Category Archives: Friday Favorite

Friday Favorites: Out of Time Compliment; Thanksgiving Meal; Melancholy Christmas Song

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I received this comment from my blogging friend Susan, who very kindly put my new YA fantasy Out of Time at the top of her TBR list and quick as a wink read the book: “I really enjoyed it – yet another page-turner from you and I was grateful for some precious escapism. I just need to complain that you kept me up very late finishing it.”

What a nice compliment! Music to a writer’s ears, actually. Many thanks, Susan.

As was planned, Clif and I had a very quiet Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, it was a nice one, with the food being quite a treat. We have been eating low-carb and low-cal for so long that we both thought it was bliss to have stuffing and share a baked potato. All a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Finally, a melancholy Christmas song—“The River”—from the great Joni Mitchell. Somehow, this song really captures the mood of 2020.

 

For more favorites and small pleasures read Thistles and Kiwis and All Things Bright and Beautiful.

 

 

Friday Favorites: Builder’s Tea, Dash & Lily

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have recently finished proofing my YA fantasy, Out of Time, and it is now officially published. And what a lot of work that was! Lucky for me that as I was proofing, I had something to give me a little pep, a recommendation from my blogging friend at Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal. That something was Builder’s tea, which bills itself as a full-flavored “cuppa.”

Yes, it is. I can only let a bag steep for two-and-a-half minutes rather than the customary five. But after all, Britain wasn’t built on chamomile, and I suspect few writers are fueled by chamomile as they labor and toil on their books. (A fun coincidence: Chamomile tea plays a major role in my new book, Out of Time.)

By the time I was coming down the homestretch with proofing, I was gulping down Builder’s the way a lost traveler in the desert would gulp water at an oasis.

Recently I confessed that I have begun putting up my Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, a sort of no-no in the United States. Well, I have another confession: I have started watching Christmas movies and specials, too. I know, I know:Talk about jumping the season. But I can’t seem to help myself. For the most part, Clif is a pretty good sport about my holiday-movie obsession, but my kids are starting to wonder if some kind of intervention is necessary.

However, because of my early viewing, I am able to make recommendations to those who need a little holiday cheer. And this Friday that honor goes to the Netflix limited series Dash & Lily, a sweet, charming Christmas Rom-com that will became an annual tradition in our house.Now, it must be said that the premise of most, if not all, holiday shows requires a willing suspension of disbelief, not a problem for someone like me who reads and writes fantasy novels. In short, these are not plots that will stand up to nitpicking. And so it is with Dash & Lily, the tale of two lonely teenagers in New York City who start a romance via a red notebook—left by Lily—that Dash finds at the fabulous, wonderful Strand bookstore that calls to me like a beacon whenever I visit the city. (Eighteen miles of books? Holy cats!)

Dash is a cynical teenager who has been hurt by his parents’ divorce and by a former girlfriend who has left the city. Lily is a creative book nerd who feels out of step with kids her own age. (Did I identify with Lily? You bet I did.) For different reasons, both Lily and Dash are adrift at Christmas.

Most of the episodes involve Lily and Dash, without ever meeting, leaving clues and tasks for each other via the red notebook. But through the course of the series we see that Lily and Dash are kindred spirits, and gosh darn it, we sure do root for them.

As an added bonus, New York City is gorgeous during the holidays, and in Dash & Lily, Christmas time in the city has never looked so beautiful.

So if you want a little holiday cheer during these gloomy times, do watch Dash & Lily. I guarantee you will be smiling by the end.

For more joy and small pleasures, check out the blog Thistles and Kiwis.

 

Friday Favorites: Scrummy’s Chocolates, A New Mug, Wood

On a national level, just when you think things can’t get any crazier, they do. And by crazy I mean over-the-top-eye-rollingly bad. The mad king at the White House gets ever madder.  The historian Heather Cox Richardson writes, “[Yesterday] he… called for the imprisonment of his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, as well as his own predecessor, President Barack Obama, and called Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris a ‘monster’ and a ‘communist.'”

The imperturbable vice president “who was supposed to go to Indiana to vote tomorrow, after campaigning in Arizona…cancelled his scheduled events and…headed back to Washington, D. C.”  Can you blame him?

And as if this weren’t enough, a right-wing group planned to storm the capital to kidnap and perhaps murder the Michigan governor. Fortunately they were foiled by an informant and the FBI. In The Guardian, there is a concise, chilling account. What, exactly, was the right-wing group’s beef? The governor’s Covid-19 lock-down measures.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 rages on here, there, and everywhere.

So bring on the small pleasures! We need them, and we need them right now.

This week, there were chocolates from Scrummy After’s Candy Shoppe.

