November’s coming. I CAN FEEL IT.

four carved pumpkins: a silly face, a bat, a cat, and a grinning emoji face

our time is nearly done

November’s coming.

I can sense it. I can taste it on the air. It tastes like wildfires and calendar panic.

November is a cursed month for productivity, and I can’t even properly explain why. All I know is that I make Grand Plans every year, and every year they get torpedoed as soon as I flip my Pets of Book Club* calendar to the eleventh page.

Some years it’s holiday planning that gets in the way. There is the grand family tradition of Themed Thanksgiving to uphold (previous years have included Harry Potter and the Day of Thanks, THANKVENGERS: The Winter Solstice, and of course The Adventures of Young Ham Solo). There is also advance Christmas prep, because I can’t just start on December 1st and possibly have everything ready in time!

And I have to confess: I wasn’t going to do a theme this year. But now that I pulled up those old photos… I THINK MAYBE I’M GONNA?? I just love it so much!

Other years I’m moving. WHY do our big moves keep happening in November? I don’t know, but it is always a disaster. I do not, I repeat, I do not recommend moving in November. Last year the move took twenty-two days of my life away. Twenty-two days! The time before that I scarcely remember, it’s such a blur. I went into a fugue, and when I emerged, I still had boxes to unpack.

Hopefully, I am in this house for the rest of my life, and never need to do that again.

So what is the problem this year? I mean, I’m not moving. I’m not pregnant or freshly encumbered with an infant. I’m not busy making a new costume (probably).

But still… November.

Will all of our pipes burst simultaneously? Will the California wildfires reach us? Will there be dramatic family announcements involving a long lost relative expiring and offering me a medium-sized fortune, but only if I spend the month of November in a haunted house?

(My last house was probably haunted, and I didn’t get a fortune, medium-sized or otherwise, for living there–so I’m saying I would definitely take the offer, if anyone’s listening.)

I don’t know. But I’ve got my eye on you, November!

I’ve got my eye on you.


*Nobody in your book club puts together a calendar every year with photos of all your pets? What a shame.

2018 holidays: CONQUERED

I’ve done it! I survived the 2018 Holidays! Oh, it was not easy this year, my friends. After moving the week of Thanksgiving, everything afterward was a long, chaotic flume ride through Christmas Day.

Because of the chaos, I’m lumping everything into one post this year. Mea culpa!

About a week after Thanksgiving we hastily threw Christmas decorations around. I’ve got an actual mantle now! Too bad I couldn’t hang the stockings till Christmas Eve cuz my baby is tall as hell and wanted to rip it all down…

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Er, the weird glow is Christmas tree lights, sorry…

Our tree is still pathetically weak on dork ornaments (though I got some good ones as gifts to put out next year). MOST IMPORTANTLY: My traditional facehugger and chestburster decorations were at long last joined by Ripley in a power-loader. Hallmark…. Hallmark you done good, she’s amazing, I love her, there will never be a finer figure upon my tree. :’)

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Get away from her, you–!

I somehow managed to squeeze in a day of cookie making. I only made four varieties this year (maple cream sandwiches; cherry/orange; oatmeal coconut raisin; and tollhouse cookie bars) but it was more than enough for parties and workplaces.

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Santa sternly questioning my decisions

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Santa sternly approving of the leftovers

And I managed to set aside ANOTHER day to make my 2018 Christmas card, which I once again RECKLESSLY designed with a cutout on the front. Meaning, I had to cut out 40 Sauron Santas, paste on 40 Sauron Santas, paste in 40 insert photos, write out 40 greetings, write out 40 signatures, fill out 40 envelopes…. one of these days I’ll learn my lesson.

But, what was that first thing? Sauron Santa, you say?

EXTERIOR

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INTERIOR

card insert

Previous cards:
2012-2013
2014
2015-2016
2017

Many forces conspired to sabotage my actual family Christmas party (car breakdowns! flus! earaches! miscommunications re: RSVPs!) but it all came together, albeit with one sister having to Skype in. And because this is Southern California and it doesn’t get cold till January, we got to eat out on the deck, and then bundle up inside for a truly raucous and foul round of Loaded Questions. Whether you were there or not: you got roasted. As it should be.

