rude and condescending.  Fans had trouble understanding how much the locker room loved him. Even during success, fans tended to have a overall negative opinion of Lovie. 


#1 Hiring Terry Shea(Never figuring out the offense)

 For his first year as coach Lovie wanted to have a dynamic offensive attack like the one that led the Rams to win the superb owl.  He tried to get his friend Mike Martz, but that marriage made in hades would have to wait for several years.  Unable to hire Martz, Lovie moved on to hire quarterback guru, offensive genius, and moron Terry Shea. Terry Shea made the prebious offense under John Shoop look high powered. Shea was horrible at every aspect of the game. He even manage to mess up public relations when he absurdly gave himself B.  It was not just that the Bears had the 32nd ranked offense that year, it was 32nd by a large margin. They had over 500 yards of offense less for the season than the 31st ranked team.  The Bears fired Shea after his one terrible season. Lovie never did figure out the offense in his time in Chicago. The one season they managed to have a the 15th ranked offense they went to the Super Bowl. If he could have just maintained an average offense, he would have had much greater success.

As I said at the beginning, I do believe that Lovie was largely a solid and good coach who got the most out of many of his players.  I think most of the failures under his regime should really be placed at the feet of general manager Jerry Angelo. If I wanted to do Angelo's greatest mistakes there would be more than ten.

#Honorable Mention "Rex is our Quarterback"


Thursday, November 13, 2014

NaNoWriMo and rediscovering your old work



I haven't been blogging because I have been spending my writing time on my NaNoWriMo novel.  I am technically behind on the  word count but I've written more this time than any of the others. So I consider that a success. I expect that if I do write the entire story it will end up being less than the 50k words called for. Why is that? I am not actually writing the whole thing. I am working out the basic plot elements. How they get form here to there, etc. I am not writing much in way of description or fleshing out every scene.  I have a fear that even if I do get this draft worked out, I won't have the will to go back and do all the hard work to rewrite/flesh out he rest. Means I should probably just give up.  I kid. I kid.

This is my fourth year trying to do NaNoWriMo and my fourth year trying to write this novel. That means I have three other versions of the start.  It fascinated me to look over these other versions and see many differences: not really only in style or plot, but differences in tone. The first one was a little dark with a lot of introspection and internal dialogue. After I realized the first attempt was long and rambling, I tried in the next two to use a flashforward to show that there would be action after the boring bit.  These versions also tried to be a little more lighthearted. In the latest version I've removed a lot of the early stuff where I gave the background on the main character.  This background is very important to justify his actions.  I will try and find some way to organically include this info in the story.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Nanowrimo

NaNoWriMo starts today. As promised I will not be repeating the mistake of participating in it's sister event NaBloPoMo. During National Blog Posting Month people try and make at least one blog post a day.  This led to my posting of several blogs well below the mighty high standard I set. If you don't realize that last sentence is a joke, you must be new to reading my blog.

During NaNoWriMo you are supposed to write 50000 words. That comes to 1666 words a day.  I am sure this year will go exactly as the last four have. I'll write maybe three perhaps four days the entire month and produce, if I really try, somewhere in excess of 1200 words. Mind you, I mean 1200 words for the full month.

You'll notice a graph on the side bar to help you track my failure and shame. So wish me luck. Or better yet, wish me some hard work.