Another February Adventure…

For the last two years, we’ve taken February vacations to places neither of us has been before. Last February, we journeyed to Stone Mountain, Atlanta, and A.H. Stephens State Park in Georgia. We then visited Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. We had a wonderful time in each place, despite the unusually cold and stormy weather.

Now, writing this from my home office following this year’s sojourn, I’m giving serious thought to re-thinking our future trips at this time of the year. We are once again back home in white, bright, and cold northern Illinois after a week in Panama City Beach, Florida. We have seen more sun here at home within the past twenty-four hours than we did for most of our time in Florida’s Panhandle location! The wife and I have had some serious discussions regarding maybe taking our little February trips a bit later in the month—or even into March. We shall see.

English: This is a clear west facing view of P...
English: This is a clear west facing view of Panama City Beach in the state of Florida, USA. It was taken from the viewpoint of St. Andrews pier. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regardless, we enjoyed our week down there after driving through some seriously nasty weather south of Nashville.

Our friends, Bill and Barb, belong to a Time Share organization, and they were able to secure a week’s stay for the four of us at Marriott’s Legends Edge. They flew, we drove, and we timed our arrival there so that we could pick them up at the airport.

Arriving by mid-afternoon on Saturday, Carolyn and I located the place, checked in, and had time for a nice lunch of fish tacos at the golf club restaurant before heading to the airport. Our friends’ flight was right on time so we were off for them to check in and then explore the various parts of Panama City Beach.

Although it was cool and overcast, I still persisted in wearing shorts. Such a rebel am I! Monday was perhaps the most “Florida-like” of the week, with sun darting in and out of a gray cloud cover. The temperature was good enough for us to spend several hours poolside, soaking some sunshine into our winterized bodies.

Unfortunately, that was the only day we were able to feel good about any kind of poolside lounging. Of course, there were a couple of days of downright cold temperatures, where the long pants were in order, so I stowed my rebellious ways for the sake of being warm and comfortable.

And my grandiose plans to work on my writing fell by the wayside, as I booted up my MacBook Pro only once during the week. Neither was I in the proper frame of mind to write fiction, nor was there a good place to get away and write in peace and solitude as I prefer. So I made lots of mental notes and reminders of what I had to get going on as soon as I got back home.

On the other hand, I managed to get lots of reading done—The Billionaire’s Vinegar—a story about the world’s most expensive bottle of wine and the mystery surrounding it. Not much of a wine fanatic or devotee, I wasn’t all that enthralled with the book. But it’s for a book club discussion in the near future, so I plodded through it and finished it during those cold days in Florida.

Dinner at Harpoon Harry's-Surf and white sands in the background!
Dinner at Harpoon Harry’s

Whatever else we weren’t able to do during the week, we made up for with our nightly dinners. Seafood was the order of our stay there, and we had some delicious grouper, seafood platters, and scallops, to name a few of our favorites.

In Panama City Beach, there are numerous fine places to get good seafood: Dirty Dicks, Sharkey’s, Harpoon Harry’s, The Front Porch, and The Whale’s Tail over on the beach in Destin. Nothing goes together like a cold bottle of Bud and a blackened grouper sandwich!

Our last night there, we had a wonderful dinner at Captain Anderson’s, a Panama City Beach tradition since 1967. It is one of those classic old-time restaurants, with lots of room and plenty of tables (all filled!) to accommodate hundreds. Our meals were well worth the cost, and it was a wonderful way to wrap up a fun—though chilly—week with friends.

The next morning, we packed up, checked out, and dropped Bill and Barb off at the airport and continued up the road for home, where we hoped to arrive right around midnight. But that is a story for my next post.

A taxing Monday and other mischievous stuff…


It’s one of those very cold and very bright winter days, and Carolyn and I have managed to spend most of it in the car, taking care of necessary business. Up and out by 8:45 this morning, she and I drove the hour to the man who does our taxes. All went well, and the hour we spent there was well worth it, and we’re happy to be done with all of that for another year.

While listening to the radio on the drive in, I heard some words and their usage that immediately caused me to make mental notes to include them in my next blog post (this one!)

I have shared my feelings regarding words and phrases and how they are used (or overused) a few times previously. And today is another one of those occasions that I simply cannot refrain from reiterating what I think about how our language is abused and mangled by those who don’t know any better, don’t care, or simply aren’t all that bright.

