Saturday, December 31, 2022

Thoughts from the Reds on New Year's Eve.

 RHYS BOWEN:  The last day of 2022. Well, it wasn’t as bad as we had dreaded, was it? We had no insurrections, new Covid variants that killed in minutes. The election we feared passed peacefully showing that moderate and sensible people are still in the majority. But lurking in the background was still the fear of Covid. It hasn’t gone away. And multiple mass-shootings. And the terrible news from Ukraine.It certainly isn’t Peace on Earth, is it?

So a brief year-ending questionnaire:

How are you celebrating tonight?

What was your favorite moment of 2022?

What was your worst moment?

What do you hope for in 2023?  For yourself? For society?

If you could invent something to make the world a better place, what would it be?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: How are you celebrating tonight?

  >>? Years ago, a group of friends decided that we did not want to battle going to a restaurant on New Year’s Eve—the crowds, the chaos, the prices, you name it. So, for years we have taken turns having a dinner party at our house. One person, the host, makes the main dish, and the rest of us bring assigned dinner elements. This year my assignment is... potatoes. I don’t know what the main dish is, so that is somewhat problematic.

What was your favorite moment of 2022?

 >>>When we realized (knock on wood) that we had fully recovered from Covid.

What was your worst moment?

>>>When we realized we had Covid.

What do you hope for in 2023?  For yourself? For society?


If you could invent something to make the world a better place, what would it be?

>>>Ah. Too hard. What if…greed and envy just disappeared? 

JENN McKINLAY: Where did this year go? I swear I only looked away for a second.

How are you celebrating tonight?

I am preparing for my nephew’s wedding tomorrow and missing my brother. I expect a lot of tears will fall, both happy and sad, but I think as we get older the big events are always bittersweet.

What was your favorite moment of 2022?

Driving the Ring of Kerry and seeing 10 very bright rainbows pop up over Dingle Bay. It felt like the universe was trying to tell me that if you pay attention  life is unexpectedly beautiful in between the rain clouds - repeatedly, until the message really stuck. LOL.

What was your worst moment?

Just the other day, a reader decided to email me directly and tell me that I am an awful writer, boring and stupid and worthless, and that I should quit. I was so shocked by the vitriol that it sent me into a nasty spiral of self doubt. I have since shaken it off but oof when the haters hate, they really hate. 

What do you hope for in 2023?  For yourself? For society?

Common sense is not as common as you’d think so I think a nice injection of empathy into society would be refreshing. I wish everyone was as incredible as Chef Andre of the World Kitchen.

As for me personally, I hope my books are received well, entertain the readers, and that I am able to keep trying to be a better writer. 

If you could invent something to make the world a better place, what would it be?

A laser that turns guns or weapons of any kind into pie. I’m tired of all this macho bomb and bullets nonsense. All wars should be fought with pie - like dodgeball - but with pie. 

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Can it be? It’s already a new year? It’s not like I’ll miss 2022, but… is it just me, or is the sense of time passing broken?

How are you celebrating tonight? Dinner with friends, then home - can’t stay away too long when you’ve got dogs relying on you - and in bed before midnight tolls. 

What was your favorite moment of 2022? Oh, so many. Celebrating my sister’s birthday in New York, when we could actually eat inside restaurants. Being the co-Guest of Honor, with Rhys, at Malice. Youngest’s university graduation (with honors!) My Godson’s wedding.

What was your worst moment? My father died this year. Not unexpectedly, and one of those deaths that feels a bit like a release - but still. My parents and grandparents are all gone now. My sister and brother and I are the oldest generation.

What do you hope for in 2023?  For yourself? For society? For myself, I just want to get the latest book finally done. For society? Gosh. I guess… that our divisions lessen, and that we can see one another as fellow Americans.

If you could invent something to make the world a better place, what would it be? Inexpensive, reliable and side-effect-free birth control… for men.


