In winter she curls up around a good book and dreams away the cold. Ben Aaronovitch

Just as reading was the salvation of my lonely youth, it is my reprieve from the January blues.  I have often used reading as a reward.  As a young mother living in our big old house in Indiana, I would get my boys off to school, set a timer and clean for an hour.  I would then read for an hour, repeating the process until I could simply read.  Now I use reading as solace for my winter doldrums.  Since our little apartment doesn’t need as much attention as our old Victorian, I no longer need to set a timer, I just tidy up after Mr. Smith has left for work and then I dive into my current guilty pleasure.

This December, I finished reading Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove as part of My Three Son’s book group.  I read it years ago with my Indiana book group, but I found I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.  My son Elliot was taken with the friendship between Call and Gus.  They were friends, no stipulations, no questions asked, noting that friends like that can be hard to find.  Our next read is The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje.  Mr. Smith has been devouring many of Ondaatje’s books and recommended this one about the adventures of three adolescent boys traveling alone who meet on a ship crossing the Indian Ocean bound for England in the 1950s.

Last week I read Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane.  Her character, May Attaway, is a forty-year old woman who sets out to explore friendships in the digital age.   She is employed as a gardener for a university and the book is full of fascinating information about trees.  May is an introvert, more comfortable with plants than people, leading her to lean heavily on Emily Post.  When I started it, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to bond with the protagonist, but like Alana Masad in her NPR review, I ended up loving May and I’m glad I stayed with it until the end.

Presently, I’m reading Anna Quindlen’s How Reading Changed My Life. My girl crush on Ms. Quindlen was validated when I read about her mother trying to chase her outside with “It’s a beautiful day,” when she only wanted to curl up in her favorite chair, lost in a book.  I was delighted with Ms. Quindlen’s adamant belief that despite computers and e-readers, print books are here to stay. Admitting that while reading lists “…are arbitrary and capricious…”, she acknowledged that she loves them and ends the book with several different lists.  Lonesome Dove appears on her “10 Big Thick Wonderful Books That Could Take You a Whole Summer to Read (but Aren’t Beach Books)” list.  I did come away with two more titles for my reading list:  The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers and Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence.

My library card is one of my dearest possessions.  I was over the moon when we were living in New York and snail mail brought me my library card from the New York Public Library.  Anyone who lives, works, attends school, or pays property taxes in New York State is eligible.  The card gives you access to millions of materials, resources and services.  And you get a really cool card!  I no longer live in New York, but I still receive an email every morning with a Book of the Day recommendation. 

Mr. Smith and I have lived in many different states.  I have gone through many different library cards, but they have all been my key, opening the door to the joys of intriguing stories and new adventures.  I hope this will continue as long as I love books – in other words – forever. 

I am simply a ‘book drunkard’. Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotees. I cannot withstand them.

L. M. Montgomery

C’est la vie.

The party's over…

After Emmet and Henry left this past Sunday to head back home, I plopped down in a chair next to Mr. Smith.  I must have been wearing my melancholy face because he said, “What’s wrong?”  My response was “the party’s over.”  The shopping, gift giving, visiting, eating, and drinking frenzy was over for another year and I was left with January.  I thought I had escaped the clutches of my old nemesis this year, but before my visitors had made their way out of the state of Pennsylvania, I felt the inertia creeping in.

I have always had a difficult relationship with January.  The mornings are cold and dark, you have to take down your Christmas decorations and store them away, and there are way too many people at my gym.  A quick internet search of post-Christmas blues revealed I’m in good company.  A 2005 Gallup survey asked 1,000 Americans about their favorite month (the most recent year they asked this question).  No surprise to me, January ranked dead last, right behind February. 

The internet is also chock full of suggestions on how you can beat the winter blues.  Eat right, exercise, make something, do something for someone else, organize, get out of the house, plan a trip.  The list goes on and on.  These are all great suggestions, but some days I’m just not in the mood.  My bed is warm and cozy in the morning and Mr. Smith is always agreeable to bringing me a latte there before he’s off to work.  Then it’s so easy to linger there, pick up a book or waste an hour on my phone. With no job to define my schedule, it’s up to me to structure my day.

This January I decided to borrow a page from my sister Jeanne (and Sir Isaac Newton’s) book.  As a personal reminder, Jeanne has Newton’s First Law of Motion written and hanging on her wall: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion…  Along with packing up the Christmas decorations, I’m going to pack up the inertia and send it on its way.  I will push myself out of bed in the morning and have my morning latte with Mr. Smith before he leaves for work. And I won’t wear my melancholy face.

C’est la vie.

Gentle January…

I am easing into the new year.  My holiday decorations are still up and we are still delighting in family visits.  This past Thursday, our granddaughter Eleanor came for lunch with her parents.  They had spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s with friends in New York City during which her dad introduced her to Carnegie Hall by sharing cupcakes in the lobby.

Perhaps contemplating being on stage at Carnegie Hall.

