When we moved away from the DC area in 2013, one of the hardest things (I mean, after quitting a job I loved, selling a house I loved, and leaving friends I loved) was knowing that there were so many places that we hadn’t discovered yet, and things that we had left on our to-do list.  So it’s an added joy to be back with a second chance to do those things now – one of which was visit Little Washington, which we finally did over Columbus Day weekend.


Washington, VA, or “Little Washington” as it’s known around the Beltway, is a tiny town (and I mean tiny – you can walk from one end to the other in less than ten minutes) nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the entrance to Shenandoah National Park.  The town is named after – who else? – George Washington, because he surveyed it as a young man.


We stayed at a B&B that was about two minutes outside of town, surrounded by farmland.  The grounds were beautiful and the kids loved spotting the animals and running around on the wide lawns.


They even had activities for Steve!


HA HA.  The hosts prepared a baggie of carrots for the kids to feed to the farm’s gaggle of miniature donkeys.  Of course, my kids wanted nothing to do with the donkeys.  Nugget clung to me while Peanut cowered on the other side of the road, sobbing “Monster, Daddy!  Monster!”  Oh, golly.


Can you even handle how suspicious he is?


Little Washington is home to the Inn at Little Washington, which boasts one of the most sought-after (Michelin starred!) dining rooms in the world.  I’ve heard it’s over $1,000/night to stay there, and about $250/head for dinner alone.  Needless to say, we and our wild children didn’t get any closer than this – across the street.


Instead, we ate several meals at a quiet, friendly place called Tula’s Off Main – the lunches were good, but brunch was a particular hit.  The staff couldn’t have been sweeter, and Nugget made several new friends.  I left with a job offer, because the manager was impressed at how I never stopped moving as I chased after Nugget.  (As I think I’ve mentioned before, he’s an absolute menace in restaurants.)


Saturday was a bit gloomy, so we spent the afternoon wine-tasting.  While Little Washington and the Blue Ridge are beautiful, there’s not much to do inside when the weather is wet.  After it became clear that searching for family-friendly indoor activities was going to be an exercise in frustration, we just decided to hit the wine trail.


We checked out Little Washington Winery, Gadino Cellars, and Rappahannock Cellars.


All three were lovely, but I think Rappahannock was my favorite.  And not just for the kids’ corner, which was stocked with toys and the Little Blue Truck books…


The wines were wonderful!  I’m still partial to Loudoun County for what I consider to be the best Virginia wines.  But the Rappahannock wine trail certainly didn’t disappoint.




We left with a bottle from each winery.  What a delight to build up our wine cellar with Virginia wines again!  Now I can’t wait to get back out to Loudoun County and compare.


We spent Sunday morning at Shenandoah National Park – a post about that is coming next Friday, because a national park visit definitely deserves its own day.  Luckily, we had much better weather on Sunday than on Saturday, so after naps we headed back into Little Washington to check out the town in actual sunlight.


Now that’s what I’m talking about!


We found a place called “Wine Loves Chocolate,” so more tasting happened, of course.



Wine Loves Chocolate was a shop affiliated with Little Washington Winery, and we tried a basic flight of four wines paired with four chocolates.  I can’t remember the pairings now, but I remember the tasting being a blast, and we left with a box of truffles, so basically, a win.


We ended Saturday watching Peanut eat three scoops of strawberry gelato and then run in circles around our room at the B&B until she collapsed in a heap.  Good times.


Until next time, Little Washington!  We’ve heard there’s a big Christmas celebration and parade in early December, so I think we’re going to try to hit that in a day trip.  One thing’s for sure – I can see us returning again and again, because we absolutely loved it.


What’s your favorite weekend getaway?

