My students give me hope

Really lovely class just now. We’re at the end of the second week, so have mostly settled into figuring out who is actually in the course, so took time today to do introductions. It meant we didn’t get to the reading (since the first half of the 50 minute class I spent on reviewing some logistics and talking about the Great Conversation and their part in it, etc.), so “Queen of the Black Coast” and Saunders’ _Imaro_ are pushed off to Monday, but I think it was entirely worthwhile.

I asked the students (in my “American Writers of Color in Speculative Fiction” course) to introduce themselves by talking about whatever aspects of identity were important to them.


They were so brave and so honest — they talked about mental health, about race and ethnicity and social class, about religion and gender and orientation, about disability and physicality, about their challenges and their fears and their passionate commitments to social justice and alliance and I am just so proud of these munchkins.

They are so much braver, articulate, and knowledgeable about other peoples’ struggles than I was at this age. They are warm and welcoming and kind.

They give me hope.

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Too tired for cooking or cope

I have come home and delegated my child and her friend-staying-for-dinner to break down all the recycling and take it out and ordered Thai & Japanese food because I am too tired for cooking or cope after a pretty intense 7-4:45 work day and I still have to take one child out in an hour for a (routine) medical appt. as Kev has a late work dinner (otherwise he would do it), but at least I can spend the next hour watching TV and Terraforming Mars and eating yummy food, and after that, I’ll come back from the doctor and Jed will be here and Kevin will come home and all will be well. Happy Friday.

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A Valentine’s Day present from me to you

My GOD, these are luscious. Here’s a Valentine’s Day present from me to you, folks. Thanks for reading all my babbling so patiently.

The marshmallows themselves are fluffy and tangy and fruity and delectable — then, when you add the creamy white chocolate (and a sprinkling of pink hearts and sparkly sugar), it just takes it over the top into pure decadence. I like these best of every confection I’ve ever made.


“I Plight Thee My Troth” Marshmallows
(rose, passionfruit, and vanilla / love, passion, and home)

3/4 c. passionfruit puree
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. rosewater
butter (for greasing the pan)
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar for dusting (about 1/2 c.)
about 1 – 1/2 c. white chocolate chips
pink hearts and sparkly sugar for decorating

1. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with passionfruit juice. Stir briefly to combine.

2. In a small saucepan (a bigger one will be heavy and hard to hold steadily at a later stage) combine water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees if you have a candy thermometer), approximately 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat; if it continues, it will swiftly turn into hard candy.

4. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be very careful with the sugar syrup, as it is scaldingly hot and will burn you badly if it gets on your skin.) Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.

NOTE: The volume is a little more than usual for my marshmallow recipes, as I wanted these on the fluffy side, so have a dishtowel or splashguard ready in case of need; once the mixture starts thickening, you shouldn’t need it anymore.

5. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes. Add food color if desired — if not, they’ll be white. I added a bit of pink, for the romance of it all. Add vanilla and rosewater.

6. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan. Prepare an oiled spatula. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with the oiled spatula.

7. Dust the top with enough of the powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest of the powdered sugar for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

8. Turn onto a board, cut into squares, and dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. (They are very yummy as is, so feel free to stop at this point.)

9. Melt white chocolate using either double boiler method, or at half power in the microwave (stirring every 30 seconds after 2 minutes until melted). Dip marshmallows and turn over to sit on parchment or wax paper.

10. Decorate with hearts and sprinkles before the chocolate sets up. Let set. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen (in a flat layer, with sheets of wax paper between).

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It’s a sheer joy seeing Jean-Luc on screen again

Just watched the first episode of Picard; I liked it quite a bit, but keep in mind that my heart belongs to Star Trek, so it is hard for me to think critically about it.

And Jean-Luc just makes me smile; it’s a sheer joy seeing him on screen again. And I rather adore his fuzzy white eyebrows. Someday, Kevin will have eyebrows just like those, and I will love them just as much. 🙂

I hadn’t realized Michael Chabon was executive producing — I have a lot of trust in him. (There’s a job I’d abandon many things for…)

I did pause it partway through to read a plot summary of Nemesis, because I’d mostly forgotten it, and in retrospect, I sort of wish I’d actually re-watched it first, even though it is not my favorite of the Star Trek movies. So there’s a recommendation for you!

Watching this episode sparked multiple ideas for my SF novel too. I’m going to start watching the Expanse soon too (I started it once, got sidetracked a few episodes in, so planning to just start over). I’m still drowning a bit in backlogged to-do items, but I think I see light at the end of the tunnel, and writing some science fiction at the other end of it….

[no spoilers, please]


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Is Kirkus worth the money?

Publishing / library / industry people, a question. For my indie-published cookbook, we got a glowing starred Publishers’ Weekly review. The book has been sent to Booklist and Library Journal, and I’m hoping they’ll choose to review it.

But Kirkus charges $400 for an independent publisher review. Is that a good use of (v. limited) publicity funds, in your opinion?

