...but the racing wheels really do look awesome.

This evening, Mitch and I enjoyed an impromtu walk home in the snow. All the trees were a-glitter, the air was crisp and clean, but we weren't out walking for pleasure, oh no, we were walking because we discovered, in the parking lot of Fred Meyer, that the back left wheel of our car was flat. (This discovery was, of course, preceded by a loud thump halfway down Lincoln St. and Mitch's startled "What was that?")

And so it was that we spent the dinner hour shoulder-to-shoulder with a few disgruntled folks waiting to get their snow tires, before finally quitting the scene and walking briskly down to the bus station, all the while reciting the positive aspects of the situation. Such as: the tire didn't go flat last week when I was driving, by myself, down to Seattle, nor did it go flat on Saturday, when we drove down to Everett and back in the rain. Mercifully, when it did go flat, the tire waited politely until we were half a block from a discount tire shop--that was quite considerate, I must say.

In the meantime, we're snug as bugs here at home, trying not to remember what it cost last time we had a tire replaced--because it escalated to having all four tires replaced with awesome-looking (but quite costly) 17-inch racing wheels, due to the some customizing that the previous owner had had done.

Thank you, previous owner. Thanks a bunch.


Snowed in: Day 3

It hasn't snowed since Sunday, but what snow we have has stuck. The snow has thawed a bit and then frozen, thawed and frozen, so that the ground is covered not so much by a blanket of snow as by a crust of it, literally glittering in the sun that has, at last, emerged this morning from behind its bank of white clouds.

Our apartment is warm, the windows fogged up by steam that must have risen off the many cups of tea we've steeped in the past three days (I have single-handedly done away with almost an entire box of Candy Cane Lane peppermint tea), and the whole place smells like baking: delicatta squash, chocolate chip cookies, turkey soup, reheated stuffing, meringue cookies dipped in chocolate. Food has kept me busy, since, due to an absence of patients (nearly every one scheduled for the last two days has cancelled), work has not.

In fact, I haven't worked in nearly a week, which we can blame on snow, the holiday, and those sick days spent with Arrested Developement and origami boxes. The time off has been pleasant, restful, full of reading, cleaning, writing, gift-making, baking, drinking tea and sleeping in, but such a high dose of forced relaxation can make one feel a bit, well, cabin-feverish after a while. This, combined with the fact that we had less than half a roll of toilet paper left, prompted Mitch and I to venture outside yesterday on a quest to the grocery store.

Since we aren't used to this sort of weather here, snow always catches me off guard, and every year I realize how pitifully prepared I am for cold weather--and every year, I do nothing about it. I don't own a ski coat or snow boots, and the old pair of ski pants I have are on indefinate loan from my parents, so dressing for the cold usually entails layers and layers and layers of clothes. By the time we left the building I was bundled up so tight that I felt more than a little like the kid from A Christmas Story, and I nearly toppled right over while bending down to tie my shoes.

The first thing we realized, upon attempting to actually leave our building, was that we were honestly, truly snowed in. The way our front walkway is constructed leaves us with a narrow, though picturesque, alley between the side of the building and a row of tall, green hedges. This passes under a stucco archway before reaching the street, and what we found was that the snow had drifted above the level of the door, so that we had to dig out a path for the door before we could actually open it wide enough to squeeze through. Then, we saw that the snow, nearly a foot deep, had filled the narrow walkway, and the hedges, weighted down by snow, had bent over toward the building, leaving spaces less than a foot high at the lowest and no more than four feet high at the highest for us to crawl through before we could reach the archway.

We almost literally had to tunnel our way out. It was awesome.


Probably more than you wanted to know, but now I've told you

As you may have heard, I've been busy combining my book site with this one, which means I've had to manually go through and copy and paste every damn entry from one blog to the other. This has been a tedious process, but an enlightening one, as it's provided me with an opportunity to go back and read some of my earlier entries from both blogs.

Why enlightening? Well, it's interesting to have such evidence of the changes one undergos over the course of a year. Some of the sassy rants that I've posted over the course of my blogging career I find entertaining (yes, I'm the sort to laugh at my own jokes, it's true), but a lot of them express views that I no longer hold, or views that, alas, I never really held in the first place, as some were written with a specific audience in mind that might approve of or be irritated by whatever point I attempted to make. What I'm saying is: I noticed a trend in my writing of trying to impress whomever I imagined to be reading the entries. You, dear reader. I was trying to impress you.

Not the least significant of these earlier entries was the one I posted last winter about my attitude toward Christmas (The Birth of Santa). This was an entry that I was ambivalent about posting in the first place, since I didn't actually feel that I'd made my point, and didn't feel that I could without giving more personal info than I intended, or even wanted, to give--and so I left it as it was.

