It’s cold and wintery around here, so I’m curled up with two good books! I am currently finishing The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte, which is the book chosen for my Classics Club Spin. And I’ve already started my next book, Sailing by Starlight: The Remarkable Voyage of Globe Star, by Rod Scher. I’m enjoying them both!
Hello, dear friends,
We are well into the holiday season now. and I wanted to check in and wish you all a very happy season. I hope you are well and enjoying life and family and good books. And as for the stresses and strains that also seem to be part of the holidays, I wish for you some quiet and some time to just enjoy the present moment.
I feel like I’ve been away forever, and I am hoping to get back to some consistent blogging again. I am getting back to my reading, choosing kind and gentle reads for now. Poetry is a balm for me. Books about grief (some of them), are helpful and appreciated. And when I found a book of poetry about grief that really spoke to my own experience, I was thrilled. Living Without the One You Cannot Live Without, by Natasha Josefowitz, sits beside me right now as my solace and one of my guides through this journey.
Recent fiction reads, such as Farewell to Fairacre, by Miss Read, and The Bookstore Sisters, a short story by Alice Hoffman, have been my bedtime reads. My non-fiction afternoon reading included Michelle Obama’s new book, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, which I felt was an enriching audiobook to listen to. She is, as always, full of wisdom and compassion, and hope. I really enjoyed it. I also read a library find: A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives, by Lisa Congdon. It was inspiring and I enjoyed each short biography of many different women who found their passions and careers later in life.
After two-and-a-half years of pandemic lockdown and the extra precautions we had to take due to my husband’s cancer, I am beginning to get back to some of my used-to-be normal activities. I have started going back to my exercise class at the gym, although I know that Covid is still here. But I need my exercise friends, the three-day-a-week routine, and the exercise! It’s so nice to be back. I’m also getting back to my morning walks, although the weather always seems to play havoc with that routine at this time of year. And I’m also getting back to my reading. It all feels so good!
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.
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.
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
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!
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 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 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.
- A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- A Christmas Tragedy, by Baroness Orczy
- This Year It Will Be Different, and Other Stories, by Maeve Binchy
- A Highland Christmas, by M.C. Beaton
- Sleeping Beauty: An Audible Original Drama, by Marty Ross
- The Christmas Mouse, by Miss Read
- A Country Christmas, by Louisa May Alcott
- Letters from Father Christmas, by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Sherlock Holmes: The Affair of the Christmas Jewel, by Barry Roberts
- The Christmas Mystery, by James Patterson with Richard DiLallo
- The Legend of Old Befana, by Tomis DePaola
- Cozy, by Jan Brett
- A Boy Called Christmas, by Matt Haig
- The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- The Holly-Tree Inn, by Charles Dickens
- All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah, by Emily Jenkins
- Home for Christmas, by Jan Brett
- What Child is This?, by Rhys Bowen
I hope you are enjoying your December reading, too!
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.