A Very Temporary Farewell

I'm flying to Florida in a few hours. That is, if Maia surrenders my backpack.

As the returning plane doesn't come for me till midweek, I almost certainly won't be blogging till next Friday. I set the Harry Potter linkup dates to allow extra posting time, so have fun...

Till then, much love! And some flowers.


Currently Reading: The Crystal Cave

The Crystal Cave (Arthurian Saga, #1)"Do you want to go into the crystal cave again?"

"N-no, I don't. But I think perhaps I should. Surely you can tell me that?"

He said heavily, after a few moments: "I think you must go in, yes. But first, I must teach you something more. You must make the fire for yourself this time. Not like that—" smiling, as I reached for a branch to stir the embers. "Put that down. You asked me before you went away to show you something real. This is all I have left to show you. I hadn't realized... Well, let that go. It's time. No, sit still, you have no more need of books, child. Watch now."

Of the next thing, I shall not write. It was all the art he taught me, apart from certain tricks of healing. But as I have said, it was the first magic to come to me, and will be the last to go. I found it easy, even to make the ice-cold fire and the wild fire, and the fire that goes like a whip through the dark; which is just as well, because I was young to be taught such things, and it is an art which, if you are unfit or unprepared, can strike you blind.

Author: Mary Stewart

From Goodreads: Born the bastard son of a Welsh princess, Myrddin Emrys—or as he would later be known, Merlin—leads a perilous childhood, haunted by portents and visions. But destiny has great plans for this no-man's-son, taking him from prophesying before the High King Vortigern to the crowning of Uther Pendragon . . . and the conception of Arthur -- king for once and always.

Little Notes: Stewart's tale of Wales-in-the-time-of-Merlin is vivid and sensory and three-dimensional, depicted in some of the better prose I've come across in epic fantasy—as I would have expected from the author of The Moon-Spinners. It's an Arthurian retelling, narrated by Merlin himself, but more fantastic than historical; it sources Geoffrey of Monmouth, who, the author admits, is a great storyteller and a lousy historian. On the other hand, it posits Merlin as more frequently a good scientist than a magician, so it's quite light on the supernatural for a fantasy novel.

My one criticism of any weight centers around Merlin's belief that all gods of light are one—which struck me as anachronistic, though I could be wrong. Christians like myself will probably find their suspension of disbelief challenged by the outworkings of that; for instance, when Merlin's One God directs him to aid in an adulterous seduction. That aside, however, I thought this novel was superb. I've picked up a number of Arthurian works, and this is the first I've managed to finish. It's beautifully done. I already have the sequel on order.

P.S. Christie, if you haven't read this book, you want to. :)



The Today meme is hosted by Masha! Join in over at Piękno, or leave your own sensory notes in the combox...

Rose of Sharon/Althea "Minerva"/hibiscus syriacus

Today I am...

Feeling... a little scattered; I've only just begun to reset my routines from huckleberry picking, and now I'm prepping to fly to Florida. Lou's sister is in town for the week, too. Routines will just have to wait till I get back from my grandparents'—and that'll be a good time to change them up so I can put some focus time into writing and studying.

Seeing... our rose of sharon blooming. The blossoms are short-lived, but lovely.

Smelling... laundry detergent. Tuesdays are laundry days; I almost never break that routine.

Tasting... leftover einkorn biscuit with apple jelly. The half-syrup actually jelled over time, to my amazement and relief, and apple jelly is one of my new favorite things.

Listening... to my voice grate and scratch over a couple of arias this morning. I sang too hard on Sunday, without having practiced enough during the week, and my poor damaged voice doesn't handle that well anymore. Hopefully the slow, careful practice will help.

Grateful... for family visits.

Reading... Evoking Sound: Fundamentals of Choral Conducting by James Jordan. One of my fellow choristers lent it to me. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but I am engrossed. :)

Loving... the irresistible smile that charming baby nephews give Aunty when they want her to play peek-a-boo or walk them back and forth across the living room. Also, nieces who make purple-striped paper "tigers" dripping with Elmer's Glue, and hand them to Aunty with the instruction: "You're supposed to play with it. Do not put it on the refrigerator."

Hoping... for a safe and happy vacation, good family-and-friends time—and afterward, the time and energy to refurbish my routine, get my novels written and revised, and do some hard-core music and Spanish study.


Harry Potter Book Club: Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 6-7

The "hot, dangerous" Weasley.
Art by The Starhorse.
Hello, magical friends! We have posts! Masha, in protest against the Sorting of entire families and just-about-nearly every other Good Guy character into Gryffindor, re-Sorted the Weasleys according to temperament:
Bill is sort of a wild card, I can see him anywhere, but I'm leaning toward Ravenclaw (he's the smart Weasley) or Slytherin, because anyone working everyday with Goblins has to have some serious cunning. And, he's the hot Weasley: hot = dangerous, and dangerous = Slytherin, right!
Charlie is pure Gryffindor. Brave, daring, not a lot of sense.. adrenaline junkie..
Percy is an easy Slytherin, didn't you see what he was reading at the bookstore?
And the rest of the family, likewise, along with other commentary.

