If you’re a Janeite, you probably remember your first Austen novel.  Mine was Sense and Sensibility.  My mom – seeing that I was ready for more “grown-up” reading material – bought me a copy when I was a high school freshman, and I devoured it.  I loved the writing, the restrained drama, and the feeling of being a grown reader.  Most of all, I loved that I could relate to this book that was written so long ago and had become such a classic.  I saw myself in practical Elinor, and I rolled my eyes at Marianne the way I used to do at a particular drama-loving friend.  I was used to identifying with book characters – bookish Elizabeth from the Sweet Valley series, for instance, or casual, green-leaning Dawn from the Baby-Sitters Club books.  But in Elinor Dashwood, I saw for the first time that I could identify with adult characters in classic literature, too, and it opened up a whole new horizon.

Over time, I read all of Austen’s books.  I have always been a character-driven reader, and Austen’s heroines spoke to me.  Sparkling Elizabeth Bennet – quiet Fanny Price – steadfast Anne Elliot.  I seethed at the treacherous antics of Lucy Steele and Mary Crawford, and I fell in love with secondary characters like Charlotte Lucas and Jane Fairfax.  I have read all of the books multiple times now, and I know them like the back of my hand.  And of course, I have my favorites.

This past Christmas, Steve gifted me with a veritable mountain of books, including the gorgeous (and much-coveted) Folio Society editions of my three favorite Austen novels: Pride and PrejudicePersuasion, and Northanger Abbey.  Yes – Northanger Abbey.  NOT Emma.

Some of you are cheering me right now, I know, and others have their hands on their hips and are getting ready to explain why I’m just wrong about Emma.  I have a good friend and fellow Janeite who adores Miss Woodhouse and can’t abide Miss Morland.  But here’s my thing: I’m a character-driven reader.  While I love a good plot (especially in a mystery novel) and I live for gorgeous nature writing (of the kind L.M. Montgomery does so beautifully) if the main character doesn’t capture my sympathy, nine times out of ten the book is ruined for me.  And I really, really don’t care for Emma Woodhouse.  She is vain.  She is snobbish.  She is selfish.  She is inconsiderate.  She believes herself to be superior to nearly everyone around her.  She meddles in other people’s lives.  I just think she’s a horrible person.  Nearly every time she opens her mouth, I want to shout, “That was badly done, Emma!”

I will say that Emma is one of the small minority of books that I still like despite the main character.  I love the village of Highbury and its denizens – especially the Bates ladies.  And Jane Fairfax is one of my favorite secondary characters in all of literature – I wish Austen had written the book about her.  And of course Emma gets a bit of comeuppance in the form of Mrs. Elton.  I know I give Emma a hard time.  After all, rich or poor, we all need to grow up and mature.  It’s just that most of us don’t get the indulgence of doing our growing up and maturing while leaving a wake of destruction behind us.

By contrast, I just enjoy Northanger Abbey so much more.  Rather like Emma, it’s a coming-of-age story.  Catherine Morland begins the novel as a silly young girl, just leaving home to see the world for the first time.  In Bath, she meets Isabella Thorpe, who introduces the two points of conflict in the book: the novels of Ann Radcliffe and Isabella’s brother John Thorpe.  Catherine then proceeds to let herself get swept away – unable to get out from under the thumb of the domineering John in Bath, and with a runaway imagination once she finally escapes John and heads to Northanger Abbey with Henry and Eleanor Tilney.  At Northanger, Catherine makes a series of dumb decisions – including the decision to go sneaking around the house and investigate Henry and Eleanor’s mother’s room because she believes (thank you, Ann Radcliffe!) that the woman must have been murdered or at least killed by neglect.  (In the “updated” version of Northanger, written by Val McDermid, Catherine is a Twihard, which sounds about right.)  Catherine embarrasses herself (“Remember we are English!”) and nearly loses her chance at happiness with Henry because of her foolishness.  But somehow, it’s more endearing than Emma’s foolishness.  Perhaps because it’s foolishness born of bookishness instead of snobbishness.

