Elizabeth von Arnim on Loving Books

What a blessing it is to love books.  Everybody must love something, and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing returns as books and a garden.  And how easy it would have been to come into the world without this, and possessed instead of an all-consuming passion, say, for hats, perpetually raging round my empty soul!  I feel I owe my forefathers a debt of gratitude, for I suppose the explanation is that they too did not care for hats.  In the centre of my library there is a wooden pillar propping up the ceiling, and preventing it, so I am told, from tumbling about our ears; and round this pillar, from floor to ceiling, I have had shelves fixed, and on these shelves are all the books that I have read again and again, and hope to read many times more–all the books, that is, that I love quite the best.  In the bookcases round the walls are many that I love, but here in the centre of the room, and easiest to get at, are those I love the best–the very elect among my favourites.

What a medley of books there is round my pillar!  Here is Jane Austen leaning against Heine–what would she have said to that, I wonder?–with Miss Mitford and Cranford to keep her in countenance on the other side.  Here is my Goethe, one of many editions I have of him, the one that has made the acquaintence of the ice-house and the poppies.  Here are Ruskin, Lubhock, White’s Selborne, Izaak Walton, Drummond, Herbert Spencer (only as much of him as I hope I understand and am afraid I do not), Walter Pater, Matthew Arnold, Thoreau, Lewis Carroll, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Hawthorne, Wuthering Heights, Lamb’s Essays, Johnson’s Lives, Marcus Aurelius, Montaigne, Gibbon, the immortal Pepys, the egregious Boswell, various American children’s book that I loved as a child and read and love to this day; various French children’s books, loved for the same reason; whole rows of German children’s books, on which I was brought up, with their charming woodcuts of quaint little children in laced bodices, and good housemothers cutting bread and butter, and descriptions of the atmosphere of fearful innocence and pure religion and swift judgments and rewards in which they lived, and how the Finger Gottes was impressed on everything that happened to them; all the poets; most of the dramatists; and, I verily believe, every gardening book and book about gardens that has been published of late years.

No one says it quite like Elizabeth, do they?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 7, 2021)

Morning, friends, and happy new week to you. I hope it’s a good one! For me and for you – goodness knows I could use an upswing. Last week was not bad, per se, but not my favorite. On Tuesday we voted in elections for state offices – Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General – and for our House of Delegates members, while the entire country watched. I try not to get political on here, so I won’t say much about it, other than that I hope the result doesn’t do too much harm after all the progress we’ve made in the last decade. The new governor-elect is actually from my town, and his underage son attempted to vote – twice – at my polling place; it sounds like things got contentious. These are the times we’re living in. And the week didn’t get much better – a couple of unpleasant Friday afternoon surprises (nothing I can’t handle) and a personal bummer on Saturday made for a grumpy weekend. I hate grumpy weekends; I want my weekends to be happy and glorious all the time. But that’s not quite realistic, is it?

It wasn’t all bad. We had soccer on Saturday morning – the penultimate game of the season; it was supposed to be our last, but since we were rained out last weekend the league is allowing makeup games. As you can see, it was frigid. The entire field was frosted over and there were a bunch of little red-nosed soccer stars running around. I spent most of the game hopping up and down and hugging myself, and conducting a lengthy Halloween post-mortem with Nugget’s friend M’s mom Kate. Nugget did well but his feet got pretty cold; by the fourth quarter he was begging to switch to the other field, which got more sun (at his age, the kiddos play four-on-four over two small fields). The coach was reluctant to put him in, because – as he explained – they were trying to keep the score relatively even between the teams, and it was already lopsided in our favor, and Nugget is just too good. I pulled all my persuasive skills out of my bag and talked the coach into putting Nugget in on the sunny field anyway; he just had to promise to only play defense and not score more than two goals. (See, Nugget, never say having a lawyer mom didn’t do anything for you.) It took a few hours to thaw out after the game, but by midday the temps had climbed and I headed out for a run (!!!) – and not just any run: my favorite run of the season, the Marine Corps 10K (virtual again this year, thanks for nothing, ‘Rona). And then I figured I had earned a couch potato afternoon – after Nugget and I put a pound cake in the oven. Yum.

