My Grandma(s)

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 – Mōdraniht

Tasks for Mōdraniht: Tell us your favourite memory about your mom, grandma, or the woman who had the greatest impact on your childhood. –OR– Post a picture of you and your mom, or if comfortable, you and your kids.

Bonus task: Post 3 things you love about your mother-in-law (if you have one), otherwise your grandma.

Since I’ve already sung my mom’s praises and posted pictures of her and me here (and another picture here), I’m going to make this one all about my maternal grandma, as well as my “third grandma” (my uncle’s mother, who actually had a much greater role in my life than my paternal grandmother), without both of whom my childhood just wouldn’t have been what it was.

My maternal grandma (left) and my “third grandma” (right), ca. mid-1980s

Since my mom was working full time even when I was in elementary school, after school I didn’t go home but spent the afternoons at my grandparents’ home some 5 minutes from our own home, where I got my lunch, did my homework (or read, or painted pictures) while my grandma was having her afternoon nap, had afternoon tea and biscuits (or, well, tea for the grown-ups, juice for me), and played with the neighborhood children, most of whom were my classmates.  Sometimes when my grandparents were travelling they would take me along, but whenever they didn’t (or whenever my grandma was in hospital), it fell to my “third grandma” to take over taking care of me while my mom was at work.

Age 3 or 4: on the beach in Holland with my grandma

So, many of the values I grew up with were my two caretaking grandmas’ values, either conveyed to me directly by them or indirectly (via my mom).  More than anything, though, I remember both of their sense of humor, kindness and infinite patience — and as I grew up, I also learned to appreciate their enormous broad-mindedness which allowed them to accept the change of social perceptions, and to distinguish changeable perceptions of morality and core personal values.

My maternal grandparents and my uncle’s parents had known each other for decades before my generation came along in our family — they were living in small neighboring towns in Thuringia until the end of WWII, and my uncle and aunt (my mom’s elder sister) were high school sweethearts there — but I think my two grandmas (real and “substituted in”) became even closer friends after their respective families had moved to West Germany after the war, even though my “third grandma” lived in Essen (some 100 kms [60 miles] from Bonn) for the longest time and only moved here when my aunt and uncle did, too.  In many ways, looking back, nothing says “end of youth” (or “end of innocence”) to me quite as much as their deaths, witihin a few years of each other, when I was in my early thirties.

Left: my grandma and my mom shortly after my mom’s birth.  Right: my grandma with her three children (my mom’s the youngest, leaning against her mother), mid- / late 1940s

 

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Anne Perry: A Christmas Homecoming

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 – Winter Solstice / Yaldā Night


Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night / Bonus task: Read a book in one night.

This is the third of Ann Perry’s Christmas novellas that I’ve read this holiday season (Perry’s ninth Christmas novella overall), and I liked this one as much as the very first one I read, A Christmas Visitor.

The main series supporting character who takes center stage in A Christmas Homecoming is Charlotte Pitt’s mother Caroline who — 16 years after the murder of her daughter, Charlotte’s sister Sarah, which had initially brought together Charlotte and her now-husband Thomas Pitt — visits a Whitby (Yorkshire) country estate together with her second and much younger husband, Jewish actor-manager Joshua Fielding, and his company, in order to stage a play that the  daughter of their host has written based on (you guessed it) Bram Stoker’s Dracula. When a stranger, who had been invited into the house on the plea of seeking shelter from a snowstorm that had cut off the area from the rest of civilization, is found killed, Caroline realizes that her actor friends will be the first to be suspected of having committed the murder, as the police will be disinclined to investigate their host — an influential landowner and businessman — and his household; so she decides to do some investigating on her own.