I’ve had quite a few debates about Northanger Abbey with a dear Janeite friend of mine.  It seems to inspire great argument and divisiveness even among Jane’s most devoted fans.  This friend considers Northanger her “sixth favorite” Austen novel – she may even dislike it.  (!!!)  She considers Catherine to be a flake (well, she is a flake) and Henry to be a mansplainer (that I don’t agree with, because mansplaining is when a man explains to a woman about something she knows better than he does; I’ve been mansplained plenty, and that’s not what Henry does).  Meanwhile, she loves Emma.  (She adores Mr. Knightley.  I’m quite happy to cede that point to her, as he is one of my favorite Austen heroes too.)

One of Jane Austen’s several residences in Bath.

Meanwhile, it seems there’s nothing you can say to so divide Janeites than to declare that Northanger Abbey is one of your favorites.  (For me, it clocks in at number two, because nothing could displace my dear Pride and Prejudice, which is the most perfect book ever written.)  I recently joined the “Drunk Janeites” group on Facebook (such a fun bunch) and we’ve had a few lively discussions about Northanger Abbey.  (All very polite.  They usually start with someone expressing an intent to read it for the first time, and the responses are about evenly divided between “OMGeeeeeee you’re gonna LOVE it TILNEY SWOOOOOON” and “Not my personal favorite, but I hope you’ll enjoy it!”)  Still, I thought it was interesting how Northanger seems to provoke more (friendly and respectful) disagreement than any other Austen book.  I do wonder why that is.

How do you feel about Catherine Morland and Emma Woodhouse?


The Spring List 2018

I know, you’re probably thinking – wasn’t there supposed to be a recap of the winter list first?  Well – normally, yes.  But I have nothing to recap, because I didn’t do one. single. thing. from that list.  Oops!  Blame work, you guys.  It’s been so insane that I have had legit no time to do anything at all.  So I’m blowing right past it, and getting right to listing out my hopes for spring.  At this point, who knows if any of it will happen.  But at least it’s fun to daydream and plan.

  • Catch up on the 52 hike challenge – I’m several weeks behind.
  • Decide on a destination for summer travel and start planning.
  • Visit Mount Vernon and see the baby animals (that was so much fun last year).
  • Take Peanut and her doll Willa to tea at the American Girl store.
  • Hike the Bluebell Loop Trail again.
  • Read Beverly Nichols’ Merry Hall trilogy.
  • Pick tulips at Holland in Haymarket again.
  • Start the process to get approved as a Girl Scout troop leader.
  • Bake a strawberry-rhubarb pie with a lattice crust (with fruit from the farmers’ market, if possible).
  • Write letters to my grandmother, and get up to New York to visit her at least once.

Here’s hoping that I get around to doing at least some of these.

What’s your favorite spring tradition?

Happy, happy, happiest of birthdays to my big three-year-old guy!  I still can’t believe that Nugget has been with us for three whole years.  I know I’m a broken record on this point, but it really does seem like just yesterday that he was born.  This weekend was, of course, all about celebrating him.  We let him choose the activities all weekend long.  On Saturday, he wanted to hike, and Steve suggested Piscataway Park, since it’s fairly small, has nice views of the Potomac, and there are farm animals.  He had a ball, of course.  There was a brief lightsaber duel using sticks, but aside from that it was a very peaceful morning.  (I worked during naptime, but you have all probably guessed that already.)  His request for the evening was pizza delivery and a movie on the couch.  Somehow – I wasn’t present when the movie was selected – I walked into the room just in time to hear Robert Muldoon shouting “SHOOOOOOT HER!”  Jurassic Park, really?!  Peanut, who is surprisingly bloodthirsty, loved it, but Nugget was over it by the time the T-Rex started terrorizing Lex and Tim in the Jeep.  Ummmm.  Yeah.  Saw that coming.  We switched to Winnie-the-Pooh and he was happier.  On Sunday, his actual birthday, he asked to go to the zoo, so we all piled into the car and headed off for more animal fun.  As Steve said, the kids’ zoo-meters were on “full” after our morning – it seemed like we saw absolutely everything there was to see.  Lions, tiger, cheetahs, zebra, bison, gorillas, orangutans, pandas, elephants, sea lions, sloth bears, plus visits to Amazonia and the Reptile House (which always makes me think of Harry Potter).  We ended the weekend with a walk to the playground, a birthday dinner out in one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, and takeaway gelato – all Nugget’s requests.  All in all, a pretty awesome weekend.  Nugget, in case you didn’t already know, is a really fun guy.


