sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

December 12, 2017

top ten tuesday: bookish settings to visit
posted by soe 1:48 am

I’ve never understood the desire to share a best-of reading (or listening or watching or whatever) list before the very last opportunity to add to it. There is still nearly three weeks left in the year, which leaves me enough time to read ten more books that could supplant those leading my pack right now.

Which is the long way of saying I won’t be doing today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic until the end of the month. So, instead, I’ll share my responses to last week’s topic at The Broke and the Bookish, which asked which bookish settings would you like to visit?

  • The Weasleys’ Burrow: I nicknamed our apartment after it. (Also, Hogwarts. Also, Diagon Alley. Also, Hogsmeade.)
  • Book World in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series.
  • Prince Edward Island, based on the Anne books (and raidergirl3’s photos and descriptions).
  • The eponymous Secret Garden.
  • Wild Cat Island from Swallows and Amazons.
  • Guernsey.
  • The Night Circus (Even if I’d have to buy some black & white clothes to wear).
  • The Polar Express.
  • Queens Museum of Art (to see the miniature version of New York City)
  • Rivendell. Or maybe Lothlorian. Or maybe just the Shire.

On a related note, I own a book called Storybook Travels, which offers 30 real itineraries for favorite children’s books, including A Bear Called Paddington, Eloise, and The Watsons Go to Birmingham.

How about you? What bookish places would you like to step into?

Category: books. There is/are 3 Comments.

December 11, 2017

virtual advent 2017: day 11
posted by soe 5:30 am

virtual advent tour

Happy December 11! Christmas is two weeks from today, which means some of you are nearly done wrapping, baking, and cleaning and the rest of us are really just getting started. Whichever way you fall, you’re doing great! You’ll be ready before you know it!

However way you cut it, though, folks are starting to get a little tired. So I thought maybe you might need to wake up your brains and see if you can put these 15 songs in order of when they were written. If there’s some question, go with the date at which the lyrics and melody were paired. (For instance, if you were picking a date for “Turn! Turn! Turn!” you’d place its publication in the 20th century for Pete Seeger’s composition, rather than in a date BCE, when Ecclesiastes was written down.) Get your holiday thinking caps on (I assume they’re red with white fur trim) and see how well you do.

Oh, and some folks work better when they’ve got music to listen to. Here’s Sharon Jones’ “Big Bulbs.” Think of it as my version of the “Final Jeopardy” jingle.

  1. “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
  2. “Hallelujah”
  3. “Silent Night”
  4. “Jingle Bells”
  5. “Joy to the World”
  6. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
  7. “O Holy Night”
  8. “White Christmas”
  9. “Jingle Bell Rock”
  10. “Silver Bells”
  11. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
  12. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
  13. “A Holly, Jolly Christmas”
  14. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
  15. “Mary’s Boy Child”

I’ll post the answer tomorrow, when you’ll be delighted to know we once again have a host who’s not me! Join us then!

Category: christmas/holiday season. There is/are 7 Comments.

December 10, 2017

virtual advent tour: day 10
posted by soe 6:00 am

virtual advent tour

Welcome to the second sunday of Advent and day 10 of the Virtual Advent Tour!

I’m your host again today and thought I’d give quick review of a holiday read I’ve recently finished:

Mistletoe Murder and Other StoriesMistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P.D. James

Rudi and I listened to the first three-quarters of this 2016 collection of four short stories by the late mystery author driving home after Thanksgiving and I finished it up one night while knitting. The first two stories are standalones, while the latter two feature her famous detective, Adam Dalgliesh.

The title story, written in 1991, is told by a woman looking back on Christmas 1940 when she was a newly widowed war worker invited by an estranged aunt to spend the holiday with her and her cousin. It turns out that they are also to be spent with a distant relative she’s never met, an unpleasant man who is murdered in a locked room before the day is over.

