lydamorehouse: (ichigo irritated)
New Year's day is the day we take down our Christmas/Yule tree and pack away the decorations.

This year is no exception. Though we did start in on the process a little bit yesterday, since we knew any big undertaking all at once would be too much for us. Normally, I find this process a little sad and emptying, but, this time, it restored a small sense of order.

Partly because we often use our downstairs bathroom as a place to store all the boxes and bins that the Yule stuff comes out of. Normally, this is a temporary hassle that is tolerable and makes more sense than dragging everything back up to the attic, only to drag it all down and back up again in a matter of weeks. However, with the very much needed addition of an emergency downstairs litter box, it was impossible to keep the floor clean of litter bits and everything just felt chaotic any time I needed to change the box or even just didn't want to bother to go upstairs to do my own bathrooming.

The decoration bins are now staged to migrate upstairs over the next day or two and then be tucked back into their corner in the attic. The rocking chair is off the porch and back in its spot as the guest chair. It was never MEANT to only belong to guests, but... well, funny story about that:

I have a friend Theo, who, when they were buying a house for themselves, got really into the theory of interior decorating. They read a book that talked a lot about what your furniture and style choices say about you and your family's values. They took one look around our cozy little living room, the three overstuffed chairs pointed towards each other in an intimate circle, and the weird, almost out of place rocker and nodded and said, "This house is house for three."

And they are absolutely right.

We happily entertain others, but in the end of the day, this house is a house for three. Possibly three HOBBITS, given the amount of food around the house. We have little stacks of books at our feet and blankets (and snoozing cats) everywhere. The house often smells of something baking.

In fact, I took bread out of the oven only a few minutes ago. I have a French bread recipe I always make as an accompaniment to our traditional wild rice soup for New Year's day. Wild rice soup became the tradition because the recipe we have--from my late stepbrother Mark--calls for BOTH turkey and ham, and we always have leftovers of each in the freezer from the holidays.

We have a pagan ritual we do every morning of the new year, too. Last night, some time before midnight, we find a dime minted in the current year and add it to our collection of dimes that are wrapped in a gold silk square. We put this symbolic "silver and gold" outside of our house and then, in the morning, we bring it in over the threshold to symbolize the act of bringing fortune to us in the new year. This has been our good luck tradition for years (we could probably count the years, given the number of dimes. At least 20, at a guess. I can't remember if we were doing this when we lived in Uptown before we bought this house or not.)

Do you have something personal like that, something to bring you luck in the new year?

I have to say, this is the first year that I've even heard of the whole "rabbit, rabbit" thing. But, I had two FB friends discussing it this morning. Despite my surname, I'm clearly not British (or American?) enough for this whole tradition.

Quick cat update for those interested... )
lydamorehouse: (Default)
It's been a rough couple of days for Ms. Ball, though she seems to be having a good morning, so far.

Potentially TMI Cat issues under the cut )

Okay, so somewhat brighter news.... Of course, my whole family and I spent much of Christmas day worrying about our cat, but we still did our usual round of Christmas eve/day presents. 

Shawn's family has a tradition of the big meal on Christmas Eve followed by present opening. We have morphed this tradition over the years and now open presents as soon as consensus is reached. This year, with Ball's initial appointment and extremely bad news, we ended up delaying opening presents until 1:00 pm.  

Mason got more D&D books, plus a fantasy series he wanted, the Grishaverse trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. We got him "Luigi's Manson" for the 3-DS and several gaming related gift cards, which he promptly spent on games for the Switch. He had also been covetous of an electric blanket that his girlfriends' family owns, so we bought him one of his own. And, of course, socks. Everyone should get a nice pair of socks for the holidays, IMHO.

Shawn turned out to be a trauma this year. I had ordered the presents I wanted to get her ahead of time--two different earrings from a catalogue that specializes in Native American art.  Unfortunately, because each piece is handcrafted, they almost didn't arrive in time and this causes me to turn into one of those deadbeat spouses who wandered around all the nearby stores that were still open wondering if she would like an air-freshener in the shape of a tree or a tin of sardines, you know? Luckily, I was actually able to find a meaningful gift card (when Mason has robots we often have mini-dates at the Caribou near his school) and a gag present of some cookie cutters in fun shapes (a unicorn! A dragon! Stegosaurs!)  And, then, ON CHRISTMAS EVE AFTERNOON the earrings arrived so I was able to quick add one under the tree--after we'd opened, but, hey, the day wasn't over, AND surprise her with the second one in her stocking (she'd only known that I might be buying one of her two choices.)  SAVED FROM DEADBEAT SPOUSE-ING.

I was too frazzled to make a yeast bread with our ham dinner, but I whipped together some popovers last minute. The ham was good, we had mashed potatoes, wild rice hash, and roasted root veggies for sides.  

Christmas morning is when my family used to open presents, so we always reserve one or two for Mason 'from Santa' (yeah, he's fifteen, but he likes the tradition, so we keep it up.) And, then some time in the middle of the night I fill up stockings with candies and small things--normally this is when everyone gets socks, for instance.

Of course, this was the one time Ball's illness worked to our advantage. I was up checking on her at 2 am, anyway, so I took care of the stockings then. I got up again at quarter to six, because that's when we've scheduled her prednisone dose (6 am + 6 pm).  

Christmas day, as noted under the cut above was a hard day for Ball, so I can't say it was our best ever Christmas. Normally, I look forward to having so many days off with my family. We all get along really well (minus hormonal surges.)  And, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, there are usually lots of board games and eggnog.  Shawn is off yet today, so perhaps we can have a day-after Christmas Christmas celebration.

I set up our altar to Bast and we've been keeping a candle going for Ms. Ball. I hope whatever happens, Bast keeps Ms. Ball safe in Her arms.
lydamorehouse: (writer??)
 gingerbread people "trapped" inside glass jar

I see that the last thing I reported was that gingerbread cookies were on the agenda for Thursday night. I am happy to report, they were made. We have successfully captured the gingerbread people (including the rare cyclops ninja)  and trapped them inside this cookie jar.  Resistance is futile.

As you can see, we had too much fun decorating these. Initially, I thought I'd stay out of the kitchen and let Maria and Shawn catch up. Maria is a former colleague of Shawn's. She used to work at the Minnesota History Center, but has now moved on to records management, maybe? (I wasn't entirely paying attention early on), at Thrivenet, formerly Lutheran Brotherhood.  BUT, when it was clear that what they wanted to do was drink wine and chat, I let them settle into that and did the rolling and baking. At this point, it's second nature to me, so I could join in the chat while getting things together.

When the cookies were cooled, everyone did the decorating.  

I had bought the "googly' eyes from Micheal's along with a bunch of other odd edible bits, including lips and mustaches--they all came in a packet for a couple of bucks. I also bought a few frosting tubes because I was there and decided that I was feeling too lazy to do the frosting from scratch on top of everything else.

They're quite whimsical, so I'm very happy with them.

Tasty, too.

I got together with the usual crew on Friday afternoon, except for Eleanor, who was off getting her hair cut. [personal profile] pegkerr brought along her holiday cards to label and stamp. It's interesting to note that Peg's family has always done a Christmas family newsletter. She and I had both come across recent articles talking about how fewer people are writing these sorts of things any more and how this is a concern for historians, as sources of 'mundane' life.  The article I had read was from the Smithsonian and was called "The History of Our Love-Hate Relationship with the Christmas Letter".

I happen to enjoy a well written holiday letter, myself. But, given that I still enjoy the long form of blogging, that's probably not a surprise.

But, otherwise, we were all fairly low-key on Friday. [personal profile] naomikritzer is still, in many ways, recovering from her trip to Taiwan and China. And, I think we were all suffering from a lack of sunshine (though it's been more sunny here starting on Friday. Previously it had been gray with gray sauce.). These dark nights have been tough on me. I'm already an early to bed sort and when it's dark at 5:30 pm, I think, "Okay, great! Time for bed!" Except, yeah, it's like 5:30 pm.

