I had birthday greetings all day long, from friends online, family calling and getting to hang out with people I adore. Emily and I spent the day making monkeys, which was so fun and so satisfying. You know how good it feels to do something that you’re good at, especially when it’s still challenging and interesting? That’s the kind of work we were doing today. It felt great.
We wrapped up around seven and went to Grand Sichuan on St. Marks Place for dinner. Twenty friends descended on the place, filling two giant round tables. Stephen, Chris, Jenny, Aimee, Kris, Lon, Katie, Emily, Jessica and I were at one table. Jodi, Sam, FabulousGirl, Jed, Preston, Sarah, Kahlua, Jonathan, Julianna and Sue were at the other. I switched tables about midway through.
The food was great. Emily ordered a crispy fish, which was amazing–I’ll post pictures as soon as I’m back to my computer. We also ordered something called Bad Smell Bean Curd, because, really, how could you not? It was like crispy, mild blue cheese served with a pepper sauce.
Aimee read my runes, which was cool and strangely on point.
Afterwards, a smaller group of us trooped back to Jodi and Sam’s for Mom’s pound cake. Mmm mmm good. We talked until my birthday had passed. I like all of these people so much. Some I’ve known for ages; some I’ve just met, and they are all nice, funny and deeply interesting.
What more could a girl ask for on her birthday?
Well…my husband would be nice, but Rob and I got to talk a little bit on the phone. I miss him, but friends help make the birthday wonderful. Thirty-eight is looking pretty good.
The funny thing is, thirty-eight seems fine, but the fact that my twenty-year high school reunion is this summer is just not okay.
My brain is a little mushy because I just came home from recording an audio gig. It is a very, very cool one and I loved doing it. I’ll be able to point you to a link to it soon, but for the moment, just know that I think you’ll like it.
I had a splattering of writers over for lunch today, (including Jay, David, Kate, Dave, Merilee, Evan, Damian, Rick, Spencer, Chrissy, Christina) which was great fun. I don’t know what it is about a table set with china and crystal that makes me happy, but it does, so there you go.
A selection of cheeses, provided by Jay Lake.
Spaghetti Squash, with Spinach, Pinenuts and Citrus Cream Sauce
Green Beans in a Coral Sauce
Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
Garlic Roasted Baby Potatos
Sage and Cornmeal Scones
Chocolate Mousse and Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies (made by Christina)
I’m particularly proud of myself because of the allergy and food avoidance list for this group. I strove to avoid the following items: Eggplant, raisins, gluten, eggs, dairy, mushrooms, melon, fresh tomatoes, fresh fruit, cilantro, barley, bell peppers.
The only one I cheated on was the fresh fruit, because I made a blood orange vinaigrette and then served the blood oranges on the side as an optional garnish. Besides that, everything was allergy safe.
The conversation was a lot of fun; my face still hurts from smiling and laughing the whole time. I’m glad I had a chance to connect with these folks before I go haring off to New York. The nice thing is that I know I’ll see everyone online or at cons.
Saturday, January 20
J.R.R. TOLKIEN BIRTHDAY BASH
With jugglers, live music by the Scraff Orser Band, the entire LOTR trilogy
and more! Come in costume to compete for prizes!
11 a.m. ’til close; music at 7 p.m. | Free | All ages welcome
Ever been to a J.R.R. Tolkien tribute party? Yeah, we didn’t think so (unless you came last year, or the year before that…). Celebrate the birthday of Tolkien by coming dressed as your favorite Hobbit, elf, wizard or other character from one of his amazing novels. We’ll have Hobbit-inspired food specials, the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in the Theater, a performance by Willamette Radio Workshop and much more.
WRW will be doing The Hobbit’s Greatest Hits at 2:00. Don’t miss out.
Yesterday morning, Christina’s movers arrived to move her things into the house. We had in mostly cleared for them, but I don’t think any of us anticipated the scale of the furniture when it’s transported into a 1907 house. Things from California are big.
Our cats have taken to living upstairs; we’ve moved the litter box and their food up there. Zamboni, Christina’s dog, is afraid of stairs, so is living on the first floor. Everyone seems to be okay with this arrangement so far.
Our neighbor, Mark, invited us all over to his house for lunch, which was so very, very nice. He knew our kitchen would be in disarray.
Then it was back home for more packing or unpacking. In the evening, Rob and I went down to -e-‘s house for birthday party for Yanni. Walking down the quiet streets in the snow was wonderful. And there’s still snow on the ground today. Hurrah.
Today we got to sleep in, til 7:30 am. Oooo. We’re staying with some friends of Joe’s (Shawna and Steven) that live in Seattle. In tour talk, this is a “home stay”. Tears of Joy gives us $40 in per diem for food and hotel, but we get to keep the leftover soooo…. I normally don’t like homestays but this one is great. No, I’m not just saying that ’cause they might read this.