Christie gave us two posts. The first discussed the Weasleys and put some focus onto Dobby's situation:
  • "Has no one ever before asked Dobby if he or she could help him?
  • "What kind of society is the wizarding world, that this has never occurred?
  • "Do they accept (actively or passively) this kind of cruelty toward a living thing, or are we to assume undisclosed back-story?"
And the second covered a lot of angles, including the issue of morality in Harry's story:
At this point it can be called a recurring circumstance: the absence of any real negative consequence for the protagonists' actions.... What kind of message is communicated to young people, if their heroes are never given more than a slap on the wrist for seriously poor choices?  For putting the lives of themselves and others in danger?  But I'm not sure if I'm comfortable including that as a literary failing since I don't believe stories ought to be didactic. Of course, we're still early in the series, so we have yet to see if Harry and co. incur any significant consequences for misdeeds, intended or no.
More on that in a moment. Now, onto this week's reading!

* * *

This Week in Reading Harry

Read: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 6-7

These two chapters are a beautiful, awkward mix of uncomfortable and hilarious. I laughed so hard through Herbology. And during the scene at Hagrid's... for instance, his dragging the slug-belching Ron away from the magically-grown pumpkins... yeah, I totally get the impulse there.

I went looking for some wizard rock for the week, but instead I found a Gilderoy Lockhart montage set to Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy." Here you go.

Potential Discussion Points:

Fred and George getting a Howler, outside canon.
I can totally picture them doing this, though.
Art by Faithie Chan.
1. Consequences. Christie's right that Harry and friends do get away with a lot of misdeeds... but though our last sight of Harry was of him grinning with the Gryffindors over flying the car into the Whomping Willow, he and Ron get their just reward in this chapter. Harry is conscience-stricken when he realizes—through Mrs. Weasley's Howler—that he's gotten Arthur Weasley into trouble at work, even though the shouting letter targeted Ron alone. Gilderoy Lockhart's peculiarly inept scolding is almost as bad, if for entirely different reasons than the clueless professor realizes. What do you all think about the things Harry gets away with, and the things he doesn't? Keeping things spoiler-free, of course... even I would like to talk about BIG SPOILER SPELL in HBP, but yeah.

2. The combination of Gilderoy Lockhart and Colin Creevey is just about unbearable for Harry, which Malfoy naturally makes the most of. Fame may be all very enjoyable in its way, but there are few things more uncomfortable and horrible than being dragged into the spotlight and forcibly embarrassed. Of course, belching slugs might be one of them.

Make your own screaming mandrake.
You know you want to.
3. Herbology is a kick. I think I'd love it and be afraid of it all at once. It's been argued somewhere, I don't recall where, that the mandrakes are kind of an anti-human image, but honestly, I think they're hilarious. Wheel of Time fans, I have no idea whether al'Lan Mandragoran's name is meant to tie in somehow to the mandragora, unless it's that the plant's reputation is really kind of badass.

4. Believability issue: none of the teachers sees Ron's broken wand as a liability, really? It was blowing rotten-egg smoke around McGonagall's classroom, and it beaned Professor Flitwick in the face and left a boil. I know the Wizarding World is up for living dangerously, but for mercy's sake—I just wanted to say, "Someone take that thing away from him. Give him an old one that's lying around or something." 'Course, then a different plot point would've been necessary for SPOILERING SPOILER.

Draco Malfoy, everybody's favorite racist.
Art by Linnpuzzle.
5. "Mudblood." Props to Rowling for coming up with an offensive word that isn't actually offensive to parents of young readers (although, since she used witch...) Noting it semi-consciously on my first read, I had a hard time understanding why a word that didn't involve religious cursing or some kind of bodily function was offensive, except as a low-class insult, but then it became clear from Ron's explanation that it's a reference to one of the Wizarding World's primary forms of racism. Muggle blood, by Draco's claim, is filth.

Ron's gallantry is sweet here, even though it backfires (gallantry can do that, which is a lot of what makes it gallant.) His estimation of Neville is superficial, but he's only twelve, and he isn't the world's most sensitive thinker. His main point is correct, however; if anything, wizarding blood seems to be the stronger for a little dilution.

6. Lucius Malfoy buys Draco's way onto the Slytherin Quidditch team, proving that a wizarding dad can be as much an idiot as Vernon Dursley. Well, then.

7. One of lovable Hermione's faults is perhaps a tendency to have too much faith in books. In this chapter we get a few inklings that Lockhart the author might not be everything he claims to be, and it's Ron, who isn't quite so knowledge-focused and has a better (if admittedly sometimes crueler) sense of humor, who picks up on it first. Anything more is spoilers, so I'll stop.

8. This book is about to get dark. Very dark. The disembodied voice Harry hears in the wall is the harbinger. The humor in this chapter is good bolstering for the Gothic horrors just around the corner....