The second story, “A Very Commonplace Murder,” was James’ very first short story and originally published as “Moment of Power” in 1968. In it, a man returns just before Christmas to an apartment where he once, years earlier, witnessed a murder.

The third story, “The Boxdale Inheritance” (originally published in 1979 as “Great Aunt Allie’s Flypapers”) features Chief Superintendent Dalgliesh being asked by a dear friend to look into a family murder that took place when he was a child and that has just resulted in his inheriting a decent estate of much-needed, but possibly tainted, money.

The final story, “The Twelve Clues of Christmas,” is set earlier in Dalgliesh’s career, soon after making sergeant. In it, while driving to his own family’s Christmas celebration, he happens on a scene in which an eccentric uncle has been found dead, purportedly of suicide, but not to the young detective’s keen eye. He’ll have time to show off to a superior officer before he gets his Christmas dinner.

All four stories are good of kind, but the ending of the first was enough of a surprise that I had to confirm with Rudi, who wasn’t driving, that I’d heard it correctly. And the second is really the best, worthy of inclusion in any compendium of twisty crime tales. It’s a short book, quickly read or listened to, and recommended for an evening or two’s enjoyment.

I have four choices for my next holiday book and would love to hear if any of you have strong feelings:

  • Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel is a Quill Award-winning satire/horror novel that is not so dark, apparently, that my best friend, Karen, didn’t feel I could handle it. In it, an angel apparently inadvertently brings about a holiday plague of zombies.
  • Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas, in which a poor boy must travel to the North Pole to save his father in a holiday caper for the middle-grade set.
  • Richard Peck’s A Season of Gifts, which I currently have out on audio, is set at Christmas 1958 and features an eccentric grandmother and her new neighbors, a Methodist minister and his family. I’m really loose on details, but it was either this, some Amish Christmas romances, or WWII nonfiction about Churchill’s visit to D.C. for Christmas audiobooks available for download on Overdrive.
  • Anita Hughes’ Christmas in Paris came out last year and tells the story of a woman who comes to Paris for her honeymoon, but without actually having gotten married, having canceled her wedding a week earlier when her fiancé decides he’s going to move to the country to take over the family farm. There’s a chance encounter and life-changing events before a happy ending seems destined to appear in one form or another.

See you back here tomorrow for our next post on the Virtual Advent Tour.

Category: christmas/holiday season. There is/are 1 Comment.

December 9, 2017

virtual advent 2017: day 9
posted by soe 5:30 am

virtual advent tour

Welcome back to our second Saturday of Advent! I hope you have some fun holiday-related things planned for this weekend in addition to the things that need to get done. Whether it’s playing a favorite Christmas movie while you’re addressing cards or wrapping gifts, holding an impromptu Christmas music dance party in the middle of cleaning, going out to see light displays after your grocery shopping, or even eating a couple Christmas cookies or candy in the car on the way to your next errand, remember to make some time for yourself. It helps to keep the season enjoyable, rather than letting it stress you out.

Today the tour circles back to me. Last Saturday, Rudi and I took a ride out to Homestead Farm in Poolesville, Maryland, to cut down our tree. Homestead is where we go to pick strawberries and apples and other fruits (and tomatoes, once) and is about 45 minutes away. We bought our tree here twice before they needed to mostly take a couple years off to let their trees catch up with the demand, which is when we switched to the farm where we cut last year’s tree (whom we then also exhausted). When I came blueberry picking this summer, I made sure to look at the conifers to see if they’d have what we were looking for and thought things looked promising.

Last Saturday was quite temperate. It was a nice day to be out in just a sweatshirt. Today would be far less pleasant, as it’s supposed to snow much of the day. Rudi and I have cut trees in up to a foot of snow on the ground, and it’s just not that much fun.

They recommended we drive down to the field, but we opted to walk, it being neither far nor foul. I thought this sign was funny given what we were coming to pick (although it was really there because there are still apples in the orchard trees):

Please Pay for All That You Pick Christmas Trees

This is the first tree (I think they’re Canaan Firs this year) that looked promising:

Too Tall

However, we’ve learned that the tree cannot be taller than Rudi can reach or it runs into the ceiling.

