Category Archives: Personal Life

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: How I Feel About Staycations

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

A photo looking down at someone’s legs as they stand on a porch next to a welcome mat that has the word “home” written on it in a thick black font. The “o” in the letter home has been replaced with a red heart. I have mixed feelings about staycations.

Sometimes they’re the perfect choice if you’re exhausted and/or don’t have the budget to travel elsewhere.

They can be a nice, relaxing way to recharge under those circumstances. There is definitely something to be said for keeping things low key and thrifty.

On the other hand, there’s the temptation to treat a staycation like any other time of the year and not make any fun memories during them at all.

This happened to my spouse and I years ago. We didn’t have the funds to travel anywhere that time, and I totally understood and accepted that.

The problem was that we didn’t do much stuff that was out of the ordinary for us during our staycation from what I can recall. I still washed the dishes and did the grocery shopping, (most of the) cooking, and laundry. We still ate out at the inexpensive fast food restaurants we’d normally visit if I’m not cooking that night for whatever reason.

Other than not working, it was completely like any other week. We didn’t try any new places from what I can recall, and I only remember going to one free place that I’d previously enjoyed. The rest of the time was spent watching tv and wandering around a local mall. (No offence meant to people who think that sounds like the perfect vacation, by the way! To each their own. It’s simply not my cup of tea.)

These days I’m more assertive about staycations. Yes, I’ll stick to whatever the budget is for the week, but I am going to break my daily routines and go to some nice dairy-free bakeries, parks I don’t get to visit very often, or free local events at the bare minimum! My spouse doesn’t have to accompany me, and I certainly won’t fill every day with long lists of places to visit or anything like that. A couple of hours every other day or so to spend on stuff I really love to do is enough to make me happy.  That leaves plenty of time for walking around the mall, watching tv, or doing nothing in particular, too. 😉

I simply need more from a vacation than doing the same things we always do and then going home to do chores. That’s not my idea of a good time.

Staycations can be a wonderful option if you treat your local community as if you’re a tourist there and go to places you normally don’t visit (or places you’ve visited before and already know are perfect for your tastes!)

They can also be disappointing, at least from my perspective, if you stick to the same old routines every day and don’t branch out at all.

So much depends on how you plan ahead for them and how much effort everyone puts into the experience.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Introvert vs. Extrovert – Which One Are You?

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Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

A drawing of four different batteries standing next to each other. The one on the left is nearly fully drained, and has a red bar on it showing it desperately needs to be charged. The next two have two orange and three yellow bars on them respectively, showing that they are draining but still have some juice left. The battery at the left has four green bars on it and is fully charged. I am an introvert because my emotional battery is charged up by being alone.

When I was a kid, introversion wasn’t understood as well as it is today. (Or at least not in the rural areas I grew up in where extroversion was a strong social norm and you were considered a little odd if you didn’t fit into that box. Cities might have been different in that regard as one could pick from a much wider range of social circles in such places!)

There are still misconceptions about it, of course, but now I find that most people are totally understanding when I say that I’ve had a wonderful time at massive social event X but will be taking some time for myself the next day or two to recharge my energy levels.

With that being said, I can behave a little like an extrovert under the right circumstances. There are certain people in my life I adore spending time with and who drain my introvert battery much more slowly than other folks do.

These people tend to be quiet, gentle, and kind souls who are also fellow introverts. (I love noisy, boisterous people, too, but it’s easier for me to spend long periods of time with folks who enjoy some friendly silence for part of our hangouts).

Some of us are naturally pretty far on one side of the spectrum or the other, but from what I’ve observed the majority of people seem to have aspects of both extroversion and introversion in their personalities depending on how much socialization they have or have not been getting recently and what else is going on in their lives.

For example, are they currently dealing with an injury or illness that drains their energy? Have they recently had a big change in their life like moving? Are they celebrating something exciting like a promotion, new addition to their family (whether pet or human), or graduating from college?

All of these things and more can nudge you firmly in one direction or the other at least temporarily in my experience.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: An Interesting Story About Family or Friends

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To give a little backstory first, my grandfather has been a farmer his entire life just like his father was before him. One of the problems with farming in certain parts of the Midwestern United States is that the land there used to be a giant swamp.

