Sigyn and I are back from our little holiday in Vancouver. We had a good time, but there’s mischief to do at home, so I can’t stay gone forever. Besides, Sigyn has an invitation to Tony Stark’s New Year’s Eve Party. She really, really wants to go. I really, really don’t. And I’ll tell you why.
A) I am not a “Party Person.” This is an established fact.
B) I do not particularly care for any of the people who are likely to be there. Let us just say that we have not always been kind to one another in the past
C) Pretty high up on my list of “Worst Ways to Spend an Evening” is listening to Stark brag endlessly, smirk at everyone, and flirt with anything that has a pulse.
Yet here I am, going. I can deny my sweetie nothing.
Let it be recorded that I finished out 2021 by doing a Good Thing.
Are you sure about this, Sigyn? It’s still not too late to back out…
“No, Loki. It would be rude. I’ve already said we were coming. It’s only for a few hours.”
Sigyn says one of her favorite parts of going on vacation is getting to know new people. I can’t say the same. I barely tolerate the mortals I already know. Meeting more of them sounds like as much fun as having my hair braided by my oafish brother Thor. (When he was about seven, he went through a Pretty Princess phase neither of us really likes to talk about.)
Sigh. For Sigyn’s sake I will paste on my best fake smile and greet the local populace.
I was under the impression that spotted owls were small birds. Clearly I have been misinformed.
All the local wildlife is a bit on the large side.
It wasn’t on my list of things to do today, but I guess we can help these fellows make snowmen. Let’s make it interesting. Sigyn, you help Nutkin over there with his, and I will help Earl with his, and we’ll see whose comes out best.
(later) Well, that was entertaining. Not. Those two long-tailed tree rats proved to have zero brain cells apiece and failed utterly to grasp the notion of piling one snowball atop the other. We ended up with two identical balls of snow. Nutkin’s had a few fewer embedded pine needles, so he was unanimously declared the winner. That is forty-five minutes of my life I will never get back…
This polar bear seems to have more going on upstairs.
She is smart enough to know that if she makes the slightest menacing gesture toward my sweetie or puts so much as one whisker out of place, Ursus maritimus is going to be one individual closer to extinction.
All of this hiking and schmoozing has given me an appetite. Sigyn, why don’t you go ask that jolly-looking hedgehog where we can get a good lunch?
“She says we should eat at her cafe, Tiggywinkle’s. It’s just over the next hill and specializes in mushroom dishes.”
Hmm. I suppose a nice portabello burger might taste good right now. Let’s go. But if I see AmanitaSurprise on the dessert menu, I’m out of there.
(later, after a delicious lunch)
Sigyn, are you enjoying your holiday?
“Yes, Loki, very much!”
Come here and be smooched. Happy Yule, my precious.
This part of Midgard is famous for its forests. Sigyn, being nearly as much a plant nerd as the human female, is keen to trek inland from the beach and “hug some trees.” I have no objection, so after a quick lunch at a likely looking food truck,
we are off to look at some forest giants.
Just remember, dearest, that pine sap is verysticky and does not come out of velvet easily at all.
(somewhere in the woods)
Hmm. I’m not sure I know the local trees. I was expecting Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Sitka Spruce, and the like. All of those are green, but there’s scarcely a green tree to be seen!
I guess maybe the pale ones are Pinus monticola, Western White Pine, and the tall one could be Thuja plicata, Western Red Cedar, but what about blue and yellow-and-pink ones?
I never thought the words, “I wish the human female were here so we could know what we are looking at” would pass my lips, but I really have no clue.
It is quite an unorthodox forest! And look over there, Sigyn!
For the past several years, Sigyn and I have made it a point to get out town between Yule and the New Year. We like to get away from all of the post-Yule bargain-hunting-retail frenzy, the sad sight of now obsolete Yule trees lying on the curb, and the human female’s constant moaning about how much she ate (and ate, and ate).
