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Happy new week, friends!  According to local friends, we are in the middle of a heat wave here.  Part of me totally believes it – the thermometer in my car registered 111* when I started running my errands, and only got down to 105* by the time I’d finished trundling to the library, gas station, natural foods store and liquor store.  But part of me just feels like this is run-of-the-mill July in Virginia.  I don’t know – either way, it’s hot.  We’ve been beating the heat with plenty of pool time and ice cream, and the kids don’t hate it.

On Saturday morning, we hosted a toddler friend for a play date – mainly so that I could pass off hand-me-downs to her mom (a former work colleague and current fellow steering committee member for our professional community), who is expecting.  It also gave me the chance to mess around in the kitchen and whip up an elaborate brunch, which my kids didn’t appreciate, but my friend’s two-year-old did.  They left when it was time for the wee one’s nap, and we headed to the pool.  Sunday found us at the pool again, and around that, just hanging out at home (in the air conditioning!) and running the aforementioned errands.  Ended the weekend on the couch with Ayesha at Last.  All pretty simple stuff, and refreshing before a busy week.

Reading.  Had a very slow reading week – even slower than usual.  On top of continued commuting woes without public transit, I had to work every night this week – even Friday.  Every day I steamed through my to-do list in the office, determined to come home and enjoy a nice long evening curled up on the couch with Mrs. Dalloway, and every night I found myself hunched over my laptop, churning out more work.  It wasn’t my craziest workweek ever, but it was definitely a big billing week.  I needed it, because this coming week I have three days when I’ll be in a non-billable training program.  But it definitely made for a miserable week last week.  I finally finished Mrs. Dalloway on Friday night, after wrapping up work, and turned to Ayesha at Last, which I have out from the library and which I’m really enjoying.  The library stack more than doubled over the weekend; I’m up to eight books checked out again (will I never learn?) so I have my reading mapped out for the next few weeks… or months.

Watching.  Again, no screens this week, unless you count the screen of my work laptop.  But good watching this weekend – I watched the kids do coordinated jumps and somersaults in the pool.  Man, I love summer.

Listening.  Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts!  You’d think that with driving to work all summer, I’d have made a dent in my podcatcher, but – nope.  I also listened to a little Decemberists, requested by Nugget.  YES!

Making.  Lots of yummy food this week.  I made a huge batch of goulash (my version, with kale, gardein meatless ground instead of ground turkey, and whole wheat pasta, wasn’t quite as popular as Nana’s – but the kids still ate it and we have lots of leftovers for the week) and, more exciting, a fun farmers’ market brunch for our Saturday play date.  I made three-layer vegetable quiche in a homemade sourdough pastry crust, and peach-walnut coffee cake.  The peaches, tomatoes, and eggplants I used were from the farmers’ market; the pastry crust was whipped up with my discard sourdough, and the herbs for the quiche were plucked straight from my container garden.  It was all delicious.

Moving.  Hand-in-hand with a busy workweek goes a slow workout week.  I only managed one run – ugh.  I definitely get a workout tossing the kids around in the pool, but I’m itching for more activity this week.  We’ll see if I actually get it – I’m predicting another hectic week on the work and parenting front.

Blogging.  I know I’ve been flaking a lot on you lately, promising posts and then not delivering.  I’m sorry!  Vacation re-entry has definitely been challenging this time around, as I came back to a mountain of work.  (What I wouldn’t give to still be kayaking…)  With this bizarre summer schedule I’m keeping, I don’t know if it’s going to get any better, but this week – at least – I can promise you that I will deliver.  I’ve got a Classics Club book review on Wednesday – making progress! – and the first PNW recap, for real this time, on Friday.  They’re written and scheduled and they will post, and you can take that to the bank!

