Last Saturday’s Tea and Textiles

Last Saturday’s Tea and Textiles. Arya (kitten) helped teach Pat the basics of crochet — we got the chain stitch down, I think, and made good progress on single crochet, although why, oh why, is the first row also the hardest one to do? Seems unfair to beginners.



I added some stitches to my dress pockets that otherwise had a tendency to drop phones out of them; I should’ve chosen a darker blue thread, clearly, but I was too lazy to go back downstairs and hunt for it in the chaos that is my basement at the moment. Task for this week — straighten up the basement! But it’s okay; I doubt anyone will be peering too closely at the stitching on my pocketses…

I also managed to get the stitches back on the needles after some terrible person [cough, ANAND] pulled two needles out of them at some point, probably somewhat aimlessly while watching a tv show.

I knit another row, and was feeling quite proud of myself for finally picking up this project again after many months, until I looked at it more closely and realized that I definitely have a noticeable error about six rows back. Am I willing to tink it back that far in order to fix it? GAH. I think so, because this is my first time designing something, and I want it to be done right, but I may need more tea for fortitude before attempting it. (Also have tons of computer work to do this morning, and meetings, and annoying errands in the afternoon, so it’s not going to happen soon. Maybe this evening, though.)

(‘Tink’ is the word for un-knitting; it’s knit backwards, because knitters are cute that way. What’s less cute is that it’s just as much work as the actual knitting. Sigh.)


Next Tea and Textiles will be Sat July 7 link in comments!

(I think I’m remembering the names right — Jackie and Pat? I am so very terrible with names…)


Pulling weeds

I’ve been super-crabby the last few days, trying to rein it in with Kevin and the kids, although bits have slipped out, and it’s very clearly because we’re weeks into summer and I haven’t done any substantial writing yet.

I’m trying to be patient with myself, but it’s hard. There are reasons — I had a huge pile of backlogged urgent things to deal with, for one. Financial stuff that had to be addressed (and a few big ones are STILL in progress, but we’re getting there, and I can’t wait for them to be dealt with). A garden in dire need of weeding and mulching — I’m a solid month behind on that, which was making me crazed as the weeds grew to knee-high, waist-high, shoulder-high…

The house was chaotic — clean enough on the surface, between the hired cleaner who came every two weeks to do the floors and bathrooms and kitchen, and Chris who does dishes and laundry twice a week. But every area that could accumulate STUFF had done so, and so the last few weeks have been a slow sorting process, clearing section by section. The first floor is almost done now. The second floor will take longer, and the basement, gah. I’m hoping to make the kids help with sorting the toys they’ve outgrown, but Anand gets attached to everything, so it’s slow there too.

And there were a host of other tasks — academic stuff to wrap up, lots of cookbook things, Maram event things, I’m not even sure what else, but somehow, the e-mail & FB messaging stack has not shrunk yet, despite my attacking it assiduously every day.

Add in to all that — I was just TIRED. I came off the end of the semester more exhausted than normal; there was too much packed in this last winter & spring, and I need to schedule myself a little less, take the community service work slower. I still want to do more with both Maram and the SLF, but I am trying to be patient with a longer process. It’s hard, esp. when I have volunteers ready to help, but organizing them takes a good amount of my time, just to get them up and running. I am trying to tell myself that we’ll get there.

So I gave myself a week to just rest and recover without even worrying about writing, and that was fine. And then the kids’ school ended, and I gave myself a week to try to get them settled into a no-camp summer schedule for the first time, and that was mostly fine, though I thought I’d do some writing at points when I ended up not, which started to grate on me a bit.

And now we’re well into the second week of that, and they’re back to more electronics than I’d like and less exercise, and I’m still not writing. More reading, though — at least taking them to the park / library / pool is pretty conducive to reading. I’ve finished a few early Le Guin novels, 1.5 garden magazines (I’m finally through March and part of May — with luck I’ll make it to July by actual July), a few short stories. I’ve also started actually getting into podcasts, and discovered they pair really well with weeding & other garden work, also dishes and laundry and sorting, so that’s a life improvement thing.

Still, June, my one clear month with no travel, is two-thirds over, and I had such plans for all the writing I would get done, and I have so far spent approximately 30 minutes on one story revision. GAH.

And it isn’t even all work — the only video game I allow on my phone these days, Polytopia, came out with a new ‘race’ this week, and I fell compulsively into that for several hours. Finally mastered it last night, and I just have one race left before I have three stars on all of them, but the urgency seems to have eased, thankfully. Not really urgency about the game, I think — more self-soothing, in the same way as the 2.5 seasons of Death in Paradise (British murder mysteries) that I’ve binged in the last week.

