Archive | February 2023

Retirement Diaries 2023: Spring is Close!

I’m back in Minnesota after spending three weeks in Washington.  The weather in Washington was erratic and didn’t give me much of a break from the chill of Minnesota.  In my three weeks, there were a few days of sun and dry weather, but mostly it was gloomy, raining, windy, and for a few days frigidly cold with high winds.  That is thanks to the Fraser River that funnels wind and cold down through the valley from British Columbia.

Last Wednesday I got to go to one of my favorite restaurants for steak night!  Oysters, steak and a few glasses of wine with some dear girlfriends.  It was wonderful to catch up and see them and I even thought to get a photo this time! 

All in all, in my weeks in Washington I had a great time catching up with friends old and new, doing some beach combing, and helping my mom with purging and organizing her house.  It was nice to see some progress after our hard work.  I was sad that there were some friends I wasn’t able to connect with – that’s always the case with busy lives.  I also had quite a bit of downtime, so much that have already finished 9 books this year!  I do need to finish the book for my book club tomorrow night though! 

One friend was coincidentally at the airport at the same time as I was on Saturday morning, so we had one last chance to catch up over an early morning beer before we ran off to catch our flights.  I love those unexpected happy surprises; my cup runneth over. 

At home the kitties missed me of course, and so did the chickens I think, although it’s a little hard to tell with them.  I’m sure you will agree that Cora and Yellow just exude enthusiasm in their portraits.  Their excitement is so obvious! 

I arrived just after a couple days of snow, so now it is sunny and bright with bare/dry roads.  I unpacked all the books I brought home, and have been working on organizing them onto my bookshelves to get them all to fit.  It’s a process…  I did bring home several travel books and guides, so I can get some road trip inspiration for this spring!  Meanwhile though, I need to catch up on laundry and clean my room!  

Yesterday I did the majority of my taxes, and thankfully I should be getting a refund.  I had to pay a lot this year with the capital gains on the sale of my home, so I did end up making an estimated payment last fall to cover that, and it looks like it was enough.  Whew…  I’m just waiting on a few things to get them filed.  It will be nice to have that out of the way.

And the best news – we are only a few weeks away from spring!  I will fully expect that spring will arrive with 60 degree days (at least), a full melt off of the snow and fresh spring flowers popping up immediately.  Yes, I know that this is a bit unrealistic, but if you don’t put your hopes and dreams out there… 

I hope all of you are well on this last day of February! 



Book Review: Housebreaking

Housebreaking, by Colleen Hubbard

I picked up this book at the library because it is the March pick for the library book club, which I want to check out next month.  I knew nothing about it, or this author.

Del is a 24 year old woman with a failure to launch.  Her parents divorced after a long ago scandal, and have both now passed away.  She lives with a friend of her father’s, works a dead end job that she can’t be bothered to keep, and her roommate wants her out so his partner can move in. 

One day Del gets a call from a cousin she hasn’t talked to for years, not since she left her hometown after her mother’s death.  He has a proposition.  Del’s uncle wants to buy the house that her mother left her, a rundown house that hasn’t been lived in for years.  He’s a developer who wants to build new houses on the land where Del’s house sits.

Del, of course, can’t just take the money and run.  She’s bitter at her family for ostracizing her and her mother, and wants to get even.  She has a plan to sell him the home, get the money, and stick it to her uncle too.

Del is not a likable character.  She’s lazy and angry, anti-social and unconcerned with her own hygiene; her only focus is getting her revenge.  It takes her months, and along the way, she builds some connections with a few people from her hometown. 

I was not a fan of this book.  I’ve always had trouble with people who aren’t willing to work towards improving their lot, and Del is a good example of the victim mentality.  Sure, she’s been dealt a raw deal, but her uncle’s offer is very good, and her revenge plan basically cuts off her nose to spite her face. 

It also makes no sense from a logical perspective, and it even requires the reader to suspend disbelief to accept that she would have any chance at pulling it off.  That said, it was an easy read, and made me feel like a super high achiever. 

