“When you are pursuing a dream, you will find the time.”

I’ve started reading this book, and while some of it isn’t so relevant to me (geared towards professional food photographers or those who would like to become them, so talking about apertures and the like), some of it is. I’d like to take better photos for you all.

And the intro was actually just rather lovely, esp. the last paragraph, and applicable to writing and many other arts / career passions:

“I tell you this not to boast about my own success, but because I am aware that many of you are looking to reinvent yourselves, and understanding that it’s possible matters. I know there never seems to be enough time in the day, but when you are pursuing a dream, you will find the time. It will not feel like work.”

#serendibkitchen

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Orchid terrarium tutorial

Recently someone in our garden club asked about how you put together a terrarium. Since our house cleaner also recently knocked over and broke the small terrarium we had (sitting on an overly-tippy end table), I took that opportunity to pick up what I’d really wanted all along — a taller, free-standing terrarium, big enough to house full-size orchids (24″ high interior).

A trip to Trader Joe’s for cheap orchids, and some potting soil, little plants, pebbles, and moss from the garden store, and I was ready to go. There’s very little to instruct, really, but here goes, in case it’s helpful:

a) I started with a layer of pebbles in the bottom for drainage, followed by a layer of soil.

b) I added the orchids next, and this bit, I’m not sure I did right, but since I know orchids prefer their roots to stay mostly dry, I left them potted in their little plastic pots filled with orchid bark, and just nestled those in the soil.

c) Then I tucked in some little terrarium-type plants around them. Your nursery can advise you on what’s well suited to this, but just keep in mind that what you’re recreating is essentially a moist, jungly environment. Terrariums are related to Wardian cases, which were used to bring tropical plants back from the tropics to England, keeping them alive on the long voyage. So I wouldn’t use a terrarium for succulents!

d) I added a layer of moss, which serves the dual function of looking nice and also retaining moisture in the soil.

e) That’s it! Put the lid on, and you have a moist, mostly self-contained environment. It should need water rarely. My understanding is that usually terrarium plants want plenty of indirect light (not blasted with sun) — imagine that you’re under the tree cover of a tropical jungle. So I put mine by a window that’s near an overhanging porch roof.

Now, the next step is that eventually, these orchids will lose all their flowers (though it’ll take a few months; I try to pick orchids that are mostly buds, with just a few blooms, so the show is sure to last a long time). In theory, one can then take care of them appropriately so that they’ll come back, year after year. I haven’t actually done that yet, but I have friends that do it regularly, and swear it isn’t hard.

When these are done, I’m hoping to try that, and I’m also hoping to replace one of them with a more interesting variety, since they’re all, I think, pretty standard phalaeonopsis (or moth) orchids, and there are so many more cool varieties out there. I’m looking forward to eventually experimenting with other types.

#serendibgarden

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Family tech & habits update

Family tech & habits update: We’re trying to wean the kids from spending so much time passively consuming visual entertainment (Kavi has watched all of Friends TWICE, which just seems wrong), so with the new year, we’re trying something new.

We turn off all family devices at 7:30 (bedtime for the 10-year-old is 8:30), so that the blue light doesn’t mess up the sleep-scheduling part of our brains. We try to do a family board game then, before bedtime routines. Two nights ago, it was a quick game of Go Fish, followed by a little time picking up Anand’s bedroom.

Last night, Kev and the kids played Machi Koro with the Harbor expansion; I was too sick to join them, but lay in bed nearby reading and enjoying the sounds of their laughter and snark. The kids were trouncing Kevin, I think because he avoided mackerel and tuna-related cards, since he doesn’t like fish, which is really very bad strategy for the Harbor expansion.

They didn’t quite finish the game before bedtime, so it’s suspended to be finished tonight. Unstable Unicorns is planned to be next in the rotation.

(They also spent a few minutes picking up the library before heading up to bed. I am determined to get them in the habit of quickly cleaning up common spaces this year, doing it in little bits daily so it doesn’t get onerous.)

CAVEAT: still allowed: podcasts, listening to music, and Kindle Paperwhites for reading (which don’t emit the blue light that interferes with sleep.) Possibly also *making* videos; that’s under discussion.

2ND CAVEAT: Sometimes a grown-up will use devices again after the kids are down, but we’re working on stopping that. It’s hard.

#serendibhome

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This cold is slowing me down

GAH. Woke up with yesterday’s cough turned into a different kind of cough, more phlegmy. I think that’s actually progress, but it feels worse. Also, my head is a ball of snot. I may refrain from trying to do delectable food descriptions for a day or two, as right now, every adjective I come up with is gross.

