Fresh Green Stuff

We’ve been trying to get more takeout to support local restaurants, but one thing I find tricky about that is getting enough fresh green stuff. I don’t really want salads in winter; I have a hard time motivating to eat them when I’m cold. So far, Vietnamese is a helpful option for me — I can have a fresh spring roll, and that clean crisp herby goodness just tastes right.

And then the hot pho soup is fun, because it comes in its component parts for freshness, and you get to assemble it to your liking. Kevin gets the rare beef; I like the seafood one, spicy and tangy, which has shrimp and clam and fish balls and mussels and crab. That’s just the soup itself — it comes with masses of delicate rice noodles, fresh Thai basil and sliced jalapeños, red onion, cilantro, lots of bean sprouts (more crispy veggie goodness), plus some rare beef too, and the sauce (some sweet, some spicy).

You put it all together in your bowl (one order of pho ($13.95) is enough for 2 full meal servings for me), and the beef cooks in the hot broth and it feels like healthy deliciousness as you eat. You can also order just broth for $5, or extra noodles for $2, or extra rare steak for $5, etc, so once you know how you like your pho, you can easily figure out how to inexpensively stretch it for another meal or two.

When I’m feeling indulgent, I get myself a little fried catfish in claypot — it comes in a rich, spicy sauce, served with rice, and I won’t claim the deep-fried part is particularly healthy, but I typically just have a little at a time, and fish is good for you.

Other recommended dishes I didn’t get tonight, but have enjoyed greatly in the past: green papaya salad, the Saigon sandwich (French bread with Vietnamese ham and pork pate, spread with mayo and filled with cucumber, pickled carrot, white radish, jalapeno and cilantro), bubble tea. My kids like the fried rice and the BBQ pork with rice.

The full menu is here:…/507659-saigon-pho-cafe/menu/

I linked that menu because the online ordering menu through GrubHub seems very truncated, but if you call for pickup, they’re happy to have you order off the full menu.



Tote Bags and Mutual Aids

A quick note for Oak Parkers that if you’d like to support the work of the mutual aid society AND get yourself a gorgeous tote bag, sweatshirt, mug, t-shirt etc., featuring Marcy Grant’s gorgeous artwork, those are all now available.

I just picked up two tote bags for myself (I picked the royal blue backing, as black is not so much my thing), and am looking forward to using them at local stores when we can freely shop again.

You can also conveniently add a donation to OP Mutual Aid (they’ve been doing a lot of grocery deliveries for families in need) as you’re placing your order. Thank you.

OAK PARK MUTUAL AID-Green Line El Stop tote | Bonfire

Looks like your text is -181 character over the limit. Please shorten it to 200 characters or less. Oak Park Mutual Aid is a coalition of neighbors dedicated to directly caring for one another and those around us in greatest need.

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: