Sunday, December 31, 2023

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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2023 was not quite as prolific in blogging terms as the past several years have been. 2021 was my best year ever in terms of numbers of posts (213), followed by 2020 (197), and 2022 (193). I will wind up the year with 171 posts (including this one)  :) -- ranking #5 in terms of numbers of total posts for the year, just below 2008 (#4) with 172 posts. (And if I manage to squeeze in one more post after this, then they'll be tied!)  

That's an average of 14 posts per month -- a little less than a post every other day. My least-chatty month was this one -- December -- this will be post #10.  My most verbose was January, with 19 posts. Not bad, especially after 16 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 269,000+ views and 377 comments this year (page views way up from last year, but comments down -- go figure?). The top-viewed post of 2023  (that was written/posted IN 2023 -- was this one, with 176 views since it was posted on July 10th.   

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 43 #MicroblogMondays this year. I reviewed all 48 books that I read in 2023, and passed along and/or commented on news items, blog & Substack posts and podcasts, etc. (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, supporting my brother-in-law and his family through his liver transplant this past summer, dealing with service people, and condo living. There were lots of "odds & ends" posts, as well as lists of recent "small pleasures & annoying things."  And the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic (now in its FOURTH year) provided PLENTY of fodder for blogging!! 

Here are a few of my favourite/noteworthy posts from 2023, or ones that say "2023" to me -- in more or less chronological order (from oldest/earliest in 2023 to most recent): 



(Still working on an overall Year in Review post, and finding it hard going... that may have to wait until the actual new year!) 

2023 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.  :)  

(Note:  I have not linked to all the books mentioned here, but they are all reviewed on this blog.)  

  • I increased my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal from 36 books in 2021 to 45 books in 2022, and kept that goal for 2023.  I reached it by Dec. 7th, and wound up with 48 books to my credit by year end -- 3 books more than my goal, or 107%. (I was secretly hoping to do better -- perhaps equal or exceed 2021's total of 59 books -- but, still not a bad showing!) All books read were reviewed on this blog and tagged "2023 books."  
    • My Goodreads 2023 Year in Review report tells me I read 48 books with 16,980 pages (versus 50 books with 17,047 pages in 2022). 
      • The shortest book I read was "Mothering Sunday" by Graham Swift (208 pages); the longest was "The Cruellest Month" by Louise Penny (849 pages). 
      • Average book length was 353 pages. 
      • The most popular book I read ( = shelved by Goodreads readers) was "The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" by Taylor Jenkins Reid (5.1 million readers);  the least popular was "Living the Life Unexpected" by Jody Day (387 readers).   
      • The highest-rated book I read was "In Memoriam" by Alice Winn (4.5 stars). 
      • My average Goodreads rating in 2023 was 4.2 stars (same as last year).  
    • 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" and "reflective," followed by "mysterious," "lighthearted" and "funny."   
      • The majority of my books were medium-paced (60%). 23% were slow and 17% fast. 
      • 56% of my 2023 books were 300-499 pages;  38% were less than 300 pages and just 6% were over 500 pages. 
      • 79% of my 2023 books were fiction;  21% non-fiction. This is a big change from recent years! (I credit the many book clubs I take part in, which mostly focus on fiction.)
      • My most-read genre in 2023 was historical, followed by mystery and literary.    
      • StoryGraph also tracks the format of your books, but selects print as the default. I think this is the first year that most of my books read were recorded as digital -- 71%! (and just 29% print).  This is more accurate than previous years, but may still not be entirely correct:  some books do not have a "digital" option, in which case I choose print. 
      • Most-read authors in 2023:  D.E. Stevenson (6 books), followed by L.M. Montgomery and Louise Penny (5 books each), and Richard Osman (2). 
      • Average rating 4.11 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...!):  38 fiction, 10 non-fiction.
    • Re-reads -- which I started counting as books read in 2020 -- accounted for a good chunk of my 2023 total. It's difficult to make a firm calculation as to just how many, because some were books that I read on my own and then immediately afterward as part of a group readalong/discussion, while others were books that I've read in the past.  
    • My library book club held its last meeting in late February 2020 -- just before the pandemic hit -- and the "Clever Name" online book club hasn't operated since summer 2021.  But, online, the Gateway/Lighthouse Women/Childless Collective Nomo book club (I'm now one of the hosts!), D.E. Stevenson fan group, L.M. Montgomery Readathon on Facebook, Notes From Three Pines Readalong on Substack (which has gone silent in recent months), and Men Yell at Me book club hosted by Lyz Lenz on Substack, helped boost my 2023 reading totals and provided me with a lot of reading/discussion pleasure.   
      • My book groups were responsible for 23 of the 48 books I read in 2023 -- almost half!  I read 9 books for GW/LW/CC (including Jody Day's "Living the Life Unexpected"), 6 for DES (3 different books, each counted twice as re-reads), 5 for the L.M. Montgomery Readathon (2 different books, including 1 -- "Anne of the Island" -- counted twice this year as a re-read, plus two -- "Anne of Avonlea" and "Anne of Windy Poplars"-- read on my own), 2 for Lyz Lenz's "Men Yell at Me" book club, and one -- Lois Lowry's "The Giver" -- for a Zoom book discussion led by Lori Lavender Luz and her podcast co-hosts. 
        • I also read 5 of Louise Penny's Three Pines/Inspector Gamache mysteries (which would make 28 out of 48 books for book groups!), initially to keep up with a Substack readalong -- but there haven't been any new posts there since June. I've continued to read on my own anyway! 
    • As noted above, I reached my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal of 45 books by Dec. 7th, and ended the year with 48 books read -- but I didn't equal my 2021/best-recorded total of 59 books (when my goal was 36).  For 2024, I've decided to maintain my goal of 45 books ( = 3.75 books per month on average)(and hope to do better...!) -- which seems realistic for me right now. 
      • I've read more than 45 books in four of the past five years (2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023), and almost 45 -- 43 -- in 2020 -- so that seems very do-able.  But I'm hoping I'll be able to improve on 2023's 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 2024, 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, in no particular order (I haven't linked to them here, but they're all reviewed on Goodreads, StoryGraph and this blog): 
    • "In Memoriam" by Alice Winn 
    • "Tom Lake" by Ann Patchett 
    • "Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus
    • "The Last Devil to Die" by Richard Osman 
    • "Surrender:  40 Songs, One Story" by Bono 
    • "Spare" by Prince Harry 
    • "Wintering" by Katherine May
Did you meet your reading goals for 2023 (if you set any)? What great books did you read this past year? 

