The Classics Club Challenge: The Greek Myths, by Robert Graves

I was really looking forward to reading The Greek Myths. First of all, I was acquainted with Robert Graves’ writing through his classic I, Claudius, which I had loved – and how can you beat that edition, with an introduction from Rick Riordan? So I was definitely excited.

Athene invented the flute, the trumpet, the earthenware pot, the plough, the rake, the ox-yoke, the horse-bridle, the chariot, and the ship. She first taught the science of numbers, and all women’s arts, such as cooking, weaving, and spinning. Although a goddess of war, she gets no pleasure from battle, as Ares and Eris do, but rather from settling disputes, and upholding the law by pacific means. She bears no arms in time of peace and, if ever she needs any, will usually borrow a set from Zeus. Her mercy is great: when the judges’ votes are equal in a criminal trial at the Areiopagus, she always gives a casting vote to liberate the accused. Yet, once engaged in battle, she never loses the day, even against Ares himself, being better grounded in tactics and strategy than he; and wise captains always approach her for advice.

I have a decent background in Greek mythology from reading relatively widely over the years, and I’m fairly well grounded in the personalities and main myths of the Olympian gods and the principal heroes – Odysseus, Heracles/Hercules, Jason, Achilles, and to a lesser extent Theseus and Perseus (who I tend to mix up). I figured this classic compilation, which covers the entire Greek mythologic landscape, would be riveting.

It… wasn’t.

I hung in fairly well through the beginning sections, which focused more on the gods. Quickly, I gave up on my plan of reading all the footnotes, and just stuck to the main text – which was plenty dense enough without all the extra scholarly bits. Graves really started to lose me by the time he introduced the heroes, and after diligently ploughing through a quarter of the book, I started aggressively skimming. Call me unsophisticated, but I do like to have at least one character to root for, and everyone in The Greek Myths – gods, heroes, and other mortals alike – was capricious, jealous, and downright homicidal. Even my longtime favorite Olympian, Artemis, was murdering people left and right until the words started swimming on the page.

Take, for instance, the story of the marriage between King Peleus and Thetis the sea-goddess (a union which produced Achilles). Zeus had the hots for Thetis (and everyone else, too!) but prophecy held that she would give birth to a son who was greater and more powerful than his father. No one can be greater or more powerful than Zeus, so obviously he had to be hands-off with Thetis, and she was married off, much to her chagrin, to a mortal. Trigger warning:

Now Cheiron foresaw that Thetis, being immortal, would at first resent the marriage; and, acting on his instructions, Peleus concealed himself behind a bush of parti-colored myrtle-berries on the shores of a Thessalian islet, where Thetis often came, riding naked on a harnessed dolphin, to enjoy her midday sleep in the cave which this bush half screened. No sooner had she entered the cave and fallen asleep than Peleus seized hold of her. The struggle was silent and fierce. Thetis turned successively into fire, water, a lion, and a serpent; but Peleus had been warned what to expect, and clung to her resolutely, even when she became an enormous slippery cuttle-fish and squirted ink and him–a change which accounts for the name of Cape Sepias, the near-by promontory, now sacred to the Nereids. Though burned, drenched, mauled, stung, and covered with sticky sepia ink, Peleus would not let her go and, in the end, she yielded and they lay locked in a passionate embrace.

(It’s almost impossible to choose a passage to quote, there’s so much “ravishing” in this book. I missed my nice sanitized-for-children version that I grew up reading.) Anyway, Thetis’ marriage starts off inauspicious and gets worse: all of the Olympians attend the wedding, and Hera, Athene and Aphrodite get embroiled in a dispute over a golden ball, which leads directly to the Trojan War. Hate when that happens, don’t you? At least no one gets murdered at the wedding.

If you couldn’t tell, I was decidedly ambivalent about this book. I can see myself returning to it over and over as a reference – Greek mythology is so ubiquitous in popular culture that it’s nice to have a comprehensive guide, for sure – but I didn’t enjoy the reading experience nearly enough to re-read it from cover to cover. Rick Riordan’s introduction was the best part.

Have you read The Greek Myths?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (October 25, 2021)

Good morning, friends! What a weekend – actually, what a week. I did a decent job of staying (mostly) current on work while I was in Seattle the week before last, but spending Monday on a plane wrecked it all. I had almost a hundred emails by Monday evening, and with more pouring in every day I spent the week working feverishly to catch up. I finally did, by Friday evening, but the early part of this week is another busy one, which means that by Thursday I’ll be hopelessly behind again. Ah, well – such is life, and at least my job is fun! I’ve certainly had jobs that were just as busy and much less enjoyable, so I’m not insensible of my blessings, for sure.

