Friday, May 28, 2021

THE MEMORY OF SNOW by Julia Buckley

Jenn McKinlay: One of my very favorite traditional mystery writers, Julia Buckley, is here today and I am just delighted to host her. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at her latest project Death at Castle Dark under the pen name Veronica Bond, and I have to say it's excellent! It was one of those books where I just couldn't wait to get back to it -- always the sign of an excellent mystery. But here she is to talk about her upcoming release in another of my favorite series. Take it away, Julia.

Julia Buckley

Julia Buckley: My latest Hungarian Tea House mystery  begins with snowfall. Not any snowfall, but one of those magical snows with big fat flakes that comes just once in a while and transports us to a fairy tale like setting. The mystery begins with a man Hana sees in the snow, and who seems somehow troubling in that context. Thus begins the tale . . .



But Hana’s experience got me thinking about the nature of memorable snows. I remember, of course, the giant snowfalls, starting with the big blizzards in Chicago, which stopped traffic on Lake Shore Drive and sealed people into their homes. My husband recalls dragging a sled to the grocery store with his mother, both of them straining through the drifts, only to lose a boot on the way home--a boot that was never retrieved from the massive mounds of snow. But there were other snow memories.


I went to college in Valparaiso Indiana, which is famous, my  meteorology professor assured us, for the most snowfall, the highest number of inches. He claimed that this made Valparaiso famous worldwide. I tended to believe him when I had to walk to class over a large field that we lovingly called “The Tundra,” the Midwestern Wind biting into every exposed bit of skin, the snow dragging at me with each step like some tenacious god of the underworld, bent on pulling me down.


Then there were the fun snows. I can recall many a snow battle in my own yard, with my brothers and sisters. I was the youngest, and my older brothers did not show mercy just because I was relatively small  and not as wily. I was routinely pummeled. When I took my high school entrance test on a snowy January day, my brother Chris (who was cute and popular, with his blond feathered hair) and his friends decided to attack me with snowballs on my way out of the building. They chased me down while I screamed with a combination of joy and terror, eventually collapsing into the snow drifts next to the parking lot, where a group of teenage boys scooped up snow and threw it on my prone body. I was yelling, and a big chunk of snow got into my mouth and choked me. For a few seconds i thought I would die of snow, there outside the high school I hoped to attend, but I was also conscious of the fact that four popular SENIOR guys had a acknowledged my presence enough to tease me mercilessly. The ice particles melted in my throat. I survived my hazing by snow, and they helped me to my feet. For some reason it is not a traumatic memory, but a funny one.




I met my husband in my junior year of college, on a BLIND DATE AT A FORMAL DANCE. That’s right--potentially the most awkward way to meet anyone, but we hit it off right away, and he would come to visit Valpo some weekends, including the snowy ones. Once we had a lengthy and invigorating snowball fight: my boyfriend, my roommate, and some of my dorm friends. There was strategy; there was running and hiding; there was a great deal of laughter, and a little bit of falling in love amidst bright white mounds of snow, glittering in the sun like diamonds.


I had a student once who had come to America from Africa sometime during grade school. When I asked students to write an essay about a  memorable thing, he wrote about the first time he saw snow--how magical it was to him, who had only heard of it but never seen it in person, never experienced the white, wet flakes that fell from the sky. He had never forgotten that moment that he went outside and saw that it was real--not a legend or a fantasy, but a real phenomenon; he had the joy of experiencing an American winter as a very excited child.


I try to imagine how it must have been for him, and I remember those snows of my own childhood--the truly special snows with the fat white flakes that took forever to fall and allowed that extra moment to appreciate their beauty, their shimmery whiteness, their symmetry and uniqueness. Those were snow-globe snows, and that’s the sort of snow Hana experiences in DEATH ON THE NIGHT OF LOST LIZARDS (available for pre-order now~).

