Thursday, January 12, 2017

Catching up and looking ahead

Here's a long and long-delayed update on my 4 Obsessions. Yes, I am still obsessed, and yes, there still are (primarily) four.


First off, here is the recipe for curried pumpkin red lentil soup that I promised a bunch of people a while ago and never managed to post. It is easy, fast and damn good.

Curried Pumpkin Red Lentil Soup
1 large or 2 medium onions
2 T olive oil
1 T prepared, refrigerated ginger garlic paste like this stuff which I can get at my local grocery store for about $4 (or 2 minced garlic cloves and about 2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger)
1 Tbsp curry powder
freshly ground black pepper
15-oz can pumpkin
1 can vegetable or chicken broth or equivalent homemade
¾ cup red lentils
1 lime
plain yogurt

  1. Grate the onion in the food processor (if you don't have a food processor I probably wouldn't make this recipe because grating an onion on a box grater would make me weep for ages.)
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high. Add ginger garlic paste, grated onion, 1 teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Cook, stirring, until aromatic and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add curry powder and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Whisk in pumpkin until evenly incorporated, then whisk in the broth and 3 cups water. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add lentils and continue to simmer until lentils are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Squeeze half the lime into the soup (cut the other half into wedges so people can squeeze in more if they want).
  5. If necessary, thin the soup with a little water before serving.
  6. Serve soup with a dollop of yogurt, top with some chopped cilantro and offer lime wedges for those of us who appreciate a dose of acidity.

In other food news, like many of my friends I was gifted an Instant Pot for Christmas. So far I like it and think it is a useful addition to my kitchen, particularly for making brown rice and cooking dried beans, two things I love but have had trouble planning far enough ahead to make them as often as I should.  I've made a few "real" recipes in the instant pot (chili, a chicken orzo pasta dish) that are decent but not earth shaking. I'm actively reading pressure cooking cookbooks and reading blogs about pressure cooking to expand my repertoire. Send me your recommendations if you have them!


One of my responses to the impending Trump presidency was to buy books, as though my purchases could neutralize the waves of ignorance and hatred rolling through our country. I realize this is illogical but hell, at least I'm helping to keep the local bookstores in business and I'm sending some of my money to authors I admire.

This is the haul from one week (other weeks I've been a little more in control and just purchased books one at a time). Some were intended as gifts, many were for me. Now that I can no longer stand to listen to the radio because Trump's voice makes me want to throw things (all my NPR is consumed via podcasts now) I have more time for reading. I've also started consuming more audio books (which I mostly get from the library) because they mean I can knit more easily while consuming prose.

From top to bottom: The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky, An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (screenplay) by J.K.Rowling, The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies, The Bitch is Back edited by Cathi Hanauer, Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer, Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts by Aglaia Kremenzi

I read a lot of good stuff last year, though I didn't quite make my 52 books in a year goal. Again, I blame the election because I started and did not finish many books in November and December. My mind was just too unsettled to focus so some were worthy books that I will pick back up later and some just felt wrong and trivial and got tossed aside. If you are looking for something good to read you might be interested in perusing last year's list and if you want to see what I think of the above books and everything else I plan to read this year then check in with this year's reading list (both lists contain brief comments).


I also haven't been able to write fiction since the election. The world has become so surreal that I find it hard to escape into an alternate universe--I feel like I won't find my way back to this one since it is increasingly unrecognizable. I know this sounds dramatic, but writing is hard and, with my particular brain chemistry, reality is also increasingly hard so it's enough to stop me from doing it. I've decided to set all my current work-in-progress fiction aside and not feel bad about it.

I won't stop writing, but I'm giving myself a different challenge: read (at least) a poem a day and write a poem a day.

Reading a poem a day is easy and I recommend's email service where they send one well-curated poem each day to your email inbox. New poems appear M-F and there are classic poems on the weekends. It's a great way to discover new poets, visit with poets you've read before but haven't been following lately and generally just pay attention to a whole genre that doesn't get much attention. I check a lot of poetry books out of the library and keep them next to my bed so I can dive in when the insomnia hits, most nights at about 3:30 am.

I'm finding writing a poem a day surprisingly enjoyable. This is about process, not product. Some of these are really lousy poems. That's ok. A few have at least a stanza or a line that I really like and maybe I'll find a way to use them elsewhere or I'll go back and work on the poem to bring the rest of it up to that quality. The process is waking up a part of my brain that I haven't accessed recently and I feel like I'm building new muscles as a writer.


Two days a week I work at the local (wonderful) yarn shop Spun so my knitting has taken a big upturn in quantity and quality. All my knitting projects are on Ravelry so if you are curious about what my needles have been doing you can check it out here. Since the shop started carrying Brooklyn Tweed yarn, I now understand why people get addicted to the stuff. I've completed one project (Oxbow) and am currently working on two others (Koto and Stasis) and all three are in different yarn weights (Quarry, Shelter and Loft respectively). The yarn is wonderful to knit with, the colors are complex and the patterns are incredibly well-written and clear. My knitting queue is increasingly filling up with more Brooklyn Tweed projects (Bronwyn and Reverb are the two I'm trying to decide between for next-on-the-needles).

Lately, of course, when I haven't been working on samples for the shop, I've been making a whole lot of Pussyhats for the Women's March in DC:

That's the update on the obsessions for now; if you feel like chiming in and commenting and letting me know what you are up to, please do. Now that social media has changed the landscape I find myself commenting less on blogs and more on facebook and Instagram posts. I'm sure that's true for many of you too.

1 comment:

Sarah P. said...

Yaya for writing poetry. Thanks for posting!