Saturday was a busy day for our family. I took Mason into his job at the Science Museum at 10 am. I was able to say "hello"/"goodbye" on a hangout with [personal profile] jiawen , but then had to take off to go to Mason's work's "open house" that they had scheduled from noon to 2 pm. The Science Museum is not normally more than 10 minutes from our house, but we have gotten in the habit (thank goodness) of leaving a bit earlier because it always seems that there is something happening at the Xcel Center. Saturday seemed to be no exception. There was a Minnesota Wild (our hockey team) game happening and we ended up having to pay $20 for parking. (Outrage! Except, that Shawn pointed out that we could think of it as a donation to the Science Museum, which we happily support in all of its endeavors.)  

The open house was cool.

The program that Mason works for is called KAYSC, which stands for the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center. They're a nifty little organization that focuses on bringing STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills to high schoolers in underserved communities. Mason goes to one of their target high schools, which is how he ended up able to apply. Washington Technical has a predominantly Asian-American student body, with Caucasian students making up only 6%. At KAYSC, Mason gets an opportunity to get paid to learn STEM and project management skills, with a focus on using the sciences to served local communities--something the KAYSC people call "STEM Justice," which is a term I adore. Honest to gods, I would have killed to have a job like this when I was Mason's age. Heck, I'd love one like this _now_.  

At the open house, we got to see some of the areas of interest that the students had identified for themselves. They had set-up various presentations (some static/interactive displays, a couple of video programs, and one tour). I wanted to do the tour, because they were going to talk about gentrification, but we also didn't want to miss the big team reveal at the end of the open house, where Mason would find out which project leader he would be assigned to. They have four "tracks." There's an environmental sciences and sustainability one, which is where Mason ended up, a Engineering and Design, a Biological Sciences and Public Health, and a Media and Technology one. There were some really well put together displays, including Mason's which focused on stereotypes in storytelling.  I was also really impressed with a team that had micro greens growing and talked about ways in which low-income houses could cheaply incorporate more nutrient rich foods.  Another group has a display about the problems GLBTQIA+ students have in high school.  

So you can see the sorts of things they focus on.
 
Mason seems very happy with the assignment. Engineering and Design had been his first pick, but Environmental Science was his second. Given that he has an engineering track at his high school, I imagine they factored that into their decision where he might learn the most.  Because, getting serious, this job is 100% about getting paid to learn, which is why it is SO awesome and probably the best first job any high schooler could hope for. 

But, the event was high energy and full of people moving around and OMG, even this extrovert needed a NAP after that. 

Mason, meanwhile, had us stop at home to pick up some gaming stuff and headed over to his friend's house to play D&D with his robotics crew. He was there, with them, until almost 10 pm. 

Shawn and I came back and collapsed into a heap, but we got back up to make homemade pizza for dinner. Shawn had a work holiday party at a house on Summit Avenue (fancy!) which I bowed out of for a bunch of reasons, but not the least of which was that I am staring up some RPGing of my own. 

I had such a lovely time doing a Star Trek: Discovery one-shot with [personal profile] jiawen and [personal profile] bcholmes at CONfabulous this last year, that we decided to try to make it a regular thing. We spent Saturday night rolling up our characters, and I'm already very happy to watch everyone's character histories comes through my e-mail feed. We're doing this online, as our players are scattered across the globe. I'm looking forward to the campaign beginning in earnest. It's been some time since I had a regular gaming group... probably college, which is going on 30 years ago. Though to be fair, I did keep up with some folks a few years after that, so let's call it 25 years ago?

Even so, that's a long time ago.

I had gone cold-turkey from gaming about the time I started concentrating on novel writing as a career because, for me, I felt it used a lot of the same mental muscles. I felt I could EITHER use those muscles to write _or_ RPG. I'm not sure I was right about that, however--I know a lot of pro writers who could do both.

But, that was the choice I made. 

I'm excited to get back into it, regardless. I also love that in the twenty-five or so intervening years the demographics have flipped. The STRONG majority of us are women (4/5ths). There's only one guy gaming with us. That's amazing. I can't wait to find out what that's like. In the past I was always the only woman or one of a very few... I met my wife gaming, but we drifted together partly _because_ there weren't many women in that campaign... though I think there was at LEAST one other. (To be fair, it was actually love at first sight, since when she asked me to draw her character and said that they should have blonde hair and brown eyes, I told her I thought that was an unusual combination, and she said, 'that's what I am,' and I looked up and literally said, "Oh. You have the most beautiful eyes I have EVER seen." So, you know....)

Anyway. I'm not sure exactly what happened on Sunday, except that Mason and I got into a hormone fueled bickering session that ended with us marathoning several hours of the new Super Smash Bros, Ultimate game on the Switch in order to work it out (which we did. Gaming as therapy is real in the house of hormones, which is what we call our house as Mason is in puberty and Shawn and I are both in various stages of menopause.)

So, that's me. How's by you?
lydamorehouse: (ichigo hot)
Shawn's favorite OB/GYN moved into private practice in Burnsville, so we drove down to the new clinic this morning. I'm waiting in the waiting room, so I thought I'd catch y'all up on the exciting news of my life.

Since many of you may be hoping for some fannish bits and bobs, I will lead with a new review I did for Mangakast. Last night, I was bored and so I did the thing I do sometimes when I'm looking for a new manga to read. I have the categories/tags page bookmarked on Baka-Updates (which is a great site that is kind of like a catalogue of all manga published and bits of information about them, though it's NOT a place to read manga.) and I will pick a subject I'm interested in, like "pen pals."  I'll hunt down the list until I find one that looks interesting and has been scanlated.

Yesterday, I found Omamorishimasu, Dokomademo which briefly mentions pen pals, in a cute way, but is mostly a mob family drama with a little bit of m/m romance. If you can't tell, I was 'meh' about it.  The mangaka, Junko (not my fannish persona, alas), is one that I enjoy, as she wrote Kiss Him, Not Me, a reverse harem that an otaku girl gains when she loses a ton of weight after her anime 'husbando' dies on the show and she goes into depressive mourning (which sounds TERRIBLE when I describe it that way, but it's actually done with a lot of love.)

The link takes you to my review, so feel free to read that and explore my other reviews, as you like.

Otherwise, Sunday was about decorating the Solstice tree.

blurry shot of Christmas tree

Mason's D&D group ended up cancelling, but he wasn't much help since he fell asleep on the couch.  Shawn spent the day fighting off a migraine, so I did most of the actual decorating. This year, I could NOT get the lights right. For some reason I ended up plugging a "male" plug into a dual plug and got to the end of the string only to discover that I had the wrong kind of plug. It should have just been a quick matter of finding the plug and flipping things around, but somehow, even though I was testing each string, I ended up with a bunch that weren't working. I must have done this rigmarole a half-dozen times. BUT, I finally got everything working and plugged in properly.

We bought our tree from the Y's Men, who set up across University Avenue from us.

We buy our tree there every year and do our traditional mad dash across University Avenue (which is a four-lane busy street with a set of light rail tracks running down the center of it, as well.)  We decided this year that the light rail actually makes the running with the Christmas tree hoisted between Mason and I a little easier, because it acts like a safety island (there's a pedestrian pass or we'd NEVER be able to do this.)  I'm sure we look ridiculous scurrying across all the traffic with a giant tree between us.

But it's part of our ritual, so you know.

Driving would be weirder, since University is now set up as a series of one way turns from our house, so it's actually several blocks LONGER to drive across the street, than it is to walk.

The picture of the tree is blurry because I have a new smartphone and am learning out to focus it.  Many apologies. You get the general idea of the thing, at any rate. Big tree. Many lights and shinny bobs on it.

Since my family left me in charge, there are a lot more birds on our tree. Being pagan, I like to make sure there are a lot of bird ornaments and such on the tree. Sun symbols and spiders and deer also abound.  I will talk more about what we do for Solstice as the time approaches, but, since both Shawn and I grew up with Christmas, we kind of celebrate both Solstice and Christmas. We exchange our meaningful, family gifts on Solstice and have a bonfire--though it's actually just a fire in our chiminea outside, and then exchange another small set of gifts on Christmas eve, mostly just to mark the day.

