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A Very Overdue Post About the Holidays

We weren’t able to visit family for the holidays thanks to work schedules, so we decided to hunker down and enjoy some quality time with each other.

This post covers the day before Christmas through the day after, IIRC. I wrote it but never got around to cleaning it up and posting it! It’s now rather poignant given the Alan Rickman videos we watched…

We tagged Christmas Eve Day as our junk food and movie-watching day:

Movies (and other TV ephemera)

  • Trading Places
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (paused halfway through for nap reasons)
  • Moon (not a Christmas movie; just something we’d been saying we wanted to watch for ages)
  • a few episodes of The IT Crowd
  • The Great Santa Claus Switch (a 1970 musical Christmas special featuring The Muppets. With Art Carney, who I suspect was drunk during filming, as both Santa and the bad guy, Cosmo Scam. Also the first appearance of a Muppet who would later be named Gonzo [in the special, he was called Snarl and wasn’t an alien].)
  • a TED talk about happiness
  • various videos on YouTube, including Marillion’s “Carol of the Bells” and Texas’s “In Demand” (possibly the sexiest video ever because Alan Rickman is in it) and Alan Rickman making tea

Junk Food

  • hot dogs for lunch (organic grass-fed beef hot dogs on whole-wheat buns, broiled and topped with melted Havarti, sauerkraut [for me] and organic ketchup, because we are not heathens) (okay, yes we are. But still.)
  • crab dip (cream cheese and crab meat mixed and topped with a sauce of ketchup, horseradish, garlic powder, and lemon juice) on Triscuits*
  • party rye bread (party/appetizer rye bread squares topped with a mix of mayo, parmesan, and onions, broiled)*
  • homemade baked mozzarella sticks (I used this recipe, http://www.thegunnysack.com/baked-mozzarella-cheese-sticks-recipe/, except we were out of panko crumbs so we just used regular breadcrumbs, and I added some dried parsley. It was waaay too much flour and breadcrumbs, so we’ll probably halve those amounts next time.). Dudes, these were sooooo good—so much better than store-bought/frozen, and not all that hard to make. A keeper recipe. Noms.
  • jalapeño poppers (store bought, and a letdown compared to the other food).
  • subs for supper (except on cheesy rolls rather than hoagie rolls, at Ken’s request. However, I was too full and did not make one for myself. By that point, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to poop for days.)
  • ice cream (we are hooked on Talenti brand ice cream and I can’t conceive of even looking at another brand, it’s so good)
    *party food my mother made during my childhood.

Funny story aside #1. In high school, one New Year’s Eve my friends and I spent the night at Laura’s house; her parents went out to a party. (Attendees were Teri, Laura, and I; I’m not sure if this was the year Bridget was there, the year Patty was there, or if they were both there the same year. I’m not even sure how many years we did this. Honestly, I remember several New Year’s Eves in high school/college that I spent alone at home. I’d watch a cheesy 80s fantasy flick on video, watch the ball drop, then write my novel on our Apple IIe while listening to Styx on my boom box. Because babees, I knew how to party.)

Anyway. Laura’s house. Teenage girls. Parents gone. Liquor cabinet not locked. Crème de menthe is really good in hot chocolate is all I’m sayin’.

The next morning, the cat walked on the piano and everyone but me was hung over and groaned in agony. Me, I was hungry. So we crawled out of our sleeping bags and headed to the kitchen for breakfast. Everyone else ate cereal and complained that their Rice Cripsies were too loud. Me, not being fond of sweet things for breakfast (plus who was the evil bastard who created a ticking time bomb of food as a breakfast option?), well, I pulled out the leftover crab dip I’d brought for the previous night’s shenanigans. Because I was a lazy teenager, I’d just mixed all the ingredients together, which had created a pinkish-red blob of cream cheese with lumps in it.

Nobody else at the table thought this was a good idea. Shades of green appeared. I muahaha’d and hunched over my delicacy like Snoopy pretending to be a vulture. Mine, all mine!