Last year and the year before, we had very good luck just taking off and going. We found great little places to stay, fun things to eat, and some kitschy little boutiques. We are taking off today for our annual jaunt, and I hope things go as well this time.
I’m not usually one to admit it when I make a mistake, but I have to confess that I sort of dropped the ball this year. I should have made reservations, but serendipity has always been part of the fun, and I didn’t think I needed to. I failed to predict that hordes of plague-weary travelers would all have the same idea that Sigyn and I did. No one seems to have any rooms!
First we checked the little retro cottages we so enjoyed last year.
“All full up. You should call ahead next year.”
We tried the big, fancy ski lodge near Tahoe.
“Sorry, mate. We sold out back in August.”
Well, now what, my love? There has to be something available. What? Are you sure? All right, we’ll give that a try. That does seem to be one of the few parts of Midgard experiencing anything like actual winter weather at the moment.
Shall I teleport us? No? Sigh. Sometimes Sigyn declines to make the best use of my godly powers. It is going to be a long, long trip, but if my beloved wants to spend the next day staring out a bus window and sleeping sitting up, then that is what we will do
(much too much later)
Great Frigga’s Corset! I have never been happier to leave a conveyance in my life. I don’t care what my beloved says, we are teleporting home when this adventure is done. My royal posterior will not tolerate a single mile more on a bumpy bus seat.
Now, the brochure says the cabin should be along this boulevard and around the corner. I still question the wisdom of a beach holiday in the Pacific Northwest in late December, but I never could say no to Sigyn.
Ah, here it is. Number 17. I must admit, it’s kind of cute.
Sitting on the beach in a cape and helmet would not have been my first choice, but if I’m going to do it, better here in Vancouver than back in Texas, where it is 80o F.
And I can stand anything, even beverages with umbrellas, if it makes my sweetie happy.
Forgot to mention that the human female ran into a spot of trouble while wrapping Yule presents for family and friends. Where, O where, did the gift cards go? The human male bought them at the grocery store, and they should be right here on the gift-wrapping table.
The human female and her do-gooder friends are doing the gift-drive for the less-fortunate again this year. It involves weeks of planning, days of shopping, frenetic wrapping, an Excel spreadsheet the size of a small county, dozens of helping hands, and more tape and markers than you can possibly imagine.
The gifts have arrived!
And this is only part of the haul! Seriously, there are SO MANY PARCELS that I’m sure no one will miss one or two. I’ll have to shake and poke the best-looking ones to find out which is the best.
The staging room is filling up.
And filling some more!
Packages everywhere, sorted by family and carefully checked off. Giving Tree tags get replaced with name tags. Making sure the recipients end up with the right gift is crucial. Granny is not going to be thrilled with a man’s shaving kit, and six year old Timmy probably doesn’t want a mermaid doll. (I could mix up all the tags, but I don’t have anything against the people getting these gifts. Making little hiccups for the human female to sort out is a different story!)
This is only one of the rooms. There are two other rooms and a long hallway full of even more loot! I mean it–no one will know if I help myself to a little something.
(poke poke poke) Ugh.
This one feels like clothes. Vicente can keep his sweater or whatever. I shall keep looking.
What did you discover, Sigyn?
You want the cuddly moose to come home with us? I think that can be arranged.
Hmm. Does Michael have anything interesting?
Snooped too hard!
Sigyn has something she wants to say.
“We hope you and yours have a very Merry Everything!”
The church the humans and Sigyn attend is having their annual Yule Party. I was not invited, but where Sigyn goes, I go, especially since the White Elephant gift exchange has been known to get more than a little out of hand.
We are having the party in the activity center of the parish, rather than at a restaurant. While it is quite agreeable to have more room and less noise, it also means fewer choices as to food. I was expecting an entree of pasta or chicken, but the serving line has chips, salsas and queso, tiny empanadas, and some little things made with peppers and chicken wrapped in bacon. Plus a LOT of roasted vegetables.
The humans have been trying to eat more healthfully, so they have taken minimal amounts of the non-vegetable items. Poke, poke, poke. The roasted asparagus is quite nice.
