Curry-Poached Chicken Soup

(20-30 minutes, serves 4)

I’ve been poaching chicken breast lately, and I was curious how it would work with Sri Lankan flavors. This turned out quite tasty served as a soup (very reminiscent of rasam), with a little cooked millet and some chopped bell pepper to fill out the dish. Would make again!

(I tried serving it on a plate with the millet, but even with a little broth poured over the millet, I thought the end result was a bit dry; wouldn’t recommend. The chicken would be nice in a sandwich with seeni sambol, though!)

1 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 T dark-roasted curry powder
2 t. salt
2 T lime juice
1/2 c. tomato juice (from a can)
1/2 c. wine
3 c. water
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)

NOTE: If serving with rice or millet, start that going first; it’ll be ready in 15-25 minutes, along with the chicken, making this as easy and healthy weeknight meal.

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot; slowly bring just to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10-12 minutes (until juices run clear when chicken is pierced in the thickest part of the meat).

3. Remove chicken to a cutting board, let cool a little, slice, and serve with the broth it cooked in. A little sliced bell pepper or scallion is a lovely grace note to the dish; you could also stir in some peas or corn.

Deadline

Okay, my brain is melting, so I have requested one more day of extension on my deadline (that was originally supposed to be Saturday). I kind of HATE missing deadlines, it makes me super-frustrated, but I am also trying to not rush my damn writing anymore, which has, in retrospect, been a problem for years and years, at least since I finished the Ph.D. program.
 
On time is important, but good is better than being perfectly on time. And I made good progress today, and I think I will be able to hand in this draft tomorrow, if all goes well; nobody on the project is harassing me about my tardiness, this is all me and my stupid brain, so it will be okay.
 
After I hand it in, we are probably going to have another week or two of working together on the draft, making everything mesh, though I’m not sure if that will be immediately or will kick in a little later. At some point it will be out of my hands. Which means that one way or another, soon I’ll need to figure out what writing project I’m working on next. Options:
 
a) go back to SF novella, do another (final?) draft — the bones of plot are all right now, I think, thank god, but I need to work on the prose (make beautiful and subtle), the density of characterization, and the persistence of the themes
 
b) go back to SF novel, try to push through to end of the first draft (at around 50K now, if I’m remembering right)
 
c) change gears entirely and lay out the bones of the domestic resistance nonfiction book — running for office posts + cooking + gardening + trying to keep ourselves reasonably together in this political environment
 
Totally not sure which to do next. Feel free to opine, though mostly I am hoping it will magically come clear to me while I sleep.

Curry and Politics

Plan for today: eat too much breakfast. Okay, that wasn’t in the plan, but was predictable, even inevitable, given how well last night’s pork curry came out, and I even had rice cooked already, so, you know, that’s how it goes.

New plan: Go change into exercise clothes, take laptop down to treadmill, finish coffee and an episode of Grey’s, then switch to writing for an hour. Set treadmill down to 2.0, a comfortable walking / writing speed. I used to do this a lot last year, but have gotten out of the habit, but if I’m going to be writing more (and sitting more), I need to do more of this again. Not all writing can happen in the magic shed. (No, I don’t want to move my treadmill to the shed. The shed would be appalled.)

At 10:45, run Kavi to her soccer game. If I’m feeling like I need a break, watch the game and chat with parents, otherwise, sit in car and write some more. Deadlines are unforgiving (although I have already written my editor and requested an extension to tomorrow, sigh).

Game should be done by 12:30, bring her home, have a modest lunch to hopefully balance out the massive breakfast. I hear salads are nice. Write for another hour.

2 p.m. – take a break, go to VOICE political meeting, see what they’re about. They’re looking for candidates to endorse in the next election, and while I’m not running in the next round, I’d like to see who’s involved with this group and what they stand for; that hasn’t been clear to me yet.

rest of day: write write write

(There is nowhere in the schedule for dealing with the sink of dirty dishes, but look at me, blithely ignoring that. Hush, voice-of-domestic-requirements. You must be subordinated to writing today.)

Math math

Developmental stuff and teaching kids in larger classes where you just don’t have a lot of time or resources for differentiation is so interesting and also so frustrating.

At age almost-9 and 3rd grade, Anand has 2 pages of math homework most nights. (Insert standard rant about how elementary school homework studies show that assigning homework at this age is more likely counterproductive than useful, and wondering what pressures are on teachers that so many of them persist in assigning homework anyway, etc.)