It's true that last year was a particularly stressful holiday for me, and I notice already that this year is somehow not. Being involved in a church has made a big difference, as we will be celebrating Advent for the first time ever, but I find I'm also getting excited about the holiday in a way I never have before. I ascribe a fair share of this enthusiasm to the fact that I will not be Christmas shopping this year. At all.

I mentioned earlier that I'll be making all my gifts, and I think this is helping to turn the season into a more meditative one--making gifts for nearly thirty people is peaceful and repetitive, particularly because I haven't put it off until the last moment.

Also, I'm excited to spend time with my family, to sing Christmas carols in church, to decorate trees, bake cookies and to not set foot inside a departement store even once. Already, I'm thinking this year will be a good year.

Book Review: REDWALL, by Brian Jacques

The pace at which REDWALL begins is astonishing. Immediately, the characters are thrown into conflict and by the second chapter, Cluny the Scourge, who is easily one of the scariest bad guys I've encountered in a children's book (save Voldemort), enters, leading his rat troops as a cruel, merciless tyrant. Jacques somehow balances the sweet honesty of Redwall Abbey with the brutality of Cluny's horde, and introduces characters complex enough to keep me (and children, and parents) rapt for the whole of the book.

I loved REDWALL, and the world Jacques presents is brilliant: as simple and as complicated (as purely good and purely evil) as our own. I have the next two books ready and waiting on my shelf, and I'm excited to dive right back into Redwall.



I said "several inches" of snow,

but what I really meant was "ten." Ten inches of snow. In Bellingham. In November. Unheard of!

It snowed!

Now, usually when somebody from Bellingham says that, people from places where it actually snows roll their eyes and mock our piddly snowfall, as it tends to melt on impact or, if it sticks, amount to a whopping 3/4 of an inch--which is then gone by the afternoon.

But this, my friends, is snow. It sticks! It piles up on shrubberies and sidewalks and makes the roads slick and buries our Subaru under several (note: several) inches of crisp, white covering. It turns fingers pink and sticks to clothes and keeps on coming down.

I think I'm calling us "snowed in," just because it sounds nice and because we have nowhere else we need to be.


Thanksgiving: an overview

  • Wednesday: I drive down to Seattle to pick up my brother from UW. We arrive back in Bellingham safely and head over to my mom's, where Mom and I make desserts (for her, French apple pie; for me, chocolate cheesecake). Mom puts her pies in the oven before realizing that she forgot to add vanilla, and later, as I'm measuring vanilla into my cheescake, the top of the bottle pops off and drops several tablespoons of vanilla into the batter. I test the batter; it tastes like alcohol. We throw it away and start over.

  • Thursday: I wake up with a pounding headache. Despite a shower and a cup of tea, I go back to bed and do not get up until 11, at which point I inform Mitch (from beneath several blankets, both cats and a satin eye pillow) that I don't think I'll be making it to the Rosenburg dinner at noon. He goes without me, but does bring our friend Manis, whose family lives in Florida, and Mitch makes jokes about Manis being my stand-in. They are well received.

    By three o'clock, I finally manage to open my eyes, though I still haven't made it successfully out of bed. Mitch and Manis return to collect me for my Mom's Thanksgiving--I roll out of bed, put on a skirt and somehow make it out the door (feeling much, much better, though still not great). The house is full of guests and merriment, and it is a lovely evening, though one punctuated by naps on my part. What little I manage to eat of the food is delicious. We all go home full and sleepy.

  • Friday: The last dinner, at my Dad's house, is wonderful. I make a puddle on my plate of all my food and eat it forkful by mushy forkful--after nearly two weeks of being sick, my appetite is finally back nearly to where it should be and everything tastes amazing. My brother plays Zelda in the family room after dinner and we watch him until we can't stand it anymore. We decorate the Christmas tree. Dad tries to make five whiskey sours with a bottle of whiskey and one lemon, until my step-mom scrutinizes his recipe and decides that there has to be more to whiskey sours than that. As it turns out, there is. The result is tasty and festive, though I don't think I ever actually finish mine.

  • 11.21.2006

    Apparently "snoggy" is not a real word

    In my family, if you go into a store full of breakable things, it's a "kabosh" store. If a parent says "kabosh," you put your hands in your pockets--it means "look, don't touch."

    In my family, when we go out for frozen yogurt, we say we're going out for "frozen whopper."

    If your nose is stuffed up from a cold and you're breathing like Darth Vader, we say that you're "snoggy." I only recently realized that snoggy isn't a word outside my familial lexicon when I dropped it in conversation with my boss--I mentioned that I was feeling much better, thank you, though still a bit snoggy, and she wrinkled her nose and asked, "Still a bit what?"

