Feeds:
Posts
Comments

image

Yawwwwwwn.  Is it Monday already?  I feel like this weekend never really got off the ground, although we did try to make something of it.  We had birthday parties to attend both days this weekend – Peanut is, apparently, leaving the “invite just a handful of kids” age and into the “invite the entire class” age when it comes to birthday parties, and we’ve got three in two weeks (two this weekend, one next weekend).  It’s fun, but it does tie up the weekend rather a lot.  As a result, we didn’t make it to IKEA (our “need” errand) or to the National Book Festival (our “want” idea for the weekend).  And Sunday was a train wreck because the party was during nap time and Peanut was generally a mess all day, as she always is when she has to go without her nap.  But we still squeezed in some fun – our first family walk on the Mount Vernon Trail since moving back – one of our old favorite haunts; Nugget and I hit the trail for a run a couple of weeks ago, but the rest of the family hadn’t been back.  And another old favorite, Lake Burke, for a nice family walk on Sunday before birthday party madness set in.  The weather was in the sixties and it felt really refreshing, but the sun was still shining – it was a great hike.

alias-grace little-victories hamilton-the-revolution sofia-khan-is-not-obliged

As for reading, it was a good week that’s passed, and a good weekend.  I finished Alias Grace – I read it slowly, even though I was dying to know what was going to happen, because I wanted to savor the gorgeous writing.  I think it’s my new favorite Atwood, bumping The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam off the top spot.  Then I grabbed something from my nightstand: Little Victories, by Jason Gay.  This was a Christmas gift from my mom, and it was a pretty entertaining read.  I was laughing out loud – literally – through many sections, and I forced Steve to stop what he was doing and listen to me read aloud the Zen Cubs’ rules for Little League, because it was gold.  Then I moved on to Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, at the recommendation of my friend A.M.B.  Once again, A proved that she can be trusted when it comes to book recommendations – Sofia Khan was a joy to read, light and warm and funny, and also thought-provoking.  (I kept thinking, “This is like the Pakistani version of Bridget Jones, only with way more substance,” and I still think that pretty well describes it.)  I bid goodbye to Sofia on Friday, which meant perfect timing to read Hamilton: The Revolution, also known as The Hamiltome, over the weekend.  (It’s WAY too big to take on the Metro!)  This was another gift from my mom, who picked it up at one of the Smithsonians because she thought I needed a little pick-me-up treat to remind me that my hard work as Mom, Esq. is appreciated.  (Nice, right?  She’s pretty great.)  I’ve been deep in the Hamiltome all weekend, hearing the soundtrack play in my head as I read the lyrics with Lin’s annotations, and Jeremy’s essays on how the musical came to be.  (The annotations are my favorite part; well, that and the picture of Lin on vacation in Mexico, reading Ron Chernow’s Hamilton – how it all began!)  The book is awesome, although it’s making me even itchier to actually see the show.  Hamilton comes to the Kennedy Center in 2018, but I’m not sure I can wait that long… I’m scheming a way to make Broadway happen.  (Insert “Room Where It Happens” joke here.)  YAY, HAMLET!

As for the coming week, I’ve got a lot of stuff on my plate, and some of it is stressful, so I’m going to aim for light and fun in my reading.  My current plan is to catch up on all six currently-released trade volumes of Ms. Marvel.  I’ve flipped through the first volume, but that’s it, and I can already see what the fuss is about.  So I’m dying to read more.  And if I finish those, still on the “light and fun” theme, I’m thinking of picking up the most recent Mindy Kaling (another gift from my mom!).

On the blog this week: my diverse kidlit pick for September on Wednesday.  You guys, I am so excited for this one.  When I dreamed up this project back in January, Wednesday’s pick was the first book I added to the list, and I knew immediately that it had to be September’s choice.  It’s a book I absolutely love, which has stood the test of time, and which Peanut requests almost every night – a true family favorite.  And on Friday, back to the beach for another vacation recap; I’m having way too much fun with those.  It might be a stressful week in real life, but it’s gonna be a good one here on the blog.  Check back!

What are you reading this week, my friends?