MUCH LOVE FROM HILL HOUSE! And so long 2018, you certainly were…a year.

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emergence (and Thanksgiving 2018)

The pit was dreary, my friends, and deep.

For 22 days, I moved. For 22 days, I unloaded, unpacked, organized, painted, culled unnecessary old things, bought necessary new things, spent hours at Home Depot and Target, went back to Home Depot again for one more thing, went back to Home Depot again for one more thing, threw a slightly subdued Thanksgiving party, gave up on Christmas shopping and just ordered a bunch of toys off Amazon, handmade 40 Christmas cards, and decorated, decorated, decorated.

For 22 days, I didn’t write! At all!! D: D: D:

I haven’t had a writing gap longer than a couple of days since the dark month after my second child was born. That was about a year and a half ago. I always stumble in November because of holiday commitments, but the move really kicked things into high gear.

I know that once I start a project, it’s painful as hell to bounce in and out of project mode, so I decided to buckle down and finish my New House To Do List as quickly as possible, rather than spend months of weekends doing one piece at a time.

Anyway, it took 22 days.

But I’m back, baby! In approximately two hours one hour, naptime will begin, and I shall finish reducing the word count on a synopsis I wrote a month ago, and then I shall very grimly contemplate how to next prioritize my time.

Knock out some short stories, because I have lamentably little on submission? Or dive into research for 2019 Book in order to fill in the outline? Or dive into the outline in order to suss out what I need to research?

Wish me luck!

And finally, a couple of subdued pics from subdued Itsa Me, Thanksgiving!

mario thanksgiving

Itsa me, Italian stereotype!

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Itsa me, Thanksgiving lasagna!

We had already planned a lasagna regardless of the theme. I know what you’re thinking: it’s supposed to be a Christmas lasagna! To which I say: nah, nah, Christmas is for fish.

Now, away! I have naptimes to exploit!

Mr. and Mrs. Cat are moving!

The blog has been quiet this month (and will continue to be, my apologies) because Mr. and Mrs. Cat are officially moving! We’ve got to be out of our house in one month, after which there’s a six day gap before we get the keys to our new place. So let’s all hope that nothing falls apart or we’ll have no place to stay and no rental set up in advance, wooo!

NATURALLY everything came together such that we’ll be moving four days before Thanksgiving. Luckily for everyone involved, I’m an intense packer and culler of unnecessary belongings, so in a couple of days I can orchestrate the unpacking of everything except my books.

Nobody else is allowed to touch my books.

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So many books…

Did I mention we’ll have one week till Thanksgiving? If you think this means I’ll be forgoing my annual tradition of themed sibling Thanksgiving dinner, you are 100% wrong.

This year’s theme is Nintendo. There will be costumes! There will be themed foods and drinks! There will be a filthy bout of Loaded Questions followed by Mario Kart! Children will cry as their parents absolutely destroy them on an obsolete gaming console, a slumber party will ensue, and my new home will be broken in with style.

My life: to be continued…

mother’s day hall of moms

It’s Mother’s Day and also my wedding anniversary, so naturally I’m sitting in a coffee shop enjoying my 4-5 hour weekly writing retreat! (My kids are too little to recognize/care what day it is, I visited my mom earlier in the week, and I’m taking the hubs on a date tomorrow because Mondays are easier, SO I GET TO HAVE THIS OKAY).

I’m extremely lucky in this regard: I adore my mom and consider her a role model and friend. I’m also aware that this holiday is fraught for a lot of people because they have more negative or complicated family relationships. And while I’m devoted to my blood family I’m also a huge believer in found family and mothering anyone who needs mothering, family tree be damned.

I have a large extended family in which the girls vastly outnumber the boys (if you leave out spouses, the current three generations total fourteen to four) so I naturally gravitate toward stories that feature mothers, sisters, and female friendships. THERE ARE NEVER ENOUGH.

Whatever your relationship to mothers and Mother’s Day, I hereby present some of my favorite fictional moms. Not very surprisingly, they’ve all been featured on my blog before!

From the original squad goals:

Ellen_Ripley_badassEllen Ripley! Supreme leader, love of my life, mother to a daughter she never made it home to, adoptive mother to a daughter she rescued, AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER, DO NOT SPEAK TO ME ABOUT SEQUELS.