Sunday was, if anything, busier than Saturday – not the fun kind, though. After swimming, Peanut was invited to a birthday party at Dave and Busters (which necessitated a Target run to buy a noisy game for the birthday boy). Y’all. My twenty-month birthday party-free streak has ended, long live the birthday party-free streak. And guess what we found out! Dave and Busters is the new Chuck E. Cheese! Peanut hated every second, but she showed up for her friend. And we left as soon as the party was over. I was just grouchy all day – the lingering effects of the unpleasant Friday surprises at work and the personal disappointment. Well, can’t win ’em all… next week should be better.

Reading. If it wasn’t the best week in reality, at least it was a good week in books. I finished Paper Girls Vol. 1 on Monday and am already looking forward to continuing on with the series; it’s as weird-interesting as you’d expect from Brian K. Vaughn. Then I spent most of the week slowly reading Murder by Matchlight, one of the ten or so E.C.R. Lorac titles that the British Library has recently brought back into print. I loved it! After really enjoying Crossed Skis, which Lorac wrote under an alternate pen name (Carol Carnac) I started stockpiling other titles, and am looking forward to curling up with each of them in turn. Then Saturday was for the latest issue of Slightly Foxed; it was wonderful from cover to cover, as usual, but the final essay was the best. I also churned through Meet Mr Mulliner this week – between a couple of commuting days, a few walks, and dinner/dishes via Alexa – I finished the entire book, and cackled consistently throughout. (Augustine Mulliner was my favorite.) And finally – last but not least, I’m just in the beginning stages of Blitz Writing, but can already tell it’s gorgeously written and I’m going to love it.

Watching. For a week that was kind of cruddy, comfort viewing is required, and that’s all I watched. Three episodes of The Great British Bake-Off, more Miranda on YouTube (I’m almost through the backlist, whatever will I do) and some Gardeners World. It was all I could face.

Listening. As you can see (above) I am back on audiobooks after a short podcast break. After Meet Mr. Mulliner, I fired up The Sittaford Mystery, by Agatha Christie. Am only about fifteen minutes into it, so just breaking the ice. And on Sunday I wasn’t even in the mood for “convalescent literature” – only music would do, and specifically The New Pornographers. “In the Morse Code of the Brake Lights” on repeat. Can confirm loud singing.

Making. Creative juices were flowing this week. In addition to the regular rotation of home-cooked dinners: Nugget and I made this pound cake (from a Dorie Greenspan recipe – the classic “Perfection Pound Cake” out of her Baking: From My Home to Yours cookbook). We ate it with clotted cream and jam like Proper English People (please note I am neither proper nor English) and it was everything. Also made: progress on Christmas gift knitting – I’mma do it this year, people, just watch – and a completed 2020 family yearbook, because punctuality is for dorks. I haven’t ordered yet, but I will soon – my stackable coupons expire next week. I just want to let it percolate for a couple of days before doing a final proofreading.

Moving. All right, here – I finally have something to tell you. It was race week! (Sort of, because as noted above the Marine Corps 10K was virtual again, thanks to the stupid endless pandemic.) I planned to drive over to run it on my favorite trail, but in the end couldn’t be bothered to get in the car and just ran in my neighborhood instead. I even ran by the home of one of Peanut’s friends from Brownies and waved like a weirdo. Rest of the week – less exciting. Walks. Yoga.

Blogging. I have a lovely long Elizabeth von Arnim quote for you on Wednesday, and the first of a series of Shenandoah hiking recaps on Friday. Tally ho!

