Saturday, January 7, 2017

Random Thoughts From a Cold/Flu-Muddled Mind...

Okay, so that didn't work! I suspect no one will be surprised to learn that baking bread and making kimchi did not, in fact, cure the cold that was keeping me indoors last post. It distracted me, certainly, as did some reading, card-writing, some knitting, some Netflix and TV-watching, and, sadly, far too little sleep (funny about how that coughing interferes). But it didn't snap me back to health.
I can scarcely believe I was out for a run when I snapped this photo (of a fragrant Viburnum bodnatense 'Pink Dawn') a week ago Friday. By the time we went to bed New Years' Eve, my throat was beginning to prickle with the cold that would move in the next morning....

Indeed, although I got out for a brief walk Thursday morning and then again Thursday afternoon, gaining enough confidence in my much-reduced strength to try a quick Skytrain jaunt downtown for buttons yesterday, I've spent an entire week -- all but those paltry two-and-a-half hours -- inside.

In case you're wondering what I wore for my Invalid Forays on our Icy Sidewalks. . . Um, Casual Bluestocking, anyone? Honestly, I love this pleated wool tweed skirt, The Gap 9 years ago.... and worn at least three times, generally much more, every year since. With grey wool tights and my snow boots, a yak-wool sweater from Aritzia, I was ready...

Just added my old Mackage leather jacket and an M0851 bag that I thought I'd bring back into rotation....

This morning, I feel as if I may have turned a corner (I slept 'til 4:30 this morning before the coughing woke me, hurrah!). Pater just raises an eyebrow at that claim, and it's true that you wouldn't detect improvement in my voice, which has moved overnight alarmingly close to laryngitis territory. But I'm hopeful....

I haven't had such a bad cold for years (reason to think this might actually be a 'flu, and not a cold), and it's brought me some sweet memories of my Dad draping a towel over my head as I leaned over a sink or bowl full of just-boiled water fragrant with bronchia-opening Friar's Balsam. . . . Do any of you know this treatment?

Speaking of fragrance (ha! see how I did that segue? Nothing random about that, right?!), I came over a bit emotional when I spotted these blooms on a Viburnum Bodnatense 'Pink Dawn' while out running last week. These were the November-through-March stars of my island garden, which I planned carefully to include numerous winter-flowering fragrant plants. And they're surely still blooming there, but I'm, well, I'm trying to bloom somewhere else. Somewhere I'm planted now. New roots are still forming. . . .
But at least I'm finding substitute plants on my running route. . . and our Christmas gift to each other was a membership at the local botanic garden. . . . And I'm going to do a bit of research to see what winter-flowering fragrant shrubs might flourish on my terrace garden in tubs.

Last bit of random for the day: I've been enjoying sending off cards to a variety of friends in various destinations. I've a huge envelope full of stationery, gathered over years and years of good intentions, and it's fun to sort through, remembering when and where I bought this card or that. I'm hoping to see the envelope's contents shrink through the year, although it's a bit shocking what the price of stamps has got to since I was last a faithful correspondent.

Another big change I've noticed, and the one I wanted to ask you about, is a thought I've glimpsed, even grabbed and questioned for a slippery second.  Thought is probably not quite right -- more like an expectation. I have caught in myself an expectation or something like, within a few hours of pushing my stamped envelope through the mail slot in the lobby downstairs. It's an expectation clearly built from years of social media, nurtured by the feedback a photo can garner within fifteen minutes of being posted on Instagram. Some days you readers might take a few hours before you offer me sympathy on my cold or offer me travel advice or share your response to a book or television program, but generally, the loop between my thinking/writing and yours is a short one.

But even as I'm wondering what A. in Toronto is thinking about what I've written her, even as I'm impatient to know if C. in Bordeaux was surprised by my card, that envelope is probably still in a sorting facility somewhere between sender and recipient, perhaps in the belly of a plane somewhere over the prairies. So A. or C. won't know what I've written them until I've begun to forget it. . . .Which might seem to rule against the value of "snail mail," to bring out all the pejoratives held in that sometimes affectionately applied term. . . .

