With apologies to Barb Taub, who would make this tale a really funny story.

A lot of my friends have been asking me what it’s like to live in an over-55 community. We moved here about a year and a half ago and were the first people to move in. The houses are very close together and look pretty much the same, which is standard for such communities.

Reminded us of Pete Seegar’s song about Little Boxes:

Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky
Little boxes, little boxes
Little boxes all the same

We chose our lot next to a patch of trees (not on our property) so we would have some greenery around us for the birds. And the first lot coming in so we have neighbors on only one side. Keeps us from being claustrophobic. The rest of the community, like us, has no trees in the yards. And thus no shade!


Hubs and I countered our lack of trees by planting an olive, a sunset maple, and a camellia in our tiny backyard and are contemplating what else we might add to help our bird neighbors. Our backyard is full sun almost all the time, so we have to be careful in our choices. In our front yard, we have a pink and green Japanese maple.

and another red one just outside my window — they are both dwarfs so they were approved. Still no shade. Everything we plant has to be approved by the construction company’s HOA. We’ve been told they will cede responsibility for running the community to the homeowners in 3-4 years when the additional community they plan to build behind us is complete.

This is our Ghost tree, permitted, and this is our sunset maple.

In the meantime, aside from the approvals necessary for plantings, no one is permitted to 1) Walk on the common areas (large swathes of grass scattered around the community) or use them for gatherings

2. Have more than one wreath and no front yard decorations at Christmas (a rule which everyone broke last year)

3. Have perennial flowers (a rule also broken by some, which I noticed on my daily walks, much to my delight)

4. Keep our humongous, city-issued garbage containers outside of the garage (even if there are decorative plantings outside to hide them (which we did have until we were ‘caught’), and I can tell you the garbage in our garage stinks by the end of the week, especially in hot weather.

5. Have patios in the backyard, so no hot tubs or fire pits. And so on.

6. Initially, there was a rule against having bird feeders and birdbaths, but we countered by putting them on our patios, which are the only outside areas over which we have control (except for fencing and umbrellas).

The minute we take over the Homeowners Association, things are gonna change!

I lived in the Czech Republic when it was under Communist control, and that was a breeze compared to this. Except all our Christmas decorations there were stolen.

Luckily we have a great community, people-wise, and we spend a lot of time figuring out how to subvert all the rules. Which is a lot of fun. And we have regular get-togethers (Happy Hour once a month), a wading pool (which we were told would be a swimming pool) for your grandkids, and various clubs (book, whiskey, outreach activities, etc.). I do love getting cool by the pool (as they advertised) up to my knees. The rest of me stays hot.

You might ask why we stay here. It’s a logical question. Right now it’s impossible to move because of the housing market, and we now have an extra reason to stay because my daughter and her family are moving to a bigger house about 5 min away by car. Our house is indeed quite nice and roomy inside, with enough space for both me and Hubs and our activities, and it has a workable galley kitchen with new appliances. That’s it in the background. We do end up walking around and around the island because there’s not enough space for the two of us to pass each other when we are working.

We are convenient to shopping and doctors’ offices. Joining a local country club has provided me with a real pool for laps in the summer. Ka-ching.

So despite all the rules, our community is managing to find (nefarious) ways around some of them and we expect to survive together until the Great Takeover. Can’t wait.

There are not a lot of flowers and colors in the community yet. So Hubs has been on a crusade. We have a ton of pansies, roses, and azaleas in our front yard and azaleas along the side of the house. Everything is in bloom now so we have color! Here is a sampling, none of which can even hope to compare with Geoff LePard’s backyard, but we are small scale.

I’ll have a follow-up for all y’all when we take over the HOA. It’s going to get interesting.

Your life as a Pilgrim child…when you weren’t working


The upbringing of a Separatist child was harsh, as you might suspect.

Adults believed that children were to be humble and submissive. They believed that children were born with a sinful nature that must be broken. Parents and other adults began to “break the child’s will” beginning somewhere around the two. Not surprising given the ‘terrible twos!’

