Feeds:
Posts
Comments

It’s summer, and with summer comes summer reading season – the best season of all, right?  I have a suspicion that my own summer reading may be curtailed this year; I’m predicting that most of my time will be spent in the water with a certain small Pisces who can’t get enough swimming.  So I’ll leave the “books to pack in your beach bag” posts to other blogs and instead tell you about some absolutely gorgeous picture books that we are reading to celebrate summer in all its glory.

Time of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey.  Naturally starting with a classic!  Time of Wonder is an absolutely gorgeous book – one of the tribe of children’s books that is more like poetry than prose, and the accompanying illustrations are perfect as well.  Time of Wonder is perhaps less well-known than some of McCloskey’s other works, like Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings, but it is a treasure.  Written in the second-person singular, it meanders through late spring, when “you” arrive on “your island” in Penobscot Bay, through summer’s high season, through a hurricane, and finally to the end of the season and a bittersweet goodbye (don’t forget to pack your toothbrush!) until next season.  The night-boating scene is simply gorgeous, and the approach of the hurricane is one of the most beautifully written suspense scenes I’ve read in any literature.

Hattie and Hudson, by Chris Van Dusen.  From an old favorite to a new favorite!  We recently brought Hattie and Hudson home, and the kids are OBSESSED.  Hattie is a young girl who loves to explore in her canoe, and Hudson is a lake monster who is lured out of his isolated cave and to the surface when he hears Hattie singing one day.  The two immediately become good friends, but their friendship seems as if it may be short-lived when the townspeople discover Hudson’s presence and decide to remove him from their lake.  Can Hattie save her new friend?  It’s a beautifully illustrated book – not to mention a sweet story about getting to know someone before you judge them – and as we prepare to head to my parents’ lakeside camp for a mini-break this summer, the kids are having so much fun reading it (and speculating on the possibility that there might be a Hudson in the Sacandaga…).

Good Night Beach, by Adam Gamble.  The Good Night Our World series gets a lot of airtime in our house.  We have a stack of them now – everything from Good Night California to Good Night Mermaids.  Both kids love them, but Nugget is particularly into Good Night Beach.  He’s a total beach bum, and when he can’t actually be splashing in the waves, he is always happy to relive the glory days through Gamble’s fun writing and Cooper Kelly’s joyful illustrations.  As with the other Good Night books, Good Night Beach begins with a “Good morning!” and “Are we ready to share a wonderful day?”  It progresses through a day of sandcastle-building, tidepool-watching and sandwich-munching until the sun sets and we sleepily murmur, “Good night, beach.  Thank you for sharing a wonderful day.”

And Then Comes Summer, by Tom Brenner.  I just discovered Brenner’s books last fall, and And Then Comes Summer is his newest.  Rather like Time of Wonder, it’s almost more poetry than prose.  There’s no plot to speak of – it’s just page after page of gorgeous writing celebrating the season, accompanied by sweet, happy, and utterly captivating illustrations.  Brenner’s neighborhood kids sell lemonade, visit the ice cream stand, ride their bikes to a Fourth of July parade, and beat the heat at the lake – sounds like a perfect summer to me!

What’s your favorite summer-themed children’s book?

I can’t believe it, but it’s been almost a month since my last update, and – I’m shocked to report – things are growing.  And not just our stash of watering cans and ceramic pots – some plants are even growing!

It’s been a wild ride and I have some good news and some bad news in the garden.  Getting the bad news out of the way first:

  • While the tomato plants are all growing, and all fruiting, they don’t seem to be doing equally well and I can’t figure out why.  The plant on the far left is doing best – it’s the tallest, the healthiest, and it was the first to grow ripe fruit (read on!).  The plant in the middle is shorter but still seems to be doing decently well.  And the plant on the far right, while it is still fruiting, has some brown patches on the leaves.  I’m hoping that it is just a function of where it is situated in the garden – maybe it’s getting the most sun? – and not verticillium wilt (although I suspect that might be the problem).  I’m giving it extra water and praying that solves the problem.
  • My mint has the dreaded aphid.  I first realized that I had a problem when I noticed hundreds of ants crawling over my mint leaves – ewwwww.  Reading up on what might attract ants to mint (they’re supposed to dislike it, so what gives?) the answer on the gardenwebs was pretty unanimous: aphids.  Turning the leaves over – yup, there they are.  So far, they haven’t spread to the other plants, which is good.  I’m going to try a soap-and-cayenne spray (yes, cayenne again!) and if that doesn’t work, I’ll pitch the mint and start over.  I want to use the mint in beverages and I’m pretty grossed out by it at the moment.

