Sunday, January 22, 2023

My January Hygge

 

This January has been the coldest and greyest of all the Januarys' that we've experienced since moving to Colorado ten years ago. Instead of our usual bright blue skies and warm sun, we have had frequent snowstorms or flurries and below-freezing weather. When we get snow in our area it usually melts quickly, but so far this winter it keeps accumulating. Snow is the lifeblood of Colorado's ski industry but where I live on the front range we are not used to so much winter weather. Denver actually had the biggest snowfall in January that it has experienced in the last 30 years!

 

January has definitely been a month when we have been enjoying our fireplace's warmth in the evening.   

I love curling up under an afghan, enjoying reading a good book, with a cup of herbal tea to drink.  To me, winter is "hygge" time -- a Danish word that expresses the feeling of taking the time to relax and enjoy life's quieter pleasures--and this winter has been full of cozy time.

 



The Personal Librarian is the book I am currently reading and one I recommend. 

This is the Goodreads synopsis for The Personal Librarian:

"The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan's personal librarian—who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray."

Years ago I blogged about visiting The Morgan Library and Museum which is described in this historical fiction novel.  It brought back many memories of what a treasure trove of manuscripts, printed books, as well as prints and drawings, that J.P. Morgan had acquired for his spectacular library! 

 

Cold Winter weather also encourages me to do a lot of cooking, which warms up my kitchen and keeps me busy. These are just a few of the meals I prepared--beef and broccoli stir fry, cast iron streak and broccoli polenta, a savory beet and goat cheese tart, broccoli and cheese pasta, butternut squash soup with cheesy bread, and a hearty vegetable and lentil soup.

Why do I use a lot of broccoli in my cooking? It is one of my favorite vegetables and very versatile, plus I always buy the big bag of pre-cut fresh broccoli sold at Costco, also I usually have quite a bit at hand.  Recently, I have also been happy to find that cage-free organic eggs are being sold at an affordable price at Costco. My last egg purchase there was five dozen for $15.00, which is $3.00 for each dozen. This year a devastating avian flu epidemic has caused the destruction of many chickens, which in turn has caused the price of eggs to skyrocket, so $3.00 a dozen is now a very good price.



Another winter pleasure has been watching our grandchildren excel in their school and recreational activities.  Watching one participate in a spelling bee, another's graceful ballet dance classes, and a grandson winning participation for his STEAM team (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) project in a state-wide "Future City Competition," has made us very happy!




A wonderful surprise this month was winning both the travel edition and full board edition of a Conspiracy Theory game giveaway by supernatural author,  Sharon Wagner, through her email newsletter. 
 I "met" Sharon through her blog a few years ago and fell in love with all her wonderful travel photos. One of her favorite destinations is beautiful and tropical Costa Rica. Her recent photos of beaches and exotic birds are making me dream of warmer destinations during these cold winter days.  
Sharon's new book The Levitation Game will be released in April 2023 and she is doing giveaways through her newsletter to promote her book. 
The Conspiracy Theory game is made by Neddy Games and looks like a fun party game for 2 to 6 players, ages 14 and up. It promises to "test your knowledge of the world of Internet conspiracies."  I have to admit I'm not a believer in any internet conspiracies, so I'm sure I'll get a good chuckle reading the conspiracy questions on the cards.  Our grandsons enjoy board games, so we plan on playing with them when they are on spring break from school.




So while our landscape outside has been white with frozen snow, our hearth and kitchen inside have been warm, and our days full of simple family pleasures. I can't think of a better way to have spent the month of January!  


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Sunday, January 15, 2023

My Goal for 2023 and Three Books That Inspired Me



"For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning."
—T.S. Eliot

Do you make resolutions, set goals, or pick a word to follow in the new year?   I usually don't do any beyond the usual random thoughts of "I should exercise more," "I should eat more vegetables," or "I'd like to begin traveling again."   This year, however, I am approaching a new decade birthday and I am determined to keep a goal I've set for myself to begin writing my life story.  

In 2022 my husband and I went through all our old-time photo albums and scanned and uploaded each photo to a cloud service to preserve them all as a project after local Colorado wildfires made us realize how all our photos could be lost forever.  Looking at each photo we felt as if we were reliving our life and all the memories of happy occasions we experienced as we scanned photo after photo. 

It made me realize that every person has an important story to tell, worth passing on along with their photo memories and ancestry records. Someday, perhaps when my grandchildren are approaching my decade of life, they may be interested in reading more about the grandmother and grandfather they remember.  I know I wish I knew more about the details of my grandparents' lives beyond the memories I have of them.




Amazingly, I recently received three books to review from The Book Club Cookbook at the end of last year which helped me formalize this goal. The Book Club Cook Book is a meeting place on the web and social media for publishers, authors, book club members, and readers to connect and share books, book club menu ideas, as well as menus and recipes from favorite authors. I have learned about many wonderful books through them and won many in their giveaways.