Loving.  Probably premature to declare this, but I think I might have a new favorite milk!  I’ve been intrigued by Ripple, which is a high-calcium and high-nutrition dairy alternative made with pea protein.  I picked up some of the unsweetened original flavor at the natural foods store, and it’s really creamy and tastes pretty good.  And then – hashtag shopping while thirsty in the middle of a heat wave – I also tossed a small bottle of the chocolate milk into my cart and chugged it on the way home, and – oh. my. word.  12 grams of protein, and just so yummy and rich.  It’s definitely not an everyday kind of thing, but for an occasional treat, yes please.  (Now, if only Ripple would make a Greek yogurt that tastes as rich as Fage…)

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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It’s about that time, folks – time for a summer reading slump, maybe.  I think I might be that unusual reader who reads less in the summer, in general.  Those long light evenings notwithstanding – they are good for reading, I can’t deny that – I find myself so much on the go during the summer that reading often takes a hit.  I’ve always got a book on the go, but I don’t churn through them the way I do during the colder months, and I am not really a big vacation reader (I told this to a friend recently, and she was shocked – but I’m more interested in taking in beautiful scenery that I don’t see every day, and spending time with family or friends).

This summer, books have taken an even harder hit than usual, because my commute is weird.  Have I complained about this once or twice or a dozen times?

For the past three-plus years, I’ve been commuting on public transit – specifically, the D.C. Metro.  Metro definitely has its detractors, and there have been times when I’ve been frustrated by wait times or crowded trains.  And I don’t even want to talk about the time a man sneezed in my purse – yes, that happened, years ago.  But after driving to work for two years in Buffalo, I was thrilled to get back to public transportation.  No more fighting traffic, it’s better for the environment, and – maybe the best part – I can read on the train!

At least, up until this summer!  Metro is rebuilding a bunch of platforms, including the platform at my home station, and the result is that there’s no service near my house from Memorial Day until Labor Day.  Fortunately, my firm is both flexible and understanding, so I’ve been keeping a weird summer schedule that involves driving to work at the crack of dawn two or three days per week and leaving mid-afternoon to beat traffic, and working from home the rest of the time.  No one at work has minded, but as for me – I am itching to get back to my regular routine.  I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to get out of the house at 6:30 a.m. or earlier with two small children underfoot as I try to speed through my morning routine.  I hate driving the city streets, I haven’t always been able to avoid traffic despite my best efforts and have had a few 90-minute-plus commutes, and – worst of all – I can’t read on my commutes anymore.  (Sure, I could listen to audiobooks, and I intended to do some of that, but I’ve just found myself catching up on podcasts, which is also fine.)  Losing my reading commutes means losing about an hour of reading time each day (30 minutes each way), and I’ve had to work after bedtime many nights this summer in order to compensate for leaving early to beat traffic – with the result being that when I do finally open my book, it’s often after 9:00 and I am both exhausted and short on time before lights-out so I can do it all again the next day.

And it’s a vicious cycle.  The less time I have to read, the less inspired I am to pick up a book.  Even when it’s something I’m really enjoying – like Mrs. Dalloway, right now – it’s hard to get into it because I know I won’t be able to sink in and really immerse myself in the story, and I don’t see the pages ticking away like I do when I have that extra time to read during my commute.  Take tonight, for instance.  I’ve worked at least an hour after bedtime every night this week, and I promised myself that tonight I’d come straight down after putting Nugget to bed and pick up my book – but I think I’m going to have to work again.  Between losing the hour of commute-reading and being on a strange interrupted schedule, I feel like a reader who barely reads.

At least I know this is temporary.  Come Labor Day, the Metro platform will be open and trains will be running again, and I’ll be back to my usual commute-time reading.  And the weather will start getting cooler, and I’ll want to curl up with a book all evening.  I know it’s temporary.  It’s not like those unexpected reading slumps that have no explanation and no expiration date, when you wonder if you’ll ever enjoy reading again.  I want to read, but circumstances keep preventing me from it, and the more circumstances prevent me, the less motivated I am.

I love summer – I really do.  But… is it Labor Day yet?

