2021 Books & Movies

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I usually post this closer to the start of the new year, but it’s still early. Goodreads offers a yearly challenge to set for yourself the number of books you’ll read throughout the year. I usually set it for my birthday. Last year I planned on 54 books and I read 70 books. It might have been more than that since some of the books don’t appear on Goodreads. This year’s goal is 55. I’ve already read 14 books and re-read 3.

I have not included links, but you can search any that seem interesting online, either to buy (in physical form or e-book) or borrow from your library (again either in physical form or e-book).

Happy Reading!

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COVID Reminders

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With many communities adjusting their lockdown protocols, I thought it was a good time for some reminders. For those remaining or returning to lockdown, my Covid Information Center is still available, although there may be scientific updates to the medical information. I haven’t updated that since last year, but the recipes and activities should all be useful to those continuing in lockdown. I will do a more extensive update in the next couple of weeks.

Where mask mandates become optional, there is nothing to stop you from wearing a mask to protect yourself and the people around you. My kids have already been told that I expect them to wear masks in school when the changes eventually take effect.

My personal opinion is that many school districts (including my own) are bending over backwards to a small anti-mask contingent. I read an interesting analogy this week on Twitter that stated how we all, parents, teachers, students rallied to follow the exclusion of peanut products in schools because of a very small minority of children with peanut allergies.

None of us minded this small adjustment to our daily school lives in order to protect the vulnerable classmates even though our children were unaffected. This has never been made political. The same attitude should be for masks. Masks conclusively protect us from transmitting and becoming infected with covid. It is a simple precaution. This should not be a disagreement for people who care about the others around them.

I’ve said many times that masks should be part of the dress code for the forseeable future. Regardless of the loud people, we can all do our part to end this pandemic, and the easiest of that is to wear a mask in pubic.

The WHO has provided this graphic with their recommendations.

Do it All. World Health Organization. (c)2022

Random Acts of Kindness Day

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On this “official” Random Acts of Kindness Day, I wanted to remind readers of one of my favorite organizations: Random Acts.

Random Acts was started by actor Misha Collins and they have regional events for making life better for many people through the simple act of kindness. They are partially supported by his international scavenger hunt, GISH, which I participate in yearly in the summer.

Every little bit helps. One year, I donated $1.20 – there was a reason for that specific amount on that specific day, and after all was said and done, they had raised over $10,000.

Friday Food – Super Bowl Snacks

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Whether you’re watching the Big Game or the Commercials, a big part of your Super Bowl Sunday afternoon is food. In our family, we always have snacks and appetizers for dinner with the occasional pizza now and then.

Some years we’ve done a nice selection of homemade snacks like pigs in blankets, waffles and chicken, soft pretzels, deep dish loaded mashed potato pizza, and mini cheesecakes.

This year our primary caterer will be Trader Joe’s. The following is our menu for this year’s Super Bowl Sunday.

  • Dill Dip to go along with pretzels, chips, and veggies as well as cheese and crackers. Our favorite veggies are cucumbers, sugar snap peas, raw green beans, baby carrots, grape tomatoes.
  • Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken on toothpicks.
  • Hebrew National Mini Hot Dogs in Blankets with mustard.
  • Pork Gyoza Pot Stickers (from Trader Joe’s)
  • Vegetable and/ or Chicken Tikka Samosas (from Trader Joe’s)
  • Chicken Spring Rolls (from Trader Joe’s)
  • Mini Beef Meatballs in Teriyaki sauce on toothpicks.
  • Cupcakes for dessert.
Super Bowl Sunday Snack Foods. (More pics on Sunday.)
(c)2022

But Me No Buts

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In a Twitter thread unrelated to the books, I was introduced to the Amelia Peabody mystery series through her umbrella and a reference to whacking someone, who shall remain nameless, in the shins with it. This was in 2018 in the middle of July. I immediately checked the first five books out of the e-library and began my adventures. And that was that. No more books were available. And then recently, I was informed that all New York residents were eligible for an e-library card from the New York Public Library. And thus begins a new chapter in my reading material. I discovered to my delight that they had all but one of the books and I was able to read the rest of the twenty book series in a ridiculously short period of time.

And then I read them again.

Since the end of October, I have been in constant touch with Amelia Peabody and her family. I am currently finishing the last in the series (chronologically) for the third time and each reading brings with it notices of new things, new insights, new critical looks: at the Emerson journals, at the time period, at the caste system and bigotry of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

My first read through was in publication order; my second was in chronological order. I read some excerpts from the later books to witness more of Ramses and Nefret’s relationship and in my continuing reading I realized how much I have in common with Amelia, both to my satisfaction and my chagrin.

I wanted to share some of my thoughts today on National Umbrella Day as well as during the month of February when so many things occurred after the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun: the opening of the burial chamber in 1923 (February 16), the raising of the sarcophagus lid in 1924 (Feb. 12), and the suspension of the excavation (for a year) in 1924 as well, returning to work at the end of January of the following year.

