Do you think much about winter? And whether or not this year will be a hard winter? Maybe where you live you don’t have winter, let alone a hard winter.

Here in Canada, we think about winter a lot. We talk about it, we anticipate it, and we dread it in equal measure. We can’t wait for it to come, especially when we’re kids. Even when we’re big kids. Every, every year when I was teaching teenagers, they would gasp and shout out in class when they saw the first flakes of the first snowfall of the year fall past the classroom window. “It’s snowing!” As if they were six years old, as if they’d never actually seen snow before. Ha. I still do the same thing at my age. So yeah, we love to see winter come. And several long dark winter months later, we celebrate when it’s over. Man do we celebrate when it’s over!

And while winter is here, it’s a big topic of conversation. Every day. How much snow we’ve had, or will have, or how little. If there will be freezing rain. What the low temperature will be tonight. What to do if we travel so our pipes don’t freeze and burst. Whether we should plug the car in so it will start in the morning. What the wind chill is. How bad the roads are. If the plow’s been by yet. Snow banks, slush and salt, black ice. Shovelling. Snow days. I could go on.

Some Canadians hate winter so much they leave home in November, head south, and don’t return until spring. Others stay put. Like us. I can’t blame the snow birds who desert us for warmer climes. Winter is not an easy season. Much as we like to think we’re hardy Canadians surviving the hard winter, maybe bragging a little about how cold it is and how much snow we’ve had, we still find it difficult. When I was a kid you’d hear people musing if maybe this year we’d have a “hard winter.” In the old days a hard winter meant lots of really cold weather, maybe a couple of weeks of -30°C temperatures, and a slow spring so that crops would be planted late. Now it’s something quite different, at least for most of us. Especially this year.

beautiful day on the Rideau, but still with COVID it will be a hard winter
Beautiful winter morning view… looking out my backdoor.

This year we’ll all have a hard winter, I think. Even if the temperatures are relatively mild. Most of those snow birds are staying put. Stuck here with the rest of us year-rounders. And they’re not happy. Some have flown south anyway. And shipped their vehicles to Florida or Palm Springs or wherever they are accustomed to wintering. Travel advisories be damned. Their rationale is that they can stay safe as easily there as at home. I’m not so sure about that, but I guess it’s their call.

Here in Ontario, we’re all back in lockdown this week. COVID numbers are rising alarmingly. All those Christmas gatherings, I guess. Or maybe all those government ministers who flouted their own rules and jetted off to somewhere lovely. Ha. That’s a rueful laugh, by the way.

You know, despite the tone of this post so far, I don’t hate winter. I actually love hunkering down in front of the fire on a cold night, with a glass of full-bodied red and a hearty stew for supper, and a movie on TV. Or hunkering down in front of the fire with my book while Hubby naps on the couch. Or just hunkering period. I am a fan of hunkering. Hunkering by the fire with a nice meal after a long ski is how Hubby and I spent most of our courtship. And our marriage.

ski trails across our local golf course show that it's not a hard winter weather-wise.
Lots of people with the same idea of how to survive winter.

I’ve always loved the feeling of being cut off from the world during a winter storm. I remember the winter of 1984, when I lived back home, my stepfather Lloyd worked on the government snowplow. During particularly bad storms, the phone might ring when everyone was in bed and Doug, Lloyd’s boss, would ask if Lloyd could come. While he dressed, Mum would make him a lunch and a thermos of tea. Then we’d see the headlights of the old Dodge piercing the darkness and the driving snow as he maneuvered the car down the long driveway. He might be out on the roads the rest of the night and all the next day. There was a room with a cot at the government garage where the drivers could grab a nap, and eat their lunch.

I remember during one bad storm that winter he was gone for two days. Mum and I hunkered down with our knitting, the woodstove in the old kitchen pumping out heat, and that lovely smell. We weren’t going anywhere.

That winter, if Lloyd didn’t make it home in the evening, I’d haul on my boots and Mum’s ancient muskrat jacket to go feed the cows. We laughed so hard at that. Me wearing the boots I bought when I lived in the city, beautiful burgundy leather, knee-high, high-heeled boots, and Mum’s fur jacket, the warmest coat in the closet, pitchforking hay down to the cows. The swankiest farmer in the neighbourhood, and the only one in high heels, Mum said. But the feeling of warmth and security in the barn, the wind whipping the snow outside, the cows moving softly about in their stalls, stanchions clanking, the smell of hay and, let’s be honest, cow manure, has never left me. Can one be nostalgic for the smell of cow manure, do you think?

