My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Thursday, February 25, 2010

First Dahl I Ever Played With ;-)

"There are a million dahl recipes in the naked city..."

And I've tried a few of them and found them all delicious! But this one is pretty much my own concoction, and here is its story (you just knew it had to have a story, didn't you?) ;-)

When I was a senior in college, I lived in UNH's International dorm, which had its own kitchen. Every Wednesday night during the spring semester, each room took turns cooking dinner for the dorm, and the international students usually made typical fare from their homeland. My friend Safdar was from Karachi, Pakistan, and the night it was his turn he made dahl. I'd never heard of dahl before, but I fell in love with it immediately and ate three bowls of it that night! The recipe was his mom's, which I got a copy of but lost track of - along with Safdar, sadly - at some point in the ensuing years, but I never forgot him or his dahl.

So several years ago I decided to try to recreate Safdar's dahl from memory. My first batch turned out well, and surprisingly close to how I remembered Safdar's, but the recipe has changed a bit over the years as I've added more spices and combined it with ingredients I've found in other dahl recipes I've come across.

Lovely lentils aglow in the setting sun

The basic dahl recipe is, of course, still lentils (I prefer the red ones, which cook more quickly while holding their shape pretty well, and are prettier ~ says me!), onion, garlic, and the typical spices like turmeric, cumin and coriander. Feel free to add, increase, reduce or delete spices and veggies to your own taste (as long as you keep the lentils and curry!), and have fun playing with this recipe to make it your own. (And if you ever meet a really fun and friendly guy named Safdar from Karachi who went to UNH, please tell him to email me!) :-)

The little elephant is from my friend Ajith in Kerala, India,
who got it for me at a Hindu shrine.
He's always doing sweet things like that!


- 4 - 5 cups water or vegetable broth**
- 1 3/4 cups red lentils
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
- 3 tsp curry
- 1/2 - 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 - 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 - 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2-3 medium potatoes, cubed (we use Yukon Golds)
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (or about 5 medium tomatoes, chopped)
- 1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)

In a large non-stick soup pot, sauté onion and garlic in some water (enough to prevent sticking) till soft.

Add water or broth**

Rinse lentils, picking out any stones, and add to pot, along with the curry, turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt and cayenne (if desired)

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered over medium heat about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the potatoes, celery, and carrots, cover and simmer over low-medium heat an additional 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the can of tomatoes and simmer 5-10 minutes more, uncovered, until heated through and the thickness you desire.

Great by itself, with vegan naan (or any whole grain) bread, or over brown rice.

** If we plan to eat the dahl by itself and want it thick and more stew-like, I use 4 cups of liquid - usually half organic vegetable broth and half water. If we plan to serve it over rice we like it a bit thinner, like a thick soup, so I use 5 cups of liquid (3 cups water and 2 cups broth).

Adjust the spice measurements according to your taste and to how much liquid you're using, using larger measurements if you're using 5 cups of liquid.

We live at high altitude so it takes longer for the potatoes to cook here. Adjust cooking times as needed for your own conditions and preferences (depending on what variety of potato you're using, you may want to add the potatoes with the lentils at the beginning, and the carrots and celery later. If you like your dahl more on the mushy side, you can add all of the above at the beginning... if you prefer your carrots and celery more au dente, add them later. This is a forgiving recipe, play with it till it suits your tastes!)

Other veggies and spices I've seen in other dahl recipes and sometimes add to this one include grated or ground ginger, thyme leaves, garam masala, zucchini, kohlrabi, spinach, and kale.

I have another dahl recipe (Compassionate Cooks' Masoor Dal) that calls for cumin seed, which is sautéed along with the onion and garlic. (I keep meaning to do that with this recipe and forgetting!)


