Milk, Spice & Curry Leaves

Grading ’til close to midnight last night, and I fell a little behind on my other class; the wrist injury really did slow me down — I rely on my ability to type fast to make my life work at all! I’m feeling a bit muzzy-headed this morning, and had a hard time getting out of bed — I ended up reading there until 10 a.m., which felt rather sinfully indulgent. Finished book 7 in The Expanse series, and though I did immediately buy book 8, I have resolutely plugged in my e-reader and put it aside for now. Must get back to work.

I’ve finally managed to make it downstairs for coffee and meds, so hopefully will be more wakeful soon and can get to critiques for my other class. I also have a few new recipes to post shortly (Milk Rice with Bottle Gourd, and Bottle Gourd & Spinach Curry), but while I’m waiting to wake up, I’m going to start reading a new Sri Lankan cookbook that arrived yesterday, Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama’s _Milk, Spice & Curry Leaves_, which just launched.

I haven’t had a chance to cook anything from it yet, just paged through, but the photos are really gorgeous — her publisher did a great job. And she has a nice section on tips and tricks, with illustrations of things like how to cut a mango, which I’m sure people will find helpful.

From her name, I’m assuming she’s of Sinhalese descent, so while her recipes will likely to be similar to mine, there’ll probably be some notable differences too — mine definitely tilt towards the Tamil side of things. Will be interesting to see how they compare! She lives in British Columbia now, but was in Toronto for a while — I wonder if any of my Toronto cousins know her…

She doesn’t appear to be on Facebook, or I’d be tagging her into this post, alas! But you can find out more about her and the cookbook here:

The Laneways

Good morning, folks. Coming out of this morning’s iGov meeting, I had an idea that I wanted to run past people, something that might help out some of our struggling businesses. (This is mainly aimed at locals, though others with relevant experience are welcome to weigh in!)

In Melbourne, there’s an area called the Laneways. (Also sometimes referred to as the arcades.) This is a vibrant shopping district in the alleys behind buildings. It is utterly charming, full of cute little restaurants and tiny shops, plus lots of great graffiti-style street art. I think sometimes businesses split the back of their space to rent to a separate business that operates out of the alleyway, and sometimes it’s all the same business, street side and alley side.

We’ve had a tough time here with street construction + COVID seriously affecting local businesses. I heard that while some businesses are about to have to close down their sidewalk patios for construction, they may be allowed to set up alleyway options.

I think that’s great, but I’m a little worried that unless there’s a concerted effort to support that, people just won’t even think of venturing into the alley to find their open-air dining (and I know it’s rainy today, but with a canopy, I think you could eat outside for another month at least, maybe more with a patio heater or two?)

I’m wondering whether we could use a local community group to work on a Laneways project here, something that might extend beyond the pandemic time, and add a rich additional bit of cultural bustle to the shopping districts. It would beautify the relevant alleys too. They might have to shut down for winter, but once the pandemic is no longer an issue, hanging walls might also help extend the season.

I’m trying to think about what downsides might be. Would neighbors object? It’d be a little extra noise in the alley, but that might be counteracted by additional safety with more people around. It’d likely feel a bit more urban, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing?

This is just a brainstorming post (cross-posted to Shop Local Oak Park and Oak Park Development Watch, as well as my own wall). I’d love to hear people’s thoughts.

If it seems worth pursuing, I’m envisioning a coalition of business owners and interested consumers coming together to discuss and shape the project, defining parameters of a first test alley or two, to present a plan to the Village Board for their approval, to perhaps raise funds to help businesses who need financial assistance with supplies, but mostly to help get the word out and patronize those businesses once it’s up and running.

(I cannot take on another thing to run, but I’d be happy to be part of the committee, at least for the initial brainstorming, which is my strong suit. :-))

Photos of Melbourne’s Laneways for inspiration.

A Nice Surprise

Hey, this was a nice surprise — my native Great Blue lobelia (new this year) had finished its spike of blooms — but then it sent up a bunch of new blooms surrounding the central spike. I didn’t know it did that. Cut off the finished spike and dropped it on the ground (hoping it might drop some seeds for next year?) and am enjoying the new flowers.

Raining this morning, so I used an umbrella for my walk out to the writing shed. I plan to spend most of the morning out here — I have a library board Zoom meeting at 9, for our intergovernmental collaboration group. It’s cool and rainy outside, warm and cozy inside, especially now that my art glass guy (John Curran) has repaired the broken window, woot. (I didn’t secure it and it blew against the neighbor’s fence in a storm and shattered, totally my fault.)

Perfect. Makes me miss our old house in Oakland, this weather.

iGov meeting — DONE

Other hopeful plans for the weekend:


– hopefully finish drafting a new SF story, “Hush.” (No relation to the Buffy episode of that same title — do you think that title is too iconic and need to change mine?)
– revise a food essay and send it to a published food writer friend for her opinion

– work on my Wild Cards outline due 9/15


– assemble bike rack and storage racks, finish organizing garage (planning to enlist family to help with this) — IN PROGRESS

– finish putting away laundry (including finishing seasonal shift)


– do fabric cutting for the next several mask orders (while watching the first episode of _Away_, the new Netflix show about a mission to Mars) — IN PROGRESS
– cut up latest batch of marshmallows (Kavi says she’ll help) and roll in powdered sugar — IN PROGRESS

– post weekend flash sale (let me know if you want to be tagged in)


– if it gets a little less rainy, move some phlox and a kiwi vine, plant another berry, do some weeding (gardening in a drizzle is fine, in heavy rain, maybe not so much)

– plant peas? What other veggies should I plant now? Can I plant from seed, or is it too late?