I would also like to give the Xenomorph Queen a shout-out in this category. She is a ruthless monster doing anything she can to protect her babies, and I respect that. The climactic mom-versus-mom battle at the end of Aliens is the best piece of cinema ever created and you will never change my mind on this.

xena-warrior-princess-003Xena had a son and hid him away for his own protection AND THEN LOST HIM, she had a daughter and then basically destroyed the entire Greek pantheon to protect her, and then GOT FROZEN IN ICE AND MISSED HER CHILDHOOD. Xena is peak warrior mom and I will never forgive the showrunners for hurting her this way. The other fabulous thing about Xena is that her own mom is still around, and in the early seasons of the show she periodically goes home to visit her, because she’s peak warrior daughter, too.

From additional squad goals:

sarah_connor_linda_hamiltonSarah Connor isn’t always the most nurturing mother, but that’s because she has seen the future and it is FLESH-MELTINGLY GRIM. She is a ruthless badass single mom who is just trying to prepare her son to lead the resistance against the coming robo-pocalypse, and sometimes that means stressing resilience and weapons skills and self-preservation over sentimentality and reckless attempts to rescue your own mother from a mental institution. Her imperfections only make me love her more.

westworldMaeve is a more recent addition to my mom squad, and the folks making Westworld better not screw around here because their storytelling is increasingly erratic and Maeve is the best thing they’ve got going on. I don’t care that she’s a robot and her kid is another robot and their relationship is implanted backstory, MOMS ARE MOMS and if Maeve does not rescue her daughter and escape to the real world I shall riot.

cerseiThat’s right, Cersei Lannister, another flawed mother but also another mother who will ruthlessly do anything for the sake and legacy of her own children. I’ve only watched the first four-and-a-half seasons of the show and read none of the books, BUT that isn’t enough to stop me including her here. You a bad bitch, Cersei, but much like the Xenomorph Queen your dedication and motherly instincts earns my respect.

clonesI should add to this graphic because Orphan Black deals with motherhood in so many different ways. Sarah is the total fuckup trying to become a better person for her daughter Kira (and realistically stumbling and backsliding along the way); she has a fraught relationship with her foster mother Siobhan and OMG WHY didn’t I include Siobhan in my squad before because she will also shank anyone who threatens her kids; Alison, another flawed mother with adopted children who has to work through her own crap and a bad relationship with her mother; and the unlikeliest murderous reformed mom of them all, Helena and her beautiful bebes.

From the hall of good relationships:

hal and loisAs far as Malcolm in the Middle goes, Lois and Hal always stole the show for me. Lois does her best to keep four horrible boys on lock, even though they rarely appreciate it, and forms a united front with her husband, whom she loves dearly. She works her ass off to keep that chaotic household running, including working a crummy shift work job, because when you’ve got kids to feed and bills to pay you do whatever you have to do.

crocodile sandbankAmelia Peabody of the Amelia Peabody series is my favorite eminently practical heroine and mother to my favorite fictional child, Ramses, and if you threaten a hair on that kid’s head she will go berserk and beat you down with her equally practical and well-reinforced parasol. I’ve got a whole other post about her adventures right here. She’s the first and best of this character type, though there are others that I love. The best second-up has to be Alexia Tarabotti of the Parasol Protectorate series, though she somehow manages to be even more practical and less nurturing than Amelia is, and that’s saying something.

gomez and morticiaFinally, Morticia Addams is SUCH A GOOD MOM. The Addamses are kooky and morbid and deliciously goth, but they aren’t mean. They adore one another. They take care of one another. Morticia loves her children and indulges all of their interests, even when they don’t match her own. We see this in the second movie most of all. When she thinks Wednesday and Pugsley want to go to summer camp she lets them go, even though she and Gomez obviously find the place repulsive. When Pubert gets ill and turns into a rosie-cheeked baby with golden curls and angelic giggles, does she try to force him back to normal? NO. She sits in that boring white rocking chair and reads him Dr. Seuss like he wants. Because that’s what you do. Most of my favorite moms are ass-kicking action moms, but at the end of the day, Morticia Addams is the one to aspire to in everyday life.

morticia

A+ mom, Morticia for life

2017 christmas card

Previous cards:
2012-2013
2014
2015-2016

Every year I make 40 Christmas cards (~35 to send out, 1 to keep for myself, and a couple extra just in case I forget somebody or accidentally destroy some in the production process).