Loving. If you’ve been reading for a hot minute, you have probably figured out that I am in almost constant motion. Now that I am finally out of the trenches of new motherhood, and free from the soul-crushing dazed dread of a career I am only just beginning to realize I truly hated, I am back to my natural high energy levels and not a bit mad about it. But sometimes I do want a lazy afternoon on the couch (especially after a freezing cold soccer game followed by a 6.2 mile run) and I had the best one on Saturday, because of this mug and the tea that was inside it. Starting with the mug, it’s from Sussex Lustreware and I’ve had my eye on it for months, but it was sold out. They finally restocked and I pounced. Isn’t she lovely? The picture does it no justice; the pink is absolutely luminous. And of course I love the message. As for the tea inside it, I am spoiled: my best friend, Rebecca, sent me a sampler pack of August Uncommon tea for my birthday, and I broke into it on Saturday. I tried a smoky black tea with burnt sugar and banana notes, and it was delicious. August Uncommon is Rebecca’s favorite tea – she says she loves it even more than Mariage Freres. I’m not sure I’m prepared to take such a drastic step, but am willing to be persuaded. It was certainly a beautiful tea, and made more so by the love with which it arrived. I have the best people.

Asking. Why is it so much fun to crunch dry leaves? And what are you reading this week?

ADK 2021: Biking and Coasting at Mt. Van Hoevenberg

After a week of working, adventuring, and eating our way around Lake Placid, we woke up on Saturday morning ready to head back to the anklebiters – but we had one more adventure planned on the way home: a stop at Mt. Van Hoevenberg for mountain biking (me), walking (Steve), and hopefully riding the mountain coaster (both).

Mt. Van Hoevenberg is right outside of Lake Placid, and housed the sliding sports at the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games. I’d been wanting to check it out for ages. The complex now boasts a network of trails for cross-country skiing (in winter) and mountain biking (in summer); the trailhead for Mt. Van Hoevenberg itself (part of the LP 9’er hiking challenge); a bobsled experience; and a mountain coaster. On my agenda: exploring the trails via my mountain bike, and – hopefully – riding the mountain coaster. I’d tried to buy advance tickets earlier in the week, but they were sold out. Still, I thought there was no harm in at least asking if there was a chance, and the desk attendant explained that they under-sell advance spots and reserve room for walk-ins depending on track conditions. She was expecting the track report in about half an hour, if we could wait? We could. Steve and I wandered around the facility, checking out the old bobsled and other Olympic paraphernalia, until we got the good news – track conditions looked good, and there were two spaces for us on the mountain coaster. Hurray!

But first things first! Adventure Annie was raring to hit the trails.

One of the complex employees, seeing me wheeling my mountain bike in the direction of the trail network, helpfully pointed out the sites. “If you’re not back by sunset, we’ll send out a search party,” he told me gravely, “and you should know that the search party is a big black bear.” I laughed and assured him I’d only be an hour, as I now had mountain coaster (!!!) tickets.

To the trails! This bike is way too clean.

This is the face of someone who has been enjoying some truly epic single track:

After tooling around looking for the best trails, I barely felt like I was getting my wheels under me when it was time to head back to the main facility and meet up with Steve for the mountain coaster ride. I was bummed that my mountain biking had flown by so quickly, but seriously stoked for the next adrenaline rush.

I quickly locked Adventure Annie back on the car, then met up with Steve by the main lodge.

We checked out the scenery – including the historic bobsled track; so cool! – while we waited for our turn on the mountain coaster.

Ready to fly!

Each rider had his or her own car, styled like an Olympic bobsled. Steve was Team Canada, and I was Team Austria. Each repping (part of) our own family heritage!

Snapped one last picture on the initial incline, then tucked my phone away so it didn’t fly out of my hands on the descent. What a ride! It was totally exhilarating, and I could have flown around the mountain all day – but we had to get back to Albany and the kiddos. As we headed for the car, grinning broadly, we had one last surprise – I heard my name shouted, and turned around to see our mutual friend Jeff and his daughter Lucy waiting in line for the mountain coaster. Small world! We chatted to Jeff for a few minutes, then left them to enjoy their Adirondack weekend and headed back to our own rugrats – refreshed and pleasantly exhausted from a week of adventuring.

This ends Adirondack recaps (for now; we’ll always be back!) but not travel recaps. Next week I’ve got the first of a series of posts to share with you about Shenandoah National Park. Stay tuned!

Reading Round-Up: October 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 October, 2021.

