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The Summer List: Final Update

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Well, that was summer, and now it’s all but gone.  But before I start moaning about cold weather on the way – or waxing poetic about fall, which is my favorite season, after all – it’s time to look back, take stock, and reflect on the summer that was.  It was a good one.  Peanut was old enough to enjoy some adventures, and we packed a lot of family fun into a few short months.  I didn’t get through every item on my summer list, but I did quite a few of them and I think that, as a family, we did the summer justice.

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Done!  I had a great run and PRed in my third half marathon.  And then for good measure I ran my fourth half marathon over Labor Day weekend.  That one wasn’t such a great run, but I was proud of myself for sticking with it even when it was tough and miserable.

  • Attend the wedding of one of hubby’s oldest friends on July 4th.

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Done!  It was a beautiful wedding (even in the midst of Hurricane Arthur) and we had a wonderful time celebrating the happiness of one of the nicest couples in the world.

Didn’t get around to this one this year.  Moving this to the fall list (coming on Friday).

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Done!  We made a stop at my parent’s lakeside house north of Albany on our way back from our friends’ Independence Day wedding, and it was a lovely, relaxing day.

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Done, and so excited to have accomplished this!  Climbing Cascade and Porter was an incredible experience.  I can’t wait to start tallying up a few more high peaks, but it’s going to be awhile before we get up our next mountain.  So, for the time being, I’m continuing to bask in the glory of the first two.

Done!  I didn’t blog this, but we had a great time checking out the local art scene.  I stocked up on gifts for a few people and some nice pieces for our new house.

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Done, FINALLY!  After several attempts and cancellations (due to constant over-predictions of rain and general meteorological mayhem), we finally managed to connect with Zan and Paul at the Grand Canyon of the East.  Letchworth was beautiful and I can’t wait to go back and explore more.

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Done!  We had such a great time sampling the tasty foods on offer at Buffalo’s favorite local food festival.  My favorite?  It was a tie, I think, between Lloyd’s Taco Truck and Joe’s Crab Shack.

  • Start teaching Peanut to swim.

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Done!  All I had in mind for this goal was to introduce her to the pool so that she would feel safe and comfortable and – hopefully – not fear water.  I think that’s been accomplished, and then some.  She had a fabulously splashy time playing “baby sea lion” with Nana over her birthday weekend, and Daddy and I have managed to get in the pool with her since then as well.  The only tears and hysteria we have around the pool happen, inevitably, when we decide it’s time to get out of the water.

  • Summer hike at Tifft Nature Preserve (we’ve already seen it in the winterand spring).

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Done!  We went last weekend, and yes I am counting it as the summer hike.  We hadn’t bumped up against the equinox, and the trees were still green – good enough for me.  It was a lovely morning activity; we enjoyed sunshine, flowers, and plenty of cool animal sightings.

Didn’t make it to any wineries this summer – this one’s getting back-burnered.  But there will be plenty of opportunities in the future.

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Done!  I can’t believe my tiny wee baby is two whole years old!  Seriously, where has the time gone?  Peanut had a great time playing at one of our favorite parks with her grandparents and one of her Stroller Strides buddies.  And hubby and I high-fived each other a bunch of times, because we got the best kid ever.

Also back-burnered.  I’ve decided to defer my entry until the 2015 race, for a number of reasons.  Kind of bummed about it, but it’s the right thing to do.

  • Spend an evening stargazing with hubby.

Another one I didn’t get to.  Moving this to the fall list – before the weather gets too chilly.

  • Go to Shakespeare in the Park (I’d love to see Henry V, but I think by the time we make it there that one might have wrapped up… but The Comedy of Errors is up next and I’ve never seen that either, so really, I’m good either way).

Majorly bummed that we missed this one.  Maybe next summer…

Also didn’t happen.   There just weren’t enough weekends.  Maybe we’ll wait for spring when everything is in bloom again.

  • Read Moby-Dick.

Haha!  Hahahahahahahahahaha!  Um, I got busy.  LOL!

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Done!  We did some more strolling around Knox Farm and explored the wooded trails a bit.  It’s so beautiful there.

Yes, I’d say we definitely did the summer justice!  Lots of fun family outings squeezed in around some very busy days, between work craziness and moving into a new house.  And now we’re at the start of a new season, and it’s time to think about pumpkin, and apple spice everything, and knitting, and Halloween, and Thanksgiving, and colorful leaves, and football Sundays (or to be more specific, Sundays in which hubby watches football while I catch up on my reading), and sweaters, and cider, and all that good stuff.  Fall list coming on Friday!

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Another season, another ramble through Tifft Nature Preserve!  (If you missed my previous posts, we’ve explored this urban wildlife sanctuary in the winter and spring, on our way toward walking there in every season.)  This was a very late summer hike – after Labor Day, in fact; it’s been a busy summer – but I’m still counting it as our summer outing because we haven’t yet hit the fall equinox, and don’t rush me, people!  (Please don’t mind the fact that I fueled for this hike with pumpkin yogurt and pumpkin spice tea, or that I stopped and bought apple cider on the way home.)

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Three hikers ready to get our summer strolling on!

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The first thing I noticed on our summer hike was this absolute glory of white flowers.  They were everywhere.  As far as the eye could see!  I love clusters of tiny blooms, and I love seeing an abundance of one type of flower, so I was in heaven.  (Seriously.  I think this is probably what Heaven looks like.)

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I got up close and personal with one of the bunches.

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We headed down to the end of Rabbit Run as the first part of our hike, and there we found a couple of beautiful weeping willow trees.  Peanut is familiar with willows from Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet, in which Nancy is cast as a willow tree, and she enjoyed gazing up at the swaying branches and touching the leaves hanging down.

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On our way back from Rabbit Run, we spent some time checking out the new tree plantings.  Many of the baby trees seem to be growing well – nice to see.

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Next we headed to the boardwalk – my favorite part of the nature preserve!  I love wetlands – so beautiful, and they remind me of DC – and I always look forward to coming here and gazing out over the water, looking for animals with Peanut.  And this was a particularly fruitful expedition, because we saw…

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A green heron!  See him in the branches there?  Right where the two branches intersect, there he perches.  We would never have spotted him, but for a kindly birdwatching gentleman who pointed him out.  Green herons are typically shy, so this was a pretty unusual sight – in fact, I’ve never seen a green heron.  I’ve seen plenty of great blue herons (my favorite bird, or at least tied with the cardinal, which is the state bird of Virginia, after all!) but according to our new birdwatching friend, great blues “just don’t care” about people looking at them (perhaps they’re related to the honey badger?), but the green heron is much more timid.  So seeing one was a major highlight.

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We also saw geese, ducks, and this family of…

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Turtles!  They were all hanging out on a log together.  Adorbs.

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After a good long visit in the wetlands, we meandered back toward the car and had one last treat – a look at the beautiful red and yellow berries on this bush.  They were almost sparkling in the sun.

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See you soon, Tifft Nature Preserve!  We’ll be back when you’re all decked out in your autumn finery.  Until then…

Library Summer: Update 2

 

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It’s been awhile, and I owe you a Library Summer update.  I’m still plugging away at my library stack over here.  This is less of a hardship than it seemed early in the summer, because my own books still haven’t surfaced after the big move.  (I know where they all are – in boxes in the new home office.  But it will be awhile before I go through those boxes; I have to get my clothes unpacked first.)