Reading.  Pretty busy reading week, I had.  I finished up Winter in Thrush Green early in the week – such a lovely, peaceful book.  I can’t get enough of Miss Read.  And I’m going to need her again soon because my next two reads were not at all peaceful.  In the latter half of the week, I read This Will Be My Undoing, which was a fascinating and illuminating essay collection about “living at the intersection of black, female, and feminist in (white) America” – as part of my ongoing mission to learn to be a good ally.  Finished that up on Friday and turned to – apparently I’m feeling extra political this week – Fire and Fury.  I know, I know, but everyone in D.C. is talking about it and I wanted to be part of the conversation.  I reserved it from the library and have been waiting more or less patiently for months.  And I know parts of it have been questioned or discredited, but if even a third of it is true – dayum.

Watching.  Well, there was the aforementioned Jurassic Park.  And on Friday night, Steve and I blazed through the final three episodes of the first season of The Good Place – such fun.  But the best thing I watched this week had to have been the delight and joy on Nugget’s face as he ripped open his birthday presents, explored the trail on his birthday hike, and rocketed around the zoo.  I think he had a great weekend, and I loved seeing him enjoy himself.  I’m so, so very glad that I have him.

Listening.  Honestly, y’all, I can’t remember what I listened to last week.  I know I listened to a few podcasts, but nothing is really jumping out as a highlight.  I’m thinking of switching back to Audible.  I have an audiobook of my favorite of the Anne series – Anne of the Island – and it’s calling my name.

Moving.  The most moving this week, like last week, was by air travel.  On Tuesday morning (6:30, bright and early!) I was taking off from D.C. on my way up to Boston for two days of meetings and hearings.  It was an exhausting trip, but there was one very bright spot – see below.  Other than that, I’ve already told you about my movement over the weekend – lots of kiddo-chasing on a hike and around the zoo.  (The National Zoo is built into a hill, so it’s actually a decent workout, walking around there.)

Blogging.  Spring list coming to you on Wednesday, and then on Friday I’m going to get controversial about Jane Austen.  You’re intrigued, aren’t you?  (It’s not that controversial.  Well, maybe.)

Loving.  Although my trip to Boston was short and hectic, and I was a bit grumpy about going at all, there was a highlight – I got to visit with Katie!  I haven’t seen her in more than five years, and it felt so good to get hugs and a cup of tea from both Katie and Jeremiah.  For awhile, it didn’t look like it was going to work out, because work had me running around until after 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, and I had an early morning meeting on Wednesday and other assignments to squeeze in.  But I was determined, and fortunately Katie is a night owl, so at 9:30 p.m. I found myself curled up on her sofa with a cup of peppermint tea.  She gave me the tour of her lovely new(ish) apartment, and we chatted as fast as we could about everything under the sun – books, family, Boston, D.C., politics, tea, work, you name it – for two hours.  I feel so lucky whenever I get to visit with a faraway blog friend (like when I had dinner with A.M.B. last May in Philadelphia) and I left Katie’s house drooping with exhaustion but beaming with the gladness that comes of two hours with a dear friend.  Thanks again for the tea and sympathy, dear Katie!

Asking.  What are you reading this week?


Dear Puppy,

In two days, you will be three years old!  Where does the time go?  You’re still a baby, aren’t you?  Yes, I say, but no, you say.  You’re a BIG MAN, according to you.  You want to do everything yourself.  Getting dressed, washing your hands, brushing your teeth, putting on your sneakers and your jacket, even buckling yourself into your car seat.  You’re a fiercely independent little fella, and I love your determination and your fire.

You are Daddy’s “buddy bear,” and Kelly’s “Prince Charming,” and Mommy’s “puppy.”  You are the sweetest, silliest, most hilarious little soul.  Twenty times a day, I catch myself gazing at you in wonder.  How can you possibly be so big and bright already?  Weren’t you just placed in my arms for the first time yesterday?  You were, and yet you weren’t.  But just last Sunday you fell asleep in my arms and napped on me on the couch, so you’re still a baby.

