Thursday, October 9, 2008

Healthy Relationship Classes

Just like everyone else, we have a few odd neighbors. I’d like to think that mine are special, but I know they’re really not. Even so, I still enjoy telling their stories and reminiscing about some of the good times and bad.

Fighting Neighbors

Everybody fights once in a while. If you’re our downstairs neighbors, who own two uncontrollable dogs and seem to hate each other, then fights are a bi-weekly occurrence. Sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 am on a random weekday, our downstairs neighbors will stand by an open window and scream at each other. The words often can’t be distinguished, but the sentiment is unmistakable.

(I had a dog-related run-in with the fighting neighbors after they’d first moved in. I was heading home from walking Coco, but when I saw that we were all approaching the same door, I backed away from the path – a good ten feet away. Coco was intense, but calm.

Not to be deterred, the two dogs – a German shepherd a black lab – dragged their owner off the path and towards Coco. It wasn’t 100% clear whether the man intended to let them meet, or was simply being dragged by two dogs whose combined weight was at least 20 pounds heavier than he was. Before I could figure out what to do, the shepherd lunged at Coco and bit her on the face.

During this entire display, the female half of the fighting couple just stood behind them with her arms folded. Thanks.


The fighting couple isn’t the first fighting couple we’ve seen and heard. Last winter, a fleeing man was pursued into the snow in our front courtyard by a hysterical woman, dressed in Goth/Wiccan chic with bare feet, who then threw a Cup Noodle at him. I have no idea.

By far my favorite saga involved a possibly bisexual woman who was being encouraged to leave her current partner (a man) with another woman, who may have been a friend, parent, or potential lover. Loudly encouraged. Very loudly. In the courtyard, when everyone’s windows were open because it was the middle of the summer.

I should mention that both of them sounded like they had been chain-smoking crack and shooting heroin for hours in preparation for the performance.




“I CAN’T, I CAN’T!” *sobbing*


Lather, rinse, repeat.

There is a local organization called “P.E.A.C.E. Inc.” that advertises “healthy relationship classes.” They sent us a pamphlet the other day. If I had any balls, I’d go tape it on the fighting couple’s door.

Which brings me to…

Note-Leaving Neighbors

In a shared living space, notes are inevitable. Sometimes people need to communicate important sentiments to each other, and they don’t always know of any way to get those sentiments out in the open except NOTE-LEAVING.

Which has led to some fun times in our building, let me tell you.

The fighting neighbors, as I’ve mentioned, have two uncontrollable dogs. One night I returned from walking Coco to find a note on the fighting neighbors’ door. It read:

Your dog has been barking nonstop all night. As you can imagine, this is very annoying for those of us who live here. Please address this problem as soon as possible.

Your Neighbor

The note had disappeared within a few hours, only to be replaced the next day with another note, expressing the same issues (but in different handwriting). Finally, the fighting neighbors struck back with a long missive that I will paraphrase here.

We would like to apologize for any inconvenienced caused by our dog barking. He is a new arrival and we are in the process of crate training, which, as any dog owners will attest, is very difficult. A bark collar, as inhumane as they are, has been purchased. Please be patient with us during the training process. If you have any further concerns, please contact me at (blah blah blah).

But none of this was nearly as entertaining as the McDonald’s bag.

At one point, someone left a McDonald’s bag full of McDonald’s trash in the hallway. I’m not sure why. But I didn’t get whipped up into the same apoplectic rage as the neighbor who took the trouble to write a note and tape it to the bag:

Trash goes in the basement, NOT in the HALLWAY!

A response was scrawled the next day:


Someone threw the bag away.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Healthy and Cheap: Crock Pot Chili!

It can be pretty hard to devise recipes that are high-protein, low-calorie, heart-healthy, and inexpensive. Believe me, I know. But I think this crock pot chili fits the bill.

I have a natural aversion to following recipes literally. Usually, when I read over one, there’s something that doesn’t sit right with me, and so I search other recipes to see what I can find. I cobble something together that sounds good, and usually, it works out just fine.

I’m particularly happy with a crock pot chili recipe that I’ve devised. I used a few different recipes to come up with it, and it’s very quick and easy. It also has the advantage of being a recipe that you can leave for a few extra hours if you can’t get home on time; it’s hard to overcook chili.

This batch makes enough to serve 4 or 5 people, and leftovers can be used to make delicious chili cheese fries. (Just slice up some potatoes, sprinkle with olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, bake on a cookie sheet greased with olive oil, flip after 5-7 minutes and bake until both sides are browned. Top with chili and some grated cheese, bake for a few more minutes. Presto!)

Crock Pot Chili

You will need:

1lb ground beef. Less or more is fine, but if you have a small crock pot you’re limited on the amount you can mix in. Feel free to skimp on this; it’s the most expensive ingredient, and you don’t need it.

2 cans beans. Kidney beans, pinto beans, pretty much any kind of bean you’ve ever seen in a chili is fine. Dried beans might work if they are pre-cooked, but I haven’t tried this yet.

1 8oz can tomato sauce.

1 28 oz can stewed tomatoes.

1 green pepper, chopped.

1/2-3/4 large sweet-ish onion, chopped. I recommend against using strong onions in crock pot recipes, as they tend to impart an unpleasantly onion-y flavor into everything.

3 TB chili powder.

1 tsp salt.

1 tsp cayenne pepper. Omit this if you like your chili without any spice, but this is just the right amount for those of us who like it zesty but not spicy enough to burn the tongue.

1 tsp cumin.

2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed.


Brown the meat in a saucepan; drain. Mix all ingredients in crock pot, then set it to low and let it cook for 8-10 hours.

Now enjoy this high-protein, high-fiber, filling and delicious dinner/lunch/snack.