VAB 2016: Hiking Back Bay

image

image

For many months leading into our move and our trip to Virginia Beach, Nugget was the world’s worst napper.  I got into the habit of loading him into the car seat and driving him around, both to get him out of our very small condo so that Peanut could nap, and also on the off chance I’d get a car snooze out of him as well.  It wasn’t the best routine, but it was working for us, so I continued it on vacation.  Most days, we went to Target (Nugget can continue snoozing in his car seat in the basket of the shopping cart, and he has slept through many a Tar-jay run) but a couple of times, we just tooled around and checked out the sights.  On one such drive, I discovered Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge about 45 minutes from Rebecca’s house.  Nugget was sound asleep, so I couldn’t justify waking him up, but I made a mental note to try to get back there for a hike if at all possible.  And on the final day of our vacation, we made it happen.

image

I drove down to the Sandbridge area, paid my way into the wildlife refuge, parked and waited for Nugget to wake up.  I gave myself a window of time to wait, and promised that I would give up the idea if he didn’t wake by 3:15, because at that point we’d really need to be heading back to the house.  As luck would have it, he woke up about twenty minutes after I parked the car, so I strapped him into Steve’s backpack and set off for an adventure with just my little guy.

image

Who’s ready to do some hiking?

image

I chose the “beach trail,” because that name sounded promising, and sure enough, I soon found myself kicking off my sandals, stepping off the boardwalk and into the soft white sand, with the waves rolling in just a few yards away.

image

We walked right up to the water and waded on in up to my ankles.  Nugget, Pisces that he is, desperately wanted to swim – but not only was he not in swimming clothes, but wildlife refuge rules prohibit swimming.  (I thought sloshing along with just my feet in the surf was probably okay, though.)  A couple of other ladies were wading nearby, and they seemed very interested in Nugget, but we weren’t in the mood to stop and talk, so I gave them a friendly wave and continued on down the beach.

image

We saw tons of ocean birds – gulls, sandpipers, and lots more varieties that I didn’t recognize – and once again I wished that I knew something about birds and birding.  It’s on the to-do list!

image

Having this view ahead of me for about three quarters of a mile was pure bliss.  I love beach walking, and this was the best beach walk I’ve ever taken – completely deserted, just me, the birds, and my backpack full of baby.  It was peaceful and serene and everything I had been craving.

image

I think Nugget liked the hike, too.

image

I had planned to turn around whenever I felt ready, but as luck would have it, right at the moment I was thinking of heading back I saw a sign for the Dune Trail, which I knew also spit out in the parking lot where I’d left my car.  So Nugget and I checked out the views of the sand dunes on our way back.

image

They were amazing!  I love sand dunes and could walk through them (on a boardwalk, of course) all day long.

image

Eventually we made it out of the sand and found ourselves hiking a short distance along this pretty meadow, until we made it back to the car.

image

By the time we got back to the parking lot, there were some pretty threatening looking clouds gathering in the distance.  But I considered carefully and judged that we had enough time to check out the wetlands habitat that was also protected at Back Bay, so we walked quickly across the parking lot to the other gorgeous body of water.

image

image

What a fabulous view!  I was so glad that I had noticed Back Bay on the map and had made time to get down there.  An almost-solo (just me and the mini man) adventure was exactly what I needed to recharge after a stressful move and a week of socializing (which, fun as it is, does take it out of me).

image

Goodbye, Back Bay!  You were stunning and perfect, and I’m sure we will be back.  The next time I visit VAB (soon!) I’ll be bringing the whole family with me.

image

Have you ever been to a national wildlife refuge?  Back Bay is my second!  Next week, we’re back at our own little beachfront paradise!

Scenes of a Summer

image

Supposedly, fall is right around the corner, although you wouldn’t know it from the weather in DC (highs in the high 80s all next week – not that I’m complaining; you will NEVER hear me complain about it’s being too warm, because in my opinion, there is no such thing).  I’m going through the same confusing season change that I do every year at this time – summer and fall are my two favorite seasons, with fall just barely edging out summer, so even though I’m always excited to welcome back hot apple cider, pumpkin picking, Hallowe’en costumes, puffy vests and circle scarves, I’m never quite ready to bid goodbye to summer, either.  The result, as always, is multiple nostalgic posts about the summer that is wrapping up, as I attempt to wring every last bit of golden light from the season.  I’ll have more coming – a few more weeks of Virginia Beach recaps, and my completed summer list – before I’m ready to turn my attention to a new season.  But first, a look back at the season that is on its way out.