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 September, 2016

the light yearsThe Light Years (Cazalet Chronicles #1), by Elizabeth Jane Howard – The Cazalet family is gathering at the family estate in Sussex for their annual family summer holidays.  The Brig and the Duchy, family patriarch and matriarch, cast their benevolent gaze over their sons Hugh, Edward and Rupert, daughters-in-law Sibyl, Villy and Zoe, and daughter Rachel, and the legions of grandchildren.  As the family soaks up the sun and plays together, there are marital concerns, cousinly squabbles, unrequited love, sunny picnics on the beach, new babies and childish games.  But it’s 1937 and the coming war casts a long shadow – Hugh and the Brig both worry about the unrest in Europe, while Edward turns a blind eye, young granddaughter Polly frets about the family’s fate if there is a war, and cousins Simon and Christopher wonder what effect the international situation will have on their plan to run away and thereby avoid going back to school.  The Light Years was everything I could have wanted – comforting, engaging, and a joy to read from start to finish.  My only complaint was that there were way too many characters – it took me fully a third of the book to get straight which children belonged to which couple, and then a whole new family was introduced, leaving me wondering if I should start an Excel spreadsheet.  But I have the Cazalets straight now, and I can’t wait to dive into the next volume of the series.

the-witchesThe Witches: Salem 1692, by Stacy Schiff – Schiff is a really well-regarded narrative nonfiction writer (her biography of Cleopatra won the Pulitzer Prize) and The Witches, her latest, got all kinds of raves when it was first released.  I’ve always been particularly fascinated by Salem and the “dark and mysterious” season of the witch trials, and I’d heard such wonderful things about The Witches that I had to pick it up.  It really was wonderful – it really was.  Beautifully, engagingly written, and clearly meticulously researched.  It just was so dense that it was actually hard for me to get through – and I usually have no trouble with dense history books at all – bring ’em on.  But I loved it, and even though it sat partially read on my nightstand for literally months, it was worth the time I took over it.

fables-vol-6Fables, Volume 6: Homelands, by Bill Willingham – It had been awhile since I’d visited the denizens of Fabletown, so I had to remind myself of the preceding events before I was able to sink into the story in Volume 6.  Fabletown is still reeling from its battle with an army of wooden soldiers that broke through from the Homelands in service of the Adversary.  Baba Yaga is dead, slain by Frau Totenkinder, but Bigby Wolf is missing and Boy Blue has disappeared back into the Homelands in search of his lost love, Red Riding Hood.  This volume showcases Boy Blue’s swashbuckling journey through the Homelands, interspersed with a storyline in which Prince Charming, Beauty and the Beast ferret out another of the Adversary’s spies (rather more competently than you would expect – the Beast in particular is proving a decent successor to Bigby, amazingly).  But Boy Blue is the hero of the story, and it turns out there is a lot more to him than meets the eye.  The volume ends with the revelation of the Adversary’s identity – meant to be a big shock, but it wasn’t for me, as I guessed it correctly in volume 5.  Still, I think this was my favorite volume of Fables yet – I loved Boy Blue’s adventures and the dynamic between Prince Charming and his new administrative staff.  There wasn’t nearly enough Bigby or Snow, but I’m hoping future volumes will feature them heavily again.  Overall, I’m loving this series and can’t wait to find out what happens.

alias-graceAlias Grace, by Margaret Atwood – I have had Alias Grace on my TBR for years and finally got to it.  It’s a (rather uncharacteristic for Atwood) historical fiction novel featuring Grace Marks, who was (I think?) a real Canadian historical figure.  Grace, a housemaid, was convicted of being accessory to the killing of her gentleman employer and his lover, the housekeeper.  When the novel opens, Grace has served eight years in prison and done time in a mental institution as well.  A group of her champions is seeking a pardon for her and enlists the help of a young American psychiatrist to probe into Grace’s past and awaken her recollection of the murders, of which she steadfastly claims to have no memory.  As the young doctor and Grace move through Grace’s life story, the sense of foreboding deepens even while the doctor finds himself more and more drawn to Grace as a woman.  So, I absolutely loved every word of Alias Grace – I read it much more slowly than usual, even though I was itching to find out the end, because I wanted to take my time over every perfectly crafted paragraph.  Alias Grace has toppled MaddAddam from the top spot on my personal “best of Atwood” chart, and I’m recommending it to everyone I meet.