Now for the good news – as I said before, things are actually growing!  Please excuse my complete and total surprise at this.  I’m not a very good gardener and have never successfully grown anything beyond lettuce and extremely hardy herbs.  Red tomatoes are new territory for me.

As you can see – lots and lots of little green fruits – I have high hopes for these guys, as this is my best plant! – and a few little red ones.  WUT!  Once we had a few things to pick, I rounded up the kids for a mini harvest.

This is Peanut’s yes-mom-I-know-I’m-only-picking-the-red-ones face.  Does she look like a teenager or what?

We also had a few green beans that were big enough to harvest from our bean plant.  This was a very pleasant surprise – Peanut came home from school with the bean plant one day this spring; I believe it was the result of a unit on seeds.  I planted it, because why not?

Heyyyyyy.  There are quite a few beans sprouting on the bean plant.  Not bad for a plant that randomly appeared in my kitchen one day.

Happy harvester!  We successfully picked six little cherry tomatoes (which we ate for dinner – Peanut even tried one and said she liked it, so SUCCESS) and four green beans (which no one but Mom will touch).  And all while dodging Nugget-planted obstacles like extra watering cans strewn about with a partially-deflated “soccers” ball to keep things interesting.

Yay, gardening!  If you planted this year, how’s it going?  Anything to report yet?

Good morning, friends!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend celebrating the dads in your life.  We did our best to show Steve how much we love and appreciate him.  On Saturday evening, I cooked him a special dinner – lobster thermidor.  We had it on our honeymoon and ever since, every time I ask him what he wants for dinner, he says “Lobster thermidor!”  (It’s partly a joke, but he’d never turn it down.)  Just to keep him on his toes, I actually cook lobster thermidor every so often – rarely, because lobster is expensive around here (Virginia is kind of far away from Maine…) but, yes, every so often.  (It’s not actually that hard to make, believe it or not.)  On Sunday, we gave him his Father’s Day presents – some local craft beer, a new REI t-shirt, and a few pairs of Smartwool socks (replacing some threadbare ones).  Then we headed out the door for his Father’s Day activity request – the splash park.  He could spend the morning any way he wanted, and he chose to do something fun for the kids.  What a guy, right?!  We all had a good time playing in the water and on the playground, and then each of the kids got to ride the brand-new carousel.  They were pretty much over the moon (although the ride attendant had to hold up the carousel for a few minutes while Nugget hemmed and hawed over which animal to choose – ha!).  Our fun continued with a walk to the pool after naps – and the parents’ fun continued with a dinner of smoked salmon and multigrain bread after the kids went to bed.  (Sorry, kids.)  I think he had a great weekend and felt very loved and celebrated.

 

Reading.  So, actually a pretty light reading week.  I was a little stressed out all week – a heavy workload and adulting-type things had my attention a little scattered.  I did manage to finish Greenery Street over the weekend and just loved it.  (It’s in my work bag, headed out to be loaned to a co-worker, this morning.)  Still reading Northbridge Rectory on my kindle, but hopefully I will have more time and energy for it this week.  On deck, I think, is The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, which I picked up from the library holds shelf this week.  (I also got Lincoln in the Bardo, but I need to kick this little mini-slump before attempting that one.)

Listening.  I’ve been jumping back and forth between the podcatcher and Audible this week, and actually listened quite a lot.  (There were a few commutes during which I just didn’t feel up to reading, so I kept the earbuds in instead.)  Several of my favorite podcasts – including Sorta Awesome and The Home Hour – have summer-themed episodes up, and I’ve been loving those.  And I’m up to mid-eighteenth century fiction in The Great Courses: Classics of British Literature, which means Jane Austen isn’t far away!  This week I got up to “Professional” listening level on Audible and am weirdly proud of that.  (150-ish hours to go until I make the “Scholar” level.)

