Peregrinations

Peregrinations

 

Terse and to the point!

No zombies. No vampires. No angels. No self-help. No horror. No dys-anything.

 

 

Twenty Four Festive Tasks: Door 24, The Last

UPDATE:

 

Yes, I know that 24 Tasks ended two weeks ago but I have a story share, something that has occurred since the end of the game.

 

One of the on-going themes of the season is "miracles" and while I think they are mostly about chance, I most recently experienced a 'miracle' and want to share the story.

 

On January 7, the day after Epiphany, we were in the city of Santiago de Compostela, the supposed burial place of St. James and a huge pilgrimage destination for Christians, who have walk the "Camino de Santiago" a well-trodden path from the French Pyrennes to the Cathedral of St. James (Santiago) in the northwest of Spain for many centuries. We had come by cruise ship and a shore excursion offered by the ship and even though we had a very short time in the city, I have always wanted to visit this city. We had a lovely tour.

 

We were within a half hour of heading back to the buses when I realized, that I didn't know where my hearing aid was, that I had lost track of it and had not been as careful with it when I removed it to put in the earphone to listen to the guide as I should have been. It was not in my jacket pocket and I could not locate it in my bag. It was going to be an expensive bit of carelessness to set to rights.

 

At this point, tea and cakes were being served before we got back on the buses. I was obviously very upset and ranting in two languages. I sent DH to get us cups of tea while I proceeded to empty everything from my bag, looking for the damned thing, talking with DH in English and the guides in Spanish (mostly in coherent mutterings and cursing myself for my stupidity).  My hearing aid was GONE and the damned little thing was expensive. Rosana, our wonderful guide, and the rest of the guides knew what was going but there was really little anyone could do about it. We had covered a lot of territory and the device itself was the same color as the paving stones we were walking on. I looked for it the entire walk back to the bus. At this point, I was pretty sure where I had lost it--when I had gone into my bag to get my gloves, which I did while we were walking along.

 

I walked the entire way back to the ship looking for it, hoping I might see it on the ground waiting for me and thinking about the paperwork that I would need to fill out if I were going to file a claim against the travel insurance to maybe, possibly recover some of the replacement cost of the damned gadget.

 

We are almost back to the parking lot, when Rosana approached me waving my hearing aid in her hand. A gentleman saw it on the ground, recognized what it was and gave it to the guide for his bus, who in turn gave it to Rosana. I gave her a huge hug but I never did learn who it was exactly I have to thank for its return. Yes, even I will say that it was miracle that it was found.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
At last, I have come to the last door, my final post. Between the game and all of the other not quite as festive tasks of the season, the last two months of 2019 have flown by. It has been a good year. 
 
Many, many, many thanks to the Magistri Ludi, The Masters of the Games-- Moonlight Reader, MurderByDeath, Themis-AthenaTea-Stitch-Read (aka Mrs. Claus' Tea House) and this year's Racing Steward Darth Pedant -- who have out done themselves. Looking forward to more fun and games in 2020. 
Task 1: Prepare your favorite spicy dish or drink; share a picture and enjoy. (Sharing the recipe is optional.)
Meh. I am done cooking for the year!
 Task 2: Have you ever had an “epiphany” of your own, in the sense of a sudden revelation or insight? If so, share that “ah-HAH” moment with us.
Not really. I'm as thick as a two planks and slow on the uptake to boot.
 Task 3:  George and Martha Washington were married on Twelfth Night in 1759. She wore purple silk slippers (https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/martha-washington/george-marthas-courtship/ ). In honor of the first FLOTUS, wear purple socks or slippers and share a picture of them with us.
I have a couple of purple shirts but no socks or slippers that fit the bill. :-(
Task 4:  In Ireland, Epiphany is also sometimes called “Nollaig na mBean” or Women's Christmas. Traditionally the women get the day off and men do the housework and cooking! It is becoming more popular and many Irish women now get together on the Sunday nearest Epiphany and have tea and cakes. (https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/epiphany.shtml ) Take a picture of your book for this square (Epiphany) or of the book you are currently reading with a mug of tea and snack or enjoy a cream tea.
 
