Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 Blogging Year in Review

A hat tip to Mali, whose post "2016: Looking back on the blog" has inspired me to do the same for the past several years. Also to Mel, whose Crème de la Crème lists from 2007 to 2012 prompted me & other bloggers to review our posts from the year past & pick out our favourites to share.  (There was a list in 2006 too, but that was before I started my blog.)  If the Crème de la Crème list still existed, one of these posts would probably be the one I would have submitted. :) ) 

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2022 on this blog was not quite as prolific as 2021 -- which was my best year ever, in terms of numbers of posts, with 213 -- but it was still pretty good. I will wind up the year with 193 posts (including this one)  :) -- ranking #3 in terms of numbers of total posts for the year (#2 was 2020, with 197). That's an average of 16 posts per month (!) -- basically a post every other day.  My least-chatty month was June, when I posted 12 times;  my most verbose was September, with 20 posts. Not bad, especially after 15 years of blogging!  

I don't check my blog stats very often, but I had a look at the ones for the past 12 months, and (as of this morning), I had 151,000+ views and 472 comments this year (both down from last year). The top-viewed post of 2022  (that was written/posted IN 2022 -- was "She IS "one of us"!!", with 163 views since it was posted late in the year, on Nov. 9th.  

In addition to posts about or related to childless/free issues or other adoption/loss/infertility issues, I tried to do a "Right now" or "The Current" post at the beginning of each month, and participated in 48 #MicroblogMondays this year. I reviewed all 50 books that I read in 2022, and wrote about news items (usually ALI-related) that piqued my interest. I also wrote a lot about other things going on in my life, including aging, retirement, being an auntie & great-auntie, and condo living. There were lots of "odds & ends" posts, as well as lists of recent "small pleasures & annoying things."  And, needless to say, the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic (now in its THIRD year) provided PLENTY of fodder for blogging!! 

Here are a few of my favourite/noteworthy posts from 2022, or ones that say "2022" to me -- in more or less chronological order (from oldest/earliest in 2022 to most recent): 

  • "Doctor, my eyes" -- A routine visit to the optometrist turns into something more...! 
  • "#MicroblogMondays: Last Christmas?" -- Christmas with my aging parents at their house -- possibly for the final time, if my sister gets her way and hosts next year...!  

2022 Reading Year in Review

I started doing a specific "Reading Year in Review" post in 2020. I figured that since I was doing an overall year in review post (which includes some book information anyway), and a blogging year in review post -- and since keeping track of my books is a big thing I normally do on my blog -- my reading life deserved its own year-end wrap-up post too.  :) 

  • I increased my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal from 36 books in 2021 to 45 books in 2022, reached it by mid-November, and wound up with 50 books to my credit by year end -- 111% of my goal. (I was secretly hoping to equal or exceed last year's total of 59 books -- but, still not a bad showing! -- especially considering I had a couple of surgeries and medical issues that had an impact on both my vision and my powers of concentration...!) All books read were reviewed on this blog and tagged "2022 books."  
    • My Goodreads 2022 Year in Review report tells me I read 50 books with 17,047 pages (versus 59 books with 17,944 pages in 2021). 
      • The shortest book I read was "Misfits" by Michaela Coel (112 pages);  the longest was "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt (718 pages). 
      • Average book length was 340 pages. 
      • The most popular book I read ( = shelved by Goodreads readers) was "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt;  the least popular was "Navigating the Messy Middle" by Ann Douglas.  
      • My average Goodreads rating in 2022 was 4.2 stars. 
      • The highest-rated book I read was "The Bullet That Missed" by Richard Osman (average 4.17 stars -- well deserved too!). 
    • In 2021, I also started tracking books on The StoryGraph (which Brooke told me about), which provides slightly different stats (and even more, with a paid subscription -- although I don't have one of those!). 
      • The "moods" of my books were overwhelmingly "emotional," followed by "reflective" and "informational."  
      • Most of my books were medium-paced (44%) or slow paced (40%) -- just 17% were considered fast-paced. 
      • 52% of my 2022 books were 300-499 pages;  38% were less than 300 pages and just 10% were over 500 pages. 
      • 65% of my 2021 books were fiction;  35% non-fiction (same as in 2021).
      • My most-read genre in 2022 was memoir, followed by romance, then mystery and historical.   
      • StoryGraph also tracks the format of your books, but selects print as the default. It tells me 56% of my books this year were read in print format and 44% digital. This is more accurate than last year, but still not entirely correct... some books did not have a "digital" option so I chose print instead. 
      • Most-read authors in 2022 (as in 2021 -- no surprise here):  D.E. Stevenson (8 books) & L.M. Montgomery (5 books). Runners up were Richard Osman, Jann Arden and Marian Keyes (2 books each).
      • Average rating 4.15 stars. (Unlike Goodreads, The StoryGraph allows fractional star ratings.) 
    • Once again this year, fiction choices outnumbered non-fiction (many of them re-reads, but still...!):  30 fiction, 20 non-fiction.
    • Re-reads -- which I started counting as books read in 2020 -- accounted for 5 books of my 2022 total. (I think I calculated that correctly?)  
    • My library book club held its last meeting in late February 2020 -- just before the pandemic hit -- and the "Clever Name" online book club has been dormant since summer 2021.  But, online, the Gateway/Lighthouse Women NoMo book club, D.E. Stevenson fan group, and L.M. Montgomery Readathon on Facebook, helped boost my 2022 reading totals and provided me with a lot of reading/discussion pleasure.  
      • My book groups were responsible for 22 of the 50 books I read in 2022 -- almost half!  I read 10 books for GW, 7 for DES (4 different books, including 3 counted twice as re-reads), and 5 for the L.M. Montgomery Readathon (3 different books, including 2 counted twice as re-reads, as well as one LMM book -- "The Golden Road" -- read on my own). 
    • As noted above, I reached my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal of 45 books by mid-November, and ended the year with 50 books read -- but I didn't equal my 2021/best-recorded total of 59 books (when my goal was 36).  For 2023, I've decided to maintain my goal of 45 books ( = 3.75 books per month on average), which seems realistic for me right now. 
      • I've read more than 45 books in three of the past four years (2019, 2021 and 2022, and almost 45 -- 43 -- in 2020 -- so that seems very do-able.  But I'm hoping I'll be able to improve on my 2022 total, too!  
      • While I'm grateful for my book groups and the boost they give to my reading totals, and while I intend to keep up with them in 2023, I'm hoping to be able to read more of my own choices this coming year too.  :)   
  • It's always very hard for me to pick a single book as "the best." I read some really, really good books this year -- very few disappointments or "meh" choices -- and I gave lots/most of them four and five-star reviews on Goodreads. (4.2 stars was my average Goodreads rating this year.)  A few of my favourites (I haven't linked to them here, but they're all reviewed on Goodreads, StoryGraph and this blog): 
    • "The Man Who Died Twice" and "The Bullet That Missed" by Richard Osman (books #2 & #3 in "The Thursday Murder Club" series). 
    • "The Boys" by Ron Howard & Clint Howard. 
    • "Sisters Behaving Badly" by Maddie Please. 
    • "Run Towards the Danger" by Sarah Polley. 
    • "My Ticket to Ride" by Janice Mitchell. 
    • "Feeding My Mother" and "If I Knew Then" by Jann Arden. 
    • "Rachel's Holiday" and "Again Rachel" by Marian Keyes. 
    • "Exit" by Belinda Bauer. 
    • "Queen High" by C.J. Carey. 
    • "Killers of a Certain Age" by Deanna Raybourn. 
Did you meet your reading goals for 2022 (if you set any)? What great books did you read this past year? 