Here’s the current checkout status:

Due back 9/12: Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade of Soaking in Great Books, by Nick Hornby (currently reading)

Due back 9/19: A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan (completed, awaiting return)

Due back 9/24: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), by Leigh Bardugo (not yet started)

Due back 9/29: Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach (not yet started); Perfectly Miserable: Guilt, God and Real Estate in a Small Town, by Sarah Payne (currently reading)

On hold: The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker; The French House: An American Family, a Ruined ‘Maison,’ and the Village that Restored Them All, by Don Wallace

So, as you can see, a couple of things: (1) I’ve whittled the stack down to a much more manageable amount, but (2) it’s still going to occupy me all through September and probably into October.  After I get through the final two holds (both of which I had previously checked out, but which I had to return without reading because other people reserved them before I could get to them) I am going to try to read more from my own shelves.  I really do miss my own books.  Especially Fairacre.  I’ve been feeling a renewed need for Fairacre lately and it’s been bugging me that I haven’t had time for a visit.  I’d like to sit in Miss Read’s garden, or Miss Clare’s pretty kitchen, sipping tea and plotting how to avoid helping out at the next church event.  Alas, the towering stack of library books… not to mention the crushing work deadlines and the piles of still-packed boxes in every room in my house – have not permitted such indulgences.

So here’s the plan for the rest of September:

  • I really do need to get through Shadow and Bone.  I’m out of renewals.  I’ve been more in the mood for non-fiction this past week (and have been plugging away at a few fiction books, including The Visitors, which I finally finished – loved – and returned, and A Natural History of Dragons) but I need to discipline myself and read this one because (a) I want to, and (b) I’m out of renewals.
  • I can probably renew all the rest of these, so I’m just going to read in order of what I feel like – starting with Ten Years in the Tub, which I really want to read.
  • I may return Packing for Mars without reading it.  It’s short and looks interesting, and I’ve never read anything by Mary Roach, but I was more attracted by the picture of the astronaut on the cover than anything else.  (Since you asked, yes, I am actually an eight-year-old boy.)  But I just don’t know if I’m feeling it.  We’ll see.

That’s the plan.  It’s really no plan at all, other than “keep on keepin’ on” and “get to Shadow and Bone already!”  Having finished The Visitors was a huge weight off my mind – I mean that; it’s a hefty tome.  So now I do feel like I can exhale a bit, and I am looking forward to the rest of the books on my (finally!) dwindling list.

What are you reading lately?  Any library holds catastrophes?  I can commiserate.  

Letchworth State Park

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FINALLY!  After talking, and planning, and postponing, and planning, and postponing… oh, all summer… Zan and I (and our husbands, and Peanut) finally made it for our much-anticipated hike at Letchworth State Park!  Letchworth is popularly known as “the Grand Canyon of the East” because of its spectacular gorges.  Having spent four years in Ithaca (go Big Red!) I love a good gorge.  So of course I was keen to see these.  Zan and I have been trying to make this hike happen since early July, but every time we managed to find a weekend that both our families were available, we would get hit with a threatening forecast.  Thunderstorms!  Lightening!  Showers!  Alien invasion!  Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!  So we’d call off the hike because none of us wanted any part of that… and then it’d end up beautiful.  Finally we had a Saturday when we were both free and the forecast was only a mildly disconcerting “30% chance of precipitation.”  So we decided to go for it.

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We picked a trail that led to the lower falls and we started getting views right away as we picked our way along the side of the gorge.

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Peanut entertained our group by singing “This Land is Your Land.”  I can’t make this stuff up.  It was adorable.

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Hubby loves his hiking poles.  They have come in handy on a number of hikes, including this one when the ground got a little more uneven than what you see here.  His center of gravity is off when he has Peanut in the backpack, so anything to help his balance is welcome.  He uses Black Diamond hiking poles, and so do I on more strenuous hikes.

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Before too long, we came to a staircase leading down into the gorge.  We pressed on for a few hundred yards, then doubled back and headed down.

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Caught in the act!  Bloggers document everything, you know.

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The further we got into the gorge, the more spectacular the views became.

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Zan captured a family picture for us.  Thanks, lady!

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Such a fun walk, with the nicest newlyweds in Buffalo!  Zan and Paul, let’s hike again soon.  How about a fall excursion to Zoar Valley?