While eating the children could not sit down, although babies sat in high chairs. They stood at the end of the table and would serve the food. During a meal, children were not allowed to speak unless spoken to.

Corporal punishment was considered necessary for the proper upbringing of children.

Children were expected to both love and fear their parents, to be obedient in all things, to be submissive equally to mother and father, and to speak in a restrained and proper manner.

After age eight it was not uncommon for a child to be “put out” or placed in the foster care of another family. Some children were placed into households to learn a trade, others to be taught to read and write. I had Mary Allerton put out to live with the Bradfords, reasoning that there was no one in her family to teach her how to be a proper Pilgrim woman. Her mother died the first winter and her sister was only two years old and busy keeping the home for her brother and father.

Did the children have time to play?

Yes, they did when their work for the day was finished and their parents gave them permission. They could play games that improved their body and mind. Outside, they would play leapfrog, “ball and cup,” lummelin (keep away), all hid (hide and seek), or blow bubbles, and have foot races. There were also board games, like draughts (checkers), Nine Men’s Morris (a strategy board game) and Naughts and Crosses (tic tac toe), or marbles.

Girls had cloth dolls called poppets.

Older children might exchange riddles or jests (jokes). They particularly liked tongue twisters or  “giffes,”  or what we call tongue twisters. Here is a sample I used in The Last Pilgrim: “Dick drunk drink in a dish. Where’s the dish Dick drunk drink in?”

What did babies wear? Did they have baby toys?

Children wore shifts and ‘leading strings’ were attached to the shoulders of the shift so parents could hold the children upright when they began to walk. Walking was encouraged as early as possible since crawling on the floor was considered close to the devil. Because these little ones often fell, toddlers wore something called a “pudding’ around their heads. Thus when they fell, their heads were padded.

Surprising modern, children also had walkers with trays for toys, and they sat in high chairs. Their toys would be wooden blocks, carved animals, or small poppets.

What did older children wear?

When children reached the age of 4-5, they were old enough to wear clothing similar to their parents. This was called breeching for the boys.

If you were a girl, you would wear: a coif or hat on the head, a smock or shift under everything, petticoats, tied-on pockets, a skirt, an apron, a waistcoat, a neckerchief, knitted stockings, and latchet shoes. An older girl might wear stays and of course, the children would go barefoot in warm weather.

If you were a boy, you would wear: a hat, a linen shirt, a wool jacket or doublet, woolen breeches, knitted stockings, and latchet shoes

Were the children educated in addition to life skills?

Many children were not book-educated unless their parents were. In those households, boys would be taught to read – the Bible being the only book in most cases – and write and do sums. Girls might be taught to read.

And of course, they were educated in religious precepts.

I doubt if the children of today would manage if they were suddenly sent back in time to 1621! I’m not at all sure I would!

What about you?


Book review: Dark Hunter by F.J. Watson #RBRT # medieval mystery #historical Berwick-on-Tweed


I do love a good historical mystery, and Fiona Watson has written an atmospheric and compelling one, set in the city of Berwick-upon-Tweed in the early 14th century.

In the year 1317, a young and pious squire named Benedict Russell is sent to the English-held garrison of Berwick-upon-Tweed, a town sitting on the border between Scotland and England. The town’s strategic position and relative wealth had previously resulted in a succession of raids, sieges and takeovers during centuries of war between these two countries. Three years earlier to Benedict’s arrival, the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, had won a massive victory at the battle of Bannockburn and were raiding over the border. Edward II decided to send reinforcements to Berwick in case of an attack.

Benedict is learned – he can read and write – and is belittled by his fellow squires, who are more trained in the art of swordplay and warfare. He discovers through keen observation and a little diversion that the knight supplying food to the garrison is diverting money into his own accounts. Recognition of his ability gets him the task of discovering who murdered a beautiful young girl, one whom Benedict lusted after, and left her mutilated body outside the city’s walls.  Benedict must decide if the murder was a crime of passion or one which involves a traitor or spy for the Scots.

