It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (May 9, 2022)

Good morning, friends! Happy Mother’s Day – belated – to all of those who celebrate; major thanks and gratitude to the moms, mom-adjacent, expectant moms, mothers-in-law, aunts, grandmothers, mentors, teachers, and beloved women everywhere; and hugs to anyone for whom yesterday was a hard day. I love you all.

Flexibility is a mom superpower and flexibility was definitely required of me this weekend. My parents arrived on Friday (as I was still warming up after chaperoning a zoo field trip in the pouring rain), planning to crash at my place for a couple of days en route to vacation in the Outer Banks. They were stoked to watch Nugget play baseball, but unfortunately they didn’t get to: RAINOUT. Seriously, it poured for two days straight. So, no Saturday hike and no baseball – major bummer. We made the best of it, though: when outdoor nature fun isn’t an option, the Air & Space Museum (especially the giant hangar out at Dulles) is the next best thing, so that’s where we went. My dad especially loves it there, and he could happily visit every time, so he was in his element. But, really, we all were – it’s such a fun spot.

On Sunday, I woke up early to voices in my kitchen: Dan and Danielle, who flew through the night and landed at Dulles at 5:00 a.m. (woof). They’re joining my parents on vacation, but sadly we’re missing out on the fun this time – the school schedule reigns supreme around here and we have another month to go. My parents and Dan and Danielle pulled out of my driveway around 7:15, and we rolled out not long after, bound for a hike at Huntley Meadows, one of our favorite parks from our days as Alexandrians. The park definitely delivered: hooded merganser babies! (Steve nicknamed them “mohawk ducks”), eastern kingbirds, barn swallows, tree swallows, and more – a very happy Mother’s Day treat for this bird nerd. The rest of the day I spent puttering around the garden, finally getting the rest of my pots cleaned out and planted (I’m growing pole beans, cherry tomatoes, three pots of strawberries, a raspberry bush, and lots of herbs – we’ll see if anything survives the hot sun and ravenous squirrels) and checking out a Puerto Rico scenic ride on my Peloton. Finished with sushi and TV – not a bad way to end a rainy and cold May weekend. (Now I’ve had enough of spring: summer, please feel free to join us anytime.)

Reading. It’s been a slow reading week. I finished The Blessing on Monday, and hooted my way through it, especially the last chapter – but then the pace ground to a halt. I picked up The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (from my Classics Club list) and have been reading through it all week, very slowly. Some of that slow pace is due to a busy workweek and a field trip and entertaining my parents, no doubt, but it also just seems to be a book that wants to be read slowly. I’m really enjoying it, just meandering through.

Watching. A little of this and a little of that. Some Gardener’s World, and on Sunday Nugget and I curled up with popcorn and Rock the Park for a little while, which was delightful.

Listening. Fittingly for a week that included Mother’s Day, I’m still working my way through my backlist episodes of The Mom Hour. I’m down to 42 unplayed episodes, which may seem like a lot, but I started with over sixty, so progress is happening here.

Making. No question, the best thing I made all week was this tidy garden! (Ignore the rainforest around the frog pond, that’s not part of it you guys.) Eight pots, with herbs, veggies and fruit – all clean and tidy. I cleaned up the herbs that have overwintered (out of frame to the left), pruned some yellow leaves from the tomato seedlings, and replaced the rootbound, weedy soil in the rest of the pots with a mix of organic potting soil and mushroom compost, then planted the fruit and herbs and watered everything in with a mix of rainwater (we had plenty!) and organic liquid plant food. If that doesn’t help my garden grow, I don’t know what will.

Moving. Lots of Peloton this week! Several core strength classes (I’m working my way through the “Crush Your Core” program with Emma Lovewell) and a good mix of rides – a tough intervals and arms workout (Emma Lovewell again), a low impact recovery day with Jenn Sherman, a scenic Puerto Rico ride to Latin music, and “XOXO, Cody” with my pal Amanda. It was all great, of course, but Cody was the obvious highlight. I need to get back out on the roads, though – my running shoes are getting jealous.

Blogging. Speaking of the Classics Club Challenge, I have a review for you on Wednesday, and the penultimate Colorado and Utah travel post on Friday. Check in with me then!

Loving. Between rain, schedule shifts, and more sickness in the house (Peanut again – we think she’s been taking her mask off at school because Dr. Nugget Fauci, who wears his religiously, is getting sick about a quarter of the amount she is) – it could have been a gloomy Mother’s Day. But Steve made sure I was spoiled with a hike, sushi, and presents; ran kiddo interference all day so the rugrats didn’t bicker and stress me out; and just generally made me feel loved and spoiled.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (May 2, 2022)

On Friday, one of my outside counsel said in an email that he hoped I’d have a fabulous weekend. I thanked him for the sentiment but confessed that looming over my weekend was a triple threat – a baseball game, swim lessons, and a birthday party (which I was dreading for several reasons). That’s pretty much what we had on the agenda – no hiking, no paddling, basically no grown-up fun; it was all about the kids.

Not to say we didn’t have our nice moments. On Friday evenings, Steve and I try to have an informal date night in the family room – we banish the kids to play on their own, and we watch a movie or play a game. This weekend, we watched the new Death on the Nile, starring Kenneth Branagh and Gal Gadot – with wine. It was a good way to start a weekend that was otherwise given over to other people. On Saturday morning, Nugget’s baseball team faced the mini Royals. Our coach was out of town, so Steve filled in as relief coach and pitcher while I snapped photos, sprayed a cloud of OFF around my hat to keep the annoying gnats away, and anxiously watched Peanut out of the corner of my eye (she has a tendency to creep into the dugout and get yelled at by one parent who is taking this whole little league thing way too seriously, like who cares if she goes into the dugout you guys, but whatever). Then rushed home to get ready for swim lessons – which I ended up skipping. I had a call planned to help my dear friend Vanessa prepare for an interview with my current employer; I’d budgeted 45 minutes or so but ended up on the phone with her for three hours – worth it, though, because she wants this job so badly and I want so badly to have her company at the office again.

