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…

Roasting seeds for curry powder

On the one hand, it was actually lovely, after a few days of grocery store hot-bar meals because the end of semester is too frantic for cooking, to be cooking again. I was just dry-roasting curry powder ingredients, nothing fancy, but between the scent of the spices and the sandalwood I burned earlier in the writing shed, I felt like I was coming home to myself.

On the other hand, I was still so tired that I somehow put the glass jar down too hard on the shelf, and it cracked a piece off, and suddenly I had coriander seed spilling out voluminously onto the counter, my cupped hand — it took a second before I even really believed I’d managed to break the jar.

I was tired enough that I just gave up and went to bed — not quite to sleep, actually, because I owed George a pitch for a Wild Cards story, which I’d started in the shed earlier, and I wanted to finish it before sleep. Which I did, though my eyes kept closing as I tried to write the last sentences — hope he likes it. My new protagonist, Jesús “Retazos” Sanchez, is a general contractor who can mend things — his patches don’t last for very long, but they’ll hold for a bit, until he hopefully has a chance to do the job properly. It’s a very tiny little superpower, generated in brainstorming with my father-in-law; I like it.

I owe George another pitch, which I’ll hopefully have some time to finish writing up today. Also owe Marco an expanded pitch. And then back to finalizing revisions on the SF novel that used to be Flight. It’s actually really close to done, I think, has been for months — just need time to sit and write it. Summer is coming, and there will be much writing.

Anyway, this morning, I woke up sore from all the gardening I did yesterday, but sore in a good way. I’ve added a bunch of natives to my garden — they don’t look like much right now, but hopefully they’ll settle in and thrive, bringing more pollinators to the garden. The coffee is kicking in, so in a minute I’ll get up and actually clean up the glass + coriander mess.

Then I get to roast curry powder spices all over again. Not because there’s glass in what I did — thankfully, that accident happened far away from the roasted spices I had been working with. (Though I’m going to have to throw away a good cup of coriander seeds, which is a sadness.) No, I was tired enough that I was sort of on autopilot, and as I roasted seeds individually, I threw them all into one big pot for grinding — which is *not* what I need today.

I’m staffing the South Asian group table at Julian middle school’s ethnic festival today, and I promised to do a spice grinding demo, and for that, I usually put out a set of little jars with the spices individually pre-roasted, and let the kids / adults measure out the spices into the grinder and grind them. I could just let them grind the mixed spices, but the measuring is more fun for them. I suppose I’ll bring the mixed stuff in a bag too, as back-up — sometimes I run low, if things are busy.

Okay — clean-up, then roasting (need to give the spices time to cool before packing up), then printing out recipe sheets, then printing out South Asian coloring sheets, then packing up books for sale (my old cookbook, since the new one isn’t even close to ready yet), stuff to decorate the table, some saris to demo textile art and dress people in.

It’s a slightly complicated day, because Kavi also has a soccer game, and is then joining me at the table for a few hours, and is then going to a sleepover, and eventually coming home tomorrow, but tomorrow is also a Maram day of cooking and art at my house, so I need to remember to pick up some plastic tablecloths this afternoon to protect tables for one of the art projects, and there are probably some other things I’m forgetting right now. Find the name tags and photo permission stickers. Bring the projector and screen up from the basement. Make a list, Mary Anne. Lists are helpful.

Monday. Monday I sleep all day. That’ll be nice.

A book, a book. I seem to have finished a book.

I have handed A Feast of Serendib off to the formatter & indexer. I’ve added photos throughout, purchased ISBNs (oof!), the colophon is done, the author bio is added. I want to revise every single recipe again, but I am not going to do that.


I am fighting a nasty cold that has made me light-headed and woozy all day, so I think I’m going to have some comforting rice and meen kari (fish white curry, made with halibut in this instance, which came out very nicely) and a little seeni sambol, and then I’m going to put myself to bed early. 



Maybe I’ll post some more Sri Lanka photos if I find the energy. If I weren’t sick, I admit, I would have a drink right now. I could use one.


A book, a book. I seem to have finished a book.