First, can we please give the expression teaching moment a rest? I was in the classroom for 34 years, and my days were full of teaching moments. We all know what it means, but everything that happens isn’t some crucial, timely learning opportunity. Sometimes, it might just be human nature doing what it’s supposed to do and someone learning from his mistake.

Soon after, I heard a newsreader say, “It was very mischievious behavior.” (Putting the extra vowel sound in “mischievous”) This misspelling causes the non-standard pronunciation, and it’s annoying, especially when coming from the mouth of a professional announcer. Of course, over the years, I heard this misuse uttered and written many times by fellow teachers who should know better! The same can be said of should of and would of instead of the correct should have and would have.

If these instances of language abuse weren’t enough, one more popped up to brighten my long drive to the tax man: Asterick instead of asterisk. (The word comes from the Greek asteriskos-“small star”) As with every word or phrase, each deserves to be spelled and pronounced the right way. I am aware that the more words are used—correctly or incorrectly—the greater the chances of acceptance for both ways of spelling and pronunciation. Alas!

If nothing else, this cavalcade of language butchery made the drive to the tax man pass quickly and it was good for my Monday morning brain, kick-starting it and getting me to thinking about other words and phrases that seem “problematic” much of the time: Ice tea rather than iced tea; corn beef for corned beef; snuck instead of sneaked, to name but a few.

It doesn’t take very much for a word or phrase to convey a completely different meaning. For example, I will never forget a brochure announcing the cost of attending a summer camp. One section titled Room and Broad drew a mental picture I still laugh about! I often wondered what sort of “broad” would come with the room. :-)

And then there is the story of a newspaper reporter who was sued because a space inadvertently had been inserted in a word in his news article. The sentence should have read: “John Doe, therapist, will speak at the convention.” Instead, it was printed as “John Doe, the rapist, will speak at the convention.” Oops! Perhaps this could have been a “teachable moment,” one that stresses the need to be careful with all aspects of language.

Our language is certainly a wonderful thing, especially when people take time to use it correctly.


That unexpected happening…

IMG_0140Something unexpected happened yesterday, and I’m kind of hoping that the same thing will do so again today. Of course, then it wouldn’t be unexpected. But enough of splitting hairs.

I have been struggling—for longer than I care to even think about—with the novel, Birchwood’s Secret, which I began years ago. It is to be my third book published, and a continuation of the lives of the two main characters, Rick and Karen Brenson, who performed so bravely in Black Wolf Lodge. That one came out in 2010, after many starts and stops along the way.

This current adventure in which Rick and Karen find themselves involved was actually begun long before Black Wolf Lodge. For whatever reasons, I simply wasn’t enthused about working on Birchwood’s Secret and pretty much abandoned it altogether. The rough outlines and ideas remained tucked away in the depths of a manilla folder, in the depths of purgatory in my writing file box. It was then that I plunged into writing Black Wolf, a couple of short stories, “Hobo Willie” and “Pinewood Farm,” and a very fun book titled The Good Luck Highway.

What was I going to work on next? About that time, November rolled around and NaNoWriMo reared its beckoning head and drew me in. And then it hit me that I had a wonderful opportunity to finally do something with all of the notes, scribblings, outlines, etc., still serving out their sentence in the confines of that manilla folder. Thus, the beginnings of my current work in progress began to come together.

At the end of the month, I had accumulated well over the 50,000 word target, but the work itself was scattered, unorganized, and full of problems too numerous to even mention here. Suffice it to say, I was once again ready to re-commit this whole thing to the darkness of the writing file box and some out-of-the-way abyss in a Scrivener Projects folder on my Mac.

But that didn’t happen. I actually went back to the beginning of the novel and began to rework it and attempt to develop it toward some kind of logical and satisfying conclusion. As before, though, that process didn’t go as I’d liked, and the frustration and inability to write much of anything grew and grew.

From the very beginning, I’ve always known what the main premise of the story is all about and who the main characters and the roles they’ll play are. It took me a very long time, however, to know how the thing would end. And that’s when yesterday’s “unexpected happening” happened!