Book: Read a book featuring three main characters, about traveling on a journey to a faraway place, a book that’s part of a trilogy, with a star on the cover, with the word “twelve” or “night” in the title, or concerning kings or spices.
Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose
Twelve Angry Men audiobook cover art
 
Tally: 0+Book= 1 
(Final total: 81)

 

Mt. TBR for 2020

I have been stockpiling (sandbagging) new purchases since September and this is what I have to look forward to in the New Year.

 

I plan to start the year --just as soon as I get back vacation -- with an unabridged edition of something I have never read cover to cover:

 

The Canterbury Tales [Blackstone] audiobook cover art

 

 

From there, I plan to go, in some yet to be decided (il?)logical order, devouring these titles that have been patiently awaiting my attention:

 

 

 

The Sittaford Mystery audiobook cover art

The Second-Worst Restaurant in France audiobook cover artThe Early Cases of Hercule Poirot audiobook cover art

The Tangled Tree audiobook cover artSongbird audiobook cover artThe Case of the Man Who Died Laughing audiobook cover art

Dead Lions audiobook cover artQuichotte audiobook cover artRaven Black audiobook cover artAny Other Name audiobook cover art

Hell Is Empty audiobook cover artJunkyard Dogs audiobook cover artUnderstanding Complexity audiobook cover artTen Drugs audiobook cover art

Great Expectations audiobook cover artDon Quixote audiobook cover artSurely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! audiobook cover artHow to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England audiobook cover art

A Passage to India audiobook cover artUnderstanding Japan audiobook cover artThe Vikings audiobook cover art

 

 

Audible Originals July, 2019- ...

 

December, 2019

 

 

This is my last update of this post and my last post about Audible Originals and the giveaway program. I have made my point about these titles and don't need to torture myself or anyone else following this post with the unrelenting stream of negative comments about the titles that Audible is giving away free so that they can tout the titles as best-sellers (sorry, but that is cheating and titles that have been give away or sold as daily-deals should not be entitled to "best seller" status).
 
After 20 months of choosing and listening to titles, I have come to the conclusion that the idea of Audible Originals is good but the execution leaves way, way too much to be desired -- and that is putting it nicely. 

 

 

November, 2019

 

I think I have picked two but I'm waiting to see the reviews...

 

 

 

This month we have three memoirs, kiddie lit (which I like to see in the mix even if I might not choose it), a family drama and true crime.

 

 

October, 2019

 

This month's wheelbarrowful...

 

 

 

 

Horror, violence, other people's troubles.No thanks. Not even the R.L. Stine.

 

September, 2019

 

A slight improvement, very slight.

 

 

 

The Sisters is out. It comes with a warning: Please note: This audio contains strong language, distressing situations, and descriptions of violence that some listeners may find upsetting. Discretion is advised.

 

 

Mystwick School... " musical interludes, and original compositions included in this audio (all performed by the NJSO Youth Orchestras)." Audible has commissioned the music-- a company whose opinions rarely gibe with mine. Well, this is either going to be really good or really bad but at least it won't be strewn with graphic violence -- and there is only one narrator.

 

Martin Sheen is already in My LIbrary but I haven't listened to it yet.

 

Press Pause.Self-help for children. No thanks.

 

True-crime? Not that either.

 

Finally, a play with cover art that is everything the story is not. Too sad a story for me.

 

So, just one title this month.

 

 

August, 2019

 

Another load of twaddle!

 

 

Let's see what this month's selection holds: "An Audible Original from Audible Theater, Wally Roux, Quantum Mechanic is an Emerging Playwrights Commission, written for and available exclusively on Audible." No thanks. Two self-promotional titles one of which is labeled, "It Burns is intended for a mature audience and contains graphic descriptions of violence."  Double no thanks to  self-help, to free advertising and to violence so bad that it needs a warning. A kids' book. No thanks. "Our team in London has modernized and re-imagined Stevenson’s classic coming-of-age adventure story for the entire family." Last time I read one of these from the Audible Studios I lasted 5 minutes; I'm not giving them a second change. So, another no thanks.Finally, the only book that seems it might be even be good is a book of horror and ghost stories--and I don't like reading scary books. So, no thanks.