I confess to a certain amount of apprehension after having read about the book’s setting, but Perry thankfully doesn’t fall into the trap of overemphasizing either the Yorkshire moors or the vampirism elements — they’re present, of course (and let’s be honest, where would be the fun in setting this sort of story in the middle of London?), but it’s the snowstorm-enhanced isolation of the estate rather than the moors that predominates in creating the atmosphere, and while you can’t possibly write about Dracula without including vampire lore (and the contents of Stoker’s book in particular) in some fashion or other, Perry is ultimately much more interested in the conceptual allegory of Dracula as the embodiment of evil.  And I guess I’m just a sucker for anything set in the world of the theatre; at any rate, despite some rather obvious preaching on things that any actor worth his salt ought to know since their first year of training (and which certainly a star actor like the one who is the addressee of said lesson here should not have to be told), and although Perry also seems to have taken more than a few cues from both Christopher Lee and Kenneth Branagh as to how a successful translation of Stoker’s book to a dramatic medium might work, I rather enjoyed this particular aspect of the story.

Perry doesn’t quite play fair with the reader as far as the solution to the murder is concerned: while it is possible to guess the guilty party (and even suspect bits of their motive), for the better part of Caroline’s investigation there is not even a hint  as to the relevant facts, so guess is really what you have to do.  However, the death — and Caroline’s subsequent investigation — only occurs in the last third of the story; it is by far not its only focus.  Perry takes great care in developing the various characters and their relationships and interactions first, so the murder (when it occurs) is really more the story’s final catalyst than anything else.  If the characters’ conflicts had been resolved as a result of some other event, that would conceivably have been quite as convincing — but I suppose it just wouldn’t have been an Anne Perry book then.


Whitby Abbey and churchyard — inspiration and setting, respectively, for part of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (photos mine)

 

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Anne Perry: A Christmas Visitor

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 Reads — Yuletide


Book themes for Yuletide: Read a book set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter.

Anne Perry’s Christmas novellas are spin-offs of her major Victorian series (Thomas & Charlotte Pitt, and William Monk, respectively), featuring supporting characters from those series as their protagonists.  A Christmas Visitor is the second of those novellas, and its protagonist is Henry Stanhope, a mathematician friend of William Monk’s.  Stanhope travels to the snow-laden Lake District to spend Christmas with the family of his longstanding friend Judah Dreghorn; only to discover that just prior to his arrival Judah has apparently slipped on a set of ice-sheeted stones crossing a brook on his estate.  What initially looked like an accident, at closer inspection is revealed to be murder, and while everybody’s favorite and allegedly most likely suspect is soon found, it falls to Henry to find out what really happened.

Perry’s writing is very atmospheric and captures the Lake District, 19th century rural society, and the Christmas spirit to perfection — I loved this story right up until its very end, which (even for a Christmas book) struck me as overly moralizing and sentimental on the one hand, and just that decisive bit too neat on the other hand.  (Readers not enamored of mysteries hinging on certain points of law might be turned off on those grounds)  Still, for a quick read to get into the spirit of the season (and be served up a nicely-plotted mystery into the bargain), I could hardly have done better — and the stellar reading by Terrence Hardiman contributed greatly to my enjoyment.

Ngaio Marsh: Colour Scheme

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 Reads — Winter Solstice Book Joker Bonus

Holiday Book Joker as Bonus Joker: A book set on Winter Solstice (or Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere)

One of my favorite mysteries from Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn series, here served up in an unabridged reading by Ric Jerrom.  The story is set in Marsh’s native New Zealand and begins on Summer Solstice, which is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and thus makes the book eligible for this particular holiday’s book joker.

The mystery is set at a spa hotel near a hot springs / mud pot / small version of Yellowstone National Park type of area, where a gentleman who has made one enemy too many (i.e., your classic Golden Age murder victim) one day is found to have fallen into a boiling hot mud pot.  (He may or may not also have been a German spy — the story is set in the 1940s — but this is one of the rare exceptions of a Golden Age mystery with that kind of angle that is blessedly devoid of “5th column” shenanigans, and where the war background is actually used skillfully to demonstrate how WWII affected daily life even in seemingly remote New Zealand.)  Also present at the spa is, inter alia, a star of the British stage and screen (unabashedly based on Sir Laurence Olivier) — secretary in tow — as well as, arriving on the day after the “accidental” death that very probably wasn’t an accident, a Mr. Septimus Small, whom none of the other denizens of the spa manage to figure out, and who soon inspires the wildest conjectures as to his identity and occupation.

