Sparkles In The Darkness (+ A Give-away!)

A stitched card to celebrate a wedding that filled me with grief and joy. I am learning to feel more than one thing at a time.My loves! Today it is sunny here, and I am sitting with my coffee near the window, cats snoozing all around, one kid out walking in the woods with (i.e. 6 feet apart from) a friend, one kid still sleeping. Michael is filling the bird feeders. Both of my children are under my roof, they are finally resting enough, we are well, spring is coming, and we are counting our blessings. Sitting over a simple meal with candles lit. There is no reason that this should not be a perfect experience, even right now, and I am trying to center myself so that I don't miss the beauty. I leave my phone downstairs at night and fill my insomnia only with books and the sound of purring. When the drumbeat of panic gets loud, I try to go outside or breathe deeply or wrangle a cat into my lap or text a friend or . . . something corny. I'm not sure what to call it. Sending love out into the universe might be the best way to explain.
Our friend Ava painted this for us. Can you even?What is it like where you are? Every day we say, "Was that just a week ago?" or even "Was that just yesterday?" Are you doing that too?
Somebody's child's artwork, as seen through a rainy car window in the Trader Joe's parking lot.I have a goal, and it's being a better person when this is over than I was when it started. I'm not sure this is an attainable goal, but right now I am trying to shed some of my smallnesses: money worries; grievances of all kinds; the impulse to grab not only one roll of paper towels, but also the next roll, which is the last roll on the shelf. I have committed to not buying the last one of anything, if there is already one in my cart. How's that for a small victory? (Small is the answer. But still.) 

I thought I might share some ideas here, about things to do and read and make. Please feel free to do the same in the comments.
 
For example, if ever there were a moment to learn a yarn, string, or thread craft, this might be it, am I right? I might not actually be right. But I still have to use this occasion to repromote my friend Nicole's and my book Stitch Camp, with step-by-step instructions on all the fiber crafts: how to sew, knit, crochet, felt, embroider, and weave, and lots of little projects you can make with stuff you probably already have at home. Underground Crafter excerpted a little weaving project from it, which you can access here. And Storey has some previews of a few projects here. I need to plug the book Unbored while I'm at it. So full of good rattling-around-at-home things to do.

Meanwhile, creative folks are filling the school void so beautifully. The Kennedy Center is hosting the draw-along Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems every day at 1:00 pm EST. Wendy MacNaughton @wendymac is doing a drawing class every day on Instagram at 1:00 pm EST. Full disclosure: Ben and I tried it, and it skewed a little young for us, but we still loved her soothing and lovely Mr. Rogers way of being. (Note that both remain streamable online, so don't worry about the time conflict). My friend Kate Schatz is reading from her wonderful new book Rad American History A-Z and other books in the fab RAD series at 2:00 pm EST on her Instagram channel @k8shots.
I kinda panicked on my final library run. This is the last book I grabbed. Thoughts?Not for kids, but freecodecamp.org posted a list of 450 Ivy League courses you can take online right now for free. And, if your public library is now closed (mine is, sob!) this might be a good chance to see if they have online books you can access. I have not yet myself read an online book ever in my life, but when I run out of Moby Dick, who knows? For now, Birdy has also started a neighborhood leave-it-on-the-front-step system of lending and borrowing books, games, puzzles, and art supplies. 

What are you reading? What is hitting the right spot for you? My friend Jennifer's brand-new book The Yellow Bird Sings is so achingly beautiful, and you don't have to just take it from biased me, since it's getting amazing reviews (I am the first person in the whole world who compared it to Room, though, I must unhumbly submit). Plus, not only that, but she's doing a give-away! Comment here for a chance to win! I'll pick a winner before Monday and then she will PUT ON GLOVES AND TAKE YOUR BOOK TO THE POST OFFICE. (She wanted me to tell you that!) I'm also in the middle of Lily King's new book, Writers & Lovers, and omg. I have waited tables AND been a writer AND dated imperfect men, so this book is banging into me in lots of places. Allow me also to recommend this crushingly perfect photo series and this brief and surreal little video by our beloved mustachioed Maira Kalman.
What else are you doing? We are playing lots of board games and music, going for lots of walks, putting some seeds in the ground, and doing the daily Spelling Bee on the NYT website (I recommend sucking it up and paying for their crossword subscription, honestly). We're trying to limit our news intake to one or two daily doses, texting a lot with our family and friends, telling our parents and kids we love them, smiling from across the street, checking in with our neighbors and friends who live alone, and eating regular, nourishing meals. In fact, the main reason I came here was to post a wonderful dal recipe, but then I kinda got carried away. Let me post it now. If you are at all interested in making the lovely fermented bean-and-rice pancakes, aka dosas, to go with it, then check out the recipe here (you can actually scroll through the preview pages for the full recipe, or you can buy Dosa Kitchen, which is the wonderful book).