That was a hard winter by old-fashioned standards. But not for me and mum. Companionably stranded at home, while poor Lloyd worked hard to keep the roads clear, we knitted and yakked and knitted and read.

I had borrowed my sister Connie’s complete set of James Herriot books including All Creatures Great and Small. Gosh I loved those books. They were the perfect companion for a snowy winter. Just sweet and gentle enough to fix what ailed me. And well written enough to make me laugh out loud. Sometimes at night when Mum and Lloyd were tucked up in bed reading in their room, and me in mine, I’d shout out lines to them. “Listen to this one,” I’d yell. And then I’d read the excerpt, my words carrying down the hallway to their room from mine. I remember one day asking Lloyd over breakfast if he thought maybe the problem he was having with a cow might be caused by such and such. Something I’d read in Herriot’s book. That makes me laugh now. It seems that I thought books could solve everyone’s problems.

And this month Hubby and I have been enjoying the recent remake of All Creatures Great and Small on Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. Seriously, it’s just what the doctor ordered this winter. Our hard winter by 2021 standards. Not because of the snow and cold but because of COVID-19.

hard winter this year, even on good ski days.
Skiing doesn’t always lighten my mood, sadly.

Generally skiing can lift my winter moodiness. The fresh air. Hopefully some sunshine. Feeling my legs and arms move. Cross-country skiing is simply the best exercise ever. But it doesn’t always work for my mood. Books are better for that.

I just finished reading Hamnet and Judith (or just plain Hamnet depending on where you live) by Maggie O’Farrell. What a wonderfully dense, luscious, beautifully written book. I adored it. How O’Farrell reimagined Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, their lives, and their love is brilliant.

The plot moves back and forth from the day daughter Judith and, later, her twin Hamnet fall ill to the early days of the lives of Agnes/Anne and Shakespeare. Then later their meeting, their marriage, Shakespeare’s career, and how they cope with the tragedy that strikes their family. O’Farrell even imagines how the pestilence that affects the children arrives in England and Stratford from Alexandria via Murano, Italy. And even though I knew what would happen in the end, well, not quite the end, but I knew that Hamnet is the one who will die, even knowing what will happen, I was captivated by O’Farrell’s plot.

The long detailed passages about the forest, and the plants, and herbs that Agnes/Anne loves and with which she works her magic are fascinating, and lovely to read. O’Farrell masterfully puts the reader inside the head of a sixteenth century person, with all their prejudices, and knowledge, all their fears, and superstitions. The scene when Judith is ill and the physician arrives in his “featureless, hideous mask, pointed like the beak of a gigantic bird”, worn to protect himself from the pestilence, is so fraught with emotion, Hamnet’s fear, Agnes’ desperate calm. This was brilliantly rendered, I thought. In fact I thought the whole book was beautifully rendered.

And I wish she would write a sequel. All about Agnes/Anne and Shakespeare and what happened after Hamlet. Wouldn’t that be wonderful reading for a cold winter’s night?

watching the beavers on the river ice
Beaver watching.

This winter Hubby and I have been reading up a storm. Winter pun intended. Although Hubby is far outpacing me in the reading race. Not that it is a race. Just that he is powering through books, and I am uncharacteristically struggling. I’ve picked up and abandoned many books since the fall. I’m restless and cranky if I don’t fall in love with a book right away. I was so happy that Hamnet and Judith captivated me from page one.

Despite my struggle with some other books, I hurtled my way through The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. So good. So mood enhancing. I smiled and laughed, and loved it all the way through. Humourous mystery novels are often too silly, too contrived, and not that well written. Osman’s book is none of those things.

Hubby just finished, and really loved, The Searcher, the new Tana French. He kept wanting to tell me about it, and I had to plug my ears. I’m listening to the audio book which is much slower going than reading it myself. But still wonderful. Plus it keeps me on my exercise bike when I’m not walking or skiing. The Searcher is classic Tana French, even though she deviates from her Dublin Murder Squad series in this one. French’s work is always a delight to us both.

Hubby also recommends A Darkness Descending by Christobel Kent, set in Florence, Italy. And Jane Casey’s Cruel Acts. We are both Jane Casey fans. I really like her characters.

I just finished Anthony Horowitz’s Moonflower Murders. It’s the follow-up to Magpie Murders. I enjoyed them both. Particularly the character of Susan Ryeland, the book editor. And Horowitz’s book within a book is an interesting plot device. These books are not what I would call great literature, but are nevertheless entertaining.