This means that anywhere from mild to much more serious flooding is common in certain low-lying areas and that they often have too much water for their crops instead of not enough. Stagnant pools of water are also a great place for mosquitoes to lay their eggs, so one must take note of that as well unless you want to become dinner for thousands of tiny little bloodsuckers.

Drainage pipes are one modern solution to this problem. My grandfather’s land is filled with them wherever he notices that he has too much water.

This is the tale of the white drainage pipe and the kids who protected it.

When my brothers and I were little, Grandpa installed a drainage pipe in his side yard. This was a little uncommon as most of his pipes were in his fields or by his barns in order to keep his crops and tools from being flooded out.

It was not a complicated job, but it was something that my siblings found fascinating. We were allowed to stand a safe distance away and observe part of the process. I have vague memories of it being muddy as they dug.

After the pipe had been placed and covered over with dirt and grass seeds again, Grandpa gave my brothers a very solemn and important assignment.

Two photos from the day when Grandpa dug the drainage ditch in his yard. In the left photo, you see a Caucasian girl with short, curly brown hair leaping over the drainage ditch. I’m probably about 5 or 6 years old in this photo. The ditch was maybe a foot or two deep and there are piles of soil on each side. I’m wearing a pink shirt, a red skirt, and white shoes that were somehow still clean despite all of the mud. I n the photo on the right, my little brother is standing next to our grandfather beside the ditcher. The ditcher had been painted red but the paint was fading. It was about 8 feet tall based on how much it towered over my already decently-sized height grandfather. Grandpa is a Caucasian man in about his 50s whose skin has been deeply tanned by a lifetime of working outdoors. He’s wearing a blue and white ball cap, a blue longsleeved work shirt, and a lighter blue pair of pants. My brother is also Caucasian, about 3 or 4 years old, and he wearing jeans and a yellow-tshirt, and has straight blond hair. Every time we came over to visit, they were to pour a little water in one end of the pipe and make sure it flowed out the other end into a nearby creek.

Some kids might have forgotten this duty after a time or two, but my siblings were not among them. Every time we visited, they would pour a little cup of water into the pipe and then we’d race down the hill with a nearby grownup to ensure grandpa’s pipe wasn’t plugged up.

This went on for multiple visits if my memory is correct. The pipe was always clear, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

And now I chuckle at the cute memory and creative way to encourage the grandkids to burn off some energy and feel included before going indoors into our grandparents’ home.

(This post was edited to include a few family pictures I didn’t know existed from this time period. Look how big that ditcher was! And I’d forgotten that I jumped over the ditch).

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: How I Amuse Myself in Waiting Rooms

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Four empty red chairs sitting in a row in a waiting room. They are next to a glass wall that shows an empty hallway behind this waiting room. There are fluorescent lights shining in the hallway and a row of windows overlooking outdoors to the left.

Honestly, I tend to play games like Sudoku or Royal Match on my phone when I’m sitting in a waiting room. Cell phones are fantastic for moments like this.

If there’s something about the appointment that makes me feel anxious, games keep me calm before the receptionist calls my name.

Reading a book on my phone can also be distracting if I know it’s going to be a while until they’re ready for me.

Not every waiting room allows cell phones or is a good place to use one, though.

Years ago I had an appointment and was warned in advance that cell phones were not permitted in that building. (It was a passport renewal thing, so security was quite strict about enforcing that rule).

When electronic distractions aren’t allowed or aren’t a good idea for other reasons, I like to people watch. People are fascinating.

I like to pay attention to what others wore that day and how they styled their hair. You might see people dressed very casually and loosely at a doctor’s office, especially if they’re soon going to need to take a certain article of clothing off so the nurse can check their stitches, vaccinate them, or do some other minor medical work.

Body language and tone of voice matter, too. You might hear someone switch between languages as they translate for a loved one or speak a little quieter or louder than necessary because maybe they’re not used to being in a doctor’s office, bank, lawyer’s office, or any other number of places.

Sometimes I silently think of a compliment I’d give to every single person in the room. It could be about their cool shoes, or how they immediately stood up and offered their seat to a stranger who had mobility problems, or anything else I can observe without asking them any questions. (I don’t share these thoughts as I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable!)