This has nothing to do with dahl, but does have to do with Safdar, who will forever be inextricably linked with dahl in my heart and mind. :-) My friend AdventureJo (co-star of my Boulder posts), lived in the dorm nearest mine. During spring break of our senior year, she and Safdar and another International dorm resident, Katya from Guatemala and I all drove to Washington DC, where we stayed with another of my fellow dorm residents who was there for an internship. We visited several of the Smithsonian museums (I think this one's my favorite), the Washington Monument, the Lincoln, Jefferson and Viet Nam memorials, Arlington National Cemetery (including JFK's gravesite and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns), the Library of Congress (my favorite place in DC!), the Kennedy Center (another favorite spot, we even went back that evening for a Lillian Gish silent film festival!), the National Gallery of Art and Arboretum, Ford's Theater, did the Congressional tour of the White House (which "back in the day" involved more than the public tours, but maybe that's changed), sat in on a session of Congress, and Safdar and Katya both got to visit their embassies. It was a great experience to share with with them, and to get to see the nation's capital through their eyes. We also went shopping, dining and pubbing in Georgetown and attended the DC St. Patrick's Day Parade. While Safdar and Katya each visited friends in the area, Jo and I drove by my old house in Springfield, VA on our way to North Carolina to visit her fun friend Larell for a couple of days. Oh, and we even squeezed in a trip to a DC courtroom to fight an unjust parking ticket! (Which was reduced but not thrown out. Bandits!)

And we did the whole trip - gas, tolls, food... every single thing including even postcards and stamps - plus that stupid parking ticket - for less than $80 each! But the fun and the memories - priceless. :-)

Safdar and AdventureJo frolicking at the White House
March 1984, PD ("Pre-Digital") ;-)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mehitable (& other) thoughts

In an attempt to redeem the somewhat disjointed and rambling stream-of-consciousness nature of this post and its relative paucity of pictures, I've included some audience participation features. I look forward to your fascinating and amusing responses in the comments section! ;-)

I've noticed when viewing my SiteMeter stats that quite a few people find my blog by searching the name "Mehitable." And each time I see that, and every now and then when I'm working on my blog, I think about Mehitable Day, the woman for whom it's named. I can't remember exactly when she died, but I do remember she was elderly (in her 80s) and vaguely recall that she died in the 1870s or '80s. I wonder what she would make of having a blog named after her? I wonder what she would think about blogs in general, the internet, cell phones, liposuction, airplanes, Wal-Mart, television, gummy bears, space travel and all the rest of it? I think she'd be unimpressed with quite a lot of it, frankly, but just imagine the sensory overload of being plucked from the 1800s and plopped down in 2010. I'm not sure I could take it. Heck, I'm from this era, and the toothpaste aisle at WalMart alone overwhelms me! (Though we don't buy our toothpaste from WalMart, I still have to visit that aisle for dental floss and these nifty gizmos, and the number and variety of toothpastes and brushes alone make my head spin. I wonder what our friend Mehitable would think of modern dental hygiene products?)

If I had access to a time machine - I've always been intrigued with stories that deal with time travel - and had the choice of traveling forward or back in time, it would be no contest. I'd travel back. Not sure exactly to where and when, though Florence during the Renaissance would be high on the list. I'd insist on taking my digital camera and above-mentioned modern dental hygiene products, and wearing my own clothes, though. Nobody's getting this kid into a corset or bustle!) ;-)

If you could time-travel, would you go forward or backward in time? And to any particular place or time? What would you insist on taking with you? Checked or carry on? That will be an additional $30, please.

My grandmother, who was born in 1909 and died in 2004, always marveled at all the changes she'd seen in her lifetime. She used to say she was still trying to get her mind around how television and telephones worked, so please don't burden her with the enigma of email! :-) She certainly wasn't impressed with all of the changes or technological advances that she'd witnessed, and often lamented over the loss of slower, simpler times. But she was dazzled and inspired by a lot of it, and mostly she was astonished at the sheer scope of it all in just her lifetime.

My grandmother's name was Ruth (and she was quite a woman who had a pretty amazing life, so someday I'll blog about her). You rarely find girls named Ruth anymore, and you sure don't find girls named Mehitable. Though you never know... will there be a bunch of blizzard babies born next November named Mehitable, thus explaining the multiple internet searches for that name that lead some people here? I hope not! I may have named my blog for her, but I find her name an unattractive mouthful. I wonder if she was called anything for short? Mehit? Hitty? Poor woman.

