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treeI got a Christmas tree this year, which seemed a little silly since it’s just me (my roommate is out of town with her family for three weeks) and I’m spending Christmas at my parents’ house, as usual, but it’s not silly because it makes me happy every time I walk through the front door and see it.  I also have to resist the urge to lay on the floor under it.  It’s perfect for wrapping presents in front of, and now all those wrapped books – I mean gifts – I mean books – are sitting under it.  Yes, it’s a book year.  Once I got started with buying books for all the kids, it was hard to stop when I started shopping for the adults. After some late-night gingerbread baking, I feel on top of things.  Today is (hallelujah) my half day, which means plenty of time to frost that gingerbread, throw together some cinnamon roll dough, and get a last-minute gift for my dad, if I’m lucky.  early bird

Last night I made two pans of Dorie Greenspan’s Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread (follow the link for the recipe, which is online as part of the Tuesdays with Dorie project).  I tried turning the first cake out of the pan like the instructions call for, but it just started to fall apart into big chunks as soon as it was out, so I quickly flipped it back into the pan to finish cooling, in the hopes that it will seal itself back together.  The other pan I left alone – I figure I can just frost them in-pan, which is probably better since they both need to travel before they get eaten.  One for the church potluck tonight, one for Christmas dessert tomorrow.

It’s hard to believe that last Christmas we were up to our ears in snow (which reminds me that I still need to finish rereading The Long Winter) – right now the sun is out and it’s cold, but the only snow I’ve seen when I was visiting Olympia a few weeksangel ago.

It was a thrill to finally have a white Christmas last year, but believe me – I like this weather a whole lot better, especially now that I live on a hill.  Last year, barely anyone made it through the snow to the Christmas Eve service, so it will be good to have the usual bustle and crowd (and early morning feasting).

The library has been full of kids out of school and people looking for Christmas movies, and storytime is on hiatus until February.  The breakroom is full of treats and the staff is often unable to answer the phone due to caramel consumption.  elf

I finally got my meet my new god-daughter the other night, the sweet sweet Linnea, who was a model baby all evening.  Which probably means she’ll cry through her entire baptism on Sunday.  I’ll love her anyway.  Hopefully someone will take pictures, because my hands will be full.  The perfect Christmas present.

It’s hard to believe, though, that now I have three godchildren – and all very nicely spaced, from an infant to a six year old, two girls and a boy.  And since both of the girls are daughters of good friends, who both happened to be named Katy, that’s extra sweet.  Gosh, I’d better get to work before I get too sentimental.

Remember how I’m taking over my library’s bookgroup?  And how they decided to read Eragon?  And how I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it?  The group meets tomorrow afternoon, and I’ve still got 300 pages to go, but at least it’s making me laugh.

Gosh, where to start?  There was that awesome first sentence: “Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.”  That left me speechless.  Okay, not really – did the scent really change the world?  Or the person/thing that gave off the scent (and honestly, I’m not really sure what the scent is supposed to be – the elves?  This is one rare example of Paolini not overdescribing something.)

Then there was that awful description of a massacred town that had me snorting with laughter.  It takes real skill to make a massacre – and a dead baby – the funniest scene in a book.

Then there’s the fact that Eragon doesn’t have much of a personality.  I suppose if you’re reading for plot and fantasy elements, the hero’s personality isn’t too much of an issue.  He gets snappy over things, like you would expect from a teen boy, resenting advice adults.  He likes to wander in the forest by himself, hunting.  He lives at subsistance level on a farm in the mountains, but it’s not until he sets off on his adventures that he gets muscles (seriously?)  “The long days and strenuous work stripped Eragon’s body of excess fat.  His arms became corded, and his tanned skin rippled with lean muscles.  Everything about me is turning hard, he thought dryly” (170-171).

I have many predictions about where the plot will go, who Eragon’s father will turn out to be, etc. etc.  But who knows, maybe I’ll be surprised.  I’m curious to see if the characters develop much, because right now I feel ambivalent about them.  I’d be curious to see how the Knopf edition differs from the original, self-published version.  It is a remarkable effort from a teenager, and kids do respond well to it.  Witness the bookgroup member whose mother, when I called with a reminder about the meeting, told me that he’d put off starting it, but once he picked it up was totally hooked.

Paolini obviously grew up on a diet of Tolkien, which is making me think about the ways Tolkien manages to make things work, while Paolini doesn’t always succeed.  I think there was more humor in Tolkien, and a better sense of tragedy, too.  And characters that felt living and breathing.  They do have those blasted elven poems in common, though.  Skim, skim, skim.

Yesterday I finished all the little piddling assignments for one class – the class with the earlier deadline – and now I’m on to the wide open frontier of The Essay.  Good Lord it’s been donkeys years since I’ve written a real essay.  Most of the stuff for grad school has been ‘evaluate this reference source’ or ‘analyze the information behavior of this user group’ – which to a former English major is not a real essay.  There is no need to formulate a thesis or really tease out the nuances of your topic.  It’s straightforward.  You can tell when you’ve covered all the main points.  You just need a little decent organization, check your spelling, and you’re set.  The Essay, though, she is another beast.  A beast that forces my creaking brain back into those English major grooves.

And I promise I’ll shut up about school soon.  This paper is due Friday, the rest is due Sunday, and then the sweet freedom of Christmas break.  I keep adding more items to that great to-do list in the sky – there is a knitting project that will require a consultation with the greater knitting brains at my neighborhood yarn store, and then it will actually need to be finished.  There is another crafty project that I would love to complete.  I did manage to cross off ‘nostalgic tree decoration’ from the list – it was just too bare.  I counted eleven Santa ornaments in my collection, and that’s not even counting any ornaments left at my parents’.   You remember the elf, don’t you?

Yeah, him.

He’s back, and he’s keeping an eye on the neighborhood with a view out the window.  Actually, he never really left, having spent time in various odd places around the house since last Christmas, as seen above.  A nomadic elf, he is.

I’m sure I’ve posted all these photos before, but it’s Christmas nostalgia, okay?  Give me a break.  We also have your classic Christmas 1983 (I was two):

After Christmas break starts I’ll catch up on all the books I’ve been reading and try to recover my usual lightness and mirth…can you tell I’m procrastinating on this paper?

My dear roommate and I have this little thing going on.  We don’t talk about it.  See, we almost never see each other these days.  Here’s what happens.

Remember the Christmas elves?

The guy on the right is the really beat-up one.  He enjoyed a brief life as the family dog’s chew toy.  Each of my siblings and I have one, and somehow I ended up with two this year.  Okay, that’s a lie.  The nice one was in my bag of ornaments.  I stole the scary one because I knew my roommate thought they were creepy.

I left him in the living room.  I came home to find him in my bed.  I left him on her dresser.  Found him in the kitchen.  Left him chilling.

Found him in a compromising position.

Left him in the cabinet above the sink.   When I got home from work last night (no one was home) I’d forgotten about him.  I open my closet to hang up my sweater, and there he is.  Dangling from a hanger.

Where oh where shall he be next?

(Which reminds me, I need to take a picture of my brother’s Day of the Dead sculpture in his new Christmas sweater.  Here is last year’s outfit:

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