How are you celebrating tonight?
A quiet house - the kids will have returned to Brooklyn and maybe I’ll watch the sequel to KNIVES OUT on Netflix and eat homemade chocolate turtles.

What was your favorite moment of 2022? 

In February when we were in Florida, my granddaughter gave me a card she’d drawn for me. In it, she’s giving me a “rainbow hat” to replace my “sad grey hat.” And in retrospect it was a turning point in terms of greeting the future and opening myself up to whatever comes next.

What was your worst moment?

I’d rather not think about it. Moving on…

What do you hope for in 2023?  For yourself? For society?

More tolerance, common sense, and generosity.

If you could invent something to make the world a better place, what would it be?

A Neuralizer (see MEN IN BLACK) - something I can hold up and flash in your face and make you forget whatever stupid thing I just did.


How are you celebrating tonight? As I write this earlier in the week, I have no idea! We’ve never been big on NYE parties where you stay up past midnight and drink too much. Key West on New Year’s is insane, but we do like to walk into town earlier in the evening and take a look as festivities ramp up. I’m sure I’ll make something delicious for dinner!

What was your favorite moment of 2022? Seeing family and friends, remembering the past couple of years where that couldn’t happen and cherishing every minute.

What was your worst moment? Yup, Covid here too. We worked so very hard to stay safe for 3 years, that the double red line was a horrible shock. I am only grateful that I got sick after miraculous vaccinations so I didn’t come anywhere near hospitalization!

What do you hope for in 2023?  For yourself? For society? I truly want to get better and better as a writer, and sell more books, for sure:). I would also like to stay balanced, healthy, and optimistic. For society, more sensible, kind, smart people in leadership roles.

If you could invent something to make the world a better place, what would it be? How about some kind of instrument that shuts people off when they are on the edge of saying something harsh or acting mean? A person could open her mouth or her keyboard to say something cruel and find that nothing comes out…


How are you celebrating tonight? Staying home! We don't like to tangle with drunk drivers, and the dogs will need looking after with all the fireworks going off. I'm thinking maybe shrimp cocktail and dips, something super easy. And I'd love to watch The Holiday if I can talk hubby into it.

What was your favorite moment of 2022? LONDON LONDON LONDON. It was so wonderful after a three year absence! Getting to spend the first part of the trip with my daughter made it even better. Oh, and right up there with that was finishing my book!

What was your worst moment? We lost one of our cats, who had been suffering from kidney disease. Otherwise, just the constant anxiety over Covid.

What do you hope for in 2023?  For yourself? For society? For myself, a productive writing year (make that deadline!) More time with my granddaughter who is growing up so fast. For society? That's a big one. More empathy. More reading. I think people who read are much better at putting themselves in others' shoes.

If you could invent something to make the world a better place, what would it be? How about a device that would shock people's fingers every time they typed something mean on social media.

RHYS: And my answers to my own questions:

How are you celebrating tonight?

We are very boring. We stopped going out on New Year's Eve. We don't want to meet drunk drivers. We don't like going to restaurants because we get bad service. We may have friends round for an early drink and then bed before midnight.

What was your favorite moment of 2022?

I had several. it's hard to choose. Being nominated for an Edgar Award was high on the list. Also being guest of honor at Malice Domestic and being interviewed by my friend Louise Penny.

Watching my daughter get her masters in clinical psychology, my granddaughter graduate from UC San Diego and the twins graduate from high school were all fabulous. The family all together in San Diego was special. Monet's garden in the rain. Magical.

What was your worst moment?

That one is easy. Testing positive for Covid the day before eleven of my friends were coming from all over UK to meet me in London and having to call them all to say don't come.

What do you hope for in 2023?  For yourself? For society?

to stay healthy, get the most out of life and meet my deadlines (3 of them. Yikes). For society that we morph back into a civil, compassionate, tolerant place where congress works together for the good of the whole country.

If you could invent something to make the world a better place, what would it be?

An easily made plant protein to combat world hunger? A machine to redirect clouds to stop floods and droughts?