Upon revisiting the mystery — thanks in no small part to Ric Jerrom’s excellent narration and portrayal of the characters — I found the story’s inner logic (and the path to the solution) decidedly more obvious than when I first read it a few years ago, but then again, this time I knew where the whole thing was headed and, consequently, I was not as distracted by minutiae as the first time around.

 

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Christina Rossetti: The Poetry

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 Reads — Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night

Book theme for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book of poetry.

A wonderful reading of some of Christina Rossetti’s best-known poems by David Shaw-Parker and Ghizela Rowe, including her long narrative The Goblin Market, which I also own (and reread, for the occasion) in a delightful hardcopy edition illustrated with images by Christina’s elder brother, the Preraphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Not holiday reading per se (and The Goblin Market is decidedly dark), but still very fitting poetic complementary material for the holiday season.  Highly recommended!

 

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16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 – Winter Solstice / Yaldā Night: Bibliomancy

Tasks for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book in one night – in the S. Hemisphere, read a book in a day. –OR– Grab one of your thickest books off the shelf. Ask a question and then turn to page 40 and read the 9th line of text on that page. Post your results. –OR– Eat a watermelon or pomegranate for good luck and health in the coming year, but post a pic first!.

Who better to turn to for this than Shakespeare?

I asked a question on behalf of Teddy: Will he remain the only cat around this place, or is there another (of course, also FIV positive) feline in our joint future?

I think the Bard’s answer is unequivocal — and I’ll make a note of that new nickname for Teddy, for whenever we find out who “she” is going to be):

 

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The Festive Tasks in Calendar Form – December

Reblogged from: Murder by Death

 

Posting this just in case anyone else finds it useful. November is here.

 

 

Square 5: 

Book themes for Advent: Read a book with a wreath or with pines or fir trees on the cover –OR– Read the 4th book from a favorite series, or a book featuring 4 siblings.

Tasks for Advent: Post a pic of your advent calendar. (Festive cat, dog, hamster or other suitable pet background expressly encouraged.) –OR– “Advent” means “he is coming.”  Tell us: What in the immediate or near future are you most looking forward to?  (This can be a book release, or a tech gadget, or an event … whatever you next expect to make you really happy.)

Bonus task:  make your own advent calendar and post it.

 

Square 6:

Book themes for Sinterklaas / St. Nicholas’ Day / Krampusnacht:
A Story involving children or a young adult book, –OR–
A book with oranges on the cover, or whose cover is primarily orange (for the Dutch House of Orange) or with tangerines, walnuts, chocolates, or cookies on the cover.

Tasks for Sinterklaas / St. Nicholas’ Day / Krampusnacht: Write a witty or humorous poem to St. Nicholas –OR–
If you have kids, leave coins or treats, like tangerines, walnuts, chocolate(s) and cookies [more common in Germany] in their shoes to find the next morning and then post about their reactions/bewilderment.  😉  If you don’t have kids, do the same for another family member / loved one or a friend.

Book themes for Bodhi Day:
Read a book set in Nepal, India or Tibet, –OR–
Read a book which involves animal rescue.  (Buddhism calls for a vegetarian lifestyle.)

Tasks for Bodhi Day:  Perform a random act of kindness.  Feed the birds, adopt a pet, hold the door open for someone with a smile, or stop to pet a dog (that you know to be friendly); cull your books and donate them to a charity, etc. (And, in a complete break with the Buddha’s teachings, tell us about it.)  –OR–
Post a picture of your pet, your garden, or your favourite, most peaceful place in the world.