What about you? What are your holiday traditions?
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
 Well, maybe you're not pagan, so you're not on her list!  But, the Ostara bunny came to ours.  She left her usual basket and a few Goddess themed eggs:

A dyed blue egg with a yellow Brigid's Cross on it

The actual basket:
Ostara basket with candies, eggs, and a cat toy

One more of the Goddess eggs:

Mottled purple egg with a sliver of a moon on it

Mason told me that he feels too old to do the actual HUNTING for the eggs, but he does still like getting the basket. I told him that he can keep getting an Ostara basket as long as he wants. I'd even send one to college, because WHO DOESN'T LOVE PEEPS AND CHOCOLATE COVERED MARSHMALLOW BUNNIES???!!!???  

Yesterday, I also changed over the altar to its spring clothes... no that that's stopped the snow from falling. When we headed out to school/work this morning, a light dusting was falling. I can see the it's sticking in places. I don't like to complain about the weather too much, but, OMG, the snow could stop any time now. People I know in Chicago are posting pictures of flowers in bloom.

Ah well.
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
 It's several hours into 2018 and it's going pretty well so far!!  After ringing in the New Year, Mason and I stayed up until 3 am binge watching Haikyu!  There may have been tears. Such a good show.  Now I have to wait on my hands until the next season airs... or, take the plunge and read the manga.  I'm only a little nervous about joining another on-going fandom, due to how badly Bleach burned me. I would feel so much better if Haikyu! wasn't a Weekly Shounen Jump product.  I don't trust WSJ to treat its properties very well or to have the editorial spine to tell a popular mangaka that their ENDING IS TOO STUPID TO LIVE.  Lookin' at you, whoever edited Kubo-sensei and Kishimoto-sensei.

I ended 2017 arguing with people who are Wrong on the Internet (tm). Honestly, it wasn't bothersome that they were "wrong," because we were talking about the new Star Wars film, and I actually ADORE intelligent people who have serious, thoughtful criticisms of the things I love. I was raised Unitarian Universalist, debate is my RELIGION. Bring it!

But, in this case, it was bothersome because this person's strategy for arguing their point was, when they were failing to win, call people "gas lighters" and suggest that if they didn't get a 100% agreement on a point they would say people were being dismissive of them. (See, how, if I agree with you, you actually win and I lose and that's not how this works. That's not how any of this works.) 

What's particularly sad about this, is that this is someone I know in Real Life (tm), a former student of mine, whom I previously respected a great deal.  I got nothing for people who can't stand and fight, however. I mean, if you just want to shrug and say, "Meh, it didn't work for me."  I'm fine with that.  Lots of my friends fall in that category, but coming to my feed and INSISTING that I agree that it sucks? Fight me.  I mean, I presume that's why you came, right?

Before you ask, no, I didn't unfriend this person. I don't unfriend people for having a strident opinion or even for being kind of a dick about it. It's a do onto others thing for me, because OMG can I be a dick about my fannish opinions.  :-)  In fact, I think that if my fan clan had a coat of arms, its motto would be: FIGHT ME (in all caps). Let's be honest, I adore a good debate. (New caveat: so long as it is actually a debate.) Anyone of you who has ever seen me on a panel knows this to be a Truth of my life.

But, so that's how I rang out the year.  Then I stayed up too late consuming amazing anime, and this morning we took down the tree and all the decorations. The house always looks so sad and empty after the tree is gone, so we are consoling ourselves with mimosas (faux-mosa for Mason) and a nice chicken roast for dinner.

We did our traditional pagan ritual of putting silver (dimes are our metaphorical substitute) outside our house and bringing it in on the morning of the New Year. The idea is supposed to be to encourage silver (both as a monetary thing, but also general prosperity) to flow into the house. We keep the dimes in a hidden cache in the heart of our home.  We've been collecting dimes from each year that we've done this (I found a 2017 dime last minute!), so we probably have twenty or thirty cents or so built up over the years.

Meanwhile, our cat has become an Internet junkie:

buttercup (our cat) trying to cat a mouse on an iPad

He will now come up to Shawn when she's reading on her Kindle and paw at it, hoping for his mouse game. Alas, it's only on the iPads, but of course we run get it for him when he does that. He has us well trained.






lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
Do you have big plans for tonight?

That's the question everyone is asking today. We _sort of_ do.  In our house, we traditionally stay up for (or, in years past, WAKE UP for) the ball dropping in New York City.  I find this tradition very strange, even though I participate in it, because America is so vast that we're in another time zone from New York City, so even though we tune in "live," we're watching something that was recorded "live" an hour earlier.  People in California and Hawaii have an even odder experience, I'd imagine, to say nothing of Puerto Rico and Guam.  

In past years, we've made Shawn's brother Mark's wild rice soup for New Year's Eve dinner.  We have made this particular soup because it calls for both ham and turkey, which we have in abundance in our freezer thanks to Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.  But, this year, we ended up making our batch of wild rice soup for a holiday party we were invited to.  We made that version vegetarian, so we COULD have chosen to have it again, but we decided to buck our own tradition this year and have steak and potato latkes.

Why latkes?  Well, first of all, they're yummy.  Secondly, I have this weird culinary issue with potato hash browns... as in I can NOT seem to make decently crispy ones.  No, seriously, I have tried everything you're about to suggest, I SWEAR. I once spent an entire week trying out different recipes and different tricks and every time, they were OKAY and edible, but just not what I wanted from my hash browns.  (What I want? Crispy on the outside, fluffy and white on the inside.)  Lots of people can do this outside of professional kitchens. My mother can. She made amazing hash brown my whole life. It's something with me. So, we decided that maybe what I need to do is make something hash brown like that really wasn't hash browns at all, with the hopes that I'd basically get what I'm looking for in a sideways manner.  

Wish me luck.

And, yes, you can, if you wish, inundate my comments box with your tips, advice, and recipes. I would still love to try to make the perfect hash browns, so anything you think might help me to do that is actually very welcome.

Shawn will probably go to bed early.  Mason and I are planning to stay up watching the ten episodes of season three of Haikyu! or at least as many as we can get in before midnight, when we'll wake Shawn up for sparkling cider and noise makers and time-delayed "live" NYC ball dropping.

You? What's your tradition?
lydamorehouse: (ichigo hot)
 For those of you who don't know, my family is Pagan. We're not always the most observant of pagans and we do also do some Christmas-y things around this time of year.  But we do make an effort on Yule/Winter Solstice, the shortest day/longest night of the year.  

We've had a Yule Log for years.  Shawn and a friend of hers "liberated" (aka stole) a perfect-sized birch log from Eloise Butler Wildflower Preserve.  Another friend of ours drilled three holes in it for candles.  Every year, we pull it out of storage and I decorate it from pine boughs either scavenged from our tree or from the leftovers at the Y's Men's tree sale (they usually have a bundle we can take for free.)  

On Yule, once the sun goes down, we do a very simple ritual of singing a few songs (including Fa-la-la-la-la because it mentions Yuletide) and a lighting of the candles. We normally open a few presents on Solstice under this light--and that of the tree. Traditionally, we try to give the more meaningful, less expensive, non-commercial gifts on Yule, but that doesn't always work out either. This year I gave Shawn her SUPER expensive hair product, for instance, which is neither non-commercial, nor cheap.  :-)

Then, once the excitement of all that dies down, Mason and I brave the cold and take one of the candles outside and light a fire in the chiminea.  We have a cast iron chiminea in the back yard, and I collect firewood all year for Yule. Last year, we stayed out so long, I actually RAN OUT of kindling.  This year our toes got chilly, but we hung out watching the flames and thinking about life, the universe, and everything for an hour--maybe a little longer.  Once we felt sufficiently "bonfired," we relit the candle from the chiminea, banked the flames, and came back inside.

We then transfer the flame to a fire-safe glass that we can leave unattended (though we keep it where we can keep an eye on it, in our bedroom) for it to burn all night, symbolically keeping the light going in the darkness. We have this really lovely stained-glass chalice type thing that, when light shines through it, looks a bit like a multi-faceted sun in yellows and light greens. I often use it whenever we do Solar rituals, in fact. 

