So long, 2006!

(I'm publishing this early because I'll be in Arizona for New Year's, so here it is. Also, here is last year's post. Looking back, I realize that Arrested Developement made both lists--not that I'm obsessive, really.)

This year I'm thankful for (in no particular order):

  • Oikos! And the delightful experience of (at last) being a member of a church body

  • four years of marvellous marriage (to the most magnificent Mitch)

  • creme brulee from the Mount Bakery (served at the Temple Bar)

  • Carina Round, The Disconnection

  • my family, who is made up of very neat people that I love more and more all the time

  • Arrested Development

  • Monday nights at Boundary Bay, dancing to the Gallus Brothers

  • contacts! (Goodbye, glasses)

  • the blessing of playing shows, and writing songs, and hanging out with people who play good music

  • shopping at Goodwill

  • my little bro, who periodically calls in the middle of the night to tell me that he loves me

  • the motivation to actually read the Bible, and to really study and learn tons

  • double tall americanos (black) from Caffe Adagio

  • Jonathan Foer at Village Books, and the brilliant things he said about writing and art

  • our cats, who make me laugh but who are excellent at snuggling

  • Greg Brown at the Nightlight, and that awesome rendition of "Evening Call"

  • four hour evenings at the Temple Bar with Morgan

  • origami boxes, origami paper

  • baking, and those amazing macaroons that Ashley made with bitter caramel buttercream filling

  • riverboating in Missouri (turtles! turkey vultures!)

  • The Black Keys, Rubber Factory

  • learning "Hallelujah" on the guitar

  • and yes, my new Kitchenaid mixer. It's amazing.
  • Book Review: THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, by C.S. Lewis

    The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe

    If I were to give out an award for "Most Re-read Series in My Book Collection," it would, without a doubt, go to to The Chronicles of Narnia. Unlike Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings (which I'm currently re-reading again), Narnia does not demand that you hand over a significant portion of your life in order to read the series start to finish--it does not, in fact, even ask that you read them start to finish, and this is part of the series' appeal. You can pick up one little hundred-page children's book whenever you feel like a dose of Narnian folklore--you can read that one book, and then put it down. You do not have to go on to book two, or four, or seven.

    That is what I did just now. After reading a many-paged literary thriller (Possession, by A.S. Byatt), partially set in Victorian England, I was ready for a good, solid, quick dose of swashbuckling adventure--and this is exactly what The Chronicles of Narnia specialize in. Brevity, and swashbuckling.

    THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE, first in the series (though Book 6, The Magician's Nephew, is a prequel to LION--if you're about chronology, you might read that one first), is the one that everybody knows about and has read, or had read to them, at least once, long ago. It is also the one that the movie (the movie, to be released on Dec. 9--not that I'm counting) is based on, the one with the mean White Witch, and the great lion, Aslan, and giants and quirky professors and fauns and magical wardrobes and little English children running around saying things like "Sharp's the word," and "Jolly good."

    Brevity, swashbuckling. Upcoming movie. You really should have read this one already.

    Prince Caspian

    PRINCE CASPIAN, the swashbuckling second book (or fourth, depending on how old your edition is) of The Chronicles of Narnia, features usurping uncles, a rightful king, a fresh breath or two of the Narnian air, all four Pevensie children, and, you guessed it, talking animals. If you're reading this one, you probably already read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, so there's no sense in me going on and on about it.

    I don't know that I've heard CASPIAN called anybody's favorite chronicle (most people seem to weigh in with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which I agree with heartily, though I'm also partial to The Magician's Nephew, and rather intrigued by The Last Battle), but that doesn't mean you should skip it--heavens, no! You should skip not a single Chronicle. PRINCE CASPIAN is chockfull of Narnian battle tactics, plus it's the last time you see all four Pevensie kids being Narnian royalty together.

    (Quick: how many times have I said the word "swashbuckling" in regards to The Chronicles of Narnia? I think I'm about to stop, though. I'll come up with some other really good silly word.)