 

Since all of these freebie downloads count towards the "Best Selling" statistics of the title and since this titles cannot be returned, I am at the point of being super-critical and won't download anything unless I think it is right up my alley. I have been burned too many times. So, this month my Audible Originals haul is a big fat zero

 

 

 

July, 2019

 

UPDATE: Started the Correia. D!N!F! Bad, bad, bad (and not in the good way) adolescent body-parts-and-fart noise humor, with the emphasis on BAD and not the rest of the adjectives. I don't mind bawdy but it has to be funny. This was not. Definitely not written for sexagenarians. At least it was a freebie.

 

I'm not yet sure what to make of this bunch--other than it is better than last month's batch. We have dinosaurs and Babe Ruth, neither of which I am interested in. Proof of Love is a one-man show and it is about family dynamics--and I can only take so many plays about family dynamics. With so many other titles in the running, I will pass on this one. This leaves me having to choose from among the last three. The moon math is a definite because 50 years ago this month, we put a man on the moon. So that leaves me with Rivals and Larry Correia to decide between. The winner is the Correia because 1) it is about an insurance salesman 2) it has 8400+ reviews while the other titles are counting in the low hundred or even just double digits and 3) since he is wildly popular and wildly prolific, I should at least read something by the man.

 

A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs audiobook cover artScrewball audiobook cover artThe Man Who Knew the Way to the Moon audiobook cover art

Proof of Love audiobook cover artRivals! Frenemies Who Changed the World audiobook cover artThe Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent audiobook cover art

 

 My big beef about all of them is that they are just too short. I could be negative and say that they were chosen to appeal to those with short attention spans; or, I could be positive and call them a palate cleanser, something short to read between longer reads. I'll let the reader decide.

 

 

Twenty Four Festive Tasks: Door 23

 

 

 

Task 1: Glingleglingleglingle – if you could wish any kind of god(dess) or fairy into existence, what would they be in charge of?
 
Without a doubt, a housekeeping god (not goddess) to do ALL cleaning and organizing.
Task 2: Who is your favorite Discworld character and why?
I can't choose. I have enjoyed everyone one I have met so far.
Task 3:  If you could spend time in the world of one of the Discworld sub-series (or one of the standalone Discworld novels), which one would you pick – and why?
 Again, I just am not familiar enough with the individual series; I haven't read enough of them.
Task 4:  In Terry Pratchett’s and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, who do you root more for: Aziraphale or Crowley? Or another character? (And in each case: why?)
Oh, dear! It has been so long since I read the book that I don't remember anything about it or who I preferred when I did read it.
Book: Any- and everything Terry Pratchett.
For the members of the Discworld group: This of course includes the Discworld December read, Guards! Guards!, as well as some group members' favorite seasonal reread, 
 
Hogfather.
Hogfather audiobook cover art
 
This is quickly become an annual tradition, not just re-reading it but making it the last book read for 24 Festive Tasks.
Tally: 1+ Book= 2 (Running total: 80)
Twenty Four Festive Tasks: Door 22

 

Task 1: Tell us: What are your reading goals for the coming year?
My reading goal really does not change from year to year: 200 books (yes, it is a reach and this year may well be a one-off), 1500 hours, at least 50 new titles, at least 4 history titles, at least one science title and at least one more non-fiction title, maybe a new author and hopefully something  that is off my beaten path. 
 