A poison that killed Vladimir Putin?

So how about you? What are your wishes for 2023?

Friday, December 30, 2022

When Your Book Club Takes Over: A Guest Post by Karin Fitz Sanford.

 RHYS BOWEN:  One of the things that’s good about our Jungle Reds blog is that we can introduce new writers to our followers. I am doing this today: her name is Karin Fitz Sanford, she lives close to me in the wine country I enjoy visiting so much, and her first book was due out on Christmas Day (bad timing?) but has now been put back to early January. 

Her conversation with her book club echoes the questions many of us writers have been asked. So welcome Karin:


 Thank you, Rhys, for the invitation to write on Jungle Red Writers’ blog. It’s such an honor.

 When I mentioned to my book club group that I’d be blogging about my first mystery, THE LAST THING CLAIRE WANTED, these smart, funny, and irreverent women had, as usual, plenty of opinions and pointed questions: “Explain why you wrote a mystery.” And, “Did you base your characters on anyone you know—like us, for example?” And ominously, “Aren’t you afraid of getting sued?”

 After a while, tired of taking notes, I threw up my hands and said, “Fine, you take over.” And so they did. What follows, in a Q&A format, are questions they thought my target audience—readers like them and, hopefully, readers of this blog—might find interesting. Here goes:

 BOOK CLUB: Why write in the mystery/crime genre?

KS: Because at least ninety percent of the books I read are mysteries and police procedurals. Part of their attraction for me is that mysteries have their roots in mortality plays, as my editor Harriette Sackler says—they’re tales of bad behavior being punished and wrongs being mostly righted. So they’re satisfying in that sense, and also, so much of the writing is wonderful, easily comparable to any genre. It’s hard to top an opening sentence like Ben Hecht’s in his “Crime Without Passion” story: “Mr. Lou Hendrix looked at the lady he had been pretending to love for the past six months and, being a lawyer, said nothing.” It just made sense to write what I read and love.

 BC: Your female protagonist is an ex-FBI agent turned estate liquidator. Why that career?

KS: When my mother passed away a few years, our family hired an estate liquidator to sell and auction off valuables to settle the estate. While she was working with us, it occurred to me that she had incredible entree into all kinds of family secrets. An estate services professional overhears private conversations. Finds journals and money. Understands family dynamics. I thought the career would be ideal for a protagonist, and as far as I know, it’s has never been used before.

 BC: Why write your first book now—at this late stage in your life?

KS: Well, I never! I’d always promised myself I’d write a mystery when I retired and had the time. So now that I’m at that “late stage of life,” as you so kindly remind me, it was now or never. One of our book club selections, “Old in Art School” by Nell Painter, was a great inspiration: Here’s a sixty-something woman, a leading art historian and writer, going back to art school with twenty-somethings to learn how to paint, an entirely new craft—with no fear of making a fool of herself. A big advantage of age.

 Even though I spent over thirty years writing professionally, I had never tried my hand at fiction, and what surprised me was the steep learning curve. But learning a new craft is exhilarating, especially at an older age when there’s little to lose or prove.

 BC: Did you expose any of our dark secrets about our hometown, Santa Rosa, California?

KS: My book is entirely a work of fiction. But that said, Santa Rosa may look like an all-American hometown—movies like “Pollyanna” and “Shadow of a Doubt” by Hitchcock were filmed there—but it has all the colors of a modern city: prosperity, poverty, crime, honest people, bums. And my book reflects that. As for characters, they’re a mix and match of many people I’ve known. Except for Claire; she has a lot of my mother in her.

Karin Fitz Sanford, a former advertising copywriter, was born in New York but grew up in Northern California’s Wine Country, the setting for her debut novel, THE LAST THING CLAIRE WANTED. Having run her own award-winning ad agency for over twenty-five years, she now devotes herself full time to writing her second mystery in the WINE COUNTRY COLD CASE series. When she isn’t writing, Karin can be found hiking, reading, traveling, babysitting the grands, or binge watching Schitt’s Creek and Chicago P.D. She lives in Northern California with her husband.