Feast Kickstarter draws to a close…

Just a quick update to note that we’ve just broken 300 backers — terrific!

It’s a little unclear if we’ll make the final stretch goal; at just about $13,400 and only two days left, I don’t know if we’ll make it to $15K. Maybe? So if you’d like those cooking demo videos, this would be a great time to tell your friends and family about the project.


Regardless, great to be in the home stretch! I’m so looking forward to bringing out this lovely book.


And here’s a little treat, in case you missed my posting it on FB yesterday — I’ve finalized the 125 (!) photos for the eBook, and they’re all available to browse here on my Facebook wall. Something to whet your appetite…
Feast of Serendib Kickstarter:
Subscribe to my newsletter:

Home stretch for the Feast of Serendib Kickstarter

Less than a week left on the Feast of Serendib Kickstarter — we’re heading into the home stretch. I just checked, the first time I’ve looked at the page in days, and someone actually signed up for the poetry package, which is delightful. (I hand-write a poem for you, on the topic of your choice.) The Island Relaxation package is almost all gone; just one left. And we’re almost halfway to the third stretch goal, where I commit to doing various teaching videos.

Heather is running numbers for me on the possibility of doing a print run (maybe yes for the paperback, probably no for the hardcover, I think, given pricing, but we’ll see, and will also be editing the little video that Kavi and I did together.)

Chugging along, chugging along.

Today, I re-cook the last few dishes to take better photos; this morning for falooda experiments — because if I’m going to re-cook, I might as well try expanding the recipe a bit too, right? I know, this way lies madness — just for the falooda, okay? Deal. And then I need to cook one more white fish curry, and one creamy mushroom appetizer, and then I think we’re done. Done? Well, we’ll see.


Context matters.

Every time I start writing a background piece on Sri Lanka, trying to connect the dots, I stall out, overwhelmed by just how careful I feel like I need to be, and also how, as a member of the diaspora who left long, long ago, I need to present my credentials for commenting.

• this many academic degrees (3, one of them a doctorate in post-colonial lit. and writing)

• this many great-aunts killed during the war (bombed, stabbed to death, cut into pieces) (2)

• this many grandmother’s houses, that I spent months in as a child, firebombed, so that she was forced to take refuge in a convent, part of the house destroyed completely (1)

• this many of my parents’ brothers and sisters, other close relatives, who experienced the terror and trauma of Black July, who hid for hours under Sinhalese neighbors’ beds, who fled as refugees (many)

• this many of my mother’s cousins who were killed in the North, long after the war ended, their throat slit, and we still don’t know whether that murder was war-related or something more personal… (1).

I can present those facts, and maybe I should. Maybe it matters that I’m a stakeholder in this conversation, that I have some backing behind me. Some context, so that when I start talking about Sri Lanka’s history, at least people know where I’m coming from. Context matters. It’s just…slowing me down a little, when what I want to do is give you the timeline, and walk you through it.


• pre-history: evidence of Balangoda Man — much taller than current Sri Lankans, with “thick skull-bones, prominent supraorbital ridges, depressed noses, heavy jaws, short necks and conspicuously large teeth.”

• “…sites that have revealed ancient human skeletal fragments are the Beli lena cave and Bellanbandi Palassa in the Ratnapura district. Carbon samples corresponding to the fragments were dated to respectively 12,000 BP for the former site and 6,500 BP for the latter, suggesting that the island may have been relatively continuously occupied during this time frame…”

It matters that Sri Lankan archeological evidence solidly supports the presence of Balangoda Man, that it establishes the Veddas as biologically linked to them, and as the earliest inhabitants of Sri Lanka, for thousands upon thousands of years.

• The Veddas: “…historical sources describe the aboriginal people of Sri Lanka—the Veddas—as hunter-gatherers, who inhabited natural caves and traded their game and honey for metal-based arrow and spear points from neighbouring village populations. These villagers were predominantly descendants of populations from the Middle East, Europe and the Indian mainland who during different periods were en route along seaways or arrived from India…”

It matters because ardent Sinhalese nationalists want to claim, and generally believe, that they were on the island ‘first’ — that ‘first’ has contributed to so much grief and pain.