The pace of discovery as Benedict works through various clues is deliberate, as would be for a sleuth of that time, but introduces the reader to the realities of life in the 14th century: the poverty and squalor set against the wealth of the ruling class, the hierarchy amongst the knights and their treatment of servants, and women as chattel to be used as pawns. The author draws on her knowledge of conditions of daily life, religious practices, practices of medieval punishment, food, drink, clothes, weapons, and social distinctions to put the reader firmly inside a city awaiting a siege, with all of the tension exacerbated by the murder.

This is also a coming-of-age story as Benedict slowly becomes a man and discovers his own reserves of strength and ability to love.  The secondary characters are very well-drawn, from the knights and squires to the various townspeople Benedict comes to know, from apprentices to paupers. I was especially drawn to the murdered girl’s sister, who becomes a valuable companion to Benedict. She is afflicted with something I interpret as scoliosis, which makes her the butt of derision, but she has an intelligent and unusually perceptive mind trapped in her twisted body.

I very much appreciate that the author did not attempt to make the language of the day mock-medieval. She did write the story in the present tense, however, as is becoming common more recently. As a reader, I find it makes the story-telling more immediate but slows the pace of the story.

This is an excellent first fictional outing for a medieval scholar and I highly recommend this to mystery and historical fiction aficionados.

About the author:

Fiona Watson is a medieval historian and writer specializing in medieval warfare in particular, and Scottish history more generally. A former senior lecturer at the University of Stirling, she fronted a ten-part BBC television history of Scotland in 2001 and has made numerous radio programs, including a series on The Enlightenment and another using original sources to highlight the experience of war across the ages entitled Voices from the Front. She is currently a presenter of Making History on BBC Radio 4. Her books include Under the Hammer: Edward I and Scotland, 1286-1307 (1997), Scotland: A History 8000 BC – AD 2000 (2001) and Macbeth: A True Story (2010).

You can find Fiona Watson on her website:

Dark Hunter can be found on Amazon:




Life As A Pilgrim Child


I learned a lot of very interesting information about the lives of children in the 17th century when I was researching for The Last Pilgrim.

First of all, there were quite a number of children who sailed aboard the Mayflower: 24, in fact, but 26, if you count Peregrine White and Oceanus Hopkins who were born on the ship. These children shared the small space between decks with 78 adults, chickens, possibly pigs, a 33-foot long boat called the shallop, and perhaps one piece of furniture per family.

They ate what the adults ate: salted (dried) beef, salted ling or codfish, oats, peas and some ground wheat, pickled food, dried fruit, cheese until it became too moldy, and hard biscuits (hardtack). They drank water until it became fouled, then they drank beer.

Half of the original 102 passengers, plus half the crew of the Mayflower died during the first winter and early spring. Among these were only six children, even though they were confined to the ship. Boys, perhaps as young as nine, went ashore to help their fathers with building houses.

Food was more often than not rationed for the first two years, even for the children. It was several years before the harvests and food acquired by trade from the Wampanoags and other tribes became adequate to feed everyone.

However, once this happened, the children’s diet was a healthy one:

Beans, squash, pumpkin, sunchokes, cornbread and corn porridge, wild greens (watercress). fowl (duck, swan, goose, turkey), venison, fish, lobsters, clams and eels, nuts (walnuts, chestnuts, beechnuts), and wild berries such as cranberries and currants.

And of course, eggs, since the Pilgrims brought chickens. But no chicken to eat until the number of chickens had increased sufficiently.

Once gardens were established many different kinds of herbs, onions, garlic,  and vegetables like parsley, lettuce, spinach, carrots, and turnips became available.

The younger children continued to drink water. The older children drank a weak beer made from corn.

Things were different from today because the children had to be taught to survive in a harsh and challenging environment. A large part of their day was filled with work. Children as young as five could run errands, fetch wood and water, dig worms for the chickens to eat (before there was corn), herd chickens to keep them safe, and mind the younger children.