2 stars. 


Retirement Diaries 2023: Socializing

Week two has been a combination of socializing and helping my mom purge the house.

The early part of the week was fairly quiet, just lying low around the house, helping mom with her purging project, reading, and watching TV.  The weather has been the typical Northwest winter weather, rainy, windy and blah.  But the crummy weather means that I’ve been reading more than normal, so I have already read eight books so far this year!

I went to the beach with Jena on Thursday afternoon, on a gloomy, gray day.  At least it wasn’t raining, but it did start to sprinkle as we were walking back to the car.  Once again we found some cool rocks, but were thwarted in our quest for agates.

I went and had some blood work done, because my doctor wanted to recheck my thyroid levels.  When I had my annual exam right after I quit my job, my thyroid levels were out of whack, but a month later they were normal.  And now, still normal – that’s great news!  I know stress can mess with your thyroid, so I’m assuming that was the issue.

My original purpose of coming to Washington in February was my friend Jena’s 60th birthday party, which was Saturday.  I’m an introvert, and definitely not much of a party person, but I went, and peopled and had fun.  The party was at the barn of a local man who rents it out for parties and reunions, and this place was fascinating.  There was memorabilia, decorations and odds and ends everywhere.  It was a lot to look at; like an episode of American Pickers!

Sunday I had lunch with a friend that I used to work with and got to meet his wife.  It was a lot of fun catching up!  Then for dinner, I met with my oldest friend and her new beau.  We have been friends for 40 years!  Oh my, how is that possible?!?  Of course, I was so busy chatting that I completely forgot to get any photos!  Oops.

I fly out on Saturday, so I have the rest of this week to make the most of my time here.  I hear I’ll arrive in time for the next cold front in the Midwest.  Winter isn’t done with me yet.


Book Review: Love and Ruin

Love and Ruin, by Paula McLain

I have read two of Paula McLain’s other books, so when a friend was going through her books and asked me if I would like to borrow this one, of course I said yes.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this historical novel is related to one of her other books, The Paris Wife. 

The Paris Wife is the historical novel of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson.  Love and Ruin is the novel of Hemingway’s third wife, Martha Gellhorn.  Martha Gellhorn was a budding writer and journalist when she met Hemingway while on a family trip to Key West, Florida, where Hemingway lived with his second wife.

The two made plans to travel to Spain and cover the Spanish Civil War.  Gellhorn was inspired by reporting on the conflict, and truly found her career calling.  But on that trip, she falls in love with Hemingway and they begin an affair. 

This novel tells the story of their affair and later marriage, as well as the marital conflict as a result of Gellhorn’s career aspirations.  It was interesting to read a fictionalized account of the marriage of two real, larger than life people.  McLain’s writing is believable and a realistic depiction of what may have transpired.

In real life, Martha Gellhorn couldn’t deal with Hemingway’s attempt to clip her wings, and ultimately chose to pursue her career over her marriage.  They divorced after only a few short years.  Gellhorn destroyed her correspondence with Hemingway at the end of her life, so this fictionalized novel may be the closest we have to an account of their relationship.

5 stars. 

Book Review: Immovable Feast

Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas, by John Baxter

I went to the library to sign up for a new library card, and then of course perused the shelves to see what looked interesting.  I was drawn to this book for its title; if you know you know.  A Moveable Feast was the title of a book by Ernest Hemingway, about his time living in Paris in the 1920s. 

John Baxter is an expat Australian, living in France with his Parisian wife.  And along the way, he became the one responsible for cooking the Christmas dinner for his French extended family.  He has no formal cooking experience, just an interest and a curiosity about trying new things.

The book is about the Christmas traditions of the French, along with the experience Baxter has in planning and executing the seven course Christmas dinner.  From the appetizer to the suckling pig, to the cheese course and the dessert.  And of course, the wine. 

Baxter takes a simple subject and draws his reader in to the culinary culture of France, and his experience as an outsider being accepted into a Parisian family.  A funny, charming read. 

