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Monday, December 31, 2018

Books Read in 2018

Here is my list of books  read in 2018. Some I will read again and some I have read at least once before.

My 2018 Favorite Books

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman
Symposium - Muriel Spark
The Bookshop - Penelope Fitzgerald
The Bell - Iris Murdoch
Farther Afield - Miss Read
Angel - Elizabeth Taylor 
A View of the Harbour - Elizabeth Taylor
The Keeper of Lost Things - Robin Hogan

I would be hard pressed to pick my absolute favorite book for the year, any of the above would qualify.

My 2018 Least Favorite Book 

The Rotters Club - Johnathan Coe

I persevered and finished it, but did not enjoy  at all.


Fall of The Giants - Ken Follett
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman
The Stories of Muriel Spark - Muriel Spark
Symposium - Muriel Spark
Tales of the City - Armistead Maupin
Mr. Pye - Mervyn Peake
The End of The Affair - Graham Greene
A Few Green Leaves - Barbara Pym
The Bookshop - Penelope Fitzgerald
O Pioneers! - Willa Cather
A Far Cry From Kensington - Muriel Spark
Cider With Rosie - Laurie Lee
The Bell - Iris Murdoch
The Girls of Slender Means - Muriel Spark
Summer in Fairacre - Miss Read
The Fairacre Festival - Miss Read
The Martian - Andy Weir
Marker - Robin Cook
Changes at Fairacre - Miss Read
Farther Afield - Miss Read
Kim - Rudyard Kipling
An Unsuitable Attachment - Barbara Pym
The Pursuit of Love - Nancy Mitford
Love in a Cold Climate - Nancy Mitford
The English Major - Jim Harrison
Animal Sanctuary - Sarah Falkner (didn't finish)
Angel - Elizabeth Taylor
A View of the Harbour - Elizabeth Taylor
The Private Patient - PD James
The Mistletoe Murder and other short stories - PD James
Alternate Side - Anna Quindlen
Black And Blue - Anna Quindlen
The Keeper of Lost Things - Robin Hogan
The Lido - Libby Page
A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman
The Blood of an Englishman - Agatha Raisin
Fiction Can Be Murder - Becky Clark (didn't finish)
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion
The Clear Light Of Day - Penelope Wilcock
The Rotters' Club - Johnathan Coe
Dashing Through the Snow - Mary Higgins Clark/Carol Higgins Clark
Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
Down To Earth - Faith Addis


Seasons of My Life  - Hannah Hauxwell with Barry Cockcroft
Island Home - Tim Winton


The Little Book of Vegan Poems - Benjamin Zephaniah

What did you read in 2018 that you really enjoyed?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Book Review - Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I really enjoyed this book. The premise is quite different to most novels, the main character, Ursula Todd, dies and is born over and over again. But do not be fooled by my description, it is not science fiction, it is not a ghost story, rather it is a story of second chances.

The story begins at the beginning of the 1900's and moves through WWI and WWII. Ursula is the third of five children in her upper middle class English family. Ursula comes into the world one cold and snowy winters day, the cord is around her neck she is dead. Ursula comes into the world one cold and snowy winters day, the doctor has made it to the house he snips the cord around her neck she lives. Throughout the book Ursula is born into the world one cold and snowy winters day, each time the telling is a little different, did Ursula herself manipulate the changes? This is something I have pondered upon since finishing the book.

Ursula lives many versions of her life, most are very similar versions, yet each version is different. Sometimes her life gets so awful you are glad she is able to die and essentially start from the beginning again. We are never quite sure how much Ursula realizes she is living and dying the same life over and over, except there is an awareness that she is different, felt even by those around her, particularly her mother and father. In one life she visits a psychiatrist, in another she has sort of deja-vu moments and takes decisive action to change the course of events.

The big take away for me is that no matter what choices we make in life and the consequences that occur because of those choices, life is not perfect, bad things happen, people die unexpectedly, good things happen, our only choice is how we chose to cope with the life that happens to us. Ultimately I think it is a very positive message, we are here, we should do our best to live our best life and that is really all anyone can do.

I look forward to reading more books by this author.

Peace be with you,


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Christmas 2018 and A Look Back At 2018

Another Christmas has come and gone. Christmas 2018 was very nice, a fun day with our family. Dave and I started the day by going to Mass and the for the rest of the day it was good food, fun games, gift exchange, and a good time just being together - really the best part. Now we look forward to New Years Day and all that 2019 will bring to us.