(2023 Blogging Year in Review coming up. Still working on an overall Year in Review post, and finding it hard going... that may have to wait until the actual new year!) 

Friday, December 29, 2023

"Anne of Windy Poplars" by L.M. Montgomery

My L.M. Montgomery Readathon Facebook group will begin reading & discussing "Anne's House of Dreams" together, chapter by chapter, on Jan. 15th.  It's chronologically the fifth book in the Anne series;  we read #3,  "Anne of the Island," last year (reviewed here and here). Being a completist, though, I decided I needed to try to fit in #4 first -- "Anne of Windy Poplars"  (called "Anne of Windy Willows" in the U.K.).  

It's been many years since I last read "Anne of Windy Poplars." It was written in 1936, later in Montgomery's life, in response to readers' (and her publishers') demands for "more Anne," and bridges the three-years gap in Anne's story between her graduation from Redmond College ("Anne of the Island," 1915) and her marriage to Gilbert Blythe ("Anne's House of Dreams," 1917). While Gilbert attends medical school, Anne assumes the position of principal of the high school in Summerside, Prince Edward Island (which, unlike some of the locations in the Anne books, is a real town on PEI) and finds a new home as a boarder at Windy Poplars with "the widows," known as "Aunt Kate" and "Aunt Chatty," and their feisty housekeeper, Rebecca Dew.  She makes new friends -- and enemies (the entire Pringle clan) -- and describes her adventures in detailed letters to Gilbert. 

Many readers regard "Windy Poplars" as a lesser entry in the Anne series -- and some of the material in it is, admittedly, "filler," and derivative of character types and vignettes from previous Anne books. And yet, the characters are amusing and well drawn, and some of the episodes are truly funny (e.g., dinner at Tomgallon House with a hostess who regales Anne non-stop with lurid tales of her family curse and its victims). I particularly enjoyed the description of a cozy Green Gables Christmas (especially since I was reading this book during my own Christmas holidays!).  And I found myself misty-eyed at the end, as Anne says goodbye to Windy Poplars and this in-between time in her life, and receives a memorable send-off from Rebecca Dew.  

I'm glad I didn't skip this one.

4 stars. 

This was Book #48 read to date in 2023 (and Book #4 finished in December), bringing me to 107% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books! :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

"The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I sometimes feel like I may be the last person on Earth to read  "The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" by Taylor Jenkins Reid, lol.  I have read (and enjoyed) a couple of her other books -- "Daisy Jones and the Six," and "Malibu Rising" (reviewed here and here, respectively) -- but this may be her most successful one. (It's certainly the one I see on more lists, etc.)  It's long been on my "want to read pile." Motivation arrived in the form of my Gateway/Lighthouse Women/Childless Collective book club: it's been selected for one of our upcoming reads. (Mild spoiler alert/trigger warning:  Evelyn is a mother -- but it's not the central thing about her in this book. She's a very strong and unconventional female character. There's plenty of fodder for discussion here!)  