However...
I'm inclined to wonder if the necessary lapse between writing and reading, between missive and response, will show itself to me, over this next year, as a value. Will I begin to allow for the rhythm of a correspondence? (and I must say right now that I'm not at all sure any of the recipients will write back -- indeed, I've tried to indicate pretty clearly that I have no expectation of reciprocity. My immediate intent is simply sending off a material piece of mail. At this stage, content isn't what I'm focused on).  Will I, maybe, be more content to sit with my own ideas even after they've been sent off, becoming less dependent on a speedy response to them? When I do get that response, if I do, will I be able to compare it to What I Thought When I Wrote the Letter and What I've Thought about that Since?

Anyway. . . this is all veering much more toward the philosophical than I had any intention of when I began posting, and my stuffed-up head isn't up to much more contemplation. But I'm going to keep you posted (ha! Get it? Accidental pun, but I'll run with it) as my Year (or Month? we'll see) of Correspondence continues. Meanwhile, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, particularly if you've maintained a letter-writing practice.



50 comments:

  1. Hello and the happiest and healthiest of NEW Years to you.

    Have only ever commented once, but a faithful reader for almost a year now.

    I take inspiration from your travels, your musings and incredible photos. The photo of the frilly tulips on your sketches and writings/drawings took my breath away-make no apologies about your iphone photos, they are artful and fabulous.

    May I ever so humbly take a tiny, itty-bitty credit for your flury of card writing? Only because my one and only comment mentioned my antiquated love of note writing on my handmade cards using my photos. You responded with some enthusiastic musings. It gives great pleasure to me, the sender, to mail them off- imagining that the receiver knows that two to five days before, (depending on destination near or far), that I have contemplated them and our meaning to each other, made the card, found the stamp, and walked to the closest mail box in London and sent it. To my mother, sister,nephew and close friends in the US, I kiss the back of the envelope, wearing lipstick,and zoom...send it off. SUCH pleasure for me, and, maybe, the recipient?

    Never make resolutions, but will, most definitely, try to comment more here, as you have provided such a warm community of just the kind of people the world needs more of.Thank you.

    Have been meaning to say, PLEASE, allow me and my sweetheart to buy you dinner when you are next in London? You and I could gab and Pater and my sweetheart could bore the pants off, talking about politics here and abroad? Next to football, my husband could talk politics until I am snoring.


    Also, have been meaning to write to offer you "mates rates" for our cottage, eleven miles from six beaches in Maine anytime June through mid-October(sleeps two, private patio, in the midst of foodie-heaven). Same goes for your readers should you choose to include this line in my comment.

    Please take care. Have been laid low for weeks and weeks by the same and it is boring as hell.

    A. London

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    1. I hope that you won't mind if I tag onto your first paragraph - I feel the same way about this blog, particularly the drawings - but don't have your way with words.

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    2. Actually, I meant the third para...

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    3. Thanks so much, A. London and Marie, for those kind words.
      A. London, absolutely you should take credit -- inspiring to know that others continue this practice of hand-writing and posting "real letters"
      And what a generous invitation which I will keep in mind.

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    4. Hello materfamilias
      I've been reading your blog for some months and so enjoy the picture of your world and please don't underestimate moving and Christmas ! Get well soon
      I'm from uk and have rels in Vancouver

      Hello A London - wd you have any further info on your Maine property ? I'm lib572atbtinternetdotcom
      Kind regards x

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  2. Oh yes, steaming over a bowl of hot water and menthol crystals is a favourite Scottish home remedy. I like to use fresh thyme when my garden obliges, for its antibacterial properties. So sorry you are still afflicted. I am keeping my husband at arm's length as he works through the stages of the current virus here. As I'm about to go away for a residential week with my university course it's the last thing I want.
    Your temporal musings need more thought than I can give them just now. I will return to them!

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    1. What a good idea with the thyme -- and it might be a much better way to imbibe some oil of oregano (shudders. . . ooh, that taste!)