Even though Scrummy’s lovely little shop in Hallowell is closed, local folks who are in desperate need of incredibly good chocolate can order online and pick up the delicacies at Scrummy’s commercial kitchen in Augusta on 26 Eastern Avenue. Scrummy’s also ships.

Just in time for tea to go with the chocolates came this sweet mug, designed by The Tiny Potager, one of my blogging friends. She has a  wonderful online shop filled with treasures she has designed. This mug makes me smile every time I look at it.

My last small pleasure is not quite as sweet or as charming as the two listed above. However prosaic this last one might seem, it sure fills me with joy. This is enough wood to heat our home for at least a half month, maybe more, and there is nothing as cozy as wood heat.

To add to the pleasure, the wood came from our very own backyard. Readers might recall how lucky we were that not much damage was done by the falling tree.

Need to read about more small pleasures to bolster your spirit? Check out Thistles and Kiwis. Also Purple Pumpernickel.

Here’s wishing you many small pleasures in the upcoming week.

 

 

Friday Favorites: A Blessing of Leaves

On Wednesday we had a wild rain, much-needed in our drought- stricken state. With the rain came a wild wind that knocked power out to 114,000 homes in Maine, including our home.

But glory be, our power was only out for a few  hours. Clif and I practically had to pinch ourselves to be sure we weren’t dreaming. When our power gets knocked out, it can be out for days and days. Sometimes even a week.

The wind blew leaves and pine needles everywhere.

On our front steps,

In the backyard,

in the birdbath,

on top of the glass table,

on the bulkhead door to our cellar,

and, on the ground where the sun could shine through the leaf.

Now, you might be wondering exactly why this post qualifies as a Friday Favorites.

Maybe it’s because the sun came out and the yard was aglow and everywhere was the nutty smell of autumn. The leaves seemed like frisky sprites that had come for a visit.

Yes, the leaves will need to be cleaned from the yard, but for now I am just going to revel in a Maine autumn day, after the storm, when the rain came and went and the air cleared and everything seems as fresh as clean laundry hung on the line.

Despite all that’s going on in this country, it felt like a day to rejoice.

Here is Thistles and Kiwis take on the week’s small pleasures.

And All Things Bright and Beautiful’s small pleasures as well.

Let’s hear it for small pleasures!

Addendum: What. A. Week. Just learned that the president and the first lady have tested positive for Covid-19.  Hardly a surprise as they, along with their team, have been so irresponsible about mask wearing and social distancing. However, over the years, I have worked hard to cultivate the Buddhist notion of compassion toward all, even to those who don’t seem to deserve it. Perhaps they need it most of all.  I wish the president and his wife a speedy recovery. I also hope that from now on his supporters will realize what a serious disease this is and for God’s sake start taking Covid-19 seriously by wearing masks, social distancing, and doing what they can to stop its spread.

Favorites in Fraught Times?

In these fraught times, it is sometimes difficult to focus on the small joys of life that I feature in my Friday Favorites series. In brief: Worldwide, there is climate change and the pandemic, which continue to grind everyone down. In the U.S. we have the most odious and incompetent leadership that I have ever had the misfortune to see. The pandemic is minimized to the point where it is more or less allowed to rampage at will. Over 200,000 people in the U.S. have died because of Covid-19, and the numbers continue to rise. Mask wearing has become a political issue, and a few months ago, elders were encouraged to face death to keep the economy going.

As if this all weren’t bad enough, the U.S. seems to be on the brink of a dictatorship as President Trump makes plans to do whatever it takes to stay in charge, regardless of the results of the upcoming November election. (For a cogent description of Trump’s plans, read the excellent Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American: September 23, 2020.)

Finally, the cherry on this toxic sundae is that once again the Republicans are on the rampage against the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Never mind that millions of people, including me, depend on it for their health insurance. The Republicans want to abolish it, and hope that the Supreme Court will soon rule in their favor. I try not to think too much about what will happen if, at last, the Republicans are successful in demolishing the ACA.

We live on a tight budget, and there is no way we can afford to buy health insurance at market-place rates. Plus, I have had breast cancer, which qualifies as a pre-existing condition. So if the Republicans succeed in their mission, I am out of luck.

Sorry that this is such a pessimistic Friday post, but the bad news Just. Keeps. Coming.

Somehow, it seems frivolous to post pictures of, say, ice cream or omelets or a favorite music video while the country is literally and figuratively on fire. On the other hand, with all that’s going on, it seems like an act of defiance to enjoy the small things in life.

Drinks outside on a warm autumn evening,

a bright leaf that has fallen on the patio,

and chickadees that come to drink from the ant moats above the hummingbird feeders.

