Category Archives: The Seasons: Winter

A Flurry of Mysteries

Albert Bartolomé, 1883: The Artist’s Wife Reading

I think it’s a winter’s day thing…curling up with a good book on a gray cold day. We’ve had quite a few of those days in the last month, plus a lot of fog that keeps the gray in place almost all day. So I found myself craving mystery books! Good detective work, a captivating puzzle to solve… So there has been a flurry of mystery reading here.

  • Mrs. Pollifax Pursued, by Dorothy Gilman. The 11th book in the series that I am rereading for fun and pleasure. It’s lots of fun reading about the antics of this spunky elderly spy!
  • Murder is Binding: A Booktown Mystery, (#1 in the series), by Lorna Barrett. A small town in New Hampshire full of bookstores…a murder in the next door cookbook shop…and a new bookstore owner with a knack for solving the mystery!
  • Shakespeare’s Landlord, by Charlaine Harris. A kick-ass heroine in a small town in Arkansas. Lily Bard is a survivor of a brutal attack, and moved to Shakespeare because she thought it was fitting place to start over given her name.
  • Shakespeare’s Champion, by Charlaine Harris. The second book in the Lily Bard series because I didn’t want to stop reading about her.
  • Shakespeare’s Christmas, by Charlaine Harris. Third book in the series that I just can’t stop reading!
  • Booked to Die, by John Dunning. The first book in a series I’ve long been interested in but never read.

A Busy Week


It’s been a busy week even though we are spending most of our time at home these days. We are trying to avoid exposure to Omicron because of Byron’s impaired immune system, and earlier in the week I found myself feeling quite blue about being so housebound. But then I started looking at how we are spending our at-home time and decided that we are actually spending our time very well and I have nothing to complain about! The photos above are of this busy week:

First of all, I read three books this week. Love in an English Garden, by Victoria Connelly, was a gentle read, a light romance with garden at the heart. Then, The 1619 Project: Born on the Water, by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renee Watson, was a powerful and beautifully written and illustrated story about the first slaves brought to America in 1619. I highly recommend it!  And then, I listened to an audiobook of the first book in a new-to-me mystery series, Murder is Binding (a Booktown Mystery), by Lorna Barrett. It was fun.

We watched Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. It was an awesome production, and I thought it was very much like a film by Ingmar Bergman. That’s a high compliment!

I have been working each morning on my Spanish, using the app/program, Duolingo. I’m really enjoying the challenge, and am hoping to regain some of the Spanish I have lost over the years by not speaking it often enough.

And one last activity…Byron and I trapped and relocated a pesky squirrel that moved into our attic recently. This seems to happen almost every winter so we’ve become quite skilled at using our trap and taking these squirrels to a decent relocation spot.

Overall, a pretty interesting week. Feeling blue can definitely be part of this ongoing pandemic, but I am trying to make positive choices about how to spend my time  and emotional energy.

 

Winter Entertainment

Although reading books (and listening to audiobooks) is the favorite entertainment at our house, Byron and I are also avid birdwatchers. We have always enjoyed watching the birds that frequent our yard, no matter where we have lived. However, watching birds has become a major entertainment since we have been mostly housebound in the last few months while continuing our Covid precautions because of Byron’s impaired immune system, and because of our recent snowy and icy weather.

A few months ago, with our daughter’s help, we expanded our bird feeding station, added new platforms and a suet holder, bought a 40-lb box of Audubon bird seed at Costco, and put our binoculars and our favorite bird book in the drawer by the kitchen window. The birdwatching entertainment has been endless!

I’ve been keeping a list of the birds we’ve identified. There are two other birds that don’t show up at the feeders, but that we know are keeping close tabs on the entertainment below (the Great Horned Owl which we hear often in the early morning, and the Cooper’s Hawk that has taken two of our scrub jays in the last few years). And of course I must mentioned the squirrels that add even more drama and entertainment out our kitchen window.

