Friday, May 3, 2013

The last bit of nonsense you'll have to hear from me for a while...

Inspired by Cheryl Strayed's, Wild, and in honor of my Dad who was at every track meet from my 7th grade to my Senior year - standing at the 300 yard mark pushing me, in the voice I could recognize in any high school gym or on any track, to the finish line via unjustifiably proud claps and words of hilarity or encouragement  - and who died November 5, 2010, I ran the Bowling Green marathon last November 4. I was motivated. It meant something to me. I was proud.

The Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon last weekend? Well...I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I got to spend a weekend in Louisville with my beautiful, spirited niece who finds more joy in escalators and jumping on the bed than most of us choose to find in anything.  I'm glad I ordered exactly what I wanted at Jeff Ruby's (playboy sushi roll, filet, green beans, and loaded mashed potatoes). Nevertheless, it really isn't something that I want to make a big deal over. In fact, what I will remember most about the weekend has very little to do with how I felt upon crossing the finish line and more so with how awesome it was to see, hear, and feel the community spirit of Louisville. I submitted the paragraphs below to the Courier Journal, but I have no idea if it will get printed.  I thought I would share here as well...

City of Louisville,
You know, I always knew I liked you better than Lexington. Despite living in a rural, southern Kentucky town where UK basketball dominates conversation (and...well, basically, daily existence for many) for much of the year, if given the choice, I would certainly travel northward on I65 rather than I75 on any given day.  There is an authenticity to Churchill, and the crowd that frequents it, that Keeneland will never have. Staff at restaurants, hotels, and shops consistently seem friendlier and more helpful in your city, the one my southern inflection will always pronounce as "Lulvul." Your downtown is a beautiful mix of historic architecture, modern art, green space, and eclectic shops. 
And, this past weekend, my affinity for all things Louisville was only magnified. Despite swearing off marathons after completing my first last November, my competitive desire to match my local running buddies inspired me to sign up for the Derby festival race this year.  If you haven't run 26.2 miles before, let me tell you, it isn't a whole load of fun.  Sense of pride and accomplishment? Sure. Fun? No. One of the primary things that kept me going, however, was the friendly faces, hilarious signs, ringing cowbells, Gatorades and orange slices being handed out from front yards, high school bands and random strangers with stereos playing things like "Sweet Caroline," high-fives from college kids likely drunk at 9:00 am, and cheering words of encouragement from people who love their town and love the Derby festivities.  You all literally kept a lot of us going.  So, on this Monday morning, I offer a sincere "thank you" from the grateful heart and sore legs of this marathon finisher and Louisville admirer.
I love my crock pot. True story.
From Good Housekeeping's, Fast Weeknight Favorites cookbook
Slow-Cooker Latin Chicken with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes
As called for by the recipe:

3 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1  tsp. smoked paprika or 1/2 tsp. chopped chipotle in adobo sauce
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. salsa
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
1 roasted red pepper, cut into strips (approx. 1 cup)
1/3 c. loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped lime wedges

Sprinkle chicken thighs with 1/2 tsp. cumin, salt, and pepper.  Heat 12" nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add chicken and cook until well browned on all sides. Transfer chicken to plate. In same skillet, combine smoked paprika, allspice, broth, salsa, garlic and remaining 1 1/2 tsp. cumin. In 6-quart slow cooker, combine beans and sweet potatoes. Arrange chicken thighs in single layer on top. Pour broth mixture over chicken. Cover slow cooker and cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. With slotted spoon, transfer chicken to serving platter. Spoon the rest of the mixture over chicken, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve with lime wedges.

My modifications...
*I cut the recipe in half.
*I used thinly sliced chicken breasts instead of thighs.
*I used regular paprika rather than smoked and nutmeg/cinnamon/cloves instead of allspice.
*I did not peel my sweet potatoes.
*I didn't have fresh cilantro (although this would have been delicious) so I just sprinkled an herb mix over the top.
*I browned nothing in a skillet. I put this all in the crock pot before work, flipped it to low, and in about 5 hours it was ready. 

Trust me, the picture doesn't do it justice.  This is a keeper.  Try it.
I love that even in our tiny, rural town, there are such neat things to get into if one chooses to look.  For example, how many of the surrounding cities have an art studio on the square where people can go check out a local artist's amazing work and take a portrait, landscape, still-life or charcoal class themselves?
Thank you, Billy Guffey, from this tightly-wound librarian who needs to hear "It's just paint on canvas. Go for it." fairly regularly.  You are a gem in this community.
Work in progress...

Picture taken in Salzburg, Austria - May, 2011

Decided I wanted to make it more abstract
Get excited....amazing guest bloggers over the next two weeks on Pillow Book!:)
Off to Chicago for the weekend!


  1. Enjoyed all your heart-spoken stories in this blog! Amazing what you see and do. It is all about the journey and not about the destination! Keep on truckin'.

    1. This made me smile so big. Thank you for reading and for supporting my piddle projects. I try to enjoy each day and hope that shows through in what I post on here:)