“With vivid and gripping characters, an intricately woven plot, and a history that sticks its claws in you and doesn’t let go, Karin Fitz Sanford leaves readers with something truly remarkable. A brilliant debut!”

—Amanda Jayatissa, ITW Thriller Award-winning author of My Sweet Girl and You’re Invited



Her FBI career imploded. Her marriage crumbled. Now 32-year-old Anne McCormack is finally getting her life—and new estate-sales business—on track, and she needs to keep it that way. But when she stumbles on a clue that leads her to a prominent Wine Country matriarch, Claire Murray, she can’t say no to the dying woman’s plea to solve her young son's decades-old murder.

Together with her retired detective uncle, Anne juggles personal troubles with family drama to overcome roadblocks to solving the case—including Claire’s skittish adult children who aren’t talking. But others in town are talking, and what they say leads Anne from swanky hotels to a sex-offender trailer park—and into a twisted maze of blackmail and obsession as she races to find a killer who’s on the loose and out to take down the rest of the family.


Available on and in early January 2023.

RHYS: Who doesn't love a visit to the Wine Country? I think this book has reminded me it's time for a little tasting!

Thursday, December 29, 2022


 RHYS BOWEN: Remember when TV was three or four channels. Remember when we waited with anticipation for the next episode of our favorite drama? Now it's all about streaming. We've adapted to it slowly, first Netflix then Prime. During the Pandemic I discovered the joy of binge-watching. When I was sick and on a clear liquid diet it was the Great British Baking Show. One of the most comforting shows on Earth, right?

One of the things I discovered during the pandemic was Britbox. All my favorite British TV shows in one place. Heaven! I have binge watched ever since, rejoicing in new crime series, like Murder in Provence and Val McDermid's brilliant new one.

Another fun benefit has been that Britbox has teamed up with Jungle Red Writers to share about new shows. What fun! And now they have told us about a fantastic contest happening right now, over the holidays.

Here is what they say:



BritBox hosts first sweepstakes “One Way Ticket”, offering fans up-close and personal access to the idyllic locations of its beloved series


From the lush rolling hills of The Cotswolds to the buzzing streets of London, there’s no shortage of stunning British destinations on display in BritBox’s series. This year, BritBox is giving fans the chance of a lifetime through its One Way Ticket sweepstakes. With each purchase of a gift subscription*, gift-givers will be entered to win the ultimate fan experience: a trip to Britain to visit these locations and a live set!


The grand prize winner will receive a trip for two to London and the Cotswolds, including round trip airfare, lodging, and planned excursions. Best of all, the winner will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the live set of an upcoming BritBox series during filming. Second prize winners will receive an exclusive BritBox item.


Gift-givers will be automatically entered to win with each purchase of a one-year gift subscription on Those who choose not to participate will be given the ability to opt out—just uncheck the designated box.


For shoppers looking for a quick, easy, or even last-minute gift, a BritBox gift subscription is a thoughtful solution that will always be in stock. For $79.99, get 12 months for the price of 10 and give the best of British TV, all year long.




*Entrants must be 18 years or older and a legal resident of the U.S. or Canada. Sweepstakes ends at 11:59:59 p.m. ET on January 5th, 2023. Must travel summer 2023. Purchase not required for entry. See official rules for details.


BritBox is available for $7.99 per month/79.99 per year—after an introductory free trial period—on Roku®, Amazon Fire TV stick, Apple TV 4th Gen, Samsung, LG and all iOS and Android devices, AirPlay, Chromecast, and online at BritBox is also available on Amazon Channels for Prime members and on Apple TV Channels on supported devices.

