The Year of the Rabbit

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Today marks the first day of the Chinese New Year. As you may know, the Asian new year is based on the lunisolar calendar and celebrates the spring season. In reading up on it, it sounds a bit like our American Thanksgiving where you gather with family and friends and reflect with gratitude on our lives. In the Asian countries it marks the end of the winter season. The evening before is commemorated with a Lantern Festival and there are many cultural rituals and customs to be done to bring in a happy and healthy new year. I will suggest that you google some of them. I don’t want to give out the wrong information on a culture that I do not belong to. I can tell you, however how we, as non-Asian Americans celebrate the Chinese New Year in our house.

One fun feature of googlingChinese New Year” or “Year of the Rabbit” is there is an animated fireworks display across your screen with an accompanying bunny. It is very colorful and fun. Mesmerizing to watch.

I’ve done it three times now.

Typically, the New Year begins between January 21 and February 20 on the new moon. This year it starts today. It was first mentioned during the Han Dynasty which flourished between 202 BCE and 220 CE. It was written that the celebration included worshipping the ancestors and toasting their parents and grandparents.

We don’t go overboard in our house; we’re not of Asian descent, but we love to enjoy multicultural holidays and usually (if not always) celebrate with food. We’ll get take-out from our favorite Chinese restaurant. I think the last time we had take-out was for Christmas Eve which is our yearly tradition. One year, we took the kids to the local Chinese buffet – it was my daughter’s first new year – she had been born that year on the 5th of January, so she was a tiny baby, but cutely dressed in red with a bow on her head. They gave the kids red envelopes for luck and there was a dragon dance through the restaurant around the tables along with a train that traveled just below the ceiling. It really was a special time for the kids. They loved it.

At home recently, we’ve been enjoying barbeque chicken tenders in Hoisin sauce. It’s my version with Chinese spices and sauce. It’s funny because my daughter is quite picky and won’t really eat a lot of sauces or dressings, but she loves the hoisin sauce as well as the sesame chicken she gets from the restaurant. I also do a great fried rice, and now that I’m thinking of it, maybe I’ll whip that up some time this week. I’ll need sesame oil and I already have the eggs; those are probably the biggest expense.

The bunny picture that I’ve shared above is one that we’ve seen in our backyard. I think because we don’t have dogs, the rabbits tend to congregate in our yard. We even had babies in a burrow one spring. This one is probably the biggest rabbit we’ve seen locally.

Two customs that everyone can do is clean your house to sweep out the ill and welcome the good fortune. This is similar to our Jewish custom at Passover of cleaning and getting rid of any bread and crumbs to make ready for the unleavened matzo. Decorations in red are also fun to hang in windows and on doors.

For anyone wondering, my zodiac sign is the Horse.

Tea for Tuesday

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This advice from VeryBritishProblems may sound a bit peevish at first, but for tea, the microwave is very uneven. You’re likely to find the first sip warm, and then drink it faster only to discover the middle scalding. Best to boil new water and brew another tea bag for evenness. One thing I learned from Douglas Adams’s advice on the perfect cup of tea is to boil the water, fill your mug, and pour it out. Then refill the mug with the boiled water and a tea bag. Let it steep. This will warm the cup and keep your tea warmer longer. I’ve tried this method and it really is perfect.

We also invested in an electric kettle. It is very fast and does a great job, and by invest, we paid about $25, so it easily pays for itself if you start brewing your tea at home.

Proper British Tea. (c)2023

National Hot Tea Day

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My breakfast nook! My special place for tea preparation. (c)2022-2023

I finally broke down and created this special area for our breakfast needs. My husband works from home and makes himself coffee every morning. For myself, I drink tea, especially during the cold months, and I wanted a space that spoke to me and that I could find everything I needed for my cup of tea since tea is more than a drink – it is life-giving and life-sustaining. There is so much more to tea than drinking leaves steeped in hot water.

One of my favorite ways to make tea is the way Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy described in 1999. It really works well. It’s the using a hot cup that really does the trick. You can read his brilliant way to brew tea by clicking here.

