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Even in a little thing

23rd October, 2016. 1:34 pm.

I've had such a lovely morning. Marketing and superheroes go well together. I've done half my exercise for the day, what's more, which means that I'll get in some really solid work later, without having to break as often as usual.

I managed to get some great stuff at the market, too, and all within my budget.

The kom fruit were supposed to be out of season, as I told the grower when I spied them. He said that this was the last of the last and said that if I took them all, he'd give me a discount. I gave him $10 and we loaded up my bag. I thought it was about 3 kg, which would've meant a couple of dollars off, but I've just weighed them, and it was 5 kg. One can have a great deal of fun with 5 kg of kom fruit. This and the pomegranate I got the other day mean I've plenty of fruit for the week. It also means I get one more time to experiment with the amazing peel. I intend to buy a bit more sugar when I go to the shops this week. The sugar is to preserve it, and I'll mince the peel very finely to candy it and then use it in chocolates and on cakes for the rest of the year. By the time it's gone, I'll've made at least 15 different things with the peel, which adds up to a very good season. It's so nice to have my cooking fu (mostly) back!

I also bought some gorgeous fresh young cheese from Tarrago goat milk, more broad beans (for they're very much in season right now), four types of tomatoes (for I used up all the ones I had in making sauce the other day), some green pawpaw for a favourite pawpaw/lime/chilli side dish (it's supposed to have fish sauce in as well, but fish sauce and I were not made for each other and it's amazing and fresh even without the fish sauce), salad vegies and a surprising number of artichokes. Australia is seldom good at globe artichokes. They're normally either unavailable or so expensive I can't afford them. I bought 5 for $4, however, and a sixth was thrown in by the grower. I shall make a wonderful mess with them and shall steam the hearts and stems and eat them with vinaigrette.

And that's all. I've already shelled the beans and sorted the tomatoes and puta bowl aside so that I can collect the kom peel and process it daily. I've also already eaten the miniature Russian black tomatoes, for I love them so much and they were so fresh they demanded instant attention.

I'm out of excuses not to work. I've had a very, very fine time, however.

Make Notes

17th October, 2016. 8:16 am.

I'm staying in today. I decided on this late yesterday afternoon when it became obvious that I could choose between the weather change and all my messages. I'll be teaching on Wednesday and will do messages then.

It's not the rain, per se, it's the wind straight off the snow. And it's not as if I don't have work to do here. If I can finish my assessment of someone (for something, of course) and if I can type up all the words in the red book (about 10k, I think), and if I can get my conference proposal done and dusted, and if I can do my housework, and if I can get through this afternoon's meeting, I'll be a happy bunny. If I can do all this by dinnertime, I'll be even happier, for my timelines for the novel are being recalcitrant and my ideal evening will be watching library DVDs and sorting them out. I have fifteen books I'd rather read today than do any of these things. Maybe I'll allow myself one of them if I get enough other stuff done.

Make Notes

16th October, 2016. 12:23 pm.

Today was a nice spring day. We're going back to colder weather tomorrow, I believe, but today is perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. Sandal weather at twenty degrees.

Most of my day will be indoors, but I went to the farmers' market this morning wearing a light jacket and it was such a freeing feeling after the heavy coats.

I bought loquats and kom fruit (the amazing citrus that this year is having an amazingly long season - this is the end of it, they told me today), and fresh new-season garlic and asparagus and sugar snap peas. I also bought shallots, for I have hokkien noodles and chopped mushrooms and duck eggs already in the fridge. Add the shallots and I have three nice meals. I also bought a big bag of broad beans, which I'll shell this afternoon. It's the best year in ages for broad beans, and the farmer has a sister who knows people I know, so we chat about the extraordinary work she does while I select the best pods. I also bought some Italian bread, to eat with the avocados I was given last week, which are now (finally) nearly ripe.

Tonight's dinner will be chicken sofrito (already in the fridge), and broad beans and sugar snap peas and baby tomatoes.

We didn't watch DS9 today after all. We went new season instead and watched Supergirl and The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow. I got to bring the DS9 home with me to watch while I shell broad beans and do admin and work on my timelines for a novel. These will take up my whole afternoon, I think, except for an hour when I type things up, for I cannot shell broad beans and watch TV while I type things I wrote a while back. I don't understand why I can only do two things at once. I regard this as distinctly unfair.