And every year I remember, too late, that every step the card requires must be completed 40 times. This year I remembered this pesky fact after I decided to put a cutout on the front in addition to pasting my usual Photoshop masterpiece inside. Cut out 40 cutouts, paste on 40 cutouts, paste in 40 inserts, sign 40 times, stuff 40 envelopes. ONE DAY I’LL LEARN MY LESSON.

But it was worth it. Because this year, LONG OVERDUE, I heralded the arrival of our (presumably) final family member with [drumroll pleaaaaase]… a Star Trek theme!

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why did I do this to myself

Hurk! I cut out 40 communicators for you people.

The finished product speaks for itself.

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And here is the insert, in all its glory:

card insert

Yes that is Mr. and Mrs. Claws, thank you

I’m well aware that I used a TOS communicator on the outside and Wrath of Khan uniforms on the inside, but I just can’t resist those maroons. Also, it would have made more sense to have Kirk’s chair on the front since he’s dictating the captain’s log, BUT I couldn’t find a good image of the Wrath of Khan era chair, and the TOS chair looked too bulky, so since I was mismatching my eras ANYWAY I went with something easier to cut out, i.e., a communicator.

Anyway anyway anyway.

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM OUR SNAPE TREE TO YOURS!

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[*cough* that’s 15 family members worth of presents btw…the pile for my own kids won’t be coming close]

christmas card 2015 and 2016

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Previous cards:
https://samtasticbooks.com/2014/12/07/the-annual-christmas-card/
https://samtasticbooks.com/2014/12/28/2014-christmas-card/

Somehow I neglected to post my 2015 Christmas card last year, which means you, my faithful readers, get double the Christmas bonanza this year!

2015 was our first year incorporating a baby to the proceedings. The process of making my annual card is usually: pick a theme, photoshop the hell out of it, print 40 copies at CostCo, and paste them into a card. After a couple years of breaking my hand handwriting text on the cover, in 2015 I decided to print both cover image and interior image. And since babies are absolute beasts, it seemed like Pacific Rim would be a good theme.

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the set-up

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the beast

So, it turned out a lot of my friends hadn’t actually seen Pacific Rim and got a mild but thoroughly confused chuckle out of it. Randy and I are jaeger pilots! We synchronize our brains to control a giant robot suit in order to combat our beastly kaiju of a son! Oh–never mind.

2015 might not have been such a beast, but 2016 certainly was. It called for a message of hope. Perhaps a message of… New Hope? This year I got extra fancy with printing my cards at home (although obviously still sticking to the incredible photoshopped image insert), and I figured: if my scifi franchise was too obscure last year, I’d better go with something more recognizable this time around.

So I picked the most popular science fiction franchise of all time.

And then promptly settled on the most obscure joke I could think of, because it was funny.

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wait for it…wait for it…

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ahahaha–what?

Yes, that’s me as Endor Leia, and Randy as Dagobah Luke, and our munchkin as a Henson puppet strapped to his back. And up in the sky, those are our household cats dressed in bright red robes, floating up into space with glowing balls in their hands, because they are obviously celebrating the Wookie winter holiday of Life Day.

Didn’t you see the notoriously awful, never-released (but constantly recopied from somebody’s old VHS TV recording) Star Wars Holiday Special?? It was the first appearance of Boba Fett! In some shitty 1970s cartoon digression! Carrie Fishier (RIP) was totally coked out! There’s fifteen minutes of nothing but untranslated Wookie growling! There’s a hideous grandfather Wookie who DEFINITELY stops to watch VR porn for a while!

Well well, it’s your lucky day, because the awfulness is all over YouTube (though who knows for how long). I don’t actually recommend you watch it, unless you are a masochist for bad movie nights like I am. By which I mean, I totally recommend you watch it and then complain to me because why on earth would I tell you watch such a horror.

Happy Life Day, all!