    In my family, when we say grace before a meal, we call it "dee-doos"--even in public places. When Mom and I go out to lunch, she grabs my hands, says "Let's say dee-doos," and launches into our family grace: "Thank you for our food and for each other, Amen." Like that, in one breath. Anyone who's eaten with our family more than three times knows about this and has our "dee-doos" committed to memory.

    For a long time I did not think this odd, our deedoos, and then somewhere around high school I did, and I protested, because I wasn't into all that God stuff, and then I was into the God stuff but I still protested because I wasn't sure how sincere a prayer "Thank you for our food and for each other, Amen" could really be when you rattled it off every evening without thinking. At some point, though, I realized that it's a great prayer, concise, to the point, even if we don't open with "Heavenly Father" or "Dear Lord," because we know (and He knows) to whom we are speaking.

    We have said this for as long as I can remember, and like "snoggy," "kabosh" and the word "dee-doos," I have no idea where it came from, but the more I say it the more I love saying it--the chorus of our voices, the squeeze of hands at the end, the reminder that, yes, the meal is lovely, but so is the company. So:

    Thank you for our food, and for each other. Amen.


    Just down the street there are eagles!

    My stepmom took this photo four blocks from where I grew up:

    On the mend

    "Staying home sick" to me generally means staying in bed all day, watching old movies and eating Jell-O cups. I tend to forget about the "sick" part.

    I have been reminded now, but if I could sum up what I did this past week I would say: sleep, watch Arrested Developement, make origami boxes. That'd pretty much cover it.

    In other news, Mitch started a blog. More details to follow.


    Book Review: THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER, by Kim Edwards

    The premise of this book is good: "a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver is own twins. His son, born first is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down's syndrome. For motives he tells himself are good, he makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution." I don't know what I expected, but that seemed initially promising, though it proved to wind itself out in a depressing tale with an obvious moral ("Lying is bad"), where the characters were so sneaky and self-absorbed that they were difficult to empathize with.

    There were some interesting points about raising a child that the world views as damaged, as Caroline takes the daughter to another city and raises her as her own--some very telling episodes, as people responded to Caroline and her daughter, were fascinating, but those stood out as the highlights in what was otherwise a relatively bland book.

    RATING: 2


    Report from the trenches

    I'm on day 3 of being sick, and I have to say that the novelty is definately wearing off, particularly as it's become apparent over the last day or so that, on top of the head and chest cold, I also have the flu.


    Yesterday I braved the outside world on a quest for cough syrup, and by the time I made it back to my warm little apartment I was exhausted. The cough syrup did not help with this: after taking one dose I was down for the count and slept for the better part of the rest of the day. When I was awake I was groggy and disoriented and hungry. Not fun.

    Things are looking up today, however. My mom just stopped by, braving my bad flu germs, to bring ginger ale, Progresso chicken noodle soup (a step up from Campbell's indeed), peppermint tea and some non-drowsy medicine, which I promptly took and (so far) have managed to keep down.

    In the meantime, I'm off to watch The Princess Bride, in an effort to keep myself awake.



    Well, it's that time of year when everyone you talk to either has a cold, is recovering from one, or knows somebody who has one and is desperately hoping that they don't get it. I fall neatly into the first category, and showed up for work today looking just pathetic enough that they booted me right out--three days of me complaining must have been wearing on them, because they sent me home with explicit intructions to get better.

    So, here I am, feeling lousy, but cozy, watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail (one of my two favorite sick day movies, the other being the original, original Batman with Adam West--which will probably be next up), sipping tea and snuggling with the kitties. Oh, and blogging. So maybe I'm not doing all of these things at once, but I like to provide the illusion that I am.

    An interesting note though--in order to watch Monty Python, I had to reinstall our DVD software, which means that, in the six months since Mitch last reformatted his hard drive, we have not watched one single movie. That's amazing. I'm a little sad about that, actually, because there are tons of good movies out there--we just somehow never watch them.

    Also interesting: they weren't kidding about those 50 mph winds. Holy moley. It's tough to walk in a straight line outside right now, the wind seems so determined to blow one off course. But there now, the movie's begun. King Arthur (and his trusty servant Patsy) approaches the castle!


    I'm not cheap, I'm "crafty"

    This year is the year of the Thrifty Christmas. Generally, no matter how I try to keep things simple, handmade, heartfelt and cheap, I end up spending more money than we have on presents, and with a big ole happy (extended and extended) family like ours, that adds up pretty quick.

    But this year, I've found a crafty little solution.