Now Hubby and I are sharing Peter Lovesey’s newest Peter Diamond mystery The Finisher. He reads it on one iPad and I read on the other. I do like a good Peter Lovesey mystery. His books are funny, and I like the continuing characters and the fact that they are set in Bath in the UK. I love Bath.

Plus I am belatedly reading Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist. I’ve had the book for ages but have never read it. We will be discussing it in one of my book club meetings in a few weeks. I won’t say that I’m enjoying it because non-fiction reading is never my fav. But it is really interesting. And definitely helpful. An important and necessary book, I think.

Reading at the doctor’s office earlier this week.

You know, part of my struggle has always been that I’m impatient with books which aren’t well written. Especially when it comes to style. They don’t have to be literary, but they must be competently written. That sounds snobby, doesn’t it? As if I somehow consider myself the arbiter of literary style. Ha. I don’t.

But there are often too many bits and pieces in books these days that a good editor could have pared away, or counselled the writer to eliminate, or reduce, or rewrite. There are too many books which make me long for a word-stylist like P.D. James. And which make me thank my lucky stars for writers like Tana French, and Kate Atkinson, and their ilk. Especially on those days when my mood won’t let me sink into a literary novel. When I cannot bear to dive into tragedy or angst. And when I just want a really good, well written murder mystery.

And this winter I am particularly impatient with books. Well, with everything, if I’m honest. I guess we all are. Impatient, I mean. That impatience is what will really make this winter a hard winter. That chafing against continued isolation. When we should be turning inward, toward hearth and home, enjoying slow days in front of the fire, we’re sick to death of slow days.

So what are we going to do about it?

Search me. I’m just taking it one day at a time. Like everyone. Reading when I can. Exercising every day. Writing my blog. Finding new things to talk to Hubby about. Digging deep.

The other day, as I stood in the bathroom applying my make-up before I went off to my doctor’s appointment, I listened to the December podcast from Slightly Foxed called A Winter’s Tale. Oh, I know I have waxed lyrical about the ladies that put this podcast together before, but seriously, my friends if you haven’t tried it you should.

The episode notes describe this podcast as a “snowstorm of winter writing over twelve centuries”, a tour guided by the literary critic, and author of the book Weatherland, Alexandra Harris. Harris talks about how through the centuries winter has been viewed as a time for us to draw inwards, to shut out the world, a time of contemplation, and a time to cherish home and hearth. I felt restored after hearing this. And I thought, once again, that to be able to listen to these erudite and totally charming women talk about books is such a privilege.

After hearing Alexandra Harris talk about winter from a historical perspective, I’ve been thinking of all those homesteading ancestors of mine. Who endured long winters in the wilds of New Brunswick. No internet. No telephone. And probably few books. My Burpee ancestors settled in New Brunswick in the 1760’s. I try to imagine what winter in the Saint John River valley was like back then. A few small settlements. The frozen river. And miles and miles of snow.

Then I feel a bit sheepish for thinking that this winter is a hard winter. And I promise to do my best to recapture the best parts of winter which I have always loved. The fireside. A good book. A nice meal. Safety. The big bad world spinning somewhere out there, but not encroaching on our peace.

I’ve ordered Harris’ book, Weatherland, for myself. It’s one I think I will love to dip into this winter. I’ve also ordered the Ali Smith book Winter that Harris suggests, and which I have not read. Maybe the two of them will help me get back to cherishing winter. Hard or otherwise.

How’s winter been going for you, my friends?

P.S. The links to books in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link I will make a small commission at not extra cost to you.


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From the archives


Lazing in the Laurentians

This week we are lazing in the Laurentians. Cross-country skiing along Le P’tit Train du Nord, eating, reading, napping. And relaxing.

The Lure of the Wilderness: Our Top Five Books

I’ve finally read Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods. I mentioned it last fall in a post about our weekend hiking trip when Hubby and I went for our own walk in the woods. I remember observing how restorative walking in the woods can be. Or any wilderness, actually. And how we really needed that trip. The wilderness does seem to wield a special kind of power. A typical Algonquin Park scene. Trees, water, and more trees. October 2015. I was excited to read Bryson’s book… couldn’t in fact understand why I had never read it before. I ...

Reading at the Automat

Ever eaten at the automat? A panoply of food stretches off into the distance and you try not to choose everything. Kind of like with reading.

71 thoughts on “Hard Winter Tales”

  1. Your book recommendations are noted, thank you. always I look forward to your blogs and love the way you write! Sending warmth from a sunny summer in New Zealand.

