Apart from wishing away what is hopefully the last of the cold weather, I can’t say that I’ve been full of ambition in the last few weeks. I can say with reasonable reliability, however, that I have hit this same slump every year of my adult life. I expect I’m not alone.
On the bookshelf…
The upside to winter weather is reading time. I’m barreling through the first leg of my 2019 reading challenge. Thirty-five books won’t seem like much to those readers who seem to inhale one volume after another, to the tune of 100-or-so books a year, of course, but I’m one of those “slow and steady” readers.
A year or so ago, after a Facebook page recommendation by Adriana Trigiani, I read Lee Smith’s memoir Dimestore: A Writer’s Life. I fell head over heels for this Southerner’s crystalline style and sharp perception and resolved to try her fiction. In February I finished The Last Girls. Oh, my! This is a piece of absolutely perfect writing in which I could find no fault—every character was fully fleshed out and captivating, every angle compelling, every scene enticingly well set, every word perfectly chosen. If you enjoyed Frances Mayes’ magnificent Women in Sunlight, you should read The Last Girls, too. In my opinion, even though set in different places with characters who are very different, these two novels are perfect companions to one another. If you haven’t read either one, I’d suggest reading The Last Girls first. By the way, Frances Mayes’ new book, See You in the Piazza, is out this month.
Two other novels I enjoyed—both historical fiction—were Carnegie’s Maid, a yarn spun around the notion that Andrew Carnegie’s first great love was his mother’s lady’s maid, an Irish immigrant with a brain for business, and Dear Mrs. Bird, a World War II era novel set in London, whose dialogue is exceptionally witty and crisp. Both are first-person narratives, and the voice in each rings true. Dear Mrs. Bird is particularly well paced.
In the kitchen…
I wish I could say that I used the dark days of winter to achieve new heights in the kitchen, but I can’t. In fact, I’ve lacked both inspiration and motivation. I forced myself to try a few new recipes but can’t say that anything absolutely knocked me out, except, perhaps, for the Valentine’s Day chocolate cupcakes—Bake Sale Fudge Cupcakes, that is—courtesy (you guessed it) of King Arthur Flour. My daughter Emily gets all the credit for the beautiful icing job. These were largely distributed to the little ones on our block, though we kept a sufficient sample to agree that this recipe is an absolute keeper. Click on the link and have at it next time you get the urge.
My birthday falls in the first week of March, so my BFF invited me to lunch at one of our favorite old haunts, a Central Pennsylvania garden center with a deli counter that serves very simple fare. Before our elegant lunch of Sloppy Joes and broccoli salad, we ambled through the greenhouse, where the pansies were beginning to appear. What a fun break! Then, Monday night, my daughter, en route home from a business trip, appeared with two dozen lovely roses that are now in full flower. Can’t you almost catch the scent?