Goooooood morning, friends.  How was everyone’s weekend?  Ours was busy – no surprise there, right?  On Saturday, the one thing I really wanted to do was hit the farmers’ market and stock up on fresh food.  Nugget agreed to be my date, but only if he could wear his dinosaur costume.  Some battles are not worth fighting, so off we went to the market, me in shorts and a t-shirt, and Nugget in a plush dino costume with a hood.  Sigh.  He got so much attention on the walk there and at the market itself, that I don’t think he’ll ever wear regular clothes again.  No sooner had we gotten our market haul unpacked than Peanut and I were out the door again for a(nother) Chuck E. Cheese birthday party.  I left Nugget, who was complaining about a tummyache, home on the couch with Dad, but ten minutes after Peanut and I had arrived at the party, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see the boys (and Nugget was still in the dinosaur costume).  It seems Nugget made a miraculous recovery, thanks to the power of Chuck.  We had a pretty nice time at the party; I learned from my past mistakes and brought a book for Rory Peanut to read, and I think knowing she had that option allowed her to play more freely.  All of the kids greeted each other as if it had been years instead of weeks since school ended, and the parents exclaimed over summer haircuts and missing teeth.

The rest of Saturday was spent doing chores around the house and running errands – pretty standard stuff.  We shipped our luggage back from Seattle and were planning to dedicate the weekend to washing our camping clothes and gear repeatedly, but the box hasn’t arrived yet, gulp.  I don’t want to think about what it’s going to smell like when it does show up (hopefully today).

On Sunday morning, Nugget asked to go to the zoo.  He’d just been there the previous week with his grandparents, and we were planning a relaxed, low-key neighborhood day, so we said no – at first.  Then the downward spiral began, and before long I found myself painting Nugget’s face like a triceratops while Steve ran around packing snacks and water for the zoo.  It happens.  (Peanut declined face paint this time, in case you thought I was a meanie who only painted one of my children’s faces.  There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.)  After the zoo, we pounded a quick lunch and then hit the neighborhood pool, while the kids showed off their new tricks from summer swim lessons.  (Note to self: check the deadline for registering them for fall swim class.)  After the pool, we stopped at our next-door neighbors’ house to drip all over their furniture and ruin the kids’ dinner appetites with 4:30 p.m. ice cream.  Parents of the year!  I ended the weekend hunched over my laptop, pounding out the work that I didn’t get to earlier in the weekend.  And so begins another week.  I’m exhausted.

Reading.  I think I’m getting back into the groove a little bit, after not reading much on vacation.  (More to come on summer reading/slumping soon.)  Earlier in the week, upon returning from the Pacific Northwest, I finished up The Library Book – I’d left it home, even knowing it was going to be overdue back to the library, because I didn’t want to tote it along in the kayak or risk it getting lost in the adventure company’s van, and that was a good call, since everything in the kayak got at least a little clammy and salty, if not outright wet.  Anyway, The Library Book was wonderful and definitely lived up to the hype; I was sad to finish it.  Since I’d been on vacation, I didn’t have any other books checked out of the library (at the time – I did squeeze a library run into the weekend errands because y’all know I develop a twitch if I don’t have a stack checked out) so I finished off the one book I did read a bit on vacation – In Morocco, by Edith Wharton, via the kindle.  Finally, on Sunday – library stack notwithstanding – I turned to my own shelf (!!!) and grabbed Mrs. Dalloway, which I’ve been meaning to read for years and which is on my Classics Club list.  Since I had to work on Sunday evening, I didn’t get the long lazy few hours curled up with a book and as a result I’m only about 30 pages in, but so far I love it.

Watching.  No TV or movies this week, but lots of watching.  I watched the kiddos run around with their friends at a birthday party and splash in the pool this weekend.  (My mom thinks they’re so good in the water that I could start bringing a book to the pool again – for the first time since having munchkins – but I’m an anxious type who can’t bring myself to look away from them for even a second.  Every time Nugget surfaced after going underwater, I asked him if he was okay and if he had swallowed anything.  I think by the end of the swim session, he was wishing I’d stayed home.)