Sometimes, one of us (usually Mason, since he's such a night owl) volunteers to keep vigil for the return of the sun by staying up all night and officially greeting the sun.  This year, Mason passed out watching Haikyu! (a volleyball anime) with me in the TV room.  So, I tucked him in, shut off the lights, and went to bed.  I'd put a 10-hour votive in the little stained-glass thingy so I wasn't surprised it was still going when I went to bed around midnight.

It was still going in the morning.

In fact, somehow, it stayed lit until the next nightfall, almost 24 hours.

My theory is that somehow, I placed the votive exactly on top of an old wick. There was old wax in the chalice thingie, but I thought that the previous candle was completely spent.  I'm guessing not.   What was especially neat to me was how STRONG the sunlight was the day after the day after Solstice.  It was almost like the sun really did absorb all of our Yule energy.  :-)  Of course we didn't really do that, but it was magical, none-the less.

But... spiritually and metaphorically, I think the world needed more light after give how dark and... awful (politically) 2017 has been. I hope that our small ritual gave the world what it needs to get through, and, in fact, it is my hope that our Yuletide miracle extends to you and your family.  If you have been in darkness, let our light shine through. 
lydamorehouse: (??!!)
 I would apologize for not posting here in a while, but we've had a house full of guests.  Before that, I was cleaning like a fiend to be ready for them.

Thanksgiving has become my all-time favorite holiday.  I don't even quite know how it happened that Shawn and I decided that Thanksgiving belonged to friends, made-family, rather than our families of origin, as it were, but it was by far, the smartest thing we ever did. 

I feel so sad when I hear people talking about how they dread Thanksgiving because it means Yet-Another-Family-Gathering where they're not accepted for who they are, or where they have to suffer through crazy, drunk uncle Bob's horrible racist/homophobic/misogynist politics. I wish I could give them all the fortitude or means or whatever it would take to say, "So, don't do it. Make this ONE holiday yours." After all, it's not like so many of these same people aren't going to end up having to go back to the same awful situation a month later for Christmas.  And even if your family doesn't celebrate Christmas there's usually some other 'can't miss' holiday that's basically required family gathering.  So, why give them Thanksgiving too?

I absolutely love having my house filled, once a year, with the people Shawn and I picked--our friends and their family.  I love cooking them a huge meal, even if, this year, I had to figure out how to make a bunch of my staples vegan.  I love putting together the puzzles, having the competitive board gaming, etc., etc., etc.  I even love that my crazy guests always make a pilgrimage out to the Mall of America for Black Friday. (Hey, you know, if I were in Dublin for some uniquely Irish Cultural Event, I'd want to participate in it too. Even if my native friends were like, "Nope. No way.") 

So that's the sappy way of saying, I had a great Thanksgiving.  Our friends and their family are now coming from both ends of the U.S. and Ireland (one is in Oregon at Reed College, two are in Virginia at William & Mary, and two live in Dublin.)  They all arrived en masse on Wednesday.  Luckily, they were able to find an Air BnB just up University.  They've stayed in a downtown hotel before, but that isn't nearly as homey--and this was very convenient (I picked some of them up there on Saturday to take them to the airport.)  Funny story about that, though. I was given the wrong address at first and so I ended up knocking on a door two doors down. Thank GOD no one answered, though I did spend a lot of time wondering why no one was letting me in.... this is where cell phone are actually a GOOD thing.

Anyway, we ordered pizza from Pizza Luché because they have tons of vegan options, and even make an in-house vegan cheese, while also serving plenty of delicious carnivorous options as well. I think we were off to a good start with the vegans since at least one of them was actually a little overwhelmed by all the choices... since, more often than not, restaurants have only one or two.  

Turkey day itself went very well. It took a bit of planning to have vegan options and/or adapt existing recipes. I'll be honest. A big part of my secret skill as a chef is that I'll put bacon drippings and cream in ANYTHING, given half the chance.  But, we managed to find a good butter substitute and we'd been trying out various dressing recipes for months. Shawn even made a vegan pumpkin pie (as well as two types of cookies and a vegan cranberry-orange sweet bread), and, after several trips to a number of different stores, I managed to find a commercially produced vegan soy whip as an alternative to my homemade whipped cream. It was a lot of work for two out of eight eaters, but, in the end, we could feel good about our hosting skills.  In exchange, I heard no complaints about the dead bird on the table and there were no attempts to proselytize about the vegan lifestyle's superiority. So, I think that was a fair trade.  ;-)

On Black Friday, they all went about their separate ways, but took Mason along.  That meant Shawn and I had a chance to physically recover (I napped... A LOT! I'd feel bad, but it's a full day in the kitchen, since I get up early to make French bread from scratch) and, according to Mason, they all checked out the Herbivorous Butcher for lunch. We had a little snafu about whether or not we were going to brave the Black Friday Mall of America traffic, but in the end everyone hopped on the light rail (Mason always carries his Go-To pass, so he flipped the bill.)  So, it all worked out, plus our Irish guest got to check out what passes as public transportation in Minneapolis/St. Paul. (He and I actually extolled the virtues of trains.)

Saturday, people started drifting off to various airports, though we kept our Oregon guest at our place one extra night. That day was spent playing with the Nintendo Switch and he's ONLY a vegetarian, so cooking for him was much easier. I made my favorite broccoli-curry soup, which I will type out below because another friend has asked for it:

From the Ovens of Brittany Cookbook by Terese Allan:

6 tablespoons of butter, divided
1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 cups of coarsely chopped broccoli stems and tops
1 teaspoon basil
1 (or more) teaspoon of curry powder (I use Penzey's "sweet" curry)
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 teaspoon of celery salt
1 cup of milk
1 cup half-and-half
2 1/2 cups of vegetable (or chicken) stock
1/4 teaspoon of ground white pepper (though black will do in a pinch)

They want you to make a roux with three tablespoons of the butter, heated, to which the flour is added.  I've found you can do this, their method is not that hard, but if the idea scares you, you can just skip the extra butter and mix flour with a little water to make a paste and add it in place of the roux.  Both methods work equally well, IMHO.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy pot. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until tender.  Add broccoli and spices and cook a little longer. Add the stock to the vegetables, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, add milk and half-and-half. Once that's warmed add the roux (or flour mixture).  Simmer until thickened and the flavors have mingled, but the broccoli is not overdone--10-20 minutes.  Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

You can see why the vegetarian can eat this, but not the vegans.

On Sunday, we shuffled our last house guest off to the airport, and the had Mason's GF over for our traditional post-Thanksgiving wild rice soup. Of course, she's also a vegetarian, so she got the same soup, only minus the shredded turkey bits.  I made popovers.  It was wonderful.

But, oh my gosh. I'm not normally the sort of person who needs a vacation after a vacation, but this might be an exception. However, I wouldn't have traded a minute of it. Such a good time was had.


lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
I occurs to me that I never wrote anything about my experience volunteering at Quatrefoil Library.  

I got there right on time, having managed to get my package off to New Zealand in record time (considering what the queue looked like AFTER I left, which is to say: stretching all the way outside.)  If you know nothing about Q Library--which I didn't really, either--it's now in a "new" location on Lake Street. They're in the bottom floor of the Spirit on Lake building. There is a small, convenient parking lot behind the building as well as lots of off-street parking.  When I showed up, I would have SWORN that the back door was locked, but after going around the building once, knocking on all the doors like a moron, I came back to discover a very confused Brian who opened the door to me and asked, "Did you even try it?"

...

Maybe not?

He gave me an exasperated eye roll, which is literally why I like Brian so much.  

Then we had some confused back-and-forth where I had to confess that, yes, I work at the Ramsey County Libraries (RCL), but, no, not a librarian--I don't have a masters in library science.  I think this bummed him out, because from what I gathered, maybe they only have one retire librarian doing cataloguing for them? But, he set me to work, anyway. I had to find some potentially MIA books on the shelves, because copies had been donated that could either replace them or replace copies in bad shape. 