It was an eventful day. We did our trick of slightly wrong street names with the first school. NE 8th vs. 8th St. We got to the show late, and had half an hour to load-in to a school with steps. This is called a “jogging load-in.”
We hate steps. Most of our set-up time is actually the walk into the school.
[Missing Photo] This is a shot of our second school. Notice the Extremely Long walk to the other side of the gymnacafetorium. The stage at the far end is both a plus and a minus. It means that we are definitely high enough for everyone to see. The problem is that most of TOJ’s shows are designed to be on a gym floor and visible for an audience that is seated on the same floor, with no chairs. So everything begins at the three foot level and is elevated. The problem with being on the stage is that it makes our performance six feet above the audience’s heads. Very bad sightlines for the kids in front. If we move away from the playboard at all the puppets vanish.
Also at this school we had the joy of trying to find electrical outlets. Our lights and our sound draw a lot of power. Each light uses a 500 watt lamp, we have six lights. You do the math, and you see our problem. Sometimes, especially in older schools like this, we’ll blow a fuse. So we try to spread the current out to different currents in the room. At this particular school a good half of them were already dead. And all of the ones close to the stage weren’t working. Which means that Joe had to first, find outlets, and then establish that they weren’t working, and finally snake cord from the stage to the far end of the room.
To add to our joy, the person introducing us didn’t check to see if we were ready. We were not. We’d even gotten to this school fifteen minutes early. Joe was still focusing lights, and wasn’t in costume yet. So, I talked to the kids about microphones, because I was still putting mine on. I explained about electricity, and older schools, and what we were doing. Then when Joe went backstage, I segued into talking about Africa where the story is set. Then we started and they were a really great audience. Very live.
I find that if you know the background of the play you can generally expand a normal introduction for however much time you need. Although I try not to make a practice of needing expansion.
So it was off for Shawna and Steven’s house after that. We spend a lot of time in the van, and will be touring almost till Halloween. Notice the pumpkin. Anyway, here’s the view from the van in Seattle.
My last bit of adventure was a small car accident. Yes, I’m fine. I was turning the corner in my very large van and did not see the very small, illegally parked car. It was at a diagonal, partially in an intersection. My wheel became wedded with the front bumper of this car. I couldn’t go forward or backward. We were dropping off Joe and his friend, Matt at Matt’s house. Matt says that this car has been there for two months. It even had a parking ticket.
So we called AAA and the police. AAA pulled the van sideways off the car. The police said that technically I was at fault, but he didn’t want to charge me, so he waived the fine. TOJ’s insurance will deal with the accident, so I’m basically okay. I’m just making really wide turns right now.
For years, I’ve had a standing date with Sue and Albert on New Year’s Day for black-eyed peas and greens. Oh, and cornbread. See, Albert is from east Tennessee, and totally gets the whole traditional food thing. Sue, on the other hand, has a long-standing tradition of champagne and caviar. It is surprising how well these two traditions work together.
In the past, the routine has been that I cook and show up at their house with food. It’s been nice because that way the cleanup doesn’t fall solely to either of us. This year, it was just easier for them to come to us, plus, I wanted to pull out the china and silver. Yeah, I know. It’s crazy that my idea of a good time involves pulling out the good dishes. I also know how silly it is to pull out the good dishes for comfort food, but it looks so pretty.
The only thing that was marring my anticipation of tonight is that I discovered yesterday that I had run out of Grandma’s pear relish. I don’t know anyone else (outside the family) who makes it, but I consider it absolutely essential for black-eyed peas. I had her pear honey, pear preserves and pear butter, but no pear relish and no way to get any in time. So, amidst much sadness, I attempted to find a substitute at the grocery store.
I opened it today and it was completely wrong. Bleah. So. For the first time, I made pear relish. It wasn’t exactly right, but it was less wrong than not having it. The biggest problem, I think, were the pears. Grandma’s pear tree is over sixty years old and was a gift from my grandfather. No one has any idea what variety of pears they are, or if they are even a commercially available type. I’ll have to experiment to see if I can do better next time.
Meanwhile, Mom is sending me a jar of the real thing. Thank heavens.
Normally, I have a formal dinner party for Christmas every year and this year it was scheduled for Sunday the sixteenth. You know. The day after Rob got back from Iceland. Why would I do something like that? Because, our friend Jodi was in town and leaving on the 17th, which meant that the only night possible was the night after Rob got back.
This was fine. We’d talked about it and made our plans and everything was fine. Then I got the call to go to Iceland. At this point the party started to get dicey, but I’d already mailed the invitations and I’ve done it so many times that I felt like I could pull it off. The only thing that made me really nervous was that I had to work on Sunday and would only get home an hour before the party started. I’d done that before too, so I knew I could handle it by prepping all the food the day before and leaving Rob instructions about what to put in the oven and when.