One of which is the ability to close my laptop on a Friday evening and spend the weekend enjoying family time without worrying about work (most weekends). That’s what I did this weekend. On Saturday, I wanted to head down to Old Town to check out the Halloween decorations and see Old Town Books’ new bigger digs. So we rolled out late morning, enjoyed brunch at one of our old favorites – Virtue Feed + Grain – and spent a few happy hours wandering around King Street and the surrounding neighborhood. When we got home, Steve wanted to watch Formula One and Peanut wanted time to herself, so Nugget and I went out and hit up a fall festival at a nearby garden center (he loved it and I hated it – too many people, made me nervous) and then wandered over to his favorite local playground, where he taught a gaggle of toddlers to play soccer and I read one of my new acquisitions that I plucked off the shelf at Old Town Books earlier that day.

Sunday was, if anything, even more quintessentially fall. After a lazy morning at home, we drove out to the country to pick pumpkins at our favorite patch. Narrowly avoided a pumpkin avalanche (the farm is on a hill), filled a wheelbarrow, and ate freshly baked apple cider donuts on a haystack – how can you go wrong? I ended the day with a late afternoon neighborhood walk while chatting on the phone to my Aunt Maria, followed by homemade shrimp curry with kale and coconut milk – yum. Happy new week, y’all.

Reading. Well! Despite being a busy week of playing catch-up at work, I did manage to do a fair amount of reading. Most of it was backloaded toward the end of the week and over the weekend, but such is life. I finished Come, Tell Me How You Live early in the week, and then spent a few days glorying in Frenchman’s Creek, one of the few Daphne du Maurier novels I’d not yet read. I thought a pirate love story would be a good choice for the lead-up to Halloween, but it turns out the action all takes place at a sultry midsummer – not so much chilly autumn nights. No matter! I adored it anyway. Over the weekend, I steamed through the last seasonal anthology from Melissa Harrison, then polished off Ghostways: Two Journeys in Unquiet Places in one sitting (I loved one of the sections; was less fussed by the other). Finally, on Sunday morning I turned to The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey’s most famous mystery novel, and was immediately swept up in it. I can already tell this is one I’ll be sad to finish…

Watching. More of the usual – you all know what I’m about to say. Some Great British Bake-Off, some Monty Don, and more Miranda Mills YouTube videos while doing the unending round of house chores. All delightful.

Listening. I’m still on a podcast kick. I finally finished going through each downloaded show and deleting the episodes I’m not going to listen to, and now I’m just working my way through my backlog. Still on old bookish podcast episodes, but I’ll start sprinkling some parenting content in again one of these days.

Making. It’s that time of year – creative juices are flowing. I finished up the knitting portion of my sloppy scarf (still need to weave in the ends, block it, and figure out a way to hide all the mistakes I made) and moved on to a new project – an infinity scarf with a modern, simple lace pattern. I’m testing out this idea with the thought that if it works, I might make a few to give as Christmas gifts – stay tuned. (For that reason, I won’t show you the scarf – either on the needles or the finished product – until after I’ve decided whether the pattern is gift material.) Then I’ve made some progress, finally, on a 2020 family yearbook; I’m gunning for a deadline of November 15, because I got some epic Shutterfly coupons that expire that day. Oh, and lots of homecooked dinners, per usual. Maple and mustard-glazed chicken thighs, with maple-roasted carrots were the highlight of the week.

Moving. Sigh. A busy workweek is just the kind of week when I should make movement a priority, to feel good – but (you can see this coming, a mile away, I know) I just didn’t. Next week? Let’s hope. I did at least get out for my daily walks, so that’s something. I’m on a streak of 10,000 or more steps every day and have kept it going since June 3, so I can’t stop now.

Blogging. I have a Classics Club review for you on Wednesday, and the penultimate Adirondack summer travel post on Friday – check in with me then!

Loving. It was so much fun to be back in our old haunts this weekend – I love my little exurb town, but there are so many things I miss about living in Old Town. The best was seeing the new Old Town Books location and all their new square footage. (The classics section seems to have shrunk, though! But the nature shelf grew, so it evens out.) It’s a beautiful, light-filled space with blonde wood shelves stocked with delicious-looking reads, and the mural on the side of the store (reading “Alexandria: City of Readers”) is gorgeous. I wish I’d had more time to putter around in the shop; between Steve and the kids and an army of trick-or-treaters (apparently it was Halloween at the local businesses, a week early – poor planning on my part) the store was crowded and I didn’t really get in the good long browse I was craving. I may have to go back midweek when the kids are in school…

Asking. What are you reading this week?