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Weekend reading for Deep Dish

Hey, Chicago SF/F folks. The SLF’s next Deep Dish reading is on Saturday March 14th — we’re trying a weekend reading! We have most of our line-up, including featured reader Sue Burke, but have room for 1-2 more featured readers — these are typically authors who have a book coming out soon, or have had one come out in the last year.

If this is you, and you’d like to read with us that day (or on a future date), please get in touch with series co-host Chris Bauer, Thanks!

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Beautiful comfort

I brought some chocolates over (along with rice and curries) to a friend going through a tough time last night. Is it any wonder that I love cooking so? You get to make beautiful objects, and also feed people. What could be better?

I have a bunch of computer work to do today, but Kavi and I have an after-school date to experiment with mango creams in milk chocolate. She’s not a dark chocolate fan yet, so this round of passionfruit-ginger-cashew dark chocolates has been a tiny bit frustrating for her.  (Anand is happy to eat the dark chocolate scraps left over….)

Most of these chocolates are intended for Bite Nite next Friday, but I have 5 sets put aside to sell (last pic). Still have to figure out pricing; maybe they just get sent along with cookbook orders for a week? But what about the poor people who already bought cookbooks? They should get to buy chocolates too…. We’ll see.


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In the swing of the semester

Okay, finally feel like we’re in the swing of the semester properly, second week in. Getting sick first week = NOT RECOMMENDED.

But I don’t look (or feel) horribly sick anymore, I barely coughed in today’s lecture, and we had a great discussion of Amal El-Mohtar‘s “Biting Tongues” today. They loved the poem, btw. Popular choice! I think if I teach it again, I’d like to pair it with an excerpt from Persepolis, and Carmen Machado‘s “The Husband Stitch” — I was already planning to teach the latter later in the semester, but I think it would work better if I brought it up to pair with this poem. Might also have them listen to / watch the Little Red Riding Hood song from Into the Woods, and read Nalo Hopkinson’s “Riding the Red”.

We also reviewed helpful organizational strategies, like actually LOOKING AT THE SYLLABUS before e-mailing me a question, and PUTTING DUE DATES in your calendar, possibly with a reminder slightly before. So that was hopefully good, and will ease everyone’s stress going forward.

Plus, a student and a colleague both complimented my boots within a single hour (they’re my ‘I wrote a book boots,’ and they are v. fancy (but were on clearance, which made them only somewhat outrageously expensive)), so that was nice.

Double-plus, I really do have a very nice view from my office, even if I have to walk right up to the window to see it properly. Oh, Brutalist architecture — you are challenging to love.


Biting Tongues

Speak to us in silk, they say
speak to us in milk,
be pillow–soft, be satin–smooth
be home–spun sugar sweet.

We part our lips. We breathe our breaths.
We bite our tongues and swallow blood
knot stones into our stomachs, heave
and spit red salt where words should be,
stitch shut our mouths with stubborn thread
to spare our tablecloths.

Such a mess! If you can’t say something nice,
if you can’t be honey cinnamon spice
if you can’t be dusky–eyed candy mice
shut the fuck up, you stuck–up bitch
you whore you cunt you slag you witch
where you going dressed like that
red as meat and us so hungry?
What did you think would happen, huh?
What did you think would happen?

We are told
of wolves in the world, and we but girls.
We are told
of girls in the world, and they but wolves
who cannot help themselves.
We are told
to be girls or wolves
be eaten or hungry
but we are never hungry
who make meals of ourselves
who chew the insides of our cheeks,
bleed into our bellies.
We are told
that to be bold is to be bled
that red’s what brings the wolves around
that we’re better off drowned.

They come with axes
cut us to pull the good girls out.

They leave us with our bloodstone bellies
our sewn up mouths, our halted breaths,
and a river for a bed.

Until one of us
with sharpest teeth
and shredded mouth
rips silence from our lips
with a battle–cry kiss, and says

We speak as we are
with tongues of snake and hummingbird
of ocean and of earth
of sky and salt and smoke and fire
of gesture, ink, and ringing bells.
We speak as we are
with bodies various as motion
voices of muscle and music and colour
beautiful bloody mouths.

We paint with tumblebroken words
we sing loud with our speaking hands
unmake the bodies shaped for us
and lip to eye to fingertip
we spill our red–mouth stories out
and listen, taste them on the air
with our forked and biting tongues.

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Walls of greenery

Decor question? I was chatting with a colleague on campus who was frustrated that the pothos she’d hung in her office wasn’t as huge and bushy as she’d like, and I sympathized — in my first year at UIC, I tried to bring in live plants, but between the very limited light and my erratic schedule and watering, they quickly perished. I’ve been there ten years, you know, and my office decor hasn’t changed in that time.

I am suddenly finding the urge to redecorate, and specifically to go crazy with faux greenery. Would appreciate recommendations for inexpensive WALLS OF GREENERY, please. I’m picturing the kind of thing you see at weddings sometimes, something I can maybe nail to the wall up high, or drape over a folding screen. It would be super fun to have students open my office door and encounter a jungle. 🙂

(It wouldn’t be nearly as ornate as this photo — the pic just made me smile!)

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