– host Zoom office hours for my students at 2
– review everything they’ve done in journals for the first three weeks, record everything
– post so they have a sense of where they are at this point
– check in with any students who are missing assignments

– make lesson plan for next week (I’ve been doing this on Monday, but a few of my students like to work ahead, so I’m trying to get a little bit of a jump on it, now that the initial chaos of the semester has died down)


– review and finalize SLF ad for SFWA Bulletin
– prep SLF stuff for tomorrow’s monthly meeting

– prep podcast stuff for tomorrow’s recording session — and I think we may be starting a Kickstarter for it on 9/15, if I can do all the prep this weekend. Stay tuned.

We’ll see how much I get through!

Drowning a Little

Drowning a bit the next few days. I’m trying to finish a novel and give it to my agent before the semester starts, I’m one of the three co-hosts for Fiberworld (so evening commitments every night for the next four nights), I’m on several panels at NASFiC this same weekend (virtual conventions means you can attend multiple ones the same weekend, hmm)…

…and oh yes, classes start next week, and even though I’ve been preparing all summer, I’m not as prepared as I’d like to be. (Never as prepared as I’d like to be, but that’s the way of it. Breathe, teachers. It’s going to be fine.) Fun times.

Next week should be calmer by a lot. 😊 Once I actually meet my new crop of students, the semester always feels better. But I’m trying to keep my chill; I did manage to play Terraria with Anand on Monday, and watch a Disney movie (The Little Mermaid) with Kavi on Tuesday. I’m trying to build at least a few hours of downtime into each day so I don’t melt. This afternoon, I’m thinking maybe the forest with the kids? We’ll see.

This morning, I’m alternating a host of neglected garden tasks (it’s going to be hot the next few days, so trying to give the garden a good soaking today, and there’s so much weeding and clean-up it could use) with continuing the clean-up pass on the novel.

That pass is going well, not quite as fast as I’d hoped. Better not to rush it, though. Patience, Mary Anne. Do all the things if you can, but do them well, and with grace. And if you can’t, put some things down. If a few extra weeds grow for a few extra weeks, it’s okay. (If the backyard turns into an ravenous jungle beast of weeds, that’s also okay.)

I’ll leave you with another clip from my conversation with Kel Bachus about Fiberworld (and I’m going to link to the full video conversation in the first comment). In this one, we’re talking about:

– the fiber industry overall
– the effect of the pandemic on conventions
– the difference between moving a SF convention online versus moving a tactile-based art form convention online
– I maybe get a little bit too into the petting of yarn 

And hey, Fiberworld starts today! I’ll be co-hosting opening ceremonies this evening with Franklin Habit (gorgeous pattern designer, his work is STUNNING, also author, teacher, and illustrator) and Nacinimod Deodee (artist and designer of the House of Nassat — have you seen fabulous African-inspired crocheted clothing for men? You have to take a look, if not, so cool.)

Register here:

The Dragon and the Unicorn

And lo, on the first day of the new year, by the light of the setting sun, the dragon and the unicorn ventured forth to do mighty battle. A flurry of fierce blows were struck, and when their ‘swords’ proved surprisingly ineffective, ‘water pistols’ were brought in, to much greater utility.

In truth, the unicorn’s rider had secretly longed to ride the dragon herself, but the dragon’s rider was so eager to ride him, that she gave way — only to find that the unicorn was a far nimbler beast, which gave her great advantage on the offense. Thus is it truly said by the great Sun Tzu, “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.” The unicorn’s serene and placid countenance deftly concealed a valiant and battle-ready heart!

Howsoever, the ice dragon’s vast wings did provide great acreage of shelter for its rider; after long struggle, the unicorn’s rider was forced to plead weariness and concede the day’s battle, for she was as like to collapse from exhaustion, due to her exceedingly advanced years.

Yet they pledged to return and fight again another day, so it might be truly known who was indeed the mightiest in the land, and the dragon’s rider left the field proclaiming that he was already plotting strategies for the battles to come. For did not Sun Tzu also say, “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” So mote it be.

Herein endeth the narrative.

Kayaking with Kavi

Took Kavi kayaking this morning. She loved it, even though she was tired getting up earlier than normal, and I think wore herself out a bit with the actual kayaking, given that she came home and promptly fell asleep on the couch without even eating lunch first.

Expedition somewhat marred for me (luckily Kavi missed all this) by a polite yet quite tense and stressful disagreement with a park ranger who was convinced that my inflatables aren’t Cook County-approved for the forest preserves, even though I am really pretty sure they are, with hull numbers and NMMA certification and everything they’re supposed to have.

He seemed to think the inflatable Sea Eagle was the only one that was certified okay, but I think he’s just wrong. (There are LOTS of people using the Intex inflatable kayaks on the Skokie lagoons where we were, so if I’m wrong, so are a lot of other people.)

I’m going to try to confirm all that with the Park District tomorrow, because I really think the guy who confronted me was misinformed. But if he is, other park rangers may be as well, so I guess be aware it might be an issue. 

But hey, Kavi did solo kayaking, and we found the tiniest of waterfalls, and she’s excited about going again, so there.

Also, thanks to Alli Bax for the tip, the rechargeable air blowing thingie (I’m sure it has a proper name) was a HUGE help. Would not want to try to do this with the manual ones that came with the kayaks.