ADK 2021: Sweet Sixteen on Upper St. Regis and Spitfire Lakes

When Steve and I first started to entertain the possibility that we might be able to pick up our fifteenth-anniversary touring kayaks while up in the Adirondacks over the summer, I started making a list of places to paddle if we actually managed to get the long dreamed-of boats. I stopped list-making almost immediately, realizing that if I got too invested in dreaming of paddling spots, it would prove an irresistible temptation to Fate and we might never get kayaks. But list or no list, one Adirondack paddling destination was stuck in my mind – Upper St. Regis and Spitfire Lakes. If we did have something to paddle, this was the top of my list.

You all know how it worked out – we left the Lake George Kayak Company with two gorgeous new boats lashed to the roof of our car and immediately started planning a week’s worth of paddling. I told Steve that Upper St. Regis and Spitfire were my top priority – billed as the perfect combination of pristine, unspoilt nature and classic Adirondack architecture. We agreed to save the two lakes (which are connected by an inlet) for a special morning’s paddle on our sixteenth anniversary.

I’d never been to the St. Regis lakes before, even though they’re less than an hour’s drive from Lake Placid. (But my cousin Jocelyn later told me that she and her husband, Jason, spent their honeymoon here after their pared down exchange of wedding vows in June 2020 – I can see why; this was a perfect place to unwind and enjoy being together.)

Ready to paddle!

There is only one public launch spot on Upper St. Regis, and none on Spitfire, so we had our route pretty much set. We launched in the secluded little bay reserved for public car-top boats, and paddled out onto the open lake.

The water was as clear as crystal. And Steve spotted a loon! Seriously – how perfectly Adirondack can you get?

While we would have loved to explore every nook and cranny of Upper St. Regis, our time was limited and we were determined to get to Spitfire, so we made straight for the little inlet connecting the two lakes.

Spitfire is famous for having some of the most beautiful examples of classic Adirondack Great Camps in the park. Almost as soon as we cleared the inlet connecting Spitfire to Upper St. Regis, we saw this stunning camp and made our way to the shoreline so we could appreciate the architecture from close up.

Can you imagine spending summers here? I was in heaven just looking at the place.

We bobbed around admiring for a few minutes, then continued on down the shoreline. Steve announced: I see a castle! A closer look revealed: yes, definitely a castle.

It was actually Camp Cobblestone, a famous Great Camp built in 1906 and recently lovingly restored.

Don’t look now, but some of the buildings had HOBBIT DOORS. Can you even?

Oh, and almost every boathouse had at least one classic wooden speedboat, most of which were proudly displaying American flags. I mean. It was like something out of a Kiel James Patrick catalog. I love classic Americana, so I was dying.

We could have stayed out on Spitfire for hours, and then spent hours more exploring Upper St. Regis. But again, work and reality beckoned, so we reluctantly headed back to the boat launch, bound for the car and then our laptops. But we had a post-work hike, followed by a dinner overlooking Mirror Lake, to look forward to – so anniversary celebrations were far from over.

And I really couldn’t think of a better way to kick off sixteen years of marriage to the very best paddling buddy.

Next week: an anniversary afternoon hike.

A Week of Whole30 Dinners

When I tell people that I like to do periodic Whole30 nutritional resets – just love the energy and mental clarity I get from them – I inevitably get the same question: “But what do you eat?” Whole30 is a super restrictive program (no grains, sugar, dairy, beans, soy, legumes, additives or alcohol – definitely not for everyone, and not sustainable over the long-term – that’s why it only lasts 30 days!) but it works well for me, especially when I am on my cooking game. Breakfasts and lunches are usually super-simple, grab-and-go affairs, but I like to make dinners more of an occasion. Here’s a typical week of dinners on the Whole30:

Sunday: Paleo golumpki. I like to make elaborate Sunday dinners, and on this occasion I decided to recreate one of my grandmother’s standbys, adapted for Whole30. Traditional golumpki, or golabki, includes a mixture of beef, pork, and white rice, wrapped in cabbage and doused in tomato puree. Rice is not Whole30 friendly; beef and pork are, but I don’t eat them. So I made some adjustments: ground turkey instead of beef or pork; cauliflower rice instead of white rice; and tomato puree with almond milk whisked in instead of soup. Served in my grandmother’s bowls – I’m sure my version wasn’t as delicious as hers, but it did the trick! Yum.