At RCL, this would have taken me no time.  Maybe a bit longer, if I'm not familiar with the particular branch's layout, but over the past three years I've become pretty comfortable with how RCL is organized.  Q Library baffled me.  First of all, their non-fiction is organized via the LOC (Library of Congress) system which is, frankly, utterly foreign to me. RCL uses Dewey Decimal.  LOC is just about as intuitive as Dewey Decimal, but it still took a bit of a mental adjustment.  I mean, I don't have to understand what the purpose of the organizational system is, I just have to know how the numbers/letters fall in order, you know?  Alphabet still starts with A and ends with Z. Numbers still go from 0 up.  So, I'm good.

Fiction is alphabetical by author, same as anywhere.  But for some reason, I could not fathom how the shelves were working for a while, but eventually I got it down.  While combing the shelves, I discovered a HUGE cache of yaoi (in non-fiction, so don't be confused), which, when I left, I borrowed a half dozen of, with plans to take out the rest at some point.  I've been reviewing those over at MangaKast.  If you're curious about Q's holdings, I made a search term/tag for it, so you can just plug-in "Quatrefoil Library" or if you're afraid you'll misspell it, "Q Library."

After I finished that, I got a very fun task: going through recent donations to see if there was anything among them that should be added to the collection. The criteria is pretty simple: author must be GLBTQ+ _and/or_ a significant character must be GLBTQ+.  Any books that don't meet these criteria still help Q Library, though, because they're sold via various outlets--kind of like what RCL does with its book donations.  So, that was kind of fun because it was investigative--used my brains and my Google Fu.

Then, because it's that time of year, everyone who was working at the library was invited over to the community room for a potluck get-together for residents and staff.  Awkward forced socialization is awkward, but the food was very good.  Life came full circle when I met my very first lesbian nun (ex).  

I may never have told this story in any public forum, but my first exposure a larger sense of a larger lesbian world was when Phil Donahue
 interviewed lesbian nuns on his talk show sometime in the 1980s. I remember watching this pretty raptly.  I knew that one of my dad's colleagues at Viterbo was a lesbian, but here were SEVERAL lesbians ON TV.  I think my mom, who was watching with me, probably got her first clue that maybe I was queer at this point.  It could have been the MASSIVE crush I had on my dad's colleague (Betty? Betsy? Something completely different?) or the Gay Comix I'd bought at the head shop, too.

Anyway, I left shortly after eating, mostly because I was overheated--I'd dressed for a much colder day and didn't have a very good way to shed layers. Q is well heated PLUS they have huge windows that get a ton of sun.

I would totally do this again. It's certainly work I feel comfortable doing and it's enjoyable, if for no other reason that it's something I would NEVER be allowed to do at RCL. Acquisitions is 100% the purview of librarians at RCL, so getting to be part of a decision like that is very cool.

Speaking of things I barely remember from the 1980s, one of the bids for copies of Resurrection Code for Jim Hines' charity went a guy I went to high school with.  Honestly? I kinda hated this guy.  In fact, the year I was voted "Biggest Women's Libber," he was voted "Biggest Male Chauvinist."  But, he has the sort of name that--particularly in the Midwest--is really fairly common and so when I wrote the "uh, so how do you want the book delivered?" e-mail to him, I stayed very formal since I thought it would be much more awkward to act all chummy only to discover I was talking to a totally DIFFERENT person who just happened to have the same name.  We're considering getting together to exchange the book, so it will be interesting to see how this guy has changed since 1985.  I suspect a lot, given that he just donated to a trans hotline.  I remembered him as not only a male chauvinist, but also as a raging Republican.  But, then again, I don't even remember the name of my first lesbian crush, so probably he was never any of those things I remember, anyway.

One of the reasons I have not gone back to a high school reunion since my 5 year, is that I have utterly jettisoned all, except the most critical, memories from high school. I hated high school. I mean, I actually enjoyed learning--I always have--but I was not living an authentic life, while also going through a lot of hormones.  I barely even recognize MYSELF from those days, much less anyone else.  

And, that's the problem. Since becoming a published author, I've had people I knew in high school say "Hey, remember when we did this? Remember so-and-so?" and I draw an UTTER, embarrassing blank. Like, clearly this was a significant moment for the person I'm talking to and I literally don't even know for sure WHO THEY EVEN ARE, much less remember a single detail of whatever they're trying to convince me was the most epic thing we did together.

I blame the fact that I off-loaded my memories every day in high school. Seriously, I was a religious, devout journal keeper.  I wrote a diary entry every single day in high school. I poured out all my thoughts, my emotions, chronicled events, ruminated about gossip, etc.  So, I think I literally dumped those memories because part of me knew they were stored off-site--kind of how no one remembers phone numbers any more because we all keep them in our smartphones.

But, add on to that the fact that I've always been mildly narcissistic and high school was especially a time that was all about ME--in my own head. I was trying to figure out who *I* was and so I pretty much remember nothing except those things that were critical to defining "moi," as Ms. Piggy might say.

So, yeah.  That should be interesting. Probably it will be a lot of "Remember when?" and I'll be, like, "NOPE."

Tonight our whole family has been invited over to Mason's friend Rosemary's house for a night of casual gaming.  I'm looking forward to that.  I might have to bake some bread or some other treat to take over there, but everyone is on vacation now so there's lots of time.  I actually got up stupid early again today... I've been having trouble sleeping and might need to go back to the chiropractor. If I lay on my back for too long, fingers in my right hand go numb--so numb it wakes me up!  That doesn't seem right, and, weirder, is the opposite arm than the one I had trouble with earlier this year. So that's a bummer. It might not help that I've been hunched over my stamp collection a lot lately, but the chiropractor can still help with that.
lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
Normally, we host our friends the Jacksons for Thanksgiving, but for reasons of other travel plans, they came early, in October.

We could have, I suppose, just skipped the making of the giant turkey, but we decided to invite a couple of our other friends, Eleanor and Patrick, over instead. I made all of our usual trimmings, except I decided to try a new brussel sprout recipe. In the past I had good luck with our one Martha Stewart cookbook, and foolishly thought that maybe her recipe for bussel sprouts would be as good as the Cuban sweet potatoes.

NOPE. They were a disaster.

Luckily, only Eleanor and I even like brussel spouts and I actually have more (uncooked) so I can try again (for myself, for leftovers.)

The rest runs like clockwork these days, though, of course, Eleanor and Patrick came just at the point where I start to get a little frantic about the timing of everything. I don't think Eleanor has ever seen me so.... fussy/anxious before.

But we had a lovely meal and lots of wonderful conversation. It was just exactly how Thanksgiving should be, IMHO.

I've long advocated for Thanksgiving to be the holiday of 'choice/made family.' It really can be quite lovely when celebrated that way.

Today is a pajama day which has started out perfectly with pumpkin pie for breakfast and binge watching "Yuri on Ice" while doing the Thanksgiving dishes.
lydamorehouse: (shield)
How was your holiday?

I have to say this was a really good year for my family, so far.  Shawn is really very amazing at getting gifts for me.  (In comparison, I'm kind of a dud.  But I believe in buying what people ASK for and Shawn has learned to leave me huge hints, like emailing me links to the books she wants.)  This year, Shawn LITERALLY bought me something I didn't know I wanted until I had it.  It was part of a themed set of presents: stationary (because I have pen pals I write _actual_ letters to), an address book, and stamps.  Only the stamps? They were old stamps.  Old?  Yep.  And I was thrilled!  

Because.... and I bet you didn't know this about me, but I collect stamps.

It's a very on again, off again, spontaneous sort of hobby for me.  I do it when I think of it.  I bought a stamp album back in the 1970s at some point that came with a starter pack. I stuck those stamps in their spots and kind of mostly forgot about it, except when a random, interesting stamp would come by.  Then, I'd pull out the album and hunt around, put the stamp in its spot... and then forget again. I probably would have forgotten altogether, but, in the 90s, I worked at an archive, the Immigration History Research Center, as a secretary.  I was friends with all the archivists/processors and there was a big set of correspondences that came through.  I ended up helping the processor remove the staples (some of which were already rusting the paper) and discard the envelopes (which weren't historically valuable and were taking up box space.)  As I gathered up the envelopes, I asked, "Hey, would it be okay if I take these stamps?"  There was some discussion, and it was decided that I could.  

This is how it is that I've come to have a fairly complete, extensive collection of American World War II stamps.  (I have a fair number from the post- and pre-war years, too.)  

