Sizzled Pork & Pineapple Tacos

Why yes, I am going to lead with this picture of Naoto trying to look like a pineapple!

This summer, we want to perfect our grilling skills and go beyond the steaks, hot dogs, nachos, and sweet potatoes that we attempted last summer. (“We” is doing some heavy lifting here since it’s really Naoto that does all of the grilling work!) So far this summer, we’ve attempted to grill bratwurst, (way harder than you think!) chicken, veggies (using this Smitten Kitchen recipe!) and salmon. Basically, if the weather is cooperating and Naoto is home, we’re grilling.

Naoto has been testing out cookbooks from the library and he’s really excited about Ali Slagle’s I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To.) We’ve made the Sizzled Pork & Pineapple Tacos a few times and we really enjoy them. They are so sweet and summery and just so easy since everything can be done on the grill.

Sizzling Pork & Pineapple Tacos from Ali Slagle’s I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To)

1.5 pounds boneless pork shoulder cut into 1/2 inch thick steaks (Or you can use the boneless pork chops from Trader Joes. They come in a pack of three which was plenty for us with leftovers.)
1 fresh pineapple
1 orange
2 limes
4 cloves of garlic
1 fresh chile
8-12 tortillas (the recipe calls for corn, but we used flour)
olive oil
salt & pepper
avocado (diced)

Heat your grill to medium high. Season your pork with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Peel the pineapple and cut into 1-inch spears. Place onto a shallow pan. Zest your orange and set the zest aside. Cut the orange in half and add it in with the pineapple. Drizzle both with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Zest the two limes and add to the orange zest. Chop the four cloves of garlic and the chile and add those to the zest with a teaspoon of salt. Mix together to make a paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl and add the juice of the two limes and 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir to combine.

Head to your grill with the pork, fruit, and tortillas.

Oil the grates with olive oil and add your pork, pineapple, and orange over the direct heat. Ali recommends cooking the pork 5-8 minutes per side, but we have more success using a meat thermometor to make sure the pork was cooked through, but not overly dry. (The CDC recommends cooking pork to 145° F.) The pineapple and orange will need 3-5 minutes per side, as both should be charred when they come off the grill. As things are ready, remove from grill and set aside.

Once the fruit and pork are done, cut the pork and pineapple into bite sized pieces and add to the sauce. Squeeze the charred orange juice into the rest of the sauce and stir to coat. Cut up the avocado into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Head back to your grill with your tortillas. Char each side of your tortillas before filling each one with the saucy pork and pineapple and topping with avocado. Serve with an extra lime wedge for an extra dose of freshness.

Enjoy with a tiki drink and some Hawaiian music in the background.

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Spring Has Spring in the Circle Garden

The circle garden is blooming again and our plots are finally fully planted for the summer. It’s our second spring here, so it was fun to anticipate was going to return. Early spring, I was greeted by daffodils, hyacinths, Columbine, and hellebore.

Now my iris, clematis, and roses are in bloom with more things opening up every day! I am also happy to report that all of our hydrangeas, which we planted last spring, and then transplanted later in the summer because they were getting too much sun, are back and look like they’re going to be fine. Hopefully they will start blooming soon!

The spiderwort and foxglove just started opening this weekend. The spiderwort was here from the previous owners, but I added the foxglove last summer. The color was a total surprise since it wasn’t in bloom when I bought it. I think it goes nicely along that side of the garden though.

If you remember from last year, we have three raised beds along the south side of our house. Last year, this bed was full of garlic, so we didn’t really use it (except for the garlic.) This year, a couple of garlic came up, but I was able to fill the rest of it with seeds and tubers to make an edible flower and cutting garden. So far, there are dahlias, ranunculus, poppies, nasturtium, zinnias, borage, and calendula coming up. I also planted cockscomb but sadly, none of the seeds have germinated. I’m so bummed because I have wanted to grow giant cockscomb since high school. There was an older gentleman who used to bring his crop to the golf course where I worked and I just love those velvety blooms!

In the middle bed, we have basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and marigolds alongside cherry, Black Krim, Purple Cherokee, and Brandywine tomatoes. Naoto also tucked in some daikon radish.