YOU GUYS. I just realized that if I had gone to Hogwarts, I would have been in the same year as Fred and George (their birthday, April 1, 1978, is just two months after mine). I think that counts as AWESOME. Butterbeers all 'round!


Columbine for the Fairies and other stories / Today / #7QT

Joining Jen over at Conversion Diary for Seven Quick Takes!

Every year the fall crocuses come up straight out of fairyland...

* 1 *

Huckleberry picking:

I am a fair-weather camper nowadays—and we had the fairest weather imaginable for mountainside forest. Sunshine, but not unbearable heat; cold nights, but no frost or tent-chilling wind or rain. Just firm breezes in Douglas fir treetops—made me think of Spyri's Heidi sleepwalking in Frankfurt—and all of us getting light sunburns in scrubby berry fields, and temperate evenings and mornings filled with the lush quiet of the woods.

For once, I didn't even want a shower badly enough to want to leave.

* 2 *

Maia wrestling an imaginary toy in her favorite chair:

I gave her such a dignified name... and yeah, no dignity. She gets called "Goober" a lot.

* 3 *

Este semana, decidí aprender el español. Hace diez años, estudié en un clase de doce semanas, y hasta ahora, no había estudiado. Hoy, leo un Nuevo Testamento en español, miro los vídeos con mí computadora, y aprendo orar en la lingua bonita. Escribo no con ayuda del traducción de Google o mí diccionario; perdona por mis errores.

Traducción: This week, I decided to learn Spanish. Ten years ago, I took a class that was twelve weeks long, but haven’t studied much since. Today, I’m reading the New Testament in Spanish, watching videos on my computer, and learning to pray in the beautiful language. I’m writing without help from Google Translate or my dictionary; forgive my mistakes.*

* 4*

This week in harvest themes: Italian seasonings hanging to dry...

Oregano and garlic
"There's a lovely jam closet... I thought you'd want one." 
Pat's eyes flickered. 
"Of course I want one. While I live and move and have my being I'll want a jam closet."**
In my own case, it's more like a jam cabinet. But close enough:

Thanks for the extra shelf space, Mom and Beth. :)

* 5 *

"We'll have a garden... with columbine for the fairies and poppies for dancing shadows and marigolds for laughter. And we'll have the walks picked off with whitewashed stones. Slugs and spiders and blight and mildew will never infest it, I feel sure. You've always been a sort of half-cousin to the fairies and you ought to be able to keep such plagues away."**
I do have columbine, but am apparently not of fairy blood enough myself to keep spiders away; I can't walk outside right now without walking through a web (and subsequently flailing away from the resident spider). But the fair folk are welcome in my garden, and maybe as they find their way in, the spiders will find other gates and pathways to spin their webs over.

* 6 *

Because I didn't get it done earlier this week: Today with Masha at Piękno! Today I am...

Feeling... tired, but wide awake. I was up till three last night, thinking. It happens.

Seeing... my Rose of Sharon finally in bloom. Wish it wasn't so windy out; all my pictures turned out blurry.

Smelling... cool breeze, and later there will be lots of cleaning agents.

Tasting... coffee. I shouldn't have, but I have to be alert and cheerful till at least nine tonight, so I caved.

Listening... to train horns blowing down along the bay.

Grateful... for Antoinette Tuff.

Reading... 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (excellent and awful... should be an interesting review) y él Nuevo Testamento: Salmo 51 como en la Liturgia de las Horas viernes por la mañana.***

Loving... all the St. Hilaires—the ones who came to huckleberry picking, and the ones we missed.

Hoping... that I can stick to my Spanish this time and become conversational.

* 7 *

Music of the week: Yesterday was the memorial of Mary's queenship, so here's Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria's Salve Regina.

* * *
Happy weekend!

* Not that there wouldn't have been errors with Google Translate and the dictionary. And as a matter of fact, I did use Google Translate to double check a couple of words, and was wrong just once. But I only checked what I was really guessing on, so the real mistakes are hidden in all the things I had some degree of confidence in. Experts, feel free to set me straight. :)
** Both quotes come from Mistress Pat by L.M. Montgomery.
*** "...and the New Testament: Psalm 51, as in the Liturgy of the Hours for Friday morning."


Flying Cars are Awesome and other stories / #7QT

Joining Jen over at Conversion Diary for Seven Quick Takes!

I think Maia is contemplating evil.

* 1 *

Fair warning: the annual St. Hilaire family huckleberry picking trip is this Sunday through Tuesday, which means blogging will be even more sporadic next week than it was this week. (I only missed one post this week... next week, it might be three. And no, I haven't got a good excuse for this week's failure. It was just one thing too many to think about.)

I want to get a Harry Potter post done, but it's not particularly likely to happen. If it does, it'll be Wednesday or Thursday, unless I wind up with lots of spare time tomorrow.

