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Archive for the ‘Reading Life’ Category

First things first: happy, happy, happy birthday, handsome!  Also, for the rest of you less handsome people: happy Monday, and happy Thanksgiving week to my American friends.  We had a pretty relaxing weekend around these parts.  The main idea was to celebrate Steve for surviving another trip around the sun: good job, Steve.  But Saturday filled up, as Saturdays do, with a birthday party (one of Nugget’s friends this time) and then some pre-Thanksgiving food shopping.  I didn’t get everything I needed – Thanksgiving ingredient shopping with a three-year-old is not amazing – but I got most.  On Sunday, we hiked – naturally.  For Steve’s birthday hike, he chose to explore Widewater State Park down in Stafford.  We’d never been there because it’s brand new – as in, Governor Northam just cut the ribbon on it a week ago.  The visitors center smelled like new construction and the blazes were all freshly affixed to the trees.  They’re still in the construction process and I believe there is a lot more planned for the park, but we enjoyed feeling in the know and being among the first to visit.  And now it’s back to the grind, but only for three days – long weekend ahoy!

 

Reading.  Kind of a slow reading week, actually.  Not a bad reading week, just a slow one.  I lost some reading time due to bad commutes earlier in the week, and my parents stayed at my house one evening and I spent the post-kiddo-bedtime hours visiting with them.  But when I have managed to open a book, I’ve been reading good ones.  Four Seasons in Rome earlier in the week, which was lovely and lyrical.  And over the latter half of the week, and all of the weekend, I’ve been slowly reading Angle of Repose, which has been on my TBR for ages.  Unfortunately, it’s overdue to go back to the library so I am going to have to pick up the pace considerably, since I’m only about halfway through at press time.

Watching.  It was almost a “nothing at all” kind of week, but Steve and I did knock out two episodes of The Great British Baking Show on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.  There was pastry and innuendo, of course.

Listening.  Podcasts and this and that.  The highlight was the dropping of the first episode of the long-awaited Slightly Foxed Podcast.  I listened to it – gleefully, I might add – while driving to Wegmans (with a sleeping boy in the back seat, which is why I was able to listen to a podcast and not his commentary on every construction vehicle we passed along the way) and I’m already in search of copies of James Lees-Milne’s diaries.  This podcast is going to become a problem.

Making.  A Thanksgiving menu and grocery lists, mainly.  And on Sunday evening I made homemade lobster mac ‘n cheese as a special birthday dinner for Steve.  It turned out really well, and one of us may have picked every piece of lobster out of the leftovers before they went into the fridge.  I’m not pointing fingers, but this person’s name rhymes with Schpeve.

Moving.  The normal toddler-chasing, for the most part, but I can at least report to you that I’m riding my DeskCycle again.  I’m sure my new colleagues all think I’m really weird.

Blogging.  I have a bookish post coming to you on Wednesday – another entry on my Classics Club challenge list, look at me go! – and still catching up, October’s hike on Friday, you know, in case you local folks need any ideas for working Thanksgiving off over the weekend.

Loving.  So, I try not to fall for clickbait, but sometimes I can’t resist those I F*cking Love Science articles on Facebook, and I clicked one recently that has given me so much joy, I am literally unable to even: AI Trying To Design Inspirational Posters Goes Horribly and Hilariously Wrong.  You should go read it, but if you’re too busy, here’s the tl;dr – a fairly basic AI tasked with designing inspirational posters – you know, moving or wise sayings transposed on a soothing image background – has “gone insane” and is creating images that range from weird and hilarious to sinister to NSFW.  And the best is, you can go visit the bot and make your own images, but don’t, because you will lose hours of your life to this.  Learn from my mistakes.  Or do it anyway, because it’s SO much fun and you get comedic gold like this:

Or this.

Even for AI, millennials are a punching bag.  Damn.  Where’s my comfort avocado?  Then there’s this frighteningly accurate portrayal of anxiety:

This also scares me a lot:

Pretty different, indeed.  Here’s one that pretty much sums up the issues I deal with in my day job:

Get your minds out of the gutter, I’m an employment lawyer.

If only I had known.  Maybe I wouldn’t have had high risk pregnancies.  Also, the shadowy man at the bottom of the picture: why???

I don’t even know what to do with this one.

You can say that again.  InspiroBot, guys.  Go do it.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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Hellooooooo new week.  It’s my first full week at my new job – I started this past Thursday and spent the first two days meeting a million different people and watching hours of training videos – and I’m hoping to feel a little more settled by this time next week.  It was a nice, laid-back weekend, so that should set me up for a good first week of work.  On Saturday, we got in a short hike at a local botanical preserve.  I wanted to check out a new state park that Governor Northam just opened, but we got too late of a start – maybe next weekend?  The rest of Saturday, we spent bumming around town and visiting the playgrounds in our puffer coats; the chill has set in and it definitely feels like November in the wind.  On Sunday, Steve took Nugget to the zoo while Peanut and I had a play date at her BFF’s condo.  I have no idea what the girls did, but BFF’s mom and I had a good chat and catch up session.  We discussed Harry and Meghan’s baby and rated all of the younger royals’ fashion sense, so basically we were productive.  Sunday afternoon was spent at the library, naturally, and I’m pleased to report that I took home more books for the kids than for me.  Look at me, I’m growing.


Reading.  It was a verrrrrrry busy reading week for me.  From Monday through Wednesday, I was enjoying three days of “funemployment” – that golden period when you’ve left a job and have another one lined up but it’s not quite time to start yet.  I’d have loved to have a full week, but three days seemed like all I was going to be able to swing, so I decided to take that and be grateful.  Monday and Tuesday were full days of torrential downpours, so consequently they were full days of reading.  From Sunday through Tuesday, I finished three books – I Should Have Honor: A Memoir of Hope and Pride in PakistanThe Shooting Party (which inspired Julian Fellowes to write “Gosford Park” and “Downton Abbey”); and Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay.  My pace slowed down after that, with chaperoning a field trip on Wednesday, then squeezing in a solo hike, and then adjusting to a new office life starting on Thursday – but I still managed to churn through The House By the Lake: One House, Five Families, and a Hundred Years of German HistoryMy So-Called Bollywood Life; and half of Four Seasons in Rome.  Not a bad showing for a week, wouldn’t you agree?

Watching.  My usual – very, very little.  Election returns on Tuesday night, and one episode each of The Great British Baking Show (caramel week!) and The Good Place.  The election returns were super stressful and I ended up turning them off at 9:00 and going to bed early.  I woke up at 1:00 a.m. (Nugget had a bad dream and wanted cuddles) and checked my phone, only to discover that the election went a lot better than I had thought when I crawled dejectedly under the covers just a few hours before.  Hurray for the blue wave!  It’ll be nice to finally have some checks and balances again.

Listening.  Just hopping around from podcast to podcast.  I was in a bookish mood at the beginning of the week and caught up on some reading podcast episodes, then switched back to Speak Up for Blue over the weekend.  Peanut and I listened to a couple of episodes about saving whales on our way back from her play date – she told me “I like learning new things, Mommy,” and my heart exploded.

Making.  Meh, not much.  A big batch of cooked greens for the week, and the beginnings of a Christmas list for the kiddos – that’s about it.  Have you ever tried to make a Christmas list while one of your kids perches on your lap?  Nugget wants EVERYTHING on Amazon’s Preschool gift list.  Thanks for that, Jeff Bezos.

Blogging.  We are going to be extra outdoorsy this week.  On Wednesday, I’m catching up on Twelve Months of Trails with a recap of September’s hike – only two months late, no biggie.  And on Friday, I’m sharing the travel guide I wish