Here is George Orwell’s take on it as well: A Nice Cup of Tea

What I’ve discovered about brewing tea is that the simple ways are the best ways.

  1. If you’re making tea one cup at a time, the cup should be hot.
  2. The water should be boiling.
  3. The tea bag should not be left in the cup once it has been steeped.
  4. And under no circumstances should the tea bag be squeezed.
  5. Sugar, honey, agave, your sweetener is your choice, but I prefer the tried and true sugar.

Enjoy.

Check out my instagram later today for the cup of tea I had this morning with my breakfast bagel!

Tea for Tuesday – National Tea Month

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There is never a wrong day to drink tea. I had two cups of hot tea myself on Sunday and one hot vanilla chai latte yesterday. January is National Tea Month, although I’ve seen several references to hot tea month. I’m not sure which is accurate, so pick your favorites and have a cuppa.

This coming Thursday is National Hot Tea Day, and that is when I will share my favorite missive on the proper brewing of hot tea from Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite for the nectar of the gods, enjoy some of my favorite tea-related photos below:

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The Missing Week

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I keep reading on social media how the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a missing week. I wouldn’t necessarily say that, but I would offer that it feels like one, long continuous day. My husband has been working as have my kids, but the rest of the time it feels as though not a moment has passed, and now suddenly it is 2023, and we’re off to the races and making resolutions (not quite yet) and making our beds (ha, ha, I doubt it!), and trying to make this year better than the last.

Our year ended with my (hopefully continuing) recovery from falling down the stairs and being rear-ended and losing our (and finding another miraculously) car, so in some respects it will, well, I’m not going to jinx it. It will be what it is.

I heard a homily the other day about living in the present. I am not good at that. The homilist went on to say that looking back creates anxiety and looking forward to the future creates depression, something I’ve heard before, but being in the present moment will keep you grounded. It’s a nice idea, but like saying cheer up to the person with depression, it doesn’t quite work for everyone. Nothing does. We try what we will try, and hope for the best, and move forward. Just keep swimming as Dory says.

Although swimming’s not my forte.

Unfortunately, I did not complete my reading challenge. For the last several years I’ve chosen my age as the number of books that I commit to read for the year. I’ve surpassed that usually, but this year, I fell short: only 49 books. I have written more this year and I think that’s part of why my reading fell short. Any time I would have had for reading, I was working on NaNoWriMo and my book while also planning out next semester’s classes. I mentioned in another post that I’d like to plan a writer’s retreat, but that is in its infancy. I’m not sure that I could facilitate such a large undertaking, but who knows? I hadn’t thought about teaching classes (not seriously anyway), and while I’ve still been anxiety-riddled, I did get some good feedback, and that has helped my confidence and motivation.

For 2023, my reading challenge number is 56. I’ve already started with a couple of devotionals and a Michael Crichton book I started last month. My brother got me Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, one of the books on my wish list, so that’s next! Wish me luck.

We did have some astonishing things happen in the last few days of the year and since Christmas.

For one thing, we actually finished an entire bag of bagels without throwing any of them away wastefully. This might fall under miraculously because usually by the second bagel we forget we have them especially if it’s a workday.

We also completely finished our Christmas roast beef with no leftovers. We had our Christmas dinner, we brought a plate to our son who was working (complete with dessert), and I made two Shepherd’s Pies throughout the week.

We also discovered some new television, or should I say streaming? We had dropped all of our television and streaming services except cable (that’s going soon) and Disney Plus since we watch it all the time, but for vacation we re-signed for HBO Max, Hulu, and Netflix. My son wanted HBO, so he subscribed, and Hulu was on a good deal, and we were waiting for the holidays to catch up on our Netflix shows. There are really quite a lot of things to watch.

We finished as much as we could of Stargirl, which has one more season before cancellation. I finally got to see Black Adam and Belfast, both highly recommended for differing reasons.

We also started Wednesday (wasn’t interested when I first heard about it, but I am obsessed – it is phenomenal!) and we finished Derry Girls. Today, my daughter and I are going to watch Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, after she gets home from work and after dinner.