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What’s your favorite state park?  I’m partial to the Adirondack Park myself, but Letchworth was pretty spectacular too!

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I’m a four-time half marathoner!  I’m still kind of in shock that I actually finished this race last weekend.  As you may have noticed by the fact that the marathon training posts disappeared, I have not been running as much as usual.  Between a lot of crime in my old neighborhood – which made me nervous about running there – plus moving, work deadlines, and being under the weather for awhile, I was just not able to train.  I knew that if I did line up for the Biggest Loser half marathon, it would be my slowest yet.  Still, I wanted to at least try.

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I almost changed my mind on race morning, though, when I woke up to this forecast. Ewwwwwww.  But I decided to mom up and go for it anyway.  I dug through one of my partially unpacked boxes for a pair of capris that – hopefully – wouldn’t chafe, wrapped my iPhone in a plastic baggie, and steeled myself for 13.1 wet miles.

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The start line was dreary with a few drizzles, but not too bad.  (It looks worse than it is because at this point I still had my phone in a plastic baggie and was attempting to take pictures through the plastic.)  You can’t see it because this picture is unfortunately so blurry, but up at the start, motivating the crowd, were Dan and Jackie Evans!  (They’re former Biggest Loser contestants, from Season 5, and they now travel around as the face of the Biggest Loser race series.  I knew they would be there, because they go to every race, but I was still super excited.)

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Here I am all blurry and nervous at the start line.  I ran with my Camelbak to make sure I stayed hydrated – after the Fifty Yard Finish aid stations ran out of water I didn’t want to take any risks.  I figured that a huge, well-organized race series would have adequate supplies, especially one like the Biggest Loser race, which markets itself to people of all sorts of abilities and expects all paces, but still, better safe than sorry.

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The race started out at Buffalo’s Canalside area and headed out along the waterfront to a turnaround just before mile 1.  It was breezy down by the water – but not raining.  After the waterfront, we headed up Delaware Avenue (uphill, the wrong way!) all the way to Delaware Park.  I ran for a little while with one of the pacers, but she wanted to chat while we ran and I couldn’t keep that up, so I dropped back.  I was disappointed that I couldn’t keep up with her, but I reminded myself that the only goal was to finish this race safely and let the pacer go.  At one point – around Gates Circle – a guy asked me if I thought we were coming to the turnaround soon.  I groaned, “Not even close.”  I ran these roads a lot over the past year and I knew just how far we were from the park, where the map had us turning around.  I saw him a few miles later and he grunted, “Good call on the not-even-close.”  I know, dude.  I know.

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We did finally make it, though!  As has become my little tradition, I snapped a picture at the first mile marker past the halfway point.  Mile 7, my old friend, it’s great to see you!

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We headed out of the park and back down Delaware Avenue.  I wasn’t too excited about this section, because (1) it’s hillier than you expect Delaware to be, going in that direction – it’s all supposed to be downhill, where are these uphills coming from?! and (2) I knew we were heading for a detour along Lincoln and Chapin Parkways before we settled into the Delaware downhill stretch to the finish line.  I started to really struggle, mentally, at this point.  I knew how far we were from the finish line and I just didn’t want to be there anymore.  I was tired, had fallen well behind the pace I usually keep, breathing was tough, and my hips were starting to ache.  I kept thinking about how nice it would be to just sit down on the side of the road and quit.  Finally, around mile 9, something had to give.  I was walking more than I was running and realized that I had already finished by this time in my last half marathon.  So I decided to run Galloway-style for the rest of the race: four minutes on, one minute off.  I had to run for those four minutes (no matter how slowly) and then I could walk.

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The fancy houses on Rumsey, Lincoln and Chapin are always a nice distraction.  Eventually we made it back to Delaware and the road started sloping downhill.  Hurray!  It was basically just the last few miles of the Turkey Trot now (more or less) – I knew I could do that.  Galloway running was helping – I was staring at my phone’s clock half the time, but I was moving a lot faster once I started the 4:1 ratio, and feeling better (both physically and mentally) too.