I also try to keep track of who arrived there before I did and about how many minutes it has been between each person being called up for their turn. This can give me an estimate of how long my wait time might be if the room is small enough for this sort of mental game.

If there are too many people to keep track of – or if I’m more or less alone in the waiting room – I try to memorize as many details about it as possible using all of my senses. For example, what colour are the chairs? What does the room smell like, if anything? Can I hear any machines being used in the rooms whose doors are closed? Are there any mints at the receptionists’ desk, and would they allow me to take one on my way out?

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My Festivus Geekiatum Plans

Closeup shot of five chocolate chip cookies that have been stacked on top of each other against a peach-coloured background. Last October, Long and Short Reviews released a Wednesday Weekly Blogging topic about which new holidays participants would like to invent.

As I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, My friend Michael Mock responded to that question by inventing Festivus Geekiatum:

Festivus Geekiatum is a day to indulge your favorite interests. Work on that knitting project, watch that anime, re-read that favorite book, perform in — or attend — that one play. Reconnect with your hobbies, re-engage your interests, work on your projects.

Which I thought was a fabulous idea, especially since it happens at the end of February when cabin fever can begin to set in and make your previous winter plans seem not so fun anymore.

(Yes, I know the first portion of this post is very similar to the beginning of an older post from a few weeks ago. I’m trying to keep everyone up to speed on what Festivus Geekiatum is and who invented it).

My tentative plans for the first annual Festivus Geekiatum include:

  • Baking something delicious – chocolate chip cookies, perhaps?
  • Rewatching a favorite episode from Star Trek or some other speculative fiction show. The Trouble With Tribbles is close to the top of my list if I can find a copy of it on one of the streaming networks my household subscribes to.
  • Finding a nerdy-themed workout online and doing it. Ideally, it would be a dance workout, but we’ll see what I can find.
  • Rereading a few Mary Oliver or Langston Hughes poems because they’re at the top of my list of favorite poets.

If any of my readers decide to join in on the fun, I’d love to hear what you decided to do this year!

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Pets I Wish I Could Have

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Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

A fluffy little white Bichon Frise puppy sitting on a blue and white striped chair. The dog is looking at the audience with an expectant expression on its face. Perhaps it wants a treat?

As cool as reptiles, arachnids, and fish are, I think I’d prefer to have mammals as pets.

Unfortunately, I’m terribly allergic to the vast majority of mammals that are commonly kept as pets.

If pet allergies didn’t exist and I no longer had migraines that restrict what I can do some days, I’d love to have a few furry companions.

Dogs

Dogs can make such wonderful companions in life from what I’ve observed.

They (usually) don’t mind being petted, and some of them will even actively seek out that sort of attention from at least some of the humans in their lives.

Having a dog or two would also encourage me to be more physically active, especially in the winter when going outside honestly doesn’t sound that appealing most days.

From what I’ve read, dogs can be a solitary pet, but many of them enjoy having at least one canine companion around as well. I appreciate that flexibility as some species like Guinea pigs really need to be kept in groups, or at very least in pairs, in order to be happy.

Some dogs are quite intelligent. I’d enjoy teaching them new words or tricks. It would be interesting to see just how much they could learn over the years.

Rabbits

My second answer to this question is rabbits. A photo of three rabbits sitting under the archway of a door and looking serenely out at the world in front of them. Two of the rabbits are light brown, and the third is a wonderful patchwork of light brown, grey, and white fur. There is a grey stone wall behind them and a wooden door frame just a few shades darker than their light brown fur to frame the scene.

I’ve mentioned my love of this species here many times before.

Unlike dogs, they never need to be taken outside for walks.  They can get all of the exercise and mental stimulation they need inside your home if you provide them enough playtime and enrichment activities. This would be a nice bonus when the weather outside is frightful.

They tend to be quiet, albeit sometimes mischievous, creatures. I like how independent they can be, especially since they generally do best with at least one other rabbit around for companionship. There’s nothing like watching two or more rabbits play together or try to eat the same piece of hay. I’d have hours of entertainment from quietly observing them.

Rabbits are less likely to want to be petted than a dog would be, but it can still happen if you build a trusting relationship with them. I’m a peaceful and patient person, so we’d be a good match there as well.