Monday: chicken, pepper and potato skillet dinner with Paleo pesto. I get a lot of recipes from the Wegmans website (mom alert!) and this skillet dinner caught my eye as easy enough to adapt. Seared chicken breasts, tucked into nests of red pepper slices and cherry tomatoes (which I tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried oregano), then roasted all together in a big skillet. I topped the parents’ portions with generous dousings of walnut pesto, made Whole-30 friendly with nutritional yeast in place of the Parmesan cheese. I love pesto – this was something of an experiment and it was fabulous; I’ll definitely be making it again.

Tuesday: turkey in pesto over zoodles. The pesto made a repeat appearance on Tuesday (I made a double batch!) this time crowning sauteed ground turkey over zucchini noodles. The kids passed on the pesto both nights (I think the green color scared them) and they ate ground turkey over buttered dinosaur-shaped pasta, while the grownups feasted on zucchini.

Wednesday: taco salad. There’s lettuce under there, I swear! Many Lego Movie jokes were made as we had “Taco Tuesday! But still! On a! Wednesday!” The taco meat was ground turkey again (apparently I had a theme going this week) sauteed with mild salsa and Southwest Seasoning from one of my favorite local spice shops. Served over a head of romaine that I needed to use up, with sliced cherry tomatoes, a sprinkling of olives, and Primal Kitchen vegan ranch dressing. I love salad, and this might be my favorite (although there’s usually more lettuce – this head was getting a little past its prime and I had to cut away parts).

Thursday: garlic-paprika haddock and roasted broccoli. This tray bake is one of my favorite easy, fix-it-and-forget-it, weeknight dinners. Both the fish and the broccoli are roasted up straight from frozen; the fish is simply seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, and generous lashings of garlic powder and paprika; the broccoli is dumped straight onto a baking sheet out of the freezer bag, and roasted just with olive oil, salt and pepper. 400 degrees, 40 minutes, and it’s all ready at once. Couldn’t be easier, and we all inhale this dinner whenever I produce it.

Friday: takeout from our local Peruvian joint! Friday nights are takeout nights, even on Whole30. We’re eating late these days because Nugget doesn’t get home from soccer until about 6:40pm, and we’re all starving by then. I picked up Peruvian from one of our favorite spots – Steve and I shared ceviche; I had 1/4 chicken with sweet potato fries and a side salad, and the kids ate nuggets and fries (Steve’s main dish was a burrito bowl). It’s possible that there are some non-Whole30 ingredients in the ceviche and in the sauce for the chicken, but I decided not to worry about that too much.

Saturday: chicken stew with potatoes and kale. On Saturday, we were out apple-picking and didn’t get home until after 5:00, but I had pre-cooked dinner a couple of days before (and was dipping into it for lunches during the week) – a big batch of chicken stew with butter potatoes, kale, and some cabbage left over from Sunday’s golumpki-cooking adventure. I love to make big chicken stews and throw in whatever veg I need to use up; it’s not Steve’s favorite, or Peanut’s either, but they eat stew gamely enough and Nugget and I love it. Even when I’m not Whole30-ing, chicken and vegetable stew is a menu regular during the colder half of the year.

So – you see! I eat very well indeed on the Whole30. I love noodling around on Paleo recipe websites, or tweaking old favorites to be Whole30-friendly. Do you have any favorite Paleo recipes?

It’s Tuesday Night (Hoo Boy)! What Are You Reading? (October 19, 2021)

