Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And So It Goes....

We had a lovely Christmas and I hope everyone else out there did, too. Even though I had my camera with me for the whole Christmasday festivities and post-Christmas, through-the-blizzard, take-the-daughter-back-to-Massachusetts trip I neglected to take a single picture! On the bright side...this post won't take long to load!

So...what was your favorite present? I can tell you what mine was....Mr. Pointy Sticks gave me the three-volume Complete Calvin and Hobbes! It was a complete surprise to me, even though he bought it at a Barnes and Noble when I was there shopping with him! I do remember him waving me away when he was buying something in the CD/DVD department and as I wandered away I thought, "Oh, he must be buying me some more Tchaikovsky!" (We had discovered that we were short of said composer in our music collection.) Then I thought, "But we've gotten Nutcracker and Swan Lake and Winter Dreams...what else would he think to get me? Ooooh, maybe they have the Fantasia DVD set!" Then I stopped thinking about it... What was even funnier (and more nerve-racking for Mr. Pointy Sticks) was that I got into line to check out up at the front of the store and he, unbeknownest to me, had started out of the store to stick the Calvin and Hobbes collection in the car. Only he set off the theft detector and had to go to the front counter (where, mind you, I am waiting in line), have the salesclerk wrestle the huge collection out of the bag and desensitize it, wrestle it back into the bag...whereupon, when Mr. Pointy Sticks picked it up, the handles broke off. The salesclerk was trying to get the box into a new bag but Mr. Pointy Sticks just grabbed the old bag (no, not me...the book) and hustled out to the car, all hunched over (he says) and trying to hold on to this massively heavy -- and slippery -- bag. And I was still in the line...completely oblivious to all the commotion. (And this collection really is heavy! I had it on my lap after I opened it and was sitting at such an angle that I had to ask Mr. Pointy Sticks to come over and pick it up for me before I could stand up!)

Another wonderful gift, in contention for favorite gift of the year, was from Rachel, who bought me a puzzle by Chris Yates. I was going to link to a picture of my puzzle, but he's taken it down from his page. It's an elephant as an @ sign. Trust me, it's very cute. She met him (and bought a truck-load of puzzles from him) at the Webcomics convention this past fall. Anyway, Yates cuts the puzzles from wood, by hand, and paints them in these lovely, rich, speckledy colors. They are a joy to work. And Rachel says he's a very nice guy.

We had a lovely afternoon/evening with my dad and step-mom and brother. More presents and a yummy brother made his cheese grits, my step-mom cooked the ham and the carrots and a baked apple dish, I made Green Potatoes from Sweden at my brother's request and they were both easy and delicious. (Also made some tasty broccoli that involved sauteing some garlic and pancetta (though I used tiny proscuitto cubes by mistake) and then tossing in the broccoli until it was crisp-tender....yum!) Since we were heading out the next day for Massachusetts, I left all the left-overs with my dad and he enjoyed them...made the potatoes into potato pancakes one morning, which was something I was thinking about all the way to Massachusetts in the car on Sunday.

The trip up north was fun. We were racing in front of the blizzard until northern New Jersey where it caught up with us. It snowed more and more heavily until New Haven, where we were pretty much in blizzard conditions. Fortunately, we headed north at that point and began out-running the storm again...the snow was considerably lighter. In fact, when we pulled into the hotel parking lot about 3 p.m., it wasn't snowing at all. I asked the desk clerk when it was supposed to start and she said, "I thought it was supposed to start about now." And sure enough, we got up to the room, looked out the window, and there was the snow!

Monday morning we picked up Cooper at the vet. I'm sure the poor animal thought he was being taken to yet another home (Rachel is his third owner). He seemed very happy to come out of his carrier in the home he knew. He was very affectionate this visit...actually sat on Mr. Pointy Sticks' lap for a while. Got some shopping done and thermal curtains put up in Rachel's room. Rachel cooked us a wonderful roast chicken dinner and we sat around eating and watching some ridiculous shows on HGTV...young couples buying their first houses...and paying $600,000!!! Unbelievable.

Tuesday's trip home was uneventful but l-o-o-o-o-n-g. Took us 9 hours rather than the usual 7. No real snow problems, just incredibly heavy traffic volume. We were happy to see home again. And our furry monsters seemed happy to see us.

Sorry for the lack of photographic evidence of any of this...I'm a lousy blogger.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quick Catch Up

Only 11 (well, really only 10) days until Christmas! Augh. I've sent out a few Christmas cards...then I ran out of stamps. In fact, the last couple I sent out had some old stamps and some 2 cent stamps all glommed onto the envelopes...that's a sign one hasn't been to the post office for a while.

