Tag Archives: Holidays

Take a Walk This Thanksgiving

Close-up shot of a leaf-littered autumn path. Both sides of the path are surrounded by trees and bushes that are still half-full with their autumn leaves and colour. This post will meander much like my Thanksgiving strolls do.

One of my favourite things to do on Thanksgiving or any other holiday that has decent weather is to take a walk.

If the big meal of the day is scheduled for the evening or if the weather is expected to turn chilly later on, I’ll wander off in the afternoon when the temperature is as its warmest.

Ideally, someone will join me, but there’s also something to be said for walking quietly with your thoughts on a day like this one.

Thanksgiving is one of those big holidays that temporarily shuts down the usual rhythms of life here in Ontario. This is even more true this year due to our government asking us to celebrate it with other members of our households only and avoid all unnecessary in-person interactions with other people now that the second wave of Covid-19 is surging.

Yes, there are advantages to gathering with kind relatives during the holidays. I miss my parents, siblings, sister-in-law, and nephews and dream of the day when my spouse and I can be together with them again.

But there are also advantages to quiet holidays at home, and a walk at the nicest part of the day is one of them.

Our slice of the world is a fairly still place on Thanksgiving even during ordinary times. If they’re lucky enough not to be working, most folks stay home and rest on that day or go visit relatives.

The streets are nearly as empty as they’ll be a few months from now at Christmas. Very few restaurants and other places of business are open today, and I tend to avoid the ones that are to encourage them to give their employees a break.

A walk doesn’t require anyone to put on a uniform, miss out on time with their loved ones, or clean up after you. At most, you might need to find something delicious to nibble on in the kitchen when you return back home.

Walks are meditative. There’s nothing like looking at the beautiful world around you, whether it is a forest painted with all of the colours of autumn, a suburban park filled with curious wildlife, or a quiet urban road that somehow feels like a poem that’s about to begin whenever you unexpectedly see a car drive by.

Parent and child taking a walk on an autumn-leaf-strewn path. Taking a walk is a gentle form of exercise that most people are capable of doing. A pet, small child, senior family member, or loved one who might have a disability that makes more strenuous forms of exercise difficult may be able to join you.

If the pets in your life are anything like the dogs my family had back in the day, they will insist on joining you and might just keep you out of the house much longer than you were expecting to be gone!

Good conversations can happen on walks. Yes, this can include conversations with yourself if you’re walking alone. I am not ashamed to admit that I occasionally talk to myself on walks to sort out a problem or figure out what to do with my stories next.

Walking is non-competitive…unless you’re my siblings who genuinely find joy in making everything a competition between them. Ha! For the rest of us, it’s a form of exercise that doesn’t require any scorekeeping or picking a winner.

It’s tempting to overindulge during the holidays. I find it helpful to go take a walk before I decide whether my stomach truly needs another slice of pie or serving of mashed potatoes and gravy. Whether the answer to that question is yes or no, there’s definitely something to be said for giving your body some time to start digesting what you’ve already eaten before digging into another plate. I’d rather be stopped at the point of satiation than cross that line and end up uncomfortably full.

Have I convinced you to go take a walk yet? I hope you enjoy it if I have.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Canadians!

Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories About Easter

A white rabbit sitting on grass next to coloured easter eggs.Two years ago, I wrote Are There Any Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories About Easter?

This is a follow-up to that post that has been slowly compiled over time.

Just like in 2018, I was interested in non-religious Easter stories that fit somewhere into the speculative fiction spectrum.

There were no other criteria. I was totally open to short stories, novellas, or novels. Something written in 1800 would have been just as welcomed as something that was published last week.

So it came as a surprise to me to see what a short list I came up with. The vast majority of the titles on this list are children’s picture books. This was after I trimmed out all of the storybooks about Cartoon Character X’s first Easter. I’m sure they’re adorable stories, but I didn’t want them to crowd out everything else I found.