Monique Grant, a young journalist at Vivant magazine, is startled when she learns that aging movie star Evelyn Hugo (think Golden Age movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, etc.), who rarely grants interviews, has specifically requested that she be assigned to interview her for a story about the dresses she's auctioning off for charity.  Monique is even more startled when Evelyn tells her she wants her to write her life story.  Evelyn has a motive for telling her story -- and for choosing to entrust it to Monique -- and she has several shocking secrets she wants to share -- including the answer to Monique's very first question:  who among her seven (!) husbands was the one true love of her life?  

Like "Daisy Jones" and "Malibu Rising," this was a fast and fun read, about rich and glamorous people in Hollywood -- just what I needed right now. (I read the first half of it in the airport lounge and on the plane en route to see my parents for Christmas.)  There's a bit of crossover here with "Malibu Rising" -- or perhaps that should be vice-versa, since this book came first...!  Mick Riva, Husband #3, also shows up in "Malibu Rising" -- although the timelines of the two books don't quite jibe:  according to "Malibu Rising," Mick is married and having a family at the same time he's supposed to be married to Evelyn in this book. Oh well, I guess this is why it's fiction...! (I just Googled Mick, and apparently he also shows up in "Daisy Jones," which I don't remember, and "Carrie Soto," which I haven't read yet.)  

4 stars on Goodreads and StoryGraph. 

This was Book #47 read to date in 2023 (and Book #3 finished in December), bringing me to 104% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books! :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Monday, December 18, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: A Christmas carol

We arrived at my parents' house on Saturday to spend the Christmas holidays with them.  Yesterday afternoon, Parents' Neighbours' Daughter (PND) dropped by with the two youngest of the three Little Princesses, including Little Princess #3, who will be 4 months old soon.  

While they were there, a group of carollers from my mom's church showed up. We crowded around the door as they serenaded us with a few songs. It's a small town, and many of them knew PND, who grew up here -- and (of course) they were thrilled to see the Littlest Princess. I'm not sure whether they had planned their repetoire in advance, but they launched into "Away in a Manger" for their second song. 

Even when I was a kid, that song was a never a favourite of mine... and I distinctly remember thinking, when I told my mom that I would rather not attend Christmas Eve service with her in 1998 (fresh from the loss of our Katie, who was due in November), that if nothing else, having to listen to the congregation singing "Away in a Manger" (a perennial choice for Christmas Eve service)  would finish me off. 

I will admit that as I looked at that adorable little girl in her mother's arms, staring in wide-eyed wonder at the people singing to her, I had tears stinging my eyes. 

But only briefly. (After that, they sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and moved on to the next house, taking away a box of candy that my dad produced from the pantry.) 

'Tis the season...!  

How are you all doing?  

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

Sunday, December 17, 2023

"The House on the Cliff" by D.E. Stevenson (re-read)

My online D.E. Stevenson group recently finished its chapter-by-chapter group read & discussion of  "The House on the Cliff," a 1966 Stevenson novel. (As usual, I read the book through on my own before we started going through it as a group. My original review here.)   

"The House on the Cliff" is a fairly typical DES novel: young Elfrida Jane Ware is a struggling young actress, in love with the handsome star of her current production (who doesn't seem to notice her at all), and missing her mother, who recently died after a long illness.  

Then she learns that the grandmother she never knew has also recently died, leaving her the sole heiress to Mountain Cross, the big old house by the sea in Devonshire where her mother grew up -- although not a lot of cash to fund the upkeep. Impulsively, she quits her job and heads to Devon to make a home for herself at Mountain Cross. She's just nicely settled into her new life when someone from her past pays her an unexpected visit... 

This was an easy read, a little old-fashioned and fairly predictable, but with Stevenson's usual cast of well-drawn, memorable characters and beautiful scenic descriptions.  

My original rating stands:  3.5 stars on StoryGraph, rounded down to 3 stars on Goodreads. 

ALI alert/content warning:  Plot elements include a child in jeopardy and a de facto adoption. 

Our group's next read will be "Bel Lamington" (one I haven't read -- or at least, I don't remember ever reading it), starting in the new year.  

This was Book #46 read to date in 2023 (and Book #2 finished in December), bringing me to 102% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books! :)  4 books ahead of schedule. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Monday, December 11, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Pre-holiday odds & ends