little-victoriesLittle Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living, by Jason Gay – My mom gifted me this slim volume last Christmas; I think she’d either read a review in the newspaper or someone had recommended it to her.  I enjoyed it.  Gay switches effortlessly from hilarious (his rules for his fictional Little League team, the Zen Cubs, are a riot – and more people should take his relaxed attitude towards kids’ sports) to touching, as when he writes about the loss of his father and his own battles with cancer and infertility.  It was a sweet book, and I love any book that can make me laugh and cry on the same page.

sofia-khan-is-not-obligedSofia Khan is Not Obliged, by Ayisha Malik – Sofia Khan is a hip urbanite book publicist living in South London.  She’s also a devout Muslim, a hijabi, who prays five times daily, fasts for Ramadan, and blogs about life as a modern Muslim.  Yet when Sofia proposes a “Muslim dating book” to her boss, she’s shocked when her boss loves the idea and presents Sofia with a publication deal to write the book herself.  Sofia, you see, doesn’t think she knows much about Muslim dating.  She’s recently broken up with her ex, because he wanted her to marry him and move into his house with “a hole-in-the-wall” – and if you’re wondering why that was an issue, you’ll have to read the book.  Her friends don’t seem to have it together, either.  Hannah wants to become a second wife, Fozia is struggling with the implications of her past divorce on her current relationship, and Suj is hiding her relationship with a black man from her family.  Meanwhile, Sof’s sister Maria is getting married, her parents are in a state of advanced wedding mania, and Sof herself is trying to sort out her feelings for ex-boyfriend Imran, new flame Naim, and the surly tattooed next door neighbor.  There are musings on everything from samosas to hijab fashion to terrorism (the scene in which Sofia’s parents offend a potential new boyfriend by asking his parents if he’s a fundamentalist is comedy gold) and throughout the book I kept thinking, “Sofia Khan is the Muslim Bridget Jones, except with way more substance!”  I loved Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and am delighted that there is a sequel (“this time, it’s matrimonial!”) – or will be, when the kindle edition gets around to the U.S.  Thanks to my friend A.M.B. for recommending Sofia – you were right, as usual, A!

hamilton-the-revolutionHamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter – The “Hamiltome,” as Lin-Manuel and the legions of #Hamilfans call it, has been on my TBR for awhile, and recently I was lucky enough to get a copy as a gift (another present for my mom, who thought I had been working hard and deserved a special treat – thanks, Mom!).  I saved it for a Friday night, then dove in and spent the entire weekend immersed in the gorgeous photographs of the Hamilton cast, crew and set, the fascinating story of how the musical came to be, and of course the perfect lyrics and brilliant annotations (by Lin himself!).  I’m a HUGE Hamilton fan – not a day goes by, lately, where I don’t quote it at some point – and I’m delighted to have the book on my shelf now.  I’ll be dipping back in and out for years, I know.

ms-marvelMs. Marvel, Volumes 1-5, by G. Willow Wilson – Pictured here is volume 1 only, because this would be the longest reading round-up ever if I showcased all five.  The last week of September was a bit of a doozy.  I had some very stressful stuff going on, and I was quite worried and losing a lot of sleep as a result – so I knew my reading had to provide the perfect escape, and Ms. Marvel fit the bill nicely.  Kamala Khan is a regular teenaged nerd from Jersey City when she sneaks out to a party, stumbles into a mysterious mist, and wakes up with superpowers.  Wahoo!  This is cooler than even her most upvoted Avengers fanfic!  But along with the awakening of Kamala’s powers came the awakening of dark forces that threaten the teens of Jersey City.  It’s a good thing there’s a new Ms. Marvel on the block to protect JC!  Whether she’s defending the Circle Q convenience store from inept robbers, unbrainwashing a herd of teenagers, or shepherding her neighbors through the end of the world, Kamala is on the scene wherever she’s needed!  And she even manages to balance her superhero duties with her schoolwork, an overly religious older brother (who grew on me, I must say) and a best friend who wants to be something more – now that’s superpowers.  I’ve been hearing about Ms. Marvel for ages now, and it didn’t take long before I could absolutely see what all the fuss was about.  Kamala Korps 4 lyfe!  Now when does the sixth trade come out, again?

