Tag Archives: Winter

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Wintry Gifs and Photos

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

A snow-covered bench in a snow-covered park. I’m going to be achingly honest with all of you here. The winter holiday season is hard for me for a few different reasons.

One, I have seasonal depression that usually kicks in by early November when Ontario’s days grow short and our sunlight is weak and brief at best.

Two, I live thousands of miles away from the safe and loving relatives that I’d otherwise get to see during the various winter holidays we celebrate.  That homesickness is tough, especially since I haven’t been able to see those family members in a few years now thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Three, I used to work in an industry that was extremely busy in November and December and have some bad memories of those stressful months that felt like they’d never end.

When you combine all of these factors together, I basically begin counting down the days until January 1 arrives as soon as the leaves begin to change colour. In the meantime, I am happy for all of you who enjoy this time of year and hope it’s wonderful for you.

What I really want to do for the next few weeks is curl up and think happy bookish thoughts as winter approaches. Maybe some bookish wintry gifs and photos will suffice? I will be including brief alt-text descriptions of everything in this post for readers who are sight-impaired or who can’t see the photos and gifs for some other reason.

 

Person reading a book while sitting next to a crackling fireplace.

Reading by a fireplace sounds nice.

 

Olaf making a snow angel.

So does making a snow angel. That always feels like it should be the beginning of a story to me. Maybe it’s because you leave behind such pretty imprints in the snow when you’re done.

 

Snoopy characters caroling.

I went carolling a few times with friends as a teenager. I might be too shy to do it now, although I’d happy listen to others do it or help pick out the songs! Once again, this sounds like the opening scene of a book. I’m sure the closing scene would involve the main character performing a solo or something similar.

 

A weeping willow tree covered in icicles and snow.

There is a certain beauty to seeing trees covered in ice and snow. It’s almost like seeing a poem come to life.

 

Stock photo of a gigantic stone statue covered in snow and ice. It’s sitting in a valley next to a small cabin that has smoke coming out of its chimney and one light glowing from a window.

And some of the winter stock images of fantasy scenes are delightful.

 

Person wearing a heavy winter coat and scarf carrying a mug of hot chocolate.

It’s also nice to be entering the tea, hot chocolate, and other beverages time of year. There’s nothing like sipping a cup of something warm and soothing while you read.

 

Snoopy blowing a streamer and saying Happy New Year.

I’ll end this post with a question. Is it too soon to start thinking about what to read in 2022? The new year will be here sooner than we might think!

What do you all think of the winter holiday season?

Quiet Lessons: A Review of Foresight

Book cover for Foresight by Matilda Scotney. Image on cover is a planet with rings around it and three golden moons in orbit around it. Title: Foresight

Author: Matilda Scotney

Publisher: Off the Planet Books (Self-Published)

Publication Date: February 21, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Length: 61 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

 

Starlight, star bright,
The very first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish, I wish tonight.

A metaphysical tale…

Review:

Not only are there two sides to every story, sometimes there are far more sides than that!

The subtlety of the first scene made me smile. There are precious few tales out there that are set in December but are purposefully not about Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or any other holiday that occurs during that month. I was impressed by the way the author captured the beauty that can be found at the end of the year, from the crisp, clear skies to the sharp nip of the wind as autumn slowly turns into winter. These descriptions might not seem to be related to the themes of later scenes at first glance, but give them time to grow. They have a message to share with any reader who is patient enough to keep going and to avoid making assumptions about what might happen next.

I would have liked to see more character development in this short story. It included such a large number of characters that it was difficult to get to know anyone well, much less to spend enough time with them to take note of the ways in which they were changing as a result of their experiences with the alien vessels. There was so much more space here to explore all of their personalities and backstories. If that had happened, I would have happily gone with a full five-star rating.

With that being said, I was delighted by the wide variety of perspectives the author included. I can’t say much about the alien vessels the characters were discussing without giving away spoilers, but it was fascinating to see how differently everyone reacted to them. Some characters viewed them as a threat while others had much more creative reactions to the idea that humans might not be alone in the universe after all. Absorbing everyone’s reactions to them was just as interesting as listening to the the reasons they gave for believing these visitors were anything from a security threat to a muse for creative expression.