Well! Hello. Tap, tap. Is this thing on? So – once again – I totally flaked on you yesterday, and I am sorry. In my defense, I was on! a! plane! heading back from a week and a half in Seattle. Last week, I mentioned that I had a business trip; what I didn’t mention was that because my birthday fell midweek while I had to be away, Steve and the kids came too! Major bonus points to my team leader, who didn’t bat an eye when I said my anklebiters would be joining me in Seattle, and major major bonus points to Steve for holding down the fort, parenting on Pacific time and working on Eastern time, from a hotel room, for an entire week – all so that I would have a good birthday. He is the best. Anyway, there will be full recap posts to come once I work through my backlog of travel posts (a very good problem to have, friends) but for a quick preview: after my conference wrapped up on Friday morning, and I finished up a few work tasks that couldn’t wait for Monday, we rolled out of Seattle and headed for two days of exploring Olympic National Park! We hit all three of the ecosystems in this “three parks in one” wonder – a cold and rainy walk down Ruby Beach on the Pacific coast; a snowy (!!!) and very quick visit to Hurricane Ridge in the mountains; and quite a few hikes in the breathtakingly gorgeous Hoh Rain Forest. We saw salmon leaping out of the Sol Duc River, hiked to two waterfalls, ate delicious food, got rained (OR SNOWED) on the entire time, and hated to leave. And since we didn’t see any banana slugs, marmots, or Olympic mountains (Hurricane Ridge was completely socked in) we’re definitely going back ASAP. Spent all of Monday on a plane heading back east and missing the rainforest terribly – but looking forward, rather, to a return to home cooking and running shoes and non-kindle books. And now here I am.

Reading. Well, it was such a busy week – between work and kids and PNW sightseeing – that reading took a backseat. Not a surprise. Agatha Christie’s memoir of her time on archeological digs with her second husband was a slim and engaging read but still took me the entire week to finish (in fact, I didn’t wrap it up until my plane was touching down at Dulles on Monday). I really enjoyed it, though!

Watching. We’re all caught up on the latest season of The Great British Bake-Off and back to staring at each other until the next episode drops each Friday. (What will we watch tomorrow, and Thursday?) And as always, Miranda Mills’ YouTube channel is the soundtrack to my house chores, and a lovely soundtrack it is.

Listening. Still enjoying my clean-ish (I have several shows still to tidy) podcatcher, and catching up on back episodes of Tea or Books? – it’s so much easier to listen to podcasts when my podcatcher isn’t a completely overwhelming morass.

Making. I’m onto phase three of my sloppy scarf. Basically I’m making it out of scrap yarn; phase one was seed stitch with a dusky blue worsted; phase two was a chunky oatmeal cable, and phase three is a very simple and modern lace pattern in a soft, deep purple. I’m on the hunt for some cool patches to sew on to cover all the mistakes when I finish. Do let me know if you have a source, thanks.

Moving. Oooooooof. So, I didn’t have room to pack my running shoes in my Seattle luggage, which means I have an uphill climb to be ready for the MCM 10K in two weeks (it’s virtual again this year; I’m thinking of running on Halloween). But I did a decent amount of walking, and quite a bit of hiking. So I wasn’t a complete conference room potato. But I feel stiff and grumpy and very much in need of a good run to clear the cobwebs.

Blogging. Fun week coming for you – tomorrow, I’m showing you a week’s worth of Whole30 dinners tomorrow, and on Friday, back to the ‘dacks. Almost done with those recaps, but I do have a couple more weeks for you (and then travel posts will continue; after we wrap up in NY, we’ll head south to Shenandoah, good?).

Loving. Y’all know I am not one for gift bragging posts, but can I just send some hearts Steve’s way? The best birthday gift was having him and the kiddos with me in Seattle. Even though I didn’t get to see them much, just knowing they were in the hotel room waiting for me to come back was magic. He had to work hard to pull that off, so hats off. And if that wasn’t enough, he fed my camera addiction… again. A few months ago I told him that after exhaustive research I had decided that I really wanted to go mirrorless (#IYKYK) but was torn between two different cameras. I wanted something to replace my dSLR for everyday photos, and both of the cameras I was looking at had very specific benefits (and very few drawbacks) – I was truly on the fence. So… he bought me both. (Completely over the top, yes, but I love photography and I use my cameras almost every day, so.) Birthday presents are unnecessary but very nice, and it’s lovely to be spoiled with new gear for something that I enjoy so much. I’m lucky indeed.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

ADK 2021: Anniversary Eve Hike at Heart Lake

On the evening before our sixteenth wedding anniversary, we wrapped work a little early and decided we had time to squeeze in a short hike – no high peaks this time – before dinner. I suggested Heart Lake, which had been on my to-do list for awhile.

(Can’t believe I still haven’t climbed Mt. Jo. Next time, for sure.)

It was a perfect quick hike to squeeze in between work and dinner – just a couple of miles of relatively flat trail (this is the ‘dacks, there was some up and down – but very gentle – and some mud). We parked at the Loj and set off past the family campsites, making plans to stay there the next time we come up to the mountains. It’s such a good home base for the high peaks.

Adirondack perfection!