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Howdy, mile 10!  Just a 5K left now!

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I fueled with cherry blossom Honey Stingers (my fuel of choice since the 2011 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler) around mile 7 and salted caramel GU (first time I’d tried this flavor of GU, and WOW was it delicious) just after mile 10.  At mile 11, a volunteer was handing out strawberry banana GU and I figured, why not?  It was pretty good, but not as good as the flavor I’d brought with me.

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Before I knew it, I was following signs to the finish line!

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Here we goooooooooo!  Finishing my fourth half marathon!  And yep, I totally high-fived Pam from Season 14 as I crossed the finish line.  That was pretty cool.

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Hard-earned new bling.

Final time: 3:02:01.  I struggled with this race.  It was hard to keep any kind of a consistent pace, between not having been able to train and the humidity.  Breathing was a challenge and I definitely walked a lot more than I wanted to walk.  Still, I was glad that I got out there and finished it.  Not every race can be a PR, or even a good day.  I’m proud of myself for sticking with it and finishing, as hard as it was and as much as I really, really wanted to quit multiple times during the race.  13.1 miles is no joke!

Reading Round-Up: August 2014

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Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby.  I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book.  Here are my reads for August, 2014

The Care and Management of Lies, by Jacqueline Winspear – I’d heard mixed reviews of this, but I wanted to read it because, Jacqueline Winspear!  Plus the premise sounded good – Kezia, a new bride, writes to her husband at the front during World War I, inventing dishes that she “cooks for him” to keep his spirits up, while Thea – Kezia’s best friend and Tom’s sister – struggles with her pacifist principles and eventually finds herself at the front as well.  But the truth is, I was kind of disappointed.  The beginning of the book was full of promise, but the second half just left me feeling flat.

Delicious!, by Ruth Reichl – Billie Breslin is a new assistant to the editor of the venerable Delicious! magazine, where she tries to hide from a tragic past.  But when Delicious! closes its doors and Billie is retained to maintain the Delicious! guarantee hotline, she discovers a treasure in the magazine’s library – letters from a young reader to James Beard during World War II.  I really expected to enjoy this, but again, something about it was a little off.  I loved Gourmet, the dear departed food magazine of which Reichl was editor-in-chief, and I did like the story, but for some reason I wasn’t overly impressed with the writing.  The foodie descriptions were good, but I found the dialogue rather forced.  Still, it was fun and light and a good read, even if the writing didn’t wow me as I’d expected it to.

Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom, by Deborah Yaffe – What fun!  As a confirmed “Janeite” since high school, I loved reading about the Tribe.  Deborah Yaffe dives deep into the world of Austen obsession – spending hundreds of dollars on a Regency dress and interviewing some of the most notoriously eccentric Janeites in the community.  I enjoy books about books, and this certainly satisfied.  Now I want to attend the JASNA convention and dance the night away in a Regency gown.

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3), by Deborah Harkness – So, I liked the first installment of the All Souls Trilogy, although I found it kind of silly.  I enjoyed the second book even more, and the third was the strongest of all.  Diana and Matthew have returned from 1591 to find that the shadowy creature world is fracturing at the seams.  Matthew dives back into his genetic research, racing against the clock to find a cure for vampire blood rage, while Diana devotes herself to tracking down the three missing pages and finally the Book of Life itself.  But time is running out – Diana is pregnant with Matthew’s twins, and their true enemy has just shown his face.  This was an absorbing and compelling end to a very creative trilogy.

