A Weird Work Day

Having a weird work day so far — I stayed up working ’til close to 2 a.m. last night, and then couldn’t sleep for some time thereafter, so I ended up oversleeping and missing my 10 a.m. budget meeting, gah. Having a hard time focusing on getting back to work now too — the Inauguration is just sort of hanging there, mid-week, lurking at me.

Okay, there are few thing I really do need to do. Maybe a shower will help wake me up. Plan:

– apologize and reschedule budget meeting for next week (DONE)
– shower and dress
– record and upload teaching videos for ENG 240 for this week
– send assignments for ENG 491 for this week, including sign-up form for critiques
– record and upload teaching videos for ENG 491 for this week
– go to bank to deposit check
– wire transfer funds to SLF grant recipient
– read and critique story for Emmanuel

– start filling out campaign website

That’s all the MUST DO stuff for today, I think. I’m going to refrain for putting anything else on the list for now, and try to power through these.

The Pursuit Of…

Last night I read a novella by Courtney Milan, “The Pursuit of…” I was honestly a little nervous about how she’d do with it, because it’s about a black man and a white man, alternating first person points of view, in Revolutionary war times in America, the black man is a former slave, and oh, it’s a romance. There are so many ways that story could go terribly wrong. And I’m not Black, or a man, so it’s entirely possible I’ve missed things, but as far as I can tell, she did a good job.

I’m relieved, and also, feel a little bit like I should be braver about this kind of thing, writing the other. Do my research, get readers to check my drafts, but don’t hold back from telling stories just because I’m scared it’ll be hard to do it right.

There’s still the question of taking up limited ‘slots,’ but in Milan’s case, though I don’t know her at all, just by the way she’s handled social justice issues in her books, I’m pretty sure she’s the sort to strongly support Black writers. And there is certainly a thing where an already wildly popular author can tread onto previously taboo ground and thereby wedge the door open for skittish publishers and distributors — “See, it’s okay, the readers really do like this stuff.” I mixed my metaphors there, but you get what I mean.

Finally, I’ll note that there’s a moment when the pair finally get together, and the chapter ended, and I thought she was doing a fade-to-black, and I was about to be disappointed in her, because she does some nicely explicit het sex scenes in all her other books (and if I had realized that romance writers were writing so much sex in my 20s, I could have just called myself a romance writer back then and not an erotica writer, and possibly saved myself a lot of trouble, but anyway…)…

…but then I turned the page, and we picked right back up with the kiss, and then continued with just as much explicit m/m sex as she’d ever done m/f sex. Good job, Courtney!

AND, the last line of the book made me cry.

Committing Fiction

Okay, I stayed up a little later than I’d planned, but somehow I finally settled down to revising a Jump Space story at midnight. Done now, sent it off to Jed Hartman for review. Feels good to commit fiction. 🙂 With luck, we’ll be including it in the Jump Space book he’s bringing out later this year from Constellation Press.

1:15 a.m. I feel like I’ve earned myself a slice of buttered toast, and then I’m crashing into bed…

*****

Now the girl – she must be fourteen now? or the Razuli equivalent, an early adolescent – was arguing again, this time with a security officer three times her size.

He loomed over her. “Miss, we can’t release you without an adult who can take custody. You’ll have to go to security.” Jenny felt a flicker of concern. It was probably fine. Nothing was going to happen to the girl in security. But the guard reached out and grabbed Katika’s arm when she tried to walk away, and the girl let out a yelp of startlement – or was that pain? And before Jenny knew what she was doing, she had turned fully towards them, taken a few quick steps, and interspersed herself between the two, so that the guard released Katika’s arm, surprised.

“Katika! I’m so sorry I was so slow.” She carefully got plenty of ‘s’s into that sentence, to reassure the guard that she was no closeted Razuli. Jenny gave him her best harmless middle-aged woman smile. Most days she hated being middle-aged; it made her feel invisible. Even in her form-fitting uniform, men mostly didn’t look at her anymore. But if Jenny could use middle-age to her advantage here, she would. “Her mother called and asked me to bring the girl home, since we’re leaving the port at the same time.”

— “Hush”

*****

Totally Intimidated

I was sort of dreading teaching lit theory and felt totally intimidated by it, but I’ve sketched out my plan for this first week of theory (Aestheticism & Semiotics), and I think it’s actually going to be fun, esp. since I get to teach Christina Rossetti and Poe. Hopefully fun for the students too — my students have generally really enjoyed Poe, so fingers crossed.