On their drive back home, they made a side trip to Wilkes Barre for a late, leisurely lunch. Mr. Smith made a tasty pot of potato leek soup and I tossed a salad.  Eleanor entertained us by picking up different of my Santas and saying “Ho, ho, ho” in her best Santa voice. Even though we were together for Thanksgiving, Mr. Smith and I both saw changes in Eleanor, mainly her growing vocabulary.  She is growing up bilingual and it is amazing to see her segue between English and Mandarin. 

Yesterday morning I was up early and off to the gym, not just to log some miles but to “weigh in”.  Back in the middle of November when I was down for the count with a lousy cold and feeling sorry for myself because I didn’t feel like working out, I got an email from my gym encouraging me to “maintain, not gain” over the holidays.  Members wanting to take part in this challenge needed to pay $25 and weigh in before Thanksgiving for a starting weight and on January 4, 2020 for an end weight.  The three people to lose the highest percentage of their body weight would each win $75. Despite my cold, I got myself over to the gym, weighed in and paid the fee.  I won’t know until Monday if I’m in the official winner’s circle, but when I weighed in this morning, I was down 4.7 pounds!  Whether or not I win the money, not having gained over the holidays makes me want to do a happy dance.

I didn’t spend too much time basking in my triumph as we were expecting more visitors.  Emmet and Henry were headed up to spend the night with us.  Emmet has a goal of bringing each of the boys up for a solo overnight twice in 2020, scoring us six visits!  Getting to visit with a grandchild one-on-one is a special treat.  Mr. Smith made a delicious Lobster Pasta (there go my 4.7 lbs!) and Emmet brought an amazing Chardonnay.  

Henry I went for a walk, talked about his favorite classes at school, his love of tae kwon do and the state of the world, or at least the selection of treats at the local convenience store.

This holiday season has been a gift for me. It’s been an opportunity to take a breath, relax and connect with friends and family, enjoying the luxury of time. Maybe it’s unpacking the ornaments that have been collected over the years and the memories connected to them or maybe it’s the Christmas cards from old friends, but I’m always a little nostalgic this time of year. But while I’m happy to honor the past and happily anticipate the future, I never want to underestimate the present. After all, these are the good old days.

C’est la vie.

Bonne année…

Happy New Year to all of you and happy birthday to my blog!  

One year ago today I gathered my courage and pushed “publish” on my inaugural post.  I set a goal of posting twice a week and I am thrilled to say I met my goal!   It amazed me to hit the milestone of publishing 104 posts in 2019.

In my January 1, 2019 post, I wrote about starting the year with reflections instead of resolutions.  And 2019 gave me much to reflect on.  Mr. Smith and I managed the move from New York to Pennsylvania with minimal complications, but we are both aware that we won’t retire here so we spend some time contemplating and discussing where our golden years will take us.  And I lost my dear mother-in-law Pat in October and my sister Suzi in November.  The end of those lives gave me pause and reinforced that life is transient and not to be wasted.

During our recent Christmas road trip, in addition to an abundance of Christmas music, Mr. Smith indulged me with some playlists from the Seventies.  While listening to Carly Simon croon Anticipation, it struck me that Anticipation may be my word for 2020.  There are already some events on my calendar that I’m excited about. As a self-confessed planner, there is nothing I love more than having upcoming adventures to plan and organize.  I’m also excited about growing my blog.  Technology doesn’t come naturally to me, but I have some things I want to conquer this year and I anticipate success.  And if my awesome editor has her way, I’ll get back to work on my book.

I thank you all for reading.  I appreciate and treasure each and every comment.  I hope that 2020 brings you new adventures as well as a surprise or two.  Because as we know – these are the good old days.

C’est la vie.

What are you doing New Years Eve?

There are still Christmas leftovers in the refrigerator and too many treats in the house for my comfort zone, and now New Year’s Eve is upon us. Not only are we ringing in a new year, we are ringing in a brand new decade! Remember the whole Y2K scare? That overblown panic over a computer bug that would totally disrupt commerce and our social lives never happened yet it led some people to build emergency bunkers in their basements to ride out the feared impending apocalypse.

Happily, this year most people are focused on the need to celebrate and not worry about the possible end of the world. While many Americans ring in the New Year sitting on their cozy couches watching the giant crystal-covered ball drop in New York’s Time’s Square, other countries around the world have their own ways of celebrating. People in Brazil, as well as other Central and South American countries like Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, believe it is lucky to wear special underwear on New Year’s Eve. The most popular colors are red which is thought to bring love and yellow, thought to bring wealth.

In Spain, people will eat 12 grapes, one for each stroke of the clock at midnight. Each grape represents good luck for one month of the coming year. In Denmark, people save up old plates and glasses to throw against the doors of friends and family to banish bad spirits. And one tradition I can really get on board with comes from Colombia. In hopes of a traveled filled year, people carry empty suitcases around the block. That beats clanging pots and pans for me!