On Sunday, Nugget and I had grand plans to bike the C&O Canal Towpath in the morning, but the day dawned dreary and we were both bleary-eyed after a wakeful night – Nugget had a rough nightmare and we ended up hanging out together in the family room from about 1:30 to 3:30 in the morning. Nugget was still a little shaken up by his bad dream (he didn’t want to tell me the details) and begged off biking. Instead I spent the morning on my Peloton, and then Nugget accompanied me to Target to restock some house linens and buy a birthday present for Peanut to take to her party in the afternoon. The birthday girl recently moved to Maryland, so we hauled ourselves through Beltway traffic to the party, which was the usual emotional roller coaster and I was reminded of why the only thing I really didn’t miss during the height of the pandemic was kid birthday parties.

Reading. Last week was weirdly stressful, even though I didn’t have anything in particular going on; I think I’m just tired. Usually that would mean a slower reading week, but not this time. I finished up The Morville Hours on Tuesday and then blazed through the latest issue of Slightly Foxed in a day (had to get to it before the summer issue arrived in its brown cardstock envelope). Spent the rest of the workweek over Unearthing the Secret Garden, which I really enjoyed, and then turned to Nancy Mitford’s The Blessing over the weekend. I’m about two-thirds of the way through and enjoying it immensely. And during the Saturday-into-Sunday wakeful night on the couch, while Nugget calmed down by playing his Nintendo Switch for an hour in the middle of the night, I read Debbie Tung’s delightful collection of comics about being a bookworm in one sitting (because The Blessing was upstairs on my nightstand and I didn’t want to risk waking Steve up by creeping in for it). Like I said, it was a weirdly stressful week in life, but definitely a good one in books.

Watching. This and that, here and there. There was Death on the Nile on Friday, as noted above. And on Sunday night we had a family movie night and I got to pick, so we watched the first act of Hamilton – it had been too long! During the week… I’m sure I’m missing some, but we were on a travel kick and watched a couple of episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe about the Alps, and an hourlong special called Hidden Poland. I’m getting itchy to go back to Europe.

Listening. Still deluding myself that I have a realistic chance of cleaning out my podcatcher, so a few more episodes of The Mom Hour – working my way through about fifty-three downloads. (I “mark as played” the episodes I’m not interested in listening to, which hides them, so these are all episodes that I actually anticipate getting to at some point or another.) A couple of old ones about preparing for summer vacation, which felt timely again.

Making. I finished my Costa Rica photo book! Got another promotion for unlimited free pages, so it was time. I had to just make myself sit down and do it – I don’t mind playing with layout, writing the captions, and choosing backgrounds and embellishments, but the process of loading up the photos and then dragging and dropping them into the storyboard – an essential step before the fun parts of photo book creation can begin – just feels like an interminable chore. But I got it done, and now I’m anxiously awaiting that orange box.

Moving. It was not the best movement week, until Sunday. No hiking – no time over the weekend – and no workouts more intense than neighborhood walks, because I just didn’t feel like I could manage anything else. But on Sunday I spent a much-needed hour on my Peloton with Cody Rigsby, and felt like a new person afterwards.

Blogging. April reading round-up on Wednesday, and back on the dinosaur trail on Friday; check in with me then!

Loving. New La Croix flavor alert, you guys! When Nugget and I were at Target yesterday, I spotted an eight pack of “beach plum” out of the corner of my eye and said, “This I’ve got to try.” It’s so good, you guys. Not going to replace my beloved coconut or pure, but so good.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 25, 2022)

Yawwwwwwn. Morning, friends. Happy Monday to you all – are you coming into this week off a good weekend? I hope so! As for me – we’ve had another weekend of sickness in the house. This time, poor Peanut caught whatever Nugget was fighting off last weekend (was it last weekend? life has been so overwhelmingly busy lately that I can’t remember). I felt so bad for the poor kid – she was really under the weather on Saturday and definitely perking up by Sunday, but not near 100%.

With Peanut down for the count, Nugget was glued to me all weekend. (That’s a normal state of affairs, actually.) On Saturday, while Peanut rode out the worst of her bug and Steve worked, I took Nugget to swimming and baseball. Sat with Nugget’s buddy’s mom, who has the same name as me and was also holding down the fort solo, so we started a club. (Kidding.) And on Sunday, I tore Nugget away from his Nintendo for an afternoon of Mommy-son adventuring. I had in mind a bike ride on the C&O Canal Towpath in Georgetown, but Nugget wanted a four mile hike (from Riverbend Regional Park all the way to Great Falls and back) and I am always down to get my steps in, so we went with his plan. Then hit the garden center on the way home, bought round 1 of vegetables for our container garden, and spent an hour elbow deep in dirt in the garden. It was (1) a good way to wind down a Sunday; and (2) kind of horrifying to see how out of control the patio garden containers had gotten.

Reading. It was another crazy-busy week at work, which always translates to a slow reading week. It was a good one, though, just slow. I spent the entire workweek over Illyrian Spring, and it was time very well spent – definitely going to be one of my highlights of the year. Finished the last few pages on Saturday morning and spent the rest of the weekend missing Grace, Nicholas, and the other characters. Book hangover, hello. For something different (and quicker) I polished off The Owl and the Nightingale (new translation from the Middle English by Simon Armitage) and then turned to The Morville Year, Katherine Swift’s month-by-month account of the life in her Shropshire garden. I’m about halfway through and it’s a delight.

