Friday, December 25, 2009

On the ______ day of Christmas


We decided around here that we're celebrating Christmas through epiphany. If you follow me on facebook or twitter, you probably already know that. But my thinking (for those of you just coming in on this conversation) is that if you're going to work quite hard, the payoff should last longer than two days.

Even better, some of the payoff days might be quiet, relaxed days.

So I'm trying to come up with activities to include during the twelve days, from December 24th to January 6th. I'm thinking on the 6th, I'll make a nice dinner. In between, no specific plans.

Here's a log thus far:

December 24th (Christmas Eve): Danny doesn't get off work until mid-afternoon, so I catch up on a couple last errands (but do not set foot in a grocery store) before returning home to do a tiny bit of last minute wrapping. Danny comes home, and after a short nap, we dress for the Christmas Eve service at church. This particular service featured children in a nativity pageant, a first for a First Baptist Christmas (at least, in my sentient memory). Afterwards we had dinner and exchanged gifts at my parents' home, and had a very nice, very pleasant evening.

December 25 (Christmas Day): Sloooooow start to the day, and I realize that while most of my wrapping is done for family members next weekend (Danny's family), none of the Christmas Day extended family wrapping has even been touched with a ten foot pole. Also, the kitchen is a tiny wreck (tiny, because the kitchen itself is tiny). Danny tackles the kitchen, I tackle the wrapping. We finally exit for the Big Christmas Extended Family Event, each in one of our new, cozy Christmas present sweaters (mine, a cute ruffled J. Crew merino sweater from Danny, his, a handsome Calvin Klein, dark emerald green merino sweater from me. Truly. This Christmas brought to us by sheep. Love it.) We greet, we eat, we enjoy the barrage of family. I receive a cupcake cake stand that gives me yet another reason to finally throw a cupcake party.

December 26 (Boxing Day/After Christmas Shopping Day): Considered doing some After Christmas Shopping, but when faced with the option of staying home for a cozy day with my husband...husband won out. I made Blueberry Buckwheat pancakes for breakfast, and Magic Chicken for dinner (a mango, coconut milk, tumeric, and chicken slow-cooker dish). We saw Sherlock Holmes later in the evening, and really enjoyed it.

December 27: Taught Sunday School in the morning, enjoyed a very nice nap afterwards, then went to my grandma's and played her piano while Danny studied. We both munched on tree-shaped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and watched Pushing Daisies episodes on DVD. We may finish Les Choristes afterwards; it's been a nice, relaxing day.

Not sure what we'll do tomorrow - I need to finish Chapter 11 soon and get to work on Chapter 12. I also have yet to make Christmas sugar cookies, but may wait until we're in Lincoln City with my niece and nephew. I do need to take Danny's Christmas sweater from last year (as yet unfinished and ten-stitches off) to the Knit Shop to ask for assistance. I don't know where I went wrong, and am willing to pay cash for help! (Not to say that I couldn't figure it out, but it's a whole lot of brown wool stockinette with a whole lot of decreases, and for the sake of finishing the sweater, someone else needs to take a look before I go a little crazy).

Lots of things, but open to ideas - leave a comment if you've got a suggestion!

From Our Fridge to Yours...


Merry Christmas!!

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given . . . His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~ Isaiah 9:6

Monday, December 21, 2009

Avatar: Paint With all the Colors of the Wind, Marine


I had my doubts about this movie. I'm not a Titanic fan, although I've never seen it. Never felt the need. And the trailers were pretty clear that that there were some fairly strong political undertones. People said the plot was kind of like Dances With Wolves, and if anything sounded like a film disaster, it was Dances with Blue Aliens. Really.

We saw it on Saturday, and I was frankly a bit cranky about it. I was still tired from our whirlwind Portland trip and wanted to spend a day being agoraphobic. We debated over seeing the 2D version over the 3D; I thought better to see it in 2D first to see if we wanted to shell out the extra for 3D. Danny agreed.

But when the film started, things changed.

I don't impress easily. Really, I don't. I was impressed by Avatar. This was how I wanted to feel about Star Trek and couldn't, not quite. A few notes:

1.) Cameron may have intended certain political messages, but they're not wholly successful. Better still, it's his own fault. He's so effective at creating this world that it's more difficult for parallels to be made.