12 books in September!  (Granted, six of them were comics trades – but those take longer to read than you’d expect.)  Not too shabby for my first full month at a new job, and a month in which I had a lot of personal crap going on, over and above work.  I’m hard pressed to pick a highlight of the month – how do you choose a favorite from amongst the likes of Margaret Atwood, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and G. Willow Wilson?  But it was a great month, so I can’t complain – lots of fun, engaging reading from diverse voices.  And since I’ve been so poky about getting this recap up, and we’re already halfway through October (how??) I can tell you that the next one is going to be another good one.  Stay tuned!

What was the best thing you read in September?


Oof.  Is it really Monday?  As so often happens, I find myself needing just one more day.  One more day to get my house back in order, one more naptime to tear through boxes or scrub the bathroom or – dream of all dreams – sit on the porch and sip tea with a book in my hand while the kids sleep.  But instead I’m dashing around making breakfasts, making lunches, wiping hands and mouths and noses, pulling school uniforms out of the closet and tossing extra t-shirts into the nanny bag, and getting ready for another week, myself, somewhere in there.

We had a lovely, albeit very busy, weekend.  On Saturday morning I dragged the whole family to Loudoun County to go apple-picking.  It was the tail end of the season (somehow I thought we’d have more time down here, but we didn’t) and the only way we were able to get any apples was by hiking across a stream and finding one lonely tree with apples up top, which I had to climb and then pick the apples from the top branches and pass down to Peanut, who was waiting with a bucket.  (Also, when did she get old enough to actually be useful?  Hold me.)  We raced home with everyone shouting at the top of their lungs in their outdoor voices (gotta fight that car nap, can’t let the car nap win) and then while the kids napped the afternoon away, Steve and I ran around getting things done around the house – including putting one of our new IKEA bookshelves together!  One down, three to go.  I’ll post a #shelfie as soon as I have the shelves completed and my books out and organized and shelved.  On Saturday night, my parents came over with some family friends.  Thanks to traffic, they didn’t make it before the kids’ bedtime, but that was okay – it gave us the rare opportunity to catch up as adults, which was much appreciated.  Sunday morning, we went to a special school service at the church with which Peanut’s school is affiliated.  I’m sure it was very nice, but I spent the entire service running back and forth in the back of the nave, trying to corral a toddler who was determined to escape and run into the road.  So the less said about that, the better.  We headed home for bagels and more chatting with my parents and our family friends, until they all hit the road to head back to New York.  We spent the rest of the day on our normal Sunday activities – football (Steve); unpacking (me) and napping (kids).

the-obelisk-gate thrice-the-brinded-cat

Of course, with all that activity, you can probably going to guess what I’m going to say next: I didn’t read much.  Over the course of last week, I finished The Obelisk Gate, second in the Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin.  I think I wrote about it last week, so (in the interests of brevity) I won’t say much.  It was well-written, of course, and very engaging – no surprise there.  But I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone and reading a lot of sci-fi/fantasy this year, and I’m starting to get a bit weary of it.  I liked The Obelisk Gate, but I wonder if I wouldn’t have liked it better had I not been sort of burnt out on the genre from the start.  Anyway, my next move was straight back into the very heart of my comfort zone: a cozy mystery.  And not just any cozy mystery… the new Flavia de Luce!  I think that the Flavia books might be my favorite currently-in-progress mystery series – even edging out Maisie Dobbs.  I am loving the return to Buckshaw and Flavia’s usual exploits.  (Corpses and coppers and chemistry, oh my!)  Although I’m sure that the Nide, the super-secret spy agency of which Flavia’s mother was a member, will pop up somehow, and I’m looking forward to that because I’m quite enjoying that storyline.  That’s all the reading I managed this week.  Between a busy week and several days of tension headaches that made it hard to read during my commute, it was the best I could do.