Found the old ski slope!

We ended the hike down on the sand, letting the water lap almost up to our hiking boots. It was beautiful and peaceful – the perfect way to ring in anniversary celebrations.

Next week: celebrating sixteen years of marriage with an extra special morning on the water.

Themed Reads: Charming Correspondents

It’s no secret that I love a good epistolary novel. I often think that if I ever wrote a book myself, I’d choose to write in the novel-in-letters form. There’s something so cozy about curling up with a volume of letters – fictional or not, really – and so much the better when the letter-writer grabs your heart. In my years of seeking out epistolary novels, I’ve come across a few truly charming correspondents.

There may be no correspondent more charming than Rose-Marie Schmidt of Elizabeth Von Arnim’s classic Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther. When the novel opens, Rose-Marie, the daughter of an impoverished teacher in a German hillside hamlet, is falling in love with one Roger Anstruther, an English student of her father’s. When Roger goes home to England, Rose-Marie writes him long and effusive love-filled letters. Sadly, Roger is by no means worthy of the wonderful Rose-Marie, and the engagement is short-lived. But a few months later, lonely and in need of an outlet, Rose-Marie renews the correspondence – now with her friend “Mr Anstruther” (demoted from Roger). With the love affair over, the good letters begin, and Rose-Marie writes of her love for books – she’s a particular fan of Jane Austen – of the turn of the seasons in her beautiful mountain home, and of the local denizens of the hamlet. We don’t get Mr Anstruther’s side of the correspondence, which is just fine – Rose-Marie is the star, and rightfully so.

If there’s anyone who can rival Rose-Marie Schmidt as a correspondent, it’s Hilary Fane of the absolutely delightful Business as Usual by Jane Oliver (with fabulous line drawings by Ann Stafford). Hilary is the daughter of an Edinburgh professor, recently engaged to an up-and-coming obstetric surgeon, and she gets the novel idea to support herself with a job (the thought of it!) in the year before her marriage. Her well-meaning middle-class parents are astonished and her fiancĂ© is, frankly, horrified. But Hilary decamps for London with a month’s worth of savings and lands herself a temp gig in the book department of “Everyman’s” (a thinly disguised Selfridge’s). Through a combination of luck and pluck she works her way up, and her letters charmingly depict the drudgery of a “nine-to-six” with cheer and humor. I laughed out loud on almost every page.

Lastly, I can’t leave out one of my favorite literary letter-writers: Anne Shirley. Anne of Windy Poplars (or Windy Willows as it’s known in Canada and abroad – obviously that’s the correct title but I grew up with the American version so what can you do?) is not an entirely epistolary novel, but Anne’s letters figure prominently in the text, and major segments of the story are told in her voice, writing to sweet, dashing Gilbert Blythe. Anne describes her trials and tribulations as the principal of a rural school while she waits out her engagement – she gets off to a bumpy start but, characteristically, charms everyone in the end. It’s always a joy to dive back into her letters with their lively chatter of cats, and Rebecca Dew, and Katherine-with-a-K.

What are your favorite epistolary novels?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (October 11, 2021)

Good morning and happy Monday – from Seattle! Not a normal Monday morning post, but one that took me all the way across the country. I’m here all week for work – a conference with my team, none of whom I had yet met in person before last night. (There was squealing and a lot of hugging when that changed.) Team activities officially start later this morning, but for various logistical reasons I ended up flying out way early – on Saturday morning – so I had the weekend for Seattle fun and I made the most of it. I’ll recap it all eventually (travel posts are piling up again, a wonderful feeling) but briefly: I hit the aquarium, Pike Place, the Great Wheel, and the Space Needle – and more. And now it’s time to dive into a week of team-building, workshops, and facility tours; I’m excited!

Reading. Good reading week! It was mostly back-loaded, as I was busy preparing for a weeklong business trip – so earlier in the week, there was just less time for reading. I did finish up O, the Brave Music by midweek, and I tore through The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary (a collection of Melissa Harrison’s Nature Notebook columns for The Times of London, which I LOVED) toward the end of the workweek. I brought a fully loaded kindle with me on my business trip, and read most of Longbourn on the plane (finished it up on Sunday morning) and then turned to Come, Tell Me How You Live, Agatha Christie’s memoir of her time on archaeological digs with her second husband, Sir Max Mallowan. I’m only about 15% into it so far but really enjoying it.