In our third plot, we have another cherry tomato variety, some leftover potatoes from the previous homeowners (that are probably planted too close to the tomato,) cardinal basil, edamame, Japanese melon, and Japanese cucumbers. We are hoping that the bunnies leave this bed alone, but history tells us otherwise. Our friend gave us a trellis for the vining plants, so I hope we actually get something to vine this year before the rabbits have a snack!

Since I was planting a slew of things I’ve never grown before, I made some plant markers to keep track of everything. They aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing project, but they get the job done!

I always love the garden this time of the season, all tidy and full of possibilities! We all know our plots will be tomato and zinnia jungles soon enough!

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Dive Bar Letter Writers June Meet-Up

Our next Dive Bar Letter Writers meet-up is next Sunday, June 12 at 2pm. We’re back at Goldyburgers yet again! After this month, I’m trying to schedule the meetings for the third Sunday of every month, just so it’s easy for people to remember. If you’re in the area, join us for letter writing, drinks, and conversation! I’ll have supplies on hand so don’t be afraid to come empty handed (though you will need cash for Goldy’s snacks and drinks!) If you would like an email reminder about our meetings, go to the Dive Bar Letter Writers page and follow the link!

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16th Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to this guy, who sometimes feels like a third wheel with Presley and me. Life wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t stopped by my table on that fateful Wednesday evening at the Daily Grind. I’m so grateful for every single day.

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Finally! A New Mailbox

We’ve lived here just over a year and we finally put in a new mailbox! Isn’t she lovely?

When we removed the old box, we made a discovery–the house’s original mail slot! It literally goes nowhere! There isn’t a slot inside. It has all been insulated and dry walled over.

Our house was a flip in 2016. Apparently the flippers cared enough about the mail slot to cut the siding around it, but not enough to clear out the mail that was left inside!

We pulled out the mail and found it was from 2016!

Part of me is a tiny bit bummed not to have a mail slot in our home, but I did love choosing a mailbox and I found one big enough for small to medium sized packages so it’s nice to have a little bit of extra security to keep our mail hidden.

More projects for the front of the house are planned–chopping down a tree and adding different plantings, painting the porch, and more! Hopefully it won’t take all summer before we get it all done!

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Chris & Heather’s Lil 16mm Film Festival

Early this month, Naoto and I went out on a school night for another fun Chris & Heather event. If you’ve been around here long enough, you know how much we love going to the Calendar Show every December. The 16mm Film Festival has a similar vibe, but, at least for the May show, there were more old commercials mixed in and only one music act.

The commercials were from before my time, but you could feel the nostalgia in the room. I loved this Kiss action figure one especially.

And who knew there was a Farrah doll? The little boy in this commercial cracked everyone up.

And of course there were lots of videos of musical acts. George Jones is always a favorite and so is Buffalo Springfield.

To start the show, Chris sang a tribute to Cynthia Plaster Caster who died recently. He sang his song “Little Girl” which was really soft and sweet.

The rest of the show was Chris doing his quirky, smart, charming thing. His music is wacky and fun. He writes songs for The Flat Five, our favorite local band, and also has released several of his own albums. (His newer albums are available on Spotify and I’ve added a few of his songs to my summer playlist.)

We’re going back for the June show on our anniversary this week!

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Spring Tea

Last week I hosted a spring tea for Peggy’s birthday. Our weather has been so cold and rainy so it was a bummer that we couldn’t sit on the back deck but we made do inside. I bought this vintage tablecloth on eBay and it arrived just in time to be washed and ready to go!

I used the blue dishes Karen gave me for my birthday and added these strawberry & butterfly dishes that Peggy gave me. The butterfly glasses were also a gift from a book club member who moved away.

Karen, Susan, and I made the food. We ate ham salad and cucumber tea sandwiches, Helen Corbitt’s chicken salad, fruit salad, and scones with whipped cream and strawberry jam. I made May Day cocktails—I’ll share the recipe soon! They are so perfect for spring!

For dessert, we had petit fours from the Forest Park Bakery. They were such a fun treat and made a pretty addition to the table.

It’s so nice to be hosting again and I always love using my vintage treasures. Hopefully more tiny parties can continue through the spring and summer. I’ve missed them.