 

Square 7:

Book themes for International Human Rights Day: Read a book originally written in another language (i.e., not in English and not in your mother tongue), –OR–
Read a book written by anyone not anglo-saxon, –OR–
Read any story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused. –OR–
Read a book set in New York City, or The Netherlands (home of the UN and UN World Court respectively).

Tasks for International Human Rights Day: Post a picture of yourself next to a war memorial or other memorial to an event pertaining to Human Rights.  (Pictures of just the memorial are ok too.) –OR–
Cook a dish from a foreign culture or something involving apples (NYC = Big Apple) or oranges (The Netherlands); post recipe and pics.

Book themes for Saint Lucia’s Day: Read a book set in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden – and Finland for the purposes of this game) or a book where ice and snow are an important feature.

Tasks for Saint Lucia’s Day: Get your Hygge on -light a few candles if you’ve got them, pour yourself a glass of wine or hot chocolate/toddy, roast a marshmallow or toast a crumpet, and take a picture of your cosiest reading place.

Bonus task:  Make the Danish paper hearts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jur29ViLEhk

 

Square 8: 

Book themes for Hanukkah: Any book whose main character is Jewish, any story about the Jewish people –OR–
Where the miracle of light plays a significant part in the stories plot.

Tasks for Hanukkah: Light nine candles around the room (SAFELY) and post a picture. –OR–
Play the Dreidel game to pick the next book you read.
Assign a book from your TBR to each of the four sides of the dreidel:

  • נ (Nun)
  • ג (Gimel)
  • ה (He)
  • ש (Shin)

Spin a virtual dreidel: http://www.torahtots.com/holidays/chanuka/dreidel.htm
– then tell us which book the dreidel picked.

–OR–
Make your own dreidel: https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/make-a-dreidel, –OR–
Play the game at home, or play online: http://www.jewfaq.org/dreidel/play.htm and tell us about the experience.–OR–
Give some Gelt: Continue a Hanukkah tradition and purchase some chocolate coins, or gelt. Post a picture of your chocolate coins, and then pass them out amongst friends and family!

Book themes for Las Posadas:  Read a book dealing with visits by family or friends, or set in Mexico, with a poinsettia on the cover. –OR–
Read a story where the main character is stranded without a place to stay, or find themselves in a ‘no room at the Inn’ situation.

Tasks for Las Posadas: Which was your favorite / worst / most memorable hotel / inn / vacation home stay ever?  Tell us all about it! –OR– If you went caroling as a kid: Which are your best / worst / most unfortettable caroling memories?

Bonus task: Make a piñata (https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Pi%C3%B1ata), hang it from a tree, post, basketball hoop, clothesline or similarly suitable holder and let your neighborhood kids have a go at breaking it.

 

Square 9:

Book themes for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night:
Read a book of poetry, or a book where the events all take place during the course of one night, or where the cover is a night-time scene.

Tasks for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book in one night – in the S. Hemisphere, read a book in a day. –OR–
Grab one of your thickest books off the shelf.  Ask a question and then turn to page 40 and read the 9th line of text on that page.  Post your results.  –OR–
Eat a watermelon or pomegranate for good luck and health in the coming year, but post a pic first!.

Bonus task:  Read a book in one night.

Book themes for Yuletide: Read a book set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter, –OR–

Read a book set in the Arctic or Antartica.

Tasks for Yuletide: Make a Yule log cake – post a pic and the recipe for us to drool over.

Book themes for Mōdraniht: Read any book where the MC is actively raising young children or teens.

Tasks for Mōdraniht: Tell us your favourite memory about your mom, grandma, or the woman who had the greatest impact on your childhood.  –OR– Post a picture of you and your mom, or if comfortable, you and your kids.

Bonus task:  Post 3 things you love about your mother-in-law (if you have one), otherwise your grandma.