Plan for today: somehow, clear head enough to finish Wild Cards story revision. That’s basically it, though there are some little e-mails, etc. to process. Oh, and a phone conference with Margaret about our comic, though I think I need to push that off again (gah), as this cold has slowed me down sufficiently that I didn’t do the writing I said I’d do before we met again. SIGH.

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Marketing Feast

I’m starting to think seriously about marketing Feast. Should I have thought seriously about it earlier? Yes. But one does what one can. I’m currently reading a book about how to sell a lot of books, and I have another one recommended to me about your brand and your book. Fun? Not exactly. But I’m learning things.

So far, the first chapters have mostly told me to build a platform, so at least that’s sort of comforting, as it’s mostly done. Or at least in progress. It’s hard to figure out how much time one should spend on such things (as opposed to, say, writing new fiction, essays, etc).

Facebook I do very naturally, and it’s super-fun talking to people here. (Maybe too fun!) Right now, I try to bop over to Twitter once a day or so, but it’s just not a natural medium for me, so it’s hard to build engagement there. And Instagram I just have Heather copying things over to for now; I should probably be following food bloggers and liking their stuff and going back to their sites, etc. I mean, I even want to do that; it sounds like fun. But it all takes time.

There are some other concrete tips; I’m going to try to collate them into a document to discuss with my team.

Here’s a few so far:

– make sure your website looks professional and has all the info people will need (Stephanie is working on that now)

– build your e-mail list (it exists, but I can build it further by making it cool: extra recipes? discounts? contests when the book comes out?) — this book recommends one newsletter a week, which may be beyond me, but something to think about, I guess? They recommend checking out brainpickings.org, so I’ll go look at that

– build out the YouTube channel (I need to set that up for Serendib Kitchen, edit the videos and start putting them up; I’d really like to do a video for every recipe in the cookbook, eventually — is that overambitious? It seems like it’d be so helpful to people, though…)

– ditto if you’re doing a podcast, but I don’t think I’ll be doing one for this book.

– are there major figures in the field you want to reach out to? for endorsements (it’d be great to get blurbs from other South Asian cookbook authors, right? other general cookbook authors?), invitations to speak, support my marketing (reposting things, etc.) I’ve already joined the EATT mailing list, for people of color in the food world, but there’s a ton more I could do in this arena.

– also start working on appearances: writer’s conferences, TED venues, universities and other possible speaking venues)

– contact book buyers, of course! I need to talk to Mascot and find out who they’re contacting, so I don’t duplicate, but then I need to hustle and get on this. They’ll want to know numbers for my platforms, so I should get Heather to pull that together for me — how many FB friends / followers, etc.

– ideally, you schedule things to happen at the same time, in the first 30 days after the launch — radio interviews, book signings, posters in the windows of local bookstores, e-mail blasts — I’m not sure how much of this I can do, but we’ll see?

Expect to see more of this. 

#serendibkitchen
#serendibpress

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Question re: an outlier of international shipping

Question re: international shipping and extra taxes. No one else reported this — does anyone know what happened here? I’d like to make sure it doesn’t happen again. One of my Kickstarter backers sent me this:

“However, and this may only concern some future Kickstarter project you plan to do, it was less fun to see that there were still substantial taxes to be paid at the post office. So, adding the 16 euros in taxes, the added costs almost outweigh the price of the book.

I am not an expert on fulfillment, but I have bought a lot of other Kickstarters, somr quite heavy boardgames among them, but paying extra taxes on top of shipping is a first for me. Next time, you may want to check out what type of fulfillment they use to both lower shipping costs and avoid import taxes.

My country is The Netherlands and it’s part of the EU, if that’s helpful to you.”

#serendibkitchen

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A Feast of Serendib print run copies have arrived!

Here’s a little Feast milestone — we’ve sent out all the Kickstarter edition copies we’d ordered. Eep! In theory, I could still buy more from IngramSpark as POD, but I’m hoping to never do that again, as they cost $20 each to print, which means I don’t even really break even on those, once you take into account all the original development costs, much less bookstore discounts (generally 40%), etc.

Instead, the overseas print run has finally come in (more like $10 each to print), and I’ve had about a hundred shipped to my house, with 1900 more safe in a warehouse in Kentucky or somewhere like that. So we may actually start seeing profits? If people buy them? If not, um, well I suppose I’ll have 2000 copies at $10 each to use to keep me warm at night. I’ll build myself a book igloo, perhaps…

It was very exciting and also nerve-wracking opening them. What if the printing had gotten messed up??? But at least this first copy looks fine; I think the paper is slightly brighter than the IngramSpark paper, which is just fine. They look almost identical, though. Hopefully people will love, love, love this book.