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15th October, 2016. 2:02 pm.

I have voted. I bought mooncakes and tempeh and other important items (the mooncakes belatedly, which means this year they're red bean with no yolks) on the way home. This was to make up for the fact that I didn't get my Election Sausage. There was a sausage sizzle, but the Sea Scouts running it hadn't actually thought through things and decided not to go halal. Their beef sausages were nicely tempered with pork fat... Thank goodness for redbean mooncake, is all I can say, for I reached home very hungry.

The Animal Liberation people (who are standing for civic rights for animals) jumped out at me on the way to the polls, and so did the Liberals. They were nicely chatting together and I was a prime target. I was polite but short with all those who tackled me with vigour. I told them I had a how-to-vote card that was of my own devising and patted my handbag to show them where it was. The Animal Liberation candidate didn't let go - she wanted to talk with me and persuade me, for she has a Cause. My father used to be Peter Singer's dentist, so I thought my way through these issues when I was very young. I didn't want to say this on the street (especially since my end thoughts include the role of medieval animal trials and the views of Christianity towards animals and can tend towards the impolite), so I was a little more brusque. This was mostly because they've had six weeks to talk to me about philosophy: leaping out of marquees on the road leading to the polls is just daft if you want to stand on that kind of issue. Mind you, if one of the Greens candidates had jumped out from under that marquee, I could've found out if they were worth voting for, but there were none of them within a mile of my polling booth. I checked all the main roads leading there. Given there are very few polling booths in the electorate, I have to say that obviously they didn't want my vote at all. And they didn't get it. The Greens did so many things to lose my vote, and they succeeded. I was very impressed.

Of all the people who were under the marquee, one didn't leap out to talk to me. He stood there quietly and let me decide what I wanted to do. He's one of the candidates I wanted to talk to, in fact, and he moved from number five on my ballot to number two on my ballot as a result of that conversation. We had a nice long talk about the neighborhood (he lives round the corner) and about why I'm voting for him despite the fact that I want a tram and he's standing for the No Tram Party (normally known as the Canberra Liberals). The family thing is what got him onto my ballot. He's from a local family that has been local a lot longer than European Australians have been in Canberra. I've met others of his family and they have a strong, strong family culture and his body language showed that he has the same. He's someone we actually need in our Legislative Assembly. Him and the candidate I put as #1.

The wonderful thing about him giving me "I want to hear you" body language (which wasn't instant - it came as soon as I said "I know who your family is") was we could talk. We talked about some rather hefty issues. This started when I told him I wasn't voting for him to support the lack of public transport his party wants, I was voting for him because it's about time we had someone on the Assembly who could speak for country. He's a rare Australian in that he's actually standing for an electorate that covers some of his country. Given his family, and given this, and given he's competent, that vote was a no brainer. Meeting him consolidated it, was all. And it's nice to have someone else to talk to about the problem-things.

Two good candidates from two opposing parties. A handful of probably-good. And all the rest "Who knows?" This was one strange election.

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6th October, 2016. 11:52 am. Update on things political

I am being so fair to the Greens and they're failing every step. I spent ages chatting with the handers-out-of-leaflets and they not only couldn't help me with my key issues, they didn't even know that they were issues. On the other hand, I have ringing endorsements (and a detailed background) for another Labor candidate. He's worked on helping people who hurt due to the kind of cultural hate that's becoming standard and that triggered my approach to this election. This was his professional self before he moved into politics. If I want a Canberra without hate, so far there's only one party that's even considered it as an issue, and they've not only considered it, they take multiculturalism very seriously.

I'm still researching and still asking questions. I'm happy to hear from anyone. Right now, it looks as if I might be voting down party lines.

UK bods - our Labor is not yours. It's to the right of yours on many counts, I think. US bods - you have no national equivalent for our Labor. It's closest to the leftish wing aspects of your Dems, however.