Task 2: The reading year in review: How did you fare – what was good, what wasn’t?
 Oh, my goodness! What a year! For the first time, I actually read more than 200 books in a year. There are a couple of titles that I read twice but I still count them as separate reads. Snakes and Ladders, BL-opoly and 24 tasks really helped my numbers. I do a lot of re-reading in any year--my comfort reads, my dependable friends. I read some real bombs this year but fortunately they were mostly freebies from the Audible Originals monthly giveaways. I have been working my way through the Walt Longmire series and reached the end of the DC Smith series. I'm slowly adding Terry Prachett to my bookshelves and Mike Finn introduced me to The Slough House series.  I have been sandbagging new purchases for a few months now, saving them for 2020. So far,I have 17 titles on the TBR. Audible's final sale of the year just began and I see at least two titles on the list that I'm going to add to my library.
 
Task 3: Bibliomancy: Ask a question related to your reading plans or experience in the coming year, open one of your weightiest tomes on page 485, and find the answer to your question in line 7.
Apple is no longer making the iPod Nano. What am I going to do when mine dies??  Besides cry. I don't want to walk around with my cell phone in my pocket all the time and I have been using a Nano for at least 15 years now.
/stage directions: reach to book shelf, pick up the first book that looks like it might meet the page requirement, open book/ Yes, well the closest shelf to my desk chair is the shelf with all the travel books and the first tome I saw large enough is 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Can you tell where this is going?
Here is what it says on page 485, line 7...
Temple, built by royalty who held court in
If anyone has even half an idea as to what this means apropos my second best friend, my constant companion (since #1 still goes to work each morning), please, please share your thoughts. 
 
Task 4: Tell us: Which famous person, dead or alive and no matter from which walk of life, would you like to invite to your New Year’s Eve party, and what contribution (food, games / entertainment, etc.) would you tell them to bring?
 
 
 
Book: Read a book about an ending or a new start, where things go BOOM, with fireworks on the cover, set in medieval times, about the papacy, or where miracles of any sort are performed.
 Hot Money by Dick Francis
 
(also  Dead Heat (the grandstand) and Decider (the grandstand) but I will save them for another another time when things go boom)
 
Tally: 3+ Book= 1 (Running total: 78)
Twenty Four Festive Tasks: Door 21

Kwanzaa

 

Task 1: Share a shelfie or the picture of a stack of books or of an “object” (star, Christmas tree, etc.) created from books with red, black and green covers.
 
Task 2: Music is an important part of a Kwanzaa celebration. Which is / are your favorite book(s) where music plays an important role in the plot?
 
Task 3: Corn, in the context of Kwanzaa, symbolizes of our children and our future which they represent. Make / eat a corn dish. Recipes:
Task 4: Cup of Unity is another Kwanzaa symbol. Either buy a friend a coffee / tea / etc. or start a small tab ($10 or less) at a local coffee shop and buy a coffee / tea for strangers behind you in line.
 
Book: Read a book set in Africa or the Caribbean, by an African, Caribbean, or African-American author, with a green, red, or black cover, or with crops of the earth or a native African animal on the cover (lion, giraffe, cheetah, etc.).
The Color of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith
The Colors of All the Cattle audiobook cover art
 
Tally: 0+ Book= 1 (Running total: 74)
Twenty Four Festive Tasks: Door 20

 

 

Task 1: Share a picture of your holiday decorations.
 
It doesn't get very holiday around here until the hanukkiyot come out and we try to start the house on fire. We are halfway through the celebration now, fire extinguisher at the ready. Other families have their traditions and we have ours: we light one hanukkiyah for each of us -- DH, our three children, our grandson and me -- so it real does look like a bonfire by the time we get to the 8th night.
Some years I will add other decorations to the mix, depending on what I see in the stores (usually the gummy things that stick to the windows). But since it is basically just DH, DD and me this year, I didn't decorate.
Eight night, all ablaze.
 
 
Task 2: Watch a favorite Christmas movie.
 LOL, too busy reading books and baking cookies
 
Task 3:  Did your Christmas celebrations include books? Share your book haul pictures with us.
Just one book this year, from my son-in-law, perfect for the language loving Granny...
 
   Saving it for January.
 
Task 4: What was the best Christmas / holiday present you ever received – the one that meant the most to you or gave you the greatest joy? (This can be anything; objects / material gifts as well as something someone did for you, or anything else – whatever made that particular holiday especially memorable.)
 