Children’s Picture Books

These were the picture books that appealed most to me. My parents read The Runaway Bunny to us when my siblings and I were growing up, and it was lovely.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz

The Story of the Easter Bunny by Katherine Tegen

The Easter Rabbit’s Parade by Lois Lenski

The Easter Bunny That Ate My Sister by Dean Marney

Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

After coming up with these titles, I had some success with speculative fiction that was written for an adult audience. In order to add this section, I needed to loosen up my “no religion” criteria a tad. Both of their blurbs do make references to non-secular celebrations of this holiday, but they don’t appear to be written in a proselytizing manner from what I can tell.

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

The Circle of Six: Emily’s Quest by Dan Sanders

What Would You Add?

What books can you add to this list? I’d love to write a follow-up post if or when the speculative fiction community realizes how much fodder there is in Easter for all sorts of different tales.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll even write one myself!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Hope to Find Under My Tree

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Santa's red bag overflowing with presentsThis week’s topic was a little tricky for me because the list of books that I want to read but haven’t already purchased as e-books or requested from the library is honestly pretty small. When you add my minimalistic lifestyle on top of that, I’ll admit that I can be a difficult person to buy presents for.

What I ended up doing with this prompt was coming up with a list of titles that my library doesn’t carry and that were hard to find in e-book form the last time I looked for them.

It’s quite possible that one or both of these things have changed for any of these titles. Maybe I’ll do more searches for them after Christmas ends? Or maybe it’s best to keep these as ideas for people who want to buy me stuff and are totally stumped by what to get? What do you all think?

Book cover for The Witch Under the Mountain by Audrey N. Allison

1. The Witch Under the Mountain by Audrey N. Allison 

Why I Want to Read It: A friend of mine gave it a great review a few months ago. Witches and ghosts are also things I enjoy reading about in general, so combining the two is automatically going to make me perk up.

2. Interference (Semiosis Duology #2) by Sue Burke

Why I Want to Read It: I was a huge fan of the first book! It’s surprising to me that my library doesn’t have it yet considering how popular Semiosis was.

Book cover for Defying Doomsday by Tsana Dolchva.

3. Defying Doomsday by Tsana Dolchva

Why I Want to Read It: It’s still disappointingly rare for characters who have disabilities or chronic illnesses to be main characters in science fiction stories. I’ve been yearning to read this book ever since stumbling across a reference to it on a blog earlier this year.

4. The Deep by Rivers Solomon 

Why I Want to Read It: I’ve heard amazing things about this book from other bloggers. The premise of it makes me think of a horrifying scene in the 1970s Roots mini-series that showed Africans being thrown off slave ships to drown in the middle of the ocean. I love the fact that Ms. Solomon decided to create a world where these people not only survived but thrived.

Creepy Christmas: A Review of Krampus

Content Warning: Blood and a dysfunctional family. I will be briefly mentioning these things in my review.

Krampus film poster. It shows the demon standing on the roof of the home the main characters live in. Krampus is a 2015 dark fantasy horror comedy film about a young boy named Max who has a disappointing Christmas with his argumentative, dysfunctional relatives and accidentally summons a festive demon to his home as a result of it.

In Central Europe, Krampus has been known historically as a  “half-goat, half-demon” creature who punishes naughty children at Christmas time. Some folklorists think he might have been invented long before Christianity existed!

He is generally described as a creature with cloven hooves, horns, fangs, and a thick pelt of black or brown hair covering his body. Think of him as a contrasting figure to Santa who rewards good children with presents, but stories about him probably existed in Central Europe long before Santa did.

I was vaguely aware of the legends surrounding this mythical figure before watching this film. It was fascinating to learn more about him both by watching it and doing some research about where this legend came from and how it has evolved over the years.

As always, my descriptions of the characters are written in the past tense to avoid giving away spoilers.

Characters

Emjay Anthony as Max Engel. He is licking an envelope in this scene.
Emjay Anthony as Max Engel

 

Max was the main character. He still believed in Santa when this film began, and he accidentally summoned the Krampus after having a fight with his cousins about the existence of Santa among other sensitive topics in this family.