This started off as me just wanting to know who might be bigoted against me. I was being very selfish. Now it's become "Who is willing to work for an Australia that won't tolerate any bigotry". I find it very depressing that the Greens tell me "Yes, of course this is an issue - let me think about it" when the Labor people have already thought about it and put in candidates with experience in this area. Speaking as an ex-public servant, one can train pollies in economics and business and government. One can't train them nearly as easily in understanding and compassion, especially when they're moving into positions of great privilege. I want to elect people who already have that understanding and compassion and who are intelligent enough to learn the other things they need.

This is one of those elections when I wish I hadn't brushed away all the overtures to go into politics. I still don't want to be a politician! But want and need are different things, at times like this.

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5th October, 2016. 12:50 pm. Voting again - this time it's Canberra's elections

Canberra's in election mode. Twice in a year. We're so very fortunate.

My choices aren't what I thought they were a few days ago.

The Greens
Because the Greens have some potentially anti-Semitic members* as well as many who are not, I need to find out about each and every Greens candidate before voting for them. I don't vote for anyone who dislikes me without having met me.
Finding out who would dislike me without having met me is harder than it seems. Everything I can find out from online research suggests that I really need to meet a candidate to know if I am voting for someone who will actually talk to me, because the Greens as a party is tangled on the issues that are normally indicative. Only one Greens person is public about this, and she's not local. So I need to talk to someone, face to face, and find out how comfortable they are to talk to.
It ought to be simple. Candidates are doorknocking and phoning and talking to as many voters as possible. The trouble is that I sent out a few lines of "I would very much like to be visited by Greens if you're doorknocking in my area. I work from home." I've been told variously that they'll keep this in mind, that the Greens don't visit this block of flats (even though they have visited my neighbour in this block of flats), and that there's no time to talk to me personally. The one Greens candidate who I know is awesome and wonderful is, alas, not standing in my electorate. Unless the Greens improve their game, they'll be demoted from my voting priority to being right down the ballot.

The only party who has taken the time to talk to me. They've done it four times, too. One actual visit, and three phone calls. Each time they stopped and listened and responded. Twice they decided I needed to be talked to personally and kicked the general call upstairs. I have a very good idea of how good one of their candidates would be in office, and a better idea of how their policies relate to their rhetoric relate to their work on the ground than I have for any other party.
I still don't have enough information about most Labor candidates, but their willingness to actually talk to me both in and out of the election cycle makes them the best bet for responsible government at this point. This is local government, you see. Half way between mayoral and State. Capacity to talk sensibly to the rest of Canberra counts, bigtime. Leaflets, on the other hand, mean nothing. And slanging matches really annoy me, which brings me to...

All the Libs want to talk about is the light rail and how they'll spend the light rail money on other things. I don't know what they'll do with the rest of the budget. I also don't know if they'll ask people outside the party about any of it. I have received no phonecalls and been spoken to by no-one. All I have is "I hate Labor" leaflets. I have voted Liberal in the past, locally**, but unless I know more than "We hate public transport and Labor sucks for backing it" I can't see why I should vote for them now. I'm adaptable on policies, but I'm not adaptable on voting for competent individuals.

Everyone else
Apart from the light rail issue, same as Libs. They haven't let me get to know them. With such small government, it's hard for me to evaluate someone I don't know.

It's odd. The only party I'm specifically not impressed with is the one I originally intended to vote for. Given that the candidates are (with a couple of exceptions) not bothering with me, I shall do research and use the grapevine. I don't need to put numbers against all the candidates, but I do need to find five competent people and so far I've found precisely one.

My vote is still up in the air, then, ten days out from the election. About the only thing I'm committed to is the sausage sizzle. They have halal sausages at our local sausage sizzle, which means I never have to ask about pork. It's easy to decide on halal sausages. I wish it were as easy to decide on candidates.

*spellcheck tells me I want 'anti-semiotic'. I would consider voting for an anti-semiotic candidate.
**I'm a genuine swinging voter. And Liberals here are left (considerably left) of Liberals at national level. I vote consistently centre-left and I vote consistently for individuals who are capable of doing their jobs. I regard elections as job interviews and I have a very clear idea of what government entails and who is capable of doing a good job in government.

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5th October, 2016. 8:51 am.

I've reached a new milestone. I've now been approached by editors and publishers for short stories, edited collections, novels, chapters and scholarly books. Most of these didn't come to anything for a great range of reasons, but the publishers approaching me are getting more and more reputable, which is also a good thing.