Watching. Not a lot of watching this week – I was just too busy rushing around with business trip prep. There was a little bit of Great British Bake-Off, and several episodes of Miranda Mills on YouTube while folding laundry and packing (Miranda continues to make household chores an absolute pleasure).

Listening. I was back on the podcast wagon this week! I finally figured out how to hide played episodes on my podcatcher (don’t say ANYTHING, it was not intuitive, okay? Apple Podcasts keeps changing things) and it’s all so much tidier and less overwhelming as a result. I’m working my way through a backlog of bookish podcast episodes that I had been avoiding because it was too much to even think about facing the tangle of played, half-played and unplayed episodes before I figured out the hiding function. I still have to go through and delete episodes of parenting podcasts that don’t apply to my kids’ stages (and which I don’t need to listen to as a result) so maybe that will be a project for the plane flight home at the end of the week.

Making. Piles and piles of clean, folded laundry and a packed suitcase – that was the main thing. Also made progress on my sloppy scarf.

Moving. Ugh, don’t ask. It was such a busy week, I didn’t get in anything other than my daily neighborhood walks (last Monday’s was a highlight, as it included Rebecca – gosh, her visit seems like an age ago). And then walking all over Seattle the past two days, some of it schlepping heavy luggage (#strengthtraining). This coming week isn’t going to be any more active, but when I get home I’ll have a couple of virtual races coming up – so running will be very much back on the agenda.

Blogging. I have this month’s Themed Reads coming atcha on Wednesday, and more Adirondack travel on Friday. Check in with me then!

Loving. It’s so great to have business travel to a cool city, with some time built in for fun – and I can’t tell you how much fun it was to meet three of my colleagues (including our team leader and the teammate with whom I work most closely) last night! I have been loving this job so much, but the one thing that was missing was the chance to spend time with my co-workers. I’ve missed travel, and I’ve missed engaging with people at work (not on a screen – I see their faces almost every day but we’re all in little boxes on the computer screen, which is not the same). This week is going to be fun. 🙂

Asking. What are you reading this week?

ADK 2021: A Morning Paddle on Lake Flower

Continuing our tour of the Adirondack lakes around the Lake Placid region, on Thursday morning we drove the ‘yaks over to Lake Flower, near the town of Saranac Lake. I had the vague idea that we’d be able to launch our kayaks and paddle up the river into the town of Saranac Lake, but it turned out that wasn’t possible. No big deal – we were happy to be out paddling in the fresh air on a beautiful morning.

I forgot my hat – d’oh! At least I had my shades.

We’ve been to the Saranac Lake area before, but never actually got out on the water. It was a lovely, calm, clear lake – and we had it mostly to ourselves. Saw a couple of other paddlers, but it was very quiet overall.

Obviously we checked out the camps and boathouses – we always do – and discussed buying lakefront property ourselves. Someday!

We couldn’t stay out too long – the sun was climbing higher in the sky, and work beckoned. We made it as far as the inlet between Lake Flower and Oseetah Lake before reluctantly turning back toward the boat launch, the car, and reality.

Another great morning on the water, though! Any day paddling an Adirondack lake is a good day.

Next week: an early anniversary hike around a lake with a romantic name.

Reading Round-Up: September 2021

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, 2021.

Where Stands a Winged Sentry, by Margaret Kennedy – I flew through this memoir of the tense summer between the official declaration of World War II and the beginning of the Blitz. Margaret Kennedy is a renowned and respected novelist, but her war memoir, taken from her diaries of that hot and anxious stretch, never mentions work – Kennedy is consumed with her children, her responsibilities, missing her London-bound husband, and invasion worries. This was beautifully written and a wonderful read.

The Hour of Land, by Terry Tempest Williams – I brought this with me to Shenandoah National Park for Labor Day weekend and it was a perfect choice. Williams, a noted environmental activist and nature writer, shares twelve of her most personally significant national parks. The writing is beautiful and atmospheric, although I did start to bog down near the end.

Slightly Foxed No. 70: Tigers at the Double Lion, ed. Gail Pirkis and Hazel Wood – Not much to say about Slightly Foxed that I haven’t said before! I thoroughly enjoyed the summer issue – as always.

Goldenrod, by Maggie Smith – I preordered the new volume of Maggie Smith’s poems and I did enjoy it, although some spoke to me more than others did. Smith’s bittersweet reflections on motherhood were the highlight for me.

Crooked Sixpence, by Jane Shaw – Loved this recent reprint from Girls Gone By publishers! Six friends team up to investigate who is sending poison pen letters to the cherished and cuddly local squire. There’s a ghost – maybe! – and some Roman history. Good fun all around.