Watching. Well, we finished what is now fondly known in our house as “Obama Parks” – so good, you guys. (Although the butterflies in the Monterey Bay episode were unnecessary. WHY?!) And while we figure out our next family show, Steve showed the kids The Wizard of Oz on Sunday night. (Apparently, he loves that movie, which just goes to show that after almost seventeen years of marriage you can still find out new stuff about your spouse.) Also, it reinforced for me that while I recognize the cinematic achievement, etc., The Wizard of Oz is not my jam. Don’t @ me.

Listening. I’m still laboring under the delusion that I am going to finally listen my way through my entire podcatcher. I know! Crazy, right? I still have sixty hours to go of The Mom Hour and that’s just one show. Send wine, you guys.

Making. Well, the beginnings of a patio garden, at least. An hour’s worth of work on Sunday and what I have to show for it is: two pots cleaned out (you have no idea how overgrown these were – weed central) and planted with cherry tomatoes and pole beans – trying something new. I mixed some wood ash into the soil, because I had some in my fire pit and read it was good for tomatoes and beans, so stay tuned folks. And then I spent the rest of the time hauling spiky, thorny vines out of the ground – I don’t have grand designs on this garden but it would be nice if it didn’t look like Sleeping Beauty’s palace after the gardener had been asleep on the job for a century, ya know? I have more pots to clean out and a few more seedlings to plant, and the whole place needs a good hard clean, but it’s nice to have something to do out there. Other than the hour in the garden – many more of those to come – I made incremental progress on my Costa Rica photo book, but I will have to dial that up because I got another “unlimited pages” coupon code from Shutterfly, this one expiring on May 8, so the clock is ticking.

Moving. Still obsessed with my Peloton! I’ve ridden “with” my friend Amanda a few times – we fire up the same class and give each other virtual high fives – and racked up a bunch more rides on my own. And in between rides, I’m also working my way through Emma Lovewell’s “Crush Your Core with Emma” program. It’s not easy, fam. Oh, and there was that four mile hike with the smol and the gardening has been surprisingly strenuous, too, basically I’m tired.

Blogging. Themed Reads coming atcha on Wednesday, and it’s a fun one for National Poetry Month. (Do you guys like those? I’m thinking of wrapping up the series at the end of 2022 because I have something fresh – and totally different – in mind but if y’all like Themed Reads I have plenty more ideas so I could keep it going, just think about it and let me know.) And on Friday, back to Colorado!

Loving. Sunroom reading season has proven to be short-lived in this house; the sunroom is not climate controlled, so it turns into an oven in the summer and an icebox in the winter. But in spring and fall, it’s totally working for me to sit out there with my tea and book, and I am deep into enjoying it right now. I have these Adirondack chairs and they’re the coziest.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 18, 2022)

Well, here’s that old Monday, coming around again like it does this time every week. I’m pretty relaxed about Mondays these days, but it helps to come into them off a good weekend and this weekend was… not very good. I was wiped out going into it, which is always a bad start. After a week in Seattle at a legal department summit, I was already behind and had more than a week’s worth of digging out to do – and that’s without reckoning on my closest coworker, with whom I work every day, being out of the office enjoying a fabulous (and well-deserved!) Hawaiian vacation. I was obviously happy to cover for her, but I felt like I was drinking from the fire hose all week. Compounding the overwhelm was the fact that Nugget was sick with a cold all week; at first I was worried that I’d brought something home from Seattle, but after considering the possibilities carefully I concluded that he must have picked some germ up at soccer camp. Steve caught it too, and while Peanut and I were fortunately unscathed, it meant a lot of extra work and not much sleep for me, as the little guy was only comfortable curled up next to me all night – which was sweet until he started coughing in my face. So… doing the work of two people, on half my usual sleep. Good times.

With all that (and I swear I’m done complaining about it) I really needed a joyful, relaxing weekend. I did not get it. I try to stay positive around here and to look on the bright side, but there’s no way to sugarcoat it: the weekend just sucked. Nugget was mostly over his cold, but he was drained and out of sorts and he dealt with it by griping at me all weekend. Peanut was out of sorts too; maybe she is fighting off whatever Nugget brought home after all, or maybe it’s something different; I didn’t have the energy for kid mood detective work. We spent Saturday running around – from baseball pictures to Target to Nugget’s baseball game (where Peanut got chewed out by one of the parents for going into the dugout – I mean, she shouldn’t have been in there, but the dude ruined my video of Nugget getting a hit off a pitch from Dad) to a birthday party. I was exhausted and severely grumpy by the end of that gauntlet. On Sunday, we celebrated Easter with a hike (no church; crowded indoor spaces are still outside our family’s COVID risk tolerance, especially with two of us recovering from being down and out last week) – trying to watch the eagles at our favorite local park and take in the last of the Virginia bluebells, but the kids were horsing around and fighting the whole time, and tempers were seriously frayed. I finally lost it when Peanut turned her nose up and made “ew, gross” noises at the gruyere cheese souffle I made for Easter dinner (WTF, kid!) and I’m thoroughly glad to see the back of this weekend.

Reading. While last week and the weekend may have been rotten all around, the reading – at least – was good. Early in the week, I finished Kate Hardy, which was not up to D.E. Stevenson’s usual standards, but still, any D.E. Stevenson is going to be better than most anything else. Spent the end of the week and the weekend escaping into my spring book stack whenever I could – it may have been the only thing keeping me going – and what an escape it was. Clare Leighton’s gorgeous garden memoir, Four Hedges, liberally adorned with her astonishingly beautiful woodcut illustrations. Then Skylarks with Rosie: A Somerset Spring, the latest from Stephen Moss, one of my favorite nature writers – thought-provoking and so special. Then Old Herbaceous: A Novel of the Garden, a slim but beautiful book I tore through in less than a day. And finally, ended the weekend curled up with Illyrian Spring, which has been on my TBR for years.