The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot #2), by Agatha Christie – At this point I think I’ve probably read half or more of Agatha Christie’s prolific output, but this was one I’d not yet tried out. I enjoyed the second installment of Poirot and Hastings, in which the friends travel to France after they are summoned by a desperate letter, only to find they have arrived too late to prevent a murder. But the murder itself is not quite what it seems – fortunately Poirot is on the scene to unravel the knotty threads. I listened to this on Audible, and it was such fun.

O, the Brave Music, by Dorothy Evelyn Smith – The new British Library Women Writers series has been on my radar since it was announced, and I am trying to stay current on releases (I am getting in near the ground floor, which helps – by the time I started buying BL Crime Classics there were too many to stay up-to-date on). O, the Brave Music was a good place to start in both buying and reading: the coming-of-age story of Ruan, an ugly duckling who suffers great losses but is sustained by friendships. I adored it.

The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary, by Melissa Harrison – I’ve been a fan of Melissa Harrison’s seasonal anthologies (read on) and have been gradually reading them all year. The Stubborn Light of Things is a collection of Harrison’s Nature Notes for The Times, and is a restful and rejuvenating read.

Longbourn, by Jo Baker – Although I normally don’t enjoy Jane Austen adaptations, I’d heard such good things about Longbourn that I decided to give it a try – and it did live up to the hype. “Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants” is the most common descriptor, and that’s technically correct, but there’s much more to it than that. Longbourn housemaid Sarah is the primary character, and she has a story and romance all her own; her life and interests definitely do not revolve around who the Miss Bennets will marry. I loved the different perspective and the new take on one of my very favorite books.

Come, Tell Me How You Live: An Archeological Memoir, by Agatha Christie Mallowan – After divorcing her first husband, Archie Christie, Dame Agatha found love again with Sir Max Mallowan, a renowned archaeologist. Come, Tell Me How You Live is her fascinating memoir of the months she spent traveling in Syria and Iraq with Max, accompanying him on his lengthy archaeological digs. It was both hilarious – I literally LOLed many times – and fascinating.

Frenchman’s Creek, by Daphne du Maurier – Daphne du Maurier is best known for her suspense novels, so I figured Frenchman’s Creek, which I’d not yet read, would make a good chilling choice for the lead-up to Halloween. Joke’s on me, because the action took place over a sultry midsummer; it’s a classic example of hot weather making people behave badly. Bored, restless Lady Dona St. Columb flees her wine- and mischief-soaked life in Restoration London, taking her two children and their nanny to her husband’s country seat in Cornwall. There, Dona is titillated by her stuffy neighbors’ stories of French pirates ravaging the coastline. Soon enough, she finds herself face to face with the pirates’ swashbuckling captain – and obviously, she is immediately and deeply attracted. Dona falls head-over-heels in love with the Frenchman, but when the local gentry mounts a determined effort to capture him, she will have to choose between her desire for a footloose life of romance and adventure, and her equally deep attachment to her young children. I loved this, and will revisit it over and over again – but next time, in summer.

Ghostways: Two Journeys in Unquiet Places, by Robert MacFarlane, Stanley Donwood and Dan Richards – As a fan of Robert MacFarlane’s poetry, I am always looking out for his work and I picked this up in Old Town Books this month. The title seemed appropriately eerie for Halloween, and it was that indeed. Ghostways includes two short pieces: Ness, about a weapons-testing wasteland, and Holloway, about a hidden half-underground world. I loved Holloway, but was underwhelmed by Ness. (Also, note that Ness includes two completely unnecessary swears. Demerits were issued.)

Autumn: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons, ed. Melissa Harrison – It’s a Melissa Harrison month! I enjoyed the last of her seasonal anthologies I’d not yet read, Autumn, very much – although I think Winter is still my favorite.

