Sunday, 31 December 2017



Here it is, New Year's Eve, 2017. I’m not celebrating, not making resolutions. I am committed to publishing this blog before midnight in compliance with my self-imposed deadline. My non-resolution for the last few years has been to read a book a week, thus 52 books a year. Well, I made it. Just. If I have counted correctly. 

Calendar, 2017

I was keeping up to one book a week until about mid-November. In fact, there was a point in July that I might have been ahead of schedule. I felt quite smug about that, to be honest. 

July. On Schedule.

But in November, I started to lag. So, as in other years, I was searching the house and the library for skinny books in late December. Sort of cheating, you might say. However, I did manage to hit 52 without sneaking in the occasional picture book.

A Skinny Book

Early in 2017, a friend forwarded me this checklist which challenges you to read one book every two weeks. Although I attempted to tick off every box on the list, I did not quite do it. For example, I did not read a book I had read in school, nor did I read one by someone who is not a writer. (Is that even possible?) You might want to try this!

I cannot settle on The Best Book I Read in 2017, but I’ll tell you my top 5 favourites, in no particular order:

There are some books on my list that were not good. For some inexplicable reason, I feel obligated to finish every book I start, so I push myself through to the bitter end. I probably should get over that.

The Bitter End

I am most proud of having read Middlemarch by George Eliot…one of those classics you are supposed to read. 736 pages long. Actually, I listened to that book, in solitude. I love listening and I love solitude!


I was most disturbed by The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, a book all Canadians should read. Be prepared to feel uncomfortable. 


Speaking of disturbing, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is an excellent book. The writing is wonderful, the story is alarming. Proof that books don't have to be happy to be good.

The complete list of the 52 books I read in 2017 is on my blog. My pile of books for 2018 includes the following:

2018 Pile

What are your top book picks of 2017? Or of all time? 

...Until Next Time...

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Christmas Curmudger

The  Christmas Curmudger

It’s December tomorrow which means we’re all gearing up for Christmas. I am not a big fan of the season. My room-mate, inspired word- inventor, might refer to me as a curmudger. That’s something like a curmudgeon—“a bad-tempered or surly person”. He might be right.

Curmudger with Cane

But I’m not a total curmudger. There are some things I do like about Christmas.  Christmas Lights, for example. As the days shorten in December, I appreciate lights brightening the darkness. My roommate sees to our outdoor display. Orange and blue lights, up and down the verandah posts in straight lines—no draping, no twinkling, no subtlety. They are just  there, making their own garish statement. Some refer to our house as the Herdman’s. You remember the rough and tumble family from Barbara Robinson’s book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever? That’s us.

The Herdmans

           WTN Christmas Movies have become a tradition in our family over the years. I've been collecting them on the PVR since October in anticipation of my daughters’ Christmas visit. We are partial to movies with actors whose names we do not recognize--and the more formulaic, the better. The girls and I cuddle up on the couches under Herdman-like afghans and lose ourselves in the tinsel and the romance. Tom marches through periodically, sighing and swearing under his breath. (Who is the curmudger in this family???) Looking forward to...


Then there are the Christmas traditions that are consumable. I cannot argue against them! Top of the list-- Mr. Holt’s Fruitcake. A charming man with a flair for baking, Mr Holt delivers the goods in November with instructions attached: "Do Not Open Until Mid-December."  I can be a rule-breaker at times. The fruitcake did not see December this year.

Mr. Holt's Fruitcake

Year after year, I’m increasingly fond of Rum and Eggnog. A lovely complement to  fruitcake.
Rum and Eggnog

 Love Gingerbread Cookies. Look how cute they are.
Gingerbread Couple

Could not get through the season without Ganong’s Red Wrap.
Red Wrap

And what's better than a turkey dinner?
Turkey Dinner

Best of the season to you and yours, from The Christmas Curmudger.

...Until Next Time...

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

KISS: Keep it Simple, Sometimes!

KISS: Keep it Simple, Sometimes

Today’s technology is fascinating, dynamic and largely beyond my comprehension. Self-driving cars. Siri. Drones that deliver groceries to your door. It's amazing.