2022 Year in Review

Time for another Year in Review post for 2022! 

This is the 13th (!) year that I've done this year-end meme (first one published in December 2010) -- and, although many of the answers don't change much from year to year (and I can't always think of answers, lol -- at least new or interesting ones...!), it's still a great way to look back and keep track. 

Feel free to use these questions on your own blog (& let me know if you do!).

All of my New Year's/Year in Review posts are tagged with the label "Year in Review."  

1. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't really make new year's resolutions any more -- they tend to be the same ones, year after year (although I have modified some over time, and even deleted ones that no longer apply). Here are the perennials, and the progress I made (or didn't) in 2022:   
  • Lose weight.  Last year, I reported that I had lost about 11 pounds from an all-time high weight in August (2021), (no) thanks to a rather limited diet as I wrestled with both gout and gallstones. Since this time last year, I've lost another 7-8 pounds, and I'm currently not quite 20 pounds lighter than my all-time high, a weight I've managed to maintain for the past several months (give or take a pound or so). I would NOT recommend how it happened! -- and I most definitely could still stand to lost more. But my clothes fit better, my ankles don't swell up as much... I'll take it!   
  • Exercise more. (And hopefully lose more weight...!) Still not exercising regularly, although we've been a little more active generally this year.  
  • Write more in my journal &/or blog. I haven't kept a paper journal in years. I've been far more successful with blogging: I recently marked my 15th (!!) year in this space! and while I won't top last year's record 213 posts, 2022 will still be my third-most productive blogging year since I started writing here. (Second would be 2020, when I posted 197 times!)(A separate "Blogging year in review" post will be coming soon.) 
  • Read more of the books that have piled up around the house. I increased my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal this year from 36 to 45 books, and reached it by mid-November. I will finish out the year with 50 books to my credit, 111% of my goal! (All books read were reviewed on this blog and tagged "2022 books").  See my "Reading year in review post" (coming up) for more detailed analysis. 
  • Keep the clutter at bay. (Goal slightly reworded from previous years.) As I've said before -- having downsized in 2016 from a 1,200 square foot, three-bedroom house (plus basement, garage & garden shed) to an 875-square-foot condo (plus one not-very-big storage locker) -- there's a LOT less clutter than there used to be -- and a lot less space for it to accumulate. I've tried to establish good habits & a place for everything right from the start, and so far, I think I've been pretty successful at doing that. Whenever the piles of books start to overwhelm my existing shelves, and/or I run out of spare hangers in the closet, I know it's time to do some weeding again, and make another trip to the thrift store...!  If I can get an e-copy of a book cheaply (or for free -- my sister has her sources...), in most cases, the paper one will go into the donation pile. The storage locker could use another going through/paring down, one of these days, though...!    
  • Return to scrapbooking & complete unfinished projects. (Goal reworded from previous years.)  Sadly, I have not done any scrapbooking in more than 10 years. And I got rid of most of my scrapbooking supplies before we moved (sob!). I did keep all my unfinished projects, tools, paper punches & a few other things, though. (They are sitting in a couple of plastic bins down in the storage locker. I probably need to go through those again, though... there are a lot of stamp pads, bottles of glitter glue, etc., that have probably dried up...!)   
    • A more realistic/pressing related goal would be to work on scanning more of my pre-digital photos. All my photos dating back to 1991 have been digitized -- but I've had my own camera since Christmas 1976, so I have a way to go yet...! (and there's a bin of photos from my grandma's house at my parents' that I am itching to look through...!) I used to be able to take my negatives to a photo shop near my office for scanning at a fairly reasonable price, but the chain is now entirely online and I'm now retired. ;)  I do have a scanner here at home and do the odd one-off photo myself, but this would be a much greater undertaking...! 
2. What did you do in 2022 that you’d never done before?

