Valentine’s Day Cometh

If there’s one holiday I’ve never had much cause to think about before, it’s Valentine’s Day.

The reason for this is that my parents, the hopeless romantics that they are, preferred to save money instead of buying each other’s love, so Valentine’s Day was never celebrated at our house. When I took the nanny job and moved to the east coast, I was surprised to find that my employer’s celebrated every holiday, including Valentine’s Day, and gave gifts liberally to their nanny for each and every one.


This is from last year. I spent a while just staring at it, as if it were one of those weird prehistoric-looking beetles wandering around my room.

But I’d never been in a relationship that coincided with Valentine’s Day, so it was never a holiday that stayed on my radar for long.

And then, weirdly enough, I started going out with James- have been for a month and a half, in fact- and Valentine’s Day became a looming possibility. I prepared my statement early.

“There are some girls out there,” I said to James a few weeks ago, “who say they don’t want anything for Valentine’s Day and then get upset when they aren’t given anything. I’m not like that. I genuinely don’t want anything for Valentine’s Day. Nothing. No, really.”

“Great,” said James cheerfully. “Got it. I’m going to get you something for Valentine’s Day anyway.”

“Ugh,” I said.

So for the first time in my life I’ve had to seriously consider getting something for somebody on Valentine’s Day. This should be easy when you haven’t been dating someone for long; you go into the store, you grab a mass-produced box of chocolate, and you’re done.

So when I was in Walmart the other day, the very subtle decorations reminded me that I should really be picking something romantic up.


If I hadn’t walked past their eighteen red-lined aisles I might have completely forgotten.

The problem is that Valentine’s Day is meant for women and 2nd grade classrooms. Everything is cute and frilly and so terribly feminine. Oh sure, sometimes an effort is made to reduce the girliness factor of the product, but it’s usually unsuccessful.


It’s… well… they tried.

So I spent a whole fifteen minutes of my life walking up and down aisle after blood-red aisle, wondering if they made a Valentine’s Day treat that looked cool for guys. (They don’t. They don’t make anything that looks cool for girls, either. Valentine’s Day is very uncool.) I was about to give up and buy a generic box of chocolates, when something on the next aisle over caught my eye:


Nerd cups! Yeah!

James and I met playing D&D, so geeky things are the way to go. James is also a guy, living with a guy roommate, which means they have approximately three real plates and two wine glasses between them. It might have been kinder to buy him a whole dining set and some tasteful throw pillows, but a mug for his destitute kitchen was a stepping stone.


There. Valentine’s Day is prepared for.

Now all I have to worry about it what my employers are giving me for Valentine’s Day. And Easter.

Belated Christmas Gifts

I’m told that the problem with buying presents for me these days is that I’m an adult, and if I see something I want, I buy it. None of this waiting half a year in the hopes that Saint Nick will bring me something anymore. It was easier for my parents and my sister when I had no money, and it looked like I might never have any money, because then they could just give me money and be done with it.


But since I’m adult, look at this plant I just bought! I forget what it’s called, possibly something like Hypothermia, but I felt a personal connection to it because it smelled funny and had a weird name.

These days, before I come home for Christmas, my parents ask me to put together a list of things I would enjoy owning that I don’t already, and then they pick just a few things out of the list so that it’s a mystery what I’ll get. This has worked well so far.

Of course, after I finish opening all my presents in Idaho, there’s the problem of how I’m going to fit them all into the four cubic inches of space my airline has allotted for carry-on luggage. Most of the things go into a box, and in the grand tradition of all Ludvigs we never send the box and forget that much of the stuff in it ever existed.


This time I received the box, but I just didn’t open it for a week or two because I was “too busy.”

I had already forgotten what I had received for Christmas, so this was like unwrapping presents all over again. The rest of this post is all just me showing off my presents, so you can go do something else now. (I thank my good friend Wendy for the very pretty shawl I laid everything out on.)


A while ago, unbeknownst to my family, I had purchased a book-shaped wallet for myself. Coincidentally, I received a book-shaped purse and a book-shaped backpack for Christmas, so now I can put my book-shaped wallet in a book-shaped purse in a book-shaped backpack, and still have enough room leftover for an actual book!