image

I know it’s technically spring, if you’re going by equinoxes and solstices, but Memorial Day weekend is the true start of summer for most people (us included).  We spent ours visiting my parents and got in a mountaintop in western Massachusetts, and a day at my parents’ lake house in the Adirondacks.

image

The very next weekend, I was back in the Adirondacks, on business travel to Lake George.

image

It was really rather okay there.

image

We explored our new town – Williamsville, NY – and knowing that our days there were almost certainly numbered, made sure to soak up all the good things about it.  Our favorite spot?  Island Park, for the playground, the sandbox with a fleet of trucks, the farmers’ market, and the library.  Heaven!  We were there every Saturday this summer.

image

On Father’s Day weekend, I ran the 50 Yard Finish 5K.  Hard to believe that two years ago, I crossed this same finish line after 13.1 miles and set a 13 minute PR!

image

Two weeks later, we celebrated America’s birthday in an even bigger sandbox – the EduKids sandbox at Canalside!

image

And Nugget and I took a gorgeous walk through fields of goldenrod at Knox Farm State Park, one of our favorite spots in WNY.

image

Nugget’s life was made complete when we took him to Touch-a-Truck in Williamsville.

image

The rest of July was spent packing our lives and tying up loose ends in Buffalo, in preparation for our move home to Washington, DC.  But we couldn’t go without saying goodbye – and we did it the best way we knew how, by throwing Peanut an early birthday party at the Rose Garden in Delaware Park.  Not all of our friends were able to join us; Peanut suffers from what I call “the curse of the summer birthday” – meaning that someone is always on vacation when we throw her party, and sadly, this year that was her BFF, N, and N’s sweet family.  But many, many people came out to celebrate Peanut and see us off on our next adventure, and we were so grateful.  Most importantly, Zan and Paul were there – more than anyone else, they made our three years in Buffalo, and Peanut’s party wouldn’t have felt complete without them there.  We threw down picnic blankets in the grass and let the kiddos run around on the playground, and it was perfect.

image

And then our moving truck came to load up our lives and drive them south.  It was a stressful move, so the less said about it, the better.

image

The first chance we had – at 9:00 the morning after the movers left – we rolled right back out of DC and down another three hours south, for a week on Virginia Beach.

image

It was exactly the breather I needed before jumping from one stressful job to another (but at least my new stressful job is in DC – home!).

image

Speaking of home, we enjoyed being back.  My cousin Jocelyn came to visit and watch the kids for two weeks, and she’d never been to DC, so we enjoyed showing her around – including a hazy beautiful morning spent wandering the monuments.

image

Jocelyn is an avid hiker (check out her blog!) so we knew we had to show her our favorite spot – Great Falls.  I have been to the park countless times, and I never, ever grow tired of that view.  I rocked the new child carrier backpack (Steve’s and my eleventh anniversary gift to each other) and we carted our backpacks full of baby along our favorite trail.

image

I took my first run on my old favorite running route – the Mount Vernon Trail.  3.1 miles done for the Rock ‘n Roll Making the Band challenge – hot, sticky, and pushing a 25 pound toddler in a 20 pound stroller, and loved every minute of it.  (And yes, I am wearing my race shirt from the Great Pumpkin 5K – jumping the gun a little, but I was in the mood to wear orange, so.)

image

And rekindled my love affair with the King Street Farmers’ Market, thanks to this gorgeous orange and purple mixed bouquet that I got for FIVE DOLLARS.  Amazing, no?

image

Some summer!  Not every moment has been golden and magical, but a lot of them have, and that’s good enough for me.  One of these days (although not anytime soon, I suspect) the nights will start growing cooler, and I’ll be pulling out jeans, smartwool socks and puffy vests again, researching apple orchards and pumpkin patches, and mixing up pots of bean chili for football Sunday.  But in the meantime, I’m reliving summer just a little bit longer.  Care to join me?