(Continued to) live through a global pandemic, now in its second year (going into THIRD). (Needless to say, new/novel experiences have been further & fewer to come by when isolating...!). 

Took an ambulance ride to the hospital (hopefully for the LAST time as well as the first!). 

Had eye surgery  (a superficial keratectomy) in late July.  

Had actual surgery (gallbladder removal, Aug. 15th). 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No -- but (fingers crossed) we should have another great-nephew or a little great-niece joining the family in February...!  

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My second cousin and childhood summers pal J.  :(  

Two of dh's aunts, one week after another in September. :(  

Not someone I knew well, but the second husband of one of my best friends from childhood also died in September, far too young (mid-60s). Prostate cancer. :( 

5. What places* did you visit?

(* wording changed slightly from previous years;  the question used to read "countries." I noticed that Kathy of Bereaved & Blessed used "places" in answering her version of a similar questionnaire in 2019, and decided to use her wording after that. Makes me feel less travel-deprived!)

Needless to say, the threat of COVID-19 plus my assorted medical issues & surgeries kept us mostly close to home during 2022. Together with BIL & SIL, we spent a lovely weekend with dh's cousin & his family at their beautiful lake home in late September/early October. A week later, we flew west to visit my family for (Canadian) Thanksgiving, and we returned for Christmas. 

6. What would you like to have in 2023 that you lacked in 2022?

Like most people, I would like this pandemic to just GO AWAY (or at the very least some common-sense public health measures -- continued masking in public places, at the very least, more promotion of vaccines, etc.)  -- but I'm not holding my breath...!  

I'd like more time with family -- mine & dh's. More time with Little Great-Nephew (and the dog!) -- especially since he'll be heading off to school (!! -- junior kindergarten) next September.

I'd have liked to travel too (beyond going to see my parents) -- but I'm not holding my breath for any big trips in the foreseeable future either.  

7. What date(s) from 2022 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

The dates of my surgeries. 

June 24th (U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe v Wade). 

The Queen's death and funeral in September. 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

My perennial answer:  Maintaining my sanity??  Surviving my various medical/health issues? 

9. What was your biggest failure?

I have a bad habit of procrastinating on too many things... I don't think that improved this year! 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Thanks to vaccines, masks, extreme caution (and more than a little luck), we have dodged COVID-19 (so far...!), and we are VERY grateful for that!  But medically, this year was more challenging than others:  
Dh had a flare-up of his seasonal allergies this summer -- the worst in years -- followed by a bad case of eczema that he's still dealing with (although it's slowly getting better).  

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Beyond books (both paper and e-versions):  
  • Jewelry from my favourite sterling silver jewelry crafter, as well as her "advent calendar." I kicked myself for missing out on it in 2020 (the first year she'd tried doing it), and I loved having a little surprise to open and brighten my day every morning during the first 24 days of December, last year and again this year. :)  
  • Our Dyson air purifier/humidifier/fan (purchased in October). 
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

All the frontline healthcare workers who have been putting their health & lives at risk to try to save others for almost three (!) solid years now. 

Anyone who stood up for democracy, decency, science and rational thinking. The people who told the truth in front of the January 6th committee in the U.S. (I'm thinking particularly of Cassidy Hutchinson -- 25 years old!!) 

The Queen: 70 years (!!) of dedicated service!! I am so glad she got to celebrate the amazing milestone of her Platinum Jubilee before she died, and see (once again) how much people loved and respected her. 

Volodomyr Zelensky and the brave people of Ukraine (one of my ancestral homeland), in the face of Russian aggression.  

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? 

Well, (once again) that's obvious. In the U.S., Donald Trump & his MAGA cronies/cult members.  :(  Not that we are immune here in Canada -- we have MAGA wanabes/imitators here too (albeit perhaps not to quite the same extent).   

Case in point: The idiot "protesters" who occupied downtown Ottawa and several border communities for several weeks last winter, brought cross-border trade to a standstill and made life miserable for the locals.  

The conservative premiers here in Canada who continue to ignore the best medical advice about covid, only acting when absolutely pushed to do so. (Jason Kenney in Alberta and Doug Ford in Ontario, I'm looking at you in particular...!). 

