Olympic Pride

Human rights, and especially the rights of LGBTQ people, are very important to me. To say I am horrified that the Olympics are happening in Sochi, where the Russian government treats being gay as a criminal act (and don’t bother telling me it’s decriminalized, their actions speak much louder than their laws), makes me sick. I love the Olympics. Sure, I’m more of a summer games girl (GYMNASTICS!!!!!) but the winter games are pretty great too (ICE SKATING!!!)

I can’t boycott the games. I couldn’t watch them if I wanted to, so I have no leverage. I can try to boycott sponsors, but I don’t think that would be super-effective.

Lucky for me, my fellow knitwear designer Bristol Ivy hatched a lovely plan: during the games, I and several other independent designers will be donating a portion of pattern sales to a variety of organizations working for gay rights. Bristol has a complete (evolving) list here.

All of my self-published patterns are eligible. I considered offering a discount, but decided against it. Instead, I will give 75% of the full price to Lambda Legal during opening ceremonies (for simplicity’s sake, all day Thursday Friday PST) and 50% of the full price for the duration of the games. All fees (Paypal, Ravelry, etc) will come out of the remaining percentage, so if you buy a $6 pattern a full $3 (or $4.50 opening day) will go to Lambda Legal. You don’t need to use a coupon code or anything; I will count every sale.

Blog Tour: Nogiku Series by S.J.Pajonas

Nogiku banner

Hey! I am one of today’s stops on my friend Stephanie’s blog tour! Yay!

I signed up to write a review of the first two books in the Nogiku series, Removed and Released, and I’m going to–but it’s not going to be a very traditional review. Here’s the thing: I’ve read these books at least 2.5 times each, through various incarnations. I can’t really write a proper review. But I can tell you what I love about them.

Stephanie can build a world like almost no one else.

In any genre, but especially dystopic future-sci-fi-samurai-I don’t even know what-fiction, world is as important as any character in the book. The world is a character in these books. This short excerpt is very nicely representative of the incredible skill with which big ideas are related in simple, quick brush strokes:

Nishikyō itself is mostly devoid of charm and uniqueness, except for a few temples and theaters, but each building’s owner takes care to set their place apart from the blandness around it. It’s not surprising I would have walked past this place had Jiro not led me directly here. Its exterior is austere, simple.
Inside, they must have knocked out all of the existing structure and rebuilt it entirely from the floor up. The walls are papered a lovely shade of cream and lit softly from above. Real wood supports and beams are shellacked a deep, dark coffee brown. I place my hand on one, and it’s warm and organic. Nothing like the cool and precise composite material we use around the city to mimic the real thing.
The genkan has an area of cubbies for shoes and sets of washed slippers for guests. It’s cool in here as I thought it would be, but comfortable. Okiyas call private contractors to bring in more cooling units so the geisha can entertain in their silk kimono and not overheat. It’s something they can easily afford in this business.
A doorway opens off to the right and a young woman dressed in a lovely pink and green kimono comes out to greet us.
“Irasshaimase, Itō-sama! You’re expected. I hope you’re well.”
“I am, Shichi-san, and you?”
“I am well, thank you.”
“Shichi-san, this is another family guest, Sanaa.” He gestures to me, and I stand absolutely still. I’ve never been to an okiya and am not sure how polite or formal I’m supposed to be. When Jiro sees my frozen state, he puts his hand on the small of my back. He probably thinks this is going to have a calming effect on me, but now I’m fluttery instead.

Oops, a little romance sneaked in there. Oh yeah, these books are dead sexy. By the way.

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Sexy-looking, too. Stephanie designed and did the layout for the books herself. The chapter headings are so gorgeous you will swoon.

She employs one of my favorite literary tricks, making her books semi-bilingual by introducing Japanese words and phrases in context (italicizing the first use) and then using them without further explanation throughout. A glossary is included at the end of the book, but the language is incorporated so well that you probably won’t need to reference it more than once or twice.

Steph’s writing background and training was in screenplays, and if you’ve read any screenplays (I’ve, uh, read a lot) you can tell in the way her plots unfold. She knows what she’s doing!

The stories unfold slowly in places, and the narrator, Sanaa, is difficult for me to relate to; she is frank and direct about her emotions, the writing walking the line of showing and telling, so that I sometimes feel a bit, er, removed from her. That said, while I don’t relate to her I am a bit in love with her, and all the other characters (especially Mark Sakai).

Warning: reading these books will make you desperately crave Japanese food and/or culture. Like wow.

Information about the books, along with Stephanie’s bio and a giveaway, below the cut.

Continue reading

Love & Marriage & Food

Sixteen years ago today(ish), I went to check my mail at the campus mailroom and ran into my friend Hilary. She was talking to a man in a tie, who I assumed was a teacher until she introduced him as her friend Will. So, that was a pretty good day.

pretzels

Yesterday was Will’s 39th birthday. Since he spent most of his Christmas money on practical stuff, we went to the toy store to spend his birthday money, and came home with a bunch of Western Playmobil. Then I made the pretzels you see above. I used this recipe and they were SO GOOD OMG. I used kosher salt because it’s what I had on hand but I think they would be even better with coarse sea salt. (I might buy some and find out. Like, today.)