 

 

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: What’s New in My Life Lately

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Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

The phrase “open to new opportunities” is written in chalk on a black chalkboard. Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone celebrating it today!

Here is what is new in my life lately:

Festivus Geekiatum

Last October, Long and Short Reviews released a Wednesday Weekly Blogging topic about which new holidays participants would like to invent.

My friend Michael Mock responded to that question by inventing Festivus Geekiatum:

Festivus Geekiatum is a day to indulge your favorite interests. Work on that knitting project, watch that anime, re-read that favorite book, perform in — or attend — that one play. Reconnect with your hobbies, re-engage your interests, work on your projects.

I will be participating in this on February 26 and am talking about this in advance in case anyone else would like to join in on the fun.

Career Change

I’m gearing up for a career change and job hunting in the near future.

If any of my readers happen to excel at job hunting, interviews, or making career changes and have experience doing so within the last few years, advice is appreciated.

For everyone else, I’d love some good vibes and encouragement if you have any to spare.

It will be interesting to see how this goes.

Getting Back Into Exercising

I started feeling sick around New Year’s Day. My cough eventually lead to me developing costochrondritis, a benign but uncomfortable inflammation and injury to the chest wall. My covid tests were all negative, and I did have covid and flu boosters last autumn. Whatever bug I picked up in late December was not a fun way to begin this year by any means.

Exercise other than the occasional slow walk was really difficult because every sort of movement hurts when you have this condition: breathing too deeply, coughing, laughing, carrying anything heavier than a pound or two, sneezing, bending over, rolling over in bed, etc.

The good news is that this is something that generally heals on its own with rest, patience, and ibuprofen as needed. I am just now trying to slowly increase the speed and length of my walks when possible.

Not exercising at all for well over a month was a huge change for me as I was previously someone who enjoyed 30 minutes of formal exercise most days of the week (weightlifting, kickboxing, dancing, etc.) and then usually another 30-ish minutes of brisk walking that was usually broken up into a few minutes here and there as I walked to errands, appointments, and other necessities of life.

So I am really looking forward to being able to get back into my old workout routines. I miss them so much.

That’s about it for me at the moment. I look forward to hearing about what’s new with everyone else.

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What I Read in 2023

The words “wishing you a prosperous new year” have been printed on a white sheet of paper and glued to an off-white wall. There are evergreen boughs surrounding this cheerful message. Happy New Year, readers!

In January of 2013, I began blogging about everything I’d read that previous year.  This tradition began when my dad asked me how many books I’ve read in my entire lifetime.

I couldn’t begin to give him an answer to that question, but it did make me decide to start keeping track from that moment forward. The previous posts in this series are as follows: 2022,  202120202019, 2018,  2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

I read 55 books this year not counting the ones I review pseudonymously for other sites. That number is a little lower than usual, but I also tended to read longer books this year than I did in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

2023 was a year of me diving more deeply in the biography genre and less deeply into the history genre than usual. My brain is can handle a little horror now if I stick to the psychological or paranormal flavours of it that avoid the gory stuff. Before 2020, I read much more about zombies and pandemics and such, but these past few years have changed my preferences.

I’m enjoying the gentler sides of fiction and nonfictions these days.

Here are the books I’ve read (or reread) over the past year. I’ll wait for Top Ten Tuesday tomorrow to share my favourite stories of the year, so stay tuned.

Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs

Closeup photo of an opened handwritten letter, a bundle of handwritten letters that have been folded in thirds and tied with a rough brown string, and a few faded photos tucked underneath the open letter. “After the Annex: Anne Frank, Auschwitz, and Beyond” by Bas  von Brenda-Beckmann

“Never Give Up: A Prairie Family’s Story” by Tom Brokaw

“Don’t Let Them Bury My Story: The Oldest Living Survivor of the Tulsa Rase Massacre in Her Own Words” by Viola Ford Fletcher

“Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder” by Caroline Fraser

“Kukum” by Michel Jean

“Quiet Street: On American Privilege” by Nick McDonell

“The Story of Tutankhamun: An intimate Life of the Boy Who Became King” by Garry J. Shaw

“Waswanipi” by  Jean-Yves Soucy

“Peace by Chocolate: The Hadhad Family’s Remarkable Journey from Syria to Canada” by Jon Tattrie