The Magician’s Land (The Magicians Trilogy #3), by Lev Grossman – I liked The Magicians, loved The Magician King, and the final installment in the trilogy was… oh, my goodness.  I don’t want to say too much about it, because I hate to give anything away about these spectacular books.  Suffice it to say: Quentin has been kicked out of Fillory and is now trying to make his way through a world on the fringes of the magical community.  With a promising young magician named Plum by his side, Quentin works on two big projects – neither of which I’ll reveal; you’ll just have to read.  Meanwhile, Fillory is facing the end of the world, and Eliot and Janet depart on a desperate quest to save their beloved land.  READ THIS ASAP.  I kept gasping, “This is AMAZING!” and trying to convince hubby to pick up the series.  (He’s not convinced, so you’d better go read it right away so that my book missionary status doesn’t come into question.)

Misery Loves Company, by Rene Gutteridge – Jules Belleno is in deep mourning for her murdered police officer husband, her only contact with the world through her popular book blog.  But Jules’s blog life and her real life come crashing together when she puts up an unfavorable book review, goes to the grocery store, and ends up the victim of the most surprising kidnapper ever.  Obviously I couldn’t resist.  I almost abandoned the book in the first few pages, which were pretty upsetting, but I’m glad I stuck with it, because I ended up really enjoying it.

This was a weird reading month.  I had a couple of duds to start the month off, then ripped through several good books in a row – The Magician’s Land was a particular highlight and is going to end up on my “Best of 2014″ list for sure – before falling off the book bandwagon altogether at the end of the month.  I got crazy busy with moving and work and wasn’t able to finish anything in about the last week.  Still, I was happy with the reading I did manage to get done during a month in which I was go-go-going almost nonstop.  Hoping for a quieter, more bookish September.

Breathe

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Oh, my goodness.  How is it Labor Day already?  For one thing, where has the summer gone?  And for another… sorry I disappeared on y’all last week.  It’s been absolutely crazy around here – crazier than usual.  We wrapped up some work we were having done on our new house, I had three major work deadlines, and – oh, right – we moved.  It wasn’t as nuts as it could have been because we hired people to both pack and move us.  But still – it was nuts, and I wasn’t able to be around or help as much as I wanted to because I was so overwhelmed with big work projects that all came due at the same time.  (I got them all done, but it required an hour-long conference call on the one day of the week that I’d budgeted to be moving all day, and I had to go into work on Friday instead of working from home as I’d planned to because of technical difficulties with my remote access.  Still, it’s all done now and I can finally breathe – at least until the next onslaught.)

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So, we’re in our new house.  And loving it.  Air conditioning!  No sirens!  No garbage in the front lawn!  No bumping into each other if we both try to work in the kitchen at the same time!  It’s amazing.  My standards have really gone down over a year of living in the city, heh.  But we’re so glad to be moved at last.  Not settled – not by a long shot – there’s still a lot of unpacking to be done.  Still, we have time now and it feels great to be in our own space again.  I’m most excited to bake in the kitchen.  So far it’s just been thrown-together meals, but I’m looking forward to whipping up some gourmet treats as soon as I get a chance.  I’m thinking stone fruit compote and peach oat bread before the summer fruits are out of season.

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We’ve been trying to fit some fun in around the craziness.  Peanut got behind the wheel of Grandad’s convertible, so look out, drivers!

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And she had a great time playing “baby sea lion” in our new pool with Nana last weekend after her birthday party.  I’m hoping to get her in the water a few more times before we close the pool for the season.  One of my goals for the summer was to start teaching Peanut to swim.  I considered the best I could do on that front – since I knew we wouldn’t have the pool until August – to be getting her used to the idea in a setting where she could feel safe, so she could jettison any fear and get her little mind in a place where – maybe – winter swim lessons at the family YMCA near our house would be possible.  I think that’s definitely been achieved – Peanut has no fear whatsoever of the water.

So… again… sorry for disappearing.  I had really hoped to have some posts pre-scheduled for last week, but we’ve been so busy I didn’t even have time to do that.  I do have some good posts coming up, though, including a recap of my fourth (!) half marathon, a visit to Letchworth State Park with Zan and Paul (we finally made it!), reflections on raising a reader, and more good stuff.  Stay tuned!

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