Yesterday, as I try to do on most mornings, I sat down at my Mac and opened my Birchwood’s Secret Scrivener project and re-read what I’d written just a few days before. And for whatever reason, I suddenly knew that a couple of characters needed changed as to their roles in the story, and that another major character (main villain) would have to be worked in.

English: A stereotypical caricature of a villa...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Realizing this, it became clear in my mind how I could finally build things to the conclusion and outcome that has been eluding me for a long, long time. And I was able to crank out well over two-and-a-half hours worth of writing, the words seeming to flow as they hadn’t in such an extended stretch of time. And, to be honest, it was a wonderful feeling!

Now, as I wrap up this post, I will pour another cup of hot coffee, jump back to dear, old Birchwood’s Secret, and hope that yesterday’s magic shows itself once more.

A Super Week?

English: American football with clock to repre...
English: American football with clock to represent a “current sports or American football event” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Super Bowl Week, and everyone is supposed to be charged up and rarin’ to go for the “big game” next Sunday! Yep, it’s all come down to this for NFL fans and anyone else who wants to hop aboard the bandwagon and become immersed in the hoopla and craziness that is conveyed through every media source on God’s green earth.

The entire Super Bowl thing is even larger and more important to two contingents: 1.) Those fans who have a rooting interest in either team (I don’t!); 2.) Those who have a wagering interest in anything related to the event (I don’t!). So as a casual observer, I can enjoy the game without any pressure and concentrate on whatever it is I’m going to be grilling on the Weber charcoal grill (I haven’t decided on that yet—BBQ chicken, perhaps?).

Yesterday, Super Bowl Week really kicked into high gear with something called Media Day. You know, the event where the players from both teams are up on platforms and expected to answer all sorts of hard-hitting questions from fawning and gushing reporters and analysts. Of course, I’m rather jaded when it comes to professional athlete interviews as none of the players seems to have anything really important to say—about anything!

Point in case: A certain player for the Seattle Seahawks “agreed” to sit for a ten-minute session and entertain all kinds of questions. His stock answer for each was, “I’m only here so I don’t get fined by the NFL.” Now, isn’t that special! Of course, the wide-eyed, gawking media folks fell all over themselves trying to get this paragon of intellect to say something other than his standard response. Now that’s a true, heartwarming American sports story, friends, and I’m awfully glad my 10-o’clock news devoted so many minutes to it last night.

As for the big game itself (which doesn’t start until very late in the afternoon), I will come home from church, change into my comfy “uniform of the day”—sweats, hoodie, and sweat socks—and prepare the charcoal for my pre-game cooking of the aforementioned chicken. Of course, I will have already had the breasts, thighs, and legs cleaned and marinading overnight, so they will be ready whenever the Weber is up to temperature.

And, out here in northern Illinois, there’s always the weather to factor in to my plans. As of right now, it’s supposed to be cloudy and windy (oh, how it gets windy here!) with snow. The highs are supposed to be in the mid 20s and the low somewhere around 6°. But as I’ve proven in the past, this will not deter me! I am well equipped with heavy Carhartt jackets and coveralls as well as nice warm boots.

Once the charcoal is going and the chicken is ready to be put on the grate, I can warm myself in the closed garage with all of the pre-game programming on my TV. There will be plenty of cold, golden Budweiser at hand, and the day will be merry, and as game time gets closer, I’ll continue to monitor the progress of the chicken and then move on inside.

Regardless of the weather, the grilling will go on!
Regardless of the weather, the grilling will go on!

I will watch the teams as they come out for the coin flip, followed by the kickoff. I will watch the game as it gets fully under way and marvel at the talents of those massive players who do incredible things on the field on this day—America’s Super Bowl!

During the course of the broadcast, there will be brand new and unique commercials that will entertain and hit us one way or another. These usually turn out to be better than the game, particularly to those of us who have no rooting or betting interest for either team. Until the chicken is done, I’ll go back out to check on it, add coals as needed, and count my blessings that I don’t have to hear any players attempt to answer the media’s questions—especially the guy from Seattle!

My son and grandson, helping me with some winter grilling a few seasons ago!
My son and grandson, helping me with some winter grilling a few seasons ago!

Happy Super Bowl Week, everyone!

A mild mid-January & glorious sunrises…

Sunrise over Maple Park
Sunrise from our back deck…out across the cold fields.