    The Horse & His Boy

    Long ago when I actually paid Blogdrive to host my site, they let me have all kinds of fun polls and things, and so I posted a poll asking all five of my readers what Narnia book was their favorite. Of the four that responded (and this includes me voting for both myself and my husband), the results were split down the center between The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and THE HORSE & HIS BOY.

    Having never been a big fan of HORSE (Dawn Treader forever! Woo!), this struck me as curious. Ye who voted for THE HORSE & HIS BOY, please come forward and help me out. I want to know.

    Which isn't to say that I don't like THE HORSE & HIS BOY. Oh, I do, but it just never made its way into my favorites. In fact, I'd have to say the second half of the book is awesome, but the first half didn't quite measure up. I know this isn't much of a review, but mostly I'm wondering what you, dear 5 readers, have to say.

    Ready, set, COMMENT!

    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

    And so we arrive at my favorite Narnian chronicle. I love it for the spirit of high adventure, for the discovery of unknown islands and for the strange and beautiful things dwelling upon those islands; for the transformation of Eustace, and the brief but lovely appearances of Aslan. I love Reepicheep, the valiant Mouse, and the awe-inspiring Last Sea; I love the lilies of the Silver Sea and even the smallest glimpse of Aslan's own country.

    However: I do get tired of Lucy's being singled out constantly as "a girl," and therefore being bustled out of harm's way simply because she is "a girl." I like Lucy as a character, but do get tired of the way the other characters treat her. That is my only complaint. Everything else is Lewis as his brilliant, imaginative best.

    The Silver Chair

    I have to say, THE SILVER CHAIR has grown on me over the years. It never was one of my favorites, given the noticable lack of Pevensies and my particular lack of affection for Jill Pole (though she does come around, as everyone in the Chronicles eventually does), but this time through I found myself absolutely loving the scenery--Aslan's Mountain, especially, and Underland as well. Lewis's description of the first is pure and joyful, if perilous, while his description of the second is eerie and memorable--the darkness and silence stuck with me even after I put the book down. Aslan's character in SILVER CHAIR is slightly more stern, which I liked (the more moods of Aslan shown, the better!), and the Marsh-wiggle is wonderful. I had forgotten just how much there is to love about this book.

    The Magician's Nephew

    THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW solidly remains one of my favorite Chronicles. The Creation of Narnia! The destruction of Charn! The Evil Empress Jadis! I love how NEPHEW ties together so much of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, while also remaining an excellent story in its own right. THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW introduces some of my very favorite locations--the eerie, failing land of Charn; newborn Narnia; that mysterious Garden; the Wood Between the Worlds--while also showing yet more aspects of Aslan's character. I come back to this one again and again, even sometimes skipping the other six just to reread THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW.

    RATING: 5


    Brave or foolish? You decide.

    Somehow I found myself in the middle of the Bath & Body Works REALLY BIG SALE yesterday. Why? Because I wanted a particular kind of lip gloss. Did I wait in line for fifteen minutes to buy a five dollar tube of lip gloss? I certainly did.

    Why? I'm still not sure.


    I guess it's cheaper than therapy

    We're fresh back from Christmas at my dad's, where the event of the evening was my brother's brand new Wii (I got a Kitchenaid mixer in cobalt blue, which is stinking rad but a whole lot less fun for the whole family to enjoy).

    Now, I've never been one for video games, not least because the controllers make my hands ache something fierce (I have a medical excuse for this, really), but the Wii is cool. I was actually able to play. We plugged in Wii boxing and went at it.

    Watching everyone flail around was hysterical, and by the end of the first round, my dad and brother were both breaking a serious sweat. By the end of the second, they were red in the face and breathing hard, and these are both very fit, very athletic guys. My brother boxed my husband, my dad boxed my stepmom, I boxed my husband and brother--it was quality family time of the very strangest sort.

    My first match ended up being against my husband, which was disconcerting because the characters are configured to actually look like the players, and Mitch's looked remarkably like him. But we got to playing--and I absolutely schooled him. Sure, he was still figuring out to block with the controllers and he won the next match, but I'm not sure he ever even landed a punch that first match--he went down and never got up. It was amazing, really. (I warned him that this bit of info was making its way to the blog, and he assured me that his dignity would survive intact.)