The back of my head is pushing me to write, and I want to write, but I’m anxious about writing (WHAT IF IT ISN’T ANY GOOD???), and it was okay when I had many urgent things that had to be done, but as those got cleared away, I had to turn to videogames and TV to keep myself from writing, and the back of my brain is well aware that this is basically a ploy, and so I get increasingly crabby with myself.

The only cure for this is writing. I know. I KNOW. Eventually, I will hit a tipping point, where the frustrating beats out the fear, and I fall into the work again.

I’m almost there. I can taste it.

Teaching emotional labor

Oof. Anand got out of the car after we ran a much-needed errand at Old Navy (swimsuit that fit, etc.) and said, ‘This has been a terrible day.’ I had spent quite a bit of energy and time today trying to give him a great no-camp day, and was staring down the barrel of 2-3 hours of additional work this evening before I could go to bed, so I’m afraid I snapped at him.

Then we snapped at each other a few more times — Anand is not one to back down just because a grown-up is annoyed with him — and then I told Kavi to take him upstairs and take care of him until bedtime and put him to bed, because I didn’t trust myself not to start yelling. Then I did some work for half an hour, until I was calmer, and then I went up to try to sort things out, and he was still pretty mad, but we managed to talk through it eventually, and we both ended up crying for a while, while Kavi kept patting us both consolingly, and encouraging us to hug.

It’s all fine — the only thing really wrong is that we were both a bit overtired and cranky after a little more exercise than we’re used to, and Anand happened to poke at a sore spot.

Part two was kind of interesting, though. There may have been some frustrated complaining on my part about how little they help out with work around the house. Kavi responded, with a faint hint of indignation, that they always help when asked, which is pretty true. (But if you have followed various conversations here and elsewhere about emotional labor, domestic labor, project management, etc., you may see where this is going.)

I may have said, forcefully, that they were old enough now to take on household responsibilities even when not asked — that they should be able to just handle the dishes after dinner now as a default, and also taking out the trash, and keeping their clothes put away and their rooms clean. And that they should ALSO look around and see what needs doing, and if they could do it, just do it. And that Daddy and I both worked very very hard, and had very little time for fun, and it’d be nice if we had a little more time for fun, especially in the summer, when Kavi and Anand have 14 unscheduled hours a day.

Kavi then bustled around doing chores for the next half hour, and seems resolved to do more of them, and Anand has forgiven me too, and is even going to try to grumble less at me (grumbling is sort of his natural mode) — so perhaps this was all for the best. It’ll be interesting to see if the newfound chore-doing resolution holds. We should try to reinforce it, gently.

But probably I should’ve talked to them more about all this BEFORE bursting into tears. Mommy is generally fairly patient and very rational and I think that can be a little misleading sometimes; the kids don’t generally know when I’m getting really frayed. Must try to communicate that better, at least.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I happened to watch this earlier today. The first half I basically already knew, and I think Kev and I do okay on, but the second half is mostly about the importance of chores, and why, and the why is interesting and clearly stuck in my head.

Work while supervising kids at home over summer

Hm. So far, the ‘work while supervising kids at home over summer and denying them internet’ is only somewhat effective. Yesterday I got a fair bit done, when it was just them. We didn’t make it to the library, because I wasn’t sure Anand was up to that long a walk, but we did do park and walk on Marion and getting ice cream for first day of summer, and they were off devices for about 8 hours, and both fell asleep hard and fast at 9:30, so I think I can call that a success.

Today, they have three friends over, which has necessitated some conversations at the park about appropriate treatment of younger kids, etc., and also some time prepping lunch for them.

Also, the internet at the park is not great, and we ended up spending two hours there — I should’ve just brought a book or planned to write, rather than trying to do net-based work. It’s okay — I’ll get the hang of this. It’s a learning process. Overall, my kids are having a much better time with friends over than just on their own, I think, so I’m hoping we can do this at least two days / week.

Next, have them clean up lunch, then two of the kids head home, and I take three kids to the pool for the afternoon. I think Rehm — hoping I can set up a laptop under an umbrella’d table and work for a few hours? Locals, is that feasible, or am I fooling myself? Is Ridgeland better for that?

A lesson in publishing

In the interests of documenting the setbacks as well as the successes, we had a rough time with the cookbook last week. It was honestly pretty upsetting, and mostly my own fault, I think. I had one sleepless night, and a few very awkward conversations that I had to push myself to actually have (I wish I were less conflict-averse).

What happened was that I’d hired someone to do interior layout for the books, but he’d thought I was just hiring a formatter. Once we started working, and the e-mails started going back and forth, there was a lot of my wanting him to do things that he said would be too hard or too time-consuming, beyond the scope of what he did.