Without much fanfare, mid-January has crept into the picture. And here in northern Illinois, one might get the impression that it’s late February or early March with this weekend’s milder temperatures ranging into the low 40s. A good deal of our snow from a week ago has dwindled, and ever-widening patches of grass out back are appearing by the hour!

And although this is nothing to get too wound up about, we all seem to be comparing and contrasting this year’s winter with that of last year’s polar vortex experience and agree that it’s a much more agreeable sort of winter! Having dry and bare pavement and sidewalks makes things much easier to navigate. In short, we’ll enjoy it for as long as we can.

The last several days have begun with beautiful sunrises, and they are fun to watch as they fully climb up above the horizon way out to the east from where I write. And though I prefer those dreary rainy days to really motivate me and get me into the proper writing frame of mind, it’s hard to beat one of these glorious sunrises.

Here’s to a good week ahead as we move into the next part of winter…


Hanging-files, annoying beeps, and other stuff!

Iimages made the mistake this morning of thinking that I was going to spend this very frigid January day getting some good, quality writing done (something I haven’t been very successful at these past weeks), and the bigger mistake was that I opened the drawer to the hanging-file cabinet that sits to the left of my desk.

I was merely planning on putting away a receipt into its proper folder, and as is usually par for the course, I had to thumb through the crowded, not-very-well-organized files which rest in various hanging-file folders with nifty tabs and labels. Mind you, I created all of these hanging-file folders with the nifty tabs and labels shortly after we moved in here in December of 2007. And though my intentions were good—that I’d be able to maintain some semblance of order and organization therein—it became, more or less, a mishmash of unorganized chaos! A compendium of confusion, if you can imagine that.

To be honest, I have known for quite some time that the thing needed a good weeding out and tidying up, followed by a marathon shredding session. And since I don’t really make formal New Year’s resolutions and make a big to-do about them, I hadn’t a date set aside to tackle the weeding and tidying and shredding—just that it needed to be done “down the road.”

After finally locating the folder I was looking for, I made the fatal mistake of reaching for, and opening, another folder containing something or other: Old teaching evaluations? Medical and prescription information? Grad school transcripts? Oh, so many things I had forgotten about and had saved for whatever reason, probably because I figured they should be saved in case I ever needed them!

This was all of the prompting I needed to begin the process of cleaning things out. Before I knew it, I had gone through most of the files and created an Everest of old and forgotten forms, letters, retirement benefits statements, etc., etc. Soon, I fired up the shredder and fed it generously for the next hour before breaking for a nice winter’s breakfast where I fed myself generously of eggs, bacon, English muffin, and good hot coffee.

Re-fueled and content, I returned to the scene of the weeding and tidying and shredding. I didn’t spend too much more time on this process since I’d succeeded in making the large file drawer a neater, better-organized, happier place. Plus, I did want to get some kind of writing done, albeit the blog rather than back to work on the elusive novel of mine—Sandbar’s Secret. (There’s also a couple of short stories I’ve begun…) Thus, I finished cleaning up the remaining remnants of my day’s adventure and smiled at my laptop awaiting patiently on my writing desk.

OK, with quite a bit of the afternoon freed up, I could tune in my favorite All Mellow Jazz station on the Internet Radio through iTunes and lose myself in my writing. It wasn’t long, though, before that magic was broken by a short beep, followed by another of the same a moment later, and another, and another…images-1

Yep, the smoke/carbon monoxide alarm battery was apparently low and was begging for help. It was one of those occasions when I hoped against hope that it was just a fluke and that it would go away, righting itself without any further beeping. That’s what I hoped, and, of course, that was far from the reality of the situation. It kept at it, taunting me and daring me to ignore it any longer!

So much for getting into the writing moment. Reluctantly, I pushed away from my MacBook Pro, pulled the ear buds out, and headed out to get the ladder from the frigid garage and to see if there was a battery in the container in the closet off the laundry room. As I’ve found, it’s not a difficult task to change the battery, and luckily there was a fresh replacement 9-volt Duracell right where it was supposed to be. A few minutes later, a fresh battery installed, the Kidde Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarm/Detector was back in its state of silent vigilance.