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  3. I'm glad to hear you are on the mend. It does sound like flu.
    I don't remember being steamed but my mother, influenced by Granny, her mother-in-law, dosed us with The Concoction. Vinegar, butter, brown sugar maybe? Honey sounds more plausible but I think it was gritty. Vinegar was meant to 'cut' the cough. My brother and I would nearly smother under the covers so our coughs wouldn't be detected.

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    1. At first I read this as being something like a "mustard plaster" but now I see you had to swallow it. . .Interesting. There's certainly much credence placed from many quarters in the magic/medicinal powers of cider vinegar....

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  4. I have memories of first knowing my other half when he had a severe head cold. He spent days hanging over steaming bowl laced with mentholated vick. Hardly a prelude to a great romance. We have been together for nearly 42 years.
    I have a feeling you will love receiving replies to your letters. Despite the long interval there is nothing like the tactile pleasure of opening and reading a letter. Enjoy. B x

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    1. So it might not have seemed the ideal prelude but he somehow seduced you into a lifetime commitment nonetheless ;-)
      I'm looking forward to potentially getting some responses in the mail, although I'm trying to send each one out as a pure gift, no expectation of reciprocation...

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  5. The steaming sounds so much better than my mother's remedy of pure lemon juice with a teaspoon of bourbon, and, if I was lucky, at little sugar. I've never been able to drink bourbon since then!

    Last year I missed the entire first week of the semester with laryngitis or some bug that completely destroyed my voice. I felt guilty all week though the students were fine. I keep thinking that retirement will make things easier or at least ease the guilt if I get sick. Even perhaps let me actually get well before heading off to do things.

    I think you've hit on one of the issues of our era. Without knowing it we are used to instant gratification. I am trying very hard to slow that down and appreciate the spaces in between, but the only people I know who do that well are my Buddhist friends and some artists who must work through the stages of their craft. I am learning meditation and hope that will improve my perspective.

    Much hope that you will fell better soon.

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    1. Hmmmm, perhaps there was a method to your mother's madness -- she ensured you'd leave her bourbon alone as you grew ;-)
      Your description of missing a week of classes really resonated. I would have found it impossible to teach this week but almost as impossible to call in sick, delaying the effective start of our thirteen-week term, having to change the schedule to accommodate, etc.
      And yes, even those of us who thought ourselves inclined to resist this push/pull of instant gratification must recognise how it's insinuated itself into our neurology...

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  6. I am sorry that you're sick, Frances. I have memories of Vick's Vapo-rub, still have it, still love the smell.

    I understand your feelings at seeing the flowering plant that you had in your island garden. I fight feelings of sadness about my beautiful house of 20 years, signed over to my ex in the divorce. I was very happy to be bought out, but still feel sad about losing the house I raised my children in. Before I read that part, when I saw the first photo of you, I had the same thought that I often have recently. You look prettier since the move. Younger, more vibrant. My sense was that you were a bit beaten down by the difficulties of island living.

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    1. The sadness is there, yes, but I will myself to feel it and then find compensation. So will you, I know. I look forward to hearing about your new start, the changes it will bring you, even as we have to acknowledge the grief as well...

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  7. When I was little my m would smear Vicks vapo rub on my chest when I had a cold - I positively hated it! A steaming bowl treatment sounds much nicer.
    I hope you feel better soon!

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    1. Should say "my mom used to smear Vicks..." Not so good at proofreading over here!

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    2. The Vicks vaporub seems a widespread experience, either loved or detested. (and I knew what you meant!)

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  8. Sorry to hear you are still sick. I had a similar or maybe even the same bug. And after about 10 days, still coughing but almost human now….It is a bad one!
    I am sure you were happy to venture out for a bit although the streets-sidewalks are treacherous these days.
    Take care, feel well. Thank you for taking time to post. Suz from Vancouver

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    1. Sounds as if it probably is the same bug, Suz. My throat is still sore at swallowing and I've not much energy yet, but I do feel as if I'm mending. Going to try a short walk again today in case the sidewalks turn tricky again with whatever this next bit of precipitation is....