I wish this meant I made a living wage from my writing, but it doesn't. I still need to find that job.

In other news, thanks to Conflux, I have two projects for my academic self. It turns out that the very old research I repurposed for the workshop is exactly what is needed to help writers address their own privilege and design cultures in a way that doesn't make them defensive and angry and that also doesn't damage other cultures. This is not such a surprise, given who the research was for, originally. I suspect I need to update it and write a book. Another book. This, too, depends on finding that academic job. I have my outline and only need a few weeks work to do sample chapters, however, for I used to know this subject exceedingly well.

My big discovery of Conflux is how few people know what it means when I described my history as cultural history or ethnohistory. They don't tend to work out that the theory behind it was what I used to help them with world-building in earlier workshops. It came out when I taught the workshop on writing cultures other than one's own, last Sunday. Oddly, it didn't come out with the range of material in the Beast. The sole copy of the Beast at Conflux sold the moment the dealers' room opened (as it does when there are writers who see it, I find) but people don't tend to put one and one together.

I don't actually have disparate specialisations. What I've done all my life is work on culture and narrative, both historical and contemporary. I finally know enough about my subject to be able to break it down for different needs. That's the main difference between what I did many years ago and what I'm doing now. That's where all the books are coming from and all the workshops.

It was Greg Dening who first showed me what I was doing and how, however, and that was back in the early 80s. It got me in career trouble, way back then. It and the recession combined to lose me my first career. Publishers didn't want me even near them at that time. My approach was anathema in Canberra after a while, too, because I insisted (vade retro!) that cross-cultural awareness entailed the dominant culture understanding their own culture and addressing privilege. This is why I find it so very amusing that this same method is now so very useful to people.

Culture is dynamic and this is an illustration of that dynamism. If I live long enough, what I do will be old hat. In the meantime, people are willing to publish my research. I need to get a move on with it so that they can.

Make Notes

3rd October, 2016. 11:53 am.

My gift to everyone for this new year is the menu for last night's dinner. It's the first proper dinner I've done in so very long I thought I was incapable! I was not only capable, I even cleaned the bathroom!! It was a light meal, because most of us were coming from Conflux and I noticed how heavy the food was in the vicinity of the hotel. Vegetarian meant we only had to worry about one food sensitivity/restriction. And there is much symbolism in some of these foodstuffs, so I got the trad stuff in there even if the menu isn't a traditional one.

2 commercial dips and things to dip into them (my lazy thing)
home made challah with apple through it
local yellowbox honey (an amazing honey - a straw-yellow and wonderfully fragrant)
organic new season apples
nahit (my great-grandmother's chickpea nibble)

Soup and bread: a red lentil/tomato/coriander/chickpea/chilli/yoghourt soup, with accompanying home made baby bread rolls

Main course:
Cacik, carrot salad (dressing was orange/lemon/blood orange/ginger), 2 types of home pickled mushrooms, broad bean salad (since broad beans are in season), pickled cucumbers, tomato salad, bean salad
with the two types of bread

My honey cake with variations (since I like making it differently each year) including 4 types of egg and home made preserved peel
sultanas and almonds
home-dried grapes on the stem (those dark red ones you can never find as dried grapes - I wanted to see how they'd dry and... they're addictive)
home-candied peel of my favourite citrus with dark chocolate dribbled all over it (this was everyone's favourite dish, I think)
home made marzipan asteroids (because I was having fun with food dye)

Tea, coffee (except no-one drank coffee, for some reason), pinot grigio

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29th September, 2016. 6:35 pm. Me, my chocolates and Conflux - where to find us

I'm hoping my new approach to the programme will help LJ accept that it's not to delete it. I have chocolates for Friday and very special chocolates for Sunday and something odd for Saturday (and maybe chocolates) and honeycake for Sunday. People don't have to know me to ask for food!

On Friday I'm on four panels.

10am We're not in Canberra anymore, Toto - politics in spec fic
I fear snark. Much snark. This is Canberra and I've read Heinlein. Rik Lagarto is moderating and he doe snark better than me, so this panel will be enlightening and it will be fun.

12pm: How realistic do you like your fantasy?