Kind of a breakneck speed on the theory, though, which is going to take a little getting used to! We spent weeks and weeks on semiotics in grad school…

*****

(I’ll be adding some brief lecture videos to this, but I’m going to record them in the morning. Getting sleepy, and I’ll be more coherent right after coffee, I suspect.)

Part 1: Due by midnight, Tuesday 1/19

READ:
• Christina Rossetti poem, “Goblin Market” (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44996/goblin-market) or listen to a reading by Jane Aker on YouTube (26 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCo22wYXYm0
• Wikipedia page on “Goblin Market” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goblin_Market)
• browse illustrations from “Goblin Market” (do a google image search for ‘goblin market illustration’)

• Upstone, Aesthetics chapter, part 1 (stop at Symbolism)

WATCH (after reading the poem), optional:

• 5 minute movie based on the poem (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeksCf6PuSA)

WRITE:
• one journal entry for “Goblin Market” (you might consider Pater’s idea of ‘the ecstatic moment’ and how it’s portrayed in this poem) and one for part 1 of Aesthetics (2 entries) – for the second, you might address the idea of ‘art for art’s sake’ / beauty as the sole goal of art

• three more Slack comments on classmates’ entries (from this week or previous week)

Part 2: Class on Zoom Wednesday 1/3 @ 10
• review of Rossetti & Upstone
• discussion of art & morality
• brief intro to semiotics (Saussure / Barthes) and breakout room semiotic practice
• preview of Poe

• discussion of new aesthetic ideas around ‘great literature’ (and who gets to write it)

Part 3: Due by midnight, Sunday 1/24 (but strongly recommend you start sooner)

READ:
• Upstone, Aesthetics chapter, part 2 (start with Symbolism) — this is a little dense, so start it early and take it slow; she covers a lot very quickly
• Edgar Allen Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado” (https://www.poemuseum.org/the-cask-of-amontillado)

• Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven” (https://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/ravenb.htm)

WRITE:
• one journal entry for each reading (3 readings)

• three comments on classmates’ journals (start with journals that don’t have responses yet)

*****

Motivation for Drawing

I have to say, while money isn’t everything, it’s still very validating when someone buys something you designed. Someone (maybe one of you, maybe a total stranger?) just bought my Starry Woods table runner, which is not cheap if you get it already sewn up (much cheaper if you sew it yourself).

That’ll motivate me to spend a little more time drawing this week. 🙂

Finalizing the Heartflower Design

Kavi and I worked together (well, she did all the work, and I kibitzed) to finalize her Heartflowers design. Main changes — reduced number of colors for a little more coherence, added shading in various places for more coherent textures, and so the fringe bits felt heavier closer to the heart and lighter as they went out. We’re happy with the result.

I’m going to go order some cards with it and Heartplanets next, so that we can offer them on the site to include with Valentine orders (and just generally). And when I have energy / time / patience, will do a Zazzle product collection with them. (It took me about 3 hours to do it yesterday for Heartplanets, with Kavi sketching beside me and two Disney movies on…)

Mango & Passionfruit Ice Cream in the Dead of Winter

Why am I making ice cream in the dead of winter? Well, we’ve almost finished eating all the ice cream from the summer, and we wanted more ice cream. Also, I had a lot of mango-passionfruit curd (made because I had a lot of egg yolks left over after making chai meringue kisses), and I wanted to try something, hence: mango-passionfruit ice cream. It is VERY good.

This did push the capacity of my little ice cream maker, so you might want to reduce quantities a bit. But this is what I made.

*****

Mango & Passionfruit Ice Cream

2 c. heavy cream
2 c. whole milk
3/4 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
pinch of salt

1 c. mango-passionfruit curd (plus more for topping)

1. Prepare ice cream bowl the night before (mine requires freezing overnight.)

2. Whisk all ingredients except the curd together until the sugar dissolves, pour into ice cream bowl and churn following manufacturer’s instructions.

3. After about 10-15 minutes, it should be starting to look ice cream-ish. Add in passionfruit curd. (Could you just add it in at the beginning? Probably, but I didn’t try that, so no guarantees!) Continue to churn until you reach soft-serve consistency — generally 25-40 minutes total.