  2. I am have a hard time reading, it’s hard to settle. Mostly grey and damp here in Essex county but today the sun shone and it was plus 4. Walking saves our sanity

  3. Whenever I read your book recommendations, I immediately go to the online library and search for the titles. Then I place holds and wait for the ebook to become available. There must either be a lot of South Dakotans who read your blog, or they are learning about these books from another source. Why they would read any recommendations other than yours I will never understand! Two of the books had 15 holds each, another 6, and the rest had 2 or 3 people in line ahead of me. It will be like Christmas each time I get a notification that a book is available.

  4. You know that we don’t do winter the same way out here on the West Coast. . . although the one year I bought seven CATS tickets for Christmas (our four kids, one boyfriend, Paul and I), it snowed almost two feet overnight and it took us almost an hour to walk across our (unplowed) island to our boat, another fifteen minutes to get all the snow off the boat, and then of course all the roads in town were nigh impassable/impossible and the ferries to Vancouver weren’t even running. So every few winters, we get a taste. . .
    Lots of satisfying reading here as well (just read The Magpie Murders and am now just starting Horowitz’s other series with The Word is Murder). . . Have you read Kathleen May’s book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times? I’m just working my way through it . . . much to savour. A few years ago, I read Adam Gopnik’s Massey Lectures on the topic of Winter — compiled in a book Winter: Five Windows on the Season. Re-arranging my bookshelves as we prepped for painting last month, I found it again and have put it aside to read when I’ve finished May’s book. I think it would complement Weatherland, which I’ve been meaning to read for some time now. ’tis the season, right?
    If you haven’t read Ali Smith’s Autumn yet, I’d recommend reading that before Winter. Each book in the series does stand alone, but there are characters that follow from one to another and patterns that form. (I’m really wanting to go back and read them again from the start now; I wasn’t alert enough to the patterns first time through, but enjoyed glimpsing them retrospectively as I read Summer last month). Whoops! I did go on a bit there, didn’t it? Sorry, but it’s just always so good to talk books with another reader who loves them!

    1. Another endorsement for Katherine May’s Wintering. I borrowed it from the library and after reading and returning it, I ordered a copy. It is a book I want to own and return to often.

    2. Gad. That was definitely a hard winter tale. I’ll bet when you think about days like that you are glad you relocated. I am going to order the Kathleen May book. Think I’ll order it from the library and if I love it I’ll buy it for myself. A winter treat.

  5. As I write this it is snowing heavily here , unusual for us as we don’t get much snow on the east side of England & yes it’s always exciting to see . The COVID situation here in the UK is dreadful . Numbers of deaths are sky high & family members in the health services are struggling . I just hope the vaccine is successful. In the meantime we need distractions . Funny that you are watching All Creatures ( Yorkshire ) whilst we are watching Schitts Creek (Canada ) . My mind is in Canada just now . A very distant cousin there has sent me photos from his family collection . One of my grandmother as a five year old in 1885 with her Aunt who emigrated to Toronto that year . Exciting when I only remember her in her old age . I agree about books needing serious editing at times . I’m wary of self published books now . Perhaps not fair but so often they seem ‘ overwritten ‘. I too enjoyed Richard Osman , Jane Casey ( Jake is awful at times but they belong together) Peter Lovesey & I’ll look into others . Recent books I’ve enjoyed were Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud , not a romance & both of Lynda Cohen Loigman’s books . I do like the way she writes . So we’re off into the snowstorm now for our dog walk . Thanks for the great post .

    1. I love looking at old photos. So interesting to get a glimpse of life way back when our grandmothers were young. Good luck with the snowy dog walk. Take a walking stick.

  6. It is snowing here today. Woke up to hear the sound of a car driving slowly down the street and was delighted when I opened the curtain. We are fortunate in that we don’t need to go out and don’t need to leave our village at all but I know there are plenty of people who will struggle to get where they have to go. Snow in UK is definitely not a given and the reactions are mixed; I love it. but yes, it is proving to be a hard winter for all of us. I am just ticking the days off and waiting. Never knew I could be so patient. Book-wise, it is non-fiction for me. Currently on the north Kent marshlands after a foray on the canal system of London. There is a book about Essex waiting and one on the Sussex countryside. Facts I can take, fiction and relationships, not so much. And I can only read in fairly short bursts, my attention tends to wander after a while. Bit like when you read on holiday but find you are instead watching people on the beach or just gazing out at the horizon. The spectacular beauty of the snowy trees across the road is mesmerising. Stay safe.