4 stars.

Retirement Diaries: Home to Washington

I have been back in Washington for a week now.  It’s nice to have this little getaway and to be able to see and catch up with friends and my mom.

The first week was a whirlwind of activity.  Mom and I went to satisfy my sushi craving right after she picked me up from the airport shuttle.

I went down to my old office for lunch and a visit with my former coworkers.  It was nice to hear about how things are going, now that my toxic ex-boss has moved on.  The consensus was that things are better there now on a day-to-day basis.  Nothing I heard made me regret my decision to leave though, so that was a positive.

Several of my friends and I went on a Cider and Spirits Stroll, put on by the downtown association.  Your ticket got you tickets to sip various ciders and spirits, small bites at the various places, and a souvenir tasting glass.  It was a nice evening to wander around and check out some shops I hadn’t been to, all while catching up with friends!


It was clear that the local police had cleared out the homeless population from the downtown area for the evening – that is one of the things I do not miss about my hometown, which now has a significant (and growing worse) issue with vagrancy.  I had lived near downtown for 10 years before my move, and had regularly walked downtown to restaurants and shops, but had become increasingly uncomfortable with the homeless, who yell, accost people and do things I don’t want to mention on the sidewalk.  Sadly, city leaders have let it get to a point where I no longer feel safe downtown.

I also took a day to head down to Whidbey Island to hunt for agates and other rocks.  The weather was sunny and reasonably warm for February, so I had to take advantage!  I didn’t find any agates, but I found several other rocks, shells and pieces of sea glass.  I was happy.

Friday evening I went to visit with my old book club.  I hadn’t read the book, but it was nice catching up with these beautiful ladies and chatting about life.

Saturday morning was a breakfast date with one of my former coworkers.  We caught up and talked, and it made me miss the connections of work.  It is hard that I haven’t really made any friends yet in Minnesota.  I know that will come, and I’m not really one who needs to be surrounded by friends all the time, but it has been nice to have that connection with friends over the last week.

In between all this social butterflying, I’ve been reading (I have finished two books already) and helping my mom with house stuff.  Of course, the cats and chickens miss me at home, but they are in good hands.  It has been a nice trip so far!


Book Review: The Reading List

The Reading List, by Sara Nisha Adams

“Just in case you need it:

To Kill a Mockingbird
The Kite Runner
Life of Pi
Pride and Prejudice
Little Women
A Suitable Boy”

What would you do if you found a reading list?  Would you read the books it contained? 

Aleisha is a high school student in London, working a summer job in the branch location of the library.  The only problem is, she doesn’t like to read.  One day an elderly man comes in looking for a book recommendation.  She doesn’t know what to recommend, until a discarded reading list drops out of a book.  So she gives the man the first book on the list.  Of course, she decides she must read it for herself too, because what happens when he asks her opinion of the book?

Mukesh is a lonely widower when he finds a forgotten library book under his bed.  It had been checked out by his late wife, who loved to read.  Since her death he has been lonely and isolated, and he devours The Time Traveler’s Wife.  He is so comforted by the book that he shows up at the library to ask for a recommendation of the next book to read. 

Aleisha and Mukesh slowly become friends as they both work through the mysterious reading list, learning lessons about life, grief and finding friendship.  A number of other characters weave in and out of the two main characters’ lives, helping them to cope, providing teaching moments, and giving the gift of friendship.

It was a heartwarming read, with one climatic tragedy, and it really made me think.  Who wrote the list?  What was its purpose?  What did the writer intend for the recipients to get from the list?  What would I put on my reading list and what wisdom would I want it to impart? 

Have you read the books on her reading list?  Of these eight books, I have read To Kill a Mockingbird, The Kite Runner, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women and Beloved.  I have seen the movie versions of Rebecca and The Life of Pi.  I had never heard of A Suitable Boy.  And although it wasn’t on the list, I have also read The Time Traveler’s Wife.  I think I may have to read the three of these that I have not yet read.

What would you put on your reading list?  

4 stars.