Older boys helped their fathers prepare the fields for planting, sow seeds, weed the fields, and harvest the crops. They learned to tend livestock, hunt, fish, and do woodworking – in other words, they were trained to be the head of a household.

Girls trained in household chores, and there were plenty of those: they planted and weeded the garden; helped prepare all the meals; worked in the fields during planting time; helped make soap and candles; learned to spin, dye, and weave wool; learned to harvest flax and weave linen; sewed clothing from the linen and wool; mended and washed clothes, learned to knit mittens, socks, scarves; churned butter; ground corn into meal; and learned to make cheese. Women and girls also slaughtered smaller animals for food and preserved meat and fish. When girls were older, they learned how to make beer. I personally think the girls worked harder.

In my next post, I will tell you about children’s clothing, upbringing, schooling, and playtime (yes, they had some).

The Last Pilgrim has been added to the book list


I received an email a month or so ago from Ben Shepherd, founder of the website. Ben shepherd invited authors to share their favorite books around topics and themes they are passionate about and to tell readers why they recommend each book. This website creates an experience like wandering around your favorite bookstore but reimagined for the online world.

So I created a page for The Last Pilgrim with the books I recommend from my research and writing.

You need to visit It is indeed like a bookstore online, and a site I will use for choosing books to read in the future.

Here’s my page:

Have fun exploring this site. Make yourself a cup of coffee and browse!

Book review: Someone Close to Home by Alex Craigie #RBRT # romance #social commentary #mental health


I had never read any of Alex Craigie’s books, the premise of this one was enticing. I was not disappointed – what I read stuck with me long after I read the last page. The author is a compelling author. She wrote the book in response to her experience with care homes – what we call retirement homes here in the US.

Megan Youngblood’s family is dysfunctional. Her mother is a grasping, ambitious and manipulative person. When Megan becomes an international star as a pianist, she takes over her life, including removing Megan’s best friend and soulmate, Gideon, from her life. Then she forces Megan to marry an abusive but popular actor. The final blow occurs when she suffers a stroke and her children banish her to a horrific care home, where she is unable to communicate her needs. Totally dependent on others, she experiences institutional neglect. And then she faces her greatest enemy – Annie, a sadistic nurse with a reason to hate her. How far will Annie go? Can anyone rescue Megan?

I can’t say enough about this book. It may reflect the care home situation in the UK but it could just as easily be set in the US. The characters are so beautifully drawn and reflect the best and the most venal of human nature. And the mixing of romance (will Megan and Gideon ever reunite?), suspense (who else will Annie hurt of kill before she is stopped), and social commentary is compelling.

I highly recommend this book – it was a page-turner – and look forward to reading more of this author’s books.

About the Author:

Alex Craigie is the pen name of Trish Power. She has lived for many years in a peaceful village between Pembroke and Tenby in southwest Wales, with a wonderful family all living locally.  She was ten when her first play was performed at school. It was in rhyming couplets and written in pencil in a book with imperial weights and measures printed on the back. When her children were young, she wrote short stories for magazines before returning to the teaching job that she loved.

Trish has had three books published under the pen name of Alex Craigie. The first two books cross genre boundaries and feature elements of romance, thriller, and suspense against a backdrop of social issues psychological thriller. She wrote Someone Close to Home because she was angry and distressed by the institutional neglect that goes on in far too many care homes. Someone Close to Home has won a Chill with a Book award and a Chill with the Book of the Month award.

You can find Alex Craigie


Close to Home and the author’s other books can be found on Amazon:

Book Review: Neander and Neander: Exploitation by Harald Johnson (@AuthorHarald)  #RBRT # Time travel #prehistory # Pleistocene # Neanderthal


I purchased these books for review on Rosie’s Book Reviews.

Harald Johnson has written three novels about Neanderthals about a science journalist’s time travel to 40,000 years ago. Here I review the first two.

One has to suspend belief when reading anything concerning time travel, but the science woven into these books by the author is compelling and based on real findings. Johnson has written fun and fact-based fantasies.

