Podcast Arrives

When I first started blogging, back in December of 1995, I titled it an An Ongoing, Erratic Diary. That’s a truly terrible name, but in my defense, I didn’t think anybody would read it, because there was hardly anyone who’d even heard of the internet back then. (Yes, I know lots of *you* had, but you are special.)

Also, I wasn’t thinking of what I was writing as a blog, because there were no blogs back then. The term ‘weblog’ hadn’t been coined yet, or shortened to ‘blog.’ We called them diaries or journals, and the main thing I wanted to make clear in my first entry was that I wasn’t at all sure I’d keep up with the thing. I had a life, after all.

Ha ha.

It’s mostly on FB these days, with parts copied over to Patreon, though that also has recipes and fiction excerpts and such, and the recipes also have their own blog at Serendib Kitchen, and I often forget to update my ‘main’ blog with a lot of what I post elsewhere, so it’s all a bit chaotic. And yet, there’s more.

I might be adding audio, maybe, no promises. I kind of like recording in the shed on a Sunday, it turns out, with the birds chirping in the background. No idea if I’ll turn these out on any kind of a schedule, and you might get poetry, or fiction, or interviews, or recipes, or just my random ramblings.

If you’re the podcasting sort, you can subscribe here, to “A View from Serendib”:


Big thanks to Nobilis Reed for tech help!


And here’s how it all began, 23 years ago:

“December 22, 1995.

Well. No promises on this one, but I thought I’d try a diary, since I’ve really enjoyed reading some other ones I’ve found on the net. I’m not planning to include really personal stuff, but I did think some of you might enjoy reading about what’s going on in my life currently. I warn you that it’s entirely possible that it’ll just putter out at some point — that’s what seems to happen every time I try to keep a diary.

So today I added an explanation on why I write erotica, updated the kids SF/F list, started this diary, gave my boss a little hat for her baby for Christmas, and am looking forward to the office Christmas party tonight. I’ll be going to visit my parents for a few days, so I probably won’t look at this again till Tuesday. Life is basically very good for me right now – love life is going well — just sold a novella to Puritan, so as soon as I send them the invoice I’ll be getting a nice, fat check, and it’s the holidays!”

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Just-turned-11 Kavi had her first babysitting gig this morning, or rather, first mother’s helper gig ($5 / hr for 2 hours), and appears to have passed successfully, despite being super-tired from having a sleepover the night before. (I did warn her that this was an unwise combo, but she promised me that she would get up in the morning and not cry, which she mostly managed.) She basically spent the whole time playing games with a very active 3-year-old.

We had a nice talk on the way there and back about work, and how it can be very satisfying and enjoyable (and that both Daddy and I love our work, mostly), but sometimes it’s just hard and tedious. I told her that she’d have about ten years to try different kinds of work and see what she liked doing (with people or on her own, inside or outside, physical or mental, etc.). We also talked about how a lot of people don’t have much choice in what kind of work they do, and she’s pretty lucky and privileged to have options about it. She said afterwards that she liked working with little kids, that it was fun and pretty easy, because when she got tired of running around playing, she could just sit down and supervise. Then we talked a little about how childcare isn’t paid very well in this country, because our society doesn’t value it as much as some other places do…

Afterwards, to celebrate her first real job, I offered to take Kavi out for lunch, either takeout or a restaurant. She picked restaurant, and sushi, which speaks well for her evolving taste if not for our budget. Last year, it would’ve been Wendy’s for sure. But thankfully you get a lot of food for a $13 bento box at Sen, so it wasn’t too bad, and my poke bowl was $10, delicious, and made me think of Hawaii, so a bargain, clearly. Kavi wouldn’t try it, but declared it very instagrammable, and predicted that it would get 10,000 likes.

I wish I’d gotten a photo of her trying the tofu in the miso soup because she hated it SO much, and her expression was pretty priceless. She says it is tied with squash for her most hated food. Ah well! She enjoyed the edamame (always a big hit, as my girl loves salt), onion tempura (which surprised me, but she claims she’s ALWAYS loved onion rings), California rolls, and teriyaki steak. She hasn’t liked teriyaki before, so that’s exciting for me, as it opens up our family dinner menu options a bit.

Oh, one last funny bit — we calculated how much she’d earn if she worked 3 hrs / week for a year, and it’s about $720, and when I told her that, her eyes completely bugged out. “That is a LOT of money!”