The people (on both sides of the border -- and around the world) who continue to ignore the science and refuse to get vaccinated, wear masks or follow other public health measures, thus dragging this pandemic out FAR longer than necessary, and resulting in far more cases and deaths than there could or should have been. :( 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford gets further mention for all the other awful stuff he's been doing, including invoking the "notwithstanding" clause of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms to try to force striking education workers back to work, and for turning over vast swaths of territory earmarked as "Greenbelt" to developers for development (who may or may not have been tipped off that this would happen). (And yet people re-elected him & his government in a LANDSLIDE... WTAF??!)  

The U.S. Supreme Court: affirming gun rights while taking away women's rights. (Again -- WTAF?)  

14. Where did most of your money go?

(See #11!)  Beyond the usual bills, we have probably spent more money on groceries and personal care items.  Prices have been rising, dh has been doing most of the grocery shopping, and he is not the bargain hunter I am. ;)  With bookstores closed for several months (and shelf space in our condo at a premium), we also both spent a lot more money on e-books for our Kobo e-readers, albeit most of them at a deep discount, watching for bargains. 

We also still managed to buy things -- mostly cute outfits and books -- for our great-nephew, as well as fatten his piggy bank. ;)  

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The prospect of a new great-niece or nephew to spoil in February. :)  

16. What song will always remind you of 2022?

I'm not sure. I Googled "top songs of 2022" and I recognized exactly none of them! 

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

Probably about the same in terms of happiness, slightly thinner (gout, gallstones and surgeries will do that to you..!), and probably a little poorer (prices are higher for just about everything, and the markets have not been entirely kind to our investments...!).  

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? 


Reading more books than I did (although I did well in terms of meeting & exceeding my Goodreads challenge goal). But hey, there's always next year... 

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Sitting around the house. :p  We're still being cautious, but we could probably get out a little more and still stay relatively safe by wearing masks. 

Watching too much news on TV. I like being well informed, but sometimes it just gets too overwhelming and depressing!  

20. How did you spend Christmas? 

With my parents, sister & her partner in Manitoba. Again this year, out of caution, because of all the germs floating around (covid & others), we didn't spend as much time with PND & her family as we have in the past, and we scaled back on the presents considerably. But we still had at least one present each plus stockings to open, we still had a couple of really great meals with most of our traditional favourites, and we still played lots of cards & dominos. (We're still here.)  It's been a good holiday!  :)   

21. Did you fall in love in 2022?

Never fell out. :) 

22. What was your favorite TV program?

I don't watch a lot of TV shows regularly, and I don't do a lot of streaming/binge watching. We both still love watching "Bob's Burgers" (both current episodes and reruns). We enjoyed the most recent seasons of "Jann" on CTV and the latest season of "Finding Your Roots" on PBS (as well as several other PBS programs), and I was still captivated by the most recent season of "The Handmaid's Tale."  Also, several series/documentaries on CNN, most notably "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy." 

I STILL haven't yet watched anything past season 2 of "The Crown" on Netflix! 

23. Do you hate anyone now that you did not hate this time last year? 

Hate is a strong word, and I don't like using it.  Suffice to say, though, that I am definitely NOT a fan of the 45th President of the United States or his enablers! :p  Or, for that matter, the current Premier of Ontario. (See #13.) 

24. What was the best book you read? 

(See #1)  It's always very hard for me to pick a single book as "the best," and I gave lots of books four and five-star reviews on Goodreads!  My average Goodreads rating this year was 4.2. I've listed some of my favourite reads in my "Reading year in review" post (to be posted soon). 

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?


26. What did you want and get?

The Dyson purifier/humidifier. :)  

27. What did you want and not get?

The end of the pandemic and a return to normalcy (whatever that is these days...!). 

28. What was your favourite film of this year? 

Dh & I LOVE going to the movies, but that hasn't happened since very early in 2020 -- and we don't stream a lot of movies or watch a lot of pay-per-view.  

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 61. We spent some time with Little Great-Nephew at his grandma's, ordered in dinner, and had birthday cupcakes for dessert. :) (62 coming up shortly...!). 

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

My answer to this question is usually travel-related. That goes without saying, I suppose...!  But obviously, the end of this pandemic!!  

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2022? 

More of the same: mostly yoga pants and T-shirts (worn without a bra)(even more so than usual!  lol). 

32. What kept you sane?

(This question assumes sanity on my part, lol.  ;)  ) 

Spending time (almost) every week with Little Great-Nephew. 

Taking part in several online book clubs. 

Regular Zoom chats with friends (both online and "real life"), former co-workers and relatives. 

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Volodomyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine. THAT's leadership!!  

Jennifer Aniston, for her honesty about her infertility treatments...

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The pandemic and how it's been (mis)handled by our leaders. (See #13.) 

The overturn of Roe v Wade in the U.S. 

35. Who did you miss? 

My parents & my sister... I didn't get "home" this summer for the third summer in a row (and the fourth in five years!), and it was a long stretch from Christmastime 2021 to (Canadian) Thanksgiving in October!    

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Needless to say, this year -- like the past two years -- was NOT a good year for meeting new people!! let alone seeing your longtime friends. :( 

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2022. 

Last year, I said: "Once again, this year brought home to me that life, youth & health are precious, and disappear far too quickly sometimes. Enjoy it all while you can!" 