About BritBox

BritBox is a digital video subscription service offering the largest collection of British TV in the U.S. and Canada. Created by two British content powerhouses—BBC Studios, the subsidiary arm of the BBC, and ITV, the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster—the service features iconic favorites, exclusive premieres, and current series and soaps—most available within 24 hours after their UK premiere. BritBox also offers expert curation and playlists that enable fans to easily find programs they know and discover new favorites via the web, mobile, tablet and connected TVs.   



# # #  

 RHYS:  How can you resist? Worth every penny. The contest closes soon. So if there is someone for whom you haven't found the right gift yet... here it is! Good luck

And what streaming services do you watch? What have you binge-watched? I've done that with Alone, Bridgerton, the Crown.... what else?

Wednesday, December 28, 2022


 RHYS BOWEN:  Aren’t we humans funny? We seem to love rituals, don’t we? We spend time doing things in ways that are not time-saving or efficient for the sake of the ritual alone. Take my husband, John. He is in charge of the tea making at our house. Woe betide anyone else who tries to make the tea because they will fail, miserably.

The tea making starts with John blending his own tea. He buys an expensive Darjeeling online that comes from God knows where. He mixes this with a little Ceylon, a fine leafed Indian tea, from the Indian spice shop AND some Keemun–a smoky China tea that he says gives the blend a little oomph.  

This tea mix sits in a caddy with its own spoon. In the mornings he boils the water in the electric kettle and while he does this he warms the pot. Then he takes a special infuser, puts the tea leaves into it and pours on the boiling water.  Then he sets the timer for three minutes, after which the infuser must be removed immediately.

As you can imagine this all takes time. I would quite happily pop a tea bag into a cup that had been in the microwave, but no–we have to have the tea ceremony every morning.

I suppose I’m conscious of this ritual because it is the time of year for rituals, isn’t it? We light the candles, one by one, on the menorah. We put out milk and cookies for Santa. We hang stockings by the fireplace. We spin the dreidel or play games we only play at Christmas. We open presents in a set order. We eat the same foods. And they are all important to remind us that this is a special time of year.

In our house the rituals start with decorating the tree, the first Sunday of December. I have to have on my favorite Christmas CD (Mannheim Steamroller) and make mulled wine while we do it. And the rest of the ornaments (my little snow village, the German wooden people etc) have to go in exactly the same place as last year. 

I am expected by the family to make the mince pies and sausage rolls that my mother made at Christmas and her mother before her.

So I wonder why we feel the need to bring ritual into our lives. I can understand the ancient Druids or Greeks having special ceremonies to remind the ignorant population that it was now Winter Solstice or Midsummer’s Night. But we seem to have a need to reassure ourselves with a repetition of what we’ve always done and what our parents did before us.

Think of Thanksgiving in America. Every year the same foods, even though we don’t actually like green bean casserole. I remember one year it was just John, Dominic and me for Thanksgiving. I decided it was stupid to get a turkey for three of us and as a treat i bought fresh crab. Dominic, still in his teens at that time, sat at the table and stared at the crab. “What’s this?’ he asked. And then, “Where’s the turkey?”  He was horrified that we were deviating from the script.

So I’m interested to hear what holiday rituals you have in your house? Do you ever try something quite different? Do you have a yearning to go to an expensive hotel for the holiday and let someone else do the cooking?

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Christmas Movies

RHYS BOWEN:  Christmas movies–love them or hate them? 

I don't mean the Hallmark Christmas movies where the high powered New York lawyer with failed romance/writer with writer's block/ moves back to a small town to help her grandmother/run a store/save the town from developers and meets a lumberjack (who is really a renowned doctor/writer or country vet or the developer who becomes good.  I mean real movies.

I always have certain movies I have to watch each year, to get me into the holiday spirit. This year I have watched:

It’s a Wonderful Life. I always walk away feeling annoyed that Mr. Potter didn’t get his just desserts. But it is warm and fuzzy and says a good message.

A Christmas Carol. Ye olde version in black and white. My favorite is Scrooge with Albert Finney but I couldn’t find it anywhere on Netflix or Prime. I just enjoy watching the Cratchetts being so happy and loving and Tiny Tim being saved.