I got the games “Coup” and “Happy Salmon.” Coup is a nice little social deduction card game that’s easy to learn and quick to play, good for my board game nights. Happy Salmon, on the other hand, is the easiest way to turn functioning adults into flailing, shouting, desperate maniacs. I highly recommend it.


Did you ever want to read lengthy full-color comic books about small shirtless quasi-anime elfs that ride wolves and can talk to each other in their minds? Well, now you can! ElfQuest! Slogan: “Made in the ’70s and it shows!” (I love these things so much.)


My parents are still very concerned that I’m going to be mugged or murdered by thugs out here in the big city, so they like to give me emergency items like heavy-duty flashlights and defense spray so I can use them on my opponent and then be mugged and murdered by even angrier thugs. Also, some earrings! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

And then, last but not least, I got this beautiful thing:



I’m told it’s a sundial. A portable one, to be exact. If I were an especially competent hipster I could carry this around in my purse and pull it out whenever I wanted to know the time whilst outdoors on sunny days. Sadly, I have not yet figured out how to properly set the thing up, so I can only tell the time by looking at my phone. But it looks really classy.

This stuff really is spectacular. I have to hand it to my parents, they know what I like.

Because I tell them. In a list they request.

God bless us all, every one.

Tea, Books, and Eyeballs

It’s the “season of giving”, that phrase that TV shows use when they don’t want to ascribe to any particular religion but also really want you to buy from their sponsors. I fall for it whole-heartedly every year, and it’s why I was roped into two different Secret Santa exchanges; one in person, one by mail.

Last Friday was in person, and I got together with a mess of my board game playing friends to unleash the flood of gifts.


“This is the perfect bag to carry the presents in,” I said. “Absolutely no one will know that this cheesy Barnes & Noble book-related quote is from my arsenal of reusable bags,” I said.

Before we got to the presents, my very creative friend Amelié deposited approximately two metric tons of crafting supplies on the center table and told us in no uncertain terms that we were all going to be creative with her that night, yes, even you math teachers. She went on to explain how to make various Christmas ornaments, and flawlessly produced a golden snitch using only feathers and sheer force of personality.


This thing is better than anything I will ever accomplish in my life.

The rest of us, ranging from incompetent to highly incompetent in the making of crafts, fiddled around with the adorable supplies until Amelié was satisfied that we had had enough fun. I just glued eyes to a plain Christmas ornament in the hopes of creating some kind of minor eldritch abomination to put on my miniature Christmas tree.


Another friend of mine took one look at it, exclaimed “It’s an eye-ball!” and I did not stop laughing for ten minutes. I still giggle a little when I look at it. I’m easily amused.

Then it came time to open gifts, and when it was my turn, I steeled myself to pretend that I liked it and tore open the paper to reveal…





I’m so supremely bad at giving gifts, you see, that I’d forgotten some people are actually very good at it. And, to be fair, my love of tea is rather obvious if you spend any more than eight minutes in my company.

I tried it out today. My back has been doing its best impression of an eighty year old’s back this week, and the only thing that helps it to briskly walk half a mile to stretch it out. In this case, it’s a brisk half a mile walk in 23 degree weather through bone-sanding winds. I was very, very ready for warm tea when I got back.


It’s like a lava lamp for tea lovers!

While I waited for it to steep I cracked open my by-mail Secret Santa gift, which turned out to be the book Fangirl, a book that all my writer friends have been subtly suggesting I read. (“Jean, you should read Fangirl,” is what they said, every day, for two months.) I’ve never picked it up, but apparently it’s… uh… similar to my style of writing. Or sense of humor. Or something. I can’t remember what their reasoning was, as I’m only a very basic fan of any given thing, but I do like reading.

The tea, meanwhile, was looking lovely.


And- get this- if you set it down on the rim of your cup, it starts pouring automatically! Like magic!


Note to self: It does not automatically stop pouring, don’t get carried away.


It was, I have to say, one of the better cups of loose-leaf tea I’ve ever brewed up. Not only was it strong, but I only came away with small pieces of tea leaves in my teeth, which is a tremendous victory in my book.


I then took the tea and my book and lay down flat on the floor to read, to ease my aching back. The window looks pretty neat from down here, though.