Cardstock - Nov 2010 002Now, I finally could get to that writing, but I was informed that I had to take the garbage can out to the street and go fill the wife’s car up with gas so it would be ready for work tomorrow. Out came the ear buds once more, and I backed up my Scrivener project with intentions of getting back to it before the day completely dwindled away.  As darkness began to settle in, I was on my way to the curb with the garbage can and then to the gas station. I wonder if thinking about writing counts as writing?

Oh, well, so it goes…

2014 disappearing…Books to read on the road ahead

file7691266266638Happy New Year, one and all! This being my final post of 2014, I could go on and on about the wonderful things that happened to me in this year that is about to disappear into the past, but I’ll concentrate, instead, on one of my most favorite topics: Books.

My list of things to read in the coming new year has grown exponentially, thanks to some wonderful Christmas gifts left under our tree. And though I should probably get back to my writing and re-focusing my attention to finishing my current work in progress, a novel titled Sandbar’s Secret, I can’t wait to plunge headfirst into those nice-looking tomes that sit waiting on my “to be read” shelf of my bookcase. I’ll get to the writing, I’m confident!

Before I get into mentioning those upcoming reads, I want to say a word or two about the book I’m about to finish reading for a men’s bookclub this coming Saturday morning. Bill Bryson has been an author I’ve enjoyed, and his One Summer, America 1927 has been a very pleasurable experience. In typical Bryson fashion, he seems to bring out the unique “oddities” that often go unnoticed as history unwinds. At the heart of the book is the Lindbergh flight and the basic birth of aviation it brought about in 1927.

But that’s not all that made an impact on America and the world that summer. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig performed brilliantly as The New York Yankees fielded what is considered the greatest baseball team ever, and that was enjoyable to read about. The convicted anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti, were executed for their deeds, and Al Capone was nearing the end of his “rule” in the underworld. Movies were swiftly moving away from silent ones into “talkies,” and TV was under development. And that’s merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg of all the neat stuff that Bryson has included in his terrific book! As such, I anticipate a wonderful discussion amongst the gentlemen this Saturday morning, while we enjoy hot coffee and nibble on delicious cranberry muffins.

Now, on to my upcoming reading itinerary:

  1. 41 A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush
  2. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  3. Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O’Connell
  4. Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella

I realize that some of these books are not new, particularly the Kinsella book which is the one that the movie Field of Dreams was based on, but they’re “new” to me, and I am eager to get into them all! Of course, there’s another book club gathering approaching in a few weeks where we’re going to discuss Dan Brown’s Inferno. I finished that a couple of weeks ago and can take it or leave it. Enough of Dante’s works, already!

Now, as my new year is on the cusp and arriving sooner than later, and my books to read sit patiently for my attention, I wish you all the happiest of things to come in the year ahead. I had the pleasure to make several blogging friends during the course of 2014, and I look forward to continuing those relationships. As we all move forward, may our days be merry and bright as we travel on down those many roads!DSCN5476

Words and expressions in need of a “time out”…

In these very busy times leading into the holiday season, one has many opportunities to see and hear examples of language which tend to irritate, much as a popcorn kernel wedged between a couple of teeth does. And because misery loves company, I will share a few of them herewith.

I’m not sure if anyone else is as annoyed as I am with the word so, used to begin something, but it seems to be more and more in vogue—in both writing and speaking. (Example: “So my family and I are all packed and ready to go on vacation when the phone rings.”)

Like nails on a chalkboard, this prevents me from really enjoying what might be some pretty decent content of whatever it is the writer/speaker has to offer. I really can’t pinpoint exactly why this is so irritating, but perhaps it’s because the wording sounds like an anecdote or joke. I love a good anecdote and joke as much as the next person, but I don’t find beginning a piece of serious writing with so very enjoyable. And I’m hearing this, more and more, from professionals who should know better!

When so begins something, doesn’t it imply that there should be something known previous to it? Or, perhaps, this is another one of those examples of how our language gets shaped and used (often misused) for one’s own whims.

Right along with this use of so is the use of I mean… to start a sentence. For whatever reason, this seems to be a standard “reply starter” offered up by athletes who have been asked some hard-hitting, crucial question, as in the following example: (Interviewer)-“How did it feel to score the winning touchdown as time ran off the clock?” (Sports star)-“I mean, it was cool and surreal!” Does anyone else find this weird, or is it only I that does?