I would reiterate that, and (thinking of my tumble down the steps at the zoo, lol) add "Watch your step!"  :)   

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I'll have to think about this one...! 

Coming up:  2022 in blogging and in books!  

Friday, December 23, 2022

Christmas week odds & ends

  • Bloglovin' has been up periodically since Sunday (the 18th) -- sort of. The content is all a day old or older. Then I started getting some posts out of date order, including some dated July 2020 (!!). Now I'm getting a "502 Server Error" message. Sigh.... 
  • I am "home" for Christmas with my family -- arrived almost a week ago (!! -- already!), last Saturday. Freezing cold temperatures (currently -22C/-34C windchill  = -8F/-29F) and lots of snow... but we're here!  
  • I came down with a scratchy throat the night before we left to come here. (Of course.) I offered to mask and/or test when we got to my parents' house (actually, before we got into my sister's car at the airport) but nobody took me up on it, and frankly (I am ashamed to admit), I was too chicken to test. :(  "If one of us goes down, we all go down," my sister offered helpfully. I subsequently developed sniffles and a bit of a cough, but it was nothing anywhere close to the cold I had back in September, and I am feeling much better now.  So far, everyone else is fine too. (Whew!) 
  • My parents' neighbour -- one of the most covid-cautious people you'll meet -- has covid right now. His wife has banished him to the basement for the duration.  I also learned that a friend (a fellow CNBCer) recently spent four days in the hospital with covid and flu, on oxygen.  And Pamela at Silent Sorority is slowly recovering from her own nasty bout with covid -- go offer her some get well wishes!    
  • I found out another (second) cousin of mine died recently, far too young -- the second one this year (actually, the third! -- see my next point).  :(   His aunt -- my mother's first cousin -- wrote me in her Christmas card that he had died. I never met him, but I'd met his late dad (another of my mom's first cousins) several times and seen his photos. Good looking guy, a few years younger than me -- 55 when he died, of pneumonia. Not sure if it was covid-related. Never married, no kids. I feel very sad, even though we never met... and now we never will.  :(  
    • I don't think I wrote about the other second cousin, who was the second one this year to pass away (in November, from cancer). Again, her mom & mine were first cousins, and my mom used to babysit her and her older sister when she was a nursing school student in Minneapolis in the late 1950s.  I never met her (although I met her mom & younger sister when I was about 12), but my mom was in touch with her on Facebook. She was a talented cabaret singer and actress who lived in Chicago... single & childless, and gone far too soon, at age 69.  :(  
  • I found a(nother!) Substack that I couldn't resist subscribing to (free subscription) -- the title tickled my funnybone ("OK Doomer" -- lol). I have no idea who Jessica Wildfire is, but I read through some of her recent backposts and her views on the pandemic seem to align a lot with mine, so...  A recent post: "Everyone's Getting Sick, and We're Almost Out of Drugs:  Here's why, and what I'm doing." 
  • I know there's more I wanted to share, but I also wanted to get in another post before Christmas -- so this is it for now!  This can be a difficult time of year for so many people, for so many reasons -- hope you're all hanging in there!  xo

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

"Sarah Morris Remembers" by D.E. Stevenson (re-read)

My online D.E. Stevenson group has just finished our chapter-by-chapter reading and discussion of "Sarah Morris Remembers," which I read on my own first, back in August (and reviewed here). The book was first published in 1966, and is narrated by the title character, Sarah, as she looks back on her life.  

Sarah and her siblings -- two older brothers and a spoiled younger sister -- grow up in a pastoral setting in England in the period between the wars, the children of the local vicar.  When brother Lewis brings his friend home from school -- an Austrian named Charles Reeder -- Sarah's life changes forever:  she falls instantly in love with Charles, and develops an interest in learning to speak other languages (which comes in very handy later in her life). 

As Sarah grows up, Charles declares his love for her too. But the war intervenes before they can be married, and Charles returns home to try to free his father, who has been imprisoned by the Nazis. Then he disappears too. Sarah and her father move to London to help with the war effort, meet new people and have many new adventures, but thoughts of Charles are never far from her mind... 

Stevenson's wartime novels are among her best. I'll admit this one started slowly, but it hit its stride and got more interesting once the war began. While the story revolves around Sarah & her romance with Charles, there are plenty of subplots involving the lesser characters that added to my enjoyment of the book. And this re-read was enhanced by the discussion with the group members. There are a couple of plot points here that set this one apart from most other DES novels, which made for some lively discussion and speculation at times! 

My original rating stands -- 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 on Goodreads.  

There's a sequel to this book, "Sarah's Cottage," which will likely be on our reading list for the new year. Our first book for 2023, however, will be "The Empty World" -- a change of pace from DES's usual light romances.  It's a dystopian sci-fi thriller, first published in 1936 and set in 1973 Scotland.  

This was Book #50 read to date in 2022 (and Book #4 finished in December), bringing me to 111% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books! I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 7 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

"Legend in Green Velvet" by Elizabeth Peters

I had another book in mind to start reading this past weekend on the westbound flight to visit my family over Christmas holidays... but I set it aside in favour of a real "comfort (re)read" for me, and one I've been meaning to re-read for a long time now -- one of my favourite novels by one of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Peters (whose real name was Barbara Mertz, and who also wrote thrillers under the name Barbara Michaels). I've written before on this blog about my long love of Peters/Michaels and her books -- including how seeing her speak and getting her to sign a special copy of her book for me in November 1998 was a welcome distraction in my post-stillbirth grief. 