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  9. First, I'm sorry you've been under the weather for so long. I've heard there's a nasty flu going around the Seattle area...

    Interesting, isn't it, how much our expectations have changed and how much more immediate most of our communications are. I remember having a pen pal when I was around 12, and how two or three weeks between letters seemed like nothing. Now, if someone hasn't responded to an email within a couple of days, I begin to worry that they didn't receive it.

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    1. Thanks, Sue -- I suspect that might be the same 'flu....
      and yes to how much our expectations have changed -- I wouldn't want to go back, but I know we've lost something in that time between...

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  10. I love getting snail mail letters. But I also love the conversations that can evolve over e-mail and in blog comments. The back and forth is so immediate. I find that I sound like myself when typing now but not when handwriting. Not sure when that happened. And even though I mail the final product in a paper card, I type my Christmas letters to family so they "sound" like me. My handwriting cannot keep up with my brain... but my typing can. Albeit with lots of corrections.
    P.S. My mum rubbed warmed Mentholatum ...kind of like Vicks...on my chest as a child. The smell of that still makes me want to snuggle down in bed under a homemade quilt.

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    1. The back-and-forth is much more like a conversation, but with an accountability in those screen-captured words.
      Interestingly, while I prefer typing emails, my wpm being pretty decent, my husband prefers making a phone call rather than fighting with Autocorrect...
      I remember Mentholatum as well as Vicks -- probably depended on what was on sale ;-)

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  11. What I thought was a cold was quickly revised to the flu after it lingered for so long. It's almost 2 weeks since I first felt symptoms and only just now am I beginning to feel like myself. So do take the time you need to heal.
    On another note, after reading Susan's post about her reading this past year, I had the first Burrows mystery put on hold at the library, picked it up this morning and finished it this evening. I'm so glad to have found another mystery writer - can never get enough.
    Vicks Vapo Rub was the medicinal treatment of choice in my childhood household, and oddly, wrapping a sock around the throat to keep it warm overnight. I think my father may still do this.

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    1. I suspect we might have had the same thing.
      Glad you enjoyed the Birder Murder mystery -- I was happy to discover them via a Globe and Mail review, I think...
      Might have to be a big sock, right? ;-)

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  12. I'm glad to see that you are up and about. I do hope you are getting better every day. That cold turn into bronchitis for my husband who is still using his inhalers....My thoughts on pen to paper are this: I just bought myself some stationery as I have promised letter writing to a young friend on Facebook. She's a new mother, an artist and lover of books and reading. I'm excited to be entering in to being a pen pal. I've decided that I need to slow down and take some care with my handwriting since 40 years in the medical world seems to have completely ruined it. I love reading your blog and knowing what you're up to. Tomorrow will be bread making day (again) for me. Stay well and warm!

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    1. I'm crossing my fingers that I'm past the danger for bronchitis -- there was one iffy day, but I think it's moved back up and is lessening a little bit. So slow though!
      That new mom is really going to appreciate those handwritten cards and letters -- and perhaps you and I will both discover ways that the physical act of writing with pen on paper triggers a different engagement with our thoughts... Enjoy that bread, mmmm!

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  13. You do well to write such a coherent post when you are feeling poorly - mine would be gibberish . My gran's preventative measure for colds in deep wintery days was to stick a cough drop in your mouth & a scarf over your mouth ( not so good for your teeth ) . Hope you are up & running again soon but it takes me longer to bounce back now . Re real letters , I used to correspond traditionally with elderly relatives living at a distance . All gone now but I still have their letters . Especially treasured are notes & cards from a dear friend who left us far too early . Perhaps there will be no such treasures in the future . Oh dear , I don't suppose I'm cheering you up , sorry
    Wendy in York

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    1. Haven't heard that cough drop-scarf combo before, but I can imagine the placebo effect, at the very least.
      Sadly, yes, it does take longer to bounce back now, and I anticipate taking it slowly until the end of the month, at least.
      I wonder the same thing about the treasured letters -- and I'm not sure it's as much because letters won't be written anymore as because there's less will to hang onto the material artifacts. Another interesting topic....