    1. I can’t focus for long on non-fiction. Unless it is a topic of particular interest. We sometimes choose political memoirs or biographies for our book club… and I find them a slog. I’ll bet the moors in the snow are wonderful… if cold.

      1. I can see them from outside my front door. Not going any closer. What looks beautiful and tranquil from here is, in actuality, brutal when you get up there. Wind chill takes your breath away.

  7. Books, glorious books! They’ve always been a safe haven for me. But, like you, I have no patience this year for stories that don’t pull me in right away. On your recommendation I’ve read The Searcher and Excellent Women. Loved both! I’m on the waiting list for Hamnet. I just finished Louise Penny’s most recent, All The Devils Are Here. She always manages to transport me. This time a lovely visit to Paris, where I’ve never been. I didn’t realize how much I had missed Armand and Reine Marie.
    Trying to find something to watch that’s comforting and relaxing is more difficult. I’ve also been watching All Creatures Great and Small. It’s as wonderful as the books I think. We also just discovered The Repair Shop on Netflix. The artisans in this British repair shop restore family heirlooms to their former glory. I highly recommend.
    Thank you!

  8. January in a pandemic….doesn’t sound too inspiring does it? Actually it’s not too bad, I know we are lucky living in rural New Brunswick. I’ve been working on a few orders in my pottery studio, trying to get in my 10,000 steps every day and taking time to prepare nice meals at home. I’m loving the new “All Creatures Great and Small” series. After seeing the beautiful setting I’m thinking I may need to add Yorkshire to my travel bucket list. My elderly British neighbour’s family home is in that area and she ensures me it’s is as lovely as portrayed in the series. We are also enjoying the “Les Miserables” miniseries also on Sunday night.

    1. Wow. Another New Brunswicker! What part? I am always on the lookout for pottery. My former art teacher from high school was a potter in Saint Andrews. I remember visiting his studio in the 80’s and being so happy to meet him again after many years.
      P.S. We’re watching the Les Miserables series too. Very well done.

      1. We live near Harvey Station, NB. I wonder if your art teacher/potter was Tom Smith? He passed away a few years ago but before that had a studio in St. Andrews. Check out my IG page “Denise MacLean Pottery” if you’d like to see some pictures of my pottery…and my dog…and my sweet little granddaughter lol.

        1. It was Tom Smith! My niece and her husband live in Saint Andrews now and they told me that he had passed away. I will definitely check out your page, Denise. Thanks.

  9. This is a great post Sue, thank you! Yes, we in Minnesota love to talk about the weather in general, but winter is the favorite target of complaints. This year it’s been milder than usual, with less snow, but a two-day storm starts this morning. I’ve switched from reading mainly novels (including a few you recommended!) to reading about race. I’m just finishing White Fragility and All the Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon for White America. Both are excellent while challenging, more like reading for a college course, than the usual fiction I read but I think very important now. I live less than 2 miles from the place where George Floyd died. Reading seemed to be one thing I could do to educate myself. I gifted copies of White Fragility to 3 friends for Christmas along with the message that I didn’t consider any of them racist, but wanted to share the rather eye-opening insights the author offered. Anyway, I will soon return to a novel, Louise Penney’s All the Devils Are Here, in an effort to transport myself back to Paris! Thank you for all your posts, you have a wonderful style that really resonates with me!

    1. Good for you, Deanne. We are doing something similar in one of my book clubs. I’ve just started reading How to Be an Anti-Racist. And we also have read The Vanishing Half. More are on our list. I agree that it’s important. Like you say, it’s one thing we can do.

      1. Ha! I received The Vanishing Half for Christmas, look forward to reading it. I will also pick up your How To book, and Just Us, by Claudia Rankin. On the wait list for that!

  10. Thanks for the book recommendations! I second the comment above about Louise Penny’s books – all of them – just love the cast of characters! I grew up in Kansas on a farm, and remember staying overnight at a friends house, with plans to go home the next day. We prayed for snow so I wouldn’t have to leave and woke up the next morning to snow over the eaves of the house! What fun! I stayed for a few days and we embroidered our jeans and hung out (this was the 70’s.) So much fun in the wintertime. Even now, here in NC, when we get enough snow to be housebound for even a few days (a rare occasion) it feels delicious to be inside by the fire. Thanks for the blog post – bringing back memories!