We have Dr Nicholls moderating this panel, so it could get noisy. And daft. And unpredictable.

3pm: DIY Genre
I'm interested to see how this panel pans out, for I both study genre and challenge it. My latest novel has been called 'urban fantasy' twice now, so The Wizardry of Jewish Women is my first with a clear genre label. I fear I shall annoy people. I'll try to annoy people wittily.

4pm: Rhythm and form in fairytales
I used to study this stuff. That's why I used it the way I did in The Time of the Ghosts. However, it's my fourth panel of the day and I am prone to bad jokes (more prone than usual?) when panels in one day reach this number.


12-1 pm.
What I like to think as "the Satalyte hour". It's divided into three sections. Two books will be launched and two other Satalyte writers will chat with each other about their work. I'm one of the two other writers, along with Phill Berrie. This is when you can ask me about Wizardry! (Actually, you can ask me about WIzardry any time, but this is the time allocated on the programme).

1.30pm: Cyborgs, brain ships and one-legged dragon riders
This is a serious panel, about disabilities. It's got some great people (Craig Cormick, KJ Taylor). And it has me...

3.30pm: The physical cost of writing
Sean Williams has to suffer the same panel as me. What's worse, I've threatened to teach him the exercises I use to keep RSI at bay.


11am-12.30: Workshop
Writing about cultures other than your own.
This is not the usual course on this subject. It's skills-based as well as knowledge-based, for one thing, for knowledge alone is hard for writers to create from. I keep telling people I'm a cultural historian and this is where my background becomes very useful to other writers. While I'll talk about terms such as appropriation and about ethics, there will also be cultural awareness and cultural mapping. It is entirely possible that I'll do my infamous minuet exercise, if I find suitable victims participants.

I leave for my seasonal festivities around 4 pm and will be at Floriade enjoying the New Year on Monday, so that's it from me for Conflux, folks. Except that copies of my new novel WILL BE AVAILABLE. Also copies of other things. buy my books on Monday and it will be as if I'm whispering in your ear and you can say "Go away, Gillian, I'm busy" as if I were there.

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28th September, 2016. 8:50 am. Some difficulties are more problematic than others

This week isn't that easy. It was never going to be, to be honest. Being public on Jewish New Year in this Year of Bigotry requires a certain courage. And my Jewish feminist Australian fantasy novel is out, which adds a certain twist. It's my second week of fulltime work . Fulltime for me means about 60 hours a week, and it takes some getting used to, especially when there's medical stuff still to weave into the pattern (2-3 hours a day) and there's Conflux and there's Canberra.

Some of it could have been difficult. Friends have made those bits wonderfully straightforward. Most of my extended Canberra family is making my new year happen for me on Friday week, so even if Sunday is less than it should be (thinking of my birthday at Conflux here, which was one of the two worst birthdays ever) my new year is going to be lovely. And Elizabeth is coming this Sunday, for she's also caught up in Conflux. Two friends are definitely coming on Sunday, in fact, so I won't be alone on Erev Rosh Hashanah.

Why do I approach the actual subject of this post in such a roundabout way? I'll get to that in a minute. First, let me focus on the excellent - Conflux is going to be possible because my health is improving and because a friend is giving me transport for Saturday and Sunday. I don't have to catch non-existent buses on the long weekend and I only have to carry heavy things in by bus on Friday. This is important, for my Conflux program is quite heavy. Between six and eight panels (and I'll try to post my schedule again later), the Conflux release of my novel, my stint at community stuff (GUFF, Worldcon, CSFG) and a workshop. All this between 10 am Friday and 4 pm Sunday.

I've been planning carefully and making sure that as much is done beforehand as I can. That adds to the fulltime work, but will mean I get through my festival and through Conflux without major problems. Also, it reminds me that I'm capable of complex planning again as well as of 10 hour work days.

Last night, however, I had a bit of a Moment. And again this morning. This was nothing to do with my fiction: all my editing is done and with the editor. Two novels for next year and they're ready for his tender administration ahead of schedule. I've drafted my History Girls post and it will go in the queue today for release at Conflux. I will make all my other deadlines, although I had to move my research to next week, since the articles it's for aren't due until the week after next.

All this, when I write it down, is rather wonderful. Me, back to doing things. So why do I have Moments?