The human female says that she has been very good lately and deserves a little bit of dessert. I could argue about the “good” part of that statement, but I admit that I am curious about what’s on the dessert table.
She has selected a tiny square of lemon bar and a miniature bundt cake.
Great Frigga’s Corset! This bundt cake has chocolate chips!
Oh, dear. It looks as if Sigyn and I will have to eat it for you. Pity.
The gift exchange has new rules this year. As the gifts are opened, they have to be left on the big table where they are all sitting. That’s bad. If we get something good, I won’t be able to hide it and hope the other players forget about it. Each gift can only be stolen once, so we will have to be crafty about how we play this.
(later. much, much later) New rule for next year: No emcee. While the running commentary was funny, it made things take forever. We have ended up with a game which, thankfully, does not involve squishy goats (see yesterday’s diary.)
Hmm. Looks like a game for the sharp-eyed and dextrous. That lets the human female out, but this looks like something *I* could win every time. I approve!
It can be terribly hard to find the perfect Yule gift for someone. You have to know what they like and what they don’t like. What their size is. What their favorite color is. What things they will and will not eat. Their stance on imported items, synthetic fibers, political commentary, logo-bearing merchandise, and whether anything bearing a branded character is welcome within fifty feet of their house.
I say it “can” be. It needn’t be if, like me, you don’t give a reindeer’s patootie about the “perfect” gift and just follow a few easy guidelines. Chocolate is one size fits all, unless for some unfathomable reason a giftee doesn’t like or can’t have chocolate, in which case I eat it all myself and they get coal. Book-loving people with a passion for fine literature get bound copies of my manifesto. Active people who like to exercise get a tin can they can kick healthfully around the block. Gardeners get packets of thistle, grassbur, and poison ivy seeds. Hedonists get fluffy terry robes with the hotel logo embroidery semi-carefully picked out and only-slightly-used personal size toiletries. Families with small children get light-up, noise-making toys that go through AA batteries like the human female goes through Cheetos. Frigga gets new hairpins, Odin gets a googly eye to put on his eyepatch, Thor gets a tin of hammer polish, and Sigyn… Sigyn gets whatever she wants.
The human female is just about done with her Yule marketing but is looking for a few last things. Sigyn and I have tagged along, not because we have shopping left to do, but because mortals and merchandise this time of year are absolutely ridiculous and I can always do with a laugh.
The first thing to assault our senses upon entering is this very large, very unnecessary, very useless Yule light bulb.
Sigyn thinks one would look very festive at home.
It even comes in green.
It also appears to come with some pale green, pointy-eared, poorly dressed personage which, no, thank you. See rule about branded characters, above.
This mini waffle iron comes in both red AND green.
We all know that the human female ishopeless with waffles, but I’m a fan, and Sigyn seems interested. I may have to sneak back here when I’m not with her. And liberate one from the clutches of godless capitalism.
Now we are perusing the wares in the toy aisle. Many of the human female’s family members enjoy games. This might be a good present.
And my recommendation should carry some weight. After all, I am an expert in feline felonies!
Perhaps this game would be better.
For twenty bucks you get “six squishy goats,” which is, I suppose, meant to be a selling point, but do all of the included goats resemble some unspeakable cross between Underdog and Danger Mouse? I mean, look:
All that “goat” needs is an eyepatch to be 100% ungoat-like. I think we should keep looking.
While I have been mulling the possible copyright infringements of squishy goats, Sigyn has been making friends.
A trio small mouselings in need of a babysitter. I think my sweetie is on the verge of volunteering. But where are the parents?
Mr. Caterpillar does not seem to know.
And this snail (?) is equally clueless. Ah, here come the parents. About time, too! For a minute there I feared I was going to be hosting a quarter-dozen no doubt damp-bottomed pipsqueaks when I’d rather be doing literally anything else.