White Christmas: Although this is not a white Christmas until the very end and although Bing Crosby is over fifty at the time of filming while Rosemary Clooney is only 24 I still enjoy the schmalz. And the dancing.

The Holiday: It’s quite improbable and if I wanted to trade houses I would never get a house in Beverly Hills or a cottage with a handsome brother nearby, but I love it anyway.

Love Actually: Why is this my favorite? There is so much that’s annoying–Hugh Grant dancing. The embarrassing porno movie. The British guy in America. AND a writer who doesn’t back up what he’s writing but lets it be blown into a lake? What sort of writer does that? But… that scene with Emma Thompson crying as she listens to the CD is one of the most moving I’ve ever seen. And the guy with the cue cards at the door. Brilliant. Worth watching over and over.

Movies I will not watch: Rudolph. What kind of kindly old Santa would discriminate against a reindeer who was “different’? And what message is that sending–shunned and mocked because he had a red nose? 

Home Alone. Can’t handle the thought of people not missing their child.

Movies I didn’t see but love: A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Miracle of 34th Street.

So how about you? What are your favorite holiday movies? Any that you hate?

HALLIE EPHRON: I have never seen DIE HARD. Or HOME ALONE. I know lots of people rate those at the top of the Christmas movies list. I do like LOVE ACTUALLY so much that when it’s over I watch it again. There’s some nice Christms bits in YOU’VE GOT MAIL.

A Charlie Brown Christmas? Feh. 

HANK PHILLIPI RYAN: I'm on the fence about Love, Actually, but I do love the "just in cases" part. (And he had a TYPEWRITER, okay, that's how he was.) And I thought Hugh Grant dancing was really funny, but he would NEVER have been PM. Oh, and his surprisingly-talented aide caroling, that was great.  (And, the cue cards are sweet, but REALLY? What's he trying to do, make her re-think her wedding? Nope.)  We could really talk about his whole movie, because it's either wonderful or cringey.

Christmas in Connecticut is fun--Barbara Stanwyck as a chic "homemaker" columnist who is a total fraud. Love that. Oh, and what's the one where they dance and topple the couch? Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn?  Holiday, right? Fabulous.

It's A Wonderful Life— well, it always seemed really too sad and almost disturbing to me. (Am I being awful about this?) White Christmas, sure (the dresses and the technicolor!), but I don't really need to watch it ever again. And A Christmas Carol--I recently re-read a lot of the book, and it is absolutely wonderful. Wonderful! 

Is Sleepless in Seattle Christmas? Or is that New Years? And When Harry met Sally, that's new year's, right? AND An Affair to Remember. (Is THAT New Years?)   I think I like new year's movies better. Hmm. Is this humbuggy?

JENN McKINLAY: It’s a Wonderful Life is my all time fave. I just think everyone has their George Bailey on the bridge moment but no one is ever honest about it. Seems way ahead of its time to me :) I love Love Actually - even with the ridiculous writer (it’s Colin Firth which  makes it forgivable) besides Emma Thompson steals the movie anyway. A Christmas Carol but with Alistair Simm is a tradition for us. We attend Christmas Eve service, go home and make pizza, and watch that version of the movie. I enjoy Charlie Brown but my all time fave is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Never should have been a movie, it was perfect as is, also, this new trend on social media of people having a Grinch break into their house and steal presents in front of the kids to what - terrify them? - really disturbs me.

LUCY BURDETTE : Oh, we have just tonight been watching love actually! We watched the first half and will finish it tomorrow. I think Hugh Grant dancing is hysterical, about half of the movie is wonderful. The stepfather talking with his bereaved stepson is priceless, Emma Thompson is amazing, and I do love the scene where Colin Firth goes to propose to the Portuguese woman. Not a fan of the Q cards! Lol all in all, love the movie and love saving it for the Christmas season. Ditto on you’ve got Mail. 