* 2 *

Anniversary flowers from my true love.
When I was a naive and inexperienced young girlfriend, I believe I told Lou I didn't need him to buy me flowers all the time. And it's sort of true... but it's funny how much it means when he brings me some. I think I orbited these for an hour after he brought them home.

He also got me this card. Because robots and flying cars are awesome, and so is he.

* 3 *

To be shamelessly honest, I'm a grumpy detoxer. I miss sugar. And coffee. And cheap beer. (No, I do not generally have bad taste. I just can't help it if I like Pabst and Miller.)

Halfway through this month's cleanse, I am making myself eat the recommended amount of vegetables... oh, maybe every third or fourth day. There are aphids on my kale. I love kale, but I hate aphids. I refuse to eat them, which means picking carefully over every leaf. Two cups of vegetables per day? Not at that pace. Sorry.

But thank heaven for cucumbers and onions.

This was also the first day of the month that I got up early and have been working faithfully through my to-do list. I've gotten so much done that I might try the same thing again. Sometimes virtue is its own reward. Of course, next week's three days of camping—with no computer or garden or piano, no work schedule, little sleep—not to mention that we'll all live on hot dogs and cheap beer, and won't bother to pack our vitamins... yeah, that's totally going to throw me off.

* 4 *

The apple project is mostly complete, except for picking up windfall mash, but the garden isn't letting up. I cut the oregano recently, much to the annoyance of several hives of bees:

Me to Lou:
"I'm a bit concerned that we won't have enough oregano for, like,
the next 25 years, or something."
...and the tomatoes are in full-on production mode. I've never grown anything like the Italian heirloom vine my mom gave me. Thus far, the biggest tomato weighed one pound, four ounces all by itself.

That's a lot of salsa.

* 5 *

From last month's subbing-in, here's what trying to rehearse choir conducting is like with a cat around. I thought I should have been left to work in peace, but according to Maia, I shouldn't expect peace if I mean to work sitting cross-legged on the floor.
Maia: "NEW GAME." 
Me: "No. Not new game. Get off my hymnal. I actually have to be able to see the music." 
Maia: "Fine, I'll lie on these papers instead. Wave your arms again. This is fun." 
Me: "That's my song list, and don't you dare swat at me. Put the claws away." 
Maia: "It's a comfortable song list. MOVING HANDS. I will CATCH them." 
Me: "Ow! Do that again, and you're exiled." 
Maia: "Fine, if you won’t wave your hands... EVIL KNEE. I KILLS IT."
At which point she was banished from the room, and the door summarily slammed behind her.

* 6 *

So yeah, I have a complicated relationship with feminism. There's a long-running debate in my head about whether to call myself a feminist. But... this. This Sophia McDougall op-ed over at New Statesman is how I feel about "strong female characters" in fiction—and about the odd lack of female characters in fiction in general. (Advisory: occasional swearing.)

We need more Jane Austens in this world. I try to be one, in my own name and spirit. I like magic and unicorns too much to write in her genre, and I'm more pensive than witty. But I try to be like her nonetheless.

* 7 *

Music of the week: This song was played at our wedding. It was also played as a prelude before Mass on our anniversary, courtesy of a scheming member of our schola and the pianist. Thanks, guys. :)

* * *

Happy weekend! This blog returns at the middle or end of next week, depending on how long it takes the blogger to get showered and unpacked and freeze the huckleberries....


Harry Potter Book Club: Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 4-5

Hello, H.P.B.C. friends! We're moving forward today, though Christie has not yet had a chance to post—she's planning on combining her next couple, as she catches her breath after vacation and an otherwise busy few weeks. Before we do, however, Masha posted about Dobby and the problem with the house-elf race in general:
Brownies are tame, and decidedly English in their Faerie ways, but they have dignity.... a dignity Rowling denies Dobby and his race, and the idea that a being exists not merely to serve, but to be enslaved is horrific. Then to use such a being comically..it leaves a sour taste in me that all Harry’s kindness to Dobby can’t wash out. I know Rowling does try to work her way through this problem as the series continues, but at her best she seems to manage a sort of Gone with the Wind attitude: happy slaves, well-meaning but ignorant abolitionists, loving masters, and no concept that a soul could be designed for more.
She has had quite the intense (but generally friendly) discussion going on in her combox, in which I have cheerfully participated more than once, so check it out and get involved if you like! And definitely check out Seth's beautiful drawing of Dobby, included in the post.

And now, this week's reading!

* * *

This Week in Reading Harry

Read: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, chapters 4-5

I once saw "What is This Feeling" from Wicked re-written and performed as a Harry-Malfoy hate song. The two performers—music students from WWU's Harry Potter Club; it was one of the years I played for their Yule Ball—really got into the piece, and it was hilarious and memorable. Unfortunately, I cannot find that it was recorded. This was as close as I could get. It is pretty dang awesome.