On to the things about you.  Your love of fire trucks is going strong – especially the trucks from the firehouse near our home.  You love nothing more than to walk or ride your bike over there, shoot the breeze with the firefighters, and inspect the vehicles.  You’ve amassed such a fleet of toy fire trucks that I can’t even count them anymore, and you even have two toy firehouses.  I love that you love trucks that help people and keep your neighborhood safe.  You have such a big heart.

A more recent love: gorillas.  You’re a big zoo fan and you love lots of animals, but gorillas and orangutans have your heart.  A trip to the zoo is not complete without a visit to the Great Ape House.  (Come spring, there will be a baby gorilla.  I can’t wait to see your eyes light up.)  You love to comment on what the apes are doing – especially Baraka, the gorilla, and Redd, the baby orangutan.  Your delight in them is infectious.

Then there’s soccer.  If you see a ball, you have to kick it.  (This has caused some problems – like when you kick someone else’s ball, or when you kick a playground ball into something suspicious and liquidy.)  You’re really athletic for such a little guy, and you can kick the ball halfway across the field if you want to.  The soccer field on our block is one of your happy places, and the big kids are so nice about letting you play with them when you come tripping up to the field, clutching your big sister’s soccer ball to your chest, all hopeful smiles and impatient feet.  The best is when the field is empty, though.  Then we run and run and kick and scream with laughter until we fall down exhausted.

I can’t even tell you how much your smiles light up my world.  And your mischievous smirks, and your sweet arms reaching up and around my neck.  “I love you, Mama.”  Or, “Pretend I’m Redd and you’re Batang.”

You’re shockingly smart.  Not to be all braggy, but – your brain is truly amazing.  You know more about orbital dynamics than most adults I know, and you’ll hold forth on the topic to the whole playground (while wearing your space shuttle cape backwards, of course).  Your vocabulary includes hydrationintransigent (you told your beloved nanny, Regular Kelly, that she was being intransigent the other day – sigh), echolocationantagonizepaleontologist, and more.  People are always shocked at how clearly you speak and at the big words that come out of your little mouth.

You’re unabashedly you.  You love to put on your Darth Vader jammies and have a tea party (#KyloRen).  You adore Darth Vader and shout “Hey, it’s my buddy!” every time he’s on the TV screen – which is often, because you ask to watch Star Wars on a weekly basis.  (80% of your wardrobe, at least, is made up of fire truck and Star Wars-themed clothes, and you often request your “Master Yoda glow-in-the-dark” shirt.)

You love to be outdoors.  The outdoor world is your happy place and immediate cure for anything that troubles you.  If you wake up grumpy from your nap (bad dream?) I always know how to make it better – throw on your sweatshirt and sneakers and hustle out the door to play on the playground, kick the soccer ball, dig in the sandbox or just breathe fresh air.  You love nature, too.  You’re happy to hike on foot most of the time, these days, and you find opportunities to hike everywhere – from the dirt road at Mount Vernon to the bushes on the edge of your favorite playground.  When asked where you’re hiking, you always answer: “Shenandoah.”

You’re so very sweet.  You share your nanny with a baby girl, and you’re so very gentle and loving with her that your nanny is constantly getting asked if you and the baby are siblings.  You’re teaching the baby to crawl and you love to hold and kiss her.  You’re also crazy about your sister’s friends – especially her BFF, S, and another friend, C.  Really you’re just a dear kindhearted little spirit with so much love to give.  You’re forever hugging and kissing and reaching up to hold hands.

And you’re still a mama’s boy.  You are looking for me from the minute you wake up, and you’re in my arms every chance we both can get.  There is a special place in my heart reserved just for you and I must kiss your little cheeks a thousand times a day.  They say there’s nothing like the love between boys and their moms and I can attest to the truth in that.  You’re my treasure; you light up my life.  I really can’t see how the world muddled along for so many years without you, and I sure am glad you’re here now.

Happy birthday, my puppy.