 

Adam Scott as Tom Engel.
Adam Scott as Tom Engel

 

Tom was Max’s loving and devoted father.

Toni Collette as Sarah Engel
Toni Collette (left) as Sarah Engel

 

Sarah was Max’s perfectionistic mom. She wanted all of her relatives to have a nice time over the holidays and spent weeks preparing for Christmas to help this come true.

 

Stefania LaVie Owen as Beth Engel
Stefania LaVie Owen as Beth Engel

 

Beth was Max’s exasperated older sister who was dreading spending the holidays with her rowdy and uncouth relatives.

 

Krista Stadler as Omi Engel
Krista Stadler as Omi Engel

 

Omi Engel was Tom’s mother and Max’s grandmother. She only spoke German, but she did understand English. Several of her relatives were fluent in German and could translate for her. Much of her time was spent baking sweet treats and brewing hot chocolate for her family.

 

Conchata Ferrell as Aunt Dorothy
Conchata Ferrell as Aunt Dorothy

 

Aunt Dorothy was Beth and Linda’s passive aggressive, prejudiced, and mean-spirited aunt. No one wanted to invite her to Christmas festivities, but no one could bear to turn her away either.

 

Allison Tolman as Linda
Allison Tolman as Linda

 

Linda was Sarah’s sister. She and her husband were overwhelmed by their four unruly children.

 

David Koechner as Howard
David Koechner as Howard

 

Howard was Linda’s husband and Max’s uncle. He loved hunting and making off-colour jokes.

 

Thor as Rosie the Dog
Thor as Rosie the Dog

 

Rosie was the Engel family’s dog. She was a friendly pooch who was always in the market for a nibble of human food.

 

Luke Hawker as Krampus
Luke Hawker as Krampus

 

Krampus was the demon Max accidentally summoned.

My Review

Yes, this film is part of the horror genre, but with the exception of one brief scene it was not gory. There’s a lot a storyteller can do to freak out an audience without showing anything graphic. The people who worked on this project did a great job of finding the horror in anticipation instead of bloodshed.

The buildup to Krampus’ arrival was well done. I felt like I had plenty of time to get to know the characters before their lives were turned upside down. It was also nice to see the juxtaposition between the sentimental approach to the holiday season at the beginning of this film and the darker turn it took later on.

Krampus was a wonderfully scary villain. It was rare for the audience to see his face during the course of this story. Somehow, that made him even more frightening than he would have otherwise been. Hearing heavy boots clomping on the roof or seeing the quickest glimpse of his long, sharp fingernails put my imagination into overdrive. Picturing what he might look like was far  scarier than actually seeing him, and I’m saying that as someone who thought that the film makers did a great job of bringing this creepy legend to life.

I liked the way the character development was handled. The younger Engels had good reasons for dreading another visit with their relatives. While the extended family wasn’t abusive or anything like that, they did have some pretty unhealthy communication and behavioural issues. Spending time with Aunt Dorothy or the young cousins looked exhausting. Nothing satisfied them, and they seemed to change their minds about what they wanted from one moment to the next. It was pretty interesting to see how the Engels dealt with this and what happened when Max in particular reached his breaking point with them.

As mentioned in the content warning, there was one scene involving blood in the storyline. It happened quickly and was important to the plot development. The rest of the film relied on jump scares, psychological horror, and other non-gory means of frightening the audience.

There was a plot hole that was never resolved. It involved what one of the characters knew about the legend of this demon creature and what they did with that information. This was something so surprising that I was pretty surprised to see the plot brush over it so quickly. It sure would have been nice to explore this more in depth.

With that being said, I still had a good time watching Krampus. It was the first Christmas horror film I’ve ever seen, and I thought it did a nice job of combining imagery from both types of storytelling to come up with something unique.

If you’d like to try a Christmas movie that doesn’t have the slightest whiff of sentimentality to it, I’d recommend starting here.