Potential Discussion Points:

1. Number Four, Privet Drive versus The Burrow, or The Dursleys versus The Weasleys... or, we might say, neatness and order (with hatred) versus strangeness and the unexpected (with love). The only problem I have with the equation is that popular American culture is so conditioned to assume that neatness and order automatically come with hatred, and to romanticize the strange and unexpected. Strangeness and the unexpected frequently make life harder, and life is already difficult for the happiest of people. Neatness and order are often the results of efforts made by someone hardworking and generous and fond of beauty.

That said, love is the crucial factor, and its presence or absence colors the whole picture. It's no wonder Harry thinks the Burrow is the best house he's ever been in. And really, it's such a fun house—the talking mirror, the explosions from Fred and George's bedroom, the magic at every turn. Most of us would—at least temporarily—take the unexpected if it were that cheerfully removed from mundane mirrors that make us look blotchy or fat or old (though the magic mirror could turn out to be sadistic, I guess), mundane attics that give us the fear of ghosts and the certainty of spiders rather than the knowledge of a bored old ghoul.

Art by kra
2. Ginny. She's mostly new to the story, but right about here I started really pulling for her—probably because I am still the kind of girl liable to put my elbow into the butter dish around a cute boy. (How I ever manage to have a normal dinner with Lou is beyond me. But then, I dropped and consequently smashed a bowl full of yogurt today with no one in the room but me, so it could just be that I'm clumsy.) At any rate, little blushing Ginny got my sympathy straightaway, and Harry is so kind to her here—for a twelve-year-old boy, at least—that I sort of began hoping Rowling meant to have him fall in love with her eventually. Was that hope ever justified? We will find out who he likes in later books, but we can't say anything about that yet without big, heart-shaped SPOILERS.

I love this cosplaying Ginny image. By Ayakuchan.

3. Along those lines, all the leading ladies are in obsess-over-cute-boy mode in these chapters, including Mrs. Weasley. Which is kind of annoying, even for me and my limited feminism. But it's not exactly unrealistic, nor is it wholly inexcusable of Rowling, especially since the focal point of everyone's crushing but Ginny's is a Big Bad Plot Device. I would rather live the whole of my life with the surname Longbottom than develop even a mini-crush on a grinning fame fiend like Gilderoy Lockhart. But I suppose it's not difficult to see why the girls are mostly gaga:

Pretty is as pretty does. But it's still pretty.
Which really just makes it all worse. Source.

4. Gilderoy Lockhart. Harry's repulsion is understandable from the beginning. We haven't got the whole of his character yet, but we do seem to have most of it: a shallow creature who is little more than a heavily-marketed brand name, with no apparent real desire other than more publicity. I also find Fred and George's reaction to the whole thing kind of honest and heartwarming.

Art by yukipon
5. The loathing between Harry and Draco apparently extends to the Weasley family and the rest of the Malfoys, too. After watching Draco and Lucius in Borgin & Burkes, it's hard not to cheer Arthur Weasley for brawling with the latter in Flourish & Blotts. It's one of the stupider things Mr. Weasley ever does, though. (And responding with concern for Gilderoy Lockhart's opinion is one of the stupider things to ever come out of Mrs. Weasley's mouth, not but what we've all done that at some point.)

I've never quite been comfortable with Hagrid's response, however. "Rotten to the core," he says, "the whole family, everyone knows that—no Malfoy's worth listening ter—bad blood, that's what it is—" It's not better than what the Malfoys believe about the poor and Muggle-born.

I always felt bad for the Grangers in this scene. The brawl is basically physical, but they probably thought someone was going to blow up the place, and here they're letting their daughter go into this world where hot tempers are backed up by supernatural powers. Terrifying.

6. Young boys and their love for big, showy rulebreaking and adventure. I just don't get why flying a car to school and crashing it into a punching tree is cool. But I am in the minority, particularly if I happen to be around a lot of very young boys. It's one of a handful of things about Harry that I don't sympathize with much, but Rowling wrote it well enough that I have to smile even as I shake my head.

7. Floo powder. It would scare me, too. I think I'd prefer Apparating, once I learned how to avoid splinching. But flying cars seem like a good idea, unless you're trying to preserve the Statute of Secrecy. Bother the Statute of Secrecy. It causes so much trouble.

Discuss away!



The Today meme is hosted by Masha! Join in over at Piękno, or leave your own sensory notes in the combox...

Today I am...

Feeling... good, but a little sleepy. Turns out that when you don't drink for two weeks and then suddenly have champagne and wine in the same evening, all the alcohol turns to coffee right at midnight and keeps you awake, mind and heart racing, till four A.M. That was Saturday night. I'm still groggy by turns.

Seeing... sunshine, and wondering how long it's going to last. We've had unexpected rain twice in the last week. Quite a bit of it. I finally covered my tomatoes again.

Smelling... fresh white bread from the bread machine. I shouldn't be making white bread during detox, but it was all I had time for this afternoon.

