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We Made It to December!

Holiday Greetings!

We are recovering from the loss of our treasured canine family member, Leo the Wonderdog, the pink-nosed Labradoodle, who was with us for fourteen years. This was his fuzzy first Christmas in 2009.

I attended my fifth online five-day retreat by Writer Natalie Goldberg; comprised of daily meditation and four hours of writing. We wrote to prompts: the car you drive, someone you know who has died, what is in your hand, what are you ready for, who would you be if you weren't you, what book have you loved, birthplace, an animal you know intimately, things you hate, things you love, then rewrite them together in one essay, break into your own house and look around, and write about the taste of honey. Her booklists inspired:

  • Crow With No Mouth by Ikkyu

  • The Master by Colm Tóibín

  • Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

  • The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

  • Apeirogon by Colum McCann

  • My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland

  • The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers

  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

  • Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers

  • The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

  • The Great Failure: A Bartender, A Monk, and My Unlikely Path to Truth by Natalie Goldberg

  • Thin Skin: Essays by Jenn Shapland

  • Three Simple Lines: A Writer’s Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku by Natalie Goldberg

  • The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

  • This Is Happiness by Niall Williams

  • One Long River of River of Song by Brian Doyle

  • Writing on Empty: A Guide to Finding Your Voice by Natalie Goldberg (out July 2024)

  • Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home: A Memoir by Natalie Goldberg

If you're fond of "listicles," here is one of my favorites which compiles amazing lists of booklists for 2023. Take a look. You need a book on birds or Italian cookbooks or best books on planning? He also covers music and has author's playlists.

In fact, there are scads of Substack newsletters that I enjoy and subscribe to on everything from salads to writing to politics and epidemiology numbering at present over thirty, some for pay, some free. Probably should have invested in Substack.

I always look forward to Artist and Writer Austin Kleon offering his constant ideas for expanding creativity.

Another is Natalie Serber's as a model for my favorite topics, and another is Roxane Gay's the, plus Heather Cox Richardson, of course, with my eyes squinted tight, as she assesses the political stage. Are you following any you enjoy?

Da da!! Another essay of mine on friendship, "The Silent Treatment," is published online here: Not only is it in print, there is an audio copy of me reading the essay with lovely music.

My slim, comic reading recommendation is Muriel Spark's The Abbess of Crewe in which a renegade nun named Felicity dallies with a Jesuit in the garden of the Abbey, is excommunicated and seeks revenge by exposing her order to sabotage, blackmail and undo publicity. Ever wry, the Abbess remarks: "Sisters, let me tell you a secret. I would rather sink fleshless to my death into the dry soil of some African or Indian plain, than go, as I hear Felicity (the randy nun) is now doing, to a psychiatrist for an anxiety-cure." Given to quoting poetry excerpts, the Abbess is a success on television but one worries when she is called to Rome with offending tapes recorded in the Abbey.

SESAME CARROT SALAD Here's a salad idea - don't we need more salad?

Adapted by #FullPlateByJay from recipe found in an old copy of Bon Appetit combined with a Martha Stewart recipe gleaned from

This bright salad gains tons of flavor from fresh ginger and sesame oil. Bring it to a potluck; or pack it in lunches. It gets better over a couple days in the fridge. Serves 6 - 8.


-2 T. olive oil 1 T. toasted sesame oil2 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed¼ cup sesame seeds1 T. honey2 T. fresh lemon juice (half of a juicy lemon)1 T. rice wine vinegar1 T. fresh ginger, peeled and grated1 tsp. Mrs. Dash½ tsp. seasoning salt½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper8 medium carrots, coarsely grated (should be about 3 cups)¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped¼ cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped2 - 3 scallions (white and green part), thinly sliced


In a small, heavy skillet, heat the oils over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic cloves and cook, stirring, until the garlic turns golden. Discard the garlic.

Add the sesame seeds to the garlic-flavored oils and cook, stirring, until golden.

In a medium-sized serving bowl, whisk the oil and sesame seeds with the honey, lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, grated ginger, Mrs. Dash, seasoning salt, and pepper. Add the carrots, cilantro, parsley, and scallions and toss to fully incorporate.

Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Salad can be served immediately or refrigerated up to 2 days and served chilled.

Best wishes to you all! Talk to you next year.

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Jan 25

Hi Mary Kay!

Reading your articles is pure joy. Many topics, many ideas. Fabulous and stimulating.

Diane Sundt Christie 😍

Jan 25
Replying to

Thanks, Diane. Delighted to have your comments.

Mary Kay

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