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Grilled Veggies with Couscous

Not really a recipe; I’m just getting used to using our grill to profitably and deliciously use up our farmshare veggies, plus a peach. 🙂
Lots of sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced diagonally
7 zucchini, cubed
1 lb asparagus, trimmed
1 peach, halves or quarters
2 onions, sliced
1/2 cup dried sultanas
1/2 c. cashews
1 box couscous
water, salt, pepper, olive oil
1/2 t. turmeric
1. Prep veggies and peach, tossing each variety separately in olive oil, salt, and pepper. You could do them all together, but they’ll have different cooking times, so that way lies disaster, I think.
2. Heat grill to around 300-ish. Our grill is old and flaky and seems to only go that high at the moment, so I’m not sure what would happen if you cooked at higher heat, sorry! Spread out sweet potatoes in a single layer and grill 8-10 minutes, flip, cook another 8 minutes or so, until cooked through. Remove from heat.
3. Stir turmeric in with zucchini (along with salt, pepper, olive oil), then spread zucchini cubes in a vegetable grill pan and place on heat. On other part of grill, spread out asparagus. Grill until cooked through — maybe 5-10 minutes for asparagus, a little longer for the zucchini. Keep an eye on the asparagus, as they burn easily, esp. if they’re very thin.
4. Start couscous going, following directions on box. I boiled two cups water, added a little salt and butter, dumped the box’s worth of couscous in. Add sultanas and cashews, stir, and cover for 5 minutes. The sultanas and cashews will soften nicely while the couscous cooks. It will be even tastier if you do this in chicken broth, but I was aiming for a vegan dish this time, so stuck to water. Vegetable broth is also good if you have it on hand.
5. If the zucchini is done, remove it from the grill pan and toss the onions in there. Place the peach halves (or quarters) on the grill and cook for a few minutes, then turn, so it’s grilled all around. When onions are done, stir them into couscous.
6. When everything’s done, taste each component and toss with more salt / pepper if desired, then layer in dish to your pleasure. I did the sweet potato slices around the outside, then piled the couscous in, then topped with a circle of peaches and asparagus in the center.
If doing again, I might add a yogurt sauce on the side, though I don’t think it strictly speaking needs it.
Note: You could absolutely add grilled fish or chicken or lamb to this, of course.
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Shed & space

I came home from the event last night and spent an hour or so in the shed, writing a poem, reading a story. (Charlie Jane Anders, “As Good As New,” loved it…) These photos are a bit dark, sorry, but you can get some context for the shed at night, with our seating area by the garage. It’s hard to get a sense of scale, but I was really worried that the shed would dominate the backyard, and thankfully, I think we’ve managed to avoid that. It’ll recede even more when the flower bed is fully developed, I think. Give me a few years.

The monk’s cell concept has been ameliorated a bit by the desire for comfort while working. I was never going to be a monk anyway. You knew that. Love the wingback chair and ottoman (IKEA, surprisingly affordable), and the rug (Overstock, ditto).

I have a particular fondness for that end table, which I bought in Sri Lanka in 2005, on the trip I took with money from the sale of Bodies in Motion. The lattice base folds up, and I brought the whole thing back in my big suitcase; it’s wandered around my homes since then, but was languishing a bit in the basement recently. It’s much happier out here, I think.

There’s still a surprising amount of unclaimed space. I don’t think I’ll be using a desk here, though I could possibly fit a little one up against the back wall, with a narrow (or kneeling) chair. We’ll see if I feel the need.

The immediate plan is to bring a Levenger lap desk out here to use with the arms of the comfy chair, and then see what, if anything, I want in the extra space. Maybe a low bookshelf. Maybe a table for stacking drafts covered in critique scribbles. Maybe nothing.

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Shed: Exterior Paint

Shed: completed exterior paint job. We went with essentially the same colors as the house and garage, to give a unified effect, but taken a shade darker, because I was thinking of doing that the next time we paint the house, and I thought the shed could serve as a tester. I definitely think we’ll use this blue (Benjamin Moore’s Old Navy) for the body of the house, next time we paint. The purple trim is Deep Mulberry.

The most waffly decision was what to paint of the doors and windows. Normally, I would do the same thing on all of them, but the windows had beautiful wood that I didn’t want to paint over. The doors were white painted wood, and I could have stripped them for a unified look, which I think I would have liked a lot — but I couldn’t justify the additional cost. So I painted them in another of the house trim colors (Violet Stone), and I think I’m fine with the slight wonkiness of the mix-and-match. It’s a whimsical creation to begin with, after all, a garden folly.

I’ve trenched out what will be a bed of flowers eventually, though it’s going to take a while, given budget-all-spent-and-then-some. Next step, turning over that grass and covering it with mulch, and then I think I’m mostly going to slowly divide perennials from the front and bring them to the back. Check back in 3-4 years for a fully developed flower bed there. Imagine it with irises and peonies in the sunny bits, and woodland flowers in the shade.