Tasting... homemade salsa with tomatoes and jalapeños from the garden, Greek yogurt with blueberries and honey, homemade tomato soup at my parents', holy basil tea with lemon juice and milk thistle drops (detox drink), tuna salad with leek and apple. It's been a good food day.

Listening... to one of my little nieces play the guitar. Chords and melody mean nothing to her, but noise level does (the louder, the better). I had to explain to her that the guitar is too delicate to be played with lummi sticks. She loves lummi sticks. It's really too bad I don't know enough to teach her how to play the drums.

Grateful... for all these apples, even though I'm getting rather tired of chopping and processing and canning them.

Reading... Chesterton's The Man Who was Thursday. I finally got around to it. The philosophy is a lot for sleepy Jenna to try and follow right now, but I pretty much snorted with laughter all the way through the first chapter.

Loving... Louis St. Hilaire. Who, it turns out, can pull off a pretty romantic five-year anniversary. <3

Hoping... for many more years together.


Good Spaghetti and other stories / 7 Quick Takes

Merging my usual meme with the famous one by Jen at Conversion Diary, because all the other Catholic girls are doing it. ;) I plan on keeping my "...and other stories" though. I like it.

But seven takes! This means I could be going on for a while. Mua ha ha.

* 1 *

Five years ago tomorrow, this noble, respectable young man:

...went willingly into matrimony with a nervous, gangly, sentimental geek girl who was prepared to display her Harry Potter books alongside his de Lubac. Possibly because she made good spaghetti.

Or possibly because sappy, domestic-souled geek girls turn out to be good companions for good-natured, devout, philosophical men who say—or sometimes sing—their prayers in Latin. Geek girls love Gregorian chant, too.

Also, getting crammed into the choir loft stairs
with cute men.
Anyway, it was a happy day. I'm looking forward to reliving it. To celebrate, we're singing with our mixed schola, going out to a nice dinner, and possibly picking more apples. (Please God, neither of us will fall off a ladder.)

All wedding photos by Casey Karbowski.
* 2 *

Five years ago today, Lou was best man in his brother's wedding, which I attended in a spirit of manic delight and anguish.* If you tell me things about Andy and Lindsey's wedding, like the fact that it was humongous and they had incense and everything, I'll usually remember. Otherwise, I'm hazy. My clearest memory from the day was that Lou and I got separated for twenty minutes at the reception, while I was in the back getting our decorations together, and owing to my proximity to the dance music I missed a couple of calls from him. We had a tearful reunion in the parking lot, hugging and murmuring things I don't remember. And then we went in and danced to Shania Twain's "You're Still the One." It's just about the only time he's ever danced with me in public. And I sang with it, over his shoulder, because I am a big dork like that.

We went to Mass afterward, and then he went back to our new apartment with some college buddies. I went to my parents', where I'd been staying in the pre-wedding weeks, and walked in the door to discover that Beth and Mom and MissPhotographerB had done up the flowers while I was out. It was all so much more beautiful than I'd ever imagined—and I was so keyed up—that I burst promptly into tears and did the laughing-and-crying thing for a while.

After that, I know I couldn't sleep much, and couldn't eat much the following morning, but there was a lot of laughter and and a lot of everybody being so sweet to me—and if anyone got bored or frustrated with the proceedings, no one showed me—and Beth curled my hair and put on my makeup, and MissPhotographerB hung out in the bathroom with us and laughed and talked, and Mom and Beth got me into dress and veil.

And I remember that when Lou walked in for our first wedding-day look, I tried to say hello and couldn't make a sound. And if I write any more about all that, I'll start crying. Happy tears. It was a good day.

* 3 *

Good heavens. The apples.

9 quarts juice plus however much my mom froze
9 pints applesauce
10 half-pints apple syrlly**
4 pints apple butter plus one crock pot currently full and bubbling
2 shopping bags full to the in-laws
5 shopping bags full to the neighbors (hey, they said they would take what we couldn't use, but boy, were they surprised)
1 bag still sitting in the garage

And the tree still looks like this:

The top third of the tree is still loaded, and so is the ground.
Even though I picked up all the windfalls yesterday.
Also, Washington State lawns are never that brown.
The East Coast has been getting all our rain.

* 4 *

This picture has been circulating around the interwebs this week:

That's Britney Spears, attending church with her boyfriend. The commentary has primarily been: Whoa, surprise, Brit Brit doesn't dress appropriately for church.***

Three rejoinders from me, interwebs. One: That guy looks remarkably normal. I hope he's decent and good-natured and treats her well. Two: Cute boots!!! Three: You just keep coming to church, sweet girl. You're always welcome.

* 5 *

Perhaps my favorite thing about my new haircut is that I can now put it up in a messy half-pulled-through ponytail. I've not often been able to do that before. Not without looking like something exploded at the back of my head.

It's rather cute down, too, if I do say so myself (thanks, Mom!):

I think that's my "flirting with the camera" look.
Well, I never said I was humble.
* 6 *

Music of the week: It's Geek Week on YouTube, and it doesn't get much geekier than a dancing violinist and a human-voice-as-backup-band expert (sort of like beat boxing...) making an independent Star Wars music video together. Complete with light sabers and Ewoks, of course. And Leia's hairstyle.

