get your literary fix

i consider myself an avid reader and a fan of a wide range of literary genres. i've been steadily working my way through some of the "classics" and re-reading classics that i read as a child or in high school, but must not have been overly-focused as i have hardly any memory of doing so. in honor of my reading addiction i'm posting this link to The Modern Library's 100 top novels list. there are also links you can click on to see the top 100 non-fiction list, etc. as much as i consider myself an avid reader, and as smart as i'd like to think i am, i have to admit i've ready shockingly few of the books on these lists. and i was also surprised by some books left off of the lists.

my favorite books (to date) off of the lists: brideshead revisited (evelyn waugh...a summer 2010 favorite, beautiful book), the great gatsby (f. scott fitzgerald), to kill a mockingbird (harper lee...atticus is one of my all-time favorite characters), a prayer for owen meany (john irving...i was definitely captivated for the duration of this novel, but there's always something subtly, or not subtly, disturbing about irving's novels...i've read several and had the same thought each time...especially the world according to garp...disturbing)

books i've been stocking up but have yet to read: other evelyn waugh novels, henry james, e.m. forster, ayn rand is on the list for several of her books (i've just never been very interested in the genre, but i feel i HAVE to read her), and LOTS of books i'm ashamed to say i've never read!

books i love that were excluded from the lists: maya angelou's autobiographies, tolstoy, dickens, jane austen, the diary of anne frank,...oh crumb, i can't think of any others at this moment. of course.

check it out, see what you think, let me know which books you've read and your critiques. it'll be our own little book review. hutsoneister's book review. hmmm. i like books, i am critical, sounds like a career at which i could excel!