image

As this new week rolls around, I am particularly rejuvenated, because… look who visited this weekend!  My dear, lovely and much-missed friend Zandria was in town from Buffalo – what a joy it was to see that face!  Zan and her husband Paul used to live in DC and moved to Buffalo about a month before we did, and are still living there now, and Zan was my closest friend in the area for the three years that I lived there.  (We actually met because I found her blog while I was researching our possible move to Buffalo.)  Paul works for a law firm that has an office in the city, and his job frequently brings him to town, with Zan tagging along occasionally – including last week!  So of course the highlight of our weekend was seeing our wonderful friends.  We hugged so tightly, and talked so hard and long, that you’d have thought it had been two years since we last saw each other, and not two months.  I have commenced an aggressive campaign to convince Zan and Paul to move back to DC.  So that was our Saturday – a visit we’d been looking forward to since July when we hugged our friends goodbye in Buffalo and said “See you in Virginia in September!”  Sunday was more family fun, after a couple of false starts.  We’d planned to go to One Sock On, which is the affinity group for families with babies and toddlers at our church, but had a miscommunication about when it started and ended up missing it – boo.  So we decided to go to IKEA instead (an annoying errand, but one that will be worth it when we have bookshelves and a dresser) but turned back after two blocks when we decided that the packages we were planning to get wouldn’t fit in the car.  With a free morning to fill, then, we decided to go to Mount Vernon for the first time since moving back; before we left the area, we lived in Mount Vernon, just about two miles from the estate, and were there at least once a month.  We bought memberships and had a nice morning wandering the grounds and checking out the Colonial Marketplace, then headed home for lunch, naps, and to get ready for a fall family social at Peanut’s school.  She wasn’t feeling it, so we only lasted about half an hour.  It happens.

the-witches fables-vol-6 alias-grace

So, again, I find myself typing: with all that weekend activity, I didn’t do much reading.  Some in the evenings, and a blissful hour on the front porch while the kids napped yesterday, but it didn’t feel like much time at all.  I keep seeing social media posts full of cozy plans for long afternoons with a book and a cup of tea and a falling autumn rain, and… that’s not happening around here.  There are no long afternoons with a book, I barely have time to make a cup of tea in the morning, and it’s still 90 degrees and humid here.  (Not that I’m complaining.  Believe me, I’m not.  I’m finally starting to thaw out from last winter.  It can stay sweltering for the next year and I’d be just fine with that.  But a little more reading time wouldn’t be unwelcome.)

And again, I find myself typing: notwithstanding the non-bookish weekend, I did get some reading done over the course of the past week.  Finished The Witches: Salem 1692 – finally, after having laid it down months ago – and it was really thorough and excellently done.  Then I was feeling a comic, so I grabbed the next volume in the Fables series, which I had out from the library.  I think volume 6, Homelands, was my favorite yet.  And then I finally picked up Alias Grace, which has been on my “to be read” list for years – literally – and it is as wonderful as I expected.  I’ve been reading it slowly and savoring every word.  It’s quite dark, but there are little jokes sprinkled throughout and I’m really enjoying spotting those.  Can’t wait to see how the story ends – I’m just coming to the critical part, I think.

After I finish Alias Grace, I have no earthly clue what I will read next.  I don’t have any other books checked out from the library at the moment, and I’ve whittled my “currently reading” list down to just the one, which is just how I like it.  I have a bunch of my own books in piles all over the house (waiting for shelves… IKEA happens next weekend) so it should be easy enough to find my next read.  I might go back to Barsetshire and read Barchester Towers.  I might start the Mapp and Lucia novels.  I might finally pick up Ms. Marvel.  I might read something completely unexpected.  I like having lots of options, but I’m also weirdly nervous about it.  Well, whatever I pick, you know I’ll tell you all about it.

Coming up on the blog this week: a recap of the summer on Wednesday, and another vacation post on Friday.  I’m already looking ahead to next week – I’ve got a perfect September pick for Diverse KidLit.  But you’ll have to wait for that one.  Check back!

What are you reading this week, my friends?

image

There are lots of fun destinations and I hope we get to visit them all someday, but there’s nothing like a beautiful place that just happens to contain some of your favorite people in the world, and that’s what Virginia Beach is.  It’s a gorgeous spot, but it’s ten times more beautiful, for our family, because Rebecca is there.

image

Rebecca and her boyfriend Eric generously opened their home to us for a week, and it was absolute bliss to spend so much time with them.  Rebecca insisted on throwing Peanut a pizza party for her fourth birthday.  Normally we would cook together – one of our favorite things to do – but I had my hands full with a certain young gentleman this time.  But we were in great culinary hands – Rebecca is actually the person who taught me to cook!

image

Rebecca wasn’t the only one in the house who was bent on showing us a good time!  While the girls hung out in the kitchen, the boys were fishing!  Eric showed Steve and Nugget how he uses a trap to fish for bait to use on deep water fishing expeditions.