The Daughter of Time (Inspector Alan Grant #5), by Josephine Tey – Here’s one I’d been meaning to get to for ages, and it didn’t disappoint. The Daughter of Time finds Inspector Alan Grant laid up in hospital, recovering from a leg injury sustained while in hot pursuit of a criminal. Faced with weeks of endless boredom, Inspector Grant is unexpectedly captivated by a portrait of Richard III, one of England’s most notorious kings (he supposedly murdered, or commissioned the murder of, his two young nephews – the Princes in the Tower – to secure his claim to the throne). Inspector Grant finds it hard to believe that Richard III, with a face more suited to the bench than the dock, could be a murderer – or at least that he could have been responsible for this particular murder. He enlists the help of a young researcher and applies his formidable brain to answering the questions: was Richard III responsible for the Princes’ murder? And if not, whodunit? I was glued to every page and my only complaint was that it was all over too soon; I’d have wandered through the sixteenth century with Inspector Grant for hundreds more pages.

The Story of the Country House, by Clive Aslet – A book I unashamedly bought for the cover alone (look how gorgeous!), The Story of the Country House was a fun and fascinating read. Exploring the architectural history of English country houses from the Roman villa to the suburban sprawl of present day, Aslet goes into detail about building materials, architectural trends, and the like. I was expecting a little more diversified subject matter: there was some upstairs-downstairs, some food, some entertaining, etc., but not as much as I thought there’d be. So if you read this, don’t go into it expecting Downton Abbey. But it was incredibly interesting and a beautifully produced book – definitely one to keep on the shelves and refer back to time and again.

The Manningtree Witches, by A. K. Blakemore – I preordered The Manningtree Witches after hearing about it on the Slightly Foxed podcast; the author, A. K. Blakemore, is a celebrated poet so I figured the writing would be gorgeous, and it was. Plus, I can’t get enough historical witch material; you know me. Of course, it gave me nightmares. But as Halloween reading – perfect. (And I did finish it on Halloween.)

Pumpkinheads, by Rainbow Rowell – My annual tradition for three years running now has been to pull out Pumpkinheads as soon as I turn off my lights, blow out the jack-o-lanterns, and bring in the candy. I love this sweet story of friendship, succotash, and hayrides – and the art is the perfect accompaniment. If you’re looking for a Halloween read for next year and you can’t handle anything too scary (connection!) put this on your list.

Whew! Busy bookish October, indeed. My summer reading slump-ish thing is definitely over – even with a weeklong business trip to Seattle (during which I was too busy to read much at all) I managed to knock back twelve books, and enjoyed them thoroughly. The du Maurier and the Tey were definitely my highlights of the month, and any month that includes Melissa Harrison is good with me. I’m looking forward to long cozy nights with my book and my candle into November, too – it’s reading season, friends.

What were your bookish highlights of October?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 1, 2021)

Happy Monday, y’all! And November. Shut the front door. How was your Halloween? Are you a trick-or-treater, or more of a door-opener, or do you turn off the lights and hide? By inclination, I am more of a door-opener, but we get exactly zero trick-or-treaters (it’s my curse in life) and I have two to walk around, so we were out roaming the streets. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Halloween aside, it was a low-key weekend. Soccer was cancelled because of weather (we had torrential rainstorms on Friday, which caused soggy messy fields and the league cancelled both Friday practices and Saturday games) and swimming was also off the calendar because it was the fifth weekend in a month, so the swim school was closed. With all that extra time on our hands, we barely knew what to do with ourselves. So we spent Saturday bumming around the house – we were all a little tired, I think. I know I was; it was an especially hectic week at work with two depositions, a mediation, and a big urgent project (a classic “your lack of planning has now become my emergency” situation). I was out of sorts all of Saturday, made worse by a political campaign volunteer (we’re in the middle of a hotly contested gubernatorial election – kill me now) ringing my doorbell to pitch his candidate. I wordlessly pointed to my “No Soliciting” sign, and he then tried to argue with me about whether the sign applied to him. As I told Steve later, I would have been annoyed at being bothered no matter whose campaign the volunteer was from, but I was much more annoyed because the kid who disregarded my sign, dragged me away from my book, and then tried to argue with me was… there on behalf of the candidate I am very much not supporting. Anyway, that minor irritation knocked me out of sorts way more than it should have.