But, again, I mostly didn't think of it again until Shawn bought me these packs of stamps. I had such fun these last couple of days going through the "grab bags" and filling holes in my collection.  I can't even explain this pleasure, because it's really not even about *having* the thing.  Like, I have no sense of the value of any of these.  In fact, I'm quite certain they're worthless.  But, I get such a thrill when I find a missing one in my album and stick it in.  

Maybe it's like coloring.  I just like doing a simple, fairly mindless task that involves interesting history and pretty pictures. Or Pokemon.  I like having a complete collection.

I had so much fun these last few days that I went and bought myself EVEN MORE stamps from e-Bay.

The only drawback is that I hunch over the desk as I do it, and my back gets all twisty and sore.  Which reminds me, I should report on my latest doctors' appointments. Last Wednesday was fairly busy.  I had an appointment with my chiropractor.  I don't know if I told you that I went ahead and booked the hour long massage that Dr. Matt gave me as a gift for my birthday?  Well, I did that on Monday and they neglected to tell me that this was a THERAPEUTIC massage.  No candles and Zen music.  The masseuse pounded on me.  In some places, fairly painfully.  I thought, "Well, this sucks. I'm never doing this again." I complained about it for about a day and a half while drinking the required water and then suddenly... everything felt amazing.  I mean, places that had been aching in a very background way?  GONE.  So the chiro went really well, too, on Wednesday.  As I told Dr. Matt, I'm feeling pretty much fixed.  Yeah, I have to watch my posture or I get all stiff and sore, but I'm 48. That's par for the course.  The only weird thing remaining is the random blasts of numbness in my index and middle fingers of my left hand.  

But I had a neurology appointment later that same day....

Which was... well, frankly, it was awful.  There wasn't anything WRONG with my experience on the surface, except that it was so TYPICAL of Western/modern medicine.  Dr. Johnson breezed into the office and had me repeat all the stuff I'd already told his nurse.  He nodded along and asked if I had any weakness in my left hand.  I said, none that I've noticed.  But, he did some tests that proved me wrong.  While he was doing his battery of exam tests he made some disparaging comment about how the insurance companies make him go through these things, and I said, "Are you saying you never find out anything useful?" "Oh," he says, "Occasionally, I hear something in the arteries, especially with older patients." And, I'm thinking, so.... these useless tests helped someone BE AWARE THEY MIGHT HAVE A STROKE IN THE NEAR FUTURE.  Yeah, those dumb insurance companies, what ARE they thinking???

But, I don't say that, because there's something about Dr. Johnson that doesn't really engender conversation.  I'd tried a couple of times earlier.  Dude actually has a black doctor's bag and I tried to make a little conversation about it, because, c'mon, a black doctor's bag! How cool is that? But, nope.  He was very practical in his response and a "can we please stay on task" sigh.  

I don't trust people who can't be distracted by interesting things.

Seriously, he was similarly uninterested when I interrupted him to point out that it was snowing.  (We have had no snow here in Minnesota, and most people were anxiously watching the skies to see if we might end up with a dusting before Christamas.) He was very, "Oh. Huh."  Clearly, the man is dead inside.  :-)

At any rate, after the tests are done, Dr. Johnson says that it's pretty clear that I have a pinched nerve.  He can even name the possible one (7?) because of where I'm experiencing numbness.  BUT, he wants me to have an MRI and an EEG just to be sure. I ask, so what all this for? What's the point?  Is this the sort of thing that can fix itself with physical therapy, time, or what?  He's very much of the idea that surgery is a great idea. 

Really?

For a bit of numbness?

SURGERY.

I told him that I had to respectfully disagree.  I would try physical therapy.  He was very "..." Like, no one ever, in his entire life said to him, "You know what, Dr. Johnson?  No."

He was also very, VERY eager to know if I had "good" insurance, and wanted to be sure to schedule the MRI for the end of the year because, ha-ha, "it's the end of the year rush." (Like there's a f*cking sale on the things.)

I declined the MRI and EEG. Thank you anyway, Dr. Johnson, but, the thing is, the  one is scary and expensive, the other is terrifying and painful as fuck. (Shawn's had both.) It's only going to confirm what absolutely everyone already knows.  I have a pinched nerve. My nurse-practitioner knew that the day I first walked in.  My chiropractor, too. In fact, my nurse practitioner was a little worried this would happen.  She almost didn't send me on to the neurologist because, she said, "then there will be a big push to fix things which might just fix themselves with time."  

My plan is time and continued physical therapy, including chiro.  If my numbness doesn't get better in a year, I'm happy to revisit this. Or, obviously, if things suddenly get worse.  But, I'm going to wager they won't.  I'm already noticing (especially now that I'm paying close attention) that the numbness is lessening.  It used to be that every time I bent over I'd get sudden shooting, fierce numbness.  Now it's every other time... and sometimes not at all.  

So, yeah, no.  The neurology appointment was a bad idea from start to finish.  I should have gone with my nurse-practitioner's gut instinct.  But, you say to yourself, "I should cover all my bases, right?"  And, right, you should, but not when it leads to unnecessary surgery. (or tests.)
lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
I have to tell you that one thing that I'm constantly surprised by with small presses is SPEED. So... you know how I announced that the e-book version of Archangel Protocol will be coming soon? Well, I meant, like, tomorrow. (Yes, there will be a posting, tweeting, social media frenzy with all the details on how to buy it. It will probably first appear in the Wizard's Tower Press catalog before it makes its way to Amazon and B&N and other traditional venues, but it will be compatible with all your e-readers right away.)

My publisher has asked if there are any review sites I should have her send copies to, and I'm honestly not entirely sure who to recommend. Any suggestions?

In other news, I have to ask: why is it that when I anxiously post my porniest slash to AO3, they seem to schedule maintenance and the site goes down for an hour or more? I swear they do this just to make me sweat. ;-)

Also, 'tis the season for holiday freak out. Shawn woke up in the middle of the night last night and sat in the bathroom and scribbled down frantic "to-do before the holidays" lists. We have a tradition in our pagan household of celebrating both Solstice and Christmas. On Solstice, we've tried to institute a tradition of "homemade gifts." This does not, of course, extend to the grandparents, who, we're quite happy to say, will be joining us on the holiday proper. However, this means, for me, it's time to get cracking. Because of some failed attempts ot get Bleach gear for me for my birthday, I've decided to hand-craft an 11th Division tee-shirt for Mason to wear to kuk sool. It's just going to be an iron on patch of the Division's diamond with the kanji for 11 in it. I have an iron-on product that works with an ink jet printer, so all I really have to do is figure out how to flip the image and print the thing out. However, I should probably try to make a stab at that today, in case of failure. (Despite my ablities with pen and paper, I'm kind of a klutzy crafter.)

I also need to walk up the block to check out when the "Y's Men" (get the pun?) tree lot is open over at the YMCA. We're planning on getting the holiday tree on Saturday, with the plan to decorate it sometime Sunday. Mason has a big birthday thing he has to spend a lot of Saturday on (his friend Ava decided it would be cool to take all her friends to a play, which is nice, but it means one whole hour of theater and then events after, which kind of sucks up almost three hours in the middle of Saturday.)

Depending on when the Y's Men are open, there will be the traditional OMG-TREE-RUN across University Avenue, in which we drag a gigantic pine tree across the extremely busy street that lies between us and the Y. This should be made extra spectacular now that there's a light rail line right in the middle. At least it's not active yet. When it goes live, I'm not quite sure HOW we'll do this. It would feel silly to strap a tree to our car in order to drive around the block and back again.

I also need to make a trip to the Mall to check out to see what of the things Mason has on his list are actually available INSIDE the Lego store and what we may have to order on-line. I will either do that tomorrow or Friday, but I need to go this week because, if we have to place an order, we should do it soon.

I also have to figure out what my partner wants. It's easy to shop for me. I want Manga and art supplies and blank journals and pretty much all of the same things I wanted when I was fifteen. I've been known to squeal with excitement over a crayon maker and a rock tumbler (and that was only a couple of years ago.) But, Shawn is like a grown-up... so I'm going to have to put some serious thought into something she'll like an enjoy.