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Though we’re about to experience a hot summer, this might be the best time to read a book set in a snowy world--a way to cool down as you sunbathe on your patio or deck or tiny balcony.  The novel taps into Hungarian Christmas traditions, but it is the snow that takes center stage. I remember a quote from Tennessee Wiliams’ The Glass Menagerie, a background image that read "Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?"  (Where are the snows of yesteryear?) In this novel, Hana remembers her grandmother’s description of the snows in Békéscsaba, her hometown. Hana and the reader will understand that it is not the snows her grandmother remembers with such nostalgia, but the time in which those snows fell--her youth, her time with her family, her love of her homeland. I suppose our snow memories are a celebration of the same things.


How about you, Reds and Readers, what are your best snow memories?


More about Death on the Night of the Lost Lizard: Along with her mother and grandmother, Hana Keller has achieved renown serving tea and cakes with a European flair, but when a local professor is killed, she uncovers a serving of suspects instead…


Hana Keller is getting ready for a lovely holiday season. When she receives a rare tea set as a birthday gift, she decides to host a tea at her apartment for her closest friends. During the cozy get-together, one of Hana's friends gets word that a murderer is on the loose. Hana soon learns that the victim was Sandor Balog, a professor of Hungarian Studies at the local college.

With her growing psychic ability, Hana senses that she is going to be pulled into the investigation of  the professor's death somehow. With her sexy boyfriend Erik on the case, Hana finds the Tea House steeped in suspects. She studies the smiling faces celebrating the season, but the real killer is good at hiding the truth and putting Hana in the hot seat….


The entire Hungarian Tea House Series:







74 comments:

  1. Julia, this sounds like an intriguing story . . . I’m looking forward to reading it.

    My best snow memories involve unexpected school closings [a delight for every kid!] and shoveling the sidewalk for my mom. We always enjoyed snow days, not so much for playing outside, but for sleeping late, hot chocolate for breakfast, and lots of time for curling up with a good book . . . .

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    1. I remember listening to the radio for the announcements! Best days ever!

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    2. We're all kids at heart! I think we all remember snow days fondly.

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  2. What lovely descriptions of your snow memories, Julia.

    I'm a native southern California, and our family didn't have the money to "go to the snow" - head into the mountains for a day of skiing, or rent a cabin.

    So it wasn't until I moved to Bloomington, Indiana, at 25, that I experienced real snow. I had a green wool thrift-store coat and was walking to the movies with a friend - who was Argentinian - with those big lazy flakes started coming down. I saw a real snowflake on my arm, the kind where it's a perfect tiny spread-out crystal. I said to Carmen, "But they're so tiny! I thought they'd be big, like the ones we cut out of sheets of paper." She laughed her head off. "If they were that big, they'd knock you out."

    Just another clueless Californian. Live and learn! Having lived in Massachusetts for 39 years, I now love a good snowy winter, when the snow is perfect for cross-country skiing.

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    1. Edith, that is so funny! I'm imagining how amused your Argentinian friend was, but the ideas we get as children are the best. Great story.

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    2. LOL! That's hilarious, Edith!

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    3. I love the idea that you had that magical moment whether the flakes were big or small :)

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  3. Welcome Julia, this series sounds delightful! Now that we are in Key West for the winters, I don't see snow in person. I always feel a bit regretful when the northeast has a huge blizzard, but then I remember the ice and the cold, and I get over it:).

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    1. Same. Having grown up is CT and survived the blizzard of '78, I'm good with just heading up to Flagstaff when I want to see snow.

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    2. Snow is definitely a two-sided coin :)

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  4. Welcome to JRW, Julia! I grew up in Connecticut and have lived here most of my life. I grew up sledding and ice skating. I was 14 the first time I went skiing. My early memories of snow involve sledding on the very small but steep hill behind my grandmother's house with my big brother and my cousins. Those are lovely memories of piling on the sleds, racing, flying head first and inventing daring-do! The snow, temporarily interrupting the rivalries of childhood for cooperative snowman endeavors.