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Dive Bar Letter Writers is Back

After a bit of a hiatus for the holidays and Covid, the Dive Bar Letter Writers are back again! We met last month for National Card & Letter Writing Month and I’m scheduling our summer meet-ups.

Naoto has been a regular at our meetings but this time he actually wrote a letter! (Usually he reads or just eats a burger.)

If you’re in Chicagoland, please join us for our next meeting, May 22 at 2pm in Goldyburger’s beer garden! You can sign up for email reminders here.

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March & April Book Report

My reading has slowed down…partly due to April’s wacky schedule, but also Souls for Sale may not be the book to get me over my reading hump.

Souls for Sale by Rupert Hughes
I’m halfway into this…when I’m reading it, I like it, but I’m not excited to pick it up. I will report back in May, unless I give up on it.

As it Was & A World Without End by Helen Thomas
These two memoirs…just beautiful, and perfect for spring. It is Helen Thomas’s telling of her marriage to poet and writer Edward Thomas who struggled with depression and died in World War I. Helen and Edward had three children and lived in poverty most of the time, since Edward was something of a struggling writer. He was also a nature lover, so their explorations of the wilderness and the descriptions of flowers and birds and the forests are gorgeous. He may have been a published writer, but her talents for writing are extraordinary.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner
This was our April pick for book club. The writing was beautiful and there was a lot of marital strife and family drama. (The book is semi-autobiographical so that made it even more interesting because it was as if Stegner was working out his childhood trauma in the book.) It wasn’t an easy read, but everyone in book group appreciated it.

The Man Who Lived Underground by Richard Wright
Written in between Native Son and Black Boy, The Man Who Lived Underground was just published last year. I read both of those books and a lot more Wright in college so I was really interested in this one that Wright called one of his best. We read it for book club in March. Wright is a very effective writer, and this book could have been written this year, sadly. I can’t say I enjoyed it–it was definitely a tense read with a sad ending, but I’m glad we read it. If you’ve never read Richard Wright, I would suggest this as a good place to start.

Spring Came On Forever by Bess Streeter Aldrich
This was my first Streeter Aldrich but hopefully not my last! This one was written in 1935 and follows two families moving from Illinois to settle Nebraska. It’s a family saga that covers three generations of both families. There’s love and heartbreak, pioneer struggles, marital strife, and beautiful descriptions of scenery in this book–it was a good spring read that I stayed up way too late to finish.

My April was bananas with Easter at work and a ton of volunteer stuff to manage. I am hoping I can slow down in May and get back into my habit of dinner reading and doing more things for myself this month.

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Cherry Blossoms in Chicago

Cherry blossom season is almost over in Chicago, and while we didn’t have perfect timing, we did make it down to Jackson Park in time to see some blooms! Cherry blossoms are fairly new to the city. 2020 was the first year the trees were set to bloom, but we all know what happened in spring of 2020–everything was shut down and the parks were closed. Then last year, Naoto and I went down, but we both forgot our masks at home and it was super awkward because everyone in the park was wearing masks. (Now we know that it was probably ok, but at the time we felt so guilty!) We also pretty much missed full bloom.

This year, I watched Twitter and Instagram like a hawk so we could get down there in time to catch the blooms. It’s so difficult to plan around the blooming season, especially with unpredictable weather and work schedules getting in the way. When we both had a Tuesday afternoon free, we decided that would be the day. All of the trees weren’t in bloom and it was freezing cold, but we got to see the early bloomers and it was a gorgeous sunny day and the park was really quiet, so no regrets.

Someday, we hope to actually have hanami under Chicago’s blooms. (I’d also settle for hanami in Japan…)

This is in the Garden of the Phoenix within Jackson Park. There’s a gorgeous gate that you can enter and walk around a koi pond with a waterfall and bridge. There are hellebores and azalea and other spring blooms around the garden, but only the hellebores were blooming when we went. We have decided that we need to go again in May to see what other flowers we can find.

Just outside the gate, you’ll find this sculpture by Yoko Ono. Named Sky Landing, it was placed on the site of the Japanese Pavillion from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition and is a symbol of peace, according to Ono.

Spring has been really cold, rainy, windy, and pretty miserable, so I am grateful we made it. Hopefully it will warm up soon and we can enjoy our own garden a bit!

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