Another Maine Mehitable...
While not our Mehitable, that was also this lady's name.
And I ask you, does she look happy about it? I think not.

It's funny how (at least with Anglo-type names) some names are timeless, like Michael or Robert and Ann or Elizabeth, and then there are names mainly associated with generations long past, like Mehitable or Prudence or Jebediah. Female names especially seem to change with the times, falling out of favor every couple of generations. You don't picture girls named Mildred in the daycare center or on the high school volleyball team, any more than you imagine elderly women named Ashley in the nursing home. But someday there will be. Someday the nursing homes and assisted living centers (or whatever we might have come up with by then) will be filled with Amys, Nicoles, Heathers and Britneys. Many with tattoos and interesting body piercings. Which is too strange to think about, but that never stopped me. :-) And I wonder what the names on the high school volleyball team and daycare roster will be then? Maybe Ruth and Mehitable will have cycled back through, or we'll have a whole crop of newly minted names.

Someone named Britney...

and someone probably not...

And speaking of names, I like mine well enough - just not for me! I never felt it fit me and often failed to answer to it ~ not on purpose (usually), I just didn't think my name being hollered applied to me! :-) My father chose it because he liked the sound of it, which is another weird thing I contemplate sometimes... why are certain sounds or combinations of sounds appealing to us, while others aren't? That makes no real sense, yet we like the sounds of some names and not others, even when they have no associations with someone we did or didn't like. I wonder why? Anyway, I don't like my middle name either, which my father was also allowed to choose, so going by it instead is no option. What was my mother thinking, letting my father choose both my names? (When they were first married, my parents had two little turtles that my father named Smedley and Sedrick. What, she couldn't see the handwriting on the wall? Still she lets this man name her innocent newborn babe?) Mom wanted to name me Heidi or Toni. Let's face it, I love the name (and alpine meadows and goats) but I'm no Heidi. But Toni, that would have worked nicely, and since my great-grandfather was named Antonio, it would have had a familial ring. Oh well, it could have been worse. (A random stroll through any old New England graveyard will likely yield an "Experience," "Temperance" or "Consider." Years ago, in a small plot in the woods near my grandparents' Waterboro, Maine farm, I found the very old tombstone of an unfortunate child named "Relief," which describes my feelings on not being named that, at least!)

What's the oddest name you've ever come across in person, in your family tree, or on a random tombstone? Did it make you also feel relief that it isn't your name?

Maybe my real name doesn't matter since almost no one has ever called me by it unless they were mad at me. Not even my father ever called me by the name he'd given me. He called me things like "Kidlet," "Leorameloush" and "Gluehead." (I'm not kidding.) My mom, always a bit highstrung and distracted, usually called me by the dog's name (there are, perhaps, worse things to be called than "Princess!") In junior high I was Lela, in high school I was Tex, in college I was Leroy to some, to others Francesca (bestowed by a friend who, when I told him my dream of being a film director, thought my real name far too dull for that career choice so annointed me "Francesca Giovanni," only to ruin it by always calling me Frannie!) In the Air Force I was called Sky because my last name was King. And now most people call me Lalu or La or, of course, Laloofah (except for one among you - and you know who you are - who calls me Tater Wad, but that's another story). ;-) If I could have chosen my own name, it would have been Alexandra, which I would use when feeling elegant, or Alex or Andi when feeling casual. (I like flexible names like that - Katherine and Elizabeth are the flexible name champions, I think!) I know we can legally, at no small expense or hassle, have our names changed, but why can't we change our names more easily? There are some cultures who figure you're not the same person as a teen that you were as a tot, and not the same when you're an elder as you were as a young adult, so you get to change your name when you and your life stages change. I like that system, why don't we do that?