Last year, we mostly didn’t have him do homework because his teacher didn’t care if it was done or not. The year before, we had a teacher who cared a lot, and would make Anand skip recess to do it, despite our protests to the teacher / principal, and so we regretfully made Anand do homework at least some of the time, and it was often an hour-long misery fest for everyone involved.

But this year, everything’s different. The homework is super easy for him; Anand can do all the actual multiplication in his head in a few seconds. But it turns out that if he isn’t resisting, or crying, or goofing off to extremes, or otherwise trying to find ways to be less incredibly bored by it, Anand can actually power through a page of it in 2-5 minutes. (Mostly depending on whether they make him draw the arrays or not. Drawing takes time.) It’s a useful life skill to be able to power through super boring stuff.

So mostly, we sit down with Anand, have him do it, he’s done in 5-10 minutes, and it doesn’t feel like torture, so he’s not super-resistant to doing it again the next day (though we do get a few big sighs). And it’s not torture for us either, which is not an insignificant blessing; our days are long and hard enough, thanks.

And yes, it’s still probably a waste of all of our time (see rant in first paragraph above), and we do have to periodically have conversations with Anand about why they make him do so much repetitive math, in-school and out, and we are really hoping that at some point this year he tests into a faster-moving math that is teaching him things he doesn’t already know. Anand has decided that he’s actually going to try on the test next time, because maybe it will be less boring if that happens.

But if not, I think we can survive this.

Lauren Underwood for Congress

Last political post for the day, I promise, but here’s another campaign I’m super-excited about. Lauren Underwood is a nurse who worked in the Obama administration as Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, now running for Congress in the IL 14th district (which includes parts of Naperville, along with a host of other towns) against a Republican incumbent.

I was tremendously impressed by her. Smart, to-the-point, with strong answers to audience questions — this was at a local meeting of Indivisible. Love Lauren’s positions, and think she’d be an incredible advocate for progressive vision in Congress. Please consider supporting her campaign with cash, phone banking, door-knocking, etc. and so on — whatever works best for you! Link to campaign in comments!

Kara Eastman for Congress

Have you been to a campaign meet-and-greet? I never had before 2016, but they turn out to be:

a) fun
b) a great way to meet and get a sense of candidates
c) a good way to get to know your politically-minded neighbors
d) a great place to grouse about current politics
e) a chance to meet other local politicians (State Senator Daniel Biss, State Senator Don Harmon, and incoming Cook County tax assessor Fritz Kaegi were there), and
f) a good use of your Democratic dollars.

Fundraisers range wildly in how much they ask for. Some might be nothing up front — give if you’re impressed by the candidate and feel so moved. Some have set ticket prices, usually in a range. This one started at $25, which isn’t too bad for a couple hours of wine and delicious appetizers (I contributed six bottles of wine, Sri Lankan ribbon sandwiches, and passionfruit cakelets and marshmallows; other local co-hosts contributed the rest of the food and wine).

This particular fundraiser was hosted by my friend Carollina Song, in her gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright home, for Kara Eastman. (Carollina gave tours of the house as part of the event — wow!)

Kara has local connections, which is why she was fundraising here, but she’s running for Congress in Nebraska, where, as Daniel Biss pointed out in his intro, our dollars go a LOT further in terms of the cost of a media buy. If you’re only able to donate to one race, you might consider this one as one where you can really make a difference.

I knew nothing about Kara going in, but she spoke very well, and I loved her policy positions. She’s competitive in that race, so please do consider donating. Link in the comments!

Democrats and Money, Redux

I’m about to post a couple of asks for campaign money (for other people, not me). Before I do that, I want to repost something I wrote during my own campaign two years ago; people seemed to find it helpful.
 
We have a very short window now until the mid-terms, and if you have money to spare and want America to move in a more progressive direction, now is absolutely the time to choose a candidate (or several), and support them with cash.
 
Right now, personally, I’m prioritizing helping to flip the House blue over anything else political. America’s government right now is like an open wound — flipping the House would dramatically slow the bleeding. We’re even prioritizing that over giving money to worthy organizations like the ACLU, SPLC, Planned Parenthood. They still get our monthly donation, but all additional funds we’re putting towards specific campaigns. Here’s why campaigns need cash help:
 
***
 
“Someone asked me yesterday why I couldn’t just use free digital avenues to build support for my campaign, instead of asking for money. I thought it might help if I explained some of the costs, which frankly kind of shocked me after I started my run. This may also be helpful in understanding why money is such a HUGE factor in politics (and why Republicans keep winning).
 