Neander: Tim Cook, a science writer couldn’t ask for a better life. He is participating in a once-in-a-lifetime dig in a cave occupied millennia ago by Neanderthals on Gibraltar, where in fact some of the last surviving of their kind live and which is home to one of the first Neanderthal fossil discoveries. Tom’s pregnant fiancée is with him and they are looking forward to becoming a family. Then the fiancée is lost to an unexplained boat explosion and his world crumbles. While searching for her body in the ocean, he drops into a time portal and emerges 40,000 earlier into the Gibraltar of that day, occupied by Neanderthals.

The first book concerns his adaptation to life with them, learning their language and customs and teaching them English and some aspects of life in the future, such as gardening. He discovers these archaic humans are not what he expected and he struggles with the decision to improve their lives and perhaps their duration as a people, beyond what is currently accepted.  Should he do this and change history? The Neanders, as he calls them, are a varied group, and the author creates them as very real and colorful characters. I enjoyed this first book enormously and immediately went on to read the second. The cover for the book is exceptional!

In Neander: Exploitation, five years have passed and Tom is living with his Neander family, having chosen a woman as his mate and having had a daughter. But now he faces another life-altering decision: his daughter has epilepsy and he must travel back to the future to get her the medical help she needs. What he finds is a modern world very different from the one he’d known, and he is caught up in a plan by the CEO of a big pharmaceutical company to exploit his daughter’s unique DNA for modern cures.

I found this second book was not quite as satisfying as the first. The characters are a little less relatable – although the author’s descriptions remain colorful and realistic – and the plot is tortuous. The interaction between modern man and their distant predecessors (we contain up to 8% Neanderthal DNA) is predictable – avarice balanced with caring.

I had a bit of a problem with the concept that Neanderthals were completely peaceful while the Sapiens they encountered were brutal and cannibalistic. Nevertheless, the author does describe their integration, as recent genetic studies have revealed.  But some of Tom’s decisions had me asking, “Why are you doing this?”

While the first book and the beginning of the second are written from Tom’s first-person perspective, thereafter third-person points of view become interspersed with Tom’s narrative. This challenged me initially but I can see where it was necessary for plot development. I appreciated that Johnson manages to incorporate the butterfly effect and also some of the latest genetic tools, such as CRISPR, with understandable explanations.

With more pluses than minuses, this second book kept me reading on and I am looking forward to reading the third book in the series, Neander: Evolution. I think this series will have great appeal to all fans of prehistory and time travel.

4.5 stars

About the author (Amazon):

Harald Johnson is an author of both fiction and nonfiction, a publisher, and a lifelong swimmer—who actually swam nonstop around New York’s Manhattan island. His debut novel (New York 1609, 2018) was the first-ever to explore the birth of New York City (and Manhattan) from its earliest beginnings. His most recent novel series plunges the reader back 40,000 years to the age of Neanderthals. And back!
Harald loves standing in—or imagining—important places and eras in history and drifting back through the timestream to re-experience them. In the present, he lives with his wife deep in the woods of central Virginia.

You can find the author:

On twitter: @AuthorHarald

On his website:


You can find Harald Johnson’s books on Amazon:


Coming up on this site


Many thanks to my now 1500 followers! You are the best. And as of today, this is my 856th post!

Alert as to what’s ahead: there are a number of book reviews that will pop up over the next two weeks!  I’m on a roll!



In the meantime, I have two questions for you:

1. What would you like to know about me?

2. Which of the types of blogs I post do you most like?

I’m looking forward to your answers!

A post from me, Garfield the Magnificent.


It’s been a long while since I’ve posted anything, but my two-legged has made a lot of changes in her life, which I’ve been trying to accommodate. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve done my best.

I think the last time I managed to get some time at the keyboard was when she was chasing me around, trying to get me into that dratted plastic box. I managed to resist all her attempts, right up until the time when things in the house started disappearing into cardboard cartons (which I thought were for me to play in). One morning, she swooped me off the bed and carried me down the hall to the bathroom and before you knew it, I was in that plastic contraption. She’d been carrying me down the hall several times a week for a while, and she lulled me into contentment. It was just a ploy. I won’t fall for it again.