After I finish with Flavia, I think I’m probably going to read Eowyn Ivey’s new book, To The Bright Edge of the World.  I have a few other library books on the stack that are calling me a bit more loudly, but I suspect I’m not going to be able to return that one, so I want to make sure I squeeze it in before it’s due back.  If I make it through that this week, my next read will be Love Wins, the story of the Supreme Court battle for marriage equality.  I’ve been wanting to read it since it first was published, so I’m excited.

On the blog: my extremely belated September reading round-up (oops!) on Wednesday, and a recap of our weekend getaway to Little Washington on Friday.  Have a great week, friends!

What are you reading this week?

Nugget: Eighteen Months


I’m actually a month late on this, but I can’t let this milestone go by without a comment – Nugget is eighteen months old!  (Well, he’s actually nineteen months old, and I am perennially running behind.)  Eighteen months feels like such a huge milestone to me; I felt that way with Peanut, too.  I know that the books and the conventional wisdom say that the toddler stage starts when the kid starts… you know… toddling, which Nugget did shortly before his first birthday.  But I refuse to leave the baby stage that early.  I will not officially declare toddlerhood until eighteen months – that’s MY rule.  But either way, it’s here now.  Nugget turned eighteen months old, and there’s no denying it, he’s 100% toddler.


^Truck spotting with Nana.  I think they spotted the King Street Trolley.

In the six months (seven, okay) since Nugget’s first birthday, he’s grown up a lot, had many life experiences and become very wise.  Just kidding.  But we have done quite a bit.  Nugget moved houses again, for the second time in his little life – and this was a big move, home to northern Virginia.  We’re so glad to be back, and glad that he gets to grow up experiencing all the cool things that the Washington, DC area has to offer.  He’s already loving his new home – spotting boats on the Potomac and fire trucks cruising the streets almost every day.


Oh yeah.  Nugget’s great love is fire trucks.  He really loves all trucks, but he has a particular place reserved in his heart for fire trucks.  If a day goes by and we don’t see a fire truck, he complains until we take a walk by one of the several fire stations that are moments away from our house.  (I knew the location was good, but I had no idea how good it was, or how important it would be that we live near all the fire stations, when I signed the lease.)  He is always the first to hear a fire siren and will alert the entire house to the approaching fire truck, and we then must all run to the windows to appreciate the majesty of the ladders.  Recently, he got a private tour of the fire station when his nanny was walking him to the playground and they happened to pass by (and his loud appreciation was noticed by the firefighters) and he was on cloud nine for a week.  Oh, yeah, and do you see that hat he’s wearing above?  He has THREE of those.


Another love?  BIKES.  Nugget desperately wants his own bike.  (He test-drove… well, test-pushed… every one of the kids’ bikes at REI, even the ones that were way too big for him.)  Right now he is contenting himself with cruising up and down the upstairs hallway on his giraffe scooter, and riding his sister’s pink tricycle down the street in our neighborhood (with adult help and supervision, of course).  At the rate he’s going, he’ll learn to actually ride a bike before she does.