Exercise for the reader: Draw connections to other parts of the world, other claims to be ‘first’ or with some other justification for a supposedly more righteous claim, and the consequences of those claims.

How we as humans allocate shared resources has to be one of the most pressing problems of the current age, with implications for race, ethnicity, religion, class, gender, environment, and more. We should be transitioning to a post-scarcity world, but there are so many obstacles in the way.


“Metrical and morphometric features of the analysable skeletal remains from the Sri Lankan caves have revealed similar anatomical attributes, signalling the likelihood of a biological continuum from the prehistoric hunter-gatherers of the island to the Veddas, and a close biological affinity over a period of roughly 16,000 years…recent genetic study has found indigenous Vedda people to probably be earliest inhabitants of Sri Lanka.”

Both Sinhalese and Tamils came to Sri Lanka about two thousand years ago. Both groups are latecomers, immigrants, invaders. What if that understanding had been more widespread during the war years, if it were more widespread now? There are still many, voters and politicians alike, using the rhetoric of ‘Sinhala First!’ to drive and justify public policy. Would it make a difference?

I don’t know. These are from notes I took in grad school, when I spent a semester studying Sri Lankan history, and I will forever be grateful to the Indian history professor who took the time to put together a focused reading list for me:

• 5th century B.C. – Indo-Aryan migrants from northern India settle on the island; the Sinhalese emerge as the most powerful of the various clans.

• 3rd century B.C. – Beginning of Tamil migration from India.

• There followed a long, relatively peaceful, period of multi-ethnic community in Sri Lanka…


I have no investment in yanking away any Sinhala sense of pride in homeland; Sri Lanka is majority Sinhalese, after all. And as far as I know, there is no significant Sinhalese population anywhere else in the world, and that matters too.

I do want to point out, at the same time, that Sri Lankan Tamils are really not the same as Indian Tamils, in a variety of ways — two thousand years of shared history, for one. Shared culture, shared traditions, intermarriage and friendship. Even for the strictly biological: “Vedda people’s mitochondrial sequences were found to be more related to the Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils than to the Indian Tamils…”

Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamils are more related to each other than to anyone else on this Earth. We are kin.

More than any of the above, it matters that Sri Lanka had hundreds and hundreds of years of multi-ethnic community. Sinhalese and Tamil, Buddhist and Hindu and Christian and Muslim, side-by-side. Kings fought for power, while everyday people shared milk rice at New Year’s, rich cake at Christmas and weddings. It matters that we lived as neighbors and friends and kin for a thousand years and more.

That makes the tragedy of this past weekend, of the war years, so much more heart-breaking.


More soon, I hope. The map image is a portolan map of the Indian Ocean — it was used by sailors to navigate the ocean, showing the ports and the windrose network of navigation lines. The little yellow blob at the tip of India is Sri Lanka.

(Sri Lankan history, 1 of ?)

Quotes from Wikipedia:



a few steps from my office
they hold a vigil; they
pass out candles. we try
to keep them lit though
the wind is gusting hard

they invite a Sri Lankan
student to read from
the Bible. I do not know
her; we do not have
a campus Sri Lankan
mailing list, a mistake
I am regretting fiercely

a prayer, a moment of
silence, and the wind
keeps up; we silently
re-light our candles, over
and over and over again

I scan the crowd for other
Sri Lankans — most here
are not, yet they have
come, have organized
this for us, to hold us up
when we are falling

afterwards, we find each
other — brown faces,
tilted heads — are you?
yes. yes, I am Sri Lankan
though I left long ago;
can I stand with you?

we do not speak
of bombings, we speak
of Sri Lankan New Year,
of Geetha’s in Evanston,
that carries our spices
our sambols and chutneys,
pickles and red rice

of summer plans to stay
or go home again; we’ll
find each other on Facebook
we do not ask who is
Sinhalese Tamil Buddhist
Christian Hindu Muslim
we do not ask

we light each other’s
candles over and over
as many times as