Watching. Every so often, the kids discover something on Netflix and push it on the family, and every so often, they hit it out of the park. That was the case with our family viewing this week: we binged (or what passes for binging – one to two episodes a night) the ridiculous Netflix series Is It Cake? – in which professional cake artists compete to fool a panel of judges into thinking that their cakes are ordinary objects. Nugget discovered it, it was just as silly as it sounds, and we laughed and joked and enjoyed every minute. Ended the weekend with something much more edifying: the new nature series, Our Great National Parks, narrated by our beloved President Obama. We watched the first episode on Sunday night and were completely blown away. More to come.

Listening. I’m still on a podcast train. Every so often I get the idea that I’m going to clear out my podcast backlist and I listen to a bunch of episodes before giving up in despair and getting even deeper in the hole. I’m currently trying to listen my way through the 68 unplayed episodes of The Mom Hour I currently have in my queue. It’s a project.

Making. Well, there was that cheese souffle I mentioned above – the one that Peanut found so unbearably disgusting. (It doesn’t look so awful, does it?) The rest of the family loved it, so I have that going for me. Nugget inhaled his generous helping, I had two scoops, and Steve ensured we would have no leftovers. Other than souffle (and a French-inspired potato salad) I don’t think I made anything last week… except for work product, of course. I don’t think I’ve ever written so many emails in a week before, and I’m still behind.

Moving. So – I finally did it, you guys. I got a Peloton bike! I’ve had a membership for awhile (since pre-pandemic, actually; I joined right before COVID, intending to use the bike in my then-office gym) and have done sporadic workouts using the app. (I really love Peloton yoga, but it turns out it’s kind of difficult to follow Kristin McGee’s cues on an iPhone screen. Who knew?) When Peloton rolled out a good deal (for members only) on equipment, I thought about getting the Tread, because I wore out the belt on my old treadmill and have been needing to replace it, and to replace a treadmill belt turns out to cost almost as much as a new treadmill. But the more I thought about it, the more I started to feel that what I really wanted was the bike – so after a long, ruminative text conversation with my friend (and Peloton addict) Samantha, I decided to just go for it. It arrived on Thursday and I’ve already done ten rides! (Don’t panic: that includes warm-up and cool-down rides.) Including a live class on Sunday morning, riding with my pal Amanda! In between, some hiking and walking, but I’ve pretty much been all about my new toy. I’ll have to find a good balance, because all I want to do is spin right now. (I don’t love having it in my living room – in the Christmas tree spot, no less – but it was the only option, for now at least.)

Blogging. Very travel-heavy week for you. On Wednesday, I’m taking you running in Seattle; the views are outrageous. And on Friday, back to Colorado for an incredible hike.

Loving. I can keep this short. I love my Peloton. Seriously, love it, love it, love it. I can’t believe I waited so long to get one. I love you, Peloton! Peloton, I love you!

Asking. Do you have a Peloton? What’s your handle, if you do, and do you want to be friends? Also, what are you reading this week?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 11, 2022)

Yawwwwwn. G’morning, friends. How were your weekends? Mine was busy – as usual – probably too busy. Last week, as I mentioned, I was in Seattle on business for five days. It was a wonderful trip, as trips to Seattle always are: lots of time spent with colleagues who have become friends, plenty of laughter, new friends from other business lines and countries, and three really inspiring days of speakers. I’m still getting used to feeling actually happy and energized and joyful about my job – it’s a new experience for me as a lawyer.

Anyway, as fun as the week was, I was wiped out by the end and really needed a weekend of just downtime, so obviously I did the exact opposite. On Saturday I slept late (guess I was still on Pacific time, unusual for me because I normally snap right into the local time whenever I travel) but when I woke up we rolled out the door right away and headed over to Riverbend Park, our local favorite, to wander our favorite trail and check on the local eagles. Surprise: we arrived to find a bluebell festival in full swing. There was a “ninja course” and “magnet fishing” and the kids were in hog heaven – although we did drag them away for that hike for a little while. It was bonus bluebells, because our big plan for the weekend was to hike at our old favorite flower-viewing spot, the Bluebell Loop Trail at Bull Run Regional Park, on Sunday. Which is what we did, and it was absolutely glorious – full recap coming on Wednesday. Followed immediately by swim lessons (for Peanut only; Nugget went on Friday and we just juggled the schedule again so they’re now going on Saturdays, at the same timeslot, big exhale people). And then instead of collapsing on the couch like I wanted to, I spent the afternoon baking focaccia, hanging the eno hammock for the kids, and building the first bonfire of the season. I need a weekend to recover from my weekend.

Reading. Not much time for books last week, but I made the most of what time I had. I was reading Green Thoughts at the end of last weekend, but left it home and brought my kindle with me to Seattle. Had big plans for whipping through several kindle books, but there wasn’t that much downtime and what downtime there was, I was so fried that I – wait for it, wait for it – watched TV. I know. I did make it through one book, though: Cheerfulness Breaks In, because Barsetshire is always a good place for the weary. Turned back to Green Thoughts when I got home and wrapped it up in the car on the way to swim lessons, then picked up Kate Hardy. I’m only about a third of the way in but it’s delightful so far.

Watching. Surprising amounts of TV, but I just wanted to turn my brain off; that happens sometimes. I love watching The Daily Show when I go out to Seattle because it’s on at the entirely respectable and manageable hour of 8:00 p.m. – except for last week, which was apparently a hiatus of some sort. Sob. But they replaced it with back-to-back episodes of The Office, so I laughed my way through quite a few visits with Jim, Pam, Andy, Dwight and the gang and then switched over to Nick at Nite – which was showing Friends all night long and making me feel old. Can I say, too, that Friends has not aged well. Still love Monica and Chandler but was cringing a lot, especially at Joey. (Sob, again.) I’ve never liked Ross, so while his obnoxious character traits were definitely in sharper relief too, it was less of a disappointment.