I've been having a hard time finding something to read after that Joe Abercrombie trilogy. Finally settled on an English mystery I picked up on a recent Daedalus visit. It's...okay. And I can't actually remember the title...something about a Chorister and an Abbey. And murder, of course. Oh, here you go...The Chorister at the Abbey. The Amazon reviews give it close to five stars, but I think I agree more with this:
"Slow pacing and unmemorable characters weigh down Howell's second Norbridge Chronicles mystery (after 2006's The Flower Arranger at All Saints), set in the north of England....The solution may strike some readers as a bit muddled, while others may find the police's near invisibility implausible."
I gave my coworkers their Christmas presents today (two cowls and a scarflet). I just couldn't wait and it is so cold here (and we were going out to lunch and it is so cold here I thought they might like to wear them). They seem to have been a hit. I think Elizabeth wore hers all afternoon. Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of them before I gave them away (although I thought I had...maybe I'll check my photo album again --, definitely no pictures). Lunch was tasty. We went to the Candlelight was so prettily decorated for the holidays. I had a scrumptious hamburger...why do my home-cooked hamburgers never measure up to a restaurant's? It was huge and made me completely uninterested in any form of dinner.

Rachel will be home this weekend! Hurrah! Only for a week, as we have to board poor Cooper while she is down here and that adds up fast. But oh, it will be good to see her!

Friday, December 10, 2010


This is a post for those of you who come here for the book right out and pick up Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy. That would be, in order:

The Blade Itself

Before They Are Hanged

Last Argument of Kings

These were just blow-me-away, don't-want-'em-to-end, good. I kept putting off reading the end of the last one. I eked those last 100 pages out over this past week (one reason for lack of posting of late...I've been immersed in these books). Alas, though, now they are read.

Okay, not everyone is going to love these books. Some people don't like fantasy. Though these are not sparkly unicorns, fairy dust and pointy-hatted wizards sort of fantasy. There are wizards...but some of them aren't very nice. And none of them wear pointy hats. In fact, for most of the people in this fictional world, magic is something from history...something made up or, at least, long gone from the world. And the books are...bloody. Lots of battles, described in lots of details. Torture. War and destruction. Anyone who likes George R.R. Martin's series should definitely check these out.

As in Martin's series, the characters here are unforgettable. Logen Ninefingers, from the North, a hero who speaks to the spirits and wonders if it is possible that he could become a good man. And indeed, when he's possessed by The Bloody Nine, he's not a good man. At least, not a man that differentiates between friend and foe.

There's Ferro, a woman from the South, with little room in her heart for anything but seeking vengeance against the Gurkish, a nation that took everything from her, raped her and enslaved her. (Note: She makes a good start on that vengeance in the books.)

There's Jezal dan Luthar, a callow youth who becomes a man...of sorts.

There's Bayaz, one of the aforementioned wizards, who gathers these three and a few others for a purpose that remains hidden until near the end. No pointy-hat wearer, he.

And there's Glokta dan Sanden, a hero in his youth, who is now broken and crippled after years of torture in the prisons of the Gurkish. Now he is home and in constant pain and...what's this?...working as a torturer for the Inquisition. He's a twisted mass of flesh and bone, with missing teeth and toes...and yet, somehow you come to sort of like him, sympathize with him, admire him.

And the end? Let me just say - Along with unicorns and fairy dust, Joe Abercrombie apparently doesn't believe in happy, happy endings. Satisfying perhaps, but not happy.

Great, great read.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Meditations On A Wish List

I’ve been thinking a bit about wish lists, it being the time of year when wish lists take center stage. And even after mulling it over I can’t say I’ve really come to any conclusion. But I think maybe I don’t like them…

Oh, they certainly have their reason for existence. My family was undoubtedly getting tired of getting me books only to have me try to hide my little wince and say “Oh, I already have this….would you like to keep it?” (though that, or something similar, can happen with wish lists, too, as I was gifted with something for my birthday that I threw on my wish list so that I’d remember to get it for someone else) And my brother has very specific wants that he does well to put on a wish list because I can’t say it would occur to me to buy anyone Maserati Tipo 60 and 61: The Magnificent Front-Engined Birdcages by Oosthoek and Bollee. (And, sorry bro, but when the cheapest one on AddAll is $147.90 it won’t be coming from me… I only wish I were that wealthy.)

And shopping for someone requires more thought if they don't have a wish list and there is always the chance that your gift to them will fall short. But doesn't gift-giving need to have some thought behind it? Otherwise, we could all just gather in a circle and shove cash at each other and where's the fun in that?!

But really…the wish lists take away a lot of the spontaneity. Yes, my Amazon wish list is 10 or 11 or 12 pages long, so it’s not like I remember everything on it. But there’s always a little sense of “Oh, yeah…this” that comes with opening a book or movie or game that’s been sitting on your wish list for three years. (I do sound like an ungrateful wretch, don’t I?) But there’s no chance for the experience of opening a present and realizing that, even if it never occurred to you to ask for one (or, even more excitingly, never knew such a thing existed), what is staring up at you is exactly what you wanted…the perfect, unasked-for, oh-my-god-that’s-so-me, I-love-it present. Of course, I suppose that there’s also less chance of opening an oh-my-god-what-were-they-thinking, where-on-earth-did-you-find-this, who-in-their-right-mind, sort of present, too.

I told you I had no answer. Just my gut feeling that Christmas is more fun without ‘em. And here’s a public announcement: I am not wed to my wish list! Feel free to stray. (Heh, for one thing, there’s no yarn on my wish list. Guess I could remedy that…)