The best Christmas gift ever

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My mom always outdoes everyone else with her gifts to me. That’s fair; she’s known me longest and arguably knows me best. She always manages to get amazing presents that I absolutely adore.

This year was no exception.

We exchanged gifts on Sunday, the 5th — the second last night of Christmas, technically. My gifts to her were a huge hit, which made me happy as I didn’t have much to give her this year. Her gifts started out awesome and got steadily better.

There were a LOT of presents from her so I won’t share them all here with you, but I will share the four best gifts. (There are pics of the last two; I was going to take pictures of the others today but I was really busy and ran out of time.)

First, there were cookie cutters.

I love baking, and I don’t have any cookie cutters (apparently). I thought I did, but I discovered while burning the gingerbread cookies of doom last month that I don’t. Mom got me a set of Christmas-themed cookie cutters so I can now make Christmas cookies every year! (And when I get back; Ogre and I still have some gingerbread and sugar cookie dough we need to bake.)

Then — Crystal Head vodka with two skull-shaped glasses. This is amazing, and I don’t even care that the vodka itself doesn’t taste that great. I can now pretend I’m drinking out of the skulls of my enemies. That is the best thing ever oh my gods.

Wolves on an apron! HOW AWESOME IS THAT

Wolves on an apron! HOW AWESOME IS THAT

Third, to add to the cooking theme of the gifts, she got me an apron. Not just any apron — one custom made for me, with pockets, and designed with wolves. She has a matching one in a smaller size. I finally have an apron that actually fits! Huzzah! And wolves, guys. I love wolves.

Fourth…the pièce de résistance. This thing…holy hell. I was so excited over this gift I nearly wet myself.

A SLOW COOKER

A SLOW COOKER

That’s right. Mom got me a 6.5 QT Electric Slow Cooker. An All-Clad.

I have been jonesing for a slow cooker for ages. I want to learn to make delicious meals in it so that when Ogre and I live together he can come home and scoop dinner out of it and I don’t have to mess up my sleep schedule to make sure he eats right. Feeding my family is important to me. (And let’s face it, feeding me is important to me too.)

It comes with a recipe book that I’ve flipped through a little bit. The things in it look DELICIOUS.

I am so excited to get home and start using this thing.

How on earth did my mom manage to score this thing when we’re hurting financially? It was on sale at her local grocery store, where she had half a million points. She waited until the slow-cooker dropped in price and then went in and used all her points to snatch it up for me.

That’s right. She spent all her hard-earned points on getting me the best Christmas gift ever.

Bottom line? My mom is the best in the world.

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Dreams Made Flesh

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I got home exceptionally late today. Or exceptionally early, depending on your point of view. I was supposed to arrive home on the 1st, and ended getting back at 5am on the 2nd. Not having slept, it’s technically still the 1st for me.

Anyway. When I got home there was a box outside my door. A box covered in Amazon Prime stickers.

That’s funny, I thought. I’m not a Prime member. Also I don’t remember ordering anything.

Then it clicked — it must be my Christmas gift from my best friend/sister! I knew she was getting me something via Amazon, and I’d totally forgotten about it during the week+ vacation/down time during the cold from hell at the Ogre’s place.

(By the way, that cold? Still sticking around. I am more than ready to be well, thanks, Universe.)

I hustled inside and put down all my things (I had a lot of things) and excitedly grabbed the box. It was addressed to “Babby van Loon” — definitely from my sister; that’s her special nickname for me.

As I brewed some coffee in my Keurig (mainly to test out if the cups I’d been given for Christmas would work in it — they’re the “we work in most coffee systems” kind, not Keurig-specific ones — and they do) I grabbed a knife and carefully cut the tape on the box. It was difficult, because I was as excited as a…um. Kid on Christmas. (There has to be a better analogy out there somewhere.)

When I pulled away the plastic packaging, what did I find?

Christmas gift from my bff/soul-sister arrived! She knows me so well. <3Only an omnibus edition of one of my most beloved book series — The Black Jewels Trilogy.

I’ve read this trilogy several times. I adored it so much in high school and college that I would constantly lend my copies out to people, just so they could see how amazing it was — then I’d buy a new copy, and the cycle would begin again. Hence why I didn’t have a copy till now, and it was on my wishlist on Amazon.