    I went to university at UCONN which is situated high on a windy hilltop, with snowy winters and laye arriving springs. An experience similar to your African student's occurred in my freshman dorm. A student from Florida ran outside for her first snow and we all gather around to listen to her exclamations of wonder.

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    1. Storrs is cold! I think it's in CT's snowbelt, yes?

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    2. Those are such sweet snow stories. There is such joy in watching another person's wonder.

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  5. Living in Quebec, I’ve experienced snow of any kind like large flakes gently descending ( style white Christmas ) or snow pushed in rough winds ( big storm ) or snow icing the road and causing a road accident.
    My best memory goes back to my childhood when I tried to help my father shovelling snow. The snow banks were higher than me but the feeling of happiness and completion stays with me more than sixty years later.

    Your Hungarian Tea House series seems like my cup of tea Julia.

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  6. Welcome, Julia! Growing up in Western New York (near Buffalo), I have lots of snow memories. Bundling up to go outside only to have to use the bathroom and do it all over again. Tobogganing at a local park. Trudging to school over drifts six feet high (school rarely closed and when it did, it was a treat). The day in high school when it was single digits, the wind chill was brutal, and despite my many layers, I didn't fully thaw until fourth period. College in Olean, NY, when the campus was covered in pristine white after a snow fall and looked so beautiful (until I had to trek across campus to class because classes were rarely canceled for weather). Sledding on stolen trays from the dining hall; we'd use wax paper to grease them up and go flying down the hill in front of the dorms, finishing up with hot chocolate in our rooms.

    I'm not much on snow these days, but I do like watching those magical flakes from the sunroom - as long as I don't have to go outside!

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    1. Lunch trays! Yes, we totally did that at Southern CT right behind Wilkinson and into the huge parking lot. Good times!

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    2. I hear you about having to go to the bathroom after bundling into a heavy coat :) Great snow memories!

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  7. Congratulations on your new release! I grew up in New Jersey, where we made snow forts and created an icy sledding track on a steep hill. I used my father's childhood flexi flyer, fastest sled in the neighborhood.

    Years later, we spent nine long winters in NE Ohio, where I bonded with my snow blower. My son's first grade teacher told me to exercise him for an hour before school, so after I cleared the driveway, we'd shoot hoops.

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    1. I love that! I don't think I ever shot hoops in winter but I bet it kept you warm.

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    2. Strangely enough, I never did much sledding. Probably because we weren't by a good hill, but I always loved those Courier and Ives prints with children sledding down snowy hills.

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  8. One of my most vivid snow memories comes from the famous-to-Ohioans blizzard of 1978. I was a college freshman, attending a university in the middle of a small suburban community. Two of my male friends bought snow shovels and posted signs in the downtown stores offering their services to shovel driveways and sidewalks. I spent the day in their dorm room answering the phone and taking orders, while they went from location to location shoveling. (It was way before cell phones, so they would stop at a pay phone downtown and call me to find out where to go next.) At the end of the day we split the proceeds and spent most of it on underage beer and pizza.

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    1. That blizzard was my first year of grad school in Indiana, Susan, and first-ever blizzard! I remember it well.

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    2. Susan, love this story!

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    3. It was so cold, though! It got down to -35, so shoveling was a really big deal, Susan.

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    4. Incredibly industrious! I remember that blizzard well. The drifts were HUGE. Best sledding ever.

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    5. That's a terrific story! Snow can have such a profound effect on daily life (and young entrepreneurs can benefit).

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    6. Was that blizzard in February of 1978? Our governor shut down the state and closed the roads so the plows could do their magic. Jenn, if you were in CT, then that's the one. I left my car in a snowdrift in a garage on the Berlin Turnpike and walked almost 2 miles in fashion boots before the local veterinarian picked me up in his truck and drove me the last half mile home.

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    7. Judy, here in Columbus it was in January. I remember for sure, because my college had a unique schedule called a 4-1-4 plan. For the month of January, you took just one class that met every day, intensively. Many departments offered some travel program for that month. So I had many friends who missed it completely because they were off campus.