Drone Delivery

Then there is yesterday’s technology. Overwhelmed by the glitz of modern advances, do we fail to appreciate the "simple" technology of yore? Consider knitting needles, for example. “Sticks” as one of my favourite knitting students called them at her first lesson.


With those plain steel double-pointed needles and a couple of balls of yarn, I can make beautiful mittens. Simple.

Mittens in Progress

I spend hours musing about the technology of sticks and knitting.

Knitting and Musing 

And then there is my Amazing Applesauce Maker, a wonderful piece of yesterday's technology I inherited from my mother. I love it. Look at those legs!
Applesauce Maker circa 1940s

I cook the apples whole, stalks and all.

Pot of Apples

Then I dump those apples in the Amazing Applesauce Maker and crush the softened mash with the wooden pestle. The process is most satisfying. 

Softened Mash

It is remarkable how little waste is left after this process. So efficient! So simple
Apple Waste

And I end up with applesauce that looks like this! Trust me, it's simply delicious.
Delicious Applesauce

And if you need instructions on how to knit or how to make applesauce, you just go to YouTube!  New technology helps keep old technology alive!

Technology moves forward at lightning speed and most of us are along for the ride, knitting needles in one hand and cellphone in the other! 

...Until Next Time...

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Don't Quote Me on That!

Don't Quote Me on That!

One of the highlights of my day is cracking the cryptoquote in my beloved Daily Gleaner. Do not say "What a boring life she must have!" before you try it. Have you ever watched The Bletchley Circle? I pretend I’m one of those highly-skilled, mathematical women. There must be some advantage to stretching my imagination that far!


The cryptoquote is a word puzzle written in code where one letter represents another. In The Gleaner, there are no hints, so you look for apostrophes, single letter words etc. to get you started. In Saint John’s Telegraph Journal, you are given one letter to get you started. And there are TWO cryptoquotes in that paper everyday!

The Cryptoquote, Untouched

In our Gleaner, the cryptoquote is usually a thought-provoking quote from a famous person. So the benefits of completing the cryptoquote are at least twofold. First you get the satisfaction of breaking the code. And then you get the longer-lasting pleasure of thinking about that quote all day long. Exercise for the brain; fodder for reflection.

Cryptoquote, Solved

In recent months, my room-mate has taken to doing the cryptoquote. Because we only get ONE copy of the Gleaner each morning, and it was originally MY past-time, he does the crypto in his head before I get to it. Show-off.


I have been doing the cryptoquote for many years. When I was a working woman, it was my after-supper-on-the-couch-with-a-cup-of-tea activity. If I was really fried that night, and could not get it, I could call my Aunt Margaret for assistance. She was just across the river, and I knew that she would have cracked the code earlier in the day. She did the cryptoquote well into her nineties.

Aunt Margaret: Crypto-Queen

If I’m at the camp and working on the The Telegraph Journal crypto, I can call Aunt Gladys as my lifeline. At the age of 94, she continues to conquer the crypto with the aid of a magnifying glass to facilitate her failing eyesight. I have pretty smart aunts.

Aunt Gladys (age 94) 
with Great Granddaughter Grace (age 6)

My good friend, Janet, is my Fredericton lifeline now. If my room-mate and I can’t get it, and I simply can’t wait until the next day when the answer is in the paper, I text Janet. She ALWAYS has the answer!

Janet the Crypto-Whiz

When I was a teacher, I used quotations in an effort to foster introspection, reflection, and contemplation in my students. I would have them search out quotes that were meaningful to them in some way—represent their beliefs, provoke thought or feeling, provide inspiration etc. Or I might write one on the board, or hang it on a piece of paper in my classroom—exposure in a non-invasive way. My theory was they would read it and could not help but think about it. Quotations pack a punch in very few words.


I do have my Personal Favourites quotes, many of which have become more meaningful to me as the years slide by. 

My father was fond of:            

  What do they use for brains!

My mother often said this in her later years:


My grand-nephew, Jayden, coined this one at the age of four!

                  You’ve got to have balance!

Further Fodder for Reflection:

Helen Keller

Go for the cryptoquote adventure. As my Little Brother Noel would say, “It’s so satisfyin’.”

...Until Next Time...