    Let's just say that I'm not used to playing video games, and I'm definately not used to winning, so this, my friends, was a good night.

    Order of Festivities

    This year is busy as always, but somehow I feel like Mitch and I are finally getting the hang of this "four Christmases in three days" schedule. Our craziest year by far featured no less than five dinners within 24 hours (two Christmas Eve, three Christmas Day), none of which were our own, at our own house. Last year marked the first time we had our own stockings, and this year marks our first official Christmas breakfast--complete with guest. Our weekend looks like this:

  • Friday night. My dad's birthday dinner. We put 55 candles on an 8" layer cake and then lit them all. We call it the "birthday inferno," because it's just that dramatic--the cake radiated heat and everything, and when Dad blew them out he splattered wax all over the table. It was rad.

  • Last night. Carolling/dinner/candlelit liturgy at church. This was great fun, not least because there was a complete overdose on Christmas carols and an honest-to-goodness hayride through the York neighborhood. The church looked gorgeous, the food was delicious, the kids were adorable (and hysterically funny) as they sang "Silent Night" and "Away in the Manger"--also, I got to sing soprano in a quartet ("O Magnum Mysterium"). The whole evening was a whole lot of fun.

  • Tonight (Christmas Eve). Christmas at my dad's, with my aunt, uncle and two cousins. Food! Family! Presents! No birthday candles, though.

  • Tomorrow morning. Breakfast and stockings at our house. Eggs, grits and coffee are on the menu, and our friend Manis will be joining us for the morning. I mentioned that the cats have stockings this year, and I have it on good authority that Santa's bringing them Fancy Feast, bizzy balls and some crazy toy that looks like a huge fluorescent fur ball with arms. That should be entertaining.

  • Tomorrow midday. Mitch's family celebration. More family! food! and presents! This one seems to get bigger and bigger every year. The niece and nephew are back in town, so that'll be fun--I always seem to end up playing cars and hanging out with the little ones rather than sitting around having sophisticated adult conversation.

  • Tomorrow evening. Dinner at my mom's. This one marks the offical closing of the Christmas season with the last round of food, family and presents (and probably a Christmas nap, at some point)--it will be lovely.

  • So, that's the madness of our Christmas weekend. Mercifully, all our family lives close by so we don't have to brave the roads (though I did brave the express lane at Haggen's this morning, and that was equally scary), and I'm excited to see everyone.

    May you all have a wonderful holiday! Merry Christmas.


    Book Review: THE WEIGHT OF GLORY, by C.S. Lewis

    I've read a lot of C.S. Lewis in my day. In fact, chances are good that I'm reading a C.S. Lewis book right now, regardless of when you happen to come across this post (as I write, I'm just beginning to reread The Magician's Nephew)--chances are, I'm rereading a C.S. Lewis book. They're just that good.

    Of all his books, THE WEIGHT OF GLORY remains one of my favorites, particularly the title essay "The Weight of Glory." I actually found a version of this essay online: here is the link. Some of my most remembered quotes come from that essay.

    A collection of Lewis's sermons and lectures and essays, the book itself is slim, easy to pick up and put down, and to reread when you feel in need of a little Lewis recharge. That is what I needed this time through though, honestly, I didn't finish it this second time because my copy of Culver's Systematic Theology showed up in the mail while I was right in the middle--THE WEIGHT OF GLORY was put down and never resumed, since Culver is quite a commitment and I'm sure he'll keep me busy for months (if you've not seen it, Systematic Theology is enormous--roughly the size of a small coffee table).

    So, I got distracted, from both the book and my point. To sum things up, I love this book. Also, don't skip the introduction--there are some wonderful anecdotes about C.S. Lewis in there. Absolutely charming.


    I can't believe the Faint came to Bellingham and I missed it!

    My heart breaks a little each time I remember this.

