A little while back when the boys were whipping down the slopes of Big Sky Montana my tennis star mother dragged me to her newest obsession: pickle ball. (How on earth she finds time for competitive tennis drills, matches, book club, quilting club, cooking club, Awana, and pickle ball is beyond me but that is my mother and God bless her for it).
So yes, pickle ball. The fastest growing sport amongst nursing homes! This is the sport I have chosen. Do not judge me. Listen, there is zero commitment. I can go three times a week for a month and never return and there would be no fall out. It’s the senior happy price of $3.50 per play (2 and 1/2 hours, if you’d like to stay that long, up to you). It’s minutes away from my son’s preschool (read no wasting time in the car). And there are players (yes most 30-50+ years older than me) that are actually really good. It brings out my competitive side which is fun for me. Something different. Bonus that on more than one occasion I have been asked what school I attend. I stare blankly back. Like, what preschool does my son attend? St Marks. I also have a fourth grader at North Barrington and a husband and cars and my own home. And I love you forever.
This past Wednesday I was about to play the last game before I was off on my motherly duties. I got paired with one of my favorite players. She is so darling and plays well and is so nice and we were playing strong opponents – yeah competition! The game got going and we were doing great until…..WHACK.
See, like in many sports if the ball is lobbed up high you want to spike it back, makes sense. It came our way and somehow we both sort of went for it. It was more on her side so I suppose (I’m speculating at this point) that I tried to duck out of her way and then BAM.
She missed the ball but definitely did not miss the side of my head. And somehow it wasn’t with the larger paddle area which I’m guessing would have been less painful. It was most definitely the side of her paddle. I got axed.
The room started to spin and I saw less of it. Pull yourself together Courtney, this is pickle ball and you are fine. You are not hurt.
My partner obviously began to apologize profusely as she saw the tears beginning. Since I’m a two, I was way more focused on making sure she didn’t feel bad than tending to the throbbing that was beginning in my own head. I kept telling her I was totally fine, let’s keep playing. She apologized again and said ‘oh poor thing that probably stun a little.’ Or made me internally bleed. Whatever.
I played the rest of the game which we lost and then beelined it out of there. Ok, quick shower some Advil and all will be fine. Go about your day. Which I did, of course. When the boys and I finally arrived back home post pediatrician and ‘candy store’ (i.e. the convenient mart) the boys were dying to head to the neighbors to snow board which I could not be more thrilled with. Finally a little down time. I had not yet shaken the headache and was feeling just generally, off. All day all I wanted to do was sleep. I could not wait to sleep.
I rested a bit and then decided to get dinner going because making dinner always makes me feel incredible. I seasoned up the thighs, got them browning in the skillet, made the delicious smoked paprika chick peas and garlicky tomatoes and nestled everything back together. Huh, I really think I need to sit down. Like the room began to spin.
I took a quick break, got up again to get the skillet in the oven and retired back to the couch.
Something was off.
I heard Mike come home from work, still chuckling over the fact that his wife somehow managed to get injured at pickle ball. Ok, OK YES IT’S FUNNY. Can we please stop with the helmet jokes? I told him I didn’t seem right. I’ve never been injured in the head before so I had no clue what was normal or not. I’m not a dramatic person by any means but I just wanted some sort of medical person to tell me I was going to be ok and the fastest way to ensure that happens.
I got the delicious smelling dinner on the table for Mike and the kids because that is what I do and my mom zoomed on over, picked me up, and off we went. It was confirmed fairly quickly: mild(er) concussion. I needed to lay low and rest until I felt better.
Mike redeemed himself a bit by sending me a text that this was the ‘best dinner I’ve made in years.’ He knows complimenting my food is always a sure fire way to get back on the good side. I hadn’t tried any, yet by the time I got home a little plate sounded ok so I dug in.
The result? Finished it off. Like zero leftovers I inhaled it. Best recipe in years is so right, he wasn’t just trying to be nice. I can’t wait to make this one again.
That is, once I’m back on my feet. Godspeed this better not take long.
CRISPY CHICKEN THIGHS WITH SMOKEY CHICK PEAS
Recipe adapted from Country Living
3 tsp. canola oil
8 small bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 pt. grape tomatoes
1 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
fresh thyme leaves, For serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ c. plain Greek yogurt, for serving
brown rice for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook, in batches, skin side down until skin is browned and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate.
Add onion and garlic to reserved skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in paprika and cumin and cook, stirring until fragrant, roughly 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and chickpeas, and cook a few more minuted. Season with salt and pepper. Nestle chicken into mixture, skin side up.
Roast in oven until the internal temperature of chicken reaches 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves and yogurt alongside. (We served over brown rice as well because carbs for life).