(later) The human female has managed to find a few suitable gifts for the people on her list. Mortal, if perchance you haven’t yet come up with the perfect gift for one clever, handsome, charismatic Jotun, I can offer a helpful suggestion:
Every year the human female tortures all of her friends and relations with a long, boring Yule letter, torturesherself composing the letter and writing a personal note in all of cards, and tortures the human male with her ditherings about finding addresses and getting things signed, stamped, and mailed. For two or three evenings running, the living room (or wherever she’s perching) turns into Yule Card Central.
She ordered her cards online this year. I made sure one box was back-ordered and delayed about four weeks, but it finally arrived just as she was about to start.
She’s mid-task now. Some of the envelopes have a bit of ursine artwork.
I fail to see what polar bears have to do with the solstice, the birth of a god, or anything except portions of Midgard north of 66°30′ N, but I’ve long since given up trying to make sense out of this crazy realm.
Sigyn approves of the stamps with the pretty lady and the baby…
…and is equally entranced by the black and whitebears on the return address labels. More bears? I tell you, it makes NO sense!
Great Frigga’s Hairpins! The human female appears to have finished writing the cards (though I will bet any amount you like she has forgotten someone and will have to scramble to do a few more at the last minute). She has reached the bottom of one of the boxes of cards and discovered one of my little Yule mischiefs.
You know how fancy boxes of cards come with an extra envelope, in case one makes a mistake with the address?
I made sure this box has one envelope too few! Ehehehehe! Now she has to choose between going through her stash of envelopes to see if she has one that fits, taking the time to create an envelope out of blank paper, OR go against her innate miserliness and throw away a card that can’t be mailed. See? I told you–torture!
All preparations from Yule aside, I have been very, very busy lately! Grab a cup of cocoa or your beverage of choice and prepare to be impressed by my exploits.
Remember the humans’ retirement checks that were mailed at the end of November and which didn’t come? The female was finally able to get hold of They’re Really Swamped (TRS), but they told her she’d have to wait for ten days after the checks failed to show. So she called again on the 9th of this month, and the Helpful Person told her that yes, they could stop payment on the checks and, yes, they could directly deposit the amount into the humans’ accounts, since they had all the direct deposit information now. After several days, the human female checked the bank account. No money! (Have I mentioned that everyone at TRS works for me?) She called TRS and asked when they might expect their funds, since the direct deposit info was “all ready to go.” “Seven to ten days from the 9th,” was the answer. Finally, on the 16th of this month, the money appeared in the humans’ account–with a hold on it, so it was Schroedinger’s money–both there and not there. It’s finally available, and they’re going to need it…
In other news, I’m still working on training the felines, and I’m happy to report there’s progress. Flannel Cat, as you can see, can unerringly pick out the softest surface upon which to sit/lie/sleep. She does especially good work with towels fresh out of the dryer.
There is still no resolution to the roof issue. The roof is on, but the new guttering is merely a rumor. Calls to the roofer (who has still not been PAID because they have not presented the check from the insurance company for the humans to sign) are of no avail. The humans learned last Friday that Usually Sounds Amiable, Although… gave a green light to replacing the cracked bathroom skylight way back on the 10th. Has anyone from the roofing company conveyed this to the humans yet? No, they have not! The human male only learned of it when he had to call USAA because of the surprise I left for him in the garage.
Cracked sheetrock coming down! So there’s a third claim for this year. The human female went up in the attic (very gingerly, because how safe are those pull-down stairs now, eh?) to see if she could suss out the problem. Turns out that all the tubs of old books and Yule lights and such are on plywood boards laid across the rafters, so that part of things is all right. The sheetrock, though is a lost cause. I know what happened, and so the human female thinks she can guess. Years ago, a few shingles of the old green roof came off in a storm and the humans had to have them replaced. The roofer (different roofer) brought out a whole bundle of green shingles and left the extras with the humans in case they were ever needed again. Those shingles lived for a time on the back patio, but eventually the human female put them in the attic, where they were either placed or nudged to lie largely on the sheetrock rather than the rafters. Ehehehehe! She can’t even provably blame this on me. We’ll see whether she’s honest enough to say as much to the insurance adjuster. I bet they deny the claim (you’ll recall that everyone at USAA works for me as well.) In the meantime, some heavy things have been removed from the attic, the bicycles have been taken down from their hooks, the car is now living in the driveway, and there is on the garage floor a minefield of dust, sawdust, wood splinters, and insulation dislodged by the hammering-on of the new roof and deposited on the contents of the attic, the attic stairs, and the human female.