Foresight is a must-read for anyone who appreciates thoughtful science fiction.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: The Best Parts of Each Season

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.

Can you guess which season I like the most based on these lists?

a chocolate ice cream in a cone held up against a blue and white sky

Summer 

Many different fruits and vegetables are in season.
Lots of sunshine.
The sun is still in the sky at dinner time.
Festivals and parades happen during the summer.
Ice cream is an acceptable dinner on a hot, humid day.
Nearly every day is a good day for swimming

 

A path through the woods in autumn. Red maple trees line both sides of the path and have littered it with their fallen leaves.

Autumn

Halloween!
Leaves changing colour are beautiful.
Candy corn is on sale
Some fruits and vegetables still in season.
Mild temperatures.
New seasons of TV shows begin.
peeled tangerine next to two whole tangerines

Winter 

No seasonal allergies for months on end
Clementines, oranges, and other citrus fruits are in season.
Most TV shows are still airing new episodes.

 

Close-up photo of cherry tree blossoms

Spring

The days get longer, sunnier, and warmer.
Mild temperatures.
Spring thunderstorms are awe-inspiring.
Flowers bloom and bring colour to the landscape.
Migratory birds and other species return to Ontario.
The first green shoots and buds appear in early April here.
All plants once again have leaves and/or flowers by May.
The first spring vegetables like asparagus are available again.
Strawberries, one of my favourite fruits, are in season at the end of spring.
The cherry trees blossom. They smell and look incredible.
One can go outside with a light jacket or even no jacket at all.
Parks that closed over the winter will reopen again.

 

A Photo Essay of Toronto in January

A weak January sun shining through bare tree leaves in a park. There is snow on the ground and an empty bench in the foreground. Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the twelfth instalment of this series.

Due to reader demand, it will not be the final one! Keep an eye out for another update on our two damaged tree friends a few months from now once we know how they fared throughout the winter.

Click on February, MarchAprilMayJune, July, August, September, October, November, and December to read the earlier posts.

It was 3 Celsius (37 Fahrenheit) but felt like 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) on this month’s visit. Once again, this temperature was warmer than we’d usually expect for this time of the year thanks to climate change. Typical January temperatures here generally remain below freezing all month long even before windchill is factored in. The somewhat sunny sky on this visit was also a bit out of the ordinary.

If you do decide to visit Toronto in January, pack warm clothing that you can easily wear as multiple layers and bring a pair of slip-resistant boots along with the usual hat, gloves, scarf, and a warm winter coat. Frostbite is a real risk here on much chillier days than this one, and it can happen quickly on the coldest days.

The weather was decent at the park this time. We really got lucky this year.

Shot of a World War I statute in an urban park. The skies are partly cloudy and the ground is mostly dry.

There is beauty to be found at the park now when everything is dead or dormant if you have a poetic mind. For example, such blue skies are a rare, precious gift in January!

A muddy, half-frozen running trail in a park in January.

The running and walking trail is once again unusable. This was one of the driest sections, and even it was muddy and filled with patches of slowly-melting ice.

A dirt running trail covered in ice.

This is a more accurate representation of the state of the trail in general. It’s icy, slippery, and muddy in the few places where the ice has begun to melt. Even people who don’t have any mobility issues must take care when walking on it. Running on it is nearly impossible now. The few joggers I noticed had switched to running on the sidewalks instead.

A landscape photograph of an urban park in January. Snow covers part, but not all, of the grass.

Some days are much snowier and slipperier than this one was! It’s common to see layers of snow and ice on all surfaces now. We were lucky to have mostly dry sidewalks on this particular day.

The snow is gorgeous when it sparkles in the winter sunlight in those moments, but anyone could easily slip and fall on the ice that is often hidden beneath all of that enticing snow.