Alright. I'm going to go check and see if AO3 is back up and then think seriously about doing some of these things on my holiday list. I also need to make a quick run to the grocery store as Mason's friend Soren will be over for dinner and KSW again tonight and I think we were planning hotdogs or something equally "boy" for them.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Sitting at the Coffee Grounds listening to some Crossroads poets strut their stuff. It's nice to be in a familiar place with familiar folks. Mason, who came to see his friends, also brought along his DS because there's some kind of Pokemon give-away. He's listening, but he also has a Big Nate book. It's very cute to see some of the kids stammer through their poems. I feel a bit guilty being here because I was meant to take part in this afterschool program, but the day they chose to have it on was Thursday -- my already busiest day (AND, perhaps more importantly, Mason wasn't that keen.)

This weekend has been all about cookies. We made rosettes and spritzes and sand tarts (so far. When I left for the poety slam, Shawn was making pecan tossies...)





We may kill ourselves with cookies because there is no snow here in Minnesota. We've been listening to a LOT of Christmas music (yay, "Beep-Beep-Bye-Bye, Santa's Got a Semi") and trying to force cheer with a lot of powdered suger as substitute.

Go 4th

Jul. 5th, 2011 10:05 am
lydamorehouse: (Default)
By sheer accident I ended up doing a lot of the traditional Fourth of July activities with Mason yesterday. We saw some friends of Facebook were organizing an impromptu picnic at Swede Hollow, so we packed up the picnic basket (and, because Mason was involved, an entire EXTRA bag full of books -- just in case.) We arrived at the park ten minutes before our hosts, but we hung out in the shade and kept an eye out for them. After a lovely meal of ham and cheese sandwiches, pickles, fresh strawberries and a few Doritos, we took a stroll/hike around the park with our friends. It was hot, but the breeze was pleasant. Eagle Eye Steve spotted a deer in the underbrush, and the intrepid nature photographer Shari sunk up close enough to the beastie to get a pretty good photo. Mason was pretty good until near the end when the heat caught up with him and he got a little tired (and whiney).

I was thinking that we'd done all our 4th stuff with that nature adventure, but Mason said he really wanted to see some fireworks. Shawn, btw, is still pretty sick. She slept most of yesterday and was feeling pretty woozie in the evening. Thus, we were on our own for fireworks. Before passing out, Shawn noticed that Roseville has a celebration at Central Park. It sounded like it might be our speed, so after watching Mason's favorite TV show in rerun (Master Chef), we headed out. I'm glad we left early. Even though we were there two hours before the show officially started, we had to park several blocks away. BUT, we were with an early enough crowd that we found a really prime spot. Turns out our view was slightly blocked by a couple of tall pine trees, but really not in any significant way. I think there were really only a couple of the lower "shower" types that were somewhat harder to see. At any rate, it had a nice, small town feel -- us spread out on our a checked blanket, Mason reading from his pile of books, and me napping/people watching.

All and all, I'd say it was a pretty good 4th. The only thing we missed was an invitation from [livejournal.com profile] naomikritzer to have a Pokemon playdate with her daughter. ([livejournal.com profile] naomikritzer, I tried to call, but your line was busy!)

Today looks gray and it's 10 am and Mason is still asleep. I'm hoping that means that I'll get some decent writing done.

Happy Yule

Dec. 21st, 2010 10:01 am
lydamorehouse: (Default)
I guess we needed more snow, eh? I'll bet we got another four inches.



And I woke up this morning to freezing rain. Sigh-ai-ai. As Shawn said this morning, "Minnesota, Land of 10,000 hassles."

On the flip side, because it's Winter Solstice the days will be growing longer from now on. Whoot!



Mason and I are at the coffee shop for a while this morning. Then, we're going to pick up Shawn and see about getting her to her hair appointment all the way in Edina at 2:00. We're going to leave at least an hour before we're due there. I hope we can make it in time.

I've got a notebook in the car that contains a bunch of scribbled notes for the next Ana book (#3). I got really excited about a scene the other day and had to quit to go get Mason. Alas, I haven't had much time to transcribe it yet. I hope it will still make sense when I sit down with it.

Anyway, I promised to post a picture of my awesome Yule present:



Jesus is knocking. Do you answer? Huh? Do you???
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Unbelievably, we have almost no leftover turkey in the house today. This is made especially amazing by the fact that I roasted a ginormous 24 pounder. To be fair, there is some ground turkey in the freezer awaiting soup, but there's almost no stuffing left, no potatoes, no gravy, no yams, and just a tiny bit of cranberry sauce. How am I supposed to have lunch? I suppose I could have the stuffing and cranberry sauce, but that's just kind of sad, don't you think? Although my stomach just growled at the idea....

We had our usual Thanksgiving guests, the Jacksons, for fud and jigsaw puzzling. My friends, who love me, got us this awesome puzzle, which was entitled "Michael the Archangel Slays the Dragon While Almost No One Pays Attention." Tell me that wasn't tailor made for me?! Plus, it was actually challenging. It took us almost the whole time the Jackson were here to put it together. Luckily, Shawn "the Closer" Rounds helped at the very end when most of the rest of us (except stalwart Michele, of course,) were completely burned out.

Plus, we got to have the occassional discussion that started with Jack saying, "Why does Michael fight the Dragon anyway?" Though I probably never properly explained it, since I had a hard time talking and puzzling.

Also, since the Jackson kids are now old enough to be excellent babysitters, Shawn and I got to have an adult night out with the Jacksons which involved dinner and a movie. We went to see HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (Part 1). I am now glad that we decided NOT to take Mason to this in the theatre. More under the cut... Read more... ). However, I enjoyed seeing the book come to life as usual. Though I think Mason will like having Part 2 to watch immediately after, since, at least, we know it ends pretty well.

It was still cool to go to the theatre. The last time Shawn and I were out to a movie, it was for Star Trek (the new one.)

The only other news I have is that while I was cut off from the interwebs, Tate's Ana #2 arrived all copyedited, which means I have to review that and get it back to the office by Dec. 6th. No more lying around playing video games for me, boy howdy.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
I just wanted to drop a quick note to let y'all know that I'm still above ground. I took a break from writing/working on my revisions for _Almost to Die For_ to celebrate the holidays. What, already? Yep. Our family exchanges some gifts at Christmas time, but, for us, the big deal day is Winter Solstice/Yule (which was yesterday.) My folks (who are secular humanist/Unitarians) came up on Sunday to exchange some gifts and whatnot, and we had a great time. Mason got some great winter loot -- a new sled, a snow ball maker, a snow fort maker (like those sand castle molds, except for snow), a scooter, and ton of other stuff. I got a couple of Captain America shirts and money for my coffee card. Hooray! Shawn got this cool stain glass/plate thing she'd admired last time we were in LaCrosse and some "folding money" as her father would have put it, which she intends to use on some fun, frivolous shoes.

Last night, we lit the Yule log and exchanged more personal gifts. I gave Shawn a cloth/bling covered box she admired at Pier 1 as well as some silver earrings that depict Raven stealing the box of the sun. Shawn and I used to read the story of Raven to Mason when he was quite little, so the earrings have a lot of special meaning. Mason gave us a calendar he made at school. We gave him some family puzzles (we love those mystery puzzles, so I got him some of those) and games we could all play together. Shawn gave me a subscription to InTouch, my absolutely favoritest trashy celebrity magazine.

Life is good.

We took light from the Yule log and lit a couple of votive candles, which we let burn all night. Mason got one for his room, and Shawn and I had one in ours. The sun accepted our gift of light, as the candles were all burned out by morning.

Alas, I still have this deep chested cough. I _do_ think I'm getting better, but, man, recovery has been seriously slow going. I feel just rotten enough that getting back to work on revisions has been hard today. I look at all the good suggestions my editor has made on the text and I think, "Nah." Although, I have been doing them, I've just been hard pressed to be motivated to, you know?