Funny story aside #1a. Every single time I try to type “crab dip,” I type “crap dip.” This is not a commentary on the appetizer itself.

Funny story aside #1b. When I was little, I knew the word appetizer, and I knew the word my mother sometimes used for “appetizer,” which was pronounced “whore derves.” I also knew, from books I read, that there was a weirdly spelled word that meant appetizers, which in my mind was pronounced “horse d’overs.” I remember the day I figured out they were the same word, and it was magical. Choirs of angels, &tc.

Right. Where was I? Oh yes, holiday fun. Let’s move on to Christmas morning.

I ate crab dip for breakfast (see Funny story aside #1) and it was gooood, man. No regrets.

The theme for Christmas, at least for me, was booooooks! Bookity bookity books. My preciouses, let me hug them to my ample bosom and sing to thee. Ken looked at my wish list (the WishCentral.com version, not knowing that I’d recently moved much of it to Amazon, but thankfully the books were in both places) and then went to Powells. And somewhat to his chagrin, Powells had more of the books than expected. Although he says because most of them were used books and thus cheaper, he spent less than expected. So that’s good, right?

Funny story aside #2. Christmas tradition in our family was that on Christmas Day, we turned the TV to the Yule Log Channel and everyone was required to stay in the family room all day with the tree and the presents (except for my mom, who got to escape in order to cook supper). There was no retreating to one’s cozy bedroom to read one’s books in solitude, oh no.

This would have been acceptable if I got books for Christmas, but I almost never did. My mom likes to read a bit, but other than that, I was the weird outlier of a voracious reader. Once I started to transition out of childhood “gets toys for Christmas,” I was fucked. I was bored, and not interested in adult conversation (my sisters are seven and nine years older than me, so by this time, they were adults), and not able to get to my (small) stash of books in my room.

One year, I received, among other things, a couple of horse statues (I was horse mad as a child), a nonfiction book called Famous Horses and Their People (see, e.g., being horse mad), and a bell for my bike.

Once present-opening was done and the long dark teatime (without tea, even worse) of the soul of an afternoon commenced, I read my book.

As in, the whole book.

I possibly read it a second time. I sort of played with the horse statuettes, but they were two different kinds (one was sort of bronzeish and the other was plastic), and I knew they were really for display, and I had no other dolls or similar implements available to turn this into a full script.

So I proceeded to morosely ring my bike bell until my father roused from his nap in his recliner and took me out to the garage where he deftly affixed the bell to my bike.

We lived in upstate New York. It was below freezing in the garage. Even if I had the desire to shiver, teeth clattering, in the garage to continue ringing the bell and dreaming of summer, nobody else would have to put up with that incessant noise.

Smart man, my father.

I think the fact that I relayed this story more than once this December has something to do with the piles of books I received.

I should also note that I did not receive a bell for my bike. (For the bike I have yet to buy. Goals.)

Funny story aside #2a. Ken did, however, buy me this Minion on a stick that, when you press the button, sings in Minion language. It’s Stuart, by the way, holding his ukulele. Unlike my father would, Ken finds it utterly adorable when I press the button and giggle hysterically at the song.

Right. Back to the present.

Ken also found a used CD store nearby. Halloo, British version of the Chess soundtrack (among others…).

Plus tickets for indoor skydiving in a wind tunnel I’m so excited I can’t even! Eeeee! https://www.iflyworld.com/portland/

I got Ken, among other things, a contraption that stirs natural peanut butter, because the only reason he won’t eat natural peanut butter is because dealing with the oil separation is too much of a hassle for him.

Because I know how party, people.

Meanwhile, there were phone calls with various members of family, including my eldest niece who got to give everyone in the family the gift of the announcement that she’s pregnant with her second child.

Strangely, I am now a fan of the Yule Log Channel, or in this case, a free app on the Apple TV (there are paid versions, but I’m not sure how they can be better, except maybe they have music, which the 1970s/1980s Yule Log Channel played). It makes crackling fire noises, and that’s enough for me. And my idea of Christmas afternoon at home is curling up in front of whatever fire is available, even if it’s on a TV screen, and reading. Which we did.