 

Square 10:

Book themes for World Peace Day: Read a book by or about a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or about a protagonist (fictional or nonfictional) who has a reputation as a peacemaker.

Tasks for World Peace Day: Cook something involving olives or olive oil. Share the results and/or recipe with us. –OR–
Tell us: If you had wings (like a dove), where would you want to fly?

Book themes for Pancha Ganapati: Read anything involving a need for forgiveness in the story line; a story about redemption –OR–
Read a book whose cover has one of the 5 colors of the holiday: red, blue, green, orange, or yellow –OR–
Read a book involving elephants.

Tasks for Pancha Ganapati: Post about your 5 favourite books this year and why you appreciated them so much. –OR–
Take a shelfie / stack picture of the above-mentioned 5 favorite books.  (Feel free to combine these tasks into 1!)

 

Square 11:

Book themes for Soyal: Read a book set in the American Southwest / the Four Corners States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah), –OR–
Read a book that has a Native American protagonist.

Tasks for Soyal:  Like many Native American festivities, Soyal involves rituals such as dances.  What local / religious / folk traditions or customs exist where you live? Tell us about one of them. (If you can, post pictures for illustration.) –OR– Share a picture you’ve taken of a harvest setting or autumnal leaf color.

Book themes for Dōngzhì Festival: Read a book set in China or written by a Chinese author / an author of Chinese origin; or read a book that has a pink or white cover.

Tasks for Dōngzhì Festival: If you like Chinese food, tell us your favorite dish – otherwise, tell us your favorite desert. (Recipes, as always, welcome.)

 

Square 12:

Book themes for Festivus: Read anything comedic; a parody, satire, etc.  Books with hilariously dysfunctional families (must be funny dysfunctional, not tragic dysfunctional).  Anything that makes you laugh (or hope it does).

Tasks for Festivus: Post your personal list of 3 Festivus Miracles –OR–
Post a picture of your Festivus pole (NOTHING pornographic, please!), –OR–
Perform the Airing of Grievances:  name 5 books you’ve read this year that have disappointed you – tell us in tongue-lashing detail why and how they failed to live up to expectations.

Book themes for Saturnalia:  The god Saturn has a planet named after him; read any work of science fiction that takes place in space.  –OR–
Read a book celebrating free speech. –OR–
Read a book revolving around a very large party, or ball, or festival, –OR–
Read a book with a mask or masks on the cover.  –OR–
Read a story where roles are reversed.

Tasks for Saturnalia: Wear a mask, take a picture and post it.  Leave a small gift for someone you know anonymously – a small bit of chocolate or apple, a funny poem or joke.  Tell us about it in a post.  –OR–
Tell us: If you could time-travel back to ancient Rome, where would you want to go and whom (both fictional and / or nonfictional persons) would you like to meet?

 

Square 13:

Book themes for Christmas:  Read a book whose protagonist is called Mary, Joseph (or Jesus, if that’s a commonly used name in your culture) or any variations of those names (e.g., Maria or Pepe).

Tasks for Christmas:  So. many. options.  Post a picture of your stockings hung from the chimney with care, –OR–
Post a picture of Santa’s ‘treat’ waiting for him.  –OR–
Share with us your family Christmas traditions involving gift-giving, or Santa’s visit. Did you write letters to Santa as a kid (and if so, did he write back, as J.R.R. Tolkien did “as Santa Claus” to his kids)?  If so, what did you wish for?  A teddy bear or a doll? Other toys – or practical things? And did Santa always bring what you asked for?

Book themes for Hogswatch Night: Of course – read Hogfather!  Or any Discworld book (or anything by Terry Pratchett)

Tasks for Hogswatch Night:  Make your favourite sausage dish (if you’re vegan or vegetarian, use your favorite sausage or meat substitute), post and share recipe.