There are all the typical ways to ring in the New Year like the countdown to midnight and kissing the person you hope to keep kissing all year, a champagne toasts, ringing bells or blowing horns, and singing Auld Lang Syne. It can also be a holiday that creates stress for some, particularly if they don’t have a significant other or tribe to celebrate with. Yet many solo seniors find satisfying ways to celebrate one more trip around the sun, racing ahead of the grim reaper I know one old Duchess who is looking forward to a solo evening, drinking her split of champagne from a hand-blown coupe and watching the ball drop from the comfort of her couch with the warmth of her fireplace.

Through the years, Mr. Smith and I have celebrated New Year’s Eve in numerous ways, from sipping a little bubbly by ourselves while watching our young sons fall asleep, one after the other, despite their valiant efforts to stay awake to witness the ball drop to other years of hosting fun, festive dinner parties for friends. We’ve gone to parties, to the movies, out to dinner with friends and on our own. Some years Mr. Smith has prepared me a fabulous meal worthy of the occasion in our own home. This year I’m giving Mr. Smith a night off from cooking. We will go down our elevator, walk across the street to one of our favorite restaurants and share a table for two and say goodbye to an eventful 2019 in style. And in a nod to my Brazilian friends, I think I’ll wear some special red underwear.

C’est la vie.

Tis the season…

Christmas is just around the corner and Mr. Smith and I are again on the road, off to visit family and friends, some family that are also friends and some friends that are family. The weather forecast predicts temps in the mid-40s with zero chance of a white Christmas.  And while I have vivid memories of the magic of snow falling on Christmas Eve when I was a child, as a traveling adult I am thrilled with the gift of dry, safe roads.

The planning, shopping, baking, wrapping, packing and mailing are all done and now it’s time to relax and celebrate the season.  This past week, I hosted some old friends for a holiday happy hour, appreciating the comfort of those who have known me for years and still love me!  On another occasion, I shared a dinner out with newer friends, getting to know them better over a glass of chardonnay and tasty crab cakes.  And now it’s on to the main event.

Mr. Smith and I were up early this morning to pack up the sleigh and hit the road.  The long hours on I-80 with our festive holiday beverages from Starbucks and holiday tunes on the stereo provide plenty of time to discuss the week ahead of us with eager anticipation.  We are particularly looking forward to a visit with our bubbly granddaughters.  It is enchanting to enter their mystical world of girliness and camaraderie.  It is my grandma hope that when they are in their sixties they will still get together at the holidays and share heartfelt memories of a Christmas visit from Slick Grandpa Nick and me as cherished as those I have of Christmas visits from my beloved Aunt Ruby.  

And before we hit Ohio, I-80 becomes Memory Lane and we ponder the decades of Christmases with our three sons. Like Emmet’s second Christmas.  During his afternoon nap, Mr. Smith and his brother Pete went out to get a tree. When Emmet woke up there was a tree in the living room complete with holiday lights.  He was overjoyed.  Or the year we were stunned to remember late on Christmas Eve after the boys were in bed that their gifts were still in the closet of Mr. Smith’s office out at the printing plant.  Luckily, he remembered how to turn off the alarm system.  Our precious memories are a treasure trove of cookie decorating, messy tree trimming, noisy holiday meals and fun Christmas movies.

When Mr. Smith and I take a break from our discourse, my stream-of-consciousness mind drifts back to my own childhood Christmases.  There were always colorful gifts under our simple tree and stockings stuffed with candy and an orange, but my most vivid memories are of the anticipation of family coming home and the meals shared.  One year in particular was when I was in high school and working at an Indiana toll road restaurant.  My usual shift was 6:00 am to 2:00 pm.  For Christmas day, the shifts had been split and I was only working 6:00 – 10:00.  My younger brother thought we should get up and open gifts before I went in at 6:00 am, but thankfully my parents put the kibosh on that.  When I got home from work shortly after 10:00, my wonderful Aunt Ruby and Uncle Ike were at our house, having driven up that morning from Illinois.  It was my sweetest Christmas surprise ever!

My mother always decorated for Christmas, made cutout cookies that we frosted, and baked date nut bread.  She baked it in Dad’s empty beer cans after he had carefully removed the tops. This created little round loaves.  It was moist and delicious and it is what we always left out for Santa on Christmas Eve, along with a can of beer (Dad’s idea).


  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 T. soft butter
  • 3 eggs well beaten
  • 2 tsp. soda
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped nuts 
  • 2 cups chopped dates
  • 2-1/2 cups boiling water (pour over dates and walnuts and baking soda and let sit for 30 minutes)

Cream the butter and sugars and add the vanilla. Combine the flour and salt, then add the flour mixture and the date mixture a little at a time, alternating between the two. Fold in the eggs at the end.  Don’t overmix.

Grease cans (6-7) and fill ½ full.

Bake 55 minutes at 350 degrees or approximately 1 hour for loaf pans.

Of course, you don’t have to bake your date nut bread in beer cans, but I can attest that Santa never left any behind.

C’est la vie.