Krampus is available on Apple TV.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: 10 Gifts for People Who Love Minimalism

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Last week I had trouble commenting on some of the WWBC participants whose sites are hosted on Blogger. I will try to comment on your posts again this week! Here’s hoping that issue was solved.

So what do you buy for someone who already has everything they need and isn’t interested in collecting more gadgets? I’m writing this post from the perspective of someone who fits this description. While I’m always appreciative of the gifts people give to me, the truth of the matter is that there aren’t too many physical possessions out there that I need but haven’t already acquired somehow.

Here’s a list of things you could buy, make, or otherwise give to folks like me depending on their tastes. I mostly stuck to food-based stock photos to illustrate my point because apparently there isn’t a lot of demand out there for stock photos about slippery emotions like compliments. Ha!

1. Baked Goods

I’m an average baker, but I certainly wouldn’t know how to make anything that looks like it was made by a professional. It’s always a thrill when someone surprises me with some nicely decorated cupcakes or other treats.

2. Tickets to Artsy Stuff

To give an expensive example, the Hamilton musical is coming to Toronto next year. The tickets for it are far too rich for my tastes, but this would be the sort of thing I’d squeal over if I had a fabulously wealthy fairy godparent.

On a much more economical note, I’d also be thrilled with a general admission ticket to a museum, art gallery, comedy set, concert, or other similar event. I love the feeling of seeing or hearing things that I don’t normally experience in my daily life.

3. A Massage

My parents bought me a one-hour full body massage once or twice when I was in college. It was the nicest thing they could have given me. There’s nothing like the relief of having tense, sore muscles gently relaxed after all of those long months of studying.

It could be a massage from someone I’m really close to or a gift certificate for a professional masseuse. Either one is wonderful in my opinion.

4. Stories, Photos, and Memories

Obviously, this one depends on how well you know the person, but I love it when the older generations in my family pass down new information they’ve discovered about our ancestors or pieces of their childhoods that they haven’t shared yet. There are relatives who died before I was born that I feel like I’ve met because of how much of their lives has been recorded in our oral histories.

It’s also cool when friends randomly share an old photo or funny story from our past.

5. A Personalized Book Recommendation

It always makes me happy when someone tailors their recommendations. That’s not an easy thing to do, but it sure is lovely to receive.

Assorted chocolate and fruit pralines6. Vegan Chocolates

I’m always on the lookout for new types of vegan chocolates or pralines, especially if they’re flavoured with mint, fruit, nuts, or other mix-ins.

7. Herbal Tea

Is it possible to have too much herbal tea or even tea in general? I doubt it.

8. Random, Genuine Compliments

Being surprised with something someone honestly appreciates about you almost feels like the emotional version of a massage. They both make me feel incredibly happy and appreciated.

In order to make this more gift-like, the compliments could be compiled in an email or written on little scraps of paper and put into a fancy jar. Yes, I somehow came up with a physical item that I couldn’t eat but would still enjoy owning. I’d probably use it to store chocolate and other treats in after I’d savoured all of the compliments.

9. Shopping Advice and Support

Fashion isn’t one of those things I spend much time thinking about, but I do admire people who know how to put together an eye-catching wardrobe. It would be super cool to spend a day going through my clothes and shopping with someone who genuinely enjoyed putting nice outfits together.

10. Stargazing

I love astronomy.

This past autumn, I had the chance to do a little stargazing at a local university. The event was put on by faculty and students there, so we got to hear some interesting facts about the stuff we were looking at.

I would be so excited to do this occasionally with someone who was really knowledgable on this topic.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

A  True Selfless Act Always Sparks Another: A Review of Klaus

Last year I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction films. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, Coco, Winchester, The Little Stranger, Astraea, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, A Dog’s Purpose, and Jurassic… Read More

Top Ten Tuesday: Holiday Reads

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl While I don’t really celebrate any winter holidays with anything other than a nice meal, I still enjoy reading books about or set in this part of the year. 1. Yuletide Tales A Festive Collective by Peter John I’ve never seen such a diverse assortment of stories related to Christmas.… Read More