“Little House in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“On the Banks of Plum Creek” by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“By the Shores of Silver Lake” by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Little Town on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“These Happy Golden Years” by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“The First Four Years” by Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

Fiction

A photo of a black woman lying on a bed and petting her dog with her right hand as her left hand holds open a book. She is wearing jeans and a white button-down shirt and looks as if she just came home from work to spend time with her beloved pup and read a good book in her well-lit, comfortable bedroom. Light is streaming onto the bed from a nearby window, and you can see a few potted plants on the white dressers behind her and in front of her. “Destination Prairie” by Cathie Bartlett

“Don’t Cry for Me” by Daniel Black

“Yes, Miss Thompson” by Amy Boyes

“Small Things Like These” by Claire Keegan

“Foster” by Claire Keegan

“Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe

“Looking for Jane” by Heather Marshall

 

History

“Ghosts of the Orphanage: A Story of Mysterious Deaths, a Conspiracy of Silence, and a Search for Justice “ by Christine Kenneally

 

Psychology and Sociology

A group of young Asian people are laughing and talking as they sit on a large couch together. One of them is reading something on his cellphone. They all look happy and relaxed. “50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food” by Susan Albers

“CBT for Social Anxiety: Simple Skills for Overcoming Fear and Enjoying People” by Stefan G. Hofmann

“NPR Funniest Driveway Moments” by NPR

“NPR Laughter Therapy: A Comedy Collection for the Chronically Serious” by NPR

“Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves from the American Dream” by Alissa Quart

 

Science Fiction and Fantasy

A young red headed girl is reading a book and attempting to cast a spell with a wooden wand. She’s holding the wand above her head and looking expectedly for some sign it’s working! “The Girl With All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey

“The Boy on the Bridge” by M.R. Carey

“A Psalm for the Wild-Built” by Becky Chambers

“A Prayer for the Crown-Shy” by Becky Chambers

“The Last of What I Am” by Abigail Cutter

“Bloom” by Delilah S. Dawson

“A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller

“Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland” by Lisa Schneidau 

“The Necessity of Stars” by E. Catherine Tobler

“War Bunny” by Christopher St. John

 

Science, Health, and Medicine

Mysterious blue liquid in a beaker, a pipette, and a series of glass test tubes that are lined up neatly in a row. “Cave of Bones: A True Story of Discovery, Adventure, and Human Origins” by Lee Berger and John Hawks

“Ravenous: How to Get Ourselves and Our Planet Into Shape” by Henry Dimbleby

“The Last Cold Place: A Field Season Studying Penguins in Antarctica” by Naira de Garcia

“Into the Forest: The Secret Language of Trees” by Susan Tyler Hitchcock

“The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction” by Pat Shipman

“Homo Sapiens Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution Rewriting Our Origins” by Paul Pettitt

“The Autumn Ghost: How the Battle Against a Polio Epidemic Revolutionized Modern Medical Care” by Hannah Wunsch

 

Young Adult

An olive-skinned father reading a bedtime story to his son as the child lays in bed. The book is spread out over the child’s lap. “Still Stace” by Stacey Chomiak

“The Other Pandemic” by Lynn Curlee

“Sarah, Plain and Tall” (#1 in series) by Patricia MacLachlan

“Skylark (#2 in series)” by Patricia MacLachlan

“Caleb’s Story” (#3 in series) by Patricia MacLachlan (Middle Grade)

“More Perfect Than the Moon” (#4 in series) by Patricia MacLachlan

“Grandfather’s Dance” (#5 in series) by Patricia MacLachlan

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Winter Holiday Traditions

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Content warning: mental health

To be perfectly honest with you all, the winter holiday season is something I do not look forward to at all.

Frozen red fruit covered in a thin layer of frost and hanging from a bent tree branch. the background is blurry but shows many other tree branches covered in snow and frost. I get the winter blues every year, so the lack of sunlight at this time of year dampens my mood in and of itself. (Seriously, Ontario. Why must you be such a cold and dark place now? Ha.)

I used to work in a field that was horribly busy during the winter holiday season. This meant that I worked weird, late hours, couldn’t eat meals at the same time every day, was often sleep deprived, and had a much higher chance than usual of running into impatient, furious, and unkind customers multiple times every single day. (The vast majority of our customers were perfectly lovely people, of course, but the bad apples made an already difficult time of year so much worse).