Waiting in the wings are the Banshees of Inisherin and another re-watch of Spider-Man: No Way Home (I loved that movie!)

Writing Intentions are taking a bit more effort to form along with other New Year’s intentions. They will be in another post that I’m hoping to write this week. I’m also thinking of ways to earn money with my writing, but that is also for the more in-depth writing intentions post. I’ve seen writers I respect on Substack, but I’m not sure if that’s for me. I enjoy my time here on this site, and I don’t want to create several spaces that are just repetitions of one another. It deserves further study, and any suggestions and thoughts are welcome in the comments.

I’m hoping to keep up my optimism despite some sweeping changes, a few of which are/were unplanned and unwelcome, but moving forward is all that can be done this week and the next and reevaluate as things come up.

Today is today. Yes?

*waves to 2022* *Welcomes 2023*

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As I struggle to write this last post of the year, I think on the last few weeks. (Because honestly, I can’t remember much further back from then without looking at my calendar or camera roll.) My husband and I started watching Wednesday, the Netflix series. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it, but one episode later, and I’m hooked. We’re also finishing Derry Girls and tonight we’ll be watching Banshees of Innisherin for our New Year. This is the first year we are home alone with no kids, and I have a series of stress induced stomach flips thinking about where they are and if they’re safe. One is at a hockey game, and two are out with friends. They’re all responsible, but I still worry. That’s the nature of parenting I suppose.

So a few pictures:

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O Chanukah, O Chanukah

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Light the Menorah….

Today is the first night of Chanukah. It is also the fourth Sunday of Advent and the eighteenth year since my Mother died. I always say that she died intentionally on this day – 25th of Kislev. On the Julian calendar she died on December 8th, which was the 25th of Kislev. Her yartzeit will always be on the first night of Chanukah. I know she did this on purpose; there is no excuse to forget her candle. I’ve seen others with anniversaries on other important days have mixed feelings on the sharing of a sad day with a happy one, and I do feel the sadness from eighteen years ago, but I also think fondly and lovingly on this day, remembering my mother and her ways. I see her in myself especially as I get older. I said something to my daughter tonight, and I had to pause because I sounded exactly like my mother. I think when I was younger this would have bothered me, but today, it made me feel not only closer to her, but closer to my daughter. We used my childhood menorah tonight, which will feel like putting my hand in a fiery piece of the sun by the end of the holiday; it radiates heat when all nine candles are blazing brightly.

My husband managed to find some gelt. It’s nearly impossible in this area, and I did order a small batch online, but it won’t be here until later in the week. I really like to give the kids their dreidls and gelt on the first night, and we were able to. I even found colored (blue and clear) plastic dreidls (at Target) that I could fill with the chocolate coins and one Maccabee chocolate soldier each. I’d never seen those before (from Bed, Bath, and Beyond).

I also made the best latkes I think I’ve ever made in my life. They truly were perfect and that never happens. I eat them with applesauce and sour cream, both. Why should I choose between them?! I also fried up some chicken cutlets, which were also excellent. The whole house smells of oil: olive for the chicken; vegetable for the latkes.

Here’s to the light of the season, no matter where it’s coming from or what holiday you’re celebrating this month.

(c)2022

Advent: First Sunday

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The theme and, I suppose the objective also, of Advent is waiting in joyful hope. This is often the titles of books marketed to Catholics for their Advent reading. And that is really what it is. Becoming Catholic taught me that the Christmas season begins on Christmas Day, and the season of Advent is a special time in its own right. Last year, I was given a set of four candles for my Advent wreath and this year I have coupled those candles with my daily reflection book, my daily readings, and beginning on Tuesday, the Novena of the Immaculate Conception. However, this Advent, while I am in joyful hope and I am waiting for the birth of Christ, I am also struggling with parts of my faith and parts of my life.

I’ve spent this entire month writing for Nanowrimo, just stream of consciousing my way through my book about my travels to Wales, and I’ve made great progress. I am very pleased. I have almost reached the 50,000 word goal and I anticipate that I will complete it before the 30th.