  • It's a William Tell Overture kind of day/week/month around here...! (The link goes to a past post where I explain what I mean!) 
  • The Childless Collective Virtual Summit is over for another year. It was a busy week (see above, lol), so I wasn't able to watch as much of it on the day-of as I would have liked -- although what I did see was pretty great!  Thank goodness for the Pace Yourself Pass! (which will let me watch the segments I missed on my own timetable for the next 365 days).   
    • I think Katy (Seppi, who organized the event) said there were something like 3,000 people registered this year, and 500 who joined the pop-up group on Mighty Networks.  As someone who's been around online childless communities for 20+ years now (!), those numbers are MINDBLOWING. 
  • Among the stuff keeping us busy last week (besides the summit):  setting up & decorating the Christmas tree, doing my Christmas cards, Christmas shopping at two different malls plus other stores, haircuts and a cemetery visit back in our old community, and the usual laundry, housecleaning, etc.  
  • Also this:  A week ago Saturday (Dec. 2nd), BIL called to ask if we wanted to go with him & SIL that afternoon to see one of his & dh's cousins, who recently got the all-clear after almost a year of dealing with cancer surgery and treatment. We said yes. The cousin's adult daughter, who teaches kindergarten and lives with her parents, was there, and the cousin's brother (who was our neighbour in our old community) also came over. We all had a really nice visit, laughing and talking and eating for several hours, and celebrating her clean bill of health, as well as BIL's successful liver transplant last summer. 
    • You can probably guess where this is going.  Wednesday, this cousin texted us:  her teacher daughter had just tested positive for covid.  :(   (It's running rampant through her school right now.)  
    • Almost immediately, I started feeling a tickle in my throat. I woke up the next morning and it was still there. I was also horribly fatigued all day. :(  
    • There were logical explanations:  it's been very dry in our condo unit (even though we have the humidifier running constantly) -- plus I woke up around 3 a.m. that morning and couldn't go back to sleep, so I wound up getting up around 5 (!). (So yeah, I was tired...!) 
    • Nevertheless, I worked myself into a panic. WHY had we taken a risk and exposed ourselves, so close to our departure to see my parents for Christmas??  I debated whether to test, and decided I'd gargle with saltwater, pop a few ibuprofen, rub on some Saje Immune essential oil blend (including eucalyptus, tea tree oil and cinnamon) and see how I felt the next day. (And started checking out alternate flight availability up to Christmas Eve, just in case we had to postpone out travel plans...!) 
    • The next day I woke up feeling a whole lot better. (A better night's sleep definitely helped.)  And I've felt fine since then. No further potential symptoms. THANK GOODNESS.   
    • BIL & SIL tested negative, and the cousin & her husband are fine too. 
    • I texted her last night to see how they were doing, and she said there were 7 kids absent from her daughter's class last week, and enough teachers at her school out sick that they had to hold their planned professional development day last Friday over Zoom, instead of in person. 
    • (ETA:  See comments for a further update!) 
  • Older Nephew posted a photo from Little Great-Nephew's classroom on Instagram last week:  the teachers made a construction paper tree with a leaf for each student, and they printed something about each child on it. For LGN:  "[LGN] likes to share and is always kind."  Older Nephew said he got all choked up when he saw that. Dh & I did too!  :)  
    • (It should be noted that LGN is not always enthusiastic to share -- especially when it comes to his baby cousin, lol.  But he is generally a kind-hearted little guy, just like his dad & uncle!)  
  • My L.M. Montgomery Readathon Facebook group just announced our next book, which we'll begin discussing together, chapter by chapter, on Jan. 15th: "Anne's House of Dreams." This is one that's a big favourite among our group -- and I know it's near & dear to many loss mothers' hearts, including mine. (Nevertheless, I will NOT be volunteering to do a video reading of Chapter 19...!)
    • (But -- do I have time before then to squeeze in the previous book, in the series, "Anne of Windy Poplars"?? -- known as "Anne of Windy Willows" in the UK. I do like to keep to chronological story order, where possible...!) 
  • My brand-new Kobo e-reader (purchased in late October) recently stopped syncing and downloading new books -- AGAIN.  I decided to try signing out of my account & then signing back in again, and once again, it worked like a charm.  :)  The drawback being that I had to reinput the wifi password and re-download books all over again. And all my bookmarks were gone too. (If I'd had any non-Kobo-purchased books on there, those would have been deleted too.)  But! -- I can download books to read again!  
  • Myles Goodwyn, the lead singer of the classic Canadian rock band April Wine, died in Halifax on Dec. 3.   He was 75.  April Wine was one of the few big CanRock bands of my youth that I never did see in concert, but their music -- his distinctive voice -- was part of the soundtrack of my growing-up years. (I can always pick out an April Wine song instantly.)  
  • From The Guardian: "‘I fret about the years that lie ahead’: the unique caring burden of single childless daughters." (Subhead:  "A ‘highly naturalised’ assumption within many families about who will care for ageing parents can be a vexed issue for the daughters left carrying the load.")  So glad to see articles like this that reflect the reality of so many aging childless women (and dispel some of the myths too!). 
  • A thoughtful story from the New York Times ("Why Anonymous Sperm Donation Is Over, and Why That Matters") explores the implications -- pro & con -- of ending secrecy for sperm and egg donors.  
  • Bruce Grierson nails the allure -- and problems -- with Substack newsletters in this (gift-linked) opinion piece from the Globe & Mail. (Ummm... *cough*)  (I have 6 paid Substack subscriptions, but many more freebies...)  
  • Speaking of Substacks (lol), I loved this wonderful essay about infertility from Helen Davenport-Peace. Worth a read! 
  • And I could really relate to this piece from Jennie Agg:  "What a performance: On other people's pregnancies and the roles we're required to play." 
  • I loved this opinion piece by Brad Stulberg from the New York Times: "Not Everything Has to Be Meaningful."  Sample quote: 
    “Why does what you are experiencing right now need to have some greater purpose?” she asked me. “Not everything has to be meaningful and you don’t have to grow from it. Why can’t it just suck, at least for the time being?” 
  • Not ALI-related, but also Substack-related, and totally relatable (to me, anyway): I've been reading "The Direction of Motion" by Kathy Valentine of the Go-Gos, who is packing up her life in preparation for a move to England, where her mother was from.  (Her memoir, which I read & reviewed a few years back, is also a great read!) This passage from her latest post really resonated:  
This is maybe the hardest thing of aging. They’d have you think it’s all about your appearance and physicality changing, your health changing. We know about supplements and wellness and the likelihood of meds for ailing systems, and if I choose, I can get my neck or eyes or jowls lifted. But the real thing is time. The acute, stinging awareness of time as a finite resource, pulsing alongside my heartbeat, underneath every impulse and thought. There’s nothing to fix there, and damn it makes me ruthless and harsh about protecting my mystery allotment of time while becoming simutaneously more gentle and tolerant of everything else, even people. Even me sometimes.