We had planned to go to Midnight Mass but I was struck down with a stomach bug on Christmas Eve and spent the day on the sofa sipping Sprite, and headed off to bed early.  The stomach bug, thankfully, was fast moving. Granddaughter Alivia started throwing up on Friday evening, her Dad and sister succumbed to the bug on Saturday, and her Mom on Christmas Eve. Daughter Amber and four of her boys got it on Sunday, and her husband and oldest son got it on Christmas Eve.  Yesterday our son Ben came down with it, so it will be only a matter of time before his wife and son get it. The bug only lasts about twelve hours, but for several days after you have no appetite at all, at this time of year we are all likely to over-indulge food wise, so it is perhaps not a bad side effect!  Anyway, for the most part everyone is feeling well again.

Looking back over 2018, it was a sad year, we lost my father-in-law in July, Ralph was 88, he lived a good life and was a good man and we are thankful that he had a peaceful death surrounded by family. It was a year of fun, lots of birthday celebrations, holiday celebrations, a big party when my husband turned 60. Job changes for some of our children and their spouses, all for the better. A wonderful visit with my parents at the end of September when they drove to Indiana to visit all of us, before heading off to Colorado to visit my sister and her husband, and then on to Arizona to visit my youngest sister and her family, then back to sunny Florida. A long road trip for two seventy-nine years old, young at heart, people to make.  All in all it was a good year.

For myself, I feel as if I have come out of a tunnel, I mentioned in a previous post I was struggling with my upcoming birthday, I will be fifty-five. I seem to have resolved my negative feelings about it. Since turning fifty I have been through a lot, and perhaps now feel as if I am in a good place. Firstly I lost a lot of weight, a hundred and ten pounds and have kept it off. I can tell you it is life changing to lose that much weight, of course it is a very positive thing, but it takes a long time, years to pass, to mentally accept that you are no longer obese. It is weird, I don't think I can really explain it, it just is a huge mental adjustment. People treat you differently, most are very positive and encouraging, a few (and only a very few) disparaging and hurtful. The adjustment of moving from losing weight, it took just over a year, to maintaining the weight loss, a rest of my life job is scary at first. For me the weight loss brought with it a sense of freedom and a new lease on life and a sense of loss all at the same time. After three plus years of maintaining the weight loss I am  finally feeling a bit of confidence that I can do this for the rest of my life and not obsess so much about gaining back all the weight. I had some personal struggles through the past five years, but never did I give in to comfort food, I did succumb to wine for a while, but seem to have nipped that in the bud. I have learned a lot about self-discipline over the past five years, I exercise most days, and eat a very healthy diet, this has strengthened other areas of my life, I don't procrastinate, I keep things organized, I like a tidy house. And I think most importantly my faith has increased, I find Mass to be so very comforting, I walk into the sanctuary at our church and feel as if I am home, in the right place, I feel peace, I feel calm and focused. For a while, a year or longer in the past five years I went through quite a dry period in my faith, now I look at it as the "Footprints" prayer, as I see that God carried me for a long time, he never left my side, I strayed from him. I am glad that now there are two sets of footprints! So, I am looking straight ahead into 2019 and am ready to deal with all the ups and downs, the good and the bad, the happiness and the sadness that it is bound to bring and know that whatever happens, with God on my side I will be able to get through it.

Peace and best wishes to you all for 2019.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

A New Tradition For Our Family - Breakfast With Santa

Our oldest son Matt has taken on the role of Santa Claus. After a breakfast feast Uncle Matt, Dad to Alivia and Aubrey, disappeared and a little while later Santa Claus appeared. Poor Matt he missed the entire visit with Santa. But the children didn't, and boy oh boy what fun they had. It was a really good time for everyone and we have decided to make it an annual tradition.  I am not sure who had the most fun, Matt or the children.

Enjoy the pictures.

Advent Reflections

We are almost to the third Sunday of Advent, in the Catholic church it is known as Gaudete Sunday, as Mass is celebrated the Priest will wear Rose (pink) vestments, the pink candle will be lit in the advent wreath. We are getting close to the celebration of the first coming of Christ. 

This week I attended a Penance service, it was a simple, we sang a hymn, no music, listened to a reading and reflection, recited the Act of Contrition together and then waited to go to confession. Nine priests were on hand, so the wait was not long, but it is a good time to reflect, pray and prepare for confession. In fact I spent most of Tuesday praying, reflecting and preparing for confession. You see it a sacrament that I should partake of much more frequently than I do. I cannot remember when I last went, a good number of years ago. 

After talking with the priest, confessing my sins, he spoke to me and gave me my penance. I have cherished the words of the priest, they brought much comfort, and challenge to live my life for Christ, and his words gave me peace. It is hard to go to confession, but it brings so much peace, why, oh why, do I allow so much time to go by between confessions.