On Sunday, we all needed a break from the lazy Saturday; one day of bumming around the house and we were legit climbing the walls. So we hit our favorite county park for a morning hike (no avian excitement this time, but lots of pretty leaves), and then the kids and I banged out a couple of jack-o-lanterns in the afternoon, before the veterinarian and baseball player headed out to gather up their loot. They did very well, and dragged their heavy bags home in the gathering dusk; a successful Halloween indeed.

Reading. Quite a reading week! I don’t get all in on the Halloween reading the way I sometimes do with Christmas, but I had some spooky reading planned for the weekend, anyway. First up: finishing The Daughter of Time, which I absolutely loved – definitely a highlight of the year. Then I spent the rest of the workweek over The Story of the Country House, a new release that I’m not ashamed to admit I bought entirely because of the cover. (I mean. Look at it.) Really enjoyed it, although it was more focused on the architecture of the different periods in country house history; there was less upstairs-downstairs, food, sporting, and suchlike than I expected. Still great though! As the weekend rolled around I turned my attention to Halloween reading: first up, I scared the pants off myself with The Manningtree Witches (literally, I had nightmares). On Halloween evening itself I curled up with my traditional (for the last few years, anyway) cozy read – Pumpkinheads, by Rainbow Rowell, which is utterly charming. And then for good measure I started Paper Girls, a comic by Brian K. Vaughn that begins on the day after Halloween, so it seemed like a good choice. Plus I’ve been meaning to try it out for ages.

Watching. The usual! Lots of Monty Don, Miranda Mills, and the latest Bake-Off episode. We also watched Black Panther with Nugget, and it was just as wonderful as I remembered. He loved it.

Listening. I’m still on a bookish podcast kick; multiple episodes of Shedunnit – my fave – and Tea or Books. I’m on a kick of taking long rambles around the neighborhood with my earbuds; it’s keeping me going.

Making. I finished my lace infinity scarf – haven’t blocked it yet, though – and started in on my Christmas knitting; hoping I can keep this streak going and have some handmade gifts for my favorite ladies. Also made a few fresh, healthy dinners – as usual – and because ’tis the season, a batch of roasted pumpkin seeds.

Moving. Sigh. I was hoping to tell you that I had finished my virtual MCM 10K, but I just… didn’t do it. There’s still a week to go, though, so I’ll get it done this week.

Blogging. October reading round-up coming atcha on Wednesday, and the last Adirondack recap post on Friday. Check in with me then!

Loving. My extended disco birthday continues – this weekend I opened a slightly belated gift from my BFF, Rebecca – a sampler of August Uncommon teas. She says she likes them better than Mariage Freres, which is high praise indeed. I can’t wait to try! And I am so blessed to have these people in my life, who send me tea and love for another trip around the sun.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

ADK 2021: Hiking Henry’s Woods

When we spent a week in Lake Placid with the kiddos three years ago, I had a list of flattish, easy-ish hikes to try with them; we made it on quite a few, but the list was longer than a week’s worth and we didn’t have time for all of them. On this trip, we were kid-free, but that list of family-friendly hikes proved useful for squeezing in quick jaunts around work. Finding ourselves able to knock off a bit early on our anniversary (which was a Friday – yay!) we decided to nip over to Henry’s Woods, a privately maintained preserve just outside of Lake Placid, for a pre-dinner ramble.

Ferns! Fun fact: when I was thirteen, I spent a summer as a counselor-in-training at Camp Is-sho-da, and one of my assignments was to draw and label every variety of fern in the camp’s fern garden. I used to know them all. Not so much anymore – lawyering and parenting have chased that knowledge out of my head, sadly.

Anyway – it was a lovely, peaceful trail, winding through a quiet wood; perfect for unwinding after a week of work and adventuring.

We followed the gently inclining path up to a quiet overlook.

Just the exhale we needed! We admired the view and then wandered back downhill, bound for Lake Placid and a delicious dinner at Top-of-the-Park, overlooking Mirror Lake. A totally perfect celebration of sixteen years of marriage. Can’t wait to see what the next sixteen (and more!) bring.

Next week: one final Adirondack adventure, and it’s quite the adrenaline rush.

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?