Listening. Between work and naps on the plane to and fro, I also listened to a bunch of podcast episodes. I had big plans to pick one and treat it like an audiobook and blaze through back-to-back episodes but I ended up flitting from The Mom Hour to The Read-Aloud Revival to The Stubborn Light of Things to Tea or Books to As the Season Turns and enjoyed every minute.

Making. Basically no work product all last week, whoops. That’s what happens when you’re fully booked up with conference activities. I’ll pay for it this week – more than 100 unread emails and I’m covering for a colleague on vacation, yowsers. Good thing I like what I do. Outside of work, I made: lots of bluebell photos; Sunday dinner – homemade focaccia and a tomato and bean bake, yum; a gigantic bonfire and, related, a yard completely cleared of winter storm debris and a diminished (but still very untidy) woodpile. Not a bad weekend’s work.

Moving. Had two absolutely lovely runs in Seattle: one morning looping the Seattle Center – from my hotel to the Space Needle, around the Chihuly Gardens and PacSci, circumnavigating Climate Pledge Arena (release the Kraken!) and back; the second morning down to the waterfront, running along Alaskan Way from Pike Place all the way to the Mariners’ ballpark and back. The mountains were out and it was glorious. Also squeezed in two barre workouts, because I am trying to be better about resistance training. And two bluebell hikes over the weekend. I’m exhausted, in a good way.

Blogging. Sharing bluebell pictures with you on Wednesday, because how can I not? (If you’re local to DC or NoVA, note that the bluebells should be peaking for another week or so, so you still have time.) And back to Colorado on Friday: a sweet mountain town and a hiking trail with the absolute stinking cutest name I’ve ever seen.

Loving. This will come as no surprise, but the thing that has made my life for the past week has been getting outside as much as humanly possible. I keep seeing all this research about how important time in nature is to physical and mental health, and it’s so true. And my fresh air time took me to such wonderful places this past week – from running along a seawall with jaw-dropping mountains in the distance, to squelching through mud with my family and gaping at a glory of bluebells, to standing in my own backyard poking at a roaring bonfire for two hours. I always feel better starting the week with my fresh air tank full.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 4, 2022)

Hello from the other Washington! I’m off on business for the week – attending internal meetings at corporate headquarters in Seattle. Lots of interesting and timely stuff on the agenda, and there has been talk of karaoke, so please wish me luck. TBH, I can’t believe it’s Monday already. The last couple of weeks have been really fraught – just a lot of work deadlines, many of which involved relying on other people, and I’m a bit fried. These meetings should be a lot of fun and very interesting, but I’m already worried about getting behind on my to-do list.

Rewinding to the weekend, it was a good one – a bit more low-key than they have been recently, although we still got out and about quite a bit, and I got a fair amount done around the house. Saturday morning was devoted to cleaning out and restocking the fridge so Steve and the kids have plenty of fresh food to eat while I’m away, and we also started Phase One of spring cleaning: Steve dragged a metal shelf from the garden shed into the sunroom and I filled it with camping gear that was laying all over the floor. Much better now! In the afternoon, I took Nugget out for a fun outing: indoor skiing! Yes, you read that right. There’s a ski shop in Leesburg that offers two carpeted slopes, one of which works as something like a “ski treadmill” as Steve called it, and Nugget had a lesson. The instructor worked with him on wedge turns, and he’s already looking more consistent. We’re planning to keep up the lessons all summer, probably on about a monthly cadence, to keep his skills sharp for when the mountain opens in December. So fun! Sunday was more of the same – productivity in the morning (this time laundry – I folded about four baskets full – and packing for Seattle) and fun in the afternoon, in the form of a bike ride with Nugget. We took our bikes over to Great Falls Park and rode part of the Old Carriage Road. Other than being menaced by a terrifying butterfly (isn’t it too early?!) it was a delightful ride.

And now I’m off – hopefully; I’m flying Alaska Air and my flight has already been changed once – hoping to get in a couple of Seattle runs in between educational workshops and team bonding sessions.

Reading. Another slow reading week, between work deadlines and trying to get the house in order before I jet off for a week. But a good one! I finished up Before Lunch around midweek and then turned to Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, one of my stack of gardening books I’ve set aside to read in April. I’ll have to put it down for the next few days, since I don’t travel with paperbacks these days (have plenty loaded on my kindle, though, so don’t worry about my reading material!). Around the edges, while commuting and washing dishes and running errands and folding mountains of laundry, I finally finished up 4.50 From Paddington, by Agatha Christie – listened to it on Audible (more below) and really enjoyed it. I’m not sure what my next audiobook will be.

Watching. More this and that. Back episodes of Springwatch, via Britbox. Miranda Mills’ YouTube channel, always. Gardeners’ World on the margins. And a rewatch of one episode of Rock the Park, at the kids’ request. Jack and Colton night-diving with manta rays in Hawaii, prompting Steve to declare that we need to go night diving. We definitely do.

Listening. Mostly Audible this week – 4.50 From Paddington, as noted above, read by Joan Hickson. I keep mentioning that it’s read by Joan Hickson because this is really, really relevant. She played Miss Marple in the iconic TV series and she is, in fact, the quintessential Miss Marple. I can picture her in her grey suit and hat with her knitting as I listen to the audiobook and it’s just the best. And – bonus – she doesn’t try to make her voice artificially deep when reading a man’s dialogue; in fact, she doesn’t change her voice at all for any of the characters; she’s just Joan Hickson throughout. It’s literally like being read a story by Miss Marple. It’s everything.

Making. More work product again last week, which is good – it’s nice to be busy – but goodness was I stressed out for awhile there. But I made some other good stuff. The aforementioned folded laundry and filled camping shelf; all right, that’s not very exciting but it was satisfying. More exciting: a roast chicken, the remains of which are now in the freezer waiting to be made into lemon-ginger scented bone broth when I get home from Seattle. And I finally finished Nugget’s scarf, which he tried on and proclaimed “the coziest.”