Heather Cox Richardson ends her September 23 piece with this small note of hope: “[T]he future remains unwritten.”

Yes, it is, a tiny ray of light in an otherwise dark landscape.

 

 

Friday Favorites: Ice Cream, Omelets, and a Gothic Thriller

Calories and carbs be damned! Tuesday was my sixty-third birthday, and for the first time this year, we went to my favorite ice cream stand—Fielder’s Choice, where I got a hot fudge sundae made with their fabulous peanut butter ice cream. So, so good!

On a less caloric but still delicious note, Clif has come up with an omelet that uses four simple ingredients—eggs, water, crumbles, and sriracha sauce.

This morning, Clif made me one for breakfast. How tasty and satisfying it was.

This year, my birthday was a little on the quiet side. Usually the kids come from New York and North Carolina, and we have a jolly celebration as we combine three birthdays—mine and Clif’s, both in September, and Dee’s, which is the end of October.

This year, of course, there was no jolly celebration with the kids. And, yes, I missed it very much. We’ll be having a Zoom party on Sunday, but it’s not the same as having everyone at our cozy home in the woods.

Therefore, on my birthday, I gave myself the gift of time, something I rarely do. The day was fine, and instead of doing household chores in the afternoon, I allowed myself to take time out for reading.

Mike, my son-in-law, had recommended Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and relaxing on the patio, I read several chapters of this book.

What a snappy, excellent novel! As the title suggests, this is a Gothic story story set in Mexico in the 1950s. Noémi, the spunky heroine, must travel to the hinterlands of Mexico, to find out why her cousin Catalina, recently married, has sent Noémi and her father a desperate letter begging for help. Off Noémi goes, somewhat reluctantly, from Mexican City to an old, shabby mansion high in the mountains.

Catalina’s husband, Virgil, and his family are satisfyingly creepy, and it isn’t long before Noémi is determined to rescue her cousin. From what, I will not say. I don’t want to spoil the story. I will, however, add that Moreno-Garcia manages to weave in class and race in a satisfying way while never detracting from the vividness of the various characters, especially Noémi, the determined star of the novel. I always admire a heroine who can run in high heels, something I could never do.

While this is a horror novel that builds to an exciting conclusion, Moreno-Garcia allows her characters space to breathe, something I think is essential for any novel, regardless of genre. For me, a story with relentless action is tedious, and the characters are usually flat.

Moreno-Garcia is a young writer with a good writing style and a keen sense of who her characters are. I definitely will be keeping an eye out for her next book.

 

And click here to read about Thistles and Kiwis small pleasures.

Friday Favorite: Between Heather and Grass

I decided to change the title for my Friday posts. Formerly, it was What’s Making Me Happy, but I had borrowed this from the excellent podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, and I thought maybe it would be best to have something different. There is a fine line between admiration and plagiarism, and I didn’t want to cross it.

So now the title will be Friday Favorites, but the content will be the same as I list things that made me happy or caught my attention during the week. Often I list three things, but today there will only be one as it needs to stand by itself.

Long overdue to be featured on this blog is the very beautiful book, Between Heather and Grass: Poems and Photographs Filled with Love, Hope and Whippets. It was published by my blogging friend Xenia Tran, who has the lovely blogs Whippet Wisdom and Tranature. Both blogs feature fine poetry as well as gorgeous photography of Scotland. Whippet Wisdom, as its name suggests, also features two graceful whippets, Eivor and Pearl.

Between the Heather and Grass also features fine poetry, gorgeous photographs of Scotland, and those two elegant whippets. In addition, there are short paragraphs of prose that expand on the poetry and photos.

About Between Heather and Grass, Xenia writes, “We are donating thirty per cent of any net profit from the sale of this book to a children’s cancer charity in memory of our nephew Jamie Baker and another thirty per cent of net profit to the UK’s largest dog welfare charity in memory of Flynn, Fergal, Seamus and Ruby. ”

Readers, I have a confession to make. I was moved to tears by the poignancy of the photos and words in this book combined with the dedication to Xenia’s nephew, who alas, did not survive his bout with cancer. I, too, have a nephew who had cancer, but fortunately he survived.

Anyway, this is a book to cherish, to have have in your own library and to give to others who love photography, poetry, and dogs.

Addendum: Oops! I had meant to delete this music video and include it in next week’s Friday Favorites. But it was pushed so far down that I didn’t notice it was on this post until a reader commented on it. Well, two things are featured this Friday.  Enjoy Jon Batiste’s fantastic music.

 

Addendum 2: Hoo-boy! Really missing the beat this week. On my Friday posts, I always like to include Thistle and Kiwis small pleasures for the week. Because let’s face it, especially during these times, you can’t have too many small pleasures.