Here’s something good to report: Nugget has finally started eating real food!  Those of you who know me “IRL” have, I’m sure, grown tired of listening to me stress out about his eating habits.  Short version: while Nugget was always a good nurser, bottle feeder, and puree eater, he took a LONG time to master actual, legit, table food.  He’d put a bite of something in his mouth but couldn’t seem to figure out how to chew and push it back along his palate, and the food would inevitably pop out again.  We were concerned enough to bring it up to his pediatrician and take him to a feeding clinic in Buffalo (a HORRIBLE, worthless experience, as it turned out) and I’ve been at a loss for months.  Sometime around the time of our move, he just seemed to figure out the whole eating thing, and now there’s no stopping him.  He loves cheese, scrambled eggs, fruit – especially strawberries – applesauce, vegetarian hot dogs, yogurt, and especially “mac chee.”  Still not a big fan of vegetables, but we’re getting closer.  And couldn’t be more relieved to see him eating like a kid.


Nugget at 18 Months:

Weight: 24 lbs, 7 oz – just a couple of pounds away from outweighing his (four-year-old!) sister.  He’s in the middle of the pack as far as percentiles go, so he’s not huge by any stretch of the imagination.  He’s just normal sized, and she’s tiny.

Height: Gah, I don’t remember.  Middle of the pack, again.

Clothing Size: He’s in a mix of 18-month and 24-month clothes right now.  Most of his summer clothes are the smaller size, but I’ve been gradually buying up a fall wardrobe in 24 months.  I’m invariably surprised when I put 24-month pieces on him and they actually fit.

Sleep: Back and forth.  Things were very rough right before he turned 18 months old, around the time of our move.  Like newborn rough.  I was averaging four hours of sleep again, and frequently getting less.  Once our furniture arrived (crib!) and we were back from vacation, we sleep trained Nugget (again) because I knew there was no way I could sustain that level of sleeplessness and also adjust to a new job.  Things went well for awhile, but just recently have taken a downturn as we deal with teething and an icky cold.  Poor guy!  He still has plenty of energy to play all day, though.

Likes: FIRE TRUCKS FIRE TRUCKS FIRE TRUCKS.  And all other vehicles, too – cars, motorcycles, dump trucks, construction trucks, trolleys, “big bus beep beep,” trains, the Metro, airplanes and helicopters… if it goes, he loves it.  But fire trucks are his true love.  He’s finally at the stage where he likes to be read to, and his favorite books are Little Blue Truck and Good Night Beach.  Also loves the water (he’s a Pisces!) and had a fabulous time splashing at Virginia Beach on vacation this summer.  And now that he’s figured out how, he loves to EAT!


Dislikes: Despite loving to eat, and despite what it looks like in the picture above, Nugget is NOT a fan of restaurants.  He lasts no longer than five minutes in the high chair, and that’s on a good day.  The rest of the time, he has to be walking around, pushing chairs over, throwing flatware, pouring water on the floor and generally embarrassing the entire family.  If he was less cute, we’d have been kicked out of more establishments.  We attempted to enjoy the restaurant scene after moving back home a few times, but have finally admitted to ourselves that it’s just not the time.  He also dislikes teething (of course), his bedtime lullabies (smart kid knows what’s coming next) and being told that he can’t go outside.


Favorite Toys: Hands down, the favorite toy in Nugget’s heart, right now, is his Green Toys fire truck.  (Thank you, Santa!)  He also loves his other trucks, his WOW! Toys camper van, and his Thomas and Friends train set.  He loves books (see above – especially the Little Blue Trucks books!) and outdoor toys, like his giraffe bike and his sister’s tricycle.  And he’s amassing a large collection of balls, which he loves to throw (often with a “BOOM!” sound effect thrown in for good measure).