From an adult perspective I find Advent a time of spiritual reflection, and hopefully spiritual growth. But as a grandmother to nine little ones I also find Advent to be so much fun, so it is a nice balance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Thoughts On Getting Older

In just a few months I will be fifty-five. I don't know why but it is really making me feel rather down. When I turned fifty I was all gung-ho, hey this isn't really old, I feel good, I still feel young. But suddenly the thought of turning fifty-five makes me feel old, sixty is looming on the horizon. YIKES.

I still feel good, I am active, healthy, busy with my hobbies, but I keep having the same thought over and over about turning fifty-five and feeling old.

Our household has all the signs of older adults living in it. A neat and tidy spare bedroom. Two other bedrooms turned into hobby rooms, as all children are grown up, married and raising their own families. Lots of house plants, lots of bird feeders, main hobbies for me, knitting and reading. Clean and organized closets and drawers. When did this happen?

I have had to back off of the daily running as I seem to have developed "runners knee", so instead do a daily four to five mile walk depending upon the time available to me. I am very predictable, I eat the same foods, take my vitamins and supplements daily, I go to bed by nine, get up by five, drink my coffee, drink my green tea, drink my water. I am a regular attender of Mass and find my faith life ever more important. I go to bed the dishes are washed, dried and put away, the trash taken out, the dog fed and watered, the cat fed, the living area left neat and tidy. I make our bed every morning and keep our room neat and tidy. The bathrooms are always clean. The laundry is always washed, dried, folded and put away the same day. I am super anal about lights being turned off. Bills are always paid promptly. Obviously it is much easier to run a household of two adults, rather than the chaos of raising a large family. But at times it depresses me to see so much organization, yet I find mess stressful, so I don't see that I will change my ways.

But back to my original thought, I feel really bummed out about my upcoming birthday, at times I just want to cry, how can I be this old? Where has the time gone? What have I done with my life? Youth is long gone. I feel as if I am invisible, just another older lady in the world, taking care of other people. And, don't get me wrong, I enjoy caring for my grandchildren, I enjoy caring for my husband, I enjoy caring for my adult children, I truly feel it is my calling, but is that it? Am I simply here on earth to tend to others? On days I feel really blue about this I simply keep telling myself, just keep on running girl, keep running, and this does seem to help. I see myself in my mind running away from, I don't really know what, just from the worries of getting older that keep snapping at my heels I guess.

At times I despair that there is not much to look forward to, only getting ever older and hoping that body, mind and soul hold together for as long as possible. This year has been hard, my father-in-law died in July, he suffered dementia, his brother died six months prior to him, my husbands aunt died a month after. My uncle died in April, my aunt is not doing so well, my husbands two aunts are in their eighties, one suffering health issues and severe dementia, the other battling breast cancer. Old age is not for the weak hearted. I am struggling with the passing away of the generation above my husband and me, it is hard to watch these once strong and vibrant people decline in old age and then die, and know that we too will reach this point eventually. And we are becoming the older generation :(

Perhaps I am a bit depressed, or maybe this is simply a normal way to feel at my age, I don't know. All I know is I could laugh in the face of turning fifty, but I feel that fifty-five is laughing in my face.

Peace by with you,

Monday, December 10, 2018

Wine - The Socially Acceptable Adult Beverage

Have you noticed how wine is pushed at women at every turn? Many TV shows/movies show people sitting down to a meal, almost always with a glass of wine. Gift shops, the domain of women,  have all kinds of "trinkets and trash" joking about wine, normalizing it. Coasters, tea-towels, refrigerator magnets, wall signs, t-shirts, socks, you name it and there is likely a version with something about wine. We have several in our home, a magnet, "How Merlot Can You Go", coasters, "Domestic Bliss, One Bottle Of Cabernet Away", "Tea (sad face), Coffee (okay face), Wine (manic grin)", a little sign, "What Happens At The Winery Stays At The Winery", socks covered in wine bottles. Well you get the picture, wine has become mainstream, the "oh so socially acceptable" adult beverage. The commercials and TV shows/movies always show it as a sign of sophistication, the message, successful people drink wine. Wine shows you have good taste, you discern the good things in life. The TV ads always show beautiful wineries, happy, slim, successful people enjoying life with a glass of wine in hand.