Watching.  Last night, Steve and I finished the last Netflix season of The Great British Bake-Off.  (I’m refusing to use the American title, because I don’t know why it is different.)  I was actually in tears as they announced the winner of the most recent season.  (I’m a major loose cannon at the moment, apparently.)  Fortunately, new episodes will be airing on PBS soon, so we won’t have to go too long without Paul and Mary.  And in the meantime, maybe I’ll actually be able to read more in the evenings for a little while…

Moving.  Nothing good to report.  After last week’s awesome run around Chicago, I was feeling inspired and itching to get back in my running shoes as soon as possible, and of course life and work got in the way.  I do think I’m coming to a point where I have to find a way to do something for myself – I miss running and working out and I’m pretty much at the limit of putting myself last.  I have some ideas about how to fix it, but nothing concrete right now.  Of course, I did move last week – lots of chasing kids around the splash pad, swimming them around in the pool (quite an arm workout, actually) and I also squeezed in a walk to the library while they napped over the weekend.  (It was too hot to run at that time of day…)

Blogging.  I think I’ve got some fun stuff coming up for you this week – a garden update on Wednesday (I’ve got good news and bad news) and a fun kids’ summer reading post on Friday.  Check back!

Loving.  Two things this week: first and foremost, of course, I was loving Father’s Day and telling Steve how much we appreciate everything he does for our family.  He’s an amazing dad and we are so lucky to have him!  Second, and if you’ll forgive me for sharing more cutesy Nugget stories so recently after this post, I’m loving Nugget’s new tendency to make certain words plural that aren’t actually plural.  For instance, he is very into “playing some soccers” (throwing a soccer ball at my favorite green glass lamp).  And when he feels more sedate, he climbs up into his rocking chair with his little baby piano (which he used to call his “pinano” – I wish that one was still around) and tells me, “I make musics for you, Mommy!”  I adore these little baby-isms and miss them so much when they are gone.  “Soccers” is particularly cute (as long as nothing gets broken).

Asking.  What’s up with you this week?  How was your Father’s Day?

Five For Friday

It’s been awhile since I did a brain dump on here – or have I ever? – but today seems like as good of a day as any, and there are lots of things that I’d like to tell you, but that aren’t major enough to warrant their own post.  Here we go…

  1. I just realized that it’s vacation season.  I was talking to a co-worker who said that she was “in vacation mode” for her fourth of July travel, and I replied, “Yeah, but that’s not for, like, a month,” and was shocked to hear that it’s only a little more than two weeks away.  Seriously, where is the summer going?
  2. There will be a bigger update next week, but I’m surprised every single day that my garden is actually growing.  It hasn’t been without its hiccups (aphids – ugh) but I have a few little green beans, lots of tiny tomatoes and buds, and one red tomato already.
  3. Nugget has developed an intense fear/hatred of “fluff.”  In his little mind, “fluff” is not only actual fluff – dust bunnies or bits of fluff from the dryer clinging to his clothes – but also stray pieces of hair, dirt, crumbs, you name it.  (Hair “fluff” is a particular problem, because Peanut has long hair and both she and I shed regularly.  And if his nanny’s ponytail gets in his face, he admonishes her, “Kelly, your fluff!”)  He comes running up to me or to Steve at least twenty times a day, crying, “Get the fluff!  GET THE FLUUUUUFF!” and we have to then find whatever piece of “fluff” is bothering him and eradicate it.  On Wednesday night, he even had to be convinced to sit down in the bathtub – usually he sits immediately and starts splashing happily.  When I asked him what was wrong he pointed at the tub and said, in real distress, “There’s a fluff down there!”  Poor little guy (also it’s kind of funny).  But he has to learn to live in a fluffy world.
  4. I have a new hobby: shopping for white tulle dresses and for toddler bowtie-and-suspenders sets.  Did I tell you that Peanut is going to be a flower girl in September?  She’s beyond excited – she talks about her dress and her “flower headband” constantly, and every time we walk down King Street, we have to stop and look in the window of the bridal boutique and speculate about Aunt Rebecca’s dress.   (Well, I know what it looks like, but I’m not going to spoil Peanut’s fun.)  At four-and-a-half, she’s plenty old enough to know exactly what’s going on when a wedding takes place (and she’s already been to two weddings – her Uncle Dan and Aunt Danielle’s, and my college friend Betsy’s) and to actually be in the wedding is a major thrill.
  5. Steve couldn’t believe this when I told him, but I have no books checked out from the library right now – not even any picture books for the kids.  I’m down to Inbox Zero and loving it.  It’s been so long since I’ve seen many of my own books that I am enjoying having the freedom to read from my own shelves without library deadlines bearing down on me.  But that’s about to change, because I just got a notice that Lincoln in the Bardo is waiting for me on the holds shelf.

There you have it – five random things that were bumping around in my brain.  What’s been on your mind lately?  Do you also hate fluff?