Until it was time to shower and dress and go out to dinner with friends (Gayle, Trent, and Jeanne) at the Zeus Café, which is in the Crystal Hotel, a McMenamins property dating to 1911.

We had the best waiter ever. I finally figured out he reminded me of Peter Capaldi as Danny in Local Hero, one of my favorite movies and which solidified my love of Peter Capaldi back in 1986. Except he didn’t have the Scottish accent. Our waiter, I mean. He was efficient and smart and attentive and patient and funny. We tipped him well.

They were out of the goose (sadness!) so Ken had the salmon, which I’d considered, but instead I ordered off the bar menu and had a falafel burger, which was topped with feta tzatziki and a dash of Aardvark Hot Sauce, and it was stupendous, even if it wasn’t proper Christmas supper food.

The best part was hanging out with friends, and I’d insert a funny story here about Gayle wanting one of the enormous chandeliers and the long conversation we all had about how to obtain it (culminating in asking our wonderful waiter for it, but he explained that he’d already called dibs on it), but you kinda had to be there.

Also, the first cocktail on the bar menu really sneaks up on you. And apparently wipes your memory of what was in it (it was really good, though).

Eventually we came home (after dropping off one friend and hanging out for awhile) and determined that it was too late to watch White Christmas, so we watched the Doctor Who Christmas episode and then Ken fell over and I watched a Florence + the Machine concert that just happened to be on TV right then, and then I came into my office and wrote this before I forgot any of it.

I’ve still probably forgotten some of it.

But it was awesome.

Except for the part about not seeing family, or friends other than the friends we did see.

Ken’s off work for the week, but I have work I need to do tomorrow, and we have a few errands to run. But it’ll still be a quiet day, hopefully also with a minimum of Internet and a maximum of time together.

And reading. Because boy howdy, do I have a pile. (And Ken has a few, too.)

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Weekend vacay

It’s been a long time since Ken and I have been able to justify funds towards anything resembling a vacation. But the wedding of two friends proved to be enough of an excuse for us to run away for the weekend.

I’ve been to Seattle only once before, when we visited a friend who was visiting a friend there. Then, we went to Pike Place Market and some lovely restaurants, but otherwise didn’t do Seattle. And our idea of sightseeing in a new place is different than most people’s…we’re not foodies, for example. We like history. And weird shit.

We drove up Friday evening after our workout (and showering, and dinner, and packing). We’d planned all along to take the motorcycle, but a couple of days beforehand, I was inspired to look at the weather report, and it was going to be much hotter than we’d initially thought. We still packed light—I didn’t even take the laptop, figuring the iPad and keyboard would be enough. We stayed in a reasonable hotel in Auburn, WA, partway between Seattle and the small town where the wedding would be.

Unfortunately, the promised WiFi didn’t work. Not even in the breakfast room the next day. Our phones have 3G, and the iPad is supposed to, but I haven’t been able to get it to work recently (it wouldn’t work in Atlanta, either). So that was a bit annoying, because I had some work email to deal with that I’d intended to handle Friday night at the hotel.

Saturday we went down to the breakfast room, where they had a reasonable array of stuff, and ended up eating with a woman and her son…from Oxnard. She was wearing a Camarillo sweatshirt, which sparked the initial conversation. Small world! Then we were off to Seattle.

First goal: the Seattle underground tour. I’ve been wanting to do this for aaaaaages. The first thing that happened was the good camera died, but not before I got a picture of the nifty old floor tiles in the building where the tour starts.


Our tour guide described herself as short and scrappy, and she was both, as well as hilarious, plus she had peacock-dyed braids that I coveted. She did a great job, as did the guide who did the initial presentation before we started off. I hadn’t realized until the tour that the underground isn’t all connected—the builders basically walled off each block as additional insurance against flooding. The tour felt a little rushed at times—at least, I wanted to linger over things we were hustled past—but I loved it. Especially the part about the city census and the surprisingly large number of “independent seamstresses.” I want to take the more “adult” tour now, as well as the ghost hunting tour (they load you up with ghost hunting equipment!). After the tour, we bought a couple of books (big surprise), and continued on.