(Alternately, you should be able to make the vanilla ice cream, transfer it to a container, add the mango-passionfruit curd, then use a knife to drag it through, creating a ribbon of curd through the vanilla ice cream. I haven’t tried that yet, though!)

4. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze. (When I pulled mine out the next day, it was a soft frozen consistency, easy to eat with a spoon, creamy and delectable.)

5. Serve with a little more mango-passionfruit curd dolloped on top. Whipped cream and/or hot fudge would also go very nicely.

NOTE: For a Sri Lankan-style ice cream sundae, consider this ice cream with plenty of fresh mango, banana, avocado, a little drizzle of lime-ginger syrup to tie it all together, and some salted roasted cashews on top!

NOTE 2: Curd recipe is here.

 

Garden Log 1/17/20

I’m afraid the plants in my little home office tend to get neglected — I work all over the house and in the shed, so I may only be in there once a week (it’s where I record the podcast, so it’s primarily set up for that and file storage right now). I’m slowly transitioning towards low-water plants in that room, because anything else, I tend to forget to water enough, and thereby kill.

So Friday, when I was feeling immensely stir-crazy after a month of not leaving the house, I put on my mask and ducked over to Good Earth Greenhouse, in nearby Forest Park, to pick up a succulent for that room. Just breathing the plant-laden air made me feel better. Of course, it’s almost impossible to just buy one little succulent — I considered all kinds of other plants, but in the end, I succumbed to just one more plant, a lovely hellebore perennial.

It’s very early for garden stores to have hellebores, but Good Earth is ahead of the game. Later in the season, by mid-March or so, there’ll be lots of varieties in many garden stores, and of course, you can order them online as well. But it was a treat seeing these there!

I didn’t actually repot the hellebore — I just dropped the plastic pot into a cachepot (a pretty pot with no hole for drainage). Cachepots are perfect for this kind of thing, because my plan is to just enjoy the hellebore in my office for a month or two, and then, as soon as the soil has warmed up enough to work outside, I’ll be digging a hole and transplanting it into the garden. With a little luck and care (and watering religiously the first season), there’s a good chance it’ll perennialize and come back year after year.

I also took the dead plants out of my office. Looking better! 🙂

(The little ferny thing under glass is faux, from Target. Nice to mix a few of those in if you’re struggling to keep green things alive!)

Mango & Passionfruit Curd

(makes approximately 2 1/2 c.)

I doubled the amount when I was making this, because I had PLANS for my passionfruit curd. But this is probably an appropriate amount for reasonable people. 🙂 Fabulous topping for vanilla ice cream (or mixed in while making your own, to create mango-passionfruit ice cream), equally fabulous on a scone, ideally with a bit of clotted cream or butter.

(Honestly, sometimes I just open the fridge, grab a jar, and help myself to a spoonful straight up. It’s fruit! And eggs! Surely that’s good for you…)

Recipe adapted from Nik Sharma’s recipe for passionfruit curd. Sharma uses fresh passionfruit for his, so has lovely little seed flecks; you can certainly do that as well, if you have fresh passionfruit on hand, though it’s a bit more work and does change the texture. A food thermometer is very helpful for making curd of any kind, though not a requirement.

Ingredients:

2 large eggs plus 2 yolks
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. passionfruit puree
1/2 c. mango puree
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1. Make a double-boiler: fill a medium saucepan with about an inch of water and bring to a simmer; place a large heat-proof bowl over the saucepan. (The water shouldn’t touch the base of the bowl.)

2. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl and whisk about 6-8 minutes; mixture will thicken and turn pale yellow (around 151F). (You may want to use an electric beater, to save your arm.)

3. Whisk in the passionfruit puree, mango puree, butter, and salt until combined. Switch to a silicone spatula, and from this point on, stir constantly, scraping the sides of the bowl regularly. Cook until the mixture thickens, about 10-12 minutes (to about 165-170F). You’re aiming for a thick, custard-like consistency. Congrats, you’ve achieved curd!

4. Remove and transfer the curd to a container — if you’ve whisked and stirred well, there shouldn’t be any scrambled egg bits. If there are, you can strain the curd through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth.

5. Cover (a piece of plastic film pressed against the surface will avoid a skin forming) and refrigerate at least 4 hours until chilled. Keep refrigerated and use within one week. (It never lasts that long here.) You may also freeze it for up to one month.