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 February, 2018

Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward – Esch lives with her brothers on a hardscrabble patch of land called the Pit.  Life is tough.  Esch’s mother died in childbirth and her father is usually drunk and mostly absent.  Salvage the Bones tells the story of approximately two weeks leading up to, and encompassing, Hurricane Katrina.  Esch is fourteen and newly pregnant, her father has snapped out of a fog and is obsessively preparing for the hurricane – which doesn’t really concern any of the kids – Esch’s brother Skeet is worrying over his pitbull’s new puppies and her other brothers are trying to carve out a place for themselves.  Salvage the Bones was a gritty book – grittier than I usually read.  There was a dogfighting scene which I knew was coming and was able to avoid, but the rest of the book was nearly as brutal.  It was well-written but hard to read.

Thrush Green (Thrush Green #1), by Miss Read – There’s nothing like Miss Read to counteract the effects of a particularly tough book.  Thrush Green is the first in a series of the same name, and introduces the reader to the village of Thrush Green and its inhabitants, and those of a larger market town, Lulling, nearby.  All the events of the book take place on a single day – May 1, when Curdle’s Fair visits and sets up on the village green.  Through the day, we meet many of the characters who will recur throughout the Thrush Green series – sweet, sad Ruth, gentle Dr. Lovell, mischievous Paul, bustling Dimity, blustering Ella, kind Dr. and Mrs. Bailey… and we see the town through the eyes of Mrs. Curdle, the fair’s proprietress, and her grandson and heir apparent, Ben, who is in love with a Thrush Green girl.  Not to prattle on, but it was such a delight.  A re-read for me, I loved reacquainting myself with Thrush Green and its environs – like an English spring day, it’s pure refreshment.

I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai – This one had been on my list for a very long time, and I finally got around to checking it out from the library.  It was a powerful story, indeed.  I was already acquainted with Malala’s story, in general, as most are – she is now, after all, a global celebrity.  But I really wanted to read her story in her own words.  So, I thought that I Am Malala was wonderful, but with one reservation.  The book was co-written, naturally, and I felt that the word choices sometimes strayed too far into the territory of making the voice sound like a young girl’s.  I found myself wondering how much was authentically Malala, and how much was the co-writer imposing what she thought should be Malala’s style.  That said, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world, and especially once Malala starts her activism, the narrative takes off and becomes absolutely riveting.  It’s an important read and well worth picking up.

Portrait of Elmbury (Brensham Trilogy #1), by John Moore – I’ve collected the first two volumes of the Brensham Trilogy from Slightly Foxed (the third is due to be released this summer) and have been so excited to dig in.  In this first volume, Moore captures the heart and spirit of an English market town from the late Edwardian period through to World War II.  Occasionally gritty, occasionally sentimental, most often real, Moore presents “Elmbury” (the thin disguise he gives his actual hometown of Tewkesbury) warts and all.  He starts the book by rhapsodically describing the high street outside the window of “Tudor House” (the splendid home where he grew up) then pivots directly into a down-and-dirty portrayal of the domestic squabbles of the residents of the hardscrabble alley across the street.  But even while being unabashedly real and portraying country town life in all its darknesses and difficulties, you can sense a real affection behind Moore’s portrayal of the town and its inhabitants.  I loved it.  (Word of caution: as with so many books of the period, there are a few sentences that are extremely jarring and offensive to the modern reader.  At some point, I am contemplating a post about babies and bathwater.  For now, reader be forewarned.  This one, I think, is worth the comparatively little problem language.)

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie – In my quest to read through Adichie’s backlist, Half of a Yellow Sun was next up.  This is Adichie’s book about the Biafran War, a subject which seems to be close to her heart (I did some research into Adichie and she hails from the section of Nigeria which was once Biafra).  The narrative follows three main characters – Ugwu, a houseboy; Olanna, the wealthy lover of Ugwu’s master; and Richard, an expat who becomes friends with Olanna and her lover, Odenigbo.  Olanna and her twin sister, Kainene – Richard’s lover – are the daughters of a rich and important chief, and all of the characters (Ugwu, perhaps, excepted) begin the novel in great domestic comfort and end it barely surviving (or maybe not surviving – it’s not entirely clear, in one case) the horrors and privations of the Biafran War.  This is a period in history, and a region, that I am sorry to say I know very little about, and I was shocked and heartbroken at Adichie’s portrayal of the suffering that attended Biafra’s three-year secession from Nigeria.  Adichie, as always, writes extremely powerfully and beautifully, and while there are some hard passages, Half of a Yellow Sun was an astonishing read.