Book: Read a Christmas book.
 The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
The Twelve Clues of Christmas audiobook cover art
 (I must say that I do love the cover art on this series.)
Tally: 2+ Book= 3 (Running total: 73)
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Festivus for the Rest of Us

This came up in my Facebook feed this afternoon.

 

Purple Heart veteran emerging from coma, wife says it’s a ‘Christmas miracle’

Twenty Four Festive Tasks: Door 19
Festivus
 
Task 1: The annual airing of grievances: Which are the five books you liked least this year – and why?
The Myth of Sisyphus -- did not hold my attention
Murder at Archly Manor --Take an American author. Have her write a cozy murder mystery set in 1920s England "High Society." Give it to an American narrator to read in a British accent. The diction is wrong--both the author's and the narrator's. The vocabulary is wrong--full of Americanisms. The MC is wrong--vicar's daughter running in aristocratic circles (regardless of mother's bloodlines)?
Folsom Untold -- An Audible Original -- It was so bad I didn't even write a review of it. It was poorly written. Pointless. Poor reporting. In a word, DREK!
Songbird -- Kindle not Audio. Unsatisfactory end to the first series and uninviting start to the second. But, maybe I will change my mind when I listen to it rather then eyeball it.
The Seventh Sinner --  Unimpressed. The mystery was okay but did not like any of the characters. The preoccupation with people's looks was annoying. This book is first in a series but for me it will be the last.
The Thin Man -- a terrible narrator ruined the whole thing
 
Task 2: Battle of the Books: pick two books off your shelf (randomly or with purpose); in a fair fight, which book would come out on top? The fight can be based on the merits of the book itself, its writing, or full-on mano a mano between two characters. Which would win the feat of strength?
 Of course, one of the books I pick will be DQ. No need really to pick a second because whatever I pick, mano a mano it will win . Quite simply, DQ never won a battle, never made the right decision and was bested in every situation in which he found himself. Even Dortmunder and his gang would defeat DQ--and their track record is almost as bad as his.
 
Task 3:  Go ‘pole’mic on one of the characters from an entrant in your five least favorite books, or just have a go at one of the books (the book, not the author, please) in Task 1.
 
Task 4: As miracles go, a “Festivus miracle” … really isn’t one – it’s just something marginally unusual that someone mentions and which someone else then declares “a Festivus miracle”, as a pun on the “Christmas miracle” trope. (E.g., in the original Seinfeld episode, it’s a coincidental meeting: “Oh, I didn’t expect to run into you here …” – “It’s a Festivus miracle!”) Create a “Festivus miracle” dialogue / situation; the greater the parody the better.
 
Book: Read any comedy, parody, or satire.
The Road to Ruin by Donald E. Westlake
The Road to Ruin audiobook cover art
My favorite gang of thieves. Nothing ever goes their way.
Tally: 2 + Book= 3 (Running total: 70)
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Here is one for all of us A Christmas Carol fans.

 

I am a season subscriber at Trinity Repertory Theatre in Providence, RI. They have been staging A Christmas Carol every year for the last 42 years -- and every year the staging is different. Now, there are at least half a dozen productions of the show each year in the Boston area (including in our town).

 

This morning, they shared a link to this article, written 6 years ago, "10 Things You Might Not Know About A Christmas Carol."

 

 

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/54245/10-things-you-might-not-know-about-christmas-carol?fbclid=IwAR2bQK8zvPomGnj_lINp9Vr-JM_tyljteLTNdTrT0a5q8UCDTG0gDJIDAOc

Twenty Four Festive Tasks: Door 18
 
 
 
 
 
Task 1: Spin the dreidel to determine which book is going to be the first one you’ll be reading in the new year. Find a virtual dreidel here:
 
Too late for my little dreidel to decide for me. Long before this task was posted, I had already made up my mind: I'm starting the year with The Canterbury Tales. Complete and unabridged.
 