2.) The plot shows resemblances to not only Dances With Wolves, but also Disney's Pocahontas (bear with me) as well as The Matrix. Obviously, the Matrix similarities lie in the whole plugged-in-Avatar concept. Pocahontas? Stay with me on this. There are seriously spots where you're half expecting Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) to turn to Jake (Sam Worthington) and say, "You need to learn to paint with all the colors of the wind, moron!" Also times when she looks at Tsu'tey and thinks to herself, "should I marry Kocoum?" Somehow, though, it all works. Probably because there are no cute little animal sidekicks.

3.) Disney references aside, there are certain brilliances to the plot. First, that the Jake Sully character is paraplegic. His disability is part of what makes his character work. Secondly, unlike Dances With Wolves, not only is Jake vulnerable because of his attachment to the people he was supposed to spy on and influence, but he's also got it rough because either his actual body or avatar body is unconscious at any given time. When the bad guys are out to get you, this is not advantageous.

Now, understand the plot doesn't take you anywhere unforeseen, but that's partly because Cameron loves his set-up/pay-off's. Just about everything that happens has been set up earlier, so the plot has a very organic flow.

On the subject of the film's appearance:

1.) It's breathtaking. Cameron creates a complete and inhabited world you want to be in the middle of, with incredible detail. The night scenes were my favorite. I was totally ready to move there.

2.) All that motion-capture stuff? Totally works. It's funny - we've seen a fair amount of Zoe Saldana's films - she does this thing with her eyes, looking downward while flitting her eyelashes. Well, so does her animated Na'vi character.

3.) What's also striking are scenes where the military-esque vehicles are invading on the Pandora landscape. There's a very interesting juxtaposition on the harsh, dusty colorations of the military equipment in comparison to the jewel-toned Pandora jungle.

4.) A bunch of critics have criticized the Na'vi ears. Sure, they twitch. It didn't bother me. I think there's just disappointed they couldn't laugh and point at the film as much as they wanted to. You'd think they'd have it out of their system since this summer's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra.

5.) Let us hope that nerdy teen boys will not try to learn the Na'vi language. Please. No. That's what Swahili is for.

Overall:

1.) See it. See it on the big screen, and honestly I'd spring for the 3D. I really would.

2.) It is a long movie. Good, but long. Keep your theater fluids low, if you catch my meaning.

3.) The main part I thought was dippy was the sitting together, swaying and chanting while connected to the earth parts. But it's such a fraction of the movie (truly, since it's about three hours), I suggest you shake it off and think of the pretty glowing flowers.

Because they're just that cool.

P.S. Danny read in his Popular Mechanics magazine that James Cameron is the product of an artist mother and engineer father. We now know what our children will turn out to be like, and that we will be well supported in our old age.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Of bras and radiator fluid


Yesterday we wound up making an emergency trip to Portland. Danny's in his final term of graduate school; this term consists of participating in a final design project. He's designing and making calculations for a footbridge from the main U of O campus to the buildings along the Millrace, something I would have loved when I was a student, lugging a large format camera, tripod, portfolio bag, and shoulder bag well after dark, in the rain.

Anyway, he needed bridge codes and the Norwich University librarian did some checking around. The only college with a copy was Portland University. An interlibrary loan would have taken eight weeks, the library was closed on Saturday...thus the emergency Friday afternoon trip.
All is well, Danny got the codes (which are contained in a six-inch bider that isn't quite large enough), and we had time on our hands before meeting up with Danny's brother and his family. I had planned on shopping for a few items, so we headed for the Clackamas Town Center's Nordstrom.

See, I wanted to find a bra. I had a fairly concrete idea of what I wanted, brand, color, and size, and it's a tough brand to find in Eugene. I was delighted to find that a.) Nordstrom carried exactly what I was looking for, and b.) it fit the way I wanted.

Very happy. But that's when the inquisition began.

"How do you wash your bras?" The salesgirl asked as I handed her my card.

I hesitated. First, not many people ask me how I do laundry, and they're probably smart that way. Inviting a discussion about laundry techniques is to invite a longer conversation. I was raised in a family that takes laundry pretty seriously. Laundry and stain removal. And I love clothes, so it makes sense that I obsess a little over such things, because there's nothing I hate more than losing a perfectly good garment to a badly performed washing.

I had to be prompted. "Cold water?" She asked.

I nodded. "Cold water. I fasten everything together."

"Do you have a lingerie bag?"

I feel guilt. I don't. I've been meaning too, but haven't gotten around to it. I consent to purchasing one.

But she's not done. "What detergent do you use?

This is a more complicated question than she realizes. I generalize. "I use Tide Total Care."

(Note: I have used Tide Total Care since the second they claimed it prevented pilling. I hate pilling like no other, and frankly I don't care much about the other six signs of beautiful clothes, I just don't want things to pill.)