  11. Your description of going out in your heels and fur made me laugh. It instantly brought back sights and smells and the sounds in the barn in the winter. Tromping through the snow and blowing wind into the soft air of the barn, touching the calves with their moist noses…I could go on but thank you for that wonderful memory. So right, if a book cannot draw me in with the first chapter it is set aside for now. So many books stacked up that are read and must be sorted through later to see what is to be reread down the road. There have been many nights we have read into the wee hours and wanted the stories and characters to stay with us after the last page has been turned.
    Very happy to see your post this morning again.

    1. Thanks, Diane. My favourite time of day to read lately is late afternoon. Especially if Hubby is cooking dinner… which is most of the time. Ha.

  12. Thank you for your wonderful book recommendations….my husband has been re-reading his Louis Lamour collection for years, but when you recommended Peter Grainger’s DC Smith series he was hooked! We are both reading them and enjoying them. I looked for Hamnet and Judith but couldn’t find it ….I’ll try again with your link. We live in rural North Central Washington and had a big snow storm on Tuesday….12 inches of snow and power outage….fun day (after my husband plowed walkway and driveway for two hours) reading and knitting by the wood stove! I wanted to tell you about my simplified makeup routine. BOOM sticks by Cindy Joseph, mascara and lipstick. Watch her early videos of you haven’t seen them yet…sadly she passed away several years ago. Looking forward to your next post!

    1. I’m so happy you and your husband like the DC Smith books. We both like them too. I have heard of the Boom sticks but have never tried them. I will check out those videos. Thanks for the suggestion. 🙂

  13. I just purchased “Hamnet” and am now, very eager to read it. I was pregnant with my daughter when I read the James Herriot books. I loved them so much and would laugh out loud – made for a happy pregnancy. My husband and I are rewatching the first series (he had never seen them) and watching the new version too. One good way to get through this hard time.

    Your memories of feeding the cows brings back memories of my own. I do enjoy the fragrance of cows and horses. During my first marriage we helped a farmer by milking his (15) cows while he and his wife went away. We had to do it before we went to work. It was winter so the cows were in the barn and the memory of the girls waking up, standing up and then needing to be mucked out will be with me forever. 😊

    1. I imagine that reading James Harriot did make for a happy pregnancy. Milking and caring for 15 cows is no small job. What a good neighbour you were.

  14. You are such an excellent writer. I often ask myself, “where is the book you need to write?” Living in our part of Texas where we have only several days when a light coat is required, it is interesting to learn how well you cope with your cold environment. I love your descriptions of your winter season. Thanks for your blog.

  15. I was hesitant to insert my comment here as I am a 2nd generation Southern Californian. I sheepishly admit that our current location is almost ideal with the ocean nearby. But we are also a block away from where the 2017 Thomas Fire ravaged lives and homes. We can still see the scars amid the returning vegetation.
    The first time I was in falling snow, I was in college and on a ski holiday. I’m embarrassed to admit, I thought the snowflakes were supposed to be larger. Sheeesh.
    I ate up your wonderful descriptions of your “hard winters”.
    Thank you for sharing your winter experiences.

  16. We’re all going a bit squirrely so thank heaven for books. I also loved Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club and as a fan of British authors I’ve read everything by Kate Atkinson. Love her. Just finished “Agent Sonya”, a true story about a remarkable German Jewish housewife who was one of the best spies in the world during the war and the Cold War. I’m about half-way through Julie Andrews’s “Home Work” about her Hollywood years but finding it a bit tedious. If anyone is looking for humour, anything by David Sedaris will pick you up. We need distractions, preferably humour or juicy mysteries. Am I allowed to plug my own recently self-published book here? “We’re Not Dead Yet” about and for baby boomers, on Amazon.

    1. I am waiting impatiently for the next Kate Atkinson. But have now found several recommendations in these comments so I should be all set for a while. 🙂

  17. Beautiful post,with books and canadian winters,and hunkering…
    I’m reading Catherine May’s Wintering,too, I like it very much (I guess it was Nancy’s suggestion a couple of posts ago). I’ve realized that winters are quite nice when you think about this period as hunkering down and rest, enjoying them as they are- no big plans for going out ,no stress,it is as it is…..
    We’ve had a little bit of snow so far,snow in the city is more a problem than a fairy tale,so I like cold winters without snow (or not so cold ones :-)). Beautiful snow outside the city is lovely,like it is around your home
    I’m so glad that you like Hamnet-it is so well written and captivating. Christobel Kent was my comfort reading last autumn,with Florence,Toscana and charming characters. The same goes for R. Osman this year. I’m wandering with books more than usual last couple of months as well

    1. I am finding it hard to finish books which I should read for book club because I just want to wander… follow a thread of interest and read whatever I feel like. I’m wondering how downtown Zagreb is faring these days. The winter makes everything so much harder.