 

Square 14:

Book themes for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Celebrate the sun and read a book that has a beach or seaside setting.  –OR–
Read a book set during summertime set in the Southern Hemisphere.

Tasks for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Find the sunniest spot in your home, that’s warm and comfy and read your book. –OR–
Take a picture of your garden, or a local garden/green space in the sun (even if the ground is under snow).  If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, take a picture of your local scenic spot, park, or beach, on a sunny day.  –OR–
The Romans believed that the sun god rode across the sky in a chariot drawn by fiery steeds.  Have you ever been horseback riding, or did you otherwise have significant encounters with horses?  As a child, which were your favorite books involving horses?

Book themes for Quaid-e-Azam:  Pakistan became an independent nation when the British Raj ended on August 14, 1947. Read a book set in Pakistan or in any other country that attained sovereign statehood between August 14, 1947 and today (regardless in what part of the world).

Tasks for Quaid-e-Azam: Pakistan’s first leader – Muhammad Ali Jinnah – was a man, but both Pakistan and neighboring India were governed by women (Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi respectively) before many of the major Western countries.  Tell us: Who are the present-day or historic women that you most respect, and why?  (These can be any women of great achievement, not just political leaders.)

 

Square 15:

Book themes for Newtonmas:  Any science book.  Any book about alchemy.  Any book where science, astronomy, or chemistry play a significant part in the plot. (For members of the Flat Book Society: The “Forensics” November group read counts.)

Tasks for Newtonmas: Take a moment to appreciate gravity and the laws of motion. If there’s snow outside, have a snowball fight with a friend or a member of your family.  –OR– Take some time out to enjoy the alchemical goodness of a hot toddy or chocolate or any drink that relies on basic chemistry/alchemy (coffee with cream or sugar / tea with milk or sugar or lemon, etc.).  Post a picture of your libations and the recipe if it’s unique and you’re ok with sharing it.

Book themes for Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day: Read anything where the main character has servants (paid servants count, NOT unpaid) or is working as a servant him-/ herself.

Tasks for St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day: Show us your boxes of books!  –OR–  If you have a cat, post a picture of your cat in a box.  (your dog in a box works too, if your dog likes boxes – I’m looking at you WhiskeyintheJar) – or any pet good-natured enough to pose in a box long enough for you to snap a picture.

BONUS task:  box up all the Christmas detritus, decorations, or box up that stuff you’ve been meaning to get rid of, or donate, etc. and take a picture and post it. 

 

Square 16: 

Book themes for Kwanzaa: Read a book written by an author of African descent or a book set in Africa, or whose cover is primarily red, green or black.

Tasks for Kwanzaa: Create a stack of books in the Kwanzaa color scheme using red, black and green and post your creation and post a photo (or post a photo of a shelfie where black, red and green predominate).

BONUS task: Create something with your stack of books:  a christmas tree or other easily identifiable object.

Book themes for Hogmanay / New year’s eve / Watch night / St. Sylvester’s Day: a book about starting over, rebuilding, new beginnings, etc. –OR–
Read anything set in medieval times. –OR–
Read a book about the papacy –OR–
Read a book where miracles of any sort are performed (the unexplainable – but good – kind).

Tasks for Hogmanay / New year’s eve / Watch night / St. Sylvester’s Day:  Make a batch of shortbread for yourself, family or friends.  Post pics and recipe. –OR–
Light some sparklers (if legal) and take a picture – or have a friend take a picture of your “writing” in the sky with the sparkler. –OR–
Get yourself a steak pie (any veggie/vegan substitutions are fine) and read yourself a story – but take a pic of both before you start, and post it.–OR–
Make whatever New Year’s Eve / Day good luck dish there is in your family or in the area where you live or where you grew up; tell us about it, and if it’s not a secret recipe, we hope you’ll share it with us.

MASSIVE HUGE BONUS POINTS if you post a picture of yourself walking a pig on a leash.  (Done to ensure good fortune of the coming year.)

 

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