image

The boys were pretty impressed.  Nugget really liked the boat – which is now called “Uncle Eric’s Water Truck.”

image

While at the beach, we had other friends to see as well!  We managed two play dates with Elissa, sister of my favorite person in Buffalo, and her sweet little guy.  I’d met Elissa once, many months ago when she and her husband and son visited Zan and Paul in Buffalo (we all got together for a farmers’ market expedition) and was excited to see her again and see how much her little man had grown.

image

We met up at the beach, where Nugget raided Hudson’s stash of snacks.  Oops.

image

He did feed some of Hudson’s snacks… to Hudson… so yeah, that happened.

image

And then we attempted to take a picture, and Nugget had a massive meltdown.  Don’t you love the look on Huddy’s face?  He’s saying “What’s this kid’s problem?”  Heh.

image

So much fun!  Zan – you have the cutest nephew!  Elissa and I had a lovely time beaching it with our little boys (Peanut was a bit under the weather that morning and was having a quiet, sand-free day at the house) and clearly Elissa wasn’t too put off by Nugget’s tantrum at the end, because she invited us over to her gorgeous home for a play date a few days later.  No pics from that morning, but we had a fabulous time.  The only sad part was missing Zan.  The fun didn’t feel complete without her, and Elissa and I kept exclaiming that we wished she was there.

image

Vacations are great no matter where you go, but when you can combine them with the chance to spend a week with some of your very favorite people on the planet… well, that’s the highlight of the year right there, my friends.

image

Next week, a hike in a beautiful wildlife refuge – check back!

Do you vacation with friends?

VAB 2016: Out and About

image

Most of our time on vacation this year was spent relaxing on Rebecca’s local beach, which was just fine with us.  But we did get out and do a little bit of exploring around the area, too – because why not?

image

First stop was the boardwalk on the main beach.  It was a lot more crowded and touristy than Rebecca’s peaceful cove.  We were glad we saw it, and equally glad to be doing our splashing elsewhere.

image

Tuesday was a bit more gloomy, weather-wise, which meant it was a perfect day to visit the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center!  Peanut, as long-time readers know, is a pinniped enthusiast, and going to the aquarium is one of her favorite things to do.  We were happy to add the Virginia Aquarium to her list of aquariums visited (growing now – she’s also been to the Aquarium of Niagara and to the Denver Aquarium!).

image

They had one of those cool tunnels that you can walk through and see the fish swimming all around you – my favorite!  The Denver Aquarium had one of these, too.

image

Someone was feeling a bit clingy…

image

But she perked up eventually and enjoyed the cool exhibits, like a tidal pool…

image

And an actual, legit wetlands habitat!  We strolled over the boardwalk and checked out the “Sebastians” in the water below.

image

We also found a treehouse blind and, naturally, climbed up to have a better look.

image image

image

Nugget and Daddy were waiting for us when we got back down, and we continued on through the adventure park (they had ziplining and I soooooooo wanted to try it! one of these days…) on to the second building in the aquarium center, where we met some furry friends…

image

Otters!  They’re so adorable.  Steve compared them to rats and ruined them forever for me.  Thanks a lot.

image

A few days later, on a clearer day, we headed over to the Cape Henry Light to do a little sightseeing.  It was actually our third attempt at seeing the lighthouses at Cape Henry.  The lighthouses are on a military base, so security is tight.  The first day, we were turned around because we’d left our proof of car insurance at home.  The second time, we were turned around because we came fifteen minutes before closing, which is evidently too late.  The third time was the charm and we made it to the lighthouses.

image

So gorgeous!  I love lighthouses and was delighted to have two more to add to my personal collection of visits.

image

Peanut was also happy to see the lighthouses…

image

Maybe a little too happy?  Never too happy, you guys.

image

She performed a song and dance routine dedicated to the lighthouses.

image

And there was general prettiness.

image

Some windy seashore cuddles.

image

And lots of time spent doing this.  We could have looked out at that gorgeous blue water forever.

Next week, we’re spending more days on the beach and soaking up time with friends we don’t see often enough.  Check back!