Do you like your name? Do you go by something else? If you could choose a different name, what would it be? Will you eventually be one of those nursing home residents with body piercings and tattoos? Will the nursing aides gather around you at sponge-bath time to point and laugh? (If you're considering getting a tattoo or body piercing, you may want to consider this possible future scenario). ;-)

Anyway, despite my dissing of her name, I'd like to think Mehitable would get a kick out of having a blog named after her. It makes me wonder what she was like, if she'd be a blogger if she were alive today, and if so, if she would name her blog "Mehitable Days," and what I would change mine to so she wouldn't sue me. :-)

Here are two more bits of related name trivia for you: I recently discovered another Mehitable Day, this one from Massachusetts (I'm not the only person who googles "Mehitable!") :-) Seems this name was all the rage in late 18th and 19th century New England! And the surname Day is still very common in the area of Maine where I lived. In fact, there was a woman who lived a mile or so down our road named Louise Day. She lived right across the street from Archie Knight. No joke! :-)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hearts and Tigers

Happy Valentine's Day!

May your day be filled with love and magic!


Happy Chinese Lunar New Year!

Welcome to the
Year of the Metal Tiger!

Speaking of lunar, this holiday greeting is brought to you from the dark side of the Moon, where I'm still orbiting without radio contact with Earth. Well, actually I'm just offline for another few days, but it feels like I'm on the dark side of the Moon!) ;-) Enjoy your holiday and have a great week!

(P.S. Well, THAT worked well! NOT. :-( Today is Feb 17th, and this is the post I scheduled to publish automatically on Valentine's Day, but it did no such thing! Guess my blog needs constant adult supervision! ;-) I'm still not back online officially... I'm on a computer at the library while I'm running my weekly errands. Hope to be back before the weekend, though! Meanwhile, I thought I'd go ahead and post this, even if it IS three days late! I hope everyone's doing well and enjoyed a lovely Valentine's Day! See you soon!)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pulling the Plug

Alas, as of this morning, we're going dark...

...and my blog will be a mere shell of its usual self. ;-)

The mud dauber lads are finally about to begin the messy job of repairing, re-taping, re-mudding and re-texturing the sheet rock ceilings in our downstairs den and hallway, so we've moved everything but the computer out of the den. Since our internet connection is through a satellite dish whose cable runs from the dish to the den, once we unhook it and move the computer upstairs I'm internet-less for at least a week.

When the mud daubers finally clear out we'll have to prime and paint the new ceilings and stain and install new ceiling trim, but we hope to be able to hook the computer back up and work around it. For now however, it's time for me to pull the plug!

(argh, this is hard to do!)

Since I was disappointed to see that Valentine's Day and the Chinese New Year will fall during my black-out, I've set up a wee post to publish automatically on Sunday. It's the first time I've ever done that, and it feels like an odd combination of ghost-writing and time traveling! :-)

Enjoy a great week, and...

as soon as I can!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

And after the fog, the flocking

I know winter has worn out its welcome (if it ever was welcome, lol) for most people, especially those living in places that have really been pummeled by it lately! I'll feel that way too eventually, but I'm not weary of it just yet. Since we get snow as soon as early September and as late as mid-June, I figure it behooves me to be on friendly terms with our frosty, long-term visitor! :-) I thought my walk with the dogs yesterday was especially beautiful ~ the weekend of freezing fog and snow had flocked everything, and the deep blue sky and bright sunlight made it all so dazzling! And so here are a few more wintery photos from my walk yesterday, along with some more favorite quotes from my endless stash...

A Quaking Aspen, one of my favorite trees,
a real beauty at any time of year!

I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow
to keep an appointment with a beech-tree,
or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Same aspen, different angle...

Trees are the earth's endless effort
to speak to the listening heaven.
~ Rabindranath Tagore, "Fireflies," 1928

A friendly little grove of aspen, chokecherries and box elders,
nestled against a dark backdrop of pine and fir trees...

If you would know strength and patience,
welcome the company of trees.
~Hal Borland

The countryside is lovely now,
Each branch and twig is feathered white.
Each bush and shrub wears blooms of light...
~author unknown

Even the icicles were flocked!

Whether the eave-drops fall
heard only in the trances of the blast,
or if the secret ministry of frost
shall hang them up in silent icicles...
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Frost at Midnight"

Monday, February 8, 2010

Foggy doggies, frosty dawn

The fog that was below us on Friday climbed the mountain and enveloped us all weekend! (Cozy!) Here are some photos I took of our foggy walk with the dogs yesterday morning (I wouldn't have bothered to take my camera if Alicia hadn't requested I take photos... thanks again for the friendly prodding, Alicia!) :-)

BW and Willow enjoying their stroll through the clouds...