Spam Tomorrow, by Verily Anderson – In the mood for another war memoir, I picked up this reflection on life on the home front. I’d been saving it, and am so glad I finally read it, because it was a total delight from the first chapter – when Anderson goes AWOL from the FANYs to get married, but it’s fine because she was a terrible FANY anyway – through to the harrowing birth of her first child. There is a lot of moving houses, and a hilarious chapter in which Anderson and her friend/roommate Julie decide to open a B&B to earn extra cash in the absence of their husbands; they’re not born hoteliers. Altogether a total delight – highly recommend.

Period Piece, by Gwen Raverat – I decided to re-read Period Piece, as it was the September choice for Miranda Mills’ comfort book club. It ended up getting downgraded because Raverat reports a deplorable racist attitude that her mother held (I’d read Period Piece before, but that didn’t stand out to me the first time). I say this every time I read a book that is “of its time” – but perhaps there is a blog post there. I tend to take an “if you know better, you do better” attitude and use those moments as reflection points. Other than that one paragraph, this is a lovely book and I enjoyed it just as much the second time as the first.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1), by Agatha Christie – Total spur-of-the-moment pickup, but I have been itching to read The Mysterious Affair at Styles and how it all began for Hercule Poirot for ages now. Totally ingenious mystery, as always, and good fun all around.

The House Party: A Short History of Leisure, Pleasure and the Country House Weekend, by Adrian Tinniswood – This was a quick one – the work of about ninety minutes – but fun. Tinniswood explores country house parties “between the wars” – from the transportation to the guests to the food and more. Interesting and enjoyable.

Business as Usual, by Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford – This is going to be another one of my highlights of the year. Business As Usual is an epistolary novel following a young woman as she decamps to London with the novel idea of spending a year working and earning money before she marries her surgeon fiance. It was a fabulous, funny and sweet read. I loved it.

All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot – This is something of a triumph – after about eight months of listening in fits and starts, I finally finished All Creatures Great and Small on audio. Really enjoyed this classic memoir by a Yorkshire vet, but it was rather more detail about bovine birth than I bargained for. I expect I’ll continue with Herriot’s memoirs, but I need a little break first.

The Greek Myths, by Robert Graves – Read for the Classics Club Challenge, this is the definitive compilation of Greek myths. All of your murder, incest, forced marriage and eye-gouging, you can find it here. I’ll have a full review coming later in the month, but… it was a bit much.

Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, by Marta McDowell – I needed a palate cleanser after The Greek Myths and this was perfect. I love these Timber Press books about famous authors and the gardens and landscapes that inspired them (I’ve read The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh and The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables already) and this tour of Beatrix Potter’s life in gardens was lovely. And the books are absolutely gorgeous.

Fresh From the Country, by Miss Read – This standalone book by Miss Read has been staring at me from my shelf for months – it was time. Young Anna Lacey, fresh-faced and innocent, leaves her idyllic farm home and embarks on a new career as a teacher in an overcrowded suburban school. At first, Anna is desperately homesick – cold, hungry and lonely in her penny-pinching boarding house landlady’s clutches – and lost and confused at school. But friendship and romance await, and her first year of teaching proves to be eventful. I so enjoyed this book, and will re-read it again and again.

At the Pond: Swimming at the Hampstead Ladies’ Pond, by Various Authors – So, this is a classic “I bought it for the cover” book, but that cover didn’t lead me wrong – it was wonderful. Women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and backgrounds muse on the peculiar magic of the Hampstead Ladies’ Pond in a series of essays. I especially loved “The Lifeguard’s Perspective” – an essay by a lifeguard who watched the life of the pond swirl around her from her yellow canoe, while a new life grew inside her. And I appreciated that the essays weren’t universally adulatory – a non-binary writer mused that they don’t swim at the ladies’ pond anymore because they don’t feel female enough, for instance. I’ve never been to the ladies’ pond, but I feel like I have now.

Whew! Some month. I definitely got my reading mojo back after the long, hot summer of not-much-book-time. It would be hard to pick a favorite for the month; Business As Usual was an absolute joy, but so was Fresh From the Country. And then there were two – not one, but TWO – standout World War II home front memoirs, and wonderful nature writing, and the Queen of Crime… no, I can’t pick a favorite. But I’m grateful for this lovely month of reading, and excited for October’s books ahead.