Milestones: So many!  Developmentally, he went from walking tentatively to running, jumping, dancing, and climbing on everything.  He’s amassed a HUGE vocabulary – rivalling Peanut’s at his age – and has more than 100 words, many of which he combines in two-, three-, and four-word sentences.  He tells jokes – or at least, he performs gags that he finds funny, and the rest of us find his laughter charming and infectious.  (Current favorite is to call out “Where are you, Daddy?  Where are you, Mommy?  Where are you, Em?” while we drive in the car – he knows very well where we all are, but he cracks himself up pretending to search for us.)  He also switched from daycare in Buffalo to a nanny share in Alexandria, and he constantly amazes us by shouting out the name of the other child he shares the nanny with whenever we drive even remotely in the direction of their house.  In social milestones, the biggest one was, of course, his second move – from Williamsville, NY to Alexandria, VA.  A lesser milestone, but far more traumatic (for me) was Nugget’s first haircut.  I spent the whole time freaking out that he was growing up too fast and wouldn’t look like a baby anymore after it was done, and then the salon made it worse by giving him a certificate that said he had “graduated from babyhood” – poor form, salon.

Quirks: We joke that if Nugget were to run for mayor of Alexandria right now, he would win.  We’ve switched up our walking arrangement – he used to ride in the stroller, and Peanut in the backpack.  But Peanut has been big into the stroller lately, so Nugget moved to the backpack, and he’s made good use of his new perch.  Not only does it afford better fire truck spotting opportunities, but he’s been able to win legions of new fans by smiling, waving, and greeting everyone as we walk down the street.  He gets more smiles and waves back than any other baby I’ve ever seen – already a politician.  Sheesh.

Happy 18 months, little one!  You’ll always be MY baby, even if everyone else thinks you’re no longer A baby.  We have loved getting to know you and all of your sweetnesses over the past year and a half – here’s to many, many more months of discoveries and fun.  We LOVE you!

The Fall List 2016


Fall.  My favorite season!  (Just barely edging out summer, but there it is.)  Season of crisp breezes, cups of hot cider, good running weather, pots of chili, bright blue skies, red and gold leaves, puffy vests and circle scarves, cozy nights with a book and brisk mornings with a cup of coffee on the front porch.  I love it!  I try to make the most of every season as it comes my way – reflections on that next week – but golden fall holds a special place in my heart.  And while I look forward to lots of time spent cuddling up under blankets with my loves, I have plenty of activity on the agenda, too:

  • Research apple orchards and pumpkin patches, and take the kids to both.
  • Figure out fun Hallowe’en costumes for Peanut and Nugget, and get them dressed up and out trick or treating!
  • At long last, take on the billy goat trail at Great Falls.
  • Do some fall cooking and baking – always on the list!
  • Run a fall race.
  • Read more Trollope!
  • Hike in Shenandoah National Park – finally!
  • Get a head start on my 2016 family yearbook.
  • Have a quiet Thanksgiving at home in Northern Virginia.
  • Get the master bedroom cleaned out and unpacked, and organize the toys in the kids’ rooms.
  • Enjoy a few cozy mysteries.
  • Keep up the habit of shopping at the King Street Farmers’ Market.

There we go – a round dozen.  I usually do ten items, but I can’t seem to help adding more in the fall – short season that it is.  Even though this is a long list, I think it’s very doable, and several of the items are already in the works.  I can’t get enough of fall, so here’s hoping for a nice long autumn season in which to get this all done!


Hey there, y’all.  How were your weekends?  Mine was pretty great.  You may have noticed that this post didn’t pop up in the morning like it usually does (or maybe you didn’t, and you don’t care – legit) and that’s because as of this morning, I was still on a getaway to the Blue Ridge Mountains!  Steve and I are both mountain people – we grew up in or near the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York – and we’d been wanting to check out Virginia’s mountain regions for awhile.  So on the spur of the moment (relatively) we planned out a quick getaway to Washington, Virginia – better known around the Beltway as Little Washington – a picture-perfect little town nestled just minutes from one of the northern entrances to Shenandoah National Park.  We had a wonderful, relaxing weekend filled with fresh air and mountain scenery, and it was awesome.  And now I’m back to the city and back to reality, but man, reality’s bite is not quite as sharp as usual when you’re just getting back from three days in the mountains.  I’ll have lots more to tell you about the trip soon, but for now – that’s what I did this weekend.