Here’s a collage of the winter birds we’ve had visit our yard recently and keep us highly entertained by their endless antics. (Photos from the internet)

In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.
~ Robert Wilson Lynd

Winter Wonderland

Many of you live where you get a lot more snow than we have here this morning, but it’s unusual for us to see much white. So I was really excited when I awoke to a winter wonderland this morning! And we won’t be going anywhere today. After we shovel the snow off our sidewalks, we are just going to stay warm and cozy inside and spend the day reading!

illustration by Bee Johnson

Non-Stop Celebrations

by Norman Rockwell…

This year, I loved our Thanksgiving because we celebrated it three different times! I often feel quite anxious about the holidays, but this year is different. I decided that we will simply be prepared to celebrate whenever our loved ones can be with us. So for Thanksgiving, I had the dinner fixings ready to go when our grandson could be with us on the weekend before Thanksgiving,  and with our son on Thanksgiving Day, and then again when our daughter arrived on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We are now repeating that same practice with the Christmas holiday!

So last night we had an early family Christmas celebration because our daughter is with us for a few days. This celebration included our family dinner, opening a present or two, and watching a video…and lots of laughter. We will repeat this when our grandson is with us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

These are cherished times with our family.  May your holidays be warm and wonderful, and full of love, too.

The Sillies

The Long Winter

The winter of 1880/1881 was one of the worst winters on record in South Dakota. The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, is the story of her family’s experience in surviving that dreadful winter. One of the books in her Little House on the Prairie series, this book chronicles the seven months of blizzard after blizzard, the deep cold, and the terrible hunger that the citizens of DeSmet, and Laura’s family, suffered.  Even the supply train became stuck in the snow and could not bring in the desperately needed supplies.

The story of how this family and the townspeople survived is riveting and amazing. Laura’s parents were amazing with their survival skills, as the homesteaders of those days had to be. But I was inspired by their inner strength and how they encouraged that strength in their daughters. Laura was a tremendous help to them throughout that winter struggle.

However, that long long winter took a tremendous emotional toll on the family along with the physical struggle to survive. It became increasingly difficult to keep up their spirits, as the struggle to stay warm went on and endlessly on.

I couldn’t help but draw some parallels to our year+ of quarantine and isolation due to the Covid 19 pandemic. So many people have really suffered from the isolation and feeling of endless restrictions on “normal” life. Reading this book gave me a new appreciation for the resilience we find deep inside at times of intense hardship and difficulty.

For the storm was white. In the night, long after the sun had gone and the last daylight could not possibly be there, the blizzard was whirling white. A lamp could shine out through the blackest darkness and a shout could be heard a long way, but no light and no cry could reach through a storm that had wild voices and an unnatural light of its own.

“Now, girls!” Ma said. “A storm outdoors is no reason for gloom in the house.” “What good is it to be in town?” Laura said. “We’re just as much by ourselves as if there wasn’t any town.” “I hope you don’t expect to depend on anybody else, Laura.” Ma was shocked. “A body can’t do that.”

After Ma had seen them all tucked in bed and had gone downstairs, they heard and felt the blizzard strike the house. Huddled close together and shivering under the covers they listened to it. Laura thought of the lost and lonely houses, each one alone and blind and cowering in the fury of the storm. There were houses in town, but not even a light from one of them could reach another. And the town was all alone on the frozen, endless prairie, where snow drifted and winds howled and the whirling blizzard put out the stars and the sun.

 

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

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I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” my effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in South Dakota.

Winter Holiday Reading


December is just zooming along and I am deep into my holiday reading. The books I have enjoyed so far, that give me that warm blanket holiday feeling, are:

I hope you are enjoying your December reading, too!

A Week in Winter

A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy, was a reread for me. I don’t know what happened the first time I started reading it, but I just didn’t connect. This time, however, it was enjoyable listen for me during the holiday week. The pace was slow and relaxing, the characters fun to get to know. I guess that timing of when we choose to read a book is everything.

The story as described by the publisher:

Stoneybridge is a small town on the west coast of Ireland where all the families know one another. When Chicky Starr decides to take an old, decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, everyone thinks she is crazy. Helped by Rigger (a bad boy turned good who is handy around the house) and Orla, her niece (a whiz at business), Chicky is finally ready to welcome the first guests to Stone House’s big warm kitchen, log fires, and understated elegant bedrooms. John, the American movie star, thinks he has arrived incognito; Winnie and Lillian are forced into taking a holiday together; Nicola and Henry, husband and wife, have been shaken by seeing too much death practicing medicine; Anders hates his father’s business, but has a real talent for music; Miss Nell Howe, a retired schoolteacher, criticizes everything and leaves a day early, much to everyone’s relief; the Walls are disappointed to have won this second-prize holiday in a contest where first prize was Paris; and Freda, the librarian, is afraid of her own psychic visions.