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Shed Interior Paint

The shed was originally going to be 4’x8′, but when the contractors came out and started building, the guys asked if they could make it a little bigger, because they thought I’d feel too crowded in there. I said yes, so I don’t know what the final dimensions ended up as! But I think not much bigger, probably around 4.5’x8.5′. Given that, I didn’t want to drywall it, since that would make it feel smaller. I also liked the idea of it being a little rustic, unfinished, functional.


I asked our contractor if she could just paint the interior white, that I was aiming for something like a monk’s cell — a minimal space from which to contemplate the world. (I have loved Loreena McKennitt’s “Skellig” for a long time.) I think she delivered nicely. Paint color: Benjamin Moore’s Linen White.

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The Shed

The Shed

The shed is finished enough
to work in but has not yet
entirely revealed its purposes.

The shed is instead of entering the house
late at night, after an event,
is leaving the sleeping children in the care
of their sleeping father a little longer.

The shed is surrounded by apartment buildings,
is shielded somewhat by the grace of trees,
is both hidden and exposed.

The shed is an excellent place for reading
late at night, with wind rustling
through the leaves, music
turned low on a phone, not disturbing
neighbors passing in the alley.

The shed is for open doors and windows
and as much cross-breeze as possible
and probably also a fan, because let’s
be practical here. Eventually, we’ll
have to think about heat in winter.

The shed is not for playing solitary
video games. One was played
on the phone, and the shed was
resentful. It wants to fulfill
its purpose.

The shed doesn’t know if it
will be better for writing novels than
the front porch, or office, or
living room, or basement. The shed
doesn’t know why I wander
from one to the other, restlessly,
endlessly. No one does.

The shed is a still point
in a turning, talking, asking,
needing, hurting world.

The shed is an impossible luxury,
but far cheaper than abandoning
my family and running away
to the ocean, or the woods.

The shed probably wouldn’t be here
if it weren’t for cancer, both ways.
Cancer flays you down
to the exhausted bone; cancer
whispers, don’t wait any longer.

The shed exists because the men
in my life didn’t understand
why I wanted so badly to build a shed
but helped build it anyway.

The shed does not want to be called
a she-shed, because that sounds
ridiculous, but acknowledges
that there may be a reason
for the moniker. There may be
a reason why women in this world
might build a shed.

The shed is a poem
that is trying not to need
to justify its place in the world.

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Spicy Shrimp with Avocado and Mango

Spicy Shrimp with Avocado and Mango
(10 minutes, serves 1-2)

I had some frozen cooked shrimp that I’d bought by mistake (usually I prefer to buy raw and cook them, which lets you use them well in a greater variety of preparations), so I was a little stuck trying to decide what to do with them. I wanted spicy, fruity, rich and satisfying enough that I didn’t feel the need for additional bread or rice. This delivered nicely, and was particularly pleasant to eat on the back deck, enjoying a perfect early summer day.

2-3 T cilantro, chopped
2-3 T lime juice
1 T vegetable oil
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
3-5 chopped green chilies (optional)
1/2 lb. cooked shrimp, shelled
1 avocado, peeled and cubed
1 mango, peeled and cubed
1 t. raw red chili pepper (optional)

1. Combine cilantro, lime juice, oil, salt, black pepper, and green chilies in a bowl, beating quickly to emulsify dressing.

2. Stir in shrimp, avocado, and mango. Stir in red chili pepper if using. If you let it sit a little, maybe 15-20 minutes, it’ll blend better, but if you are impatient like me, you can just eat it straight up. Enjoy!

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Internet management

Internet management: It’s ridiculous that I need this much help with my FB willpower, but apparently I do, so just to document:

– I now use Focus to set a default weekday schedule of only allowing me FB access on my laptop (main device) from 9 – 11 a.m.

– I also use SelfControl to set a hard-mode blocking of FB for approximately that same time period. SelfControl doesn’t have scheduling functionality, or I’d just do that, but Focus doesn’t have hard-mode functionality, so I have to use both. If anyone knows of an Mac app that does both, let me know, please.

– I also use Google WiFi to turn off the entire internet at the router, but I’m still futzing with that schedule, plus I have the app to control it on my phone, and so tend to turn it off whenever the whim strikes me, so it’s not sufficient on its own. May have to take the app off at some point and go back to asking Kevin to turn it on for me when desired (added disincentive of having to bother him), but will see how summer schedule goes first.

– right now, both phone and desktop machine are unrestricted re: FB access. I don’t tend to use them nearly as much, so they’re working okay as a ‘brief check-in’ without ‘losing hours of productivity’ sort of thing. YMMV! If they start being a problem, will install blockers on them too.

I love you FB, and I can’t quit you, but you and I, we need some serious boundaries.

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