* 7 *

Maia sunning:

Photo by Lou.
Kinda wish I were doing that this afternoon instead of cleaning house and canning. But ah well.

Happy weekend!

* Delight, for obvious reasons. Anguish, because my wedding was the NEXT DAY and I was SO EXCITED and I just could NOT SIT STILL.
** Half jelly, half syrup. It almost made it to what it was supposed to be. I went out and bought a jelly thermometer after  that batch.
*** Let me never disparage modesty, though conversations about it are often flatly legalistic and over-focused on male lust when respect for self and God and society and others seems to be a bigger issue. (Deep breath. I could talk about that for a while.) But still. I kind of hate it when people pick on someone like Britney. She's about the same age as my baby sister. And she was sucked up into a particularly amoral sort of fame long before she was old enough to comprehend and deal with it.


Happy Belated Birthday, Harry

Last Wednesday, July 31, was Harry's birthday. His thirty-third, incidentally. But since we just read about his twelfth birthday, when he didn't get acknowledgement, let alone a cake, I really wanted to make him a nice birthday cake with decoration and everything. Unfortunately, I'm supposed to be avoiding sugar. (Also, it was a Wednesday, and trying to fit anything unusual into a Wednesday... let's just say that if anything unusual wants to fit into a Wednesday around here, it has to either magically expand the day or force itself in.) So I'm having to be content with finding someone else who did—in this case, Dinah Bucholz over at Dash:

Well done, Ms. Bucholz.
Cake Wrecks also has some very nice Potter-themed cakes. Nice ones, not wrecks. If you read the prequel post to the latter of those two links, however—it's linked at the bottom of that post—there's a spoiler. :)

Other Happy Birthday to Harry fun:

Pages Unbound had several posts in honor of the occasion: Zita's testimonial, Krysta's "Which Harry Potter book are you?" quiz, which I still mean to take when I get five seconds to spare, and Briana's "Top Ten Objects from the Harry Potter Series I Wish Were Real", with which I mostly agree, although I need to think about it some more, because flying brooms sound like fun, too.

EW's "33 Great Things about Harry Potter in Honor of His Birthday." SPOILERS ABOUND, y'all.

HuffPo's sixteen favorite quotes from Harry Potter. They got a lot of the best, but they missed my top two. Never fear, I'll be featuring those in major ways when the book club gets to them.

Happy Birthdays also to Neville Longbottom, who was born the day before Harry, I believe, and to J.K. Rowling, who shares the 31st of July with Harry. Cheers!

And now... I'd write more, but we're still waiting on Christie, and frankly, I'm so busy with apples that I don't have time. Tomorrow's post may not happen, either. We'll see. Anybody know the spell for making apples remove their own stems, seeds, and bruises and hop into a pot and make applesauce of themselves? Anybody? Mrs. Weasley?



Tuesdays might become the new Harry Potter post day, at this rate. The garden is too busy to allow me weekend time for writing long Monday posts. At the moment, we're also waiting on Christie, who hasn't been around either of her blogs all week, which suggests busyness in the extreme. So, once again:

The Today meme is hosted by Masha! Join in over at Piękno, or leave your own sensory notes in the combox...

Today I am...

Feeling... cheerful. It's been a productive day. I've spent most of it cutting, juicing, and canning apples with my mom. Nine canned quarts and several frozen pints of juice later, I'm kind of tired, and I still mean to make and can a big pot of applesauce tonight. It's tempting to respond to every last one of these sensory questions with "apple," but I don't suppose I need to be that lazy. Half of them are going to be apple-related, though. There's just nothing I can do about it.

Seeing... so many bags of apples. I think we picked twelve or thirteen, and there's still a lot of tree we haven't managed to reach.

Smelling... in the laundry room, bruised and overripe Transparent windfalls, drying oregano, and garlic. It's not a good combination. But the rest of the house smells like baking zucchini bread with molasses and honey instead of sugar.

Tasting... frothy, fresh-pressed apple juice.

Listening... to a lot of roaring—Mom's industrial-strength juicer and her old wheat grinder. As Beth remarked, it's funny that the latter was branded "WhisperMill". It shrieks. At the top of its little fraction-of-a-horsepower lungs.

Grateful... for a mom who likes helping me put up the abundance, and has the wherewithal to do it. She sent me home with the juicer so I can keep going.

Reading... The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. I Googled her after reading Airs Above the Ground and discovered that for all she's considered the foundress of the romantic suspense story, she's perhaps best known for writing fantasy. There's nothing I love better than a good fantasy with loads of worldbuilding, so the first of the Merlin books went straight onto my library request list.

Loving... my new haircut. I got down to Mom's today and told her I'd hit the twice-yearly point where I couldn't handle my hair anymore. She cut it to just below my shoulders and feathered it a little, and it weighs so much less and feels so light and comfortable.