Peters (who died in 2013) was probably best known for her Amelia Peabody books, about the adventures of a feisty Egyptologist and her family in the late 1800s/early 1900s, but she had two other series that were also a lot of fun -- about Vicky Bliss, an American historian working in a German museum, and Jacqueline Kirby, librarian turned romance novelist -- plus a lot of standalone books too. 

I first remember reading -- and love, love, loving -- "Legend in Green Velvet" when I was in high school, from our local library. I later bought a paperback version -- which I still have (it survived the pre-condo move book purge!) -- and have a digital edition on my e-reader as well (which is the one I had with me on the plane). It was published in 1976, when I was 15 years old and deeply immersed in my teenaged Bay City Rollers mania, with an adjacent obsession with all things Scottish -- which might explain why I remember it with such great fondness. ;)  

Our young American heroine, Susan, has also been obsessed with Scotland and Scottish history and legends her entire life -- and now she's scraped together enough money to spend the summer in Scotland, working on an archeological dig in the Highlands. It's a dream come true for her. But shortly after her arrival in Edinburgh, a strange old man slips her a cryptic message -- then her hotel room is ransacked -- and Susan finds herself being framed for murder, and on the run with a handsome (if rather cynical) young Scottish laird -- who (once he reluctantly shaves his lavish beard) bears a striking resemblance to a certain well-known public figure (then and now -- who was, at the time, one of the world's most eligible bachelors). This becomes a running joke throughout the book.   

I hadn't re-read this book in years. It's not very long, but it took me longer to get through than I expected (because life, Christmas prep, aging parents...).  It's a light read, full of lessons about Scotland and its history, and (as with most Peters novels) a lot of humour along with the action. (Romance too!) It's dated in many respects, but I still enjoyed it and (for me) it was the perfect way to kick off the holidays. :) 

4 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #49 read to date in 2022 (and Book #3 finished in December), bringing me to 109% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books! I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 6 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

#MicroblogMondays: Last Christmas?

(Posted on Tuesday!)

(Hey, it's been that kind of week...) 

We made it to my parents' house in western Canada his past weekend for the holidays. My sister & her partner picked us up, and before we headed out of the city to the small town where Mom & Dad live (about 45-60 minutes away), we got a tour of the house they bought & moved into this fall.  It's not huge, and the decor, plumbing, electrical and heating systems are absolute vintage late 1950s-70s -- i.e., it needs work! -- but it's bigger than the tiny house they were living in, and it has a nice layout, with three bedrooms upstairs and one down, three bathrooms (albeit just one a full bathroom with tub/shower) and a finished basement (classic 1960s wood panelling & bar). It's also in a great location, a short walk away from transit and a small older mall that includes a grocery store, hardware store, movie theatre, restaurants and an EXCELLENT and independent! mega-bookstore (one of the best in Canada). It's big enough for the two of them to comfortably host dh & me and our parents next year for Christmas -- which she is determined to do. 

"This has to be the last Christmas at Mom & Dad's," she confided to us as we headed out of the city. "They just can't handle all the fuss and all the cooking any more, especially for an extended period of time -- but as long as we're at their house, they are not going to give up control and take a backseat." 

(My parents have control issues. Case in point: before settling in on the couch for a pre-supper nap, my father got dinner into the oven -- and then gave me a long list of instructions on turning down the oven (when & to what temperature) and when to add the potatos for baking -- including how to start them off in the microwave, with strict instructions on how many to put in at one time and exactly when I should turn them over to ensure they cooked more evenly. HE INSISTED THAT I WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. Did I mention I will be 62 years old in less than a month's time??)  

Will they agree to relinquish control and have Christmas at my sister's house next year?  I don't know. I guess only time will tell...!  

When I was growing up, we spent some Christmases with my grandparents in my mother's hometown in Minnesota, and some wherever it was we were living at the time -- five different towns in two different provinces before I graduated high school -- but wherever we were, my maternal grandfather (often, but not always, accompanied by my grandmother) would always come to be with us. (We also spent one Christmas, 1976, with my uncle and his family in Minneapolis. That was after my great-uncle -- my grandmother's youngest brother, who lived with her and my grandfather all his life -- passed away suddenly at the far-too-young age of 59.  I guess the adults decided a change in scenery was in order that year.) 

I would have to check my photo albums to verify this, but I think the last Christmas we spent at my grandparents' house was in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when I was finishing high school/in university. After that, my grandparents always came to be with us, and in later years, when driving distances got to be harder for them, someone would drive down and pick them up (about 1.5 hours away) and then bring then back home again after the holidays were over. I don't remember how old they were when my grandfather stopped driving to my parents' house, but they were probably in their mid/late 70s. Our last Christmas with Grandpa was 1997 (when he was 85); we had one more Christmas with Grandma (1998) before she too was gone. 1998 was also our first Christmas without the little girl we had thought would be arriving that November. 

My parents are now 81 (almost 82) and 83.   