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

Thursday, December 7, 2023

"The Travelling Cat Chronicles" by Hiro Arikawa , Philip Gabriel (Translator)

Confession time:  contrary to childless/free stereotyping, dh & I don't have pets -- and if I had to make a choice, I'll admit I'm more of a dog person than a cat person (although I don't mind cats). And when it comes to reading, I've never been a big fan of books about animals, although I was exposed to lots of them in school. In elementary/primary/grade school, the teacher would often read us a book, a chapter at a time, when we got back from lunch, before diving into the afternoon's lessons and activities. Among the titles I remember are "Black Beauty," "Black Gold," "Misty of Chincoteague," "The Incredible Journey," "The Yearling," etc.  So many of these titles were (in my memory, anyway) horribly sad, and they honestly just didn't interest me as much as books about people did. 

So I'll admit "The Travelling Cat Chronicles" by Hiro Arikawa (translated by Philip Gabriel) isn't a book I likely would have picked up on my own. It's the January read for my Childless Collective/Nomo Book Club (and I'll be leading the discussion!).  

Nana is a stray (male) cat, taken in by a young Japanese man named Satoru, because Nana reminds him of his childhood pet, Hachi.  (Nana means Seven in Japanese, and Satoru decides on the name because Nana's tail is bent like the number 7). They live together happily for several years -- until Satoru explains to Nana that he can no longer keep him (for reasons that are not initially clear).  Together, cat and human travel around Japan in Satoru's silver van, visiting some of Satoru's childhood friends and vetting them as potential new owners. Through these friends, we gain insight into Satoru's formative years and experiences. 

I sensed pretty quickly where this story was going. Kleenex was required at the end.  There is, however, a dose of humour provided by the proud and feisty Nana, who narrates most of the book. 

From a childless perspective, this is a a pretty "safe" read. Bonus:  near the end, we're introduced to Satoru's (single and childless, awkward but loving) aunt who raised him, and get a few surprise revelations about his past.  

3.5 stars on StoryGraph. I debated whether that should be rounded up or down on Goodreads, and settled on 4 stars.  I wasn't immediately captivated by this book, but it did wrap up rather nicely. 

This was Book #45 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in December), bringing me to 100% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books! :)  4 books ahead of schedule. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."  

Monday, December 4, 2023

#MicroblogMondays: Scattered

I feel like my brain is running off in 20 different directions at once  lately.  :p  Too much to do, too many distractions, too little time before we head west for Christmas.  

The Childless Collective Summit is on right now (until tomorrow), and while I've managed to watch several presentations, there are still a LOT left on my watch list.  I'm finding it hard to just sit down and watch, when there are so many other priorities to tend to right now.  Thank goodness for the Pace Yourself Pass! 

My email inbox just keeps filling up, and takes longer and longer to wade through these days.  So many great newsletters I want to read, so little time right now... 

My Christmas cards are stacked in a pile, untouched, waiting to be done. 

I would love to do some Christmas baking, but I think I'll have to wait to satisfy my baking itch until I'm "home" with my mom & sister...  (The Kitchen Aid stand mixer I got at this time last year is STILL untouched!)  