Listening.  Back to podcasts!  I’m working my way through my backlog of episodes of The Crunchy Cocktail Hour right now.  Steve wishes I wouldn’t, because I came home with natural deodorant for him after my grocery run on Saturday afternoon.

Making.  Not much making, to be honest.  I’m trying to cook with more veggies – one bonus to my weird summer hours is that I’m home early enough to make family dinners.  So there’s been some vegetable stew-making and crudite-slicing.  Other than that, just puttering.  Refilling the bird feeders, tidying up the garden, chipping away at the basement purge – nothing particularly creative, though.

Moving.  A fair amount of moving, at least!  I squeezed in one weekday run after returning from vacation, and the vacation itself was very active with lots of hiking, walking, and paddling (pictures starting on Friday).  Plus the usual chasing the kids around, and Nugget invented a monster chase game in the pool – so I even squeezed in some actual swimming!  Hoping to find time to get back to the gym and do some strength training today.

Blogging.  Musing about reading in the Summer of No Metro on Wednesday, and – hopefully, if I get my pictures uploaded in time – the first vacation recap on Friday.  Check in with me then!

Loving.  This is going to sound weird, but go with it.  On vacation, our kayaking guide was putting protein powder in his coffee every morning.  I thought to myself, that’s either disgusting or it’s brilliant, and I resolve to give it a try when I got home.  On Sunday, I dropped about a 3/4 scoop of Whole Foods’ coconut almond plant-based protein into my travel mug and sipped it while I was walking around the zoo, and verdict: it’s brilliant.  It’s like a delicious creamer, but with actual nutrition!  I usually drink my coffee black, and I don’t think I’d do this every day – in fact, I’m sipping black coffee as I write this post – but what an idea, right?!  I’m always looking for way to squeeze extra protein into my day, since I eat very few animal products.  I can’t believe I never thought of protein coffee.  So simple!

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

How is it already July, and the first half of 2019 is over?  Seriously, where does the time go?  I didn’t even realize how far we were into this year until I read Katie‘s blog post on her top ten favorite books of the year (so far), and it occurred to me – whoops, I’m overdue to share my list!  So, in no particular order, here they are:

Doctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope – I continue to love and savor Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire.  Doctor Thorne, the third in the series, has everything – love, social comedy, and (spoiler, but this is Trollope, so…) a happy ending.  I’m working my way through Trollope slowly so as to ration, but they’re all so good.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie – Somehow, I am still not sure if I’d ever read Roger Ackroyd before or not.  But either way, I’ve read it now – and WOW.  While I guessed who the murderer was, that never takes away from my enjoyment of a mystery (on the contrary, I like patting myself on the back) and it was such fun.

Queen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days that Changed Her Life, by Lucy Worsley – I hadn’t read anything by Worsley before (although I am being a terrible book friend and sitting on a copy of Jane Austen at Home that belongs to my friend Susan) but clearly I was missing out.  I loved this creative take on biography and will definitely be seeking out more of Worsley’s work.

The Familiars, by Stacey Halls – This book has it all!  Women!  Pregnancy!  Witchcraft!  Medieval towers!  No, seriously, this book has it all.  I was completely captivated – and especially after I learned that it was based on a real witch trial and that all of the main characters in the book – Richard and Fleetwood Shuttleworth and Alice Grey – were actual people.

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten – I had it in my head that this was going to be unpleasantly violent and gory, but it wasn’t.  Although I enjoyed every story, my favorite was the story of the elderly lady disrupting her former flame’s late-in-life wedding plans, via a little murder, of course.

The Glimpses of the Moon, by Edith Wharton – I’ve been on a Wharton jag for months, which probably hasn’t gone unnoticed.  It was hard to choose just one, but I did really love Nick and Suzy Lansing’s comedy of errors love story.

Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – A re-read, read for book club and in preparation for the (awesome!) adaptation, I enjoyed Good Omens just as much as when I read it years ago.  It’s just as funny, just as touching, and just as delightful a read as ever.