Wineries are everywhere, even here in NE Indiana there are three within ten miles of our home, all promote "come in for a free tasting" which works out to about a glass of wine on the house, then you feel that you should purchase a bottle, after all you just enjoyed free wine! It seems to me all a scam, the wine at our local wineries is not good at all and extremely overpriced so they can afford to give the free tasting. Of course they proudly proclaim all of their awards, of which I am highly skeptical, it"s simply all part of the marketing. You are enjoying a hand crafted, sophisticated beverage, tasted by so called "experts"  who have determined it is "oh, so fruity, subtle, summer in a bottle, hints of strawberry and oak with a lovely bouquet". 

What a bunch of bunk, it is an alcoholic beverage just like spirits and beer. Yet it is elevated above other adult beverages as the one drink you can enjoy without fear of judgement and it is marketed almost primarily towards women. 

The other evening I stopped to pick up groceries at a local Kroger. While waiting in line I noticed the following:

A middle aged lady in my line at the check out - purchasing at least six bottles of wine - Kroger does sell wine at a lower price if you purchase six or more bottles - perhaps in a way she was being frugal, perhaps stocking up for the holidays - who knows.

The elderly lady behind me, the only items she had - two Franzia box wines.

A little girl with her mom behind the elderly lady - the mom clutching a large bottle of wine and a wine glass.

I am not trying to pass judgement on any of these ladies, I am simply pointing out that the slick marketing of wine to women is working, and working well, but at what cost? We are bombarded with the sophistication of wine drinking, but how many women go from enjoying a glass of wine in the evening, to suddenly needing two? And, before they know it a bottle a night is the norm. It becomes an expensive habit, it begins to dominate their life, all occasions  revolve around a glass of wine, or two. It bothers me just how "normalized" wine drinking has become. A recent article stated that women's life expectancy is now lower, closer to that of men, and the main reason is the rise in alcohol consumption and smoking in women, how is this good? 

I have always enjoyed wine, but over the past year I felt that my enjoyment of wine passed a tipping point from enjoying a glass of wine with dinner a few nights a week, to suddenly feeling that a glass was needed each evening, which then became a couple of glasses in an evening, and to be honest they were quite large glasses of wine. I started worrying about how much wine was dominating my thoughts, why I was drinking it daily, my recycling bin for glass scared me as it confronted me with just how much wine was consumed in our house. I would go a few days and not drink wine, but would fall right back in and then feel badly about it. If I had a stressful day I would think about the evening glass of wine, if I had a good day I would think about how I would enjoy that evening glass of wine. I could literally see my thought process changing to justify the wine drinking, telling myself I was stressed and "needed" a glass of wine, oh how we can deceive ourselves. The reality, the stress I was feeling was probably for the most part imagined, and if any really existed it was probably due to the wine drinking - a rather vicious circular argument whirling around and around in my thoughts. 

All summer I prayed about my relationship with wine, I felt that wine now controlled me and not the other way around. One evening in October I poured a glass of wine, took a sip, and it tasted awful, absolutely awful, I didn't finish the glass (my husband did). The next evening I tried a different wine, and the same thing, it was tasted revolting, I couldn't drink it.  So, I just stopped drinking it, several weeks later my husband had a glass of wine, I took a sip of it, you know just in case it might taste all right again, but no, it tasted dreadful. So upshot is I haven't had any wine over the past two months. Do I miss it, not at all, it is so very, very freeing indeed.

How am I feeling? Well great actually. I had no idea how dragged down my two large glasses of wine a day habit made me. I worried about my drinking, but never thought it really caused any damage, I was never hung over, I never got "drunk". But it apparently it did have impact on my mood. I now wake up energized, ready to go, I get more accomplished each day, feel happier, less stressed, and free. I thank God for this, I truly believe my prayers were answered, and for that I am very, very thankful.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Around The House November 2018

Wow November blew by. It was a very, very cloudy month, and we had more little daily dusting's of snow than I can ever remember for this time of the year.

We celebrated two birthdays, Alivia was 6 and Ralph was 2. And of course we celebrated Thanksgiving.

All the grandchildren at Ralph's birthday party

I am keeping up on my reading and have a stack of books to keep me reading for several more weeks. I am knitting again, and recently finished a sweater and hat for Dolly Dingle and started a sweater for Masen and plan to knit a sweater for Peter, George, and Ralph. All that knitting will keep me busy for a while.

Dolly Dingle in her new sweater and hat

A sweater my talented mother knitted years ago.

Every Wednesday Masen, Ralph, and any other grandchildren who are over enjoy a trip to story time at our local branch library in Grabill, it is a nice little outing with story time, a craft and some playtime, and grandma can pick up any books that I may have on hold.