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  9. I would have enjoyed this a lot more had it been warmer than 43 degrees when I got up this morning! But never mind that, it sounds like a great book, Julia and I'm looking forward to reading it. Having spent most of my life in upstate NY I can remember many snowstorms but the one that really stands out was when I was in 6th grade. The snow started on the weekend and it continued and the wind blew. Several roads were totally closed because the drifting snow had filled them in in such a way you wouldn't even know a road was there. Farmers and some others received provisions dropped from helicopters. No school for a week! It was something to see when a big plow when some sort of rotary attachment came through to open the roads. I'm so fortunate that somehow my father was able to get around and take pictures because otherwise some of the things are just too incredible to be believed!

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    1. Was that the blizzard of '78 by any chance. I still remember seeing the trees coated in ice. Yes, some things are hard to believe without photographic evidence.

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    2. It's chilly here in Chicago too--it's been a mercurial May. Terrific snow memory!

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    3. I think it was '57 or '58.

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  10. JULIA: I grew up in Toronto, ON and thought I knew snow. But then I moved to Burlington ON which is on the western tip of Lake Ontario and experienced lake effect snow. We would often get 30 cm of snow (1 foot) there while none fell in Toronto. But now that I live in Ottawa ON, I can embrace snow in a new way. I love to snowshoeing in the provincial park across the river in the Gatineau Hills (Quebec). The first time I did a night snowshoe with my headlamp showing a pristine white trail was an adventure. Taking a much deserved warm-up break/snack in a remote cabin before heading back down home was a treat.

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    1. I've always been fascinated by snowshoeing. I did a lot of skiiing - cross country and down hill growing up. That is one thing I do miss.

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    2. That sounds amazing. I have found that enjoyment of snow is predicated upon having the right clothing.

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  11. I lived in Florida for 40 years as an adult - I survived the heavy, humid, sticky, summers by reading snowy books! It's the perfect solution.

    As a child in upstate New York and northern New Jersey, we had SNOW. We made snow forts every winter to shelter us in snowball fights, I once wore the butt out of my snowsuit sliding without a sled down snowy hills, and I have a memory of my father and nine friends carrying our 1956 T-Bird out of the apartment parking lot (it wasn't cleared) to the plowed street so my dad could pick up the Christmas grocery orders for the neighborhood. The most magnificent snow I've ever witnessed was in Maine. The locals called them pie plate snowflakes. They were between six and eight inches across and their structure was visible. It only happened once, but I still cross my fingers when I see flakes getting large. I ran out into the back yard for a closer look and it was like being hit by cold doilies!

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    1. That is amazing! I've never seen snowflakes that big. I believe those were what Edith was looking for!

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    2. That is fantastic! I've never heard of that before. I'm going to look it up on youtube :)

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  12. Beautiful written memories of snow, Julia. thank you. I can certainly relate. I grew up in northern NY on the NY-Ontario border. Snow was a major fact of life- school closings, highway shutdowns, storms that came out of nowhere, snow on Easter Sunday. One of my earliest memories is snow piled higher than my head. Of course I was tiny then...but I have photos of snow piled higher than grown men, too!

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    1. I remember when Boston got his so hard a few years ago and they were plowing it into the harbor. It's crazy how high it can get.

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    2. Wow! I think we all have fond memories of those snow days. Last year at my school, they discussed the idea that school days might be a thing of the past, thanks to remote learning. I protested and said snow days were gifts from above, and sometimes, you just needed to make a snowman :)

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  13. Rhys: Brrrr. You’re making me feel cold, Julia. I would not have enjoyed snowball fights! Skiing while the sun is shining is fine but I’m not a big fan of winter. Hence my house in Arizona

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    1. Right there with you, Rhys. Literally in AZ - LOL!

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    2. Rhys, I know snow isn't for everyone. I have friends who moved to Florida so they'd never have to see it again :)

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  14. Julia, your essay is so well-written, it makes me want to read everything of yours.