While one ponders an answer to that, another irritating term is surreal (see above example). Yep, it’s a perfectly wonderful word, but it’s overused and appears in so many places where another word might be better. Could it be that many folks use the term in order to sound smart and literary? Whatever the case, it needs a rest, as do gin up, teachable moment, throw someone under the bus, just sayin’, my bad, to die forit’s all good, and it is what it is. Nary a day passes, it seems, when I don’t hear at least one of these gems thrown out there in one form of media or another. Be they “hip” or “cool,” they’re still annoying!

Perhaps with the arrival of a new year in just a few weeks, all of these terms can take a much file0001562030891needed hiatus and cease their annoyance factors. Of course, it will be short-lived as there’s sure to be more to be ushered in right behind them and shoved down our throats by the “hip” and “cool” media and the “hip” and “cool” folks who pick up on it. Oh, well, resigned to that fate, the beat goes on…

Have a wonderful holiday season, all!

The Advent Calendar of Literature: Day 10

Mark Anderson:

Here’s a very nice seasonal post from the folks at Interesting Literature I’m glad to share. Enjoy, all you Dickens fans!

Originally posted on Interesting Literature:

Over the last few days, we’ve been pondering, in a series of posts, the literary history of Father Christmas and Santa Claus. Yesterday, we looked at how Santa’s working relationship with the soft drinks industry is more complicated than we might think. Today, we’re moving from the world of drink to the world of food – and, in particular, to the important issue of Christmas dinner.

The relationship between Charles Dickens and Christmas is something we’ll come on to in a series of posts over Bozthe next couple of weeks, but today we’d like to recommend this 1835 ‘sketch’ – published when Dickens was in his early twenties – describing the perfect Christmas dinner.

The piece offers an insight into what the average nineteenth-century family did at Christmas time. This was in 1835, just before Queen Victoria came to the throne and the idea of the modern Christmas…

View original 440 more words

My Favorite Holiday Stories…

DSC_1206Every year about this time, I like to dig out and re-read my favorite stories with holiday themes. I never tire of going back to them, and they, more than anything else, provide the impetus to move me into the spirit of the seasons. Today’s post will mention a few of my favorites.

Of course, anyone who knows me would say that all things Dickens is at the top of my list. A Christmas Carol and its theme of human kindness and redemption is what makes it a true classic, and one I look forward to reading in the days leading up to the big day.

But there are others as well, if not as well-known. For instance, O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” has always been a good Christmas story with it’s ironic twist of Jim and Della each giving up something that was truly precious to each in order to purchase a gift for the other. I’ve always liked O. Henry’s characters and the hardships of which they try to cope, and this short story is a rather excellent example of unselfish love and what true giving is all about.

Another O. Henry favorite is “The Cop and the Anthem,” although not specifically a Christmas tale. It is, however, set in the heart of New York City, with the chill and unforgiving winds of winter arriving. A homeless soul named Soapy prepares for his annual winter trip to the Island—Riker’s Island—where he can be taken care of at the expense of the taxpayer—warm meals, warm beds, and a roof over his head. Of course, every attempt to get arrested results in just the opposite, frustrating Soapy immensely. Finally, hearing the beautiful strains of a church choir singing inside the church, Soapy thinks of his mother and has an epiphany and decides to turn his life around before it’s too late. Before he can do anything more, though, he is collared by a policeman for loitering and dragged off for sentencing! Love those O. Henry trademark twists!

I remember reading Lincoln Steffens’s “A Miserable Merry Christmas,” in fifth or sixth grade as a pre-Christmas assignment. The little tale runs the gamut of the young boy’s emotions from complete despondency, when he discovers an empty stocking and no pony—the only present he wanted—on Christmas morning, to total rapture when the delivery person shows up—hours late—riding the aforementioned pony. For whatever reason, I somehow was able to relate to the boy, although I never received a pony for Christmas.

file5161265801247There are others, of course, and I look forward to enjoying them late at night, after the writing is finished and the rush of the day is over. There will be a fire in the fireplace to add a festive holiday flavor to the occasions. The winds and swirling rain, sleet, or snow will be up to no good on the outside, while I’m comfortably ensconced within our cozy living room.

What favorite Christmas stories do you have?