Then we went somewhere where another two-legged took me and put me in a large cage in a room with lots of other dogs and cats. Well, I would show her! I refused to come out when they came to take me to trim my claws, a humiliating experience, and to jab me with some needles. I decided to go on a hunger strike, too, but that didn’t last long. I, Garfield the Magnificent, need to keep my figure.

I spent a long time in that cage, over a week I was told by the other cats there, but finally one day I was rudely pulled out of the cage and put back in the box. I heard her voice, telling me we were going home, not to our old home but a new home. She opened the box in a square white room with my litter pan and some food and she closed the door and left me alone for a while. What was she thinking? I was just glad to be back with her, which I showed her for the next three days. I can be very charming, you know.

This new place isn’t too bad. My cat tree appeared in the place where she works, right in front of a large glass window so I can watch the birds at their feeder and try to get at the squirrels that wander up on the patio. I scratch that glass pretty good when I see them but so far haven’t been able to get through. It also has a rug that I’ve done my best to destroy by picking, but so far it’s held up annoyingly.

There are no stairs in this place! I used to love running up and down the stairs. Now I have to be satisfied with running the length of the house, making a sudden U-turn, and running back. The sound of my claws on the wood is very satisfying though.

I am getting more used to strange people. I will casually stroll out to the living room area and sniff their pant legs. There are usually some remarkable odors for me to enjoy. I also have two different two-leggeds who come and visit or stay with me when my own two-legged is away. I get lots of pets, sometimes more food than I’m usually allowed (if I am extra needy and sweet), and brushing. Brushing sends me right to purr heaven.

I have a hiding place in the closet where I can sleep if it’s particularly noisy, but I usually sleep on my cat tree or the bed, if that two-legged forgets to make it up in the morning. It’s also where I sleep at night, in between rounds of fighting with a stuffed rat or a squirrel or a bone that I’ve ripped apart. She complains when the battles on the bed wake her up, but I’m only protecting her.

Well, that’s my life for now, but I am extra wary that she might bring out that plastic box again. She recently told me I need to have my teeth cleaned.


I’m way down under the weather


Wherever did that term come from? So I looked it up: The phrase “under the weather” came from British sailing ships. When a sailor became ill he was confined below deck out of the weather, so it was said that he was under the weather.

Me, I’ve been down in the ship’s hold – #7.


I contracted a Norovirus. And believe me, this nasty little piece of work is no fun. It’s mainly a GI symptom virus with chills, fever, and aches everywhere which kept me confined to bed and the bathroom for three days. I slept a lot, ate nothing, and had wild dreams. 

                                                Mine were not this cute!

My lovely cat Garfield kept me company every step of the way. More from him later this week. He’s cranky.

I am up and about again, but we are in the midst of washing/disinfecting everything in sight – clothes, bedding blankets, and all surfaces. HUBS kept me out of the kitchen and disinfected that constantly. So far he’s healthy. I stayed in the back of the house and only ventured out to sit in a chair in the living room (also now disinfected).

I’ve learned a lot about this virus. It’s super-contagious by air and touch, symptoms appear within 48 hours, and you can shed the virus for two weeks after you are better. No wonder the virus runs rampant in cruise ships! An infected passenger feels better and decides to get out and about and enjoy his or her trip, shedding virus particles like rose petals. So I’m quarantining myself for two weeks, especially because I live in an over 55 community.

Still, some symptoms persist – virus brain fog, achy muscles, and exhaustion that sends me for a nap morning and afternoon.

My advice: If you are over 60, as I am and waaaay beyond, be careful when visiting friends who have small children in school or daycare, cesspools of germs and viruses. I caught everything my kids brought home with them over the years – but never Norovirus!

An electron micrograph of the Norovirus, with 27-32nm-sized viral particles. (from CDC)

Be careful and well!