Moving. Not a good week in movement; I was just too busy with work and all that, and I didn’t do a good job of prioritizing my own self-care. One barre workout via the Peloton app (and it was a good, tough workout, but I kept internally pouting that it was not my beloved barre3). And a couple of walks and that trail ride with Nugget, but should have been more. I have ideas about running Greenlake in Seattle this week, so cross your fingers that I find the time!

Blogging. March reading round-up coming for you on Wednesday, and then back to Colorado on Friday. Check in with me then!

Loving. If you’re on Instagram and looking for a little extra gentle wisdom, can I recommend @peacefulmindpeacefullife and @peaceful_barb? Somehow, Barb and her daughter Michelle always know just what to say, and their posts and reels are full of joy and kindness and validation. They’ve recently started a podcast, Barb Knows Best, which I’ve not yet listened to – but it’s on my list.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (March 28, 2022)

It’s baaaaaaaaaaaaack! Y’all, Little League season is here again! Did you miss all the little slugger pictures from last spring? Good news, Saturdays will be baseball days until June. (That sound was the sound of me digging through my dresser to find my “I Can’t, We Have Baseball” t-shirt.)

Yeah, so Saturday was as busy as they get. We were up and out the door at 7:30 a.m. (yawwwwwn) for Little League Opening Day. The league skipped big opening day festivities last year for obvious reasons, so this was our first experience and let me tell you: it was a circus. We found our team easily enough, thanks to the huge and impressive “Coach Pitch – Orioles” banner that the coach had prepared; said goodbye to Nugget and wandered off to find a spot along the “parade route.” The three motorcycle cops who were opening the parade steamed off promptly at 8:00, followed by the three elementary school mascots, and then – nothing for fifteen minutes; none of the teams were ready. But at least the cops made it to their doughnuts on time, right? Womp, womp. Anyway, the parade eventually straggled through, there were too many speeches, and we won “best banner” in the coach pitch division – off to a good start. As soon as we were released from Opening Day, we rushed off to Nugget’s birthday party, which I scheduled for the first day of baseball season in a fit of spectacularly poor planning. It worked out, though – our game was luckily scheduled for later in the afternoon and we only lost one party guest to sports. Nugget got a huge turnout for his party, which was at our local playground – the kids had a ball running around, and the grownups milled about drinking LaCroix and talking. Nugget’s best buddy even made the trek out from Arlington to join the contingents from the first grade class and the neighborhood; that’s friendship, indeed. Anyway – after a parade and a three-hour birthday party we were all wiped, but no rest for the wicked: we headed back to the ballpark for the first game of the season. Nugget acquitted himself admirably and Peanut appointed herself Official Babysitter and Head Cheerleader, and a good time was had by all.

As you can imagine, I was completely exhausted by the time we finally wrapped up the day. I couldn’t even face cleaning up the birthday present detritus and collapsed into bed at 8:30, and slept for TWELVE HOURS. On Sunday, I had big plans to get stuff done around the house: I have a mountain of laundry that needs folded; several science experiments growing in the fridge; and a blank weekly menu board. But I was still wiped, and ended up unable to muster the energy for anything more strenuous than taking the kids to swim lessons (Nugget leveled up again and is moving on to Glider 3!) and a stroll around the neighborhood with The Mom Hour in my earbuds in the afternoon. Well, there’s always the weekdays for getting stuff done.

Reading. It was a good reading week, if a slow one (attributable to the busiest, most jam-packed week I’ve had since starting my current job). Everything I read, when I found time to read, was delightful – and each title so different: wartime short stories from one of my favorite writers, a Mitford memoir, and a frothy Angela Thirkell novel, yes, please to all.

Watching. All Springwatch, all the time – or at least, every evening – the 2021 series, on Britbox, while we wait for 2022 to drop. Y’all. If you don’t have Britbox, I really can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s worth it if only for the wildcat kittens on Springwatch ’21. I’ll say that again, louder for the people in the back. Wildcat. Kittens.

Listening. A hodgepodge this week, as usual. Some music – belting out Pink and The New Pornographers on the way to the grocery store, like ya do. Some audiobook – I’m still working my way through Agatha Christie’s The 4.50 From Paddington and expecting to finish it up while commuting this coming week. Some podcast, namely The Mom Hour, for when I can’t face anything but Meagan and Sarah’s gentle voices.

Making. Oof. Nothing much this week – other than work product, it was one of those weeks, as busy as they get. And a couple of dinners for the family, probably, but I can’t remember them. No crafting, no photography, no interesting baking, no plans. Next week should be calmer.

Moving. For a hectic week, I did do a good job of prioritizing self-care. Three runs, including an interval run via the Peloton app, two yoga sessions, and several long walks. I hoped to get out for a long bike ride on Friday morning, but it was not to be – what with the work schedule. But it’s all right; I did what I needed to do to stay sane.

Blogging. Spring survival techniques on Wednesday (yes, spring survival; you intrigued?) and back to Arches National Park for another stop on Friday, do come around then.

Loving. At the risk of sounding my age, I have to admit that the thing that has made the most difference in my life for the past week is – my new pillow. I’d been clinging for far too long to an old, lumpy pillow and after a couple of nights of really terrible sleep, Steve ordered new pillows for both of us from Casper. I was skeptical. I’m now converted. It has made all the difference.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (March 21, 2022)

See that? Spring is in the air – officially, now! (Ostara blessings to my earth goddessy types.) The equinox is past, the buds are on the trees and there are a few blossoms out already. Of course, that means something else, less welcome, is in the air too. My red car is yellow from the sheets of pollen around here. I’ve started my annual course of Allegra, because the only way to survive this season without being totally miserable is to start early and stay ahead of it.