  18. HELLO!
    I have always wanted a cow since I was a small child and here you grew up with them!Beautiful memories………..
    Have noted the book recommendations thank you!I’m off reading at the moment don’t know WHY that happened but it did!Maybe too much reading HERE on LA COMPUTER!

  19. Greetings,
    Yes, I grew up in South Dakota and moved to Minnesota as an adult. We are hunkering down for a 2 day storm, wind gusts over 50 mph, glad that will start tonight as is garbage day and slid down the driveway to bring up bins this morning. Our freezing rain has turned to snow. Saying up to 10 inches. Yes, we talk a lot about winter. Our niece and her husband had to get a snowblower, both are 27 and my husband and I laugh as we shoveled. I think he was 40 and we were looking at another 10 inch wet snow when he finally bought one. By then the chiropractor visits were adding up!!! Aging is tough. He grew up on a dairy farm so winter weather made everything more challenging. He does not miss it at all. I like to read Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder when the weather gets bad and winter gets long. Yes, agree with a fire and glass of good red to warm up. I also love the All Things Great and Small and my mom introduced me probably late ‘70’s? So good. I just finished This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger and he is a MN author. It was sad, but good. My Libby account is acting up so must call my library for assistance. We usually go south for a get away in January and March and it is making it tough staying in MN. I hope you get into a good book soon. Thank you for your recommendations!

    1. Freezing rain is the bane of our existence. And sadly it’s becoming much more common. So happy that I don’t have to dig out and go to work each winter morning. Sometimes when I had an early meeting it would still be dark. Or leaving work in the dark most days, scraping windows, sitting in a cold, cold car while it warms up a bit. Brrr. Like Hubby says the coldest part of winter is getting into a cold car.

  20. Hello! I so enjoy your writing here and elsewhere. I am an almost retired physician and fantasize about writing in my next life but … so different from the scientific writing style I have been immersed in for decades. We have had a mild winter thus far here on the North Coast (Ohio). I have a growing list of books to read thanks to you and others….one day when keeping up with Covid data is not so pressing. Enjoy the hearth and hubby!!

    1. I know what you mean about shifting writing style. When I started keeping a journal years ago and writing along with my students during journal time each day, the first few entries sounded insufferably pedantic. It felt odd writing like myself at first; I couldn’t put aside my teacher persona.

  21. Thanks to everyone for all the book suggestions. I have now maxed out my Libby Holds and have added more to my Wish List :). I also enjoy the Darling Dalhia’s mysteries by Susan Albert Wittig.

    I grew up on a farm with horses, ponies, many dogs and chickens – lots of “mucking out” and chores to be done before school work. The mention of “soft noses” brought me right back to those teenage years and to our horses with their soft nickering that would greet us, as we opened the barn door. Wonderful memories. 🧡
    Thanks for another excellent blog , Sue.

  22. Love, love, love your pictures of the snow. Before we moved to the PNW, we lived in Upstate NY, very close to the Canadian border. Beautiful lake-effect snow!! Snow from Halloween to Mother’s Day. While we moved out here because it is lovely and majestic–and reminded my husband of his home country–we actually miss it. And even the cold. We have to travel a bit to get to the mountains where there MAY be more than a few inches, or the ski lodges where there are, of course, masses of it, but this year with the closures and restrictions and safety concerns, that has been out of the question. Your pictures are lovely. They bring back a lot of winter memories.

  23. I absolutely love the fashionable Farm Hand in burgundy heeled boots and fur coat!
    This book is not new but very good: “My Secret Sister” by Helen Edwards and Jenny Lee Smith

  24. Thank you so much, Sue, for the book suggestions. Just finished a Hank Phillippi Ryan and was looking for more ‘murder.’ Perhaps it’s the weather, or the political climate here in the States, but the murder and suspense is a wonderful distraction!
    We had a day of hard winter here in Central Texas – it snowed! Beautifully, blindingly for a bit, and left behind a landscape muffled and whitewashed for a day. It was glorious! Hang in there, and again, thank you!

      1. About once every 8 or so years. Brings out the inner-child in all of the adults… and brings out all of the crazies on the road! Yee-ha!