“Stoneybridge” is a place I’d love to visit! It certainly was enjoyable to visit it this week via Maeve Binchy’s wonderful imagination and storytelling. The lives of so many different people converged for that week in winter, and I loved getting to know the backstory of each person and how they ended up coming to Stoneybridge.

A terrific holiday read!

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This book was set in Ireland.

My Winter Holidays Reading

I do love reading holiday books! In the last few years, I’ve usually started my holiday reading by the first of October. It’s a refreshing change from my Autumn focus on mysteries and  Halloweenish reading, and I find I enjoy it more and more each year. I decided to create this post to track the books I read for the upcoming winter holidays, and to list the holiday books I’ve read in the past few years. This will be an ever-growing list of the books I find each year to read during this season.

2021:

  1. A Christmas Tragedy, by Baroness Orczy
  2. Sherlock Holmes: The Affair of the Christmas Jewel, by Barry Roberts
  3. This Year Will Be Different and Other Stories, by Maeve Binchy
  4. A Highland Christmas, by M.C. Beaton
  5. Sleeping Beauty: An Audible Original Drama, by Marty Ross
  6. A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  7. The Christmas Mouse, by Miss Read
  8. A Country Christmas, by Louisa May Alcott
  9. Letters from Father Christmas, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  10. The Christmas Mystery, by James Patterson with Richard DiLallo
  11. The Legend of Old Befana, by Tomis DePaola
  12. Cozy, by Jan Brett
  13. A Boy Called Christmas, by Matt Haig
  14. The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  15. The Holly-Tree Inn, by Charles Dickens
  16. All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah, by Emily Jenkins
  17. Home for Christmas, by Jan Brett


2020:

  1. Hershel and the Hannukah Goblins, by Eric A. Kimmel
  2. Chinese New Year: A Celebration for Everyone, by Jen Lee
  3. Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story, by Angela Shelf Medearis
  4. Christmas at the Cove, by Victoria Connelly
  5. A Virgin River Christmas, by Robyn Carr
  6. Ruth’s First Christmas Tree, by Elly Griffiths
  7. Under the Christmas Tree, by Robyn Carr
  8. Bring Me Home For Christmas, by Robyn Carr
  9. The Golden Dreydl, by Ellen Kushner
  10. Christmas at the Castle, by Victoria Connelly
  11. Christmas at the Cottage, by Victoria Connelly
  12. Diwali, Festival of Lights, by Rina Singh
  13. A Parakeet Named Dreidel, by Isaac Bashevis Singer
  14. Chanukah Tales from Oykvetchnik, by Scott Hilton Davis
  15. Ho, Ho, Whoa! The Tale of Parkour Santa, by Kavae Loseby
  16. A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy
  17. My Kind of Christmas, by Robyn Carr

2019:

  1. Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories, by L.M. Montgomery
  2. The Spirit of Christmas, by Nancy Tillman
  3. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, by Agatha Christie
  4. The Burglar’s Christmas, by Willa Cather
  5. A Christmas by the Sea, by Melodie Carlson
  6. Spirit of Steamboat, by Craig Johnson
  7. Christmas at Thompson Hall, by Anthony Trollope
  8. Christmas in Absaroka County, by Craig Johnson

2018:

  1. A Literary Christmas: An Anthology, by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, William Wordsworth, Laurie Lee, Samuel Pepys
  2. No Holly for Miss Quinn, by Miss Read
  3. The Christmas Rose, by Victoria Connelly
  4. The Christmas Mouse, by Miss Read
  5. Village Christmas, by Miss Read

2017:

  1. Christmas at the Inn, by Andrea Twombly
  2. An English Christmas, by John Julius Norwich (editor)
  3. Santa Claus in Oz, by L. Frank Baum
  4. Christmas in Plains: Memories, by Jimmy Carter
  5. The True Gift: A Christmas Story, by Patricia McLachlan
  6. Christmas With the Book Lovers, by Victoria Connelly
  7. A Highland Christmas, by M.C. Beaton

2016:

  1. Celebrations at Thrush Green, by Miss Read
  2. Enid Blyton’s Christmas Stories, by Enid Blyton
  3. A Cornish Christmas, by Lily Graham
  4. Christmas at the Cove, by Victoria Connelly
  5. Christmas at the Castle, by Victoria Connelly
  6. Christmas at the Cottage, by Victoria Connelly
  7. Christmas Crumble, by M.C. Beaton