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Hank, I didn’t know there were any other Christmas In Connecticut fans! It’s one of my favorites, and often what I watch while wrapping gifts, because I could never get the rest of the family into it.

Also: Die Hard. Yes, this is our family’s traditional Christmas Eve must-watch movie. It’s a little odd going from Bruce Willis mowing down bad guys to Midnight Mass, but we make it work. It’s the perfect counterbalance to all the sweetness and schmaltz of the season.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I just now pulled all the Christmas DVDs out of a box–now if I can figure out how to play them with our new TV and the myriad remotes!! I have to confess that I have never seen Home Alone–how is that possible? Maybe this year. I think I was always horrified by the idea that a parent could forget their child. We do watch Die Hard. I think it was Alan Rickman's first big Hollywood part (as the bad guy, for anyone who's never seen it) and I fell utterly in love with him. I love A Christmas Story–I even went to visit the Christmas Story house in Cleveland. And It's a Wonderful Life. But my two must watch holiday movies are Love Actually and The Holiday. Hope to get them both in this year.

RHYS: have we missed any? Any other favorites or hates?

Monday, December 26, 2022

It's Boxing Day!

 RHYS BOWEN: Wishing you a happy day after Christmas. Did Santa bring you what you wanted?

IN England and Commonwealth countries it’s Boxing Day. This has nothing to do with the sport. It was the day when employees got their Christmas boxes. Specifically servants in big houses who had to work all of Christmas Day for the family and were allowed home to their own families the day after. They were given a box of food, clothing and maybe a money gratuity to take with them.

When I was growing up in England the tradesmen would call at the house to wish us the “compliments of the season.” And they’d get a tip. The garbage man, mail man, window cleaner, newsboy etc.

Who had a good Jolabokaflod? I've wanted to try that but with this many people around it's not possible. Sounds ideal, doesn't it?

So did you have a good day yesterday? We had a full house with fifteen family members, a big brunch with mimosas and bloody marys, tea with mince pies and then turkey and ham and all the trimmings. So today we can barely move.  We’ll have another big brunch and then a turkey curry. And play a lot of silly games and laugh a lot. Bliss!

But I wanted to share a couple of unique things about our Christmas:

Traditional food, apart from turkey etc, is small mince pies and sausage rolls. These are from my childhood. When I was growing up the other treats at Christmas were tangerines (that only appeared at Christmas time, dates and turkish delight.

Who else has a kangaroo on their tree? (Outside of Australia, I mean?)  

You may not know that I met and married John when I lived in Australia. My brother came down to join me and my parents retired to Australia, so for years my whole family lived there. Now my brother still lives in Tasmania and every Christmas I get Aussie ornaments for the tree. So I have an emu, and echidna, koalas etc etc leaping all over my tree. Such fun.

I also have two large bears by my fireplace. They came from the house of a dear friend who passed away.  When her house was put up for sale I managed to buy two of her bears. They are  called Nigel and Stanley. Nigel is the superior one who is singing carols.

He is quite critical of Stanley who is simple and loveable and taking toys to poor children.

Apart from those my tree is decorated with stars, hearts, angels. I love it.

And I'm sending blessings from our house to yours! Love, Rhys.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Our Holiday Wish For You

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You fabulous Reds and Readers! There is not a day that's gone by, not for the past FOURTEEN years, that we have not thought of you.

Can you imagine how amazing that is?

You are such a part of the Reds' lives, and we are so endlessly grateful.

In this time of uncertainty and stress, when so many things we rely on have changed, we are so grateful and touched that you have honored us with you joy and your contributions and your insight and support and enthusiasm. 

We have been together through triumph and struggle, through wishes fulfilled and postponed.  And weather! We have handled the murkiest of waters, and climbed the highest--so far--of heights.

You have allowed the seven of us to be part of your community, and we cannot be more in awe of you all.

 Happiest of everything, whatever you celebrate, and may all of your holiday dreams come true.