  25. Oh, so many memories with this post! Thank you, Sue. Two falls ago, my husband and I traveled through New Brunswick, Nova Scotia (and Cape Breton), and PEI. I admit that a few weeks before the US election I visited a few real estate sites in New Brunswick…just in case.
    The western side of my state has no clue about forecasting the weather for the eastern corner so my husband is always looking for the “Canadian model” on weather websites. It looks like we are going to get 4-6 inches (10-15 cm??) this weekend and I can break in my brand new snowshoes. Yes, we in northern Vermont have similar winter thoughts, although my husband mentioned it is just about six weeks to sugaring season. BTW, when I visited Ottawa in the 70s, it became my favorite Canadian city. I bet a lot has changed since then.
    I don’t read as much of many of you and your readers. I’m slightly cross-eyed and transitioning from line to line is tiring. But your mentioning of the James Herriot books reminded me of a time in college when I could not read them fast enough. I rented a room off campus from an elderly lady with an obnoxious bull dog. She kept accusing me of “entertaining a man” in my room, strictly forbidden of course. What she could hear was the bed springs creaking as I was heartily laughing at the stories. I had to show her the books to convince her that it was just me! Carol in VT

  26. Loved reading this post. After a very mild Christmas it has suddenly turned very cold here in Greece , and many areas have snow. It was a freezing job this morning going out to feed our poultry and small flock of sheep, but then lovely to come home and hunker down by the fire with a steaming mug of tea. Or leek and potato soup , mmm.
    When we are in the middle of a heatwave in July we often talk about which is worse, to be too hot or too cold, and of course at that point we usually pick too hot as worse.It’s so difficult to keep cool. I”ve always loved the onset of winter when you can snuggle into a cosy pullover and boots , at least there are ways to keep warm !
    Thank you for all the book suggestions to check out !

  27. I did not know there is a new version of All Creatures Great and Small on PBS. I will have to check that out! I loved those books so much when I first read them. I had to smile over your yelling passages down the hall to your parents as you read. : ) Could I possibly find out what brand your reading glasses are? I have been looking for some with thin black frames just like the ones you are wearing in the photo where you are reading with a mask on. Most black-framed glasses are so heavy looking. Yours are perfect!

      1. Thank you, Sue! I will have to see if my optometrist carries this brand. They are a great shape on you, and I am hoping just maybe on me also. Very classic.

  28. Weatherland is one of my absolute favourites. I also loved the same author’s “Romantic Moderns”, about English cultural life in the 1930s and 40s. In these slow, snowy/rainy lockdown January days I’ve been enjoying hunkering down with Ursula Le Guin’s writings about planets in the middle of an ice age or where winter lasts for years. The Left Hand of Darkness, and Planet of Exile. They make the Scottish winter seem not so bad!

  29. Hello Sue,
    Living on an island south of beautiful BC, invites delicious days for winter reading and writing. Your blog suggestions helped create an interesting and diverse 2021 reading list. Thank you.
    For the last four years, I’ve threatened to move north to your country. Have you ever thought about being a sponsor for your discouraged southern neighbors?
    With hope that both our countries will experience health and well being in this New Year,
    Diney on Camano Island

  30. I meant to comment on this when I read it on Friday. I’d love to be curled up on the other side of your woodstove for a snowy afternoon that stretches into evening with a glass of good red and a heart stew with a good movie. Maybe you could host a big slumber party for all of us When This Is Over!

  31. Well here in Halifax there is no snow in fact the crows have been digging up everyone’s lawn searching for grubs! It’s been pretty mild. I grew up in Northern Ontario so get all the ‘should we plug in the car’ etc. lingo, and I’m so relieved I don’t have to worry about early morning/get to work on time driving! Anyway…
    I do love Maggie O’Farrell and The Searcher waiting for me. I’ve started listening to a podcast called Dispatch from a Friend, I’ve had a lot headaches lately and it’s so relaxing. I really enjoy your blog Sue. Thanks for all your posts and IG too.

    1. I was wondering afterward if some people would have no idea what plugging the car in might mean. I’m going to have a look for that podcast. I love podcasts… although the voice has to be right for me to be able to listen. I tried a few fashion podcasts but I couldn’t abide the voices of the presenter. I do love Alyson Walsh’s That’s Not My Age Podcast though.

  32. The other day as it snowed for a few fleeting moments, I wondered if re-reading LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA in the middle of the pandemic would offer a new perspective. Has anyone else here had that idea? Have you discovered your reading choices now are quite influenced by the COVID quarantine emotional roller coaster ride we’re experiencing?

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