However, we also need a tree that will hold more than six ornaments, so we ruled out anything too small.

Too Short

A lot of the trees this year had tiny pine cones near the top of the tree that looked like this:

Budding Pine Cones?

I’ve noticed them some years in the past, and I think they signal it’s been a warm fall and that the cones are trying to bloom. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that.) They’re kind of like nature’s own ornaments, but they do hinder hanging up your own, so if you have an decorations-heavy house, like we do, you should search out a tree with fewer such ornaments.

We had two trees in serious contention, but Rudi suggested we pick the one with bigger spaces between the branches, since that’s better for ornament-hanging.

Our Tree

With a very sharp bow saw, Rudi made quick work of the actual cutting down of the tree.

Sawing Success

We carried it back to the barns, where they shook the tree for us. This gets rid of some of the pine cones, most of the grasses, and hopefully anyone who was calling your tree home ten minutes ago. (When I was growing up, we’re pretty sure we brought a resident mouse in a tree we brought home one year. We had a cat, so things did not end nicely for it, and my mother, who stepped on the corpse in her sock feet, also wasn’t too pleased with how events played out.)

Shaking the Tree

After they’ve shaken the tree, then they run it through the baler, which helps constrict the tree in plastic netting to make it easier to drive with it and to get it indoors (at least in our building):


Rudi inherited this ski roof box from a friend who moved away and it’s too big to take off the roof, so last year we figured out how to temporary detach the hinges so we could jam a tree inside instead. It’s secured with bungee cords:

Tree in Coffin

When we get it home, it lives in the hallway in a bucket of water for a day, partly so we can finish cleaning and partly so anyone who didn’t get shaken off the tree has one more shot to depart in a cat-free environment.

Then we bring it inside, get it in the tree stand, secure it to something mostly stationary (I pick the curtain rod), and put lights and then ornaments on. You’re supposed to consider which side of your tree you’d like to have face into the room, and I forgot to do that this year. I also forgot to remember to put the cut-away in the stand in an advantageous spot for watering. Oh well. It’s all fine.

This is what my tree looked like at the end of my tree-trimming party:

Not Fully Decorated Tree

Thank goodness for Holden and Caroline who are just old enough to hang ornaments carefully and not so old they’re bored with the idea altogether. People routinely see my tree at this point and tell me it looks great and that clearly I’m done. They never seem to understand that that’s not how a tree is supposed to look from my perspective. It’s supposed to look more like this:

Nearly Done Decorating

I still have one more box for Rudi and me to put on tomorrow. Then it’ll be complete!

Thanks for attending my tree-trimming from afar and I’ll see you back here tomorrow.

Category: christmas/holiday season. There is/are 3 Comments.

December 8, 2017

coffeeneuring 2017: ride #8
posted by soe 1:17 pm

Coffeeneuring Ride #8: Cleveland Park Library (4340 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) and Baked by Yael (3000 Connecticut Ave., N.W.)

Baked by Yael

Sunday, Nov. 19; 3.3 miles

Hot chocolate, everything bagel, raspberry cake pop (more…)

Category: books,dc life,sports. There is/are 0 Comments.

virtual advent 2017: day 8
posted by soe 5:30 am

Virtual Advent Tour

Happy Friday! And welcome to the eighth day of the month! On this date, Catholics around the world celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, during which the conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is feted.

Behind today’s door on our Virtual Advent Tour, you’ll find a post from Bridget at The Ravell’d Sleave. In her post, she shares memories of Christmas growing up and how even simpler things are special and joyful when you’re doing them with people you love.

Thanks for stopping by today and have a great start to your weekend! We’ll see you tomorrow for another holiday post!

Category: christmas/holiday season. There is/are 1 Comment.