The dryer is turning itself on and making funny bleeple noises again.
The credit card people sent an Important Notice about the terms of their card, and now the human female will get to wade through no-doubt-deplorable music on a twenty-minute hold and then navigate some Byzantine phone tree to opt-out of having her information sold or given to “affiliates” to “serve her better.”
The human female, in trying to access her archived University email to dig out some addresses for sending Yule greetings, found she could not access it, despite knowing the password. She then tried her active University mail and found a little something from the library.
Apparently the moron had not been checking the mail with any sort of regularity. She’d missed multiple notices about overdue books and believed herself to still be well within the staff-can-check-things-out-for-a-year safe zone. The library had proceeded to bill her for the replacement cost of eight books, plus the late fine. Of course, this made her feel horrifically guilty, so she immediately sent an impassioned appeal for clemency and rounded up the books so she could return them. One of the books, a large pictorial tome about ecclestiastical edifices in Hungary, had become lodged 2/3 of the way down a stack of equally coffee-table-sized books. The human female unstacked the stack all right, but everything that was leaning against the stack (DVD’s, a few cassettes, quite a lot of paper, etc.) succumbed noisily to the laws of physics.
Let’s have a better look, perhaps from an aerial vantage point.
The next day (after been having directed by TAMU IT services to a new and unannounced interface for accessing old emails) she and the human male loaded up the books and drove up to campus (avoiding Commencement Ceremony crowds!) to drop off the books and do some more begging. They got to the end of the driveway before they realized they didn’t have the new, recently-issued parking permit hang-tag, so they had to go back inside and hunt for that. They eventually did make it up to campus, navigating the labyrinthine parking garage and hauling the box of books up the ramp to the library. The clerk at the circulation desk (unfortunately) declined to publicly humiliate the human female via loudspeaker and checked the books back in. She said that since the books were returned, all the replacement fees would be waived and only the $16.00 in late fees would apply. The human female thanked her profusely and tried to pay. “No, no!” Was the answer. “You can’t pay here.” Instead, she was directed to TAMU Marketplace, some hitherto unseen website that handles all sorts of payments. This is a tiny sliver of the interface:
It goes on and on and on, scrolls and scrolls in the same vein. It’s all very cryptic. Iron spikes? Launch? Launch what? Searching as directed on “my library” returned fifty-three different options, none of them the actual library record. She found the library fee and fine portal eventually and where to pay, but before she hit the button, she had another look at her record. All $286.05 was still showing owed. Ehehehe! I always like it when I can get two heart attacks from the same bit of mischief two days running. Reading that the library does not like partial payments, she fired off another message to Fines Appeals in order to point out that all the books were returned and asking when her record would reflect the return of the books. And of course this was a Friday, so she got to stew all weekend.
And come to the realization that she had failed to get a receipt for the returned books.
The ugly couches continue to shed bits of fake leather, the human female needs new shoes and a new drop-proof phone case, the human male needs a new belt, and there are still Yule gifts to buy and the taxes to pay in January. Between those and the dryer and the garage ceiling, the humans are hoping and praying that TRS doesn’t see the Dec. 16 deposit of checks and say, “You were paid in December and you can’t be paid twice in the same month, so no checks for you on December 30.”
All in all, the humans are regarding the piggy bank with a calculating eye. Can’t wait for them to smash the porcelain porker and discover I’ve raided the stash of cash and replaced it all with expired coupons for thirty cents off the cat food the Terror Twins won’t eat.
Suffice it to say, I am not on any fat man’s “nice” list!