Nanowrimo Kick-Off at the Library.
(c)2022

My personal update on the Home page explained my accident, and I believe I am in the must get worse before it gets better stage of recovery. My ankle is much better, and I am driving a little, but not far, staying in our small town when I am able. My husband has been doing everything. While I can cook, I can’t do any lifting and standing for a long period of time is difficult. Thanksgiving actually was the least stressful I have ever had. I gave a lot of directions and stirred one dish and added marshmallows to another on my own, but I had to rely on everyone else to do the heavy lifting. There were hardly any of the usual arguments, we put the turkey in the oven around 10:30am, and then everyone was free until about 4:30 when the sides would need to be prepared. I couldn’t believe how well it went.

I was even able to go to church for Thanksgiving mass. I wasn’t sure how it would go; it’s been just over a year since we lost our priest, and while our new priest is a joy, I do not like change. I wondered if we’d keep the traditions that we’ve had, that I’ve gotten used to over the last few years, and I was happy to see that most traditions held.

Our church gives all the parishioners a loaf of bread and a short prayer for our Thanksgiving table. It is one of the things I love about our church – those seemingly little things that are so personal.

Right before Thanksgiving, my husband was driving my daughter home from work when they were rear-ended. Hard. No one was hurt, PBTG, but because of the holiday we won’t know about the car until tomorrow or Tuesday. It needed to be towed from the accident. This is a struggle, and a sadness, and it is hard to get past the awfulness of possibly losing the car, something that was so important to our family. Of course, we are so relieved and grateful that no one was hurt, and it was only materials that may be lost.

Last weekend, I returned from my annual retreat. The theme was Change. And I have gone through so many changes, and many more continue to happen, whether I like it or not. I had to laugh when I found out the theme. I discovered it soon after my first reconciliation with our new priest, and after giving him the litany of things that are bothering me, and frustrating me, he commented, “Boy, you’re going through a lot of changes.” Yes. Yes, I am! In addition to the new priest, my therapist is retiring (soon!) among other things.

And I shouldn’t forget the good changes. I taught for the first time in a long time. This was for adults and it was a writing class. Next semester, I’m teaching two, so that is both exciting and terrifying. This one went well (I think), and I hope the next ones go as well and better (crosses fingers). As with all teachers, I spent more than I made, but such is the life of the classroom. I’ll hope to downsize my affinity (obsession) with handouts and maybe lower my overhead.

I’m hoping that with this Advent, I can slow down. I can focus. I can focus on my faith, and also on how I’m approaching the things in my life. It is a good time to reevaluate and reassess and wonder about the changes that will inevitably be coming, whether I like it or not.

Through it all, I’m trying to keep my perspective and my faith. This is the first day of the Advent journey which will ultimately end with the Birth of Christ. But of course, that is only the beginning, isn’t it?

Some photos that I wanted to share: The first two are works-in-progress sketches on I did on my retreat from things that I saw around me in the dining and the conference rooms. The third photo is the statue of Harriet Tubman and William Seward outside the library where the Nanowrimo Kick-Off was held on November 1st. I was also there when they dedicated the statue. I love history.

Statue of Harriet Tubman and William Seward.
(c)2022

Book Rec for Halloween

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I know I’m nearly a week late for Halloween. I have posted a personal update on my home page, but despite the lateness of this, I thought I would use my extra hour from the end of Daylight Saving Time to share with you my Halloween costume and a recommendation for the book that started it all.

The series of books are the Amelia Peabody Mystery books by Elizabeth Peters. The first book is Crocodile on the Sandbank, and once I finished the twenty-one books in the series, I had decided to dress as Amelia for Halloween. I’d highly recommend all of the books as well as Peters’ other books under her other pen names.

I wrote about the series here.

I enjoyed going through my clothes and accessories to come up with the epitome of the Amelia Peabody Emerson look, and managed to put together what I think is a good rendition of how I pictured her. I did try to get a pith helmet to wrap my scarf around, but I wasn’t able to find one in my price range, however, I decided instead to wear my “second best hat”.

I think I’m ready to head out on the dig. Or to find the murderer whichever one comes first.

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