Happy Rosh HaShana

This has sure been a crazy year. I know most folks choose to save their end of year recaps for December but, being Jewish, I take advantage of the opportunity.

So here are my hopes for the upcoming Jewish new year:

  1. I hope that the nutty virus that has been shaking our world upside down just decides to pack its suitcases and move along. Or, you know, that the science community finds a reliable and SAFE remedy.
  2. I send my best wishes to all the people who have suffered from Covid physically, emotionally, and financially. While not easy, this year has been prosperous for me professionally, with profitable opportunities and interesting projects. I am grateful and acknowledge my privilege. I hope we can all find a way to survive and thrive.
  3. I wish for more time to sleep and relax. And return friends’ calls. And just hang out with my sweet kids. And clean (I just wrote that last one to make myself seem more industrious 😁 I actually think I spend enough time on the house).

So I’m giving the world a big virtual hug on the cusp of this brand new year. Stay safe and well. Stay mentally healthy. And stay hopeful and creative.

“This should be your time”

A kind commenter told me this (I can’t find the exact quote right now): I’m sorry you have to work, even from home. this should be your time with your children.

Let me tell you…. There are days when I miss the simplicity of getting up and not having to juggle work projects with taking care of children and endless household chores.

Theoretically, yeah, I’d probably say that all mothers should live peacefully, free from all financial constraints until their children are at least in their teens. However, as we all know, there is a big difference between should, can, and is.

  • I feel more financially secure working. After several periods of extreme financial duress and my inability to do anything about it as I virtually cut myself off from all paid employment options, I know that the stress of juggling work and home is nothing compared to the anguish of having no income for extended periods of time.
  • My self-esteem is higher as I make my own money. I have always said that this is a misleading term: when you are married, all money goes into the family pool. Theoretically, who earns the money shouldn’t make any difference. “Just” mothers shouldn’t feel in any way inferior. But this is another instance of should vs is – as we live in the money economy, those who generate value but not money are often invisible. In a marriage, one of the spouses being responsible for 100% of the income often leads to an imbalance – and misuse – of power.
  • Getting into the workforce is tough after an extended break. I had been out of paid employment for a decade, and finding paid work involved scrambling for ground-level, low-paying jobs, plus losing much of the advantages my degree and clinical training would have given me otherwise. For a woman who had been out of employment for two decades or more, the process would doubtless be more difficult.

I don’t work full-time, nor is it my goal. But I am doing something I can easily upscale as my children grow older and I am able to put in more hours.

Always looking for balance, I certainly wish I had more of “my time” but thankful for the opportunities that have allowed me to swim rather than sink.

New book release: The Berserkers

A GENETICALLY MODIFIED RACE

I am happy and proud to announce that The Berserkers, the latest volume in the Antarctic sci-fi Frozen World series, is out now. Like its prequel, The Bloodthirst Gene, it makes a shift from purely environmental sci-fi to genetic engineering, and features violent supremacists, giant reptiles, and a worldwide ramble that includes Antarctica, Tasmania, and London.

“A society of ruthless genetically modified people seeking to recreate a Viking-like culture.
A formidable leader looking for the perfect bride to found a new, supreme race. 
And a girl who has the misfortune to catch his eye thanks to her unique genetic combination.”

To celebrate this new release, I am making The Last Outpost, the first book in the series, free until September 2, so anyone who hasn’t had the chance to take a look at Frozen World until now, this is the perfect opportunity to dip your toes in.

I hope both new readers and existing fans of the series enjoy this latest installment. I was going to say final – but I am hesitant to use that word, because following feedback from early readers, I tend to think I will need to add another volume to really and truly wrap the series up.

Fresh Pineapple crochet top

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I have finally woken to the reality that, as much as I love the feel of merino and alpaca yarns, I do live in a hot climate and must be practical in my crafts. Thus this summer crochet top in 100% cotton – another creation in the pineapple pattern, done with a 2 mm hook.

Materials used: Two 200gr cotton cakes from Ice Yarns – I estimate I’ve used up about 350 gr, with a bit left over from each cake. I liked the stitch definition, but this yarn does tend to split. I’d love to make another top in this gorgeous yarn.

The method I used is very similar to the one in this detailed YouTube tutorial:

A word to the wise: if you are making adjustments to the pattern, make sure the number of pineapple motifs at the neckline is even. I made an odd number and realized it too late, which resulted in asymmetrical sleeves. I don’t mind this much and was very happy with the top when I wore it last weekend, but if I had been intending to give it as a gift, I would have been self-conscious about this.