    (The title of this post is a link to a video of the Faint playing a brand new song at WWU. *sigh*)


    Not quite an explosion, but close

    When I got home tonight, the apartment smelled like gas. Now, sometimes I think I smell gas and I get all psyched out before finally convincing myself that I'm being melodramatic and should knock it off, but this, my friends, was an actual gas leak. I knew it, down to my toes.

    Mitch hadn't noticed, because he'd been in the apartment all day (ah, winter break), so we both prowled around the apartment sniffling away before finally determining the back left burner on our gas stove to be the culprit.

    To make a long story short, a potentially eventful evening proved rather uneventful (thankfully) as a nice man from the gas company dropped by, relit the pilot light that had gone out and assured us that all was, in fact, well and that we would not be exploding or dropping off peacefully in our sleep any time in the foreseeable future.

    Or at least not because of the back left burner of our stove.

    In other, less morbid news, I finally bough my own copy of the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. Why? Because the one I'd copied illegally onto Mitch's computer was lost when the hard drive crashed last night.

    So far it's been a rough week.


    The aforementioned stockings

    (However, my mom did take pity on us this year and she quilted some beautiful new stockings for the bookshelf that have since replaced the Goodwill felt stockings. This picture was taken to accompany the earlier entry, but sadly was only just now uploaded onto my computer. I posted it anyway.)


    Book review: AHAB'S WIFE, by Sena Jeter Naslund

    The Ahab of AHAB'S WIFE is, of course, Captain Ahab of Moby Dick--a book that I have never read. Though assured that I could appreciate AHAB'S WIFE just fine without reading Moby Dick, I did find that AHAB'S WIFE lacked context without Moby Dick to flesh it out, much like The Hours lacked context without the backdrop of Mrs. Dalloway.

    This isn't to say that AHAB'S WIFE doesn't stand alone as a novel--it does--but merely that a book about another book, if one hasn't read the first book before reading the second, seems a little off. I've never cared for the whole "book about an obscure character in a classic book" thing much, because it strikes me as somewhat pretentious, as if the second author is accusing the first of leaving something out of the original story. I understand that this isn't always the case, and that some really imaginative books have come from this technique, but I just tend not to like it. I say, if you're writing a story, write your own story. Come up with something new, don't just give us a "fresh" view of a "classic" story.

    (The one exception to this, I think, are reinterpretations of Biblical stories. I really love those, because they make me look at the original story in a whole new way, regardless of how many times I've read and reread the story.)

    When it was all said and done, I think I did like AHAB'S WIFE. It was a struggle at times, because, for all its lively moments, the book plods along at about the pace you'd expect from a book about a sea captain's wife--waiting and waiting and writing about stuff. The middle two-hundred pages sucked me right in because things actually happened, but the beginning and end took some muscle to get through. To be honest, I didn't care much for Naslund's writing. It was good, sure, but it wasn't my cup of tea, and it took a long time to get used to, though eventually I did and was able to move on in spite of the overly (self-consciously) deep musings she stuck in all over the place.

    So, the only problems I had with AHAB'S WIFE were purely personal preferences. Some people would be totally justified in really liking it, and though I ultimately liked it, I can't say I'd recommend it to you.

    RATING: 3


    Addendum to last entry

    Also, Mitch gave me a tea pot, to replace the one so tragically broken by our cats (it was a good tea pot--we bought it at an antique store/gas station somewhere in the middle of the state, because the bathroom was for customers only and we needed to make a purchase quickly. It served us well!).

    The tea pot itself is adorable, and I'm happy as a clam to have, not only a new tea pot, but one similarly colored to the old one and with the added feature of a little mesh basket for holding loose teas. Best of all? On the box, it says "iPot". How clever.

    Here is a picture of my awesome tea pot.


    Happy anniverary to us!

    Four years! Yee ha! Mitch gave me this card that made me laugh. It has a picture of a sandwich on the outside, and it says:

    "I was walking
    to my car,
    and I saw this lady
    I recognized from the deli,
    the sandwich lady, and I
    made up this song:

    'You are the sandwich lady!
    Come on,
    sandwich lady!
    Go, go,
    sandwich lady!"