"Oh, you should never use Tide. Too sudsy," she said. I may as well have said that I wash my clothes with motor oil.

At this point, I feel like my laundry skills are the subject of criticism, so I disclose a portion of my laundry dark secret. "I also have Woolite for colors."

(Note: This is hedging. Big time. I technically have three laundry detergents. Three. There's the Tide Total Care that I use for linens and pill-prone garments, but there's also the Woolite for colors for brights, and Woolite for darks. In my defense, Martha Stewart told me to use the Woolite for darks on jeans, because it's the one detergent that doesn't contain red-based brighteners that make the jeans fade and appear lighter. I hate fading jeans almost as much as I hate pilling.

In addition to my three detergents, I have liquid fabric softener without dye and fabric softener sheets. And powdered Biz. And Shout. But the salesgirl doesn't need to know this.)

"Oh no, Woolite's very sudsy too."

I know where this is going. She wants me to buy the Nordstrom brand lingerie wash. She makes her pitch.

Now, I can buy into a decently made lingerie bag. Truly, I can. You'll use it over and over for several years. Lingerie wash, though, has a more finite lifespan, and I really can't justify buying such a thing from a department store when I'm quite certain there has to be SOMETHING by SOMEONE that isn't (oh horrors) "sudsy."

And yes, I weasel this out of her. "Something from the grocery store by Arm & Hammer is fine too."

Aha.

"And you let them hang dry?"

I tell her I wouldn't think of doing otherwise. This is not a lie. She tells me they've recorded my name and bra size into the system. I nod, not sure I feel about having such things on record. You never know what's going to end up in your FBI file.

I finally pay and leave, getting the slight feeling that the sales crew does not quite trust me with the care and keeping of this bra. That's their problem.

We walked back to the car and I mulled the bra experience over in my head. The more I mulled, the more I felt like I'd just gone in to get an oil change and been told I desperately needed a new filter and new ____ fluid and my ____ changed and if I didn't it was likely my car my explode.

See, I'm not opposed to taking good care of my garments. I think I've demonstrated that. But at a certain point...seriously? For a $38 bra? If this were a $100-something Aubade bra, sure, throw in the specialty wash and a glass case for when it's not being worn. But really? A $38 bra?

Am I going to look for Arm & Hammer detergent next time at the store?

I decline to answer that question.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Me, myself, and fairy tales

It's been memory lane in the Lodge home recently. Last week it was all manner of Mermaid nostalgia, and tonight it's princesses. Dancing princesses.

I've gotten hooked (and by "hooked," I mean, "can't put it down, this is kind of embarrassing, haven't been this stuck in a book since the Twilight books, but at least it's much better written" kind of hooked) on Juliet Marillier's books since one of the blogs on Writer Unboxed mentioned her Daughter of the Forest in a lovely blog about fantasy and fairy tale.

My fairy tale addiction has been very, very well observed and documented. In every library I visited, I knew where the fairy tale section was. I loved the pictures, the ethereally beautiful princesses in their gowns, the illustrations of Walter Crane:



Hilary Knight:


Gustave Doré:


Susan Jeffers:

Paul O. Zelinsky:


and K.Y. Craft:
The Twelve Dancing Princesses was one of my favorites. And why not? For a princess fan, you get a lot of bang for your buck. I can't tell you how much I loved this book, every page.

I was still more excited to find that Juliet Marillier had done an adaptation of Twelve in her book Wildwood Dancing. I picked it up at the library today, and looked at the cover. Then really looked at the cover. Because the art looked familiar!



I checked the jacket to find out who did the cover design. Kinuko Y. Craft. Seriously! I was so excited to find that. How perfect could that be?

I'm twenty-six now, and since I've married an engineer, I no longer desire to marry into royalty. Now that I'm a writer, I don't particularly want to be a princess when I grow up (mind you, this was my career goal until I was, like, nine). But there's still something about fairy tales that holds a special place in my heart.

In this blog, Sophie Masson wrote:

"Fairytale is less grand than myth, and less ’serious’ than legend, but it is more romantic than both. More human. And yet more magical. More geared towards not the great ones of this world, but the little people."