Willow and Josie entertain BW with their foggy-doggy frolicks...

Josie, Tess and Willow race to catch up with Daddy
(poor Mommy's just yesterday's mashed potatoes back here! lol)

Almost home...
Come to Daddy, girls! Daddy's cold and wants pancakes! :-)

Ah, no wonder they kept ditching Mommy and running to Daddy!
Daddy, it turns out, had treats in his pocket! ;-)

Today's indigo morning dawned clear but frigid (-10º).
Some mornings just look cold and frosty!
(See the beautiful waning crescent moon to the right?)

It may be frozen winter, but we still get rainbows! :-)

When I went outside this morning to photograph the sunrise view,
there were JJ & Punky, peeking around the corner (with SciFi eyes!)
(cookie monsters!)

Friday, February 5, 2010

On little cat feet...

Our house perches at 5500' elevation above a valley 1,800 feet below. Sometimes we're in the clouds while the valley is in sunshine, but more often it's the other way around, like it was during this morning's sunrise. On days when the valley is filled with fog and we're in the sun, it seems as though we could just step off our deck and bound across the cloud tops! (Warning: don't try this at home!) ;-)

I love to watch the fog, which seems so much like a living thing, as it ebbs and flows, sending out wispy tendrils, playing hide and seek with the trees, the neighbors' houses, and other familiar landmarks. Sometimes it retreats and melts away in the sun, sometimes it blooms and swells and creeps up the mountainside till it engulfs us too. But we can never know which it will do... fog wears such a soft cloak of mystery!

Derive happiness in oneself from a good day's work,
from illuminating the fog that surrounds us.
~Henri Matisse

The fog comes on little cat feet.
It sits looking over the harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
~Carl Sandburg

The fog is an illusion—
A master of disguise,
Which hides the tangible
Before our very eyes.
~from The Fog by Walterrean Salley

The skies out here are a favorite photo subject of mine, and you can see a few more of my sky photos at the archived posts Clouds, Cloud Gazers, Unite!, and How the Sun Rose.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Random fun stuff!

It's another gloomy day here, and still cold in my house, so I say...

It's time to have a little fun!

First, Happy Groundhog Day!
Or if you prefer Old School, happy Candlemas!
Really Old School? Blessed Imbolc!

Imbolc, celebrated on Feb 1 or 2, honors the Celtic goddess Brigid and the strengthening of the sun and first tentative hints of Spring's rebirth. (Well, in some places, anyway! I intend to get a dose of spring ~ and warmth ~ by visiting my favorite greenhouse today, which just re-opened after being closed for three months!) This pagan festival of rebirth, fertility and light was subsumed by the Catholic church as the Christian holiday of Candlemas, and you can see a hint of what much later became Groundhog Day in this ancient couplet...

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
there'll be two winters in the year.

One Imbolc tradition I'll be honoring today is burning candles. But then, I enjoy burning candles all the time (at least in winter). Our dogs enjoy candles too, though their taste in fragrances is somewhat different than ours....

Something else I find entertaining and cheery are these clever, magical faerie doors from Urban Fairies!

Having all this fun is working up an appetite. How about we grab a bite to eat at RootMaster, London's original vegan bustaurant?

(yeah, I could have used a picture of a real London bus,
but this version is more playful and fun!) :-)

You can dine outside...

...but since I've never eaten on a London double-decker bus, I say let's dine inside!

A final fun thing I found recently is Nathan Sawaya's amazing Lego Art. Imagine making a living playing with legos! Does he make you wish you'd made a different career choice? ;-) (I never had legos as a kid ~ I had Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs, but the fanciest things I made with those were an airplane with working propellers and a replica of Fort Ticonderoga!)

Check out Nathan's large sculptures! My favorites are his castle book...

The cello...

And the
polar bear!

So which are your favorites?

Wishing you a fun-filled day!


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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