I do plan to keep leveraging every digital avenue I have, but there are lots of people who aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, or really, much online at all, especially older voters. And the people who bother to vote in off-year elections (about a tenth of the local populace) are often among our older population.
 
To reach the voters, you can do things like go door-to-door (which I’ll be doing), but at least around here, most people are working during the day, so your window to reach them is very limited. There also aren’t that many days between now and April 4th, so I’m not going to have time to knock on every door, even if I wanted to. You can stand outside grocery stores and train stations, and I already have some of that in the schedule too. But the main other thing you can do is spend money.
 
Let’s say I want to do a basic flyer, about me and about what the library board does. If I send it to all the likely voters in this election, about 6000 people, that’ll cost $3000 just for the postage. $3000! I admit, I was really startled by that number. If you want to make five hundred buttons, that’ll cost perhaps $300 for design and printing. Full color bookmarks? That might run another $1000, if you want to send them to all the voters. Political palm cards, with info about you and the date of the election, that can be tucked into the doors that you’re passing — another $1000 or $2000. A full-page ad in the League of Women Voters program book will cost something; so will a newspaper ad. And let’s not forget pizza for your weary volunteers!
 
When I started this, I thought, oh, I don’t even know if I’ll need to raise money at all. And then I thought, well, I’m sure $2-3K will be plenty. Now I’ve realized that I could easily spend $10,000 on print materials alone, and even that wouldn’t guarantee that all the voters in Oak Park would even see my name once before they got to the ballot box. And someone told me recently that it usually took about seven ‘touches’ — seven mentions of your name — before someone decided to actually vote for you.
 
So, hope that helps explain why I’m asking for money, and why, if there’s anyone whose campaign you want to support, contributing money is actually really helpful.
 
Democrats, in particular, I think are more likely to be reluctant to give money to political campaigns (rather than non-profit orgs), feeling like money in politics is somehow a little corrupt, that we ought to be able to win on the purity of our ideas alone, the rightness of our cause. I know I gave to the ACLU and the SPLC long before giving to any candidate. But I’ve recently come to realize that before the voters can vote for the good guys, they need to know their names, and ideally, a little of what they stand for.
 
Money helps tremendously with getting the word out.”

48th

The kids made the chocolate cake from a box, pretty much entirely on their own, and having a lot of fun doing it. Well, I sprayed the inside of the pan with Baker’s Joy, because you have to push the spray thing a little harder than is comfortable for Kavi. It’s funny the things that are still surprisingly hard for her — often not what I’d expect. They did everything else, though, including dropping an egg on the floor and cleaning it up.

We then did a sort of improvised cake toppings bar. I took some frozen berries, cooked them down with the leftover champagne from the morning’s garden club mimosas, a few squeezes of lime juice, brown sugar, and some crystallized ginger, to make a gingered-berry-champagne compote. I also melted some chocolate chips (a couple minutes at half power in the microwave), set some of it aside for the kids, and stirred in some chili powder and salt to what was left to make a salted spicy chocolate sauce. Then set those out along with some ready-made frosting and sprinkles, so that everyone could have cake the way they liked it.

The box cake was still a little fluffy and light for my tastes — I like my chocolate cake to be denser. But the flavors were delicious, Kevin agreed, and the kids were happy with their version too (heavy on the frosting and sprinkles), so I’d call it a pretty decent success for birthday-cake-from-what-we-have-on-hand-because-we-are-too-lazy-to-go-to-the-store.

Happy 48th, Kev. We love you.


Kriti

Three hours yesterday writing in the shed + four hours today writing in the shed. Shed good. Very focusing.

I’ve gone through a host of critique comments from Acorns workshop, Deborah Elaine Moeller, and Jed Hartman (thank you all!), and the novel-turned novella-turned 45K word thing, the novella now retitled _Kriti_, has finished another pass. It is better.

I don’t think it’s final quite yet, but it’s starting to take the right shape, I think? After spending much too long in the wrong shape. I am seeing consistent themes carried through now. I have pruned away excess plottiness. My protagonist actually protags, although maybe more in a lit fic kind of way that a more typical space opera kind of way.

I have no idea who will want to publish this little thing, but that is a question for another day. Now, send it out to beta readers and forget about it for a bit, switch back over to all Wild Cards, all the time — I have a 9/15 deadline on that story, and I have quite a ways to go on it. I couldn’t seem to focus while this was in my head, though. There are apparently limits to how many worlds I can carry in my head at any one time.

Coffee, a few e-mails, read workshop stories for our in-person meeting tonight, and then Wild Cards Wild Cards, Wild Cards.