Reading Round-Up: August 2016

Reading Round-Up Header

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, 2016

wild strawberriesWild Strawberries (Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire #2), by Angela Thirkell – I really enjoyed this follow-up to High Rising, the first in the series of cozy novels set in Angela Thirkell’s version of Anthony Trollope’s Barsetshire (confused yet?).  Wild Strawberries focuses on the Leslie family, who live in luxury at the stately Rushwater House.  Lady Emily is the vague, kindly matriarch, presiding over a family that includes her adult children John, Agnes and David.  John has a deep tragedy in his past; Agnes is preoccupied with her children; and David is the handsome, rakish playboy of the family.  When Agnes’ impoverished niece, Mary, comes for a visit, trouble brews as Mary falls for the flirtatious David – while Lady Emily and Agnes scheme a match between Mary and John.  This being Angela Thirkell, there’s no question of the right match being made in the end – but who that will be, and how it comes about, is the joy of the story.  So as I said, I really enjoyed this – with one caveat.  As I mentioned last month with High Rising, there’s some completely unnecessary stereotypical language that simply does not stand the test of time.  It’s really a shame and kind of puts a damper on what would otherwise be my raging love for Angela Thirkell.  I don’t think it’s worth throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and based on the Thirkell resurgence that seems to be going on, others feel the same.  But this would have been a perfect book had it not been for one offensive scene, and that bums me out quite a lot.

august follyAugust Folly (Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire #4), by Angela Thirkell – I skipped the third, The Demon in the House, because Virago didn’t publish it for some reason.  But all of these Barsetshire books stand alone, so I don’t think I missed any necessary information.  August Folly tells the story of Richard and Margaret Tebben, home on holidays to their parents’ modest dwelling in the village of Worsted, just in time to be part of the annual summer play.  Richard falls head over heels in puppy love with the sister of the squire’s wife (who is much older, married and has nine children – the eldest of whom are older than Richard) and Margaret strikes up a romance of her own.  There are references to Jane Austen, the Greek playwrights, and other literary lights, a hilarious scene involving a bull and heroics that may or may not be heroic, and many appearances by a donkey named Modestine or Neddy.  So, I loved the literary references and this was a fun read (and only one problematic word – we’re getting better).  My only complaints were: (1) the bulk of the action focused on Richard, who was beyond annoying); and (2) I could.not.read.this without getting the Fountains of Wayne song “Stacy’s Mom” in my head every time Richard was “onstage” with Mrs. Dean and/or her daughter Helen, which was most of the time.  Stacy’s Mom has got it goin’ on / She’s all I want and I’ve waited so long / Stacy can’t you see, you’re just not the girl for me / I know it might be wrong, but I’m in love with Stacy’s Mom.

cursed childHarry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts I and II, by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and Some Other Guy Whose Name I Forget – Meh.  Sigh.  What to say about this?  I liked it, I guess, because I love Harry Potter and I love J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world and I am always happy to go back there.  But this was just weird.  The story left me a little flat, and it didn’t seem to really be Rowling’s work, which makes sense, because it isn’t.  It’s fan-fiction by Jack Thorne and That Other Guy, and J.K. Rowling sort of approved it and maybe helped a little?  Anyway, I didn’t love the story, and I agreed with some of the media reviewers who pointed out feminism issues with Hermoine’s character during a part of the story line (which I won’t spoil, for those of you who haven’t gotten to it yet) and the whole thing just seemed strange to me.  Maybe I’ll have a whole blog post in me at some point after I let it settle a bit more.  I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, but… meh.

summer halfSummer Half (Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire #5) – Okay, this one was my favorite!  Edged out Wild Strawberries based on lack of objectionable language – wahoo!  Angie, I knew you could do it!  Summer Half tells the story of Colin Keith, a well-to-do younger son who is marked for law practice but decides to become a schoolmaster instead, to save his father having to support him while he “reads law.”  (Colin’s father doesn’t need the income savings.)  Colin finds himself a job as a junior classics master in a boys’ boarding school, despite being sort of terrified of boys, where he immediately makes an enemy of one of the other teachers (who is jealous that his airhead fiancée is flirting with Colin – completely unencouraged by Colin).  Everyone agrees that this should really just be a temporary thing, Colin included, and boarding school hijinks ensue in a careless atmosphere in which all relevant participants are aware that Colin is neither keeping, nor trying to keep, this job for longer than a term.  Tony Morland (of High Rising fame) is a major character, and much improved – I quite enjoyed him – and Colin’s younger sister Lydia’s eccentricities keep everyone on their toes.  There are picnics, teas, cricket, motoring, and basically everything you would expect from Thirkell.  It’s pure fun from the first page to the last.