I have ONE book left to reach my Goodreads goal for the year, and I'm ALMOST finished -- but things keep getting in the way...!  (And my brand-new e-reader has been having some sync issues again... grrrrrr....) 

I'm dying to work more on my family tree, fuelled by the results of my DNA test, and my mom's. I've been corresponding with my dad's 2nd cousin about the results and the family ties we share, but responding takes time. 

Current global events are certainly distracting (and concerning). :(  

Plus there's all the usual mundane day-to-day stuff that needs to be done -- the laundry, the housecleaning...  

And I know there's lots more I haven't mentioned here. 

But we ARE getting SOME things done. We still have Christmas shopping to do, but we went to the mall last week (and a few local stores too), and made a good dent in the list. We're going back tomorrow too. Prioritizing dh's side of the family first, since I'll still have some time before Christmas to fill in the gaps for my side of the family once we get to my parents'.  

Dh took it upon himself to shred a big pile of papers this afternoon. It didn't take that long to do, once he started, but it had been sitting there (and growing!) and taking up space on my to-do list for MONTHS now. Glad to cross that one off the list!  

Also this afternoon, we hauled the Christmas tree out of our front closet and set it up. :)  We'll bring the decorations up from our storage locker in the parking garage tomorrow. Just having it up, and the extra light it gives, makes me very happy.  :)  

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

Friday, December 1, 2023

Right now

Right now...* 

*(an occasional (mostly monthly) meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"). (Explanation of how this started & my inspirations in my first "Right now" post, here. Also my first "The Current" post, here.)

Pandemic diary/update: November was month #44 (3.5+ years) since the COVID-19 pandemic began. We remain covid-free (knocking wood, loudly...), and continue to mask in most stores and other public places, especially where there are a lot of people. 

But we continue to hear about others -- including friends & relatives, and friends & relatives of friends & relatives -- who have recently tested positive, many of them for the first time, 3.5 years later...!  -- my sister among them!  :(  (Better November than Christmas, I guess, but...!)  There was an article in the Toronto Star last weekend (and I hope that link isn't behind a paywall -- no gift link option, unfortunately...) noting that both Ontario's covid wastewater signal and hospitalizations nationally are the highest they've been in a year. Quote: "Your chance of being exposed is very high."  

November was increasingly grey, gloomy & chilly, especially once the time changed (which had me considering dusting off the "I hate November" label, lol). It also flew by pretty quickly! -- both a good thing and a bad thing, considering how little Christmas shopping & prep I'd done until this week...!  