As much as I am admittedly a homebody, I don’t mind a bit of business travel – especially business travel of the low pressure, conference-attending-and-networking variety, which I had last week.  I spent Thursday and Friday in Chicago, where my firm has their home office, attending a multi-office practice group meeting.  The meeting was great – there were interesting and informative workshops, and I also got to meet colleagues from other offices, some of them for the first time (and I’m hoping that leads to some good projects).  The one drawback to business travel?  Being stuck in a conference room.  Especially when you know what you’re missing, because the view from reception is…

Oof.  It was tough to sit still, knowing that was outside.  Even amidst the fun of hearing everyone’s favorite labor relations war stories (#nerdalert) I found myself fidgeting and glancing toward the window a few times.  Knowing that Friday would be a busy day of meetings right up until I had to head to the airport, I decided I was going to get up early and take a sightseeing run around all that good stuff right outside my hotel.

Started at the hotel front entrance, and a mere two blocks later, I was at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).  No need to stop and gawk, since I was there on Thursday and would be heading back up those high speed elevators on Friday – that’s where our office is.

Next sight: the Chicago River.  Someday, I want to take one of the architecture boat tours that wend their way down this waterway.  Maybe next year.

For this year, I contented myself with a quick breather on the bridge, and a selfie.  (Alert: more selfies ahead.)

Headed down Monroe Street, and totally unexpectedly, spotted…

HAMILTON!  (I may have come to a screeching halt and shouted “THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS!” right there on the sidewalk.  Fortunately, it was very early, and not many people were out.)

My plan was to run to Millennium Park, since I’ve never been there, and then see how I was feeling – and continue on if I still felt good.  I had a specific destination within the park in mind…

Do you see what I see?  A BIG SHINY LEGUME.

Got a little closer…

I call this Red Face With Bean.

Since I was still feeling good (that red face notwithstanding) I continued through the park and headed down to that beautiful lake I’d been staring at all the previous afternoon from the conference room window.

Gorgeous.

The sun was still coming up and there were some really cool cloud formations overhead.  It actually sprinkled a bit while I was on the lakeside trail, but nothing too bad – mostly just refreshing.

Happy runner!  (That’s Shedd Aquarium and the planetarium in the far, far background.  I thought about running all the way to the planetarium, since I was feeling so great, but decided I really needed to get back to the hotel and get ready for work.)

Fortunately, the views on the way back were fabulous, too.

I had time for a few more sights on my route back to the hotel!  Buckingham Fountain…

So, so beautiful.

And finally, the Art Institute of Chicago.  I’d love to get a closer look at all of these sights – not just fly past them on a run.  But it was better than nothing!

I thought I’d probably run about two miles.  Imagine my surprise later, when I mapped it out and it was closer to four!  I felt fantastic the whole time, and could have gone much further if I didn’t have to get showered and fancy for another day of meetings (and then travel).  I’m sure it helped that I took a lot of breaks – as you can tell from all of the pictures.  But I still felt darn proud that I got up early (after a long night of cocktails and bocce with colleagues) and got some miles in.  Plus, on foot is the best way to sightsee, right?

Thanks for a great run, Chicago!  Hope to see you again for more miles one of these days…

Mornin’, friends.  How was everyone’s weekend?  We pretty much lived in bathing suits, which is exactly how I like to spend summer weekends.  On Saturday morning, we hit the farmers’ market and walked around town, then Steve took Nugget to the playground while I took Peanut shopping for a couple of things she needed for camp and to the garden center for pots to transplant the bean plants the kids planted at Exploration Days.  On Sunday, we hit the splash pad in the morning, and it was a wonderland of water tables, waterfalls, and streams of water shooting in every direction.  We all loved it and I can see it becoming a regular activity – especially since our local pool doesn’t open until noon.  Speaking of the pool, we swam on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons; I love that we have a swimming spot so close to our house.  Both kids love the water – but Nugget particularly.  I joke that it’s the Pisces coming out in him, but he really is a fish.  Peanut takes longer to warm up, but she can throw a truly epic tantrum when it’s time to leave the pool.

Reading.  Last week was a bit of a slow reading week (the four book covers lined up notwithstanding).  On Monday, I finished Commonwealth, which was good but not my favorite Ann Patchett.  Then I picked up Greenery Street and read it slowly over the course of the week, interspersed with Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? on Audible.  Towards the end of the week, I also started Northbridge Rectory on my kindle, because I had business travel to Chicago and didn’t want to bring Greenery Street on the plane.  (Too much taking it in and out of bags wears away at the corners of a book, I find, and I want to keep my Persephones nice.)  I’m enjoying everything I’m reading at the moment, but it’s also been hard to find time – between traveling to Chicago and then spending most of the weekend playing with the kids in the pool, I haven’t been able to read as much as I usually do.  I realized, as I was spotting Nugget in the baby pool yesterday, that it doesn’t even enter my mind to pack a book to read at the pool these days, when I used to spend more time considering my reading material than I did my swim suit.  My new summer reality, folks.