The Black Jewels Trilogy is one of my biggest inspirations as a writer. When I read The Black Jewels Trilogy, I learned that it was possible to write a matriarchal society in fantasy that wasn’t some anti-feminist screed. (I know there are probably other writers who have done this, and likely before Anne Bishop did. That doesn’t matter, here — what matters is The Black Jewels Trilogy was the first series I read where that was a thing.)

I’ve heard people call The Black Jewels Trilogy “fluffy”, and I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. There’s romance, and some characters do get to live happily ever after — but this series is dark. There is sacrifice. There is loss. There is some seriously messed up crap going on. There are big stakes. The Black Jewels Trilogy is anything but fluffy.

If I read it again today would I love it as much as I did in high school? I don’t honestly know. I’ve changed a lot as a reader and a writer since the last time I read the books. I’m more critical now, especially of things I love. I’m sure there are lots of problems in The Black Jewels Trilogy.

But honestly, I’m just not interested in deconstructing it and picking it apart. I may do that with other things I’m a fan of, because it’s good to pick apart the things you love — to admit that nothing is perfect, that everything has its problems. That way when you trash the stuff you hate, no one can get on your back for only picking on things you have a loathe-on for. (Or, well, they can — they just won’t have much of a solid foundation on which to base their arguments.)

The Black Jewels Trilogy, however, remains one of my first fandom obsessions, and still one of my favourite book series ever. I read the continuation books as they came out, most recently The Shadow Queen, Shalador’s Lady, and Twilight’s Dawn. I loved them all as much as I remember loving The Black Jewels Trilogy — so perhaps, if I reread the Trilogy today, I would adore it as much as I always did.

I refuse to pick it apart. It’s a solace for me; it’s a comfy blanket. It reminds me that sometimes the broken and the beat down can repair themselves, can win against the forces that try to tear them apart. It reminds me that love prevails.

I’m not pulling at those threads. I’m not pulling that blanket apart.

I’m putting the book in a place of honor on my shelf, and when I have some time to read some fiction this year — I’m pulling it down and reading it again.

Thank you, sister. You knew exactly what I wanted, but more — you knew exactly what I needed. A reminder that the stories I write — the stories inspired so much by The Black Jewelsare important to other people, just as The Black Jewels are important to me.

Am Down and Out with Cold from Hell. Please send assistance.

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I am suffering from the worst cold I’ve had in years. I don’t know where I got it, but I know where it came from: straight from the very bowels of Hell.

So my posting schedule and quality may be a little sketchy right now. I am barely able to function at the moment. Just taking meds and sleeping and trying to make it through one day at a time. If you have a TARDIS or something please send a magical cure from the future.

Wherever you are and if you celebrate it, I hope you have a Merry Christmas. If you have to go to a crappy family situation for the holidays, remember their opinion or treatment of you does not invalidate your worth as a human being.

You’re still awesome. Keep on remembering that.

Christmas lights at last year's xmas party. Photo (c) Katje van Loon.

Christmas lights at last year’s xmas party. Photo (c) Katje van Loon.

Winter is coming. Wait. Dammit, it’s here.

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Happy that the cold snap was over, I packed the bare minimum of warm clothes with me for this whole weekend. I needed space in my suitcase for books that I’ll be trying to sell on the Island. I figure I didn’t need to do the 4-layers thing anymore, because it was no longer as cold as it had been a few weeks ago.

Then this happened.

Fuck you weather. Fuck you.

So not only is it freezing again, it’s now dangerous for me (snow + injured spine + cane = possible re-injury). And it’s snowing on the Island, too — so Sunday, when I must travel by bus and legs, is going to suck. Oh, and by the way — I’m coming down with a cold right now. This fresh hell is going to make my nose run so hard you’d think it was training for the Olympics.

Seriously, weather? You couldn’t hold off till Monday?

To those of you who are so excited about the snow before Christmas: I’m happy for you. Really. Just note that it will probably be gone by Tuesday. Meaning it’s showed up to make my life miserable and nothing more.

Yes I am ascribing hateful motives to the weather it’s out to get me I tells you.

 

Christmas

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Christmas gifts.

Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, and I’ve come to love it in recent years.

I used to loathe it — having the door slammed in your face by your father while you sobbingly beg him to speak to you for a moment on Christmas Day will kind of ruin the holiday for you, and that wasn’t even the FIRST instance of him doing something like that — and avoided Christmas cheer as much as I could. I was a regular Grinch. I refused to decorate, and only got gifts for people under a sense of obligation and under duress. (The one exception being for my best friend, who loves the holiday — and no matter how much I hated the holiday, I loved her more and wanted to see her happy.)