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  14. After Christmas I wrote an old friend to comment on the marvelous family photos in her Christmas card. I first tried to email her, but her address was no longer in use, so I had to resort to a handwritten card. Shortly after I mailed it, her daughter supplied (via Facebook) her new email address. I was so tempted to email her the same comments I'd written in the card! But, I managed to restrain myself, imagining her brief moment of pleasure as she found a piece of "real mail" in her mailbox. I sent her my email address, so she will likely reply that way -- which is fine by me!

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    1. This is a typical process now, isn't it? As I started getting ready to send out cards, I lamented having culled my old address book in The Great Moving Edit, but truthfully, it hadn't been updated in at least ten years anyway. So I've been emailing or FB-messaging for addresses as well. And I readily confess that I've answered lovely handwritten letters by email myself, especially after too many weeks have gone by without getting pen to page....

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  15. Oh yes, this is familiar. I am not sure how I got out of the habit of writing to people...except it probably had a lot to do with working and the ubiquity of email. I still love to get correspondence and may well start it up again myself. Probably why I still send Christmas cards, though I note that people are giving that up too. Sad. FB is really not the same thing. BTW, Mater, while you are still in the pottering phase, well wrapped, have you read Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin? If not, hasten to Amazon or send Pater to the book shop. Perfect for your situation, even if you are not a huge Austen fan. Also: Friar's Balsam. As a student nurse 40 years ago this was a regular feature on post-op wards or for the coughing elderly. Always appreciated and a simple act of charity.

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    1. I haven't sent Christmas cards for years, and may or may not try to pick up that tradition again -- I've moved toward a simplified Christmas the past five or ten years and am loathe to muck with that. I like the French tradition of sending New Year's greetings, the period allowed seeming to stretch to the end of January.
      And I'll have to put that Austen biography on my Library Hold list -- I read a review of it ages ago, but was too busy to do anything other than note it. Thanks for the reminder.
      Also thanks for being the only one who seems to remember Friar's Balsam. My dad was from N. Yorkshire, and I wondered if the treatment came from his childhood there, but he also worked as an orderly the first year or so he was in Canada, so perhaps he picked it up in the wards...

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  16. Is it possible that the intensity of your cold/flu corresponds with the huge amount of change/travel/exhaustion that last year brought for you? In German there is a saying that a (common) cold lasts one week if you see a doctor and seven days if you don't. Which is to say that only patience will do the trick.
    I used to write long letters when I was fist in love, living in Germany while my sweetheart was working in Italy.
    Around 1980, when I was staying in Peru, I used to write to my parents and friends at home. (That was when we numbered our letters to find out if any had got lost on the way.) For keeping up my transatlantic friendships email has brought an enormous improvement. On the other hand, I love hand written letters and (even more) postcards. Some poeple still send me Christmas cards which makes me very happy, but in general that season is so full of work that I have not been able to respond in kind. I hope to change that after retirement. I always send postcards from trips or holidays, though. When I go away in summer, I carry a list of about 20 people to write to, and normally I really do.

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    1. I think you might be right, Eleonore. My body seems pretty determined to keep me home for a bit.
      I thought of your story of the numbered letters on those boats from Peru. . . I certainly don't regret that email has changed our correspondence habits when I think of how recently it was so much more difficult to stay in touch.
      I hadn't sent postcards from holidays for years, but enjoyed doing so again this last trip -- never as many as 20 though. I'm impressed!

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  17. Sorry to hear of your stubborn illness-and since others are contributing, an old fashioned mustard plaster for chest congestion, using a soft old t-shirt, is very effective... many recipes on the Net.

    Slow communication, like slow food or slow fashion, has many rewards; savouring them takes a whole different part of the brain.

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    1. My dad's mother used to apply a mustard plaster when they were sick -- he never made it sound like much fun!
      I really believe the slower communication does take different parts of the brain and that neurological changes result from abandoning the slow completely. Not necessarily negative, but worth attending to perhaps...