And then Rob’s travel karma kicked in. He got the the airport two hours early and it took three hours to clear security. He called me from Detroit. I knew his itinerary and Detroit was not in the picture. He was supposed to arrive home at 1:10 and was now scheduled for 7:00. I got off the phone with him and started calling people to cancel the party.
My friend, Sue, suggested that I tell people to come anyway and to bring a finger food. Brilliant. So that’s what we did. While it was did not satisfy my craving to host a dinner party, it was wonderful to see everyone. The food was outstanding too; my friends can cook. So, all told, it was a successful party, but I’m still going to have to have a sit-down affair later. I think it’s the tables set with china and silver that makes me all happy.
Wow. I was going to do an update about dinner last night and stuff, now that I’m safely back in Portland but my brain just shut down. Helloooooo jet lag.
So, quickly. I met Lon Prater, MaryClaire, Jed Miller, Sam Paden, Emily DeCola and Jonathan Judge for dinner at Pure Food and Wine. It was lovely. I went back to Sam’s to sleep for three hours and then caught a plane this morning. I had many minor obstacles which left me cranky but didn’t prevent me from getting home.
For instance. My flight was booked with Continental, so I stood for an hour in their very slow line as they struggled to deal with rebooking flights due to the fog. When it was my turn, the agent couldn’t find a reservation for me and when I told him where I was going he said, “Oh, that’s a Continental flight run by NW. You have to check in with them.” At this point I had half an hour to catch my plane. I was not pleased, but made it.
In Minneapolis, they called my name to report to the ticket counter so I was sure I was being bumped. No. My seat on the plane was broken so they had reassigned me. THEN when I was actually on the plane they moved me twice; first because a woman with a child in a carrier needed to have a window seat for the child’s carrier. Then because they put me in a seat that was, yes, broken. sigh.
My cab driver to come home was stupid and took the slowest possible route to get here and then drove past my house, and partway down the next block before letting me out. At this point I was unwilling to give him anymore money so I walked the block home. Cranky, cranky, cranky.
My good friend -e- came up to help me get ready for departure. It’s not really the “Ahhh! I’m going to Iceland. Tomorrow!” that was giving me trouble so much as the, “Ahhh! I get back from Iceland the day before Rob and the house isn’t clean!” We spent a while cleaning, sipped dirty blue martinis and then when my house was under control, we escaped down to hers to look at paint chips for her remodeling project. Could one ask for a better friend?
Oh, did I mention that she’s offered to do some grocery shopping for me, so we have food when we get home. Yeah. That’s a friend for you.
Each player of this game starts with the “6 weird things about you”. People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says “you are tagged” in their comments and tell them to read your blog.
While standing, I can turn my feet to point backwards. Not all the way but definitely pointing back.
I can’t stand cooked carrots and will pick them out of my food like a little child.
I have a weakness for B-movies, but can’t stand bad theater. I think because you can’t heckle live theater.
My procrastination skills are so refined that I sometimes get stuck in the house.
Jodi and I went to the fabric store where the bear’s fur came from and bought enough to do two more bears. It’s now on its way to Iceland via U.S. Post. Initially they said that shipping would cost $238.50 (at the cheap end. The high end was $700) because the fur was too big to fit into one of the US Post approved boxes and would have to go via FedEx. At that price I was just going to buy a suitcase and carry it with me. We managed to cram it in with a bit of effort. The post costs only $50. Crazy, eh? It’ll take 6-8 weeks to get to Iceland, but I’ll be out of the country longer than that, so I think it’ll be fine.
Afterwards we went to have Thai food. Mmmm. Spicy. I’ve missed spicy food. And Thai Iced Tea. Happy camper, me.
I’ve made it to Brooklyn where I’m staying with Jodi and Sam. Bizarrely, Stefan was on the flight with me from Iceland but we didn’t realize it until baggage claim. Jodi arranged dinner with Sam Jonathan, Emily and Chris at Gobo. Some very good food and not over-salted, which was such a relief.
Jodi, Julie and Sarah are all in for ADR this weekend. Rob and I invited them for dinner, partly because we like them and partly to consume some of the haddock. Sarah was the one who caught them, and Julie is the one who dropped them off at our house. Poor Jodi was an innocent bystander.
Everyone was very complimentary of the meal, but the only dish that I would repeat is the salad. The other dishes were fine, but not as interesting as I had hoped.
The conversation on the other hand was delightful. I miss bantering. Its been weeks since I’ve had an extended conversation with a native English speaker besides Rob. I hadn’t realized how much I missed being able to participate in an evening of witty repartee. On the other hand…the thing I laughed hardest at was while Julie was trying to teach us circular breathing for digeradoo. It involves making farting noises with your mouth while inhaling. Definitely not a sample of brilliant dialogue.
(Tor Books – July 14 2020) Mary Robinette Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series, following The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, with The Relentless Moon. The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and […]