My feelings of hate towards this holiday started to switch when I met the Ogre. He dresses up as Santa every year, you see, and it seemed weird to hate Christmas when I was madly in love with Santa. Also, suddenly having a big family to spend the holiday with made it seem more like Christmas.

So for the past 3 years I’ve enjoyed Christmas, and I thought I was looking forward to this year’s, too.

Until I realized this week I don’t have any money to get anyone any gifts.

Other people will be getting me gifts. I won’t have any way to repay the favor and will likely just put my name on the gifts the Ogre gives to his family member, as if I had any part in it.

I like being showered in gifts but only if I can reciprocate. I hate feeling like I have nothing to give in return to people who give so much to me. (This is an emotion expressed by the various characters I write, too.)

Often, my fallback would be to give gifts of my own books or things I’ve knit or crocheted — but that’s not really an option this year. I can’t afford to give any more of my books away, and only about 2 people on my gift list would actually appreciate a knitted or crocheted item.

Long story short: I’m praying for a Christmas miracle to happen in the next few days so I can get my loved ones something, at least.

Accomplishments

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Yesterday I finished proofing the print copy of Stranger Skies, made edits to the file, and sent the files off to the printer’s.

I’m glad I actually sat myself down and proofed the thing. I was feeling a bit “BUT I’VE DONE IT SO MANY TIMES ALREADY” when I got it and didn’t want to proof it. Turns out there were a few rather large errors in it, which of course means I need to update the ebooks again.

Still, feeling accomplished about getting the print book done. We should have the first run printed by the end of the week, hopefully. They will be ready to ship by Christmas.

I’m doing a special on pre-orders, so if you want a paperback of Stranger Skies for $16.95 instead of the regular $19.95, this is your chance. Will ship to anywhere in Canada for five dollars. Still working on US shipping, so if you’re in the US stay tuned for that.

Other accomplishments:

– Didn’t get crying-drunk at the Christmas party last night, like I did last year. To be fair, last year they had eggnog and rum, which I’d never tasted before. This year there was no eggnog and I just had my own Bailey’s, so it was far easier to moderate my intake. Hooray!

(I don’t often get crying-drunk; in fact it usually never happens. But eggnog + rum tastes really good and I got super excited last year over it and…yes. Couldn’t moderate. So this year it was a goal to not get so drunk at the party. Because crying-drunk is just fucking depressing.)

– Went and shipped 7 boxes today! 6 of them held copies of Bellica for the James Tiptree Award judging panel! They might actually arrive on time. Send prayers please.

– I watched Love, Actually today with Jenny Trout and a bunch of awesome folks on Twitter. I guess maybe it wasn’t an accomplishment? But I feel accomplished, so there.

Now, dinnertime. I am off to stuff my face.

On the Oregon Trail. No dysentery. Yet. (Picture heavy)

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This past weekend I spent at Spring Mysteries Fest, which I can’t tell you much about because, well, Mysteries. Oath-bound secrecy, etc. Also, this is not my pagan blog, so what I can talk about will be said at Innocence and Immanence sometime this week. Regardless, SMF is at Fort Flagler, an old military base. Pictures during the event are not allowed by any save the sanctioned photographers (though we did get a photo of just our group, which is okay, on Saturday in all our big feast finery + my Creepy Muppet Smile + at least one photobomb by another Canadian), but while I was waiting outside for my mom to pick me up (she was six hours late) I snapped a few shots of the amazing view.

Ft. Flagler is a pretty cool place, but it hasn’t changed much since it was closed down for military use…in 1953. After being shut down for military use it was purchased by the State of Washington as a state park. So this means 1950s bunks (sans ladders, because army boys should be able to just leap up to the top bunk), 1950s bathrooms (TINY), and 1950s hot water heaters (also tiny, and overworked). Despite these small inconveniences (roughing it, eh?), we had a great time (I did have a bottom bunk, which is good because I would not be able to use a top bunk, not even with make-shift nightstand ladder) and great weather.

Even waiting for my mom wasn’t too bad; the Gods provided for me, as They always do. I did fine. Except the sunburn, which you can vaguely see on my hands and face in the three pictures below. Only my hands and face; I was fully covered with clothing. Hot water still kinda hurts though.

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