There are other dangers in January park visits as well. We saw dozens of other visitors this time due to the nice weather, but this area can be isolated on colder, wetter days. Speaking as a woman here, I wouldn’t feel comfortable visiting the park alone then. This is a very safe area of the city in general, but it’s far enough away from busier streets that finding help could be a little tricky if I slipped on the ice and got injured or if a stranger tried to harm me.

Do keep these things in mind and be cautious if you’re ever in southern Ontario in the dead of winter and decide to visit any of our lovely parks. The chances of anyone getting hurt are low, but it’s always best to be prepared.

A black squirrel running on a patch of dead grass in January.

In happier news, the squirrels were running around doing cheerful rodent things on this warm winter day.

A mostly melted snowman in a park.

And I wonder if this hunk of melting snow was once a snow person?

Snow lying on the grass in an urban park.

There certainly would have been enough snow for that before it started melting.

A skyward shot of bare tree branches against an overcast but somewhat blue sky

This scene is virtually identical to the one from last month.

A sapling that is still holding onto its brown, crunchy leaves in January

This one also seems to be the same as it was last month. It’s interesting to see leaves, brown and dead as they may be, in the middle of winter.

A petite woman bundled up for winter and standing next to a large tree
Yours truly all bundled up for winter. Tree for scale.

 

Another big change from our last visit had to do with how many layers I needed to be comfortable outside. I wore everything recommended at the beginning of this post other than the boots. I run a little cold in general, but boots would have been a bit much for the dry sidewalks I knew I’d be sticking to for the most part. People whose bodies run hot and who love winter might have been able to do without the scarf and gloves on this particular day if they don’t linger too long.

Face masks aren’t mandatory outdoors in Toronto, but they do help keep you a little warmer when that icy cold wind blows. I also find it easier to keep my mask on than to fiddle with it before going indoors again. The Covid-19 numbers have skyrocketed here this winter, so that’s yet another reason to be cautious and leave the mask on until I’m safe at home again.

A tree that lost half of its branches in a 2020 winter storm. It is now dormant for the winter of 2021.

Here is our tree friend who lost half of its branches in a storm from last winter.

A tree that lost a third of its branches in a winter storm last year.

Here is our tree friend who lost a third of its branches in a storm from last winter. This part of the park has many massive trees in it and therefore seems to hold onto snow a little better than other sections.

It’s still too soon to say how either of them are faring this winter. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

A stone walkway in a park. there is one evergreen and multiple deciduous trees lining it.

Finally, here is what the walkway looks like on a warm January day when most of the ice has had a chance to melt. The evergreen trees that provides such nice shade in the summer can keep this area slippery for quite a while after big winter storms, but it was pretty walkable when I visited this time.

Thank you all for taking these virtual walks with me over the last eleven months! You’ve now seen the park during every month of the year.

We will visit it one final time this spring when I check in on how those two damaged trees survived this winter after being so terribly damaged last winter.

Be well, friends.

Mindfulness During a Snowstorm

black and white photo of person walking alone on a city sidewalk during a snowstormJanuary is the quietest time of year in Ontario.

Life slows down here quickly once this month begins.Not only have the majority of the big winter holidays have passed by, the weather itself isn’t terribly conducive to driving anywhere even before this pandemic began.

The overnight temperature can dip to -25 Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit) or colder, and we often have sleet and snowstorms taking turns making slippery messes of our roads and sidewalks.

There is nothing like sitting next to the windows in my home and watching the snow blanket everything on those days.

Sometimes it falls so quickly that buildings on the other side of the street have been transformed into dark blurs of colour behind a shimmery white veil of snow. Anything past that point is so smudged beyond recognition that I wouldn’t know what it was at all if I weren’t already familiar with it.

My mindful approach to these days is something that started early in life. Let’s meander for a while.

Quiet Snow Days

These storms remind me of the years I spent growing up in a small town in Wyoming. Sometimes it snowed so heavily that all of the highways and other roads going into and out of town were closed. Residents were asked to only use local roads for emergencies, so almost everyone stayed home and waited out the weather.

two wooden cottages almost totally covered in snow
The snow was this deep in the nearby mountains, but not quite so heavy where I lived.

