Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Christmas Wish Fulfilled ...

Three days before Christmas, the temperatures climbed to the 40's, the rains came in and turned our winter wonderland into a muddy mire. Our dirt road was in danger of turning into an impassable quagmire. I was stressed and depressed just thinking about being stuck. Then, the temperature dropped and we worried about an ice storm that came through New England ... but here on our little mountain? More rain and then a deep freeze.

Christmas Eve brought snow showers, but nothing major. The kids made it out of Boston and New York City without incident and then down our rutty old dirt road. Still, the temperature dropped further and Christmas Day was bitterly cold, but who cared at that point? We were safe and together with food and fires and our Christmas traditions.

Then on Christmas night, the most beautiful snow began to fall. Gently, softly, it settled over everything and made the world so lovely. The next morning, my daughter took these pictures, as we ventured out to go to our little local diner for an easy breakfast. The perfect end to our short holiday interlude with the kids. They're all back in 'their worlds' at this point, but we have wonderful memories of this Christmas!

I hope you've had a great holiday with your families and friends! Happy New Year, friends!

Shared with others at Saturday Snapshot

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top Reads for 2013 ...

My gosh, the year  flew by ... and my self-imposed challenge to read 100 books in 2013 went unfulfilled, but not for lack of trying! I made it halfway to the goal and turned some exceptional pages, to boot! It's funny. I never really pushed the challenge on any of my family or friends, and yet a few people have chatted with me about my best reads of the year ... which got me thinking about the books that I've completed this year. I've always been a sucker for lists and so I'd like to toot my top ten (yeah, okay 11) books of the year ... no synopses, no ranting, just a few works of description ...

Realistic Fiction- grief and redemption ... haunting scenes of emotional isolation

YA Fantasy - the most bizarre and wonderful place with the coolest use of old photos to enhance the plot

Biography- a righteous man in an evil time who held his morals intact against Nazi bullies

Criminal Thriller- one kick-ass Crimie with an ending that will have you shaking your head

Fantasy - a darker than dark re-telling of the Peter Pan story with artwork that is phenomenal

Memoir - growing up in China - UGH - and cheering for the underdog kid

Dramatic Fiction - a chance in a lifetime, a good deed gone awry, a haunting story

Middle Reader Realistic Fiction - a remarkable young boy makes a big change for the better

Religion/Theology - separating the historical Jesus from the spiritual Savior

Biography - a remarkably talented woman creates an artistic haven for herself and fellow artists in Gloucester, MA

Historical Fiction - the beginning of a saga about New York - Grade A historical fiction

So there you go ... my faves for the year. It was hard picking a short list ... there have been so many good books. Reviewing the year, though, has made me realize that I did spread my reading across genres, which was one of the side goals for the 100 Book Challenge. It also made me happy to look back at the new authors that I discovered ... there are so many talented writers out there in the world! I am SO glad that I enjoy reading!I can hardly wait to begin a new year and start working on a new reading goal ... stay tuned.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Christmas Barn ... Saturday Snapshot

This small barn /shed sits on land right along Route 9 between Brattleboro and Bennington, Vermont. It's the road that I travel several times a year to visit my parents over in New York State. Every time I pass this shed, I vow that I will stop and photograph it, as the owners always have the doors decorated with lovely seasonal wreaths or sprays of flowers. This last trip across the mountain pass seemed the time to finally fulfill my promise to myself ... the Christmas wreaths and snowy day made the shed look so nice! And there was a bonus ... see the box in front of the doors? They have lights hidden in it. When we drove home that evening, the doors were all lit up and it was snowing as we passed back by ... it was just lovely! Like a Vermont postcard labelled "Have a Merry White Christmas!"

Merry Christmas !!!

This post is shared with others at West Metro Mommy Reads . Check out what others are sharing this week at Saturday Snapshot!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Place of Greater Safety - Hilary Mantel

Three young men come together at a Catholic school in the years prior to the French Revolution. They come from different classes of society, have vastly different personalities, and end up travelling different life paths that criss-cross during the turbulent years leading up to the dissolution of the French economy, the famine among the French commoners, destruction of the French monarchy, the rise of political factions that wrench a republic from the blood soaked ruins of French society. If you can keep the political comings and goings of the characters straight, you'll have won half the battle with this book. It's an enthralling read, but I am infinitely grateful for the 'Cast of Characters' printed at the beginning of the book!

Hilary Mantel has taken the lives of Maximilien Robespierre, Georges-Jacques Danton, and Camille Desmoulins and woven a tale that leads the reader through the tangled and corrupt society of the French nobility, the grasping class of public servants, the rough and tumble street life of Paris, and the bourgeois life of rural France that rises to become a political force to be reckoned with during the years leading up to the French Revolution.

As in a Shakespearean play, it becomes evident for those unfamiliar with these three historical figures that they will meet a sad ending ... the guillotine was, indeed, a sad mistress. What's really scary, though, is contemplating the social force that was behind this historic revolution. I was reminded of a tsunami when I thought about the public fervor that careened out of control during this era. Scary times. Desperate times.

If you are interested in historical fiction, this is a good read ... I think it's challenging, but highly satisfying. I did, though, have to do extensive Internet research/reading to keep on top of the political developments during the late 1700's in France.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday Snapshot: Advent Waiting and Watching

Last evening, we were treated to the first real snow of the season ... and it came at a perfect time. My husband had put a small field grown Christmas tree into the barrel and strung some new LED lights on it. It looked pretty pathetic during the day with its wires draping off the branches and those airy branches waving limp in the breeze, but oh ... what a little snow can do !!!

It was a lovely way to go to bed - the lights from the tree casting a colorful glimmer through the bedroom windows.

This morning, everything has a pretty topping of fluffy white. I loved the red, white, and blue of the winterberry bunch  on my small terrace ... more clouds and a soft grey sunrise ... I'm waiting for Christmas to come and more snow to blanket us! Just quietly waiting ...

Shared with others at this week's Saturday Snapshot ... thank you, Melinda for being our hostess!

Monday, December 2, 2013

In the Body of the World - Eve Ensler

This is a book about avoidance and confrontation, powerful personality and humbled soul, living life and confronting death, internalizing violence and evil and harvesting cancer. This is a difficult and often tearful read that is amazing and cathartic and rejuvenating. This is a memoir of Eve Ensler's bout with cancer, her psychological voyage through the disease, her trial by fire within the healthcare system and her eventual victory over the cancer that ravaged her body.

I couldn't help but be reminded of Dante's journey through Hell when I read this book. Ms. Ensler travels the world advocating for an end to violence against women and children. She recounts the endless people and places that she has witnessed, the causes she has invested her energy in, and tells of the violent family dynamics that caused her such early pain. It is clear that she has spent her life coming to terms with her father's violent and abusive treatment, her mother's passivity, her dangerous and rebellious behavior. Her past has fueled her passions for advocacy, but that advocacy took its toll on her body.

Her voyage through the diagnosis of uterine cancer, the surgical removal of various tumors, the complications of infection, the chemo therapy, and the soul searching and emotional tribulations make for such a powerful read ... that's all I can say. The woman is a force of nature ... a fighter ... a philosopher ... a strong female force for nurturance and peace and healing and feminine empowerment. God bless her.