Task 2: Latkes or donuts are fried in oil to remind Jews of the oil that lasted for eight days: Fry yourself up some latkes or donuts. Share your recipe with us if they came out tasty.
Latke time is just days away! Can't wait! 
Here is my recipe. 
BUT, I don't follow the directions on the box.  I use the mix instead of flour to bind the ingredient -- because shredded potatoes and eggs won't stick together without some sort of binder and latke mix taste a whole lot better tasting than plain old flour. Plus, the mix is flour free and thus gluten free. 
 
Ingredients:
potatoes -- 1 small per person ( or less if you are also adding sweet potato and/or carrot but it should be mostly potato)
1 small onion (optional; I usually don't bother)
6-8 eggs
1 box of potato pancake mix
oil for frying (canola, olive or even a mix of oils). You will have to add more during the cooking process.
 
Use a food processor with a shredding blade to shred the potatoes and other vegetable. Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a big bowl and stir.
Heat the oil in a frying pan (a cast iron one if you have one) and when it is hot use a tablespoon to spoon the batter into the pan. 
Cook until the pan side is golden then flip. (The hardest part is figuring out how long to cook them and a what temperature  so that they cook all the way through but don't burn on the outside; the first batch will take longer to cook). Add more oil as needed
Drain on paper towel lined plate. Serve hot.
Serve with: apple sauce and/or sour cream and/or cinnamon
Latkes can be a main dish or a side dish.
 
Some hints: You cannot make the batter or even shred the potatoes in advance (the potato turns black quickly once it is cut).  ~The batter gets wetter as it sits, so give the batter a good stir every now and then. ~ You cannot keep unused batter, so cook it all and re-heat the latkes in the oven another day. ~ Especially towards the end when the batter is wetter, the oil can bubble up and over the edge of the pan; it will then catch the whole pan on fire. Keep a lid for the pan near by. If you should set the pan on fire, as I have done, put the lid over the pan and turn off the fire. Do not open the lid until the pan has cooled. Do not try to put the fire out with water
 
Task 3:  Read a book by candle light (or flashlight).
 I sat the other night with a book in my ear just watching the Hanukkah lights burn.  Is "in the candlelight" the same as "by candlelight"?
 
Task 4: The 6th night of Hanukkah is dubbed "Candle of Righteousness"; at this time believers are expected to make a charitable donation. Make a blessing bag or food donation to a local food bank (or another charitable donation if there is no food bank anywhere near you).
 
Book: Read a book about light, miracles, featuring Jewish characters, set in Israel, that is the second book in a series, with the word “two” in the title, or with a light on the cover.
This one is a double whammy.
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry by Harry Kemelman
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry audiobook cover art
Tally: 2 + Book= 3 (Running total: 67)
Twenty Four Festive Tasks: Door 17

 

Task 1: Yule task (Germany / Scandinavia): Burn a Yule log – or if you don’t have a fireplace, light a candle to chase away the winter and welcome in the longer days. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, light a candle to mourn the slow but inexorable retreat of the sun.
Yeah, okay, flipping a switch on our faux gas fireplace does not count as burning a yule log, so I am not even going to pretend that I have done it. 
Task 2: Yaldā Night task (Persia / Iran): Stay up all night reading a good book (or at least stay up past your usual bedtime).
 