Stay safe, my darlings! xo
I make this dal at least weekly but never remember to photograph it. This was leftover dal and chickpeas on a dosa, with a drizzle of the coconut-cilantro chutney from my favorite Instant Pot cookbook.Masala DalThis is based on a recipe from the spruce eats website. You don't have to follow it super exactly, but if you have a store nearby that sells Asian ingredients in general, or Indian beans and spices in particular, they might need your business right about now, and you can get everything you need for this recipe. The final sizzled spice mixture is called "tadka," and if really pushes this dal into the realm of the sublime. That said, go ahead skip it if you don't have the spices. The dal will be as close to sublime, still, as possible. 
This makes tons; feed a lot of people, eat it for multiple days, or plan to freeze some of it. 
1 cup moong dal (split yellow lentils that look like yellow split peas; alternately, use all red lentils)1 cup masoor dal (regular split red lentils that are kind of coral colored)1/4 teaspoon asafetida*1 teaspoon turmeric1/2 - 1 teaspoon cayenne or another red chili powder (depending how spicy you like it--or skip)2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)4 tablespoons coconut (or vegetable) oil or ghee, divided use1 onion, finely chopped3 quarter-sized slices of ginger, smashed and finely chopped3 garlic cloves, finely chopped2 teaspoons ground coriander1 teaspoon ground cumin1 teaspoon sambar masala (or curry powder)1 cup canned tomato product (crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, or tomato puree)1 teaspoon panch puran** 2 finely slivered green chilis (optional)Cooked brown basmati rice, chopped cilantro, lemon wedges, and toasted coconut shreds for serving (all optional)
*This is a wonderfully stinky, garlicky spice ground from a kind of dried sap. If anyone in your house has a gluten sensitivity, make sure you source it carefully, since it is sometimes cut with wheat flour. Also, if you don't have this, then simply leave it out!
**This spice blend is made of mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, nigella seeds, and fenugreek seeds. If you have any of those, use them singly or in any combination to equal a teaspoon, or else skip this part. 
1. Rinse the dal(s) well and put them in an Instant Pot with the asafetida, turmeric, cayenne, and salt. Cover with water by about 2 inches and set the pot to the pressure cook on the "bean setting." (This will pressure cook them at high pressure for 30 minutes.) Alternately, pressure cook them in a pressure cooker, or put them in a pot on the stove and simmer over low heat, partially covered, until they are fully falling apart, around an hour.2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat and cook the onions until they are fully translucent and turning golden (around 10 to 15 minutes). 3. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a minute or 2 (until you can really smell them), then add the coriander, cumin, and sambar masala and cook just for a few seconds, until the scent of the spices hits you.4. Tip the tomatoes into the pan and fry the mixture for around 5 minutes--until the oil kind of lifts up out of the tomatoes and you can smell the spices frying in it again, if that makes any sense.5. Is the dal done cooking? If you've done it in a pressure cooker, then let the pressure release naturally, or go ahead and release it after 15 or 20 minutes. Stir the dal, stir in the tomato mixture, and taste it for salt. Does it need anything else? Does it need to simmer a few minutes with the lid off to thicken? Or does it need a splash of water to loosen up a little? Let it mingle, either way, for around 10 minutes.6. The dal can stay on the warm setting for hours now, or you can eat it now. When you're ready, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a tiny pan over medium heat and fry the panch puran and (optional) chilis until the they're very fragrant and they stop spitting, which will take just a minute or two. Stir the spices and oil into the dal.6. Serve with or without rice and toppings.