flavors...and football follow-up

so, i have been thinking about food for the past few days. oh, who am i kidding, i'm forever thinking about food, a trend that goes back much further than just the past few days. but anyway, i have been thinking about my favorite flavor combinations and realized that many of my favorite flavors utilize the same few ingredients. so i decided to write about my top 10 ingredients. 10 ingredients that i just can't live without; so basic, yet able to be combined in unexpected pairs. or at least unexpected to the lay-cook, with my lay-palate. perhaps not so unexpected to a professional cook's palate. so, here's my top 10 ingredients (and how i typically use them), not in any preferential order:
1. oils: sesame oil and coconut oil are two particular favorites of mine. coconut oil is supposed to be a fairly healthy option, no trans fats. both of these oils have a slightly more interesting taste than your run-of-the-mill canola or cheap-o superstore brand olive oil. i like to use coconut oil to sauté instead of using butter. sesame oil is particularly yummy to use in dishes when no cooking is involved because there are some oils that no one would prefer to taste (or you have to invest in REALLY good, REALLY expensive extra virgin olive oil), but sesame oil has a generally good taste to it. it goes well with asian-inspired dishes and can be combined with soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds, veggies, and noodles (try soba or whole wheat spag noodles + edamame + sesame oil + toasted sesame seeds...mmm.).
2. organic chicken/vegetable broth: choose the low sodium variety so you can salt to taste; this is just a good basic ingredient to keep in your pantry at all times; use to make soups, chicken pot pie, or steam veggies, quinoa, or rice for a little more flavor.
3. fruit: i love most fruits...and even my favorite "veggies" happen to be fruits (squash, avocado, tomato). i like dried fruits, fresh fruits, cooked fruits, grilled fruits, fruit-pies, fruit salad, fruit-in-my-cereal...you name it. i like fruits with savory foods, like pork chops or chicken, or dried cherries or golden raisins in a curried rice dish, or fruit in a spinach salad with feta cheese and almonds, avocado and tomato salad (with simple salt and pepper), avocado with eggs, home-made guacamole, or grilled peaches and plums with cinnamon, sugar, cayenne (see spices), and topped with vanilla ice cream. delightful.
4. pasta: there's just so much you can do with pasta; it's easy to feed a lot of people on a little pasta; it's easy to cook, easy to experiment, good with a glass of red wine, and a little sprinkling of parmesan on top (see cheeses). i love to cook a bowl of pasta and toss in yesterday's leftovers from the grill (grilled chicken and veggies) with a little splash of oil and sprinkling of cheese.
5. eggs: another easy meal. scrambled with a soft cheese (my mom dad used to always make scrambled eggs with cream cheese...so good), fluffy omelette with peppers, onions and avocado or mushrooms and thyme, crepes with steaming blueberries and brie (see fruit and cheeses), or french toast (if you haven't had my french toast, you should come over for breakfast sometime!). our neighbors have hens, so we try to either use their eggs or we buy eggs from cage-free, grain-fed hens at the grocery. you'll notice a difference in taste. more flavorful. i hope this isn't bragging, but i'm rather good at cooking eggs. sometimes we'll go out for breakfast and there's really not an egg dish on any menu that i could not cook better. largely because eggs taste best hot off the skillet, not heated under a warmer while waiting for the rest of the order to fill.
6. spinach: spinach is my go-to green. we always keep it on hand for salads or to chop up and add to almost any dish to add extra nutrients! if you can't tell, i'm not a huge veggie-lover (unless you count my fruit-veggies!), so any way to add extra veggies into my diet is a must. I chop it finely and add to pasta dishes, omelettes, and my chicken pot pie. i don't particularly love cooked spinach but when you chop it in fine ribbons it doesn't clump quite so much. also, try adding it to hot dishes at the very last second so it does not completely wilt.
7. cayenne pepper/spices: i love all spices, especially cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne. i use these three in almost everything, sometimes all together! cayenne + dark chocolate (thank you mexico!) is one of my favorite flavor combos. i also add cayenne to fruit salads and eat with a good soft cheese. i sprinkle cinnamon on frying bacon (no joke!) or add nutmeg to creamy pasta dishes (i know, sounds strange, but it's good...promise). the key is not to over-do-it. in the mornings i usually make a chocolate protein powder + soy milk + cinnamon + cold coffee shake for myself so that i can consume my breakfast while driving to work, thus allowing myself to hit the snooze button one last time.
8. thyme/basil: i've been fairly successful growing herbs (fingers crossed!) so i enjoy adding them into just about everything. i have two flavors of thyme growing right now (one variety that i got from my mom's garden is a little bit lemon-y). basil makes a good addition to a toasty panini sandwich!
9. cheese: top 3 cheeses for me are brie/camembert, feta, and parmesan. but i also love blocks of cheddar, mozzerella, etc. no stinky cheeses for me, though. there's almost too much to say about cheeses. i honestly don't think i could live without them. cheese makes everything better. trying to eat more salads? no problem, just add feta. what would pizza be without cheese?? cheese makes my world go 'round. ok, that's just a little overly dramatic.
10. honey: a good substitute for sugar. add to fruit salads, grilled fruit, oatmeal, or marinades for pork or chicken. one of my favorite breakfasts is toasted walnut sage bread (from Wheatfields in downtown Lawrence), with a little bit of brie cheese and honey.
so, that was my top 10 ingredients list. if you haven't tried some of those ingredients, you really should. i don't really do recipes (i just kind of eye-ball it!) but if you want to know how i cook something, just leave a comment.
here are a few cookbooks i've picked up recently. In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite includes recipes with lots of fun stories and tips from the author, Melissa Clark. her approach to food seems to be similar to mine: keep it simple, but still interesting. she also has an entire chapter about breakfast foods for dinner (clearly i feel the same, particularly about eggs!) and another entire chapter devoted to cheese (hello!). Everyday Italian features a lot of great pictures so that i can get inspiration from photographs instead of having to read a recipe! i tend to like picture-cookbooks! the last book is a little gem i found in 1/2 Price Bookstore printed in 1963 featuring recipes and cooking techniques/trends throughout the ages in European history...pretty fascinating! i'll probably NEVER cook anything from this book, but it is still very interesting to me!
ok, in keeping with my recent trend of bipolar-blogging (that's the term i've coined for my range of unrelated blogging topics): i will now discuss my thoughts about ku football to follow up on my take on turner gill from last weekend. i have to say, i am utterly stumped. i have no words. i cannot fathom how a team that lost at home to a 1-AA team, who wasn't even able to score a single touchdown, managed to beat the 15/17th ranked Georgia Tech yellow jackets! it makes no sense at all. i still stand by my opinion that coaches should not name a starting quarter back one week and bench the same QB in a knee-jerk reaction to a loss that cannot be entirely pinned on said QB. but, i have to admit that, in this case, it appears that switch made a difference for ku this week. what i cannot understand is: did jordan webb suddenly show up in practice this past week, only after kale pick was dumped as starter? or was he always that good and the coaching staff erroneously decided to start kale pick for some unknown reason? sure, he's more experienced. sure, jordan webb's a redshirt freshman. but i just cannot believe that there was such a discernible difference that only became apparent after that hideous showing against NDSU in KU's opening game. turner gill opted to start webb, but still gave kale pick some playing time against GTech...i think probably just to maintain diplomatic relations with kale should he have any need to go back to him as starter. so, i guess i will withhold judgment for now, because, honestly, i just do not know what to expect. i felt like my predictions were pretty safe last week. no one seems to be able to explain that quick of a turn around, so neither will i. it defies logic.