The relatives I wish I could spend the holidays with live far away. This can be a lonely time of year to be so far away from them.

So when the holidays start threatening to roll around again, I need an action plan to deal with my low mood, bad memories, and loneliness. My goal each year is to find the joy in what I can and do everything I can to minimize or eliminate anything that fills me with a sense of dread.

What sorts of things do I like to do?

 

1) Look at Christmas, New Years, Chanukah and other holiday lights. Toronto is filled with them, and it makes me so happy.

2) Splurge on delicious food. For example, I might go out to an upscale restaurant for one night or buy that fancy cut of meat, vegan advent calendar, or non-local type of fruit or vegetable at the grocery store that I’d usually be too thrifty to add to the grocery cart.

3) Send care packages to loved ones. Shipping to the U.S. from Canada is expensive, but it’s so worth it to get their excited texts when the goodies arrive. There’s nothing like the joy of giving.

4) Play Christmas music. This is kind of funny because I don’t really celebrate Christmas otherwise. Some of those carols are beautiful and have really stood the test of time, though!

5) Celebrate the Winter Solstice with a walk and special meal. I’ll do the walk outdoors if the weather permits it, but the food is always eaten indoors because December is so cold and dark. The menu changes around most years but often includes pie because that’s such a delicious dessert. No, I’m not pagan….I’m simply always relieved to finally have more sunlight on the way, and what better way to celebrate than with food?

6) Say no. I set aside the last two weeks of December as a time to rest. Unless it’s something mandatory, urgent, or a fun social event that I genuinely can’t wait to attend, I say no to a lot of things I normally say yes to. I simply don’t have the emotional energy now that I do in other seasons, and that’s okay.

7) Reread and rewatch classic Christmas and winter stories. I find it comforting to revisit tales like A Christmas Carol or A Christmas Story in December.

8) Choose kind and pleasant people. I can get along with anyone and have a history of bending over backwards to include folks that might not be included on many other guest lists for any number of reasons. With that being said, I trim down the list of people I’m willing to spend time with to folks who have a solid history of being wonderful and empathetic human beings when December rolls around and my emotional energy has worn thin. It doesn’t matter if we’re legally related or how we know each other. Anyone who is a joy to socialize with is happily invited to hang out with me now.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Things I Like About Winter and the Holidays


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Two years ago, I used the early December freebie post to talk about why winter and the winter holiday season is hard for me.

This year I thought I’d follow up to that post with a list of things I like about winter and the winter holiday season.  Some of these answers are bookish while others maybe not so much.

Photo of orange blister packs filled with pills. 1. Fewer Migraines

Last summer when wildfires were burning out of control across Canada and pollen counts were high, I had two to three times as many migraines as I normally would have because both pollen and air pollution are triggers for me. Combining those two things together was not good for my health at all.

I will still have migraines this winter as some of them are unavoidable for me, but they will hopefully be back to my baseline number of them instead of the rough few months I had over the summer.

 

An orange cat blissfully sleeping in a white cat bed. Its head and paw are resting on the side of the bed so that the viewer can see them. The rest of its body is hidden behind the side of the bed. 2. Better Sleep

With fewer migraines and no seasonal allergies to deal with, I’m going to be getting much more restful sleep this winter as long as I don’t catch any winter illnesses. There’s nothing like sleeping deeply and waking up refreshed!

 

 

 

Hardback books neatly lined up on a wooden desk that is sitting right in front of a large picture window. The window overlooks a snowy winter street where a pedestrian is walking down the centre of the road because the sidewalks are filled with snow. 3. More Time to Read

Yes, some people relish plenty of outdoor time on cold, snowy, slippery days…but I am not one of them.

When the weather outside is frightful, I stay home and catch up on my reading.

There are so many books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t had the chance to dig into yet.

This winter could put a serious dent in my TBR list, especially if we get the heavy snowfall that some meteorologists say could happen for Ontario this year.

 

 

 

4. Warm, Hearty Meals

I love chili, stew, soup, spaghetti, cottage pie, and all sorts of other cold-weather dishes that aren’t very A close-up photo of a bowl of vegetable beef stew in a blue bowl. The bowl is sitting on a wooden surface. practical to cook or appetizing to eat when it’s 40 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) outside and the humidity levels are  90%.