    I grew up here in Southeastern Ohio, and it used to snow a LOT more than it does now. One of my most indelible memories is of the 1978 blizzard, which Susan refers to above. We had feet of snow, with high winds, and bitter, -35 temps. I had just started a job at Merrill Lynch downtown in Cincinnati, so I felt I had to get to work. I took the bus, which turned out to be the last one to run for days. When I got to Fountain Square, where the offices were at the time, I was so grateful for my fake fur maxi coat with a hood, as I pushed against the wind to get to work.

    When I got there the office was CLOSED, and deserted. As I was wondering what I'd do next one of the brokers also arrived to find the doors locked. He had to pass my apartment on the way home so he gave me a lift in his Porsche, and we were almost the only car on the slippery expressway.

    Because of the extreme cold, the water main at the corner broke three times that night, flooding the sort of bowl made by the intersection of two sloping streets. Snowplows came along to break up the ice, but they pushed it up alongside and against every car unfortunate enough to have gotten parked on the street. Where they stayed for a month, since the cold hung on for weeks. One of the guys in the building had an early 4-wheel drive vehicle, and he gave everyone rides to the grocery store a few blocks away. And one fun night another neighbor turned an old toilet seat and a long wool scarf into a sled and we took turns pulling each other down our steep driveway and laughing like loons.

    I hate cold, but my oldest daughter absolutely loves the snow. She lives in Michigan and if they don't have 100" in the winter she is disappointed, that crazy woman.

    Julia, are you Hungarian yourself? My grandmother's parents were both born in Hungary.

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    1. Interesting, Karen. Irwin's mother's parents were Hungarian and growing up, she spoke Hungarian at home.

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    2. Fantastic memories! Yes, my paternal grandparents were both born in Hungary. This series is sort of a tribute to them.

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  15. Snow is a rarity in my part of northern California. On those rare occasions, snow sticking was even rarer. I remember the one and only time it really stuck in foothills, we piled into cars and drive up to our aunt's and uncle's property outside of town. We had cut up packing boxes to slide down the hill and threw snowballs.

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  16. Congratulations on the new books, Julia! I really enjoy the Writer's Apprentice novels, but I love, love, love the Hungarian Tea House stories, with their glimpses of a culture I'm unfamiliar with, and all the magical/folkloric overtones. That's just custom made to make me a happy reader!

    I grew up hoping the snowfalls in my native Missouri were deep enough to cancel school, and I have fun memories of my mother sending my sister and me on foot to the grocery store in our small town to bring home bread and eggs and milk for our snowed-in times. There were also not-so-fun memories of trying to drive home from college in a blizzard. Now that I live in Texas, I rather like those times when we wake up to a beautiful overnight snowfall, which all melts away by noon.

    My clearest memory of a particular snow was the first time it snowed after I moved to Texas. The weather forecasters had been hysterical for days, talking about a major snow event and the possible dangers. On the morning after, I woke up to a thin layer of gritty flakes, not even a quarter of an inch deep. I thought, "This is it?" and went on as usual. But when I got to the radio station where I worked, the only guy there was the morning DJ, who was thrilled and amazed to see me. "You made it in!" he cried. And I thought, "Texans think this is bad. I could have stayed home."

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    1. It's all relative, right? But when the locals are not used to driving in ice or snow they either panic or they are overly confident, either of which can end badly.

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    2. We get more ice storms here than snow and yes, when over-confident Texans in their rear-wheel-drive pickups take to the icy roads, it's just wiser all around to stay home where it's warm.

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    3. What a great post! And thank you so much for reading my books!

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  17. I've lived my entire life in the non-snowy parts of California. I've had a few trips up to visit the snow, but now fun stories or memories are coming to mind. I'm not a cold person, so I much prefer summer.

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  18. Oh, this sounds wonderful! And what a thoughtful beautiful essay.
    I often use Snow as an example to teach point of view in a story – – how does a mom see and describe it? How does a 10-year-old boy?