i am NOT ok with that (sports edition)

i am thinking of starting a new strand of posts called "i am NOT ok with that" in which i can voice my protests over certain preferred topics. for example, today's edition of "i am NOT ok with that" will feature my thoughts on happenings in the sports world this past week (psst! friends of mine that are not so interested in sports: please do read it, i think there will be enough entertainment for all! or at least have your sports-minded spouses/siblings/friends read and comment!). in the future, though, there will surely be other editions featuring my thoughts on education, books, music, movies, and other categories. so, i need some feedback. what do you think of the title for these posts? those of you who know me well and talk to me often know that i frequently say things such as "that's a deal-breaker!" or "that's a problem for me!" or "i am NOT ok with that!" so i wanted to stick with a title that is befitting my typical lingo. i also considered the title "what's wrong in the world of ___" but that seems too similar to nick wright's sports radio segment called "what's wrong with nick wright." so, weigh in. shall i stick with the current title, or do you prefer one of the other options?

onto the rant. this week, i am not ok with:
1. carson coffman (ksu QB) - i am not saying that i will NEVER be ok with coffman, or that i think synder should bench him (let's not be as hasty as coach gill please). but for this week, i am not ok. i am not ok with his shoddy footwork and half-hearted 3-step drop (which really is more of a 2-step shuffle). i am not ok with coffman holding onto the ball instead of throwing out of bounds or through the back of the endzone when a play is busted. i am not ok with passes behind, above, or at the knees of wide open receivers. i'm just saying.
2. turner gill (ku football coach) - it's not that i didn't thoroughly (and devilishly) enjoy ku's miserable loss to a 1-AA (or whatever it's called this year) NDSU team...because i did. it's not even that i don't like gill for mangino's successor because frankly he is more disciplined and less offensive than mangino. it's that he couldn't just admit that saturday's 6-3 loss AT HOME was plain bad. he gave us coach-speak. he said, "it's just one game. it's the first game." excuses! just call a spade a spade! it was atrocious! if you can't say that the game was bad it's like saying that you're ok with that kind of loss if for the sake of progress and i can't think of any ku fan or big XII fan that thinks that loss is ok. gill's response to the game made me all the more appreciative of coaches that are willing to address the bad and the good equally. coach gill, it's ok to say that "this loss stinks!" because it did. and what's more, gill followed up the stinky loss, and empty, meaningless post-game comments with the hasty decision to bench kale pick (QB) and start webb in his place. my opinion: what's the harm in having pick start for at least another week? you're playing Georgia Tech (#15) this week; no one expects ku to win, let's see what kind of fire that pathetic loss may light under pick's butt. see if he progresses, see if he learned anything from that humiliation. why stick webb out there as a lamb for slaughter? then you'll have two ruined quarterbacks. but he didn't ask for my opinion on the matter.
3. misogynistic callers-in to sports radio shows. ignorant listener on the nick wright show today said, and i quote, that he hates that when women call into the show they automatically get bumped to the front of the queue and they never have anything good to say and how he despises having to watch his precious sports with women and how he wishes that women would just shut up and get him another beer. no lie. no exaggeration. he actually said it. nick's response: "well, that was borderline sexist! and by borderline i mean completely crossing the line!" thanks, nick. do i really need to explain why this particular item made my rant list for the week? i'm not even going to spend time or space defending my honor. i defy sexist caller-in guy to find a sports topic for which he is more knowledgeable than i. defy. i'll show him where he can put his beer. grrr.
4. daniel thomas having NO chance to win the heisman trophy. i promise i am not just being a giant homer, i'm always try to have some objectivity. after a 235-yard effort against a BCS conference team in UCLA, thomas was 12th on the list of heisman candidates. listed ahead of him: alabama's ingram, who is not even currently PLAYING after knee surgery and is unsure of his return date, and a mixture of other players that had impressive stats against some impressive and some not-so-impressive opponents. and this week, national heisman voters will not even have a chance to watch thomas destroy missouri state's defense because the game will not be televised. not only is ksu's game not televised, neither is missouri, nebraska (only on pay-per-view), texas a & m, and oklahoma state, and texas tech is only showing locally. the big XII cannot expect to have a viable heisman candidate now or in the near future (unless said candidate is from texas or oklahoma) and cannot expect to be taken seriously as a conference if it can't figure out a way to get it's teams' games on tv. for now it's more tales of woe and pity about how the midwest is ignored, underestimated, and underrepresented in the national media...well no wonder.
5. billy ray cyrus. the chiefs' big plans for unveiling the new arrowhead stadium on their home-opener on monday night football on national television is...billy ray cyrus? what?? country music is bad enough. but then, you can't even find a current country singing star?? i'm sorry, billy ray cyrus may have shed the permed mullet (aka permllet...yeah, kyle hutson, you know what i'm talking about) but he's still got a shorter version of a mullet back there and he is still the culprit behind achey breaky heart. seriously, chiefs?? is that the best you've got?? arg.