I had a little panic this morning because a friend thought that she'd heard that _Tall, Dark & Dead_ was out of print. A friend of hers had tried to perchase it and couldn't. So I quick sent off an email to my editor, who assured me that it's still listed in print and they have over a thousand copies still in the warehouse. I guess there's a distributor who doesn't deal directly with Penguin that sometimes can cause this sort of thing to happen. I'm just glad I didn't miss an opportunity to buy copies of the remaindered book, though it does remind me that I should probably plan ahead and budget for that eventuality. I can't imagine the series is going to stay in print too much longer after the last in the series comes out next May.

Speaking of the last in the series things, Shawn and I watched the Christian Bale Terminator movie last night. There was *some* cool in that film, but the most interesting part of the story (the character of Marcus, a terminator who doesn't know he's a machine,) could have been explored more, IMHO. I kind of liked that the audience was in on Marcus' secret from the beginning, and so you had a chance to watch all clues build up to his big "oh crap!" moment, when he can see the machine bits poking out of his ruined body. Also, the whole theme of "what does it mean to be human?" is a noble one. I'm fairly convinced that Marcus was, in the end, a better human being than John Connor --our supposed hero -- who, ironically, ends up with a machine's heart. The implication THERE was never much explored, either. I mean, here's a guy who has, in many ways, stripped himself of his humanity to effectively fight the machines ending up with a HEART of a terminator -- a cold, mechanical (if efficient) heart. I mean, DUDE. It was very tin man all over again, you know? Which one of them had the bigger heart, as it were? The machine. Clearly.

But it wasn't presented as nearly that deep, alas.

The movie kind of suffered from having to be an action film. There were some nifty chase/fight scenes (I rather loved the driver-less motorcycles, and I liked the "harvesters"), but if I had been the director, I'd have removed a lot of the John Connor storyline and focused on Marcus. I'd have left just enough Connor in, so you could have the comparison (cold efficient killer = human; decent, caring protector = terminator), but the whole subplot of needing to destroy Skynet's San Francisco base could have been mostly sidelined to explore Marcus' delemia more, IMHO.

But they didn't ask me.

What's up with Hollywood, anyway? They should have called. My number is listed, after all. :-)
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Yeah, I wasn't here because I was busy with house guests for turkey day. Our usually quiet, unhurried house filled up with the chaos and the awesome that is our friends the Jacksons. They came from Colorado on Tuesday LATE, as I would say, but really it was only nine or ten o'clock when they arrived. (See previous post about how I am now, officialy, old, and nine o'clock is getting to be way past my bedtime.)

Mason alternately had crushes/deep admiration for Maggie and Jack the two "kids" (who, at some point while I wasn't looking, grew up into teenagers.) Jack introduced Mason to the joys of Pokeman for one of those little handheld replacements for Gameboys all you kids are into, and then, to our great astonishment and gratitude, bought him a used one of his very own at the Mall/Maul. Pretty awesome (or enabling,) don't you think? Seriously, though, it's a nice distraction for Mason. Pokeman Diamond Version is about his speed, too.

The actual eating was fairly spectacular, if I do say so myself. The only thing that I would change, if I could, would be to somehow have two ovens and two stove tops so that everything could hit the table piping hot instead of, in some cases, mostly warm enough. I made a ton of sides, and though some of them could be made ahead of time, like the roasted yams, I found that I still didn't quite have enough burners to finish everything exactly on time, while making the gravy, etc.

But we did the whole traditonal thing. Shawn kicked me out of bed at six and I started making bread (French), which I had baked and out of the oven by 11:30 am when I put in the gigantic bird (20-some pounds). Then I made roasted yams with lime and garlic (a recipie from Martha Stewart called "Cuban Sweet Potato Roast," I believe.) Also, I tried something new with the brussel sprouts, something I found in Cooks Magazine that involved maple syrup and cider vinegar. It was okay. I'm not sure I'll do it again, they end up a bit soupy, IMHO. But maybe I just need to tweak the recipie, I don't know. We also had mashed potatoes, gravy, and Shawn's brother Mark's fresh cranberry sauce that involves a whole orange and a touch of brandy. Yum!

And, of course, the obligatory pumpkin pie.

I ate way too much, and my nephew Jonathan came over rounding out a perfect family get-together. We put together a puzzle with the Jacksons and Jonathan, which, may now officially be a "Tradition." I'm not sure how many times you have to do something before it becomes a tradition, but this is the second year running with the Jacksons, Jon, and a puzzle... so certainly it's in the running for tradition, I should think.

Then, I just hung out. The Jacksons left on Saturday for a long drive home, with stops at various relatives' homes along the way. I got a bit of napping in, some reading, and did nothing of import for days on end.

And damn, but getting back into the groove was hard this morning. I woke up in the pitch dark and though, "No way. No effing way." Then I paved a small path in the direction of hell with my good intentions. I was GOING to work out this morning (didn't); I was GOING to get a jump start on all the writing work I ignored for the past five days (didn't). I did have an awesome conversation with a friend this morning about grief, human nature, and my daughter Ella, who died.

It was a really powerful conversation, but the load lightens the less you carry, you know?

At some point I may post a review of BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest, which I finished twenty minutes ago. But I need to percolate my thoughts before I write them down. Plus, I'm going to feel like a complete bonehead if I don't get ANY writing work done today.

How was your turkey day?
lydamorehouse: (cap)
So I skipped working out this morning, but, for the first time in several months, all my websites are updated. And, if you happen to also be a Tate Hallaway fan, you will be perhaps pleased to know that you can now pre-order a copy of her May 2009 release DEAD IF I DO via Amazon.com. (Whoot.) Also, should you like to read a excerpt of the first chapter (which, if I do say so myself, is one of the funniest I've ever written), you can do so at Tate's site: http://www.mninter.net/~sprounds/Tate_excerpt[4].html

In a few minutes, I'm off to the Sprawl of America to do some early Christmas returns. There was a couple of mix-ups with pre-ordered presents, (which I can't list here since Mason can read.) So, anyway, wish me luck. I'm not looking forward to it because the Mall is an epicenter of the Dark Side of the Force, but, you know, it's also really convenient (as all evil truly is.)

Our anniversary celebration was very pleasant if, by some standards, low-key. Shawn had to work so I took her out to lunch at our favorite Indian buffet in Maplewood. I bought her a bunch of roses (two red to symbolize the two decades we've been together, plus three more for the years, and one white one for our FUTURE), as well as a small box of chocolates. Lately, Shawn's been collecting jeweled animal boxes and I'd previously purchased several via Smithsonian, so she got the wren box, as well, (which is honestly my personal favorite, outside of the TICK, of course. No really, they had a jeweled tick. We named it Pheobe.)

But speaking of writing, I've been very remiss in telling all y'all that if you're interested in my short story work, you can now also purchase TOTU #29 which features, among other great work by writers far more skilled than I, my "couch story." The Van Buylen Effect, aka the couch story was written several years ago ("do you remember the 90s, Bob?") and was inspired by a photo that ran in Entertainment Weekly when the movie "Micheal Collins" came out. Shawn and I both looked at this photo of a British regiment with their long-range guns resting on a barricade of broken furniture and whatnot and said, "Wow, check out that couch." So I wrote a story in which a woman goes back in time to rescue that very couch. It's a story of love, transformation, the 1916 Easter Uprising, and, of course, antique bargain hunting.

It is one of my more flawed stories, but, in some ways, it contains a nugget of the single most science fictional concept I've ever envisioned -- that is that history can't be changed, but history can change a person. Read it -- see if I really pulled it off (I have my doubts.)

My thanksgiving was fairly awesome. The Jacksons came all the way from Colorado and they are always great to have around. Mason ADORED having other kids around, even though the Jacksons are much older than he. But, they're like a second family, which is good since Shawn and her brother and I are still not speaking (see earlier friend's locked entry) and having family around for the holidays is nice. But, my nephew Jonathan came and helped us put together a puzzle and put away a thiry pound turkey. I cooked everything, including making French bread from scratch -- I'd complain about slaving away in the kitchen, but the truth is, I love it, and most of the work was done by the oven, anyway. John taught me a new way to make turkey soup stock, and I actually got a lot of reading done, not only on T-day itself but throughout the whole vacation. So the whole thing was thumbs up.

Now I'm behind on my writing, so I may be somewhat absent here.

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