Among other things this month, we: 
  • Had our HVAC unit/fan coil inspected and cleaned on Nov. 3rd -- for the first time since we moved here, (gulp!) 7+ years ago, and probably for the first time since the building was constructed, a year or two before that!  All was well, and the two young guys who showed up (one a trainee) called when they were running late, knew their stuff, and were very polite. Despite the rigamarole to get them here, I'd have them back in the future. 
  • Dropped a bundle at the drugstore (Nov. 3rd)(holy cow, stuff is expensive now... and of course, nothing that I needed was on sale at that moment...!).  
  • Got badly needed haircuts on Nov. 4th, after which we headed to BIL's house. All the kids & grandkids -- and the dog! :)  -- were there for the afternoon (except for Older Nephew's wife, who was working). (The guys were changing their car tires to winter tires -- they store them in BIL's garage.) 
  • Drove to a community about an hour north of here on Sunday, Nov. 5th, for a fun afternoon with some of dh's cousins. :) One cousin's two adult (mid-20s) sons have set up a virtual/simulated golf business, and they invited us all to come try it out for a few hours. (Balls provided, bring your own clubs.) There are no employees; bookings, building access, etc., are all done virtually.  I do not golf, but even I took a few whacks with dh's long-neglected clubs, although I spent most of my time socializing. :)  
  • Went shopping for the great-niblings at ToysRUs and Carters on Nov. 8th. Also popped into Kitchen Stuff Plus, and the postal outlet at the drugstore to buy a box to return my old TV receiver in. Returned on Nov. 13th to ship the receiver back to the telecomm company. 
  • Spent an hour with our personal banker on Nov. 9th, opening a RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan) for Little Great-Niece, same as we did for Little Great-Nephew. Stopped by Younger Nephew's house briefly right afterward to have his wife (LGNiece's mom) sign some forms, then went back to the bank to return them. (And had to return to the bank the next day to sign one more form...!)  It certainly won't be enough to pay for all of their post-secondary schooling or training, but it will help...!  I only wish we could have done the same for the nephews/their dads when they were younger. (Of course, we thought we'd have our own children to educate then...) 
  • Had to call in a plumber on Nov. 10th, when our kitchen sink refused to drain (despite repeated doses of baking soda & vinegar, then Liquid Plum-r, and plunging) -- and then started leaking into the cupboard underneath and onto the kitchen floor...!  He snaked the pipes to clear the clog (eww....) and replaced the drain basket (?).  We cleaned the kitchen thoroughly after he left, including mopping the floors (on top of doing the regular weekly housecleaning)... by mid-afternoon, we were both beat!   
  • Drove with BIL & SIL up to Older Nephew's house on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 12th.  BIL & dh spent the afternoon in the back yard, helping ON build a skating rink for Little Great-Nephew. It's been WAY too mild for ice to form (I've heard rumblings about whether the backyard skating rink -- I learned to skate on one myself -- is doomed, (no) thanks to climate change...) -- but when the colder weather comes (as it surely will!), the rink will be ready! 
  • Returned to Older Nephew's with BIL & SIL on Saturday, Nov. 18th, to celebrate Little Great-Nephew's 4th (!) birthday!  :)  Younger Nephew, his wife and Little Great-Niece were there, as well as Older Nephew's Wife's mom & her partner. We had such a good time -- and even got big hugs from LGN before we went home!  :)  
  • Made a joint trip to the supermarket on Nov. 20th. 
  • Headed into midtown Toronto for our regular 6-month dental cleanings and checkups on Nov. 23rd. (No cavities!)  
    • Also dropped by our optometrist's office (same neighbourhood) to pick up a couple more containers of the lid wipes he recommended I use. 
  • Spent a couple of hours at BIL & SIL's house on Sunday (Nov. 26th):  Older Nephew & his wife were attending a fundraiser at a nearby banquet hall and left Little Great-Nephew with his grandparents. 
    • Stopped at the supermarket on our way home to pick up a few things, including some takeout soup for dinner.  
  • Went Christmas shopping at a nearby mall on Tuesday (Nov. 28th). (Unmasked while having an early -- 11:30 a.m. -- lunch in the food court.)
  • More Christmas shopping on Wednesday (Nov. 29th), locally, at Chapters (mega-bookstore), Best Buy, Mark's Work Wearhouse, Reitmans (women's wear) & Carters/Oshkosh. 
25 years ago, in November 1998,  I was supposed to have been giving birth to a baby girl. It didn't happen; she was stillborn in early August.  Instead of being on maternity leave, I was back at work, enduring the frantic year-end season (something I'd gleefully thought I was going to get to avoid that year...).  In 2008, I marked her due date (the first of several in November I was given, actually) with this post:   
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Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 4 books in  November (reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads & StoryGraph, & tagged "2023 books").  
This brings me to 44 books read to date in 2023,  98% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. :)  I am currently (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. (I also started the month at 3 books ahead of schedule.)  

Current read(s): 
Coming up: Most of my book groups have their next reads plotted out for a few months in advance -- and listing them here helps me keep track of what I should be reading next. ;)  
A few recently purchased titles (mostly in digital format, mostly discounted ($5-10 or less) or purchased with points):  

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  • Season 2 of "World on Fire" on PBS (just 6 episodes total), which began airing on Oct. 15th and wrapped up on Nov. 19th.  
  • The 110th Grey Cup (the championship game of the Canadian Football League) on Nov. 19th, played this year in Hamilton, Ontario -- the one football game I will happily watch every year (eat your heart out, Super Bowl! lol).  
  • This holiday ad -- my favourite that I've seen so far! (Even if it is for Amazon, lol.)  
  • To some Christmas music on the car radio, late in the month. :)  
  • To Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos of Silent Sorority, who was Christine Erickson's guest on the New Legacy Radio podcast earlier in the month, discussing "When the Personal is Political What is our Responsibility?"
  • To (a heavily abridged version of) "Miss Buncle's Book" by D.E. Stevenson -- perhaps her best-known work -- on BBC. (Since it's heavily abridged, I'm not counting it as another book read.) Episodes are being broadcast live nightly at 22:45 GMT, but you can listen to all 10 14-minute episodes online until Dec. 17th.  (I'll admit I'm not wild about the narration, but the story is fun.) From the website:  
As ripples from the Great Depression reach a cosy English village, Barbara Buncle finds an inventive way to supplement her meagre income. Life in Silverstream will never be the same once her thinly fictionalised novel has laid bare the life, loves and eccentricities of her neighbours.
Scottish author D.E. Stevenson was a prolific name in the light romantic fiction genre, topping best seller lists from the 1930s to the 1960s. MISS BUNCLE’S BOOK, her best-known publication, is a delight; funny, engaging and well worth rediscovering 50 years after the author’s death.