Well, a bit of a light February in books.  It was to be expected, since it’s a short month and I was (and still am) absolutely crazed at work.  Everything I read was good, so that is comforting.  Portrait of Elmbury had to be the highlight – I love a good descriptive book (fiction or non-) about rural England, and that was right in my wheelhouse.  On to March – a longer month, maybe a slightly less busy one (we can hope) and I am excited about my to-read pile.  For #femmemarch, I plan to read only women – shouldn’t be hard; most of my books are by women – and I’m excited to dig into some of my library acquisitions and to browse my own shelves a bit more.

What was the best thing you read in February?


Monday, Monday, Monday.  Again.  Honestly, the days of the week don’t really mean anything to me anymore.  Saturday and Sunday are just the days I work at home in my pajamas instead of putting on my black pants and going to the office.  Do I even need to tell you I had weekend work?  Y’all probably just assume it at this point and it would be a fair assumption.  Next weekend, I’m determined to take both days off.  This weekend, I worked a few hours on both Saturday and Sunday – par for the course.  I was catching up from a particularly hectic week that saw me rushing off to Massachusetts on a last-minute, one-day business trip on Thursday – I was happy to go and it was a good trip, but it threw the week into a tailspin.  On Saturday I had to run into the office for about an hour, so Steve and the kids accompanied me downtown and went to the Natural History Museum while I quickly did the tasks I had to be in the office for.  I walked over to meet them, but by the time I got through the massive line into the museum, they were ready to leave.  I got to see the T-Rex skeleton and… that was it.  Total bust.  We had a better afternoon.  Once I wrapped up naptime work and the kids were up, we all went out for a bike ride and to the playground.  On the way, we stopped by the fire station (naturally) and Nugget got to ride his bike directly into the firehouse.  Mind blown!  Sunday morning, we headed down to Mount Vernon to hike the nature trail at the estate.  There were a few intrepid flowers poking up through the soil, and one flowering vine – spring is coming.  I worked during naptime, of course, and we finished the weekend with a walk/bike to the playground in the afternoon, then crashed on the couch in the evening.  I’m really, really burnt out and I need a few days of solid relaxation.  It doesn’t seem to be in the cards, though, so I’m taking what I can get.


Reading.  It was a better reading week, at least.  I finally finished Half of a Yellow Sun, which was gorgeous and heart-wrenching, as Adichie’s books always are.  (I’m almost through her bibliography, but I need to take breaks as I go, because the books are intense.)  After that, I wanted to pull something else from the library stack, so I grabbed Kathleen Collins’ slim volume of short stories, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, and plowed through it over a couple of days.  Short stories aren’t usually my jam, but I enjoyed these – just got lost in the writing and didn’t concern myself too much with plot or characters.  Finally, after a long and stressful week at work, I really needed some mental cocoa (trademarking that phrase, what do you think?) and I was behind on the #MissReadalong on Instagram, so I picked up Winter in Thrush Green.  Three months into the readalong, I am just falling in love with this town and these characters.

Watching.  Back to the usual this week – not much.  I’ve been taking a bit of a screen detox since the Olympics ended.  Steve talked me into an episode of Victoria on Saturday, though, and it was a good one.  We hollered with laughter at Victoria jumping up and down on the couch, and at her attempt to watch Albert give a speech to a London abolitionists’ meeting (“I’m here… incognito.” — “Pardon me, ma’am, but… your disguise is not impenetrable.”) – ha!  And Steve almost banished me from the living room when the Duke of Sussex appeared onscreen and I jumped up from the couch and shouted, “OMG, MR. COLLINS!  IT’S MR. COLLINS!”

Listening.  Sort of all over the place again.  Podcasts, the Forlorn Strangers, show tunes – the usual suspects.  Nothing jumps out as especially memorable.  The Book Riot Podcast‘s discussion on #MeToo hitting children’s publishing, I guess – an important conversation, but sad and tiring.