i think that's enough for now. have a good weekend! go cats!


staying (or getting back) in shape post-20's and football

if you'll allow me to rant a bit...
sometimes a good rant is in order because you have no one to be mad with but yourself and you can't really row with yourself without looking crazy so you have to just put it out there and hope someone identifies with and understands you. and you hope that you won't be judged for thinking extreme thoughts and feeling exaggerated feelings about something that is not all that uncommon and relatively insignificant. so here we go:
probably more frustrating than accepting my post-20's-now-in-my-30's flabbier self is that i can't physically DO what i want to do, and envision myself doing. because even if i am unhappy with how i look or what size i wear or whatever cliche thing that almost all women in their 30's think toward themselves, i think that if i could still run miles and miles, or play a full soccer game on a full-sized pitch, or confidently play pick-up soccer and basketball with "the guys" like i used to do without much effort, that maybe i wouldn't feel quite so defeated. it's difficult enough to "get oneself back" without adding to it the new and unfamiliar challenges of achey knees, plantar fasciitis, hip bursitis, jiggling belly, rubbing-together legs, sweat-from-strange-places, and what feels like weight-induced asthma (did i make that up?? i've heard of allergy-induced asthma and seasonal asthma, both diagnoses which i have claimed, but now i'm certain it's just extra-flab-induced asthma). sorry if that is too graphic. but it's terribly uncomfortable to try to do the same activities i have always loved with extra poundage. i used to run with my mom (who is 5'3" to my 5'6") in high school and we always bickered about who should set the pace because my stride was longer and quicker than her little legs would manage (but she always outlasted me...classic tortoise and hare). i miss that stride. i liked that stride. now i shuffle instead of running. i plod. plod plod plod. (onomatopoeia).
last weekend i had a particularly defeating attitude. i was wallowing. i couldn't seem to get myself moving and i made terrible food choices all weekend long. when, finally, i peeled myself off of the couch and went for a run on sunday evening after thinking about running all weekend long and everyday the previous week, i realized as i plodded along how much more difficult i am making it for myself! i got mad at myself. i was mad in a good way, the kind of mad that makes me DO something...anything! kirk and i went running again on monday or tuesday and i was complaining (poor kirk) about how difficult it was and how frustrating, blah, blah. he was trying to comfort me, saying "at least we're doing something, it's better than nothing." i stopped him. i told him i don't want to be comforted, i don't want to feel good about where i am right now. i don't want to feel good about shuffling. i don't want to feel good about only being able to run a few miles when that is so far from my goal (if you're not a runner, i know you're thinking a few miles sounds good, but if you're a runner you know how much it stinks to run fewer than 3 miles and struggle through the whole process! if you're not a runner, think about something you like to do and are good at and think about how it feels to do less than you expect of yourself...it stinks). i don't want to be comfortable. comfortable is what has gotten me here. "comfortable" is what makes me want to eat things that aren't good for me and avoid vegetables. it's not comfortable to eat grilled chicken and salad after a rough day at work. it's more comfortable to eat pizza. it's not comfortable to get up early to run, it's more comfortable to sleep later. it's not comfortable to discipline oneself, it's not comfortable to sweat, and run up hills, and sprint the last 2 blocks, and push yourself, and it's not comfortable to be sore the next day...but i love that. it's not comfortable to face my disappointment with myself and a closet full of 2-sizes-too-small clothing that hasn't been worn in years. it's comfortable to avoid and justify and make excuses and it's comfortable to just keep eating too much, drinking soda, and scarfing yummy unhealthy food so that i don't have to think about changing myself. no, i definitely don't want to be comfortable.
i wonder...does anyone else think about things like this??
anyway. so for now, i'm going to let myself stay mad. mad mendy. beware.

now, on to fun things: football!
i'm going to manhattan for the opening game of the 2010 ksu season. woopwoop. i honestly do not know what to expect because the media predictions are for k-state to be in the middle of the big XII north. but, as ever, bill snyder has
been elusive and vague about his expectations for the team, waiting until the 11th hour to name carson coffman the starting QB (provoking questions as to whether there was actually competition for the spot or snyder was merely electing not to reveal all of his cards, so to speak). there is great anticipation for thomas to have a record-setting season, but what will this look like in an era of spread offenses? is thomas our only viable offensive threat? as for the game this weekend, we face a UCLA that went to a bowl game last year but is only returning one starter from that team. most people are counting k-state out in this game, but i think we may have a chance (eek. i hate making predictions) and here's why: home field advantage, opening day, bill snyder (he notoriously keeps a few unsung talented players tucked up his sleeve and out of the media's scrutinizing eye), thomas, and an inexperienced UCLA team. no guarantees. just possibilities.