#serendibkitchen

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Cancer log 209: custom bra

Cancer log 209: Okay, so I think I need some custom bra advice. For everyday at home, I usually wear sports bras, which work fine for giving me sufficient support for comfort. Light ones for just hanging out around the house, more supportive structured ones for actual workouts.

But for work and events, I sometimes want a bra that isn’t going to flatten me across the chest. And if I get a regular bra, I find that post-lumpectomy, I’m just lopsided enough that the bras don’t hang right, and so I end up with weird shifting of the bra position such that I usually end up with a line on one side and not the other (mostly noticeable when wearing a t-shirt or tank, which I do pretty often).

It’s irritating, and I think the solution is to get a custom bra made, that would be different on right and left, assuming that’s a thing? I’m sure it’s stupid expensive, but I’m willing to invest in one of them, given that the alternative seems to be what happened to me in Seattle, where I tried wearing a very minimal bralette for a work conference, and while that avoided the weird lines problem, it also caused so much back pain that I ended up booking a massage to address it.

Given the tightness of my schedule, I ended up having not so many options, and got a rather expensive massage at the Four Seasons hotel a few blocks away. A bra that actually fit me would be cheaper.

The massage was, by the way, utterly fabulous, so I don’t quite regret it. I did a little steam sauna & dry sauna, and took twenty minutes to relax and read a magazine in the lounge area too, which had complimentary fancy tea (strawberry tulsi, yummy) and dried mango and apricot. I really needed the chill down time, as I was feeling quite harried.

The masseuse even convinced me to try a little sample of CBD soak, which I’m not sure I really believe is effective, but she swore by it, and since it was perhaps the best massage of my life, I was willing to trust her. I used half of it in a bath the next night, but I admit, I can’t tell whether the CBD soak really did anything, since the bath itself was helpful, as they usually are.

Anyway, long rambling post, but if you have information on how one gets a custom bra made, would love to hear it.

#cancerlog

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Finding the right help

It’s been an evolution, figuring out how to do at least three different jobs (professor, indie publisher, nonprofit arts director) as one person. Part of that was realizing I needed help, and then it turned out that it took me quite a while to find the right *kind* of help. I think I’m making good progress on that, though, with six (!) part-time people. Some put in 1-2 hrs / week, some put in more like 10, depending on the job. Somehow, it’s all working. (It’s not quite paying for itself yet, but it’s getting there, I think. An investment in the future.)

Heather Rainwater Campbell is remotely working for me from Michigan, doing my social media work, and also some of the Feast production & PR work that can be done remotely. Irene Victoria is doing PR work as well, from New York, primarily for the SLF, but a bit for me as well.

Last night, I took out three of my local team for what was supposed to be an end-of-year thank you — wish I could’ve flown out the remote people too! — which had slipped over into a start of the new year thing, because we’re all just that busy, and our schedules are complicated. All three of the locals are moms, and y’know, holidays can get a little hectic for moms. Just a touch.

Our fourth local, Kirsten Jackson, couldn’t make it, but we’ll get her next time. She’s our hardy financial person, and has relieved so much financial anxiety for me, I can’t even tell you. She makes sure everyone gets paid on time, and the taxes too. 

But Cee Gee (who does development work for the SLF, working on grants and our fund drive) managed to make it, along with Karen Murphy (our managing director at the SLF, helping to keep the schedules and files and volunteers organized), and Stephanie Bailey (who basically organizes me).

We went to Flourish Oak Park, which I haven’t tried before, and it’s really a fun concept for co-working space + cocktail bar (they have a cool mechanism that allows you to sample lots of different beers and such, which is very appealing for a taster like me). And we were lucky enough to be there when pig & fire were doing a Filipino pop-up event, so in addition to the cheese platter and sweets from Flourish, we got to sample more of their yummy Filipino food. Lumpia, YUM. (Their next pop-up will be at Kinslahger 1/25, 5:30 – 8:30! Details on their FB page…)

Thank you all, peeps, for keeping me mostly sane last fall. Looking forward to much brilliant work and fun times in the new year.

(And Kel Bachus, thanks again for telling me at WisCon last year that I needed a tribe to work with me and take care of me. You were absolutely right.)

#serendibkitchen
#serendibwriting

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