I did actually say in our original e-mail exchange that I wanted someone who could do beautiful design, rather than just someone who would run the file through a conversion program like Vellum (which I’ve done myself), but apparently something got lost in translation.

The short version is that we managed to get books formatted sufficiently that we could, in a bit of a mad rush, get rather ugly ARCs out to the book reviewers that we’d set up a blog tour with for late June. It hurt my soul to send those books out, but hopefully the reviewers will focus on the writing and recipes and not the aesthetics of the book.

What does that mean for now? Well, he and I have parted ways, and I’m out $1500 — which, once I looked around more thoroughly, I realized really wasn’t near enough for professional interior design for three versions of the book. If I’d done more research, I would’ve known that his bid was much too low, and I might’ve asked more questions about what exactly he was planning to do.

I am trying to treat all of this as a lesson in publishing, and thinking that if I’d paid $1500 for a course in how-to-publish and what-not-to-do, that would’ve been not unreasonable. Still. Ouch. I’ve now contracted with someone else (my cover designer, whose work I love) to do the actual design for the print books, at fair market rates, and have just sent him the files.

So that’s going to eat up…well, probably all of the immediate Kickstarter ‘profits,’ plus maybe a bit more, which is a bit painful. But I can still afford to do a print run for the hardcover, which gives me hope of some profit down the line, if more people actually buy the book.

Probably not a print run for the paperback (just POD), but I wasn’t sure I was going to do that anyway, because at least for the Kickstarter, a lot more folks were interested in the hardcover with its lovely color photos. Which kind of surprised me, given the higher cost of the hardcover, but I guess most budget-minded folks get the ebook, and the ones who go for print are more likely to be willing to spend a bit more for a beautiful object.

Anyway, live and learn. Now I go look at Pamudu Tennakoon‘s lovely pen and ink illustrations, and let her know if I have any revision requests, and then have her upload them to Google Drive to share with my designers.

Oh, and for the ebook, Jed is going to take a stab at the design and layout, which is very kind of him; he says he’s thinking of it as good practice for his own burgeoning Constellation Press, rather than just a favor for me. I’ll take it either way, gratefully.

If it ends up too time-consuming for him, though, I’ll either do it myself — I think I have the basic skills for what I want — or hire someone else. Whew.

I’ve slipped the delivery deadline a bit, as a result of all this — I had originally hoped to have books by mid-June, but that’s clearly not happening. Aiming for July 1 now; we’ll see.

Publishing beautiful, professional books is expensive.

And not easy!

I have a host of things to do, but a purring cat has come

I have a host of things to do, some of which require getting up and going, but a purring cat has come and nestled up to my back on the couch, which is slowing me down a bit. 

Plan for today:


– put Maram June workshop flyers by front door, for team to pick up and distribute, hopefully? — DONE

– drop off check and artwork to Pam Martinez for Maram teaching

– come back and post remainder of Maram May photos, so Heather can copy them all over to the website today as blog posts; she can then starting going back through my FB posts and copying over older Maram posts (resetting the dates, so they actually appear in chronological order on the website)

– update the website so instructor, etc. info is clearer — I think we could use a form there, to make it simple for instructors, and I don’t know how to do that — I think you can embed a Google form in a WordPress site, but is it hard? Help??? (Barbara A. Dolan?)

– talk to Pam W. re: space hunt

– talk to Rhea at Community Foundation re: stock account


– call plumber re: (list of things)
– call Pam Whitehead re: (list of things)
– talk to landscape guy re: drip system (worthwhile? unclear)
– call Loyola and schedule ob-gyn
– call dentist for Anand

SIGIRIYA: — (hey look, actual writing!!! I am excite.)

– finish drafting background characters for video game
– start drafting expanded pitch for Serial Box
– look at pitch requirements for Choice of Games


– try to finalize e-book formatting

Sugared Violets

Hm. This batch of sugared violets did not work great. I picked a bunch of lawn violets — all I had, which wasn’t very many. And then I tried the dip in sugar syrup, put on wax paper, sprinkle with caster sugar method of sugaring them.

The problem is that the clump up as soon as they get wet, and then all the pretty definition is lost. Maybe you could separate it with tweezers, but I think they’d likely tear badly if you tried? I didn’t have the patience for it. So I have clumpy sugared violets — I have one idea for a recipe that they’ll probably work okay in, but it wasn’t what I intended. Bah.

The other method is more time-consuming, and involves using a paint brush to brush them with egg wash and they sprinkling sugar on them — I think that would likely work better to maintain the flower’s appearance. Next time I have violets, I guess I’ll try that — but I’m all out now, so I suppose it will have to wait ’til next year.