2015:

  1. Aunt Sass: Christmas Stories, by P.L. Travers
  2. In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1940 Christmas Eve Story by David McCullough
  3. Holiday Tales: Christmas in the Adirondacks, by William Henry Harrison Murray

2014:

  1. Christmas in Camelot, by Mary Pope Osborne
  2. A Dog Named Christmas, by Greg Kincaid
  3. Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck
  4. Christmas Eve, 1914, by Charles Olivier
  5. Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo
  6. The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Andersen
  7. A Little House Christmas Treasury: Festive Holiday Stories, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  8. The BIrds’ Christmas Carol, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  9. The Christmas Grandma Ran Away from Home, by Nancy Warren
  10. Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher
  11. On Christmas Day in the Morning, by Grace S. Richmond
  12. The Gift of the Magi and other Christmas Stories, by O. Henry, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Henry Van Dyke, Leo Tolstoy
  13. The Snow Child, by Freya Littledale

2013:

  1. Christmas 1940, by Eleanor Roosevelt
  2. A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy
  3. A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote
  4. An Early American Christmas, by Tomie dePaola
  5. Four Friends at Christmas, by Tomie dePaola
  6. A Christmas Sonata, by Gary Paulsen
  7. Christmas Remembered, by Tomie dePaola
  8. The Legend of Poinsettia, by Tomie dePaola
  9. Tomie’s Little Christmas Pageant, by Tomie dePaola
  10. Rumpole at Christmas, by John Mortimer
  11. Favorite Stories of Christmas Past, by Clement C. Moore, Hans Christian Andersen, O. Henry, Louisa May Alcott
  12. Tied Up in Tinsel, by Ngaio Marsh
  13. Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost
  14. Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham
  15. Shepherds Abiding, by Jan Karon
  16. The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol, by Tomie dePaola
  17. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
  18. A Redbird Christmas, by Fannie Flagg
  19. The Christmas Letters, by Lee Smith

HAPPY HOLIDAY READING, MY FRIENDS!

Early February in the Garden, 2020

…from The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden

One of the things I love about living in Oregon is that winters are mild and the “spring” garden really comes to life in January and February! I guess our reward for the very dark and rainy days of November and December are the early bulbs in bloom in early February! Around here, my gardening friends plant their Sweet Peas on President’s Day! That all just fills my heart with gardening joy!

These snapshots from my yard and garden give you an idea of what early February is like in an Oregon town 30 miles west of Portland, up against the Coastal Range, 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean!

 

Cabin Fever

Our car has been parked in the garage for a week — a week of snow and ice in an area that seldom sees that sort of thing. Last Friday, my husband’s bus commute to downtown Seattle took a total of 5 hours (for 8 hours of work), rather than the more usual 1-½ hours total. So we’ve stayed home in the warmth since then, leaving the house only for walks around our neighborhood. We had planned ahead for bad weather…so have had enough food, although we ran out of chips for nachos, darn it, and we’ve watched all the episodes on our current Netflix obsessions. And Christmas was quiet without family members able to join us … their presents still sit under the tree unopened, waiting for the roads to clear enough for travel. Our daughter only lives 4 miles away, but is also snowbound at her place. And our Portland family has had even worse winter conditions than we’ve had, so nobody is going anywhere at the moment and Christmas is on hold until the melt!

So here are a few things that are helping us fend off Cabin Fever…

Playing with our Grandboy on Skype

Watching the extended version of The Lord of the Rings, again for the second time this year.

Going for walks has kept us from going stir crazy, but was difficult until we opened the Christmas presents B had the foresight to order for us:
Have you heard of Stabilicers? And Trekking Poles?
And, of course, we’ve been reading, reading, reading! I’ve finished 3 books this week, and will post reviews before too long. That’s the nice part of being snowbound when there’s no end to the pile of books to draw from!

So we are surviving this extended winter storm. It’s funny how something you read a long time ago can come back to you suddenly with crystal clarity. Watching out the window this morning, I had a sudden “book memory” — descriptions from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s, The Long Winter, came flooding back to me. She described so well this feeling of Cabin Fever that keeps trying to creep in and take over. But we’re fighting it off!