Anyway – pollen aside, it was a lovely weekend, really lovely, from beginning to end. I started on a high note: a happy hour, over videoconference, with my dear friend (and former coworker) Vanessa. First, and most importantly, we’d missed each other terribly and it had just been too long. There was so much to catch up on: her second baby (her birth story was insane) being the main event, but she’s also interviewing for a few jobs with my current employer! Obviously, the idea of being in the same office with Vanessa again is almost too wonderful to comprehend. I’m peppering her with interview tips and trying not to let myself get too excited. But, really. We talked as hard as we could for two hours – until my sour and her hard cider were long empty – and made plans to get together in person soon.

The rest of the weekend was wonderful and restful. On Saturday, we slipped out to our favorite park for a hike, and I spotted all kinds of signs of spring along the trail. Came home to a delicious sushi dinner – yum. Sunday was just as good – a four mile run on my favorite trail in the morning, followed by swim class for the kids and then a visit from another dear friend (and former coworker) Amanda. Amanda brought her two sweet munchkins over to play with mine, and while the kiddos ran around outside the moms ate frittata and drank tea; caught up on all the stresses and joys of motherhood; and emptied the kids’ dressers of outgrown clothes (now to be loved by Amanda’s family – they’re my favorite hand-me-down victims; this is the latest in a long history of me pawning off the kids’ clothes on Amanda). It was a weekend full of fresh air, good food, and time with cherished friends; what could possibly be better?

Reading. It didn’t feel like a slow reading week, but I guess it was – two books finished, and one on the go. What have I been doing in the evenings? Now I can’t recall. Oh, well – all excellent reads, though. The Armourer’s House was delightful; Agnes Grey a long-anticipated re-read (review coming soon for The Classics Club Challenge); and I’m about halfway through English Climate: Wartime Stories and absolutely loving it.

Watching. Lots and lots of Springwatch (last year’s content, on Britbox), and Steve and I also finished up Mapp and Lucia, starring the marvelous Anna Chancellor.

Listening. A mix – some music, some podcasts, some audiobook time. All good stuff, but nothing notable to report.

Making. Well, the biggest news here is what I did not make: any progress on my Costa Rica photo book, which is unfortunate because there was a very short-lived promotion including unlimited free pages; that’s a crazy deal and I missed out. This will just be motivation to get it done so that if a similar deal comes around again – hopefully it will – I’ll be in a position to take advantage of it next time! Otherwise – hmmm. Some progress on Nugget’s scarf, but not much. No progress on my fingerless gloves. Lots of work product. A delicious tomato-basil frittata and chickpea pasta with homemade tomato sauce, which Amanda and I enjoyed for lunch on Sunday. Much folded laundry (and I’m still behind).

Moving. A good week in movement! A couple of walks, two yoga sessions, and a few runs – including a lovely and peaceful four-miler on Sunday and an intense HIIT run (via the Peloton app) earlier in the week. My fastest pace was 05:42 minutes/mile! Now, I’m sure I didn’t sustain that for more than a couple of seconds, but I didn’t even realize I could get to that pace at all. So thanks, Becs, for the push, and thanks, Garmin, for the info. I AM A BEAST.

Blogging. Themed reads on Wednesday – it was a hard one to write, because there was an absolute wealth of material and narrowing down the options to just three recommendations was not an easy task. And then back to the wild, wild west on Friday with a fun hike recap. Check in with me then!

Loving. So, this would not be a “loving” for many people, and honestly I’m a bit surprised that it was for me, but… ya girl worked in the office on Thursday! I put on my nicest jeans (my company is famously casual), drove into Arlington, parked in a parking garage, found my DESK (!!!), promptly stole someone else’s desk (!!!!!), and worked an actual office day. This is exciting stuff, people. The last time I worked a regular day – not a hearing, deposition, or special event – in the office was March 13, 2020. Two years. When I was in the thick of commuting every day I think I would have said working fully remote would be a dream, and it has been great to have the flexibility, and I don’t plan to go back to five days a week in the office – probably ever. (It goes without saying, but I’ll say anyway that I’m very aware of how lucky I am to have the flexibility to work from home.) But I was surprised by how much I missed the interaction with people (who even am I?). There was deskside chatter with a transportation lawyer who started around the same time as I did and supports some of the same business lines, and some “getting to know you” conversation with a regulatory attorney as we heated up leftovers side-by-side. It all felt novel and fun – scanning my badge to get into the suite, wandering around looking for the fridge and the ladies’ room, seeing new faces and scouting out better desk spaces to request… Yeah, if it’s not clear, I really enjoyed cleaning out my email inbox in a different location.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

Reading In This Season

Recently, I was listening to an episode of The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast: “Hey Mamas, Reading for Pleasure is Part of the Job!” Sarah, the host, was being gently validating and encouraging – as usual – giving permissions and tips for making reading for pleasure a part of everyday life even with very young children. She shared her own experience of having three babies one year old and under and struggling to make time for her own reading in that season, and how her personal reading life has changed and evolved over the years. And it occurred to me that, while I’ve examined my reading life in other stages of motherhood – like the bleary-eyed days of a preschooler and a kindergartener – I haven’t squinted at my book time recently.

Reading through motherhood is a series of mini-shifts. Mini-shifts in schedule, mini-shifts in expectation.

  • Both of my kids read fluently now. This seems like a big shift, but to arrive at this moment there were many small shifts and incremental progress. I still read aloud, but we have moments now of all sitting quietly with our respective books. I’ve waited for this for years, people.
  • My commute situation has changed a few times over. I used to get in an extra ninety minutes of reading each day on the Metro (my commute was 45 minutes each way and I would whip out my book as soon as I got on the train and sometimes even before). COVID work-from-home life removed the commute from the occasion but added in walks with audiobooks – a slower way for me to read, but it adds up – and now I am looking at another commute shift as I start to transition back to the office, but with a drive commute instead of Metro as I’ve moved outside the Beltway.
  • We’ve recently moved bedtime back by about an hour. It was a long-overdue shift that I’d been wanting to do for awhile, and 100% the right decision for the kids’ ages, but it does mean an hour less of reading time in the evenings.
  • Reading attention ebbs and flows with political and current events outside my cozy home bubble. Orange wannabe dictator; global pandemic – big reading slump. New floppy-haired nutjob in the governor’s mansion ruining my beautiful state – mini reading slump. I fall into a doomscrolling spiral. And then I reset, breathe, hide my phone in the kitchen and get back to my books.