Hoping... for a safe, sane August. Our fifth anniversary is this Saturday; huckleberry picking is just two weeks out; Lou's sister is flying in from the East Coast for the last week of the month, and I've finally bought tickets to Tampa for a few days at the end of that week and the start of September to see my grandparents, whom I haven't seen in four years and who very much want and deserve a visit. I think I'm going to get to meet Christie, too!!! if only for a trip to a coffee shop or the beach or something. (Masha, if you think there's half the slightest chance you can get to Tampa in a month for a couple of hours picking up shells with me and Christie on the Gulf of Mexico, LET ME KNOW.)


Despise Not the Tradition and other stories

I kicked off my detox yesterday by making apple butter, which is full of sugar; by having us finish off leftover meat dishes; and by getting angry at strangers on the internet. I suck. But at least I drank all my teas and drops...

It has been an annoying week for Christianity in the news. There was really nothing revolutionary in Pope Francis' widely publicized and equally widely misinterpreted comments from the interview following World Youth Day. (Jimmy Akin has done the basic explaining for me.) This was objectively a much bigger story:

Three million people gathered in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day.
But gosh, kids, make less of a mess next time. Environmental care is a good thing.
AP Photo/Felipe Dana
Also, I should stop reading posts by evangelicals about why the evangelical church is a failure. They grate on me. And then the follow-up posts, also written by evangelicals, grate on me, too—by making less-than-charitable assumptions about why young evangelicals might be drawn to the Catholic and Orthodox and high-church Anglican traditions.* [UPDATE: Jay McCumber defends his comments. While the reasons he gives for evangelicals defecting to high church traditions were not my reasons, he says he has heard them given by friends of his. They were not assumptions. I stand corrected.]

But I'm with Jay McCumber in being concerned about the disaffected-evangelical meme. While I don't dare accuse anyone in particular of this, not even Rachel Held Evans, I can say that it is highly dangerous to despise a tradition that raised you in love.

Disagreement may be fair, but despising involves pride. As an evangelical-turned-Catholic, I know the temptation; I deal with it every time one of my evangelical friends verbal-backhands my Church (often without quite realizing they're doing it) in terms that prove their understanding of Catholicism is made of smoke and mirrors.** (The current cultural tendency to despise everyone who isn't as enlightened as you are—hear my sarcasm there—is absurdly egoistic. And yeah, turns out I'm prone.) It can teach you resentment, even against goodness. It can twist your personality. It can definitely make you a fool. And it almost invariably leads you to teach others to despise your people and your childhood tradition, too.

This is why I have never written my conversion story.

The evangelical church has its flaws. Some of them are grave. But it leads a lot of people to take God and sin and the need for salvation seriously. It leads a lot of people to work hard to create stable families, to provide a privileged upbringing that too many church children feel guilty over instead of grateful for. It leads imperfect people to love more fully and faithfully than they would otherwise. And it rightly teaches that real love and faith mean learning obedience and humility as well as affection and acceptance.

It bothers me that anyone thinks the solution to imperfections in church is for the elder generations to pay more attention to and serve the younger. The older folk have done their time on that count; they raised us.

Bah. I've said my say. Now I'm going to go back to being an optimist.

* * *

All right! If you made it through all of that, you deserve a cat picture.

* * *

This is why I had to make apple butter:

We're picking the tree tomorrow, but if I want to save the windfalls, something has to be done right away. It already looks like time for another potful.

It has also been raining. The weather report said "showers"; if I had known it was going to rain this much, I would have covered my tomatoes.

Real smart, Jenna. You live in the Pacific Northwest.
 But the strawberries are happy.

* * *

Music of the week: King of Instruments feature! This time it's the Boléro de Concert in G minor, Op.166 by Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wély. The organist is Philippe Delacour.

* * *

I'm off to clean house and make fish tacos. Masha, do fish tacos count as detox food? I think I'm thinking like a Catholic instead of a vegetarian. ;)

Happy weekend!

* Actual reasons young evangelicals might suddenly turn Roman Catholic (or Orthodox, or in some cases, even Anglican or Lutheran) include: "For the fullness of Christ in the Eucharist." "For the communion of saints throughout the ages." "Because the Church's historical claim to authority makes sense to us." "We looked up the ideas in the Bible and HOLY CATS they jived!" Etc.
** They freely accept the name Protestant, but what post-Boettner evangelicals as a group think they are protesting largely does not exist. There are differences between Catholic doctrine and that of the non-denominational churches, but not necessarily the differences that are perceived; the vision of a Mary-worshiping, saved-by-works-instead-of-by-grace-alone, Dark Ages persecution cult resembles the reality about as closely as Dan Brown's fiction does. It's almost invariably an innocent, good-faith mistake, however. It's even an understandable one (heck, I believed the misrepresentations myself for twenty-odd years). It would be great, though, if its innocence prevented it from being damaging.