To Heardle Decades: Stats as of Nov. 30th:   
  • Heardle 60s:  77.1% (330/428, 146 on first guess), about the same as last month. Max. streak: 15. 
  • Heardle 70s:  81.2% (138/170, 82 on the first guess), up from last month. Max. streak: 18. (Can you tell what decade I grew up in??  lol) 
  • Heardle 80s:  44.9% (22/49,  10 on the first guess), up several points from last month. Max. streak: 4. 
  • Heardle 90s: 33.5% (55/164, 13 on the first guess), down from last month. Max. streak: 4. 
Following: The progress of my DNA sample, online, via Ancestry (which arrived on Nov. 12th, after my mom's arrived about two weeks earlier).  Since then, I've been checking in every day to see if we have any new matches (they've mostly been distant cousins, estimated 5th to 8th cousins), and continuing to try to figure out how all these people are related to us. 

Connecting (so far!):  With my second cousin, once removed, on my dad's side (his mother -- still here, at 101! -- and my grandmother were first cousins) -- he knows my dad & his siblings, but we've never met -- as well as a fourth cousin in Australia on my maternal grandfather's branch (his great-great grandfather and my great-great grandmother were siblings).  

Eating/Drinking:  Takeout dinners this month included chicken souvlaki, rotisserie chicken and rice bowls. Lots of takeout soups and pizza slices for lunch, too!  

Little Great-Nephew's birthday dinner included rigatoni with alfredo sauce for me (tomato/meat sauce for everyone else), sausages, fried potatos, rapini and salad, as well as birthday cake, of course. (LGN's mom is an excellent cook!)  

As I mentioned here, I got a recipe for a really tasty butternut squash quinoa salad from dh's cousin's wife, and made it for dh & me. It served as lunch for both of us for four straight days! (plus a side dish at dinner one night). 

Buying (besides books, lol):  An Ancestry DNA test for dh (whose curiosity was piqued by my & my mom's results!). (See "Following," above.)  

I ordered my Christmas cards from Chapters/Indigo online during a sale early in the month (30% off with my membership card)(along with some books, of course, lol...). Now to get them actually done and mailed...!  

Stocked up on the products I use regularly from Clinique during a pre-Black Friday sale. 

Ordered "I'm With the Banned" (as in books, lol) T-shirts for me AND for my sister's Christmas stocking from an Etsy dealer.  And two mugs (ditto) from a local Winnipeg small business emblazoned with a phrase used by Winnipeg-born ob-gyn Dr. Jen Gunter in dealing with an online troll:  "Bitch, I'm from Winnipeg."  LOL!!  (Mug photo & story here and here -- there are T-shirts too, but they were sold out when I went to order.) 

I bought several T-shirts for myself on sale at Old Navy -- several of which I will need to exchange/return, since I misjudged the sizes I'd need. :p  (One too small and the others too big!)  

Wearing: Reluctantly made the switch over to long yoga pants, long-sleeved T-shirts and socks (and sometimes slippers and/or a cardigan too) around the house. Mid-month, I dusted off my holiday-themed PJ tops from Old Navy. :)  By the end of the month, I had pulled my down-filled "puffer" jacket from the closet. (Brrr!)     

Noticing:  How much darker (since the time change) and chillier it's become...! (and drier, in the house -- low 30s%, some mornings -- started up the Dyson humidifier/purifier again...) (So far, so good -- which is good, because the one-year warranty expired in October...!)   

Enjoying: How quiet it was on my social media feeds and in my email inbox over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday!  lol  I was able to scan those very quickly, and focus on my book instead!  :)  

Trying:  Not to panic over how little time is left before we head west for Christmas...!  (eeeekkkkk....) 

Appreciating:  The sun, when it deigns to show up...!  :p  

Wanting:  I honestly can't think of too much right now that I desperately want. And that's probably a good thing.  :)  (Although it makes dh's Christmas shopping a lot harder, lol.) 

Wondering:  Whether we will be invited to Little Great-Nephew's school Christmas concert/pageant??  (It's a Catholic school, so it definitely won't be a "holiday" concert -- something that drives my very Catholic SIL up the wall...!)  I think it would be hilarious. 

Prioritizing: Christmas preparations! 

Anticipating:  The third Childless Collective Virtual Summit, which starts TOMORROW and runs for four days!  All sessions will be available online for FREE for 24 hours -- and you can purchase a pass that will give you access to all the presentations for a full year, so you can watch and re-watch them at your leisure. (The price will increase when the summit starts, though, so if you're interested, TODAY is the time to get one!) 

Hoping:  To stay healthy until we head west for Christmas in a few weeks' time (and while we're there too!).  

Counting down:  Until we leave!  :) 

Loving:  I was in the local mega-bookstore this week, and they were playing Elton John's "Step into Christmas" on the sound system -- and I actually started smiling, and feeling some of the Christmas spirit descending on me, for the first time this season!  :)  Hoping this bodes well for December!  

Feeling: Slightly panicky over the rapidly approaching Christmas holidays (so much to do, so little time...!) -- but also looking forward to it, and to being "home" with my parents and sister.  :)