National Umbrella Day. Art of Amelia Peabody’s umbrella, open and closed with the background of one of the pyramids of Giza.
(c)2022
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Inspire. February.

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Well done is better than well said.

Benjamin Franklin

To be honest, I’m not sure if that holds for writers.


One of my office spaces.
(c)2022

I’ve recently read two book series, both fiction, both taking place during the same hundred years or so, period pieces, both murder mysteries and romance, and while there are things that I like and dislike about each of them, I am finding that I learn more about myself and my own writing as I pass my critical eye over them.

The second one is intriguing and interesting although full of (sometimes unnecessary) exposition and descriptions, as well as changing perspectives (not indiscriminately, but by chapters) with colloquial language and appropriate proprieties between gender and servant class relationships.

The same could be said of the first series in the cases of colloquialism, proprieties, and gender/servant class relationships. There is also a feeling of overabundance (in both series) of feminism that I find anachronistic for the time periods, but I could be relying on stereotypes myself to feel that way.

Similar things can be said about the first one, although the historical perspective is a bit more specific. I am more attached to the characters of the first series and I have not come to terms with the ending of the series. That’s not to say that the books’ conclusion was not satisfactory – it truly was, but I’m not ready for the series to be over and I am not competent myself in the time and geographical period to try my hand at fan fiction. And while I very much enjoy the second series, it has not captured my heart as much.

What does this have to do with writing?

Well, it has to do with the specific writing (or planning) of my book on my journey to and through Wales.

Some things I have added to my outline are:

  • Maps. It may be easier to describe my adventures if readers can see where I was geographically.
  • Historical perspective. Much of my relationship to Wales is counterbalanced by my research into the history of medieval Wales, which fostered a deeper understanding and connection.
  • History. Including some of the history of the places I traveled, especially how they related to my journey.
  • Multiple genres are okay.
  • Quotations at the beginnings of each chapter to sort of set the stage. I also like recipes and photographs (which these two series do not have) and I’m trying to decide if these would be appropriate for my book in any way. Perhaps in the case of recipes as an appendix.
  • My faith journey being a main part of the relationship, both secular faith and religious faith.

I’m sure that I will find more things to include as I hone in on the path my writing of this book should take.



*I’m interested in suggestions for a new title for this series going forward rather than Inspire and the month. Comment below, and don’t forget the links (found on the home page) for the Spotify comments and the Writing Challenge.*

St. Brigid’s Day Book Rec

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St. Brigid may be remembered as turning water into beer or the legend that she midwifed Mary in the birth of Jesus, but for those of us hoping for women’s advancement in the church, she preached to her flock, and founded a monastery for men and women, and became abbess there. Several of her images are shown with her holding a Bishop’s crosier. While there is some dispute if she was an actual bishop, she was the leader of both monasteries and the Abbess of Kildare is considered as the superior general of the monasteries in Ireland. Regardless of her official capacity as a pastor, Brigid’s oratory at Kildare became a centre of religion and learning, and developed into a cathedral city. [1]

Personally, I’m disappointed that when I visited Ireland a few years ago that I was so close to Downpatrick and didn’t visit. Her relics aren’t there any longer (not since 1538) but I still would have liked to have visited especially since the relics of Patrick, Brigid, and Columba (Columcille) had been there and all are said to have been buried there.

Imbolc dates back to ancient times and Celtic tradition has it beginning the night of February 1st and continuing through February 2nd. This speaks volumes, to me at least that this tradition was adopted/co-opted by the early Christians in the Celtic world. February 2nd is Candlemas, which commemorates the presentation of Jesus in the church. Imbolc is about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and foretells the coming of spring. Groundhog’s Day is February 2nd and he also foretells the coming of spring, whether after six more weeks of winter or right around the corner.

Beginning next year, St. Brigid’s Day will also be a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland.

So many things in our myths, traditions, and religions are interconnected; not all of them by chance or coincidence. Some were intentionally brought forward by the church to include the “pagans” in their conversion to Christianity. This feels almost like a “gentle Crusade” rather than at the point of a sword when they encouraged Jews and Muslims.

I’ve just completed reading a Celtic spirituality book that has nine chapters describing different Celtic ways along with the intertwining of Christianity. The second chapter was focused on St. Brigid and what she brought to Celtic spirituality in this author’s opinion: the Sacred Feminine. Celts had a tremendous respect for the feminine and how it balanced the world they lived, and we live in.

The book is an easy read. I chose to read one chapter a day. That let the information gradually process. There is also prayer and an appendix that would lend itself to daily prayer and meditation in the Celtic tradition.

Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul by J. Philip Newell can be found or ordered from bookstores, national and independent. I read most of my books on my Kindle; this is the link for Amazon Kindle’s version.



[1] Herbermann, Charles. St. Brigid of Ireland, Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913. Public Domain.

[In my interpretations of St. Brigid’s religious life, I would appreciate any corrections from those expert in such things.]