This time of year, though, is perfect for eating a bowl or plate of food that you know will keep your belly warm and full as the snow falls thickly outside and the temperature drops below zero.

 

 

A peeled mandarin orange has been broken into five segments. It’s sitting on a white surface next to the mandarin orange peel that once held this fruit.

5. Mandarin Oranges 

In related food news, mandarin oranges are in season again. I try to choose my diet based on what’s in season as much as possible, so citrus is a nice break from the apples and bananas that make up so many of my fruit servings over the winter.

 

 

A white woman who has brown hair and is wearing a chunky white sweater is reading a hardback novel as she sits next to a fireplace. The fireplace is in a circular fire pit in the centre of the room. You can see a stack of chopped wood next to it ready to add to the flame as needed. 6. Enjoying Winter-y Reads 

These past several years, I’ve read and reread winter-themed books over the winter.

It’s kind of fun to read books about characters dealing with snowy, slippery, and stormy conditions when many of us in the Northern Hemisphere will be doing the same thing for the next three to four months (or longer for folks who live in the far north!)

C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol are on my re-read list for this winter. I don’t yet know which other books fitting this theme I might also read or reread, but I’m sure I’ll find something.

(If you have suggestions for nonfiction, mysteries, or speculative fiction set during the winter, I’d love to hear them!)

 

 

A photo of a tree and car-lined street. There is a row of houses behind the cars. Everything in this scene is covered with a gorgeous layer of snow and possibly some ice that adorns everything in a flowery white covering. It looks almost magical because of how every little branch and bump of these things have been smoothed out.

 

7. The Beauty of Winter

This isn’t a photo of my neighbourhood, but it does capture just how pretty the world can be after a good snowstorm.

I love the way snow softens the harsh lines of everything and adds a gentle touch to what can otherwise be a relentless sea of black, brown, and grey colours over winter.

It’s also interesting to walk around outside during or after a snowstorm and notice how much quieter even the city can be when snow is muffling all of the noises that machines, people, and animals make.

 

 

A photo of a white cup filled with hot chocolate and six big marshmallows. the cup is sitting on a wreath of pine branches and brown autumn leaves that have been arranged around it in a circular pattern. There are three extra marshmallows on this wreath, and everything is sitting on a wooden table. 8. Seasonal Treats

I’m sure this is true just about everywhere right now, too, but November and December are when Toronto’s grocery stores fill up with all sorts of delicious seasonal treats. For example, there’s a specific brand of kosher chocolate I always keep an eye out for over late autumn or the winter because there are no milk products in it and it’s not available the rest of the year.

Now is also when I stock up on candy-cane flavoured stuff, dairy-free hot chocolate, and whatever else catches my eye when I’m buying groceries.

 

A photo of an incredibly content hamster sitting in a dark green mug and eating a seed. The mug is sitting on a dark red surface that has a string of white lights lying on it. 9. Winter Light Displays

You see them for all sorts of different winter holidays in Toronto.

I love the fact that I can walk around and enjoy them without being responsible for planning how to arrange them, putting them up, replacing their burnt-out bulbs, or taking them down again in January.

Thank you to everyone who has the time and creativity for these sorts of decorations! You make a lot of strangers who pass by and notice them very happy.

I’m sharing this photo mostly because it’s adorable, although it does fit the theme somewhat.

 

 

A photo taken of snow that has blown into straight, even lines. It looks like someone plowed the snow this way, but I think it happened naturally as a result of bumps and crevasses on the land the snow fell on. In the distance, you can see the blurry image of a hilll, some evergreen trees, and a few trees that have lost their leaves for the winter. 10. Quiet Days 

Years ago I used to work in jobs that were incredibly busy in November and December.

It was always a huge relief to make it to the end of December and know things were going to be much less hectic for the next few months. (Please be nice to everyone in the service industry this holiday season and always! They work really hard to help make your celebrations special).

I love the feeling of walking through quiet stores, neighbourhoods, or parks just after the holiday season ends and most people have returned to their regular daily routines. It’s such a peaceful moment in life.

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