If you have a moment, tell us what you are doing today! Or tell us one good thing about anything in your lives. 

We adore you. We rely on you. You are our gift!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

The Reds Are Not Afraid of Controversy!


I dare. 

It is more controversial than  "is the dress black and gold or white and blue?" 

It is more controversial than deciding whether a hot dog is a sandwich.

It is more controversial than deciding if oatmeal is cereal. Or whether chili is soup.

It is more controversial than the positioning of the toilet paper on the roll.

Here we go. 

No matter if you celebrate or not:


In my (Jewish) family, (where we celebrated everything), my mother absolutely laid down the law. 


We whined, we wheedled, we attempted to negotiate. Just one, we begged. A little one. 

"Nope nope nope,"  she would say. 

And it never happened.

How about you, Reds and readers?  (And of course a hot dog is a sandwich. It's "meat" in bread.)

Friday, December 23, 2022


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: We had a big fun conversational blog planned for today, but we will do it tomorrow, because we are worrying about you!

How are you all in the weather? Hoping you are all safe and cozy, and that the power is on. Let us know, okay?

It's the Jungle Red check in! Where are you? How are you? Tell us everything.

I'm in Boston, where it is supposed to be incredibly blustery, more than blustery, and "widespread power outages."

Ahhhh...there are few scarier phrases. I have saved my manuscript on every device imaginable, and trying to look at the (flashlight-powered) bright side. It COULD be peaceful for say, half an hour? But not long enough for the fridge and freezer to have situations.

(Do you have any power outage advice?)

We are lucky not to be travelling, or having anyone coming here --what a funny thing to say!--but airports are so crazed. Is this interfering with your or your loved ones' travel?

Here's a photo a NYC pal just sent me from where he is. (And oh, I cannot help but notice his battery is low. Yikes.)

And as I write this, it is pouring and there's thunder.

So let's get to YOU quickly--how are you, and where, Reds and readers? Give us your bombognenesis bomb cyclone blizzardy stormy Winter Storm Elliott (this storm is very patrician) weather reports!

(And stay safe, darling ones!)

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Hank Is All Wound Up

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Okay,  It's a situation. I am generally organized, and I know where everything is, and I don’t have too many secret things stashed away. 



I cannot throw away ribbon. When gifts come so beautifully wrapped, and there is glorious real satin ribbon, or the kind that has wire reinforcements, or gorgeous plaid with lacy edges or silky, slinky different colors, that I would never buy, the wide kind, or the thin kind. And it is so pretty. 
Oh, I think I will keep this! So I wind it around my fingers, and put a paper clip on it or a rubber band. And I put it in the bag of ribbon.

(Sometimes I just put it in the bag unwound. I admit it.)

Then I need to wrap a package and I think oh! My Ribbon Bag! It will have the perfect kind.  And I will reuse the ribbon and save the world.

So I look for the ribbon bag, yes, there will definitely be a perfect piece.

But. The problem is that you can’t tell how long the piece of ribbon is, right? Not exactly, until you unwind it,  or hold it up, and then, if it’s wrong, you have to wind it up again.  Waste of time. Annoying.

And, sometimes, the ribbon gets wrinkly. Plus, it’s already wrinkly where the bow was tied so you can’t really reuse it instantly. Then you have to iron the ribbon. 

Well, I don’t want to iron ribbon!

So, I always decide,  I’ll just get out some NEW ribbon on a nice new roll, pull out exactly the amount I need, and it will already be nice and flat and perfectly sized.  
And back into the drawer the Ribbon Bag goes. But I still can’t throw it away. 
I’m not sure what to do about this. It is so gorgeous, and so luxurious. And so incredibly pretty and festive. 

Maybe I’ll just… Get out the iron and iron the heck out of all of it, and wind it onto its own spools and make it be perfect. Yeah, I’ll do that. As soon as I finish my book. 

How about you, Reds and readers?  Do you save ribbon? And do you actually… here’s the key question…use it again ?