1. I posted my 2015 reading list over here, in case any of you are looking for new titles to add to your own list for 2016.
2. When my sisters and I took that road trip to Whidbey Island back in November, an important stop on their itinerary was Trader Joe's, which we don't have above the border. I tried to mimic the excitement, but honestly, I'm not so much about processed foods and, of course, the raw stuff couldn't come back home with us. Nor, if we'd been more realistic, could we eat that many snacks in two days, especially given that we went out for dinner Friday night, lunch Saturday, and left Sunday morning. . . . But, in my efforts to share the enthusiasm, I did pick up a pack of Meyers Lemon Thins to bring home. I expected they would be like the Anna's cookies we have here which come in a chocolate, a ginger, and a lemon very thin wafer, and which I can treat myself to with reasonable impunity as their calorie count is relatively low, considering satisfying taste and texture.
3. And since I'm mentioning calories, I'll tell you that I decided to pay attention to Duchesse's recommendation of My Fitness Pal and I downloaded the app early December. I've been a few pounds up from the goal I attained a couple of years ago through Weight Watchers, and I kept saying I'd do something about it, but never managed to get myself to WW for a weigh-in and a re-commitment. At first, I thought I'd be better off waiting until after Christmas, but then the trip to Rome loomed and I suspected there would be something else after that, as, meanwhile, the pounds accumulated.
There are some immediately obvious limitations to My Fitness Pal, particularly when compared to the Weight Watchers program. MFP works strictly on calories, whereas WW points have been carefully calibrated, based on the most recent science nutrition, to allow for the differing effects of fat, fibre, sugar, and so on, and I'm not sure I would have lost the 15 pounds I did without their guidance. Fullness and appetite management are issues well worth drawing on WW's expertise and support for. But having that knowledge already, I'm a good candidate for taking advantage of MFP's free app which prompts me to enter all the foods I eat while it tracks my steps (through my iPhone, although it can also synch to a variety of other systems). I need to be very judicious about the database they offer, because much of it is crowd-sourced and there can be a wide variety -- I'm not motivated to cheat, wanting to shed these few pounds quickly, but some days. . . .
Anyway, for what it's worth, I second Duchesse's recommendation and I think the app can be a good tool in creating awareness around food intake and exercise output. Have you used it? Would you?
4. I've often written about my fascination with portraits, most notably in a series of posts that culminated in my sharing part of a watercolour my good friend painted of me a few years ago. That friend, Alison (also a wonderful teacher who has given me confidence to play with pencil, paint, and paper) posted this week about a portrait she painted from the photo of a nephew who died tragically two years ago. Alison is an eloquent writer (so far, she's had a book of poetry published, and many individual poems published in a variety of journals, as well as a memoir that won a well-known Canadian prize for creative non-fiction) and the combination of her painting, her thoughts on the process of portrait-making, particularly in the face of loss, and Alison's meditative, insightful words make this a post I think you'd like to read -- very moving.
5. Another article I came across recently that I think you might enjoy is this one from the UK Sunday Times by concert pianist James Rhodes. Rhodes is an inspiring ambassador for creativity in our lives, and in this article he extols the value of the piano as a pathway to releasing that creativity. Not all of us, of course, have room or budget or inclination to house a piano, but Rhodes' article is still worth reading. Let me know what you think. (This earlier article of Rhodes' is also inspiring.)
6. In the last month or so on Netflix: the movie The Clouds of Sils Maria with the always marvellous Juliette Binoche and the surprisingly good (well, the rest of you might have known this, but I was surprised) Kristen Stewart; lighter, but worth watching for Blythe Danner's portrayal of a 70-something widow) in I'll See You in my Dreams; the binge-able series Jessica Jones and River. Oh, and Luther's back, although that you'll have to search out and pay for, I suspect. We found it on iTunes... And don't miss Carol!! We watched it on the big screen last night, in a theatre that screens lots of foreign and "art" films, and with an audience that was small but so attentive and appreciative and moved. It's beautiful enough to be worth plunking down cash to see it at the cinema, on a big screen. Bravura performances from the two principal actors, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, but Kyle Chandler is also convincing -- so human -- as Carol's husband, and Sarah Paulson is solid as Carol's friend Abby.
7. And finally, let me include a belated (don't worry; I did send her wishes on the day as well) Happy Birthday to a beautiful daughter living far from home. At least, far from me. I think she is beginning to feel at Home in Rome, and I hope she had a beautiful day there. Should you wish to send her Birthday greetings, she blogs occasionally (not often enough for her Mama, but my little granddaughter keeps her busy) over here. If you've read my last post, you'll know I'll be able to give her belated birthday greetings in person very soon.
For now, though, before my trip to Rome I'm going on a little road trip with Pater. He has to be in a certain small American city for some meetings, and I'm going along because I can, now that I'm retired. I haven't been to this particular city for over a decade, and I've always liked it very much, so I'm looking forward to walking its streets, going for a run or two, browsing a fabulous bookstore there, and drinking a glass or two of the region's good wines. Of course I'm bringing iPhone and MacBook along, so I'll let you know what I'm up to. Meanwhile, I hope you find at least one or two things among the Seven to entertain you this Sunday. Comments always welcome, as you must know by now.