We checked out a couple of places we’d spotted during the tour that we wanted to eyeball:

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And took some random pictures:

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Next stop was the annual Time Travelers’ Rummage Sale, which was kind enough to schedule itself on the same day as our friends’ wedding (or perhaps the other way around). It was smaller than I expected, but I did find one thing I was looking for: some sort of moderately sized headpiece of some sort to wear to the wedding. I picked up a fascinator in greens (to go with top I’d be wearing) and blues and purples, which are also the colors of my faerie outfits and steampunk outfits (well, the steampunk has more highlights in those colors). I also snapped up a pair of vintage shoes for $3.


Aaaand lunchtime. Ken wanted to try a nearby Japanese noodle place. I wasn’t up for a hot bowl of noodles and broth on a hot day, so I went with a gyoza appetizer and some spicy garlic rice. Oh my freaking gods that rice was good. I must figure out a way to recreate it. I’m still craving it. I suspect I could eat it every day. Toss in some grilled chicken and veggies, and it’s a meal.

Then we toddled off to find the Bridge Troll, which we did. I wanted to try to poke his eye out (what you’re allegedly supposed to try to do), but he was bigger than I’d expected, and I hadn’t brought my rock-climbing gear. (First problem: I don’t own rock-climbing gear.)

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I was fading fast at this point, so we headed back to our hotel, which was about 40 minutes away. I grabbed a lemonade/tea drink at a Starbucks, but it wasn’t enough caffeine for me, because I promptly fell over onto the bed and dozed. I’d been feeling off all week, possibly due to the tetanus booster I’d gotten on Tuesday. This was Saturday, and my arm still hurt so much I couldn’t sleep on my left side, and was red from my shoulder to almost my elbow, plus I’d had low energy all week.

Then, wedding! I love weddings. I’m a complete and utter sap about proposals and weddings, and I don’t know why, except that I’m a hopeless romantic and people pledging their love for one another makes me weep with joy. Leah and Blaze had probably the best vows I’ve ever heard…but that’s their story to tell. Here I’ll just note how happy they are.


She made her dress and his shirt and vest; he made mead and wine for the wedding, and jam for us to take home. We got to hang out with other writer-friends (that’s how I know Leah and Blaze), and it was a perfectly lovely evening.

Oh, and here’s that flowered fascinator I picked up at the Time Travelers’ Rummage Sale:


Then we went back to the hotel, read for a bit, and fell asleep early, because we were knackered.

Initially we’d planned to spend Sunday in Seattle, but see above re: me being exhausted all week. I’d realized a few days before we left that I was going to need at least part of Sunday to work. But, we had one stop to make on the way home.

See, on the way up, while Ken was driving, something interesting caught my eye on a billboard, but it was one of those electronic ones, so it blinked away before I could read it all. So I squinched around in my seat to read the other side of the billboard as we passed, and whatever had been on the front side fled my mind, because what I saw was baby clouded leopards.

Did you hear that glass-shattering shriek of delight? BABY CLOUDED LEOPARDS, people.

I turned back to Ken and told him in no uncertain terms we had to find the baby clouded leopards.

He pointed out it was 10 o’clock at night, and we probably couldn’t see them right that moment. But some research and planning led us to the Point Defiance Zoo on Sunday.


Right there. Pink jellybean toes of doom on a baby clouded leopard. I could not contain my squees. I could not even try.

It was a nice, small-ish zoo, and we saw tigers (including this one, who posed when I said hello, beautiful) and otters (Asian river otters and sea otters), puffins, artic foxes (more squeeage), enormous polar bears, and did I mention clouded leopard cubs??!

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By then it was very hot, so we gassed up the car at a nearby Costco (grabbing a hot dog for Ken and a pizza slice for me) and got back on the road to head home.