    So now I think maybe I'm creative."

    Then, on the inside, it says:

    "You're creative. You tell me."

    And then he wrote some cute stuff about liking me.


    Stormwatch 2006!

    I don't know how fast those winds are travelling, but they are moving. At work today, I stood in one window and watched my two favorite trees (taller than everything, and side by side) bend too far in one direction then too far in another. Power lines swung between poles that also leaned dangerously, rocked by the wind a few feet forward, then a few feet back. The power flickered and went out for two or three minutes, the front door blew open and slammed shut so often that we finally had to unplug the doorbell for fear of being driven mad by the incessant ding-dong ding-DONG. The whole building seemed to shift around us.

    I found excuses to go outside--delivering each envelope to the mailbox separately, sweeping the front door mat (only to have it scattered almost immediately with more debris).


    The stockings are hung by the chimney with care...

    ...or not so much by the chimney, since we don't have one, but by the bookshelves, with pushpins. It looks really classy.

    We've never been much for Christmas decorations, and yet we have several boxes full of things we've gotten as gifts, or that my parents didn't want but didn't want to throw away and so sent home with us. We have a tacky throw blanket with a picture of Santa on it, a creepy Santa mask, several "Our first Christmas ornaments" (this was the by-product of getting married right before Christmas--people felt compelled to commemorate not only our wedding, but also our "first" Christmas), two nativity sets and some cheap stockings I bought last year at Goodwill for 99-cents each and marked "Mitchimus" and "Theamus" in Sharpie marker--olive green for Mitch, and plum for me. (When people ask, I explain that "Mitchimus" and "Theamus" are our Roman names, which usually gets either an odd look or a laugh).

    This year, I decided to go for it and officially decorate, since we have boxes and boxes of stuff going unused in the cupboard beneath our closet that ought to be aired out periodically.

    I'd been toying with the idea of getting stockings for the cats (I come from families that include the pets in the stocking roster), but decided against it until I discovered, upon opening a box of decorations, two miniature stockings that I have no recollection of ever receiving or purchasing. I marked them "Gunner" and "J. Sparrow" and hung them, with pushpins, from the bookshelves alongside ours. It's precious, really.

    Also, I put out one of the nativity scenes, though I stuck with only Joseph, Mary, Jesus and two sheep, because:

    Nativity Set + Psycho Cats = Destruction

    ...and while I'd hate to see the holy family bite it (Mary has an outstretched arm that I'm certain will be first to go), I figure we can at least keep the wise men, sheperds and livestock tucked away safe for now. Nativity sets seem doomed to be broken, unless you have some sort of glass-fronted display case or very high shelf (we have neither), and I'm thinking they should just come with a tube of super-glue in the box so we might be better equipped to deal with disaster when it strikes.

    (As I write, Gunner has been busted nuzzling Joseph in a curious, possibly aggressive manner. He is not supposed to be on the table, and he is definately not supposed to be threatening Joseph. For this, Gunner was awarded a squirt from the Squirt Bottle of Punishment, though I can only imagine what goes on while we're not home...)


    No, really, this book doesn't have pictures

    This weekend, we baby-sat our niece and nephew for a few hours on Saturday night. While trying to select a book to read to Kaitlyn, the younger (two-and-a-half), she shook her head at my choice, which featured bears in tutus, and instead pulled Claudius the God off my bookshelf and dropped it in my lap. "This one!" She said, and grinned.

    To her credit, she let me read almost half a page out loud before hauling me off to play "Find the Kitty" (Sparrow spent the entire evening under the bed, in fear of this very game).


    It's a little late now...

    ...but here are some photos of the snow:

    (Railroad Ave. from Cafe Adagio.)

    (The hedges next door.)

    (The collapsed walkway.)


    Stickman Mitch

    That's right, Mitch's blog is up and running. Go harrass him to post lots and lots of funny things: Mitch's brand new blog.