    But you know we live in Boston, where it is snow city. One of my favorites was the April Fools Day blizzard, where are we – – literally – – could not open our back door because the snow was too high. What a perfectly crazy day for that to happen!

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    1. Thank you, Hank. I think my favorite description of snow is in Dylan Thomas's A Chil's Christmas in Wales. A beautiful poetic story and great point of view.

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  19. Julia, welcome to Jungle Reds! I remember your Writer's Apprentice cozy mystery series. And Congratulations on your Hungarian Tea mystery series.

    Question: I noticed the name Hana Keller and I wonder if anyone misheard or misread the name and thought her name was Helen Keller? Whenever I see the name Keller, I think of Helen Keller.

    My snow memories: Growing up in California several miles away from the beach, we usually had sun or fog or rain. However, I remember once in my childhood when it snowed outside my bedroom window and I saw white flurries of snow. The next morning it had melted away by then!

    Diana

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    1. No, you're actually the first person to mention it, but I can see how people might make that mental connection :)

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  20. Since we've lived in Ohio and Minnesota I have many snow memories! I always loved the first snow of the season, so pretty. Until it turned to gray slush. It snowed a couple of times when I was growing up in Houston. My class agonized as we saw one or two other classes turned loose briefly to enjoy the snow. We lucked out as the snow was still there when 3:00 finally came and we could go play. Frank and I have had a couple of adventures in New Mexico and in Iowa, driving in a snow storm just ahead of the road closings. I miss the snow. It tested my fortitude as I stood out in the cold at the Hyvee filling up my car with gas.

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    1. I'm so glad that the snow waited for you at the end of the school day :)

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  21. Hi Jenn and Jungle Red Writers and readers! This is Julia! Thanks for hosting me on the blog. I'm sorry to peak in so late. Now let me get to Responding to some of theses comments :)

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    1. By the way, the J. R. stands for Julia Rohaly, which is my Hungarian maiden name!

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    2. Great to see you, Julia. It seems everyone has snow memories - what a perfect post for me when it's about to get into the 100s in AZ!

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  22. Julia, your Hungarian tea shop books sound delightful! And I guarantee that in in another few weeks I'm going to want books that make me feel cold:-)

    Here in north Texas snow has always been a big deal as we don't see it very often. School was always canceled. Of course no one had sleds, and I can remember sliding down the steep creek bank behind our house on cookie sheets and trash can lids.

    But of course the big snow in my memory is going to be this year's February Snowmageddon--it's too bad we were too cold to enjoy that once in a century snowfall!

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    1. Deborah, these childhood memories sound so fun! The second best use for a cookie sheet :)

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  23. Thanks to all of you for reading and posting! I'll check in again later in the day for more conversation!

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    1. That would be me, Julia - I had to get out this morning for the local community college horticulture department plant sale, and then the dog would have to be walked...

      Anyway, I also love snow, both for its childhood memories and for the delight I still feel at the first snowfall of each season. (It helps that I can sit inside and enjoy the storms, secure in the knowledge that Kevin the Plow Guy will be digging me out.)

      Our family was stationed in Germany when I was a girl, and we used to go skiing in the Bavarian Alps at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I'm not sure if the snow was exceptionally deep or if I was small, but it always seemed to be in enormous fluffy drifts, and the sight of snow falling over the brightly-painted Bavarian houses and the half-timber churches was, not surprisingly, just like something out of a fairy tale.

      We would also go to the famous Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremburg, which combines outdoors+snow+Christmas+spectacular gothic and half-timber buildings for an amazing spectacle. I confess, as a child I was more focused on the sweets and toys, but in my memory, there was always a soft snowfall when we attended. Which, I suppose, is part of the magic of snow!

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  24. Snow on the back garden is beautiful but snow on the sidewalks and the street that I have to shovel is EVIL! Since I'm retired, I don't even have Snow Days anymore. I love your series. Stay safe and well.

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  25. I have GOT to read this. I have been missing winter and snow and cold temps and snuggly sweaters and everything SO much!

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  26. It's actually at our local library!

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