There’s more we want to do in Seattle—the science fiction museum, the bookstore with the cats everywhere, more tours, wandering around the Victorian house districts—so we’ll be back. We crammed the perfect amount of stuff into this visit. It’s not quite four hours away, so it’s perfect for a weekend getaway….

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Guests and party and food, oh my!

(I wrote most of this on Sunday, but finished it up today…)

I’m the first person awake in the house, which is unheard of. We have two sets of houseguests (they followed us home from Morgana’s party…can I keep them, huh, can I?), and they’re still asleep, and so is Ken, but me? Let’s just say there is a nap in my future today….

But it’s a gloriously overcast morning, my favorite kind, and I have a cup of tea, and…

Well, I never finished my thought, because people started emerging. (Several had, in fact, been awake for awhile, reading or whatnot in their rooms. Quiet little mouses. One couple was in our room and the other on a double-height queen-sized air mattress in the sewing room; Ken and I were downstairs on the foldout sofa in the media room.) Kelly cooked us scrambled eggs and some really nummy refried beans (note to self: get recipe!) and Ken made bacon and toast. I think it was noon before we actually sat down and indulged.

Collette and Rod had to dash off for another engagement, but we were delighted to have Kelly and Richard for a few more hours. We hadn’t seen them in ages, so having quality time was just lovely. They recently moved to the San Diego area and their new house is a Moroccan fantasy. It has two aviaries, one for peacocks. “Will you be getting peacocks?” I asked. “Probably,” Kelly said. Of course.

I spent the rest of the day alternating between catch-up work, exhaustion, etc. At one point, I took the top sheet we’d used in the media room, brought it upstairs to our bedroom, wrapped myself in it (as the bed had been stripped) and took a nap. Four minutes before my alarm was to go off, a phantom cat walked across the foot of the bed. It wasn’t Grimoire (the live cat), nor was it the ghost of Eostre (with three legs, she had a bunny-hop kind of gait). Possibly Charlie, although she left us awhile ago, and this phantom cat didn’t try to burrow under the covers with me, as Charlie was wont to do in the morning. I checked, and it wasn’t a little earthquake, either. So your guess is as good as mine.

Otherwise, I managed to get some copyediting done (although I’m still about two days behind on my schedule), and some crucial email. And I did some futile searching for artwork for my Uncollected Anthology Winter Witches story (October 1 release!).

But you’re really here to hear about Morgana’s 50th birthday Lord of the Rings party, I’m sure.

It was glorious. Both she and Brian looked amazing in their costumes, and I’m chuffed that I had a small part in that (assembly, ironing, etc., plus I embroidered Brian’s sleeves). Their house looked amazing—our artist friend Eric showed up with many hand-drawn maps of Middle Earth, plus Dwarfen runes. The main part of the living room was Hobbiton, the other area was Dwarves, the dining room was Elves, and the family room was Men.

There was ivy everywhere, and hobbit pipes (one for actual smoking, which some folks did on the porch), and bunting and lanterns and handmade fireworks on the porch, and fairy lights, and various books, and drinking horns, and a Dwarfish ax and a Elvish bow.*

All the food (and there was a lot of food) was food actually mentioned in the books. (Ken made Welsh cakes [which served as lembas, even though there was other lembas], and hard-boiled eggs, and seven pounds of bacon that was inhaled). Cheese and roast beef and cram and Orc vitality drink and petty Dwarf root, oh my!

And of course there were many friends and gifts and love for the birthday girl, which is the best part.

I helped clean up afterwards, and got home just before 2 am (I’d already sent Ken and our guests ahead).

I took a lot of pictures of the decorations and a few of the guests, but I was also busy replenishing food and tableware, so I didn’t get as many guest photos as I would’ve liked. I’m giving all of them to Morgana so she can post what she wants—it was her party, after all. But here are a few I’m particularly fond of.





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*A few weeks ago, Ken came in from the garage and said, “Here’s something for your costume,” and handed me a longbow.
“Where did that come from?” I asked.
“The garage,” he said.
“Yes, but how did it come to be in the garage?
“I don’t know,” he said…