Redbud & Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

Fairy food! I had a redbud for a few years, but I didn’t realize the flowers were edible. Once someone told me they were, I had to try experimenting. (We’ve kept our garden pesticide-free for ten years now, which makes it much easier to eat out of it!)

To be honest, I find that the flowers, like most, have almost no flavor — if I eat them on their own, I can taste a very faint sweetness, slightly nutty. But put them in a cucumber sandwich, and you have a teatime treat to brighten any fairy’s heart!

My daughter was a little suspicious — ‘flowers aren’t for eating!’ But I convinced her to try, and she admitted that the cucumber sandwiches were quite yummy. Of course, I think she mostly likes the butter…

I really really want the semester to be done

I really really want the semester to be done and all my urgent computer things to be done so I can switch into summer mode and actually start writing fiction again and reading and gardening and napping, but the urgent computer things aren’t done yet and it’s kind of putting me in a terrible mood.

The semester really isn’t over yet (not for another week), but I WANT it to be. (I did spend 20 minutes sitting on the porch reading yesterday. That was nice.)

I managed to spend a few hours working on the Kickstarter survey with Heather yesterday, but otherwise couldn’t make myself do much of anything on the computer — I spent the rest of the day putting the first floor of the house in order (sorely needed) and running errands to Home Depot and Target. Today, although there is still plenty more to organize upstairs, I have GOT to make myself do computer work.

So, a list. It’s a stupidly long list, but is for the whole week, not just today.


– send formatter Chris the revised manuscript
– fill out ReaderCon panel form
– fill out WorldCon form, if there is one?
– do overdue Digital Measures for university
– pay Jaggery authors who need checks mailed
– pay parking ticket and any other bills
– check to make sure all the students handed in everything final that was due yesterday & send query e-mails to those who didn’t
– confirm all set for Nebulas trip to L.A. next week (get sari blouse made? see if Lisette is available to meet up?)
– prep for Maram meeting tonight
– pay Maram instructors once Amanda gets me final numbers
– check and confirm that all Maram instructors were paid for last workshop

– get a few volunteers to look at draft of Kickstarter survey and tell us if all the questions make sense
– make and print recipe cards
– decide if making promo items for Perennial / The Stars Change
– check e-mail for any Feast-related promo tasks

– send George second pitch
– send Marco expanded pitch
– revise opening to Nalvarum and send to WisCon crit group
– post remaining Sri Lanka pics (almost done)
– write second Sri Lanka history piece

– plant azalea, pear tree, cherry tree, dogwood
– plant pale blue creeping phlox and pink forget-me-not
– identify and plant remaining natives
– clean up backyard
– weed and mulch garden (Chris)

– prep for Yudhanjaya Wijeratne arriving Wed @ 2 (see if Alec Nevala-Lee, Michael Moreci will be joining us for Deep Dish — if not, maybe we can do a SF writers meet-up in Oak Park sometime in next few days?)

– prep for hosting writing workshop on Wednesday evening
– prep for hosting Deep Dish on Thursday evening
– prep for hosting OPALGA potluck on Friday evening
– prep for hosting Sri Lankan potluck on Saturday afternoon

– put away laundry
– straighten up second floor
– transfer all my car stuff from one car to the other
– take Kia in for estimate and repairs (Chris)
– get Kia cleaned

– grade final portfolios and papers (by next Tuesday)

Retake photography

Yesterday was a mad rush to finish off the retake photography on the cookbook — I think it is actually done, finally. I have all the photos I need. 4 days left on the Kickstarter, and we broke $13,000 this morning. Neat.

We left the kitchen an absolute disaster and simply walked out the door so we could hit the road earlier and not do night driving, which stresses me out these days. Old eyes get tired.

We’ve taken us and the kids off to a friend’s lake house in Indiana for no good reason, really — it’s too chilly this weekend to do much lake stuff. But Kev and I have just been working so hard, and I miss the kids, and I thought it might do us good to have a little time away, just in a different space. Also, I wanted to check this place out, and see if we might want to come back for a longer stretch this summer, maybe a week or so.

Anyway, Kev and I still have way too much work to do; we should really work straight through the weekend. But maybe we can do 8 hour days instead of 16 hours days; that would be a nice change.

I let myself sleep in this morning, until 9 a.m., when Anand pitifully came and asked if he could have some breakfast please, and Kev’s actually still in bed, which I think he really needed. The union bargaining ate up an incredible amount of time; it is not easy fighting the forces of neoliberalism. My hero.

Now I will finish assigning the photos, write up the salmon curry recipe that I’m adding, do one last compulsive check of the text, and then…send it off? Eep.

After that, I need to pay some people, and I need to write some things, but I’m also going to chill out with the kids. Make art. Knit a little. Watch TV. Play board games. Dream of mango mimosas on the beach in Sri Lanka…