I was a slim, petite kid. For a while I remained just barely light enough to walk on top of snowbanks that had partially melted and then frozen again.

Those moments were pure magic and required no thoughts flitting through my mind at all while I carefully walked without leaving a trace in the snow.

These snowy days of the present also remind me of a massive blizzard many of us on the eastern half of North America experienced in the late 1990s.

It happened as my family was moving across town, so I had many opportunities to see the snow as my parents were driving and in the yards of both our old and new homes.

My siblings and I had our typical two weeks off from school for the Christmas holidays that year. It began snowing heavily right before we were scheduled to return to school. For the next two weeks, school was cancelled one day after the next.

Sometimes it would be delayed by an hour or two before being cancelled. Other days were so stormy that everything was cancelled immediately. I remember waiting quietly for the news each morning with no expectations since our superintendent was normally so reticent to cancel school despite how much time it took the county to salt and plow all of the rural roads that would bring students back to class eventually.

Once the announcement was made, there was often a moment of silence as I wondered how I should fill my time on yet another unexpected day since we were between semesters and I’d finished the homework we’d been given before Christmas break began.

Then a few of the members of my household would either drive across town to our old house to take another van full of stuff to the new one (if the town roads were cleared and salted recently enough for this to be safe), go shovel off the roof,* or put a previous load of stuff away.

*It was an old, flat roof in some places. That snowstorm was so heavy and never-ending my parents were afraid the roof would be damaged if they didn’t clear it off.

Snow Encourages Mindfulness

Even beyond these personal experiences, snow itself encourages silence. It dampens sound as explained in this post.

close-up photo of a snowflake Have you ever taken an outdoor walk during or after a big snowstorm? Whether you live in a big city, a small town, or miles away from the nearest neighbour, the world becomes a much quieter place after a storm like that.

All of that snow acts like insulation. Everything from bird chirps to the roar of a river (if it hasn’t already frozen over) to the rumble of a truck driving down the road is quieter than it normally would be.

Even the soft crunch of boots walking on fresh snow is quieter than normal.

If you’ve never experienced this sort of moment in time, I hope you’ll have a chance to try it someday.

The world is such a quiet, solemn place then that I find it easy to walk without thinking. Nearly all of the familiar landmarks in my area will still be recognizable during or after a big storm, but their edges are softened and muted.

I live in an urban area where it is pretty safe to walk outside even during the heaviest snowstorms, so sometimes I’ll go stand on the sidewalk (far away from the road) and watch the snow cling to everything from skyscrapers to my glasses.

In those moments, there is no need for words or thoughts. The snow will end when it ends. Until then, I sit indoors or stand outdoors and marvel at the feeling of snowflakes coating my hair, coat, boots, and every other surface they can possible reach in this corner of the world.

If you have snow where you live, how do you react to it?

A Photo Essay of Toronto in December

Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the eleventh instalment of this series. Click on February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November to read the earlier posts. Other than the amount of snow on the… Read More

Why You Should Commit to Your New Year’s Fitness Resolution Today

I find it interesting how we are all encouraged to over-indulge during multiple holidays from October to December only to be bombarded with weight loss and fitness ads come January 1. To me, it makes so much more sense to continue on with the same healthy habits I follow the other nine months of the… Read More

Why I’m Starting My Light Therapy Sessions Earlier This Year

I am not a doctor, and this post is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider to see if light therapy lamps are right for you. Last winter I talked about how much light therapy helps me with my winter blues. When I stopped using it during our… Read More

A Photo Essay of Toronto in March

Note: I wrote this post in early March before Toronto began shutting down businesses and public places in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were no restrictions on travel, spending time near other people, or park usage at the time of my visit. What April’s post in this series will be like still remains to be seen.… Read More

Stay Home and Read

A few days ago, Toronto learned that someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 had taken several trips on the TTC, our  public transportation system, after they began coughing and showing other symptoms of that disease. Our local media has been publishing many stories on the Coronavirus outbreak these winter alongside their regular winter features on… Read More