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  18. First off - you will feel better soon, I'm sure, and in the meanwhile the treats you've made yourself (by way of distraction) will nourish you. Being sick sucks so bad - particularly in the middle of a harsh winter (and you all seem to be getting the cold this year!). And I think snail mail is totally underrated. I used to love to send and receive letters. Now, I get maybe 3 letters / cards per year. I get that times have changed, and that brings many wonderful new methods of communication, but old school has its charms!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement -- I keep telling myself I will feel better soon, and I know it's true, but OMG, it does seem interminable . . . .
      Old school does have its charms. Maybe you could email me a reminder of your address.....

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  19. Take it easy,don't rush-your flu or some other bug is nasty indeed!
    Hope that you're feeling better
    We have very uncommon polar winter here,with snow even near Dubrovnik-it is ultrarare! The lowest temperature is - 20°C ,today in Zagreb was -10°C. Ice age! I went for a short walk yesterday and today-it was beautiful-,as long as there is no ice on streets and pavements,I'm happy ! I know it is nothing for some of you brave people,but for a mediterranean climate it is quite impossible-poor tourists! And our plumbing system in Dalmatia is not prepared for this extreme situation
    I remember Wicks! I like menthol,although my favourite inhalation was camomile(for the health and the beauty!) and my favourite remedy for cough was milk with light caramelized sugar (I add rum nowdays-you should try it!)
    As a young girl I had pen pals from Germany,Italy (two girls from Milan I've met in a camp in Austria),Sweden and Finland . It was so interesting!
    Love and semi-love ( :-) ) letters were later! Waiting for an answer was a part of charm....don't you think?
    Even now, I would write a letter when there is something special I want to express-to members of my family living in the same house :-)! in a "slow thinking way". Crazy,I know!
    Dottoressa

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    1. I like to tease about the cold :) but I agree ice is the worst; it is suddenly there just when you are not expecting it. You asked about my outfit...in extreme cold it is always the same! A navy parka, down to my knees, with fur (faux) around the hood. And layers of warm things underneath!

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    2. I like your suggestion of the rum added to sweetened milk, Dottoressa, and now I could drink it saying it's "doctor's orders"! -- In the Simenon mystery I read not long ago, Maigret had a cold which he was treating with Grog -- something like a Hot Rum Toddy, I'm guessing. Even if you don't have a cold right now, I think you should make up such a drink to help you stay warm. Those are surprisingly low temperatures for the Mediterranean (I see my daughter in Rome is wearing a coat in her latest IG photo!)

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  20. I like the idea of pen pals. I still have the letter of introduction that I received from my Quebec exchange partner 49 years ago. But we are becoming impatient with the immediacy of the Internet. I still don't text. The flu-cold has been hanging on for a long time. I hope that you are well soon.

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    1. Wonderful that you saved that letter from your Quebec exchange partner. I had a penpal in France when I was about 12 or 13 and I was first studying some French -- I do wish I'd saved the letters, still remember her name....

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  21. The pleasure of receiving a hand-written card or letter is worth the time, money and effort spent in sending it. We all need to do it more often and not just at Christmas.

    How did you manage to send me your cold over the ether I wonder? I too am suffering from cabin fever and all attempts to leave the house in the last week have been rewarded with a relapse. Back to bed today, I think! Hopefully this too will pass for both of us.

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    1. Yikes! Sorry about sharing my cold/flu -- I do suspect that with the global travel of today, we are probably all only a week or two from having the same thing at one. Hope you're better soon as well.

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  22. Sorry to hear that you have seem to have caught something to similar to this bug that I am just recovering from. Feel better soon. Cold or Flu not withstanding, I seem to be increasingly drawn to slower pleasures.

    Feel better soon.

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    1. Thanks Mardel.
      And yes, I'm thinking it's a luxury to be able to enjoy those slower pleasures now and perhaps we can keep them alive for more to enjoy eventually.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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