Masen and Ralph all bundled up to go to story time
I am busy getting ready for Christmas. I baked a fruit cake, traditional English fruit cake, for my parents, I purchased the marzipan for it yesterday and will put that on the cake in another week. I decided to make our Christmas crackers, they are expensive and I need twenty-four, so far it has gone well, eight made and they look alright.

Homemade Christmas Crackers

We have planned a Breakfast with Santa on December 16th. My dad gave his Santa suit to my oldest son Matt when my parents moved to Florida. On the big day everyone will show up for breakfast at ten-thirty (brunch really), this way no one need miss Mass. After a fun breakfast, sausage, hash browns, waffles and eggs, with orange juice and chocolate milk, my son Matt will disappear and Santa will appear! WOW how magical is that? We will have a small gift for each grandchild. The younger kids are so excited that Santa is coming to grandpa and grandma's house, it warms my heart.

Peter the marshmallow king

Tonight, December 5th, St. Nicholas comes, I made little treat bags for all grandchildren, with chocolate coins and candy canes, the treat bags are going home with the parents and the children have all been instructed to put their shoe outside their bedroom door before going to bed. My kids loved this tradition growing up. Best to be a good kid, because naughty children get a lump of coal.

We put our tree up a week ago, I purchased a real one, it is short needled and I really like it. To remember to water it I re-purposed a wine bottle to be a tree waterer. I keep the bottle next to the sink as a reminder. The wine bottle is the perfect shape to reach through the branches to the water container beneath the tree.

And finally, a couple miscellaneous pictures.

Found this in the junk drawer, oh how long ago.
One Eye the Cat, the stray who adopted our family.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Packed Lunch for Vegans

Well I am pleased to say that Dave is still eating vegan for most days of the week, with an occasional vegetarian meal and he eats meat for one meal a week.

I work two full days a week, and I take the same thing for lunch each day, yes you have guessed it, my bowl of weeds along with an apple and some cut up veggies. Dave usually takes a sandwich, sometimes with soup, and sometimes a bean and rice wrap.

Each morning I wake up at four-thirty and am out of bed by five at the latest. I head downstairs put on the coffee, make my oatmeal, take my vitamins and supplements, check the news via the internet and make our lunches and head out for a walk or run. First I put my veggies on to steam, cut up my raw veggies, and put lentils, canned tomatoes and nutritional yeast in a plastic container in readiness for the addition of the steamed veggies. That's my lunch made. For Dave I make a "salad sandwich', he had a 100% whole wheat bun with Dijon mustard and then has some lettuce, sliced cucumber and tomato, a nice slice of Vidalia onion and some pickled mild yellow peppers. If it is a cold day, he works outside, I add a thermos of soup. Vegan vegetable soup is his favorite, and I do a sort of vegan Jumbalaya soup he enjoys too. Vegan soup is quick and easy to make, no waiting for meat to cook thoroughly and become tender. For a change he takes bean and rice wraps. I mix together a can of fat free refried beans, mix in a cup of cooked brown rice, salsa to taste, and some chopped onion. I put this mixture into an X-treme Hi-Fiber whole wheat wrap, he usually takes three, a tasty lunch, they are good cold or hot.

My lunch. I take a knife to cut my apple with, chopsticks to eat my lunch with, and a book to read.

My trusty lunch bag

Dave's "salad sandwich"

A thermos of soup, I think this was the vegan jumbalaya-ish soup.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

Boy Thanksgiving seems a long time ago, but really only a few weeks have passed since our celebration. What a fun day we had together. Good company, good food, good fun. I organized party games for the younger grandchildren, oh don't you remember the fun you had as a child playing musical chairs, musical statues and best of all, pass the parcel. It was high entertainment indeed.
The older grandchildren played Monopoly with the Dad's.

Our oldest son Matt plays Sorry with his oldest, Alivia. I love, just love this picture.

After Sorry the younger grandkids were all in for a rousing game of Memory.

Of course I had to prepare a lot of food to fuel the troops, and they obediently chomped their way through the goodies and dinner.

The childrens table, set for ten

The grownup's table, set for ten

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

My Elephant, Magnus the Magnificent

In August my husband and I attended a party and met Mike the Artist. Mike does wood carving, once a piece is carved he paints it with acrylic paint. I asked if he would carve and paint an elephant for me, he said he would, and so began the creation of Magnus the Magnificent! 
First I chose a sketch of the elephant I liked best
Magnus begins to take shape

Magnus coming along nicely

First of many coats of black paint.

Carving process finished

A finished Magnus the Magnificent!

Magnus stands guard over my display of bits and bobs.