Task 3:  Dongzhi task (China): To commemorate Marco Polo’s memoirs of his trip to China, write a fictional diary entry or letter home from an imagined trip to a faraway place (real or invented) – or if you actually have written such a letter in the past and are happy to share it with us, please do!
I keep a journal when I travel, so I was able to reach over and grab one off the shelf. Here is an excerpt from our trip to Lisbon.
January 14 --QUELUZ
Slow start today. We didn't get to the train station until late -- no schedule, no rush, no deadlines. Took the train to the Monte Abraao stop and grabbed a cab to the Queluz National Palace simply because one of the bedrooms was decorated with scenes from Don Quijote! The interior is beautiful but the exterior is in such poor condition that it is simply depressing!! This is our last palace this trip. They all look alike -- full of azulejo, faux marble, old furniture and 3rd rate painters. Queluz did have interesting chandeliers. After wandering the gardens --somewhat depressing in winter and definitely not well tended at all, we walked back to the train station and headed back to Lisbon center. It is now 3 pm and we haven't eaten since breakfast. Found a sandwich shop near Rossio -- and bought a couple of bread cheese and chorizo roll up kind of things --very good! Next stop -- the fancy Santa Justa Elevator. Very expensive but included in the Lisboa Card. 1 minute ride up. It's another charge to go up on the viewing deck-- also included int the Lisboa Card. Wretched spiral staircase but I made it up and down without issue -- slowly but I did it. The view was SPECTACULAR!!! From there, we walked up to the Miradoura San Pedro de Alcantara. Along the way, we passed a couple of cool places mentioned in the guide books -- and didn't even know we were passing by. The Miradoura has another fantastic view (of our hotel, too) and we stayed up there for a while. It was really cloudy with the son coming in and out. Took the funicular down to to Av. Liberdade and back to the hotel to relax before dinner.
 
Task 4: Soyal task (Zuñi & Hopi / Native American): While systems of written symbols and communication already existed with the Pre-Columbian Native American cultures, to many tribes even today (including the Zuñi and Hopi) the oral tradition is still important. Have you ever had stories told to you (e.g., as children’s bedtime stories, or at night during a camping vacation)? Or if you haven’t, try to imagine a “storytelling” situation you’d like to experience?
  • My grandmother used to try to tell us stories about these two characters that she says she made up, "Hanky Pank" and "Lanky Hank." They weren't very good stories and I don't remember a single one of them but I do remember the names of the characters. 

 

Forty years ago, when we moved our family away from our home town, we made up a little story for our not yet three year old daughter to help her remember the names of  her grandparents, aunts,uncles and cousins. It was a story about a princess who lived in a castle and it just simply named all the people in the castle -- Pop-pop the King and Nanny the Queen and Mom-mom the other Queen --and then everyone else was a prince or princess. No plot, just a list of names. You have to remember that this was back in the days when it cost money to make long distance phone calls --no computers, no cell phones, no Facetime -- just a photo album and a weekly phone call to the grand parents.
Book: Read a book that takes place in December, with ice or snow on the cover, where all events take place in a single day or night, that revolves around the solstice, set in Persia / Iran, China or the American Southwest or prominently featuring Persian / Iranian, Chinese or Native American characters, or a collection of poetry.
The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson
The Dark Horse audiobook cover art
Tally: 2 + Book= 3 (Running total: 64)
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Twenty Four Festive Tasks: Door 16
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Task 1: Famous first words: Tradition has it that the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize are woken up by the St. Lucia maidens, as St. Lucia’s Day (Dec. 13) is just three days after the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony and many laureates stay long enough to be able to take in the St. Lucia festivities. Imagine one of your favorite (fictional) characters had won that prize: How would you think (s)he would greet the maidens? (If you’ve used the Nobel Peace Prize for Door 15, Task 3, this can be the same character, of course … or a different one, just as you wish.)
 
Task 2: Compile a list of five or more carols, poems, short stories, novels or other pieces of writing that feature sleigh rides.
  •  Jingle Bells
  • Over the River and Through the Woods
  • Sleigh Ride
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 
  • Anna Karenina?
 
Task 3:  Trolls, gnomes, dwarves and similar beings (some evil, some less so, almost all of them mischievous) are a staple of Scandinavian mythology and folklore, as well as other folklores and mythologies around the world and, of course, fantasy and speculative fiction. Who is your favorite such creature and why? (No matter whether mythological, fictional or from whatever other source.)
The dwarf Moe Diggums, from the Artemis Fowl series, because he is such a rascal.
 