I think, in the back of my mind, I always hoped that when I had kids of my own, my parents & sister would come to spend Christmas with US, at least once in a while. I even bought some plastic Christmas-themed plates & glasses in anticipation of the day.  But the kids never materialized, and neither has my family at Christmastime -- or many other times, to be honest. My mom almost always used to come visit us at least once a year when she was working, during spring break (she worked in a school and retired in 2006 -- her last visit was in 2008), but my dad has only come three times in 37 years (most recently for Katie's funeral in August 1998)(!).  My sister and her partner have visited me exactly once, in November1989 -- and the prime attraction was not me but the Grey Cup football game they had tickets for, lol. I suspect things might have been different, had we had kids -- but we didn't, and so we've always been the ones to travel at this time of year.  

My parents moved to this house in 1984, when I was just finishing up graduate school, and I lived here with them for a year afterward, until I got married.  This will be the 39th Christmas we've all spent together in this house, with the single exception of 2020 (and you all know why...!). Change is hard, but we've done it before -- albeit not for quite a long time...!  My sister & I know it is coming, again, sooner or later... 

I don't know what the future holds, or where we'll all be next Christmas -- but I'm going to enjoy this one, here & now, while & how I can.  

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

Pre-travel odds & ends

  • Bloglovin' saga status:  Back up again on Monday morning, Dec. 12th. Out again Wednesday morning (Dec. 14th). :p  Still not up again. Sigh....
  • Sorry I missed #MicroblogMondays this week, for the first time in ages... it's been busy, and I just couldn't find any inspiration in time... :(  
  • The countdown to flying "home" for Christmas is in full swing right now... and... I'm fighting off a scratchy throat. Ugh. Warm saltwater gargles, tea, ibuprofen and essential oils are helping. I am inclined to believe it's more the result of how very dry it is in our condo right since the colder weather hit (despite our very expensive Dyson purifier/humidifier working overtime...) and less the result of any bugs we might have picked up. We have been out & about more often in the past two weeks than we normally have, but aside from that one restaurant lunch (two weeks ago today)(after which Little Great-Nephew's other grandma came down with covid...! -- but that was a full two weeks ago now...) and staying with LGN a couple of times, we've worn our masks everywhere when we've been out in public places.   
  • And -- I think my gout has returned -- or is, at least, lurking in the shadows...  :(   I had it (and wrote about it) a year ago, in September 2021. No redness or swelling (yet?), but my left foot and the big toe in particular has been a bit achy lately, and it was enough to wake me up one morning this week at 4 a.m. I took some ibuprofen and wound up just getting up because I couldn't go back to sleep. :p  I don't think my diet has been particularly bad lately, but perhaps I've slipped up a bit on my sugar and water consumption (i.e., too much and not enough)?  (Of course this WOULD happen just as I'm heading "home" to see my parents. where abundant once-a-year Christmas treats await...!  Sigh...) 
  • Katy Seppi of Chasing Creation and Lighthouse Women and Carrie Hauskens of Blooming With Care chatted on Zoom recently about "Navigating the Holidays."  The scheduled hour turned into an hour & a half!  and it's chock full of great ideas and insights! The link to the recording hasn't been posted yet, but I'll flag it when it's available.  
  • I haven't had time to watch this one yet, but the lovely Karin Enfield deVries of Pure Transformations also chatted about the holidays in a recorded webinar with Yvonne John, Lauren DeVere and Sarah Lawrence
  • I saw this story on the news recently and searched out an online version I could share here:  two Halifax universities are sharing a Mi'kmaq "auntie-in-residence" whose role is to help Indigenous students to navigate campus life. The "auntie" they hired is just 28 years old -- obviously, she may still have children someday herself. Still, as a proud auntie, I was kind of tickled by the idea :)  and also by the fact that she pointed out, in her TV interview, that the focus is often on moms & grandmas while the special role aunties can play is often overlooked. Yes!  
  • From Anne Helen Petersen's Culture Study:  "You Don't Need To Get Married or Have a Kid To Have a Party." (The comments are great.)  Here's how it starts:  
When I was in the my late 20s and through my 30s, I spent a lot of money on engagement gifts, wedding gifts, baby showers, and baby “sprinkles.” I spent money on bridesmaids dresses and bachelorette parties and traveling to weddings and staying at the wedding and getting home from the wedding. I did it to celebrate my closest friends, and I’d do it again.

As it became clearer to me that I wouldn’t have those sorts of socially-validated celebrations in my own life, I remember feeling a sort of soft, very background, very subdued form of resentment. Not directed at anyone in particular, but at the way we’ve organized our celebrations towards a very narrow slice of “achievement.”

Last week I also explored the pleasures of living alone, and that clearly struck a chord: Hundreds of you chimed in to say that you, too, bristle at the assumptions that others make about our households of one. Several of you used a word that I wish I had: solitude. That’s what we have and what we relish and what sometimes gets mistaken for loneliness or mislabeled as isolation.

Several of you also brought up an adjacent misimpression: that people without children failed in their attempts to have them, are failing everybody else or are somehow incomplete. Or can’t process the world in the same deeply feeling, exquisitely concerned way that parents do. One reader noted how common — and how grating — it is when television news journalists weigh in after the latest school shooting with some version of the statement, “As a parent, I really understand this.”