The good things in life

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This has been a busy summer, but thankfully, not too busy to appreciate the good things in life. Above: a little moth we were lucky enough to be able to watch transform from a chrysalis before releasing it.

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Our mango tree surprised us with pretty big fruit this year. The previous winter had been rainy, so I guess it needed more water.

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Two pullets of this spring’s hatch. All in all, we have 5 young pullets and 8 cockerels (the latter will not be remaining with us – one roo is quite enough!)

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Quail eggs – as pretty as they are delicious.

Hope everyone is having a good August! I love the sunshine, but could do with less heat.

My transition to a work-from-home mom

If You Dream of Being a Work-at-Home Mom, Here's Everything You ...

I had my first baby over 11 years ago (crazy to think of! Time flies!) and ever since, my life has revolved in a large measure around my children.

Until my fourth child was born, I was mostly “just” a stay-at-home mom. Don’t get me wrong – it’s more than a full-time job! Oh, I did get some bits and pieces from my books and articles, but overall, I was more focused on saving money than making it.

My mindset shifted with a prolonged period of financial distress, during which I realized how vulnerable I really was. I knew I needed to have a source of income, but I also knew I wanted to be with my children. Thus I resolved to work from home. But how to achieve this, when I already felt like every spare moment was taken?

Well, I certainly made some lifestyle changes that enabled me to fit part-time work into my mom schedule. Here’s how.

1. I became a lot more careful with my time. Not that I was ever that frivolous, but I did watch the occasional movie with the kids during the day, and I could spontaneously set aside a couple of hours for a whimsical project like picking acorns for crafts.

Now I’m extremely jealous of every spare minute during the day. I am either with my children or working, and any extras (like outings) are strictly pre-planned. I don’t remember when I last watched a movie and I rarely answer the phone, opting to return calls at my convenience instead.

Does this sound too restrictive? It might be, but this schedule has enabled me to generate an income from home while also going on with writing and publishing my books. I think it’s a worthy tradeoff.

2. I sought the niche that works for me. I tried translation, transcription, and a couple of other things, and eventually got into freelance editing and, more recently, writing. If there’s one advice I’d give anyone, it’s this: don’t force yourself to do something you don’t like, even if it pays well. You’ll get burned out very quickly and won’t last.

3. I diversify and work towards creating a scalable income. I don’t concentrate all my work on one platform, but do some on several for a constant cash flow. I also work directly with authors, helping them edit their books.

Finally, even though it’s not easy, I set aside some time for my own books. In the past couple of years, I have been rewarded with a steady trickle of income from this venue, and I hope it will keep growing (book 5 in my Frozen World sci-fi saga coming soon!).

4. I don’t take low-paying gigs anymore. When you just start out, you may have to accept some less-than-lucrative jobs to get some experience under your belt, but take it from me, you don’t want this to last too long. Keep looking about you and angling up to raise your pay rate.

I currently work about 2-3 hours a day, splitting this time between early in the morning before my kids wake up, and a spell of quiet time I usually get around mid-day. I used to work after the kids have gone to bed, but realized I’m not really productive at that time of the day and it’s better to relax and spend some time getting the house in order before I go to sleep so I’ll have a good start the next day.

I don’t make full-time income yet, but that is my goal. Eventually, I want to be able to provide for my family single-handedly, if needed – like in case my husband loses his job again. It gives tremendous peace of mind knowing you have feasible, flexible options to do that – especially during a full-blown worldwide crisis.

Delicious homemade granola

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Cooked oatmeal is a great, healthy morning food, but sometimes you’re looking for something quicker, or just aren’t in the mood for hot breakfast. In this case, homemade granola might just be the thing for you. 

Most commercial granola brands are ridiculously expensive and loaded with sugar, but it’s easy to make your own, and once you try it, you’ll never look back.

Basically, you will mainly need 2-3 cups whole oats, and you can add various goodies such as:

– Sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds

– Raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricot chunks

– Coconut or almond slivers

Mix everything and add cinnamon, a couple of teaspoonfuls of coconut oil, and your favorite natural sweetener such as honey, date sugar, or maple syrup.

Spread over a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at medium heat, or just until it gets a beautiful golden hue.

Take out of the oven and set out to cool and dry. Keep in a sealed jar.

Enjoy for breakfast or as an any-time-of-the-day treat!