feathers we-should-all-be-feminists the-obelisk-gate the-hour-of-land

As for reading, I started out last week churning through books at a breakneck pace.  After finishing Stella by Starlight, which was wonderful, I burned through Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson.  I read Woodson’s memoir-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, last year, and was wowed.  Feathers wasn’t quite as breathtaking, but it was still lovely.  Then I finally got around to Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s legendary essay, We Should All Be Feminists, which had been languishing on my TBR for an inexcusable amount of time considering it’s about 45 pages and took less than an hour to read.  (Everyone: go read it.)  After that I turned back to the library stack and picked up The Obelisk Gate, the second in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy.  (I read the first, The Fifth Season, earlier this year, and loved it.)  I’m liking The Obelisk Gate but some of the plot points are really upsetting.  (These are plot points carried over from the first book, so no surprises.  They were upsetting then, too.)  As a result, it’s taking me a little longer to motivate myself to read it.  And as a result, instead of taking The Obelisk Gate with me this weekend, I took another book – Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks.  I’ve been hearing raves, and it seemed like a good choice for a weekend getaway to Shenandoah National Park.  I’m reading it slowly, too – not because I’m having a hard time motivating myself, but because I really want to sink in and appreciate the gorgeous writing.  Only two chapters in, I can already tell that The Hour of Land is going to end up on my list of “favorite nature books of all time” – and might even topple The Outermost House after years of Henry Beston’s classic living at the top of that list.  And with that – I’m off to dig back into The Obelisk Gate so’s I can finish it before it’s due back to the library.

What did you read last week, my friends?

VAB 2016: The Last Night


All good things must come to an end, and tragically, our Virginia Beach vacation was no exception.  We were so grateful to have had a week to decompress in a beautiful place, with some of the dearest people in our world.  I spent the last night of our vacation really living the excellent advice: “Don’t be sad because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.”


We were determined that our last night in Virginia Beach (for now – we will be back!) would be our best night.  First item on the agenda: another spin on Uncle Eric’s Water Truck.


Peanut was prepared with this beachin’ coozie.  Nugget was rocking a new life vest that Rebecca and I bought for him on one of our naptime Target runs.  (The puddle jumper works great, but we thought he’d be a bit more comfortable in something with a slimmer profile – and he was.)


The kids loved being out on the water!  I have to get them out on the Potomac soon.


There’s my handsome husband!  Vacations with him are always fun.

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Nugget got the extreme joy of another turn behind the wheel.  We have a little sea captain on our hands!


Meanwhile, Peanut kept a sharp lookout for mermaids.  She said she saw a few.



Our destination was… well, I have no idea where this beach was, but it was beautiful.  Beautiful, and home to several jellyfish (the stinging kind!).  Which is why I look so excessively nervous, which you hopefully can’t tell from this picture because Steve kindly kept the camera zoomed out.


Away from the jellyfish, and speeding off toward our next destination (looks like someone didn’t want to stop swimming!).  We checked out the houses along the route home and had fun opening it up and really getting a good wake going for awhile – had to, because we didn’t want to miss out on Part II of the evening…


Expecting a particularly perfect sunset, we all trooped over to First Landing State Park to watch the show.  We made it just in time…


The sun was already going down when we got to the beach, and soon we saw…


THIS.  It was. an absolute. stunner.


The whole family trooped into the calm, peaceful water to enjoy a sunset swim.

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Part of youuuuuuuuuur woooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrllllllllllllld…


It was a gorgeous night, and felt like a very fitting goodbye to a vacation that was exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it.


We stayed on the beach past the kids’ bedtimes, and all headed home in the dark for a campfire with vegan s’mores.  As we sat roasting our marshmallows, watching the neighbors drift by on the canal – on their way home, no doubt, from their own sunset viewing parties – we felt very blessed.


Goodbye for now, but not forever, Virginia Beach.  Thanks for the sand between our toes, the salty splashes on our faces, and the gift of a perfect sunset.