So this is what reading looks like, in my current season of life with two elementary school-aged anklebiters:

  • It looks like half an hour of reading over my morning coffee, setting myself up for the day before I dive headfirst into dishing up breakfast, compiling school lunch and snacks, laying out clothes, inspecting bed-making, and digging for juice boxes in the back of the fridge.
  • It looks like Beezus and Ramona read aloud at the bus stop, at least on the mornings we remember to grab the book on our way out the door amidst the flurry of grabbing sneakers and masks and asking Alexa what the temperature is outside.
  • It looks like an audiobook (currently, The 4.50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie) several days a week, while walking around my neighborhood – sometimes as soon as the bus barrels off, sometimes mid-afternoon between conference calls – and on the way to the grocery store or library.
  • It looks like bringing my book to the swim school – and indoor soccer, in the winter – on Sunday afternoons and squeezing in as many pages as I can while Peanut and Nugget are in the pool.
  • It looks like cozy weekend afternoons on the couch, stretched out after a run and deep in my current book while the kids read or color or do whatever brings them joy. Reading in front of them has become more natural.
  • It looks like The Hobbit or Harry Potter or a picture book in Nugget’s room for half an hour until he drifts off.
  • It looks like collapsing on the couch at 9:00, after Nugget finally drops off to sleep and the rest of the house is quiet, finally opening the book for the hour I’ve promised myself.
  • It looks like a page or two from A Poem for Every Spring Day before I drop off.

There’s definitely less time for reading at the moment than there was when I was commuting on Metro every day, or when the kids were going to bed stupid early and I had long evening stretches to curl up with my book while Steve met up with his friends on whatever the video game du jour happened to be. But if I’ve figured anything out in nine years of parenting, it’s that this is also just a season, and things will change again almost before I’ve had a chance to get used to this routine.

What does your reading look like in this season of life?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (March 14, 2022)

Good morning, friends. I’m digging my parka and snowboots and Smartwool accessories out again over here – because after several downright hot days (the kids went to school in shorts and t-shirts; we hiked last weekend in shorts and t-shirts, too) we got about two inches of heavy, wet snow on Saturday morning. Around here, that’s significant. Even more significant: it’s not gone yet, although most of it is. Anyway, the snowfall meant a hasty reshuffling of weekend plans. I’d made appointments to take both kids for haircuts on Saturday morning, and in the afternoon Nugget was scheduled for a private ski lesson at an indoor ski center (I know!) – one of his birthday treats, since he turned seven (again, I know!!!!) on Friday. But the haircuts were clearly off, as they would have us driving forty minutes each way at the height of the bad weather, and the indoor ski center asked me to reschedule so they could release the instructor. So instead, Nugget spent all of Saturday playing his new Nintendo Switch and I don’t think he was mad about it. (In fact, I was the only one who went outside all day – for a long, delicious walk in the snow. If this was winter’s last hurrah of the year, I didn’t want to miss it.)

There was a lot of Switch playing on Sunday, too, but not exclusively – we had to put a stop to that. Swimming lessons broke up the day as usual, and then we bundled up and headed to our favorite, Riverbend Regional Park, for an afternoon hike. And then the birthday boy played more Nintendo. Well – he’d better not get used to it!

Reading. Pretty busy week in books! I finished up The Fairy Tale Girl on Tuesday and spent the rest of the workweek on Martha’s Vineyard, soaking up every beautifully handpainted and handlettered detail of Susan Branch’s story there. I finally ended the trilogy of her memoirs (The Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams are books one and two, but I’d read the third, A Fine Romance, last year – I should re-read it, though, because it was a total delight) and moved on to the first book in Stephen Moss’s series of “biographies” focusing on British birds – The Robin: A Biography. Loved it, and flew through it (see what I did there?) and finally picked up this gorgeous new edition of Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel of Tudor London – The Armourer’s House. I’m about halfway through and really enjoying it, as I always enjoy Rosemary Sutcliff.

Watching. A little too much watching Nugget play Nintendo Switch! We’ll put the brakes on that. And some episodes of Gardener’s World, of course, and Despicable Me 3 on Sunday, to tempt Nugget away from the Switch.

Listening. I’ve been back on a podcast train. I recommended The Mom Hour to a newly pregnant mama last week, and then dove back into my stack of episodes myself.

Making. Progress on my Costa Rica photo book has stalled out, both because I have had less access to the family computer than usual, an especially busy week at work, and I missed the boat on a really substantial discount so the impetus to hurry up and get it done is no longer there. But I will get it done, soonish. I also made progress on Nugget’s scarf, and on my first pair of fingerless gloves. And a big dinner and birthday cake for the new seven-year-old!

Moving. The usual. Some running. Some Peloton classes. A few long walks, including one in the snow – which reminded me that my Sorel boots are warm but not up to three miles of tramping around the neighborhood.

Blogging. A post on reading in this season of life coming atcha on Wednesday, and back to Colorado on Friday. Check in with me then!

Loving. It turns out I am pretty good at Mario Kart. Who knew? I remember always finding Mario Kart difficult and frustrating – I was more of a Super Mario World kind of girl. But I’ve been playing Princess Peach and tearing up the track. It’s silly, but it’s fun to play a game with my little guy.

Asking. What are you reading this week?