    Unfortunately, I can't tell you what it is yet, because a lot of the people on the list read my blog. But December 26 will be the grand unveiling, and it'll be great. In the mean time, suffice it to say that making, wrapping and labelling upwards of twenty-five gifts has cost me less than $60 and offers the not inconsiderable benefit of being a gift that I actually think people might like. (Imagine that!)

    The trouble is that I'll have to think up something different for next year--but I won't worry about that quite yet.


    I stayed up late to watch

    Did anybody see that storm last night? It was awesome.


    An educational venture

    My friend Ashley is a gourmet pastry chef, and I spent a good portion of today in the kitchen she shares with the most excellent catering company in town, helping prepare hazelnut dipping cookies for this year's annual Grape & Gourmet (which Mitch and I will be attending--oh joy! I will report back later). My assistance in the cookie preparation was minimal, but very fun, and began with an offer to chop chocolate. At certain point, I ended up playing DJ with the kitchen CD player and despairing a bit as I discovered that the music selection tended to feature such chart-topping favorites as J.Lo, Celine Dion, Nelly and Christina Aguilera. I thumbed through them hastily, hoping to earth up something listenable, though after a few times through the stack the new Justin Timberlake gave me pause. Ashley and I decided, as an educational venture to, you know, make sure there were absolutely no redeeming qualities to the music--just to be sure.

    It was more fun than I care to mention. Though, of course, I don't like that sort of thing.

    I had no idea I could fit 16 people in my living room,

    but apparently I can.

    Last night's progressive dinner* proved this. After volunteering to serve the salad course, I borrowed folding chairs from work, cleaned cleaned cleaned like crazy, opened my doors to 10-20 ladies from Oikos and had a marvellous time. This marked my first major experience of "entertaining", particularly of entertaining a large group of people who have, with the exception of maybe two guests, never been to my apartment before (there was a Passover feast in 2003 that we prepared with 10-12 guests in mind, of whom only one showed up--I'm not sure if this counts).

    I lit candles and everything. The cats (and Mitch) were banished to the bedroom for the duration of the salad, as, without exaggeration, women were seated elbow to elbow around our itty-bitty living room. There was exactly enough salad mix, exactly enough bleu cheese, exactly enough grated carrots, sliced radishes and pickled beets, and a little extra dried cranberries. It was like the miracle of the bread and fish, but on a smaller scale.

    The living room looked like this (pre-guests):

    ...and the salad bar looked like this:

    *Progessive dinner = a meal whereby the intial course (i.e. the appetizer) is served at one person's house--in this case, at Sarah's. The entire party then relocates to the house of the second hostess for the secondary course (i.e. salad, at my house). After the plates are wiped clean the party relocates once more to the home of the third hostess for the third, and main, course (i.e. Jess's house, for homemade pizza), before winding up at the last post (i.e. Ashley's mom's house) for dessert (i.e. cream puff pastries with pumpkin ice cream and chocolate genache). It's great fun for introducing a large group of people to one another, over delicious and diverse courses of the same meal. I heartily recommend it.


    Book Review: HOWARDS END, by E.M. Forster

    I picked up HOWARDS END purely because they have an awful lot of Forster at Henderson Books, and so I figured I ought to get on the ball and read some. I did, and was quite pleased--were I to describe HOWARDS END in one word, I might choose "delightful" ("clever" might work, too, but it doesn't sum it up quite as nicely as "delightful" does, so we'll go with "delightful").

    What impressed me most about Forster was his ability to tease his characters without belittling them. What do I mean? Well, Tom Robbins, for example, is bad at this. When he wants to provide a little distance from his characters and have a little fun at their expense (say, in a satirical way), he manages to make me hate them. I've had the sense several times, while reading a Robbins novel, that he delibately tries to prevent me from ever empathizing with a character, because every time I get close he throws in some snide comment about the character's motive that completely turns me off--and then I start to get paranoid that he's attempting to sabotage any budding relationship that I might have with the character.

    Which is beside the point, really. What I'm getting at is that Forster managed to play up his characters' flaws and quirks in a charming way that enabled me to see them as full, fleshed-out beings, imperfections and all, while still allowing me to like them. I love this. I really love loving characters.

    Which is also a bit beside the point. The point is that I really liked HOWARDS END, not least because Forster's commentary on English culture in 1910 was surprisingly relevent to our culture today (there is a passage on Christmas shopping that particularly resonates). It is also a great book to precede the gi-normous heap o' literature that I'm currently reading, which is The Idiot, which so far is awesome. I'm not sure why, but reading the books in sequence (though they're utterly unrelated, as far as I know) seems to work.

    RATING: 4