It's my hope to one day get to write a fairy tale, or a fairy tale adaptation. Right now I'm writing Amish, but it won't be forever. I won't be a princess, but at least I can write about one.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Red-Nosed Herald Angels Sing it Twice


I've wanted those refrigerator word magnets for years. Last week, my mom gave me a set of them, all snippets of popular Christmas songs. Here are some of my favorite rearrangements:

Jack Frost walking our reindeer

Deck the halls with chestnuts on the first day of jingle bells

Making a list and checking your nose
Mommy gave to me the nose

(there's a lot of noses in secular Christmas music. Just noticed)

'Tis the season
we don a partridge in a
very shiny town but
Christmas in a pear tree
is coming
to find out who's gonna be
jolly

Santa Claus is frightful

The red-nosed herald angels sing it twice

I saw a one horse open sleigh dashing through a Winter Wonderland

Rudolph nipping at boughs of holly


and my personal favorite:

Hark!
kissing my true love is nice
he's so delightful
since we've
got no place to go
let it snow
outside
And now I'm totally hooked on word magnets, this was so much fun!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Little Mermaid and Me


Disney's The Little Mermaid released to theaters in the fall of '89. I was six. I remember my parents taking me to see it in the theater. I remember being frightened at the climax by Ursula (Giant evil octopus woman on the big screen? Who wouldn't be?), but it didn't change my feelings about the movie. I was hooked.

I collected all things Mermaid. Pencils, beach towel, at least one, if not two swimsuits. My best friend and I watched the video over and over, singing the songs. I dressed as Ariel the following Halloween, wearing an old sea green dress of my mother's, with curling ribbon around my feet to make it look like a tail. I think I had orange curling ribbon in my hair, too, to make it appear more "red" like Ariel's.

While I loved Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, for some reason The Little Mermaid was the seminal film of my youth.

I know I'm not alone. I know several women my age who can sing "Part of Your World" word for word, without much provocation.

For the last couple years, we've attended Christmas concerts at the Hult with my family. It started with the Eugene Symphony Yuletide Celebration, last year it was the Mason Williams show, and this year back to the Symphony. We missed the tap dancing Santas, let me tell you. The other lure to this year's Symphony extravaganza: Jodi Benson. Who is none other than the voice of Ariel. Daughter of King Triton. Wife of Prince Erik. Inspiration to all.

The moment she stepped out onto stage and spoke, I waited for her to tell Flounder he was such a guppy. I loved every moment, especially when she sang "Part of Your World," and believe, me, I didn't know until moments beforehand if anything from Mermaid would be sung at all.

After the show my mom and aunt were on a particular mission. First, they wanted an autograph, but they both knew that was child's play. What they really wanted was a photo. With me and Jodi.

You should have seen my aunt. She positioned herself at the autograph table, and when the moment was right, she said "Jodi!", expecting Jodi to turn when she heard her name.



Which she did. And smiled beautifully.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baby, it's cold outside


I'm writing this from the inside of a -20 degree down sleeping bag. Also wearing a down jacket. Also wearing thick hiking socks.

At the moment, it's 18 degrees and dropping. That may not seem that bad to some, but average low Eugene temp this time of the year is 33 degrees. Which, at this point, sounds toasty.

The other thing about the cold is that our apartment doesn't much heat up. Scratch that. The section with the couch doesn't heat up. See, if you're standing directly in front of the heater, you feel heat. BUT, if you stand just to the side, there's a cool draft.

Now, I know it's very feminine to feel a draft. But see, this is a man draft. It is strong. It is cold. It's freezing my fingers as I type. Frankly, I'm beginning to think we need to rearrange the living room, which is tricky because there's a tree where the couch needs to be, in order to optimize the little heat that we have.

(at this point, I have suggested moving the living room into the dining area and the dining table into the living room. Danny has responded by trying to find a fan to redistribute the heat. And I think it's working. Wishing this solution could have been thought of earlier, but whatever. We've only been here 2 1/2 years)

Anyway.

My Life in Ruins. One of the latest Nia Vardalos releases, got creamed by critics, but I wondered if it could really be that bad.

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is that it's horrible. The jokes fall so flat that you get the distinct feeling, when you do laugh, that you're only laughing because all the other jokes are so bad. It's the ugly shirt effect - you know, you're shopping discount and find something you think you like, mainly because everything around it is so ugly.

The one part (and truly, we could not finish it, so there may be another, but I have my doubts) that was funny was funny for reasons the script did not intend.

In this scene, Georgia (Vardalos) is intending to send a letter to her superior from the cheap hotel where she and her tour guests stayed the previous night. The scruffy, unwashed, bald and pudgy desk clerk says it will be 20 euros to mail, but he could make a deal if...insert suggestive eyebrow waggling and glimpses toward his unmade bed only ten feet away. She steps back in disgust, pays the 20 euros.