Task 4: The historic (3d century AD) St. Lucia was Italian; yet, like those of many other saints (including, e.g., St. Andrew and St. Nicholas), the most important celebrations of her holiday don’t occur in her place of origin but somewhere else in the world.  List or create a stack of favorite books (minimum: three) featuring a character’s move or transition from one part of the world to another one (or from one end of a large country, e.g., U.S. Canada, Russia, China or Australia, to the other end. Alternatively, tell us: Which book that you acquired this year had to travel the farthest to get to you (regardless whether by plane, sea, or whichever other way, and regardless whether it was a purchase of your own or a gift from someone else)?
This is a recurring theme in some books by Nevil Shute 
  • The Breaking Wave 
  • Round the Bend
  • The Far Country
  • The Chequer Board
  • Beyond the Black Stump 
 
 
Book:  Read a book set in Scandinavia / Northern Europe, by a Northern European / Nordic author, with a predominantly white cover (or white with red lettering), newly released in November or December of this year, or set in the candle-lit world (i.e., before the discovery of electricity – roughly, that is, before the late 19th century).
Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer
Devil's Cub audiobook cover art
 
Tally: 3 + Book= 4 (Running total: 61)
Twenty Four Festive Tasks: Door 15
Task 1: Cook a dish from a culture other than your own or something involving apples (NYC = Big Apple) or oranges (for the Netherlands, seat of the International Court of Justice & International Criminal Court).
 I cooked tacos for for Door 1 but I am wont to double count it and I have been a lazy cook of late, not really cooking anything new or different. Too busy baking cookies and getting ready to fry latkes to think about meals. 
Task 2: Create a stack of books or a list with books by some of your favorite female and / or minority authors (minimum: five) and tell us what you like about their writing.
One thing that all of my authors share is the ability to write a coherent sentence that is clear, concise and easy on the ears. 
To Kill a Mockingbird audiobook cover artDevil's Cub audiobook cover artA Civil Contract audiobook cover artAnd Then There Were None audiobook cover art
Harper Lee --she may have been a one hit wonder but her book was timely and the message was timeless. I was twelve the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird, long before it  became a high school curriculum standard.
Georgette Heyer -- for her panoply of quirky secondary characters, her humor and her excellent descriptions of people, costumes. etc. She is the only romance author I still read. 
Agatha Christie -- she knows how to craft a mystery and then tell a story that isn't full of graphic violence (which has really turned me away from writers like Patricia Cornwell, Faye Kellerman and the alphabet lady, who books I haven't touched in 20 years even though once I would buy up the paperbacks just as soon as they were released). I am working on adding other Golden Age mystery writers to my library, like Tey and Sayers. 
 
Then there is a second tier of woman authors who I will read on a regular basis --and all of them are mystery writers, because the older I get the less I want to read romance (fairy tales and soft-core all rolled into one) or books about families with problems and terminal illness (not interested in borrowing other people's sorrows; I read to be entertained, not depressed). The list includes Diane Mott Davidson, Dorothy Gilman, M.C. Beaton (but not Marion Chesney) and Donna Leon (although some of her stuff can be a tad graphic). 
Dying for Chocolate audiobook cover artThe Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax audiobook cover artDeath of an Outsider audiobook cover artUniform Justice audiobook cover art
Task 3:  Nominate a (fictional) character from one of the books you read this year for a Nobel Prize – regardless which one – or for a similarly important prize (e.g., the Fields Medal for mathematics) and write a brief laudation explaining your nomination.
 
 
Task 4: Reconstitute one of the bodies or institutions of the United Nations (Plenary Assembly, Security Council, Secretariat, International Court of Justice / Criminal Court, World Bank, etc.) with some of your favorite characters (minimum: five) and explain why you chose them and what you’d expect them to achieve.
The Old Gentleman from Georgette Heyer's The Masqueraders as Secretary General of the UN. Here is a man who has spent his entire life wheeling and dealing (and running a gambling hell), full of bombast, conceit and egotism. Here is a man who will re-create the UN in his own image.
 
Book: Read a book featuring a strong female character (or characters), by an author from any minority group, a story about a minority overcoming their oppressors, or revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused, a book set in New York City, or a book originally written in a language other than English and / or your mother tongue or by anyone not Anglo-Saxon.
The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
 
Tally: 1 + Book= 2 (Running total: 57)