cider with rosieCider with Rosie, by Laurie Lee – I’ve had Laurie Lee’s memoir of his Cotswold boyhood on my to-read list for ages, and I put it on my summer list as well.  I finally got around to reading it, and as expected it was absolutely beautiful.  Lee’s vivid descriptions of the natural world, his fond remembrance of his sisters, his spirited invocation of the village school, of caroling shenanigans at Christmas and games of “fox and hounds” spanning the reach of the entire county on hot summer nights… I fell deep and dreamily into this stunning book and several times found myself surprised to be at my metro stop when I had just been in an English village circa 1915.  Magic, pure magic.

 

the natural world of winnie the poohThe Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest That Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, by Kathryn AaltoPost edited because I somehow left this out in the original version – oops!  I now have a new career goal: literary naturalist.  That’s basically what Kathryn Aalto does, and better yet, she does it in England!  In The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh, Aalto takes readers on a deep dive into Christopher Robin’s world, starting with extensive histories of the lives of both A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard, and how their boyhood wanderings inspired Milne’s descriptive writing about the Hundred Acre Wood, and Shepard’s iconic illustrations.  From there, Aalto guides the reader into the Wood itself, with a gorgeous depiction of Ashdown Forest, the Milnes’ estate there, and the particular quirks of the landscape that might have inspired specific spots in the Pooh books.  We visit, for instance, Eeyore’s Gloomy Spot, the Sandy Pit Where Roo Plays, the North Pole, and the Enchanted Place, among others, and speculate on where Pooh and Piglet may have set their Heffalump Trap.  After visiting all the important spots, Aalto concludes with a discussion of the flora and fauna of the Hundred Acre Wood.  It was such a fun read (how did I forget to blog it?) and I am now obviously stalking kayak.com for flights to Heathrow so I can visit Ashdown Forest for myself (which has actually been on my bucket list for ages).

trollopeThe Warden (Chronicles of Barsetshire #1), by Anthony Trollope – After all that Angela Thirkell, I was itching for a visit to the original Barsetshire – that famous sun-dappled land of Trollope’s creation.  Thirkell was famously a Trollope fangirl who decided to set her novels in the imaginary county made famous in Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire.  I’d never read anything by Trollope, but he’d been on my list for awhile, and when I found absolutely gorgeous hardcover editions of his Barsetshire novels on amazon.co.uk (yes, I really ordered them from England because the editions I liked weren’t available in the Colonies) I took it as a sign.  The Warden tells the story of the Rev. Mr. Septimus Harding, warden of a hospital (a.k.a. almshouse) from which he takes an income of 800 pounds per year, while the twelve elderly bedesmen who reside in the hospital receive much less.  The bedesmen – egged on by rich local do-gooder John Bold – decide that they should really be getting a lot more money from the charity, and they commence a lawsuit.  Mr. Harding, initially concerned with his responsibilities to the hospital, soon becomes racked with doubt as to the question of whether his income really is fair and legitimate, and the novel centers on his inward struggle to find out and do the right thing.  It’s the slimmest of Trollope’s Barset novels by far, but every word is elegant and perfect.  I loved, loved, LOVED my first foray into Trollope’s world, and I will be returning there just as soon as I can.  (I have Barchester Towers, the second in Trollope’s Barset series, on my nightstand now, for when I have ticked off one of my other current reads.)  My only complaint about The Warden is that it was way too short – but since the rest of the Barsetshire novels are about three times the length, I expect I will be well satisfied with them.

For a month that included moving, a vacation, and starting a new job, I feel really good about six books this month – especially when they include two classics as gorgeous as Cider with Rosie and The Warden.  The classics were definitely the highlights of my month, and I finished on a particularly high note with my first Trollope.  (First but DEFINITELY not last!)  As for the other books I read, I enjoyed all of them to varying degrees.  It was fun to visit with my Potter pals again, but the story really was quite blah and I preferred my own versions of the characters’ future lives that I cooked up after the end of the seventh book.  The rest of the month I was diving deep into Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels and loving my time spent in that dreamy place.  Looking ahead to September, I anticipate more time spent in Barsetshire – both Trollope’s and Thirkell’s versions – because I’m officially obsessed with that fictional county and won’t rest until I know all its nooks and crannies.

What’s the best thing you read in August?