On the surface? Not funny. But the guy cast as the scruffy, unwashed, bald and pudgy desk clerk is Ian Gomez, Vardalos's husband (head-scratcher, but true).

Aside from that, none of the characters were believable as human beings. Well, maybe the ones who never spoke. But the rest, no.

I won't even go into the bearded bus driver who shaves, turns out to look like Fabio's understudy, and no one notices. Maybe they notice later, but I have no desire to lose the extra 10 IQ points it would take to find out.

IQ. Now there's an amusing movie. I could list hundreds of amusing movies. My Life in Ruins doesn't happen to be one of them.

In other news, I think I promised to follow up with the funny B&B story.

So. We show up to our B&B, a lovely, secluded spot on the McKenzie River. We've visited every winter since we married, and this is our third trip. We show up and are greeted by the happy innkeeper-ess, who informs us, moments later, that ladies from Harvest House will be arriving in the morning to make wreaths.

That's right. My publishing house followed me.

If there was ever a motivation to get work done, that one scores pretty high.

Better still was the following morning, and the looks of sheer surprise to utter shock! Very fun; I've been blessed to have a wonderful house that I get to meet with in person. If I wanted to, I could walk there. If I didn't mind walking down West 11th. Which I do. But I could.

Oh, I also wrote, like, most of a chapter that day.

Speaking of characters, if the wrong way to do characters is My Life in Ruins, one of the right ways is Glee. My favorite characters are the ones that I feel like I already know, but still manage to surprise me and that's Glee. I can't tell you how much I love them. And now I'm going to watch.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Plain Jayne, Civil War, and Good Vino

Danny and I are at our favorite getaway spot for the weekend, and at the moment we're both working on our respective laptops, eating grown-up lunchables (Pepperidge Farm wheat crisps, cheddar cheese, and summer sausage) with an inexpensive bottle of Pinot Noir that I'm quite pleased with.

In all likelihood I won't finish this post in one sitting, because I'm working on the Simply Sara FINALLY!!! Things have been so crazy, what with the holidays and projects and Civil War and that pesky writer's block that not a lot's been going on in that department, which is a problem because this book, like the last one, has a deadline.

Note to uncontracted authors: Savor your leisurely writing speed. It will disappear at some point, but savor it now.

So, where were we?

Books, that's where. I got my copy of Plain Jayne! It's lovely, it's happy, I wrote it, and now it's all bound and official looking. You'll be able to get yours soon! I'm really looking forward to it, so we can talk about it. Good times for all in the future.

It was kind of funny how I got it - I wasn't expecting it in the slightest, but I heard a UPS truck pull up (very distinctive sound), and a few minutes later a person coming up the steps and a thud at the door.

The package at the door was small and, well, book-shaped. And from my publisher...I did put two and two together. Thankfully, a friend was on facebook chat, so I had someone to celebrate with!


Then there's Civil War. In case you're not up to date with your sports news, last Thursday's Civil War (the game between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University) guaranteed for the winner not just bragging rights, but a ticket to the Rose Bowl. Now, there's a lot of animosity every year surrounding the Civil War, animosity that makes presidential election season look tame. That tension was ratcheted up just. A. Bit.

The Ducks won, and I was happy, being a third-generation U of O grad. I was placed in a duck onesie at a young age, so I never had much choice in my loyalties.

Danny on the other hand, his last completed degree (soon to be his second of three) was from OSU. While he is not a rabid football fan, this does get a bit...complicated, at times.

The great thing about the game, though, is that both teams played well. This is not to say that there were not sore losers, but at least they have nothing to be ashamed of. I was seriously impressed by OSU's passing game, and their defensive lineup was nothing to sneeze at. UO found their edge and momentum toward the end after putting Blount (!) in, who played well, with skill and graciousness.

In the end, the whole thing was a beautiful end to a season that started very, very badly. It speaks well of Chip Kelly (who apparently read the team Judith Viorst's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day after the Idaho State game), and his coaching and leadership skills.

So. If you can't feel happy that a coach, in his first season, who recovered from an embarrassing loss and the resulting scandal, who read his team Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, is taking his team to the Rose Bowl, then it may be time to soak your head.

(The irony does not escape me that the Civil War is scheduled during a season in which we begin to sing yuletide songs of peace on earth.)

Okay. Danny's picking on me to get back to the book. We brainstormed all the way out to our getaway and came up with some HILARIOUS plot points! So more to come, including the hilarious thing we found out upon our arrival...