We childless people really understand it, too, because while we don’t have offspring, we have hearts and brains. We have souls and consciences. We care about a world beyond ourselves, just as parents do, and we care about the future, even if we won’t have direct descendants in it.

To that end, I’ve never noticed some stark dividing line between how parents (or grandparents) and childless people vote, with the former group demonstrating greater concern for a safe, clean, civil society. People aren’t reducible that way. We’re maddeningly and gloriously complicated, and we’d do better by one another to hold tight to that thought.

    (Beware the comments!)  

Thursday, December 15, 2022

"Killers of a Certain Age" by Deanna Raybourn

I think it was Mel who flagged "Killers of a Certain Age" by Deanna Raybourn on Goodreads as a "want to read" pick -- and as soon as I read the premise, I knew that it was something I wanted to read too. :)  

This book reminded me a little of Richard Osman's "Thursday Murder Club" books -- but with a slightly younger and all-female cast of main characters.  And, oh yeah, THEY are the ones doing the killing.  All four women -- Billie, Mary Alice, Helen and Natalie -- have spent the past 40 years working together as a crack team of highly trained elite assassins for a secretive organization known as "the Museum," which had its beginnings in the aftermath of the Second World War.  After hunting down surviving Nazis, the organization turned its attention to ridding the world of dictators, drug lords, arms dealers, etc. 

Now about 60 years old -- all childless -- our four heroines have recently retired and are celebrating on an exclusive luxury cruise, courtesy of the organization they have served so faithfully and so well for so long. But then! Billie -- cooling off from a hot flash in a walk-in freezer (lol) -- spots the familiar face of a fellow operative on board, disguised in a staff uniform. They soon realize that THEY are his targets. But who ordered the hit on them, and why?  

The story is told mostly from Billie's point of view, and jumps back & forth between the present day and the past, beginning in late 1970s, when the quartet were new recruits and trainees. 

I found this book irresistible, just from reading the description, and it mostly lived up to my expectations. All the women were born in or around 1958, making them just a few years older than me (they'd be 64 today)  :)  and were recruited in late 1979, which is when I was starting university. There's some pithy commentary on aging, loss, sexism, retirement and the corporate world... and some laugh-out-loud funny parts too. 

Here's hoping for a sequel!!  

This would make a great movie -- there are fabulous parts for four actresses in their early 60s!  I Googled, and there's a huge list of possibilities for an age-appropriate potential cast. I thought of Jamie Lee Curtis & Emma Thompson right off the bat, but there are many others who would be equally great.  For "The Shepherdess" (the WW2-era assassin who trains the girls), I immediately pictured Vanessa Redgrave, or maybe Judi Dench, or, if neither of them is up it, perhaps Helen Mirren?  

I closed this book with a chuckle (be sure to read to the end of the acknowledgements) and a smile on my face. 5 stars on Goodreads.  

This was Book #48 read to date in 2022 (and Book #2 finished in December), bringing me to 107% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books! I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 5 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."  

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Odds & ends

  • This morning, we found out (via BIL) that LGN's other grandma (Older Nephew's MIL/his wife's mom) has covid. We saw her 8 days earlier (Friday, Dec. 2nd) when all of us went to watch LGN get his photo taken with Santa, and then had lunch together afterwards. (She & I sat directly across the table from each other.) Masks were removed at the restaurant (obviously), hugs were exchanged. 
    • So far, we're both feeling fine (and 8 days later, I *think* we should be in the clear...) -- and obviously, she could have picked up and developed the virus somewhere else, after she saw us -- but it's yet another unnervingly close call, with one week to go before we travel to see my family.  We rarely let down our guard and unmask in public/non-family settings -- but it seems like every time we have, someone later gets sick! (at least three times now that I can think of, including twice within the last few weeks...!).  
  • I posted on Dec. 5th that "After almost a month of smooth sailing, Bloglovin' is out again this morning (eyeroll & SIGH...)."  It had miraculously revived itself again the following day -- but the next morning (Dec. 7th), it was out again. Back again on Dec. 8th (yay!), out again on Dec. 9th (seriously?!). It's been out since then.  Make up your mind, Bloglovin...!  
  • Hear, hear!  An article in a British newspaper on one of my favourite soapbox subjects at this time of year:  "As a childless woman, I’m fed up of people treating Christmas as a kids’ holiday."  (Beware the comments.) 
  • Thanks to Stephanie Phillips of World Childless Week for flagging this article in a recent WCW newsletter, about a mom who wants help with her three kids and won't take "no" for an answer from a childless/free friend. (With "friends" like these...??)  
  • I recently flagged two articles from the New York Times about aging alone.  Frank Bruni, a former NYT columnist -- 58 years old and single -- takes issue with the image the articles reinforce, and provides an alternate perspective: "I Live Alone. Really, I’m Not That Pathetic." Quote: 
Both articles were important. They rightly expressed concern for older Americans who don’t have the resources or the kind of extended family that I do. They’re at risk. We should attend to that.  
But the articles nonetheless reminded me that in an era that exhorts everyone to respect the full range of human identity and expression, there can still be a whiff of stigma to living uncoupled in a household of one. There’s puzzlement over it, pity for it. Surely, you didn’t choose this. Possibly, you brought it on yourself.

...For many people, yes, living alone is a present or incipient danger. For many others, it’s bliss.