Moving.  Well, the biggest movement was on Thursday when I flew from Washington, D.C. to Providence, Rhode Island, drove into Massachusetts for all-day meetings, drove back to Providence and flew home – all in one day.  That was a long day.  Otherwise – nothing much to report.  The aforementioned hike on Sunday morning – that was nice.  I’m wearing my Fitbit and pretty consistently hitting 10,000 steps per day, which is not surprising given how many times I walk either to the kitchen to get juice for people, or to the copier to scan documents.

Blogging.  I failed you last week – I am sorry.  I promised my February reading list on Friday and I didn’t deliver.  It’s coming this Wednesday instead.  Will that work?  And then on Friday, I am celebrating my little puppy who is about to turn three.  How is that possible?  Hold me.

Loving.  I promise this weekly post isn’t going to become a litany of kid quotes, but I have to share with you something that Peanut said recently, because it has been putting a smile on my face more consistently than pretty much anything else.  Earlier this week, she was sitting at the breakfast table while I was making her toast and griping about something (probably about how overwhelmed I am at the moment) and she, sparkly little sage that she is, said calmly, “Don’t worry, Mommy.  No matter how bad things get, it’s nothing a little glitter can’t solve.”  Ain’t that the truth?

Asking.  What are you reading this week?


Oof!  It had been awhile since the last hike, and since I am doing the 52 Hike Challenge, trying to keep up a pace of one hike per week all year, I really needed to get back out on the trail – I’m way behind.  I also needed to get on the trail for my own sanity.  It’s been a particularly busy and stressful time at work and I needed to move my feet and breathe fresh air.  Check, and check.

Looking for something relatively close to our house, and short/easy enough to let the kiddos walk if they wanted to, we hit on Huntley Meadows Park.  Apparently we’ve been there before?  Steve remembers hiking there with Peanut in the Baby Bjorn shortly before she turned one.  I have no memory of this.  Guess I was sleep deprived?

The hike started with a nice, flat trail through the woods, and everyone’s favorite – explanatory placards about the wildlife in the park.  It’s mostly wetlands, which makes sense, because D.C. and northern Virginia is a swamp.  Peanut started the hike in the backpack, but Nugget wanted to walk.

Before long, the boardwalk began!  This must be a riot of green and life come spring.

We were a little anxious about letting Nugget walk the boardwalks, but he was wonderful – held tight to our hands and never tried to run off.  I carried him through certain sections that the geese seemed to like for their toilets – gross.  We were literally picking our path through mounds of goose droppings, and it was actually really smelly.  Yuck.  But only in sections.  I don’t know…

Spotted a few ducks out on the water.  This picture does them no justice – the males had the most gorgeous jewel-toned heads.

Eventually we made it across the wetlands to the other side of the park.  Although I love boardwalk hikes, I was kind of relieved to get off of the boardwalk this time – and away from the goose poop.

First thing’s first – we found an observation deck and climbed up to take in the scene from up high!  Nugget was particularly excited to have such a good view.  I guess when you’re knee-high to a grasshopper, it’s pretty exciting to get to look down at something.  Or he takes after his mom, who loves a good observation deck view.

Back on dry land!

And guess who decided to join the rest of the family with boots on the trail?  (She wanted to wear her school Mary Janes, and I vetoed them.  I was right, too – there were some muddy sections, and the rain boots were absolutely the correct choice.)

They both walked the rest of the hike – so Peanut walked the second half, and Nugget walked pretty much the entire thing (minus the goose poop sections).  I think they needed it, too.  The weather has been gross lately, and neither one of them has had enough playground or outdoor time.  A walk in the woods did us all good.

Oh, and the kids made friends.  We met a nice older couple who were in the park for some birdwatching but didn’t seem to mind our loud little critters.  They were grandparents and their grandkids are a little older than these two rugrats, so I guess they were used to it.  We walked with them for at least half a mile, maybe more, and the kids chattered their faces off.  They were patient and sweet, and promised that the kids were entertaining and not disturbing them.  Ha!

Such a lovely park!  I can’t believe I didn’t remember it!  We’ll have to come back when the birds return, and bring the zoom lens.

Have you been hitting the trails recently?