The Bird King, by G. Willow Wilson – I first encountered Wilson’s work through the delightful Ms. Marvel, and loved Alif the Unseen when I read it last year.  The Bird King confirms: everything Wilson touches turns to gold.  I’ve got to seek out her memoir, The Butterfly Mosque, next, and I can’t wait to see what she does with Wonder Woman.

Another Self, by James Lees-Milne – Having never read anything by Lees-Milne, but knowing he was a prolific and witty diarist during World War II and in the years after, I wanted to read his memoir of early life first – and I was lucky enough to score an out of print Slightly Foxed Edition.  It was such a good time, and I especially loved his description of a mistaken communication he received while manning the radio while serving in His Majesty’s Forces during the war.

1939: The Last Season, by Anne de Courcy – Sticking with British history (because obviously) I devoured 1939 and loved every page.  The denial, forced gaiety, and desperation to cling to tradition comes through so clearly, and is especially jarring as de Courcy juxtaposes chapters about society functions and cricket matches against chapters describing the increasingly frantic machinations at 10 Downing Street.  I love non-fiction about England in the first half of the twentieth century, and this was just my sort of read.

Not a bad first half of the year, indeed!  I can’t wait to see what the second half holds – hopefully more great reads.

Re-Entry (Ugh)

Well!  I flaked on you yesterday, didn’t I?  Sorry about that.  This re-entry period has been a challenge.  I came back to a mountain of work and several urgent deadlines – yet all I want to do is ease back in, spend a morning restocking the larder at the farmers’ market, sit on my porch, take deep breaths, go to the library, and reflect on my trip.  I’d planned to write something thoughtful for Wednesday, but ended up working until 11:00 p.m. (so much for vacation!) on Tuesday, and then Steve needed the computer on Wednesday.  So be it.

So that’s my way of poking my head into this space and saying – hi.  I’m here, and I’m working my way back to full mom power after being truly away from it all.  I found enough vegetables in the fridge to make a lentil vegetable stew for tonight, I’m plugging away at my mountain of work, there will be a book-related post for you tomorrow, and it will all get done somehow.  Counting down to fresh farmers’ market flowers and veggies on Saturday, and the beach in August.

Hey, friends! I have a confession to make – for the last week I have been off on a crazy adventure, kayaking the Salish Sea. We saw orcas, porpoises, and so much other incredible wildlife, paddled 60 nautical miles in five days, and left with a bunch of new friends. Today is a travel day, and I’m headed back to DC and reality – sigh. I’ll have a regular Monday post for you next week and good stuff coming on Wednesday and Friday, so do check in with me then.

Catch ya on the flip side!

July!  I hope all of my American friends had a fun and safe Fourth yesterday.  I’ll have a recap coming soon, but we’re still deep in holiday weekend fun, so since it would be premature to show you Independence Day pics, I’ll share my to-do list for the garden this month instead.  So here we are – the hottest part of summer.  As for me personally, I love the heat.  My garden, maybe not so much?  All the more reason to keep on top of things.  Here’s what I have planned for the month.

  • Feed the plants at the beginning and middle of the month.
  • Stay on my squirrel spray and weeding.
  • Harvest as things become ripe.
  • Daily pruning and pinching to keep the fruits fruiting and the herbs from bolting.
  • Pull the bolted lettuce and start over with… I don’t know, more herbs, probably.
  • Start researching fall planting and consider whether I want to start any cool-weather plants this year.
  • Make dried mint and thyme.

A small list for a small garden, right?  There really isn’t a whole lot to do, except stay ahead of the sun and the pests, and try to get to the ripe stuff for harvesting.  I’d love to have more space, and more scope for exploration, but for now – constrained by both square footage and time – this is what I’ve got to do.  And one nice thing is: since it doesn’t take all that long to pull a few weeds and water the plants, I can spend more time relaxing with my feet up and a glass of lemonade in hand.  And that’s the point, right?

What’s on your garden to-do list for July?