It's echoes of that birthday at Conflux combined with a deal of frustration combined with something that I need to say aloud. It's socially undesirable to say this thing aloud, and not tactful at all and... I will probably regret this. If I'm going to spend an hour on the phone explaining to a pollie's offsider (as I did yesterday) what it means to be a political ally of minorities, I need to be clear on what it means to be a social ally and a friend.

The echoes of my birthday come from the people who say "Yes, I'm interested in coming to you for your NY dinner, but I can't tell you yet, so I'll get back to you." Three weeks ago, this was fine. We all do it. This week, it reminded me of the friends who said "We'll collect you after the dinnertime panel you're giving on your birthday and we'll have birthday drinks and a bite to eat." They forgot. I was stranded, foodless and drinkless and had missed lunch due to the timing of my workshop and spent the afternoon in hospital due to my idiot eye.

I tried to avoid another experience like this: Conflux on Jewish New Year could easily cause such things again and I wanted to make things easier for everyone, including me.

This time, I said clearly "It's dinner at my place. It's timed so that you can come after main programming is finished, or you can get the programming and have a later dinner and not miss anything. It's my New Year, which is equivalent in style and magnitude to your Christmas." Eight people have put off replying. At this stage, I must assume they're not coming but must cater for them anyway. Eight people is a lot of cooking... and there are other friends I would've liked to invite and planned on inviting just as soon as I had space to seat them. If you're a friend who would've liked to have come and didn't get invited, ask me, for I'll lay odds that none of the eight turn up and there's no reason why you should miss out.

One of the things I promised myself this year, when things started to get difficult for members of various minorities, was that I *would* start judging people by their willingness to come halfway to meet me. Not answering my invitation is one of those cases, I'm afraid. It's my equivalent of Christmas, after all.

If any of you are pondering on what makes an ally to invisible minorities, this is one of the things. Not making their lives more difficult or treating their important occasions lightly.

The current racism means I'm taking time out to talk to those who need to understand. We're in election mode again, so that means I get regular conversations on the issue. (My past isn't entirely past.) I have to put myself on the line, in public. We all do. This is not a year for sitting back and hoping life will improve. Given this, it would've been nice to have had a Rosh Hashanah without issues.

I used to think that it was minor that most friends in fandom were hopelessly vague about my important days. And one or two people not replying to an invitation is not an issue, since it's pretty standard for Canberra. But eight? That's part of a wider issue.

"I am not a bigot," people say. They probably aren't, but they reinforce bigotry if they make minority lives uncomfortable. If we're made to feel as if we don't belong or that our important things are really pretty trivial. Right now, all of us need to reach out and demonstrate to others that we value them. We don't have to agree with them. Showing them that they're important to us is enough. I had assumed that the lack of responses was because I was a boring sod who couldn't cook and didn't deserve any support, you see. That was my Moment.

It's hard to make a commitment for something that's just a bit foreign. It's hard to tell a friend "I can't make it." It's easier to put the decision on hold. How many people will be in the bar on Sunday and remember "I should've replied to Gillian." It doesn't feel too bad when it's a passing thought one has over drinks. One person forgetting an invitation is nothing.

It wouldn't be nothing to them if they had to have their Christmas dinner in the middle of an SF convention. We're not talking about religion here (for my dinner won't even be properly kosher! and there are precisely 3 minutes of anything ceremonial) we're talking about the time of the year when people come together and make others feel wanted and listen to stories and make resolutions and start things afresh when they're going the wrong way.

To be honest, I get my new year whether friends support me or not. I don't dump friends because of issues like this. But I do notice. And it makes me rethink what being an ally means and what we need in this current society of ours.

My resolution to myself for this new year is to learn more about how other people see their needs when they're victims of prejudice or in a minority. How I see them is an outsider's view. It's asserting my privilege over them. It's telling them that I'll be there if I feel like it, not if they need it.

Just as well I'm teaching the workshop on Sunday. It covers these issues. Just as well I ranted here, for the workshop isn't about me. And now I go to make my great-grandmothers' nahit recipe, for cooking grounds me. Besides, it's yummy.

PS The nahit is almost done and I've edited (very slightly) for clarity and typos.

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