Sunday, December 26, 2004

My First Christmas Tree

Because of a series of events, Helen and I hosted the family Christmas party. We were glad to do it, but also a bit nervous because we're generally hermits who don't allow people into our yard let alone our house. We're known for not answering the front door because all of our friends know to come in the back. Still, we scrubbed the kitchen (mostly) and even dusted random objects in the living room.

Most surprising to family and friends, we cleaned our "storage room" so we could set up a table in the room. The "storage room" is really the formal dining room in our house. We never use it because we eat in our well-lit breakfast nook in summer and sitting on the couch in winter (the breakfast nook gets a bit too cold because of the windows and we don't want to take the time to heat it for a quick dinner).

Well, this post is really about my first Chistmas tree. I've never had one before, and Helen doesn't really like them enough to get one and put it up. But because we were hosting the family Christmas, we had to have a tree. So, we borrowed Helen's parents fake tree and a bunch of ornaments from her sister and brother-in-law, Rhonda and Matt. One night last week, Rhonda and Matt came over and helped set up the tree. Well, Rhonda and Helen set up the tree. Matt and I sat on the couch and talked about Matt's fantasy football team. So we have a tree.

I think the most interesting thing of having a tree is that I don't really care. I don't love it or hate it. I can't even say I like or dislike it. It's just there. I think the only thing I can say is it takes up space. Maybe I just don't get it.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Redefining Snowblower

Okay, so my neighbor loves to blow leaves in late summer and all fall. He does it for six hours a day until every individual leaf is out of his yard. I'm not kidding: six hours. Helen and I think he must be trying to stay out of the house and away from his wife or he really loves his leaf blower. That machine puts a damper on my favorite season.

So imagine my surprise when I woke up (after finally sleeping in past 8 for the first time in proabably a year) to hear a familar sound. Yes, a leaf blower. Well, a snow blower today. He must really love that thing or really want to be out of the house because there was less than half an inch of snow on the ground at the temperature was in the teens. I get the chills just writing about it. Now the quiet and beauty of winter has been pierced by a familiar whine. Wow. That's all I can write. Wow.

Our consolation: Last year our neighbors tried to sell their house, but pulled it from the market inexplicably (priced too high?), but maybe they'll try again next year before the leaves start to fall.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Curried Parsnips?

Last night we had friends over for dinner, so I thought I would experiment with food. I know that is counter to conventional wisdom. I should have tried the recipe before subjecting others to something I haven't tried myself. That was actually the plan, to try it myself first, but circumstances changed midday and I know my friends well enough to know they won't eat what they don't like. And Helen would definitely tell me if something was unacceptable before it reached the table. So, we tried Curried Parsnips with Yogurt and Chutney. No, I've always been interested in winter vegetables and roots (besides potatoes and acorn squash), but I've never tried them. I found a good looking recipe in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I would recommend this book to anyone. It's got a lot of really good tasting, accessible recipes. I particularly like that it isn't an elitist cookbooks that has hundreds of ingredients no one but an instructor at the CIA has heard of. Here is the recipe:

Curried Parsnip with Yogurt and Chutney

1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and chopped into even-sized pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons butter or canola oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 apples, cored and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon curry powder
Salt and freshly milled pepper
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cut Apricot and Dried Fruit Chutney, page 81, Apple-Pear Chutney, page 81, or a commercial mango chutney
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Steam the parsnips until barely tender, about 7 minutes. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet. Add the onions, apples, and curry powder and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add the parsnips, season with salt and pepper, and cook 5 minutes more with the additional tablespoon butter to help them brown. Turn off the heat, then stir in the yogurt, chutney, and cilantro and serve.

Yum. We used a mango chutney we found at the local market, but I think the Apricot and Dried Fruit Chutney would be really good, and looking at her recipe (on page 81) it would be fairly easy to make.

It was a nice change from the vegetables we normally eat.

Friday, December 17, 2004

El Potrero

On Wednesday night Helen, our friend Jennifer, and I ate at El Potrero, one of the many "Authentic Mexican Restaurants" in Flint. We've been there a few times before with mixed results, okay, mostly good results with only one not-so-good experience.

We like El Potrero because it has a fairly extensive menu, carrying things that most of the local "taco houses" do not carry, such as two kinds of mole (Ranchero and Poblano), seven seafood dinners, and five vegetarian "specialties." They also do a nice job with some of the less common menu items like chorizo and carne asada. The last two show up on some local restaurant menus, but El Potrero does a pretty decent job with them. Finally, one of our favorite things about El Potrero is they serve alcohol. Sometimes I just like to drink a Negro Modelo with my food. It makes it taste so much better.

On Wednesday, I felt like taco house food, so I ordered chimichangas. They were okay, but I reminded myself why I like this restaurant: chimichangas are boring. Helen, on the other hand, ordered the vegetarian fajitas, and I knew the moment I smelled them cooking in the kitchen that she ordered the right thing. The presentation was great, the portions were healthy, and the food was delicious. On the other hand, even sprinkling her fajitas on my chimichangas didn't save them.

One of the best meals we had there, we ordered the Bistec Tampiqueno, a T-bone steak served with the requisite rice and beans (we're still looking for a Mexican restaurant in Flint with decent rice and beans), guacamole salad, slices of fried potatoes, and flour tortillas.

The Mexican parrillada was excellent as well. It's strips of beef, chicken, shrimp, carnitas, and chorizo cooked with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and squash. It is served with the requisite rice and beans, guacamole salad, and pico de gallo (which is pretty good).

The service was strong (which was nice because our last time there it was worse than poor), and owner came buy to check on things and carry away some dishes. Prices are reasonable ranging from about seven to twelve dollars for entrees.

El Portrero is located at 3756 S. Dort Highway at Atherton. It's located in the old Red Roof Ribs restaurant that used to be a pizza hut or something like that.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Our First Real Snow

We finally had a real snow in Flint. Well, we missed the first real snow over Thanksgiving because we were in Los Angeles. This snow was beautiful, as the picture above shows. I love when the trees are covered in snow, and Kisha was excited to run through the park. She pranced and sniffed her way around the neighborhood. You probably can't tell by the photo, but she was pretty impatient waiting for us to take our pictures.

It's been cold the past few days, but I don't mind this early in winter. I'm still enjoying the white and the quiet. It doesn't hurt that my snowthrower started on the first pull (I feel so lucky), so I don't have to worry about getting a big snow.

Notice my new (to me) Carhartt jacket in the picture. Helen found it in our backyard one day. The name on the front is "Guy," which I love, and the back advertises "Fenton Poured Walls Inc." "Solid as a Rock." Helen threw the jacket in the wash and gave it to me. It makes me wonder what our responsibility is with the jacket. Helen and I have been thinking about calling the company and asking if they employ "Guy," and if he lost a coat. We haven't, but it makes me wonder about ownership and possession when we find something in our backyard.

As a kid, if I lost a ball over a neighbor's fence, it was my responsibility to get it back. Some balls I never got back. If "Guy" threw it into the yard, I feel no compulsion to return it, but if it was stolen and tossed into our yard, well, thinking that I feel a tinge of guilt.

So, should we return the jacket?

p.s. Mom and Dad gave me the hat last year, and though it is relatively thin, it's the warmest knit cap I think I've ever had. Thanks Mom and Dad for keeping my noggin warm.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

This is a test.

Welcome to the Mundane Life. I've been contemplating starting a blog for a while now, but I wasn't sure what I wanted it to be. I have been torn between having a blog about my mundane life (thus the title) and a blog about food, nature, and personal writing. For those who know me, you know that I would contemplate this blog until it never happened, so I just decided to start it and see where it goes. So here it goes.