Recording Episodes

Benjamin and I have now recorded several episodes of our podcast, and I think it’s going to be entertaining? Maybe?  I grabbed a couple screenshots while recording last time, and now I have to make Ben pick one of his that we can use. Hopefully he likes one.

And I have to do the same, of course…but I think mine is likely the first one of these three, since it’s the only one where I’m actually looking at the camera. Although that’s not necessarily so important? Hm.

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Chicken with Veggies and Rotini

I don’t really have a recipe for this, more of a process? This is a pretty standard thing I make for the family almost every week, and as people are getting a little bored with their pandemic cooking, thought this might be useful.

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Chicken with Veggies and Rotini, maybe in a Cream Sauce, if you feel like it, and you could also add a little Sausage or Shrimp (yeah, I don’t know what to title this one!)

1. Set some water boiling for pasta. Dice 1-2 onions, maybe some garlic if you’re feeling ambitious.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a big sauté pan, sauté onions / garlic for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. If you have the heat on medium-low, you can do the next step while this is going.

3. Cut up some chicken thighs (much more flavorful and moist than breast). Turn the heat back up to high, stirring so the onions don’t burn, and add the chicken (and about a teaspoon of salt, plus some black pepper). Brown it a little bit, stirring, then turn heat back down to medium, and cook a few minutes longer, until chicken is cooked through. (If you want, you can also add some cut up Italian sausage at this point. Mmm….)

While that’s going, stirring occasionally, you can cut up veggies. I used bell pepper and pea pods for this, but you could do broccoli, carrots, whatever veggies you want, really. Frozen peas or mixed veg would also work fine.

4. Somewhere around here, the pasta water has probably come to a boil. Dump in a box of pasta and a bit of salt. Set a timer — for rotini, I think this was 7 minutes.)

5. If you want more of a sauce, at this point, you can sort of scooch chicken and onions over in the pan, making enough room that you can add a T of flour to the oil (add a little more oil if needed) and brown the flour for a minute. Then mix that all together, and add a little milk or cream, stirring to make a sauce. A little butter at this point wouldn’t hurt anything either. If you’re feeling super-fancy, simmer in a little white wine or sherry.

You can also skip this step; the result will be a little more dry, that’s all. If it’s too dry, add a little olive oil, at least.

6. Add the veggies, and at this point, you really don’t want it to cook for much longer, so the veggies don’t get mushy. My kids hate mushy veggies, and would generally prefer to just eat them raw, but I’m trying to get them to like cooked veg. too, so this dish is helping with that.

7. By now, the pasta timer is probably going off. Drain in, and then dump the pasta in with the chicken and veggies. Stir it around, and you’re basically done.

8. If you’re feeling ambitious, try grating some fresh Parmesan in at this point. Don’t try to use the cheese from the shaker — it has additives that make it not blend well into a sauce.

9. And if you’re like me, the only person in your family who likes shrimp, maybe you have some grilled shrimp in the fridge. Portion out some of the dish for your family, and then add the shrimp to what’s left, for you to enjoy. 

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Three Fights

My husband and I have had three fights during shelter-in-place, which is more fights than we’ve had in the decade before. The first time, I went to join a friend to look at her garden. The second time, I went to join her at a garden store.

Kevin didn’t understand why I would take an unnecessary risk. He’d be content holing up in our home with me and the children for months on end. Maybe years. He said, “Don’t you understand that the doctors are begging us to stay home?” I wanted to slap him.

My sisters are doctors, my father is a doctor, my friend with the garden, let’s call her R, is a doctor. All of them under impossible stress, and I cannot help them. When R asked me to come with her to look at flowers, there was absolutely no way I was going to say no to her. It was the very least I could do, and if he didn’t understand that —

In a long marriage, you learn when not to finish a sentence.

I should have been a doctor, but instead I became a writer. In late winter, I went to Seattle and California for writing conferences. On darkened airplanes I read accounts from Italian doctors, begging for help. ‘We don’t have enough ventilators. Our patients can’t breathe, and we can’t help them. We have to ship the bodies to other cities because our morgues are full.’ At the conference, we awkwardly avoided hugging.

I returned home with a cough; I stayed home that week, teaching remotely, a week before we were told to. I’d been trapped in a disease incubator of an airplane; how could I risk my students?

I drowned in coronavirus news, growing frantic, learning why we should all wear masks, learning how to sew them, writing up instructions, recording videos showing how to thread a sewing machine, trying to form a mutual aid society, battening down every hatch I could think of against the approaching storm, knowing it wasn’t enough, not nearly enough, cursing myself for not being a doctor, not running for higher office, not being in a position to make a real difference in a time of disaster.

The U.S. is approaching 100,000 coronavirus deaths this week. We are preparing to re-open Illinois, not knowing if now is the right time, knowing this will inevitably lead to more deaths. Our university wants us to teach in-person classes in the fall, putting our students and ourselves at risk. Researchers tell us a year of human life is worth $129,000.

Our daughter turned 13 this week. I tell you, the value of her single life is infinite.

The third fight had nothing to do with my doctor friend. I didn’t need to go out at all, but I desperately wanted to, so I went. Maybe I bought flour, or sugar – whatever it was, it was an excuse to leave the house. Two months is a long time; sometimes I go out because otherwise I feel like I can’t breathe.

I can’t pretend that feeling is the same as actually not breathing. I’m staying in as much as I can stand; I think of the healthcare workers, and that helps me stay in a little longer.

Right now, I’m holding my breath.

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– Mary Anne Mohanraj, “Three Fights”

Thanks to Nicole Walker and Matthew Batt for inviting me to contribute a piece to their compendium, “How We Are” — writers and artists reflecting on this moment of pandemic. It was good to pause for a moment and try to articulate a little of this.

Link to the project in comments; so many meditative and fascinating responses to browse through!

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Isn’t this a Beauty

Isn’t this a beauty! Someone was giving away some gooseberry clippings, which sadly didn’t take in my garden, but while I was there, she also offered me this Itoh peony! (They were re-doing the whole backyard, making it more of a dog romping area.)

Very happy to have it ensconced in my back garden; I can see it blooming now from the writing shed.

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A Little Symphony of Blues and Purples

I love the effect of these irises together — all different, but complementary. A little symphony of blues and purples. 

My only complaint is that I can’t figure out a way to cut some for the house with a reasonably long stem, since they’re sort of stacked on top of each other. I don’t want to denude the garden. I think I may just have to wait a few years until they’ve grown enough to have several stalks each, and then I can just cut a long stalk of each without leaving the iris garden looking bare.

In a few years, they’ll also be grown enough to need dividing (if you don’t divide them when the crowns start pushing out of the soil, they’ll start blooming less), so if you’re longing for irises and they aren’t in your budget, keep an eye out in July-ish for people dividing their irises who might have some to spare.

The speckled one is Iris Germanica “Batik” — I’m not sure of the other three — possibly including: “Best Bet,” “Sky Spirit,” “Blue Suede Shoes, “Cloud Ballet.”

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Encore on Zoom

Hey, when cataloging my games, it occurred to me that Encore might actually work on Zoom. Most singing stuff doesn’t, because of lag, but with Encore, you’re taking turns.

Anyone who’s played the game, what do you think? Might be a fun thing to try, and I think you only need one person who owns the game, really, who can read off the cards and move the markers, sharing screen as needed?

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