For dinner I made the best mashed potatoes I have ever made (four large-ish yellow potatoes, skins on, boiled; mix with a little of the cooking liquid, half a cup of sour cream, half a stick of butter, and salt), caramelized Brussels sprouts with shallots (slice both thin, cook in olive oil with salt, pepper, and a pinch of brown sugar), macaroni and cheese (frozen from Trader Joe’s, shut up it is really good), and a steak for the birthday boy, pan fried and covered with mushrooms sauteed in butter with a splash of red wine. The children had macaroni (plain) and sausage, because they have unimaginative palates.

Will and I have reached the point in our marriage where the main thing we disagree about is whether the heat should be on. (YES. IT SHOULD. You are warm enough BECAUSE IT TURNS ON when the temperature goes below 64.) Wait, I shouldn’t have led with that.

What I mean to say is we like each other a lot. I am super-glad he was born.

Year-End Review

Movies seen: zero. (I saw about five minutes of Epic while Sam and Grace were watching it. Also The Wizard of Oz was re-released and I totally watched it this year, but I don’t think it counts.)

Books read: Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, Rose Under Fire, Removed, and Released.

(Obviously I watched other movies and read other books, but my current releases consumption of both is horribly low.)

Knitting patterns published: Ginger, Dorothy, Anatidae, Wonder-ific!, Paw Print Cardi, A Little Night Magic, and Fission. Only five self-published, which is way below my hopes. I have several ready to go except for photography, several others in various stages of preparation (including two that are written and edited but not knitted), and even more still in my head. My unofficial business goal for 2014 is to publish more, including a few e-books and maybe my first (second) adult sweater. I also miiiiiight finally write my book proposal, which is not the same book proposal I’ve talked about here before (someone else wrote that book out from under me, because there are no new ideas).

Travel: Shockingly, we travelled twice this year (not including day trips). In August we visited Will’s family in Maryland, and in October the children and I spent two weeks in New York with mine.

Other interests: Oh, I also did some roller derby. I started taking classes to be a referee in February, and after our Champs game in December I was drafted to the Enforcers. So that’s pretty fucking awesome. I will be working the first game of the year, a Babydoll Brawl featuring fresh meat skaters, as the Penalty Tracker.

Nativity

I am not Christian–not even a little bit. But I love nativities. Every couple of years I remind Will that I really want a handmade wooden one, but of course they are not cheap.

This year, my in-laws downsized, and they sent us a few things they knew we’d love.

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My father-in-law traveled a lot for work.

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My mother-in-law accumulated quite a collection of lovely little nativities.

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These are nativities too.

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See?

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Very Merry

us

We are having a lovely, quiet holiday season this year.

Until Sunday, I had a pretty bad case of the grumps because Will and I couldn’t afford to buy each other presents. I was feeling pretty lousy, especially because I worked my ass off on sewing commissions to pay for Christmas but the children come first, of course. I mean, that wasn’t even a question. But sometimes being the grownup is no fun.

Then my dad’s gift–cash–arrived and we split it up to spend on each other.

christmasevepizza

We made our traditional Christmas Eve pizza. This year’s came out so good that Grace devoured hers down to the crusts. I use the olive oil dough from Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day (I have the older edition and a case of the wants for this one), and this year I bought Trader Joe’s jarred sauce instead of making it from scratch (I could barely tell the difference). I made Sam a loaf of bread from the same dough, because he is horrified by pizza. (He doesn’t like cheese or foods touching. Pizza is a nightmare.)

sambone

Sam scored bigtime, with a new watch, his very own camera, video games, and lots of other stuff. But his favorite gift seems to be the two Jeff Smith comic books we bought him, Tall Tales and Rose. He loves Bone the most of everything on earth and was so excited to find out there are more stories in that world.

verygraciechristmas

This pictures shows Grace’s fifth or sixth setup of the day. She immediately integrated her new toys in with her already-beloved things, except for her new rainbow blocks which CANNOT BE USED TOGETHER WITH THE BROWN BLOCKS, SO DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT, BUSTER.

P.S. Not only did Will get me exactly what I wanted, but my in-laws sent us Amazon gift cards so I also ordered a fitbit and hiking shoes. And, um, a ton of baking stuff. Heh.

What it’s like

I’ve been a little quiet lately. Allow me to illustrate why.

Grace spent all day demanding my attention pretty much nonstop. She can get very anxious and clingy. I am exhausted.

Tonight, after kicking me out, sobbing that she needed alone time, she called me back into the smallest room in the house to ask me if you play bongos with sticks. When I said no, you play with your hands, she burst into tears. “But I want to play bongos with sticks!” I told her that she can do whatever she likes, and she brightened up and told me she’d borrow the sticks from her glockenspiel. My protests that we don’t own bongos fell on deaf ears.

And that pretty much sums up every day of my life.