Listening.  After finishing Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? on Audible, I went back to the Great Courses for a little while, and listened to a few more lectures from Classics of British Literature – so fascinating!  Over the weekend, I got on a podcast kick and – between driving and cooking – listened to several episodes of The Home Hour, The Mom Hour, Sorta Awesome and The Book Riot Podcast.  My podcatcher is looking scary after so much time spent on Audible recently.

Watching.  Steve and I are still working our way through the three seasons of The Great British Baking Show that are available on Netflix here in the U.S.  I’m definitely feeling inspired to bake!  I planned to make a savory quickbread with some tomatoes that I stewed with thyme and rosemary (from the garden!!) this weekend, but I felt guilty about the idea of baking while my sous chef was napping, so it didn’t happen.

Moving.  Finally, I have something good to report!  I had a fabulous run on Friday morning in Chicago – went out intending to run about two miles and ended up doing closer to four.  It was pretty much my only opportunity to see the sights of Chicago while I was there (on business) so I made it my mission to visit as many tourist destinations as possible, and damn I succeeded.  I took so many pictures that I decided a recap post was in order – coming Wednesday!

Blogging.  As I mentioned above, I have a recap of my awesome Chicago run coming to you on Wednesday, and on Friday – I don’t know.  Usually I have my posts for the week drafted – or at least planned – by the time I sit down to write this one, but I don’t have anything for Friday.  There will definitely be a post – I just don’t know what it is yet!  We’ll all be surprised.

Loving.  Don’t laugh, but I’m sort of obsessed with Airstream trailers.  I’ve always found them intriguing (it’s like living in a baked potato!) but recently I’ve found some Instagram accounts – like Currently Wandering, and Airstream Dreams – that celebrate the iconic trailers for both what they can be and what they can allow you to do, and I just love their posts.  I’ve decided that I want to retire to an Airstream and drive it all over the country.  Steve says that I’m crazy, but I’m determined to bring him around to my point of view.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

The Summer List 2017

Happy summer!  As my friends who’ve been reading for awhile know, summer and fall are pretty much tied for my favorite season.  Fall might have a slight edge, but there’s just something to be said for that magical perfect summer of long warm nights, campfires, lightning bugs, mountaintops, cookouts, and messing about in boats.  Because those are the ingredients for the perfect season, right?  I could go on and on forever about all of the things I love about summer, and all of the fun stuff I hope to do – but let’s just get to the list.

  • The BIG one!  Take a family vacation to C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A.  (Tickets are booked, but the rest of the planning looms.)
  • Go adventuring on the water.  I’ve got some ideas: whale-watching for one, and a kayak tour of the sea caves at Channel Islands National Park for another.
  • Make a homemade tomato tart using tomatoes and herbs that I grow in my garden.  (I’ve planted eight tomato plants.  Something has got to grow.)
  • Visit my parents and get in some quality time with family friends, and spend a day at the lake.
  • Same trip: bag another Adirondack high peak (or two?).
  • Re-read Jane of Lantern Hill, which will always be a summer book for me.
  • Take another trip to Little Washington and eat at the Inn, thanks to an incredibly generous gift certificate from the world’s sweetest mother-in-law.
  • Take the kids for bike rides on the Mount Vernon Trail.  (There are a few things that have to happen for me to do this – a tune-up for Blue and Steve’s bike, locating the bike rack – maybe – and helmets for the kids.)
  • Buy a GoPro.  I’ve been wanting one for ages and it’s time to take the plunge – plus we’ll need it for all these adventures.
  • Spend a weekend on Virginia Beach with my dear friend Rebecca and her family.
  • Keep up the Saturday walks to the farmers’ market and do some baking with seasonal fruit.

I could continue, but that’s eleven things and I usually cap it at ten.  I hope that I manage to check all of these items off the list this season!  Summer always brings out the ambitious maximizer in me, but I really want this one to be epic.  I’ve been working insanely hard and dealing with a lot of stress, and I’m craving fresh air and adventures.

What’s on your summer agenda?