The first book I received was Living and Leaving My Legacy- vol 1 by Merle R Saferstein.  A prolific personal journal writer, Ms. Saferstein wrote 380 journals full of her life events over 48 years! She kept her journals locked away from her family, for her eyes only.  As she got older she realized that she ultimately wanted to share many of her thoughts and experiences with her family and friends as part of her legacy and began a project of what will ultimately be a two-volume collection of her journals, covering approximately 70 topics. While her memoir is a somewhat sanitized story of her life, she also gives many ideas and journal prompts in her book that is meant to inspire readers and deepen their life journey. If you are also a lifelong journal keeper this may be a book you would like to read to see how she was able to accomplish the task of condensing the good and bad, the lessons learned, the conversations, encounters, memories, dreams, travel adventures, challenges and breakthroughs of life. 

While I was never a journal keeper I still benefited from reading Ms. Saferstein's book as an example of how to begin writing a record of my life. Her end-of-chapter journal prompts helped make me form an outline for what I want to write and in what order. 




The next book I read was Cobblestones, Conversations, and Corks: A Son's Discovery of His Italian Heritage by Giovanni Ruscitti.  Giovanni Ruscitti is a husband, father, son, and brother. He is also the managing partner of Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti LLP.   A few weeks before his father's passing he asked Giovanni to tell the Ruscitti story, and Giovanni became an author.

The synopsis from the book release:
"In this memoir, Ruscitti visits Cansano, Italy,  for the first time with his family, including parents Emiliano and Maria. As he walks Cansano’s cobblestones, his father’s stories and life are illuminated by the town piazza, the steep valley, and the surrounding mountains. He relives the tales of his parents’ struggles during World War II, their extreme post-war misery and poverty, their budding romance after, and their decision to immigrate to the US in search of the American Dream."
This book was a wonderful gift, as my husband immigrated as a seven-year-old with his parents from a small town in Southern Italy in the 1950s, and many of Mr. Ruscitti's conversations with his parents and journeys back to Italy that he recorded in this memoir were very reminiscent of my husband's life. experiences. It made my husband and me more aware of the value of recording parts of our life in our own voice and perhaps even anticipating the questions our descendants would want to know about us, as we wrote our own life stories.  

So many Americans are many generations removed from their immigrant ancestors and many might not even know facts about how and why they immigrated and the struggles they faced as new arrivals in a foreign country that was now to become home for them and their future generations.  This could be the story of a first-generation son or daughter from any nationality.   I smiled often as I read this book as I recognized my father-in-law in many of the descriptions that Mr. Ruscitti shared about his father.  His story also made me realize the sorrow and sacrifice many felt to leave their family and friends, town and country, language and culture to make a better life for their family in a new land.  Their story needs to be told!




The third book Hereafter -- The Telling of Ellen O'Hara by Vona Groarke brought tears to my eyes and touched my heart. It is a uniquely written record of a great-granddaughter's searching for the immigrant story of her great-grandmother who came to New York City in 1882 to earn wages as a live-in servant girl to send money home to her struggling parents and siblings in Ireland.
Ms. Groake's struggle to tell her great-grandmother's story could also be my story, as I have searched many records trying to find the story of my Irish ancestors, although I had very little information about them, to begin with.  Author Groarke at least had the name of her great-grandmother, while I did not even have that to help in my search for the first of my Irish ancestors who came to America. I have searched online records, censuses, ancestry DNA, cemetery grounds, etc., all hoping to find more of my ancestors' stories. In reading Groake's poignant story about her great-grandmother Ellen O'Hara, I could imagine what I would write if I did find traces of my first American ancestors. If I could imagine and honor their lives by telling their stories the best I could, as Groarke did. I often feel that, sadly, Americans do not know the struggles and prejudices their first American ancestors endured to begin their life here. Their struggles and dreams led to the opportunities their descendants would have one day. Reading the imagined story of Ellen O'Hara, which was presented on one page, along with researched source facts about the life of early Irish immigrant servants and boarding house owners on the opposing page of Groarke's book, helped me understand how the mere fragment of a name could be developed into a life story of one of the many that came to America during the years of the Irish diaspora. This may not be a book everyone would appreciate, but for those struggling to find more about past ancestors, it is an encouragement to keep searching, learning, and imagining.



Books are also a part of our life experiences and I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to read the three books above that arrived at a time when I was contemplating this goal for the new year.  They were each unique in their format, and messengers of encouragement to me that this was something I need to accomplish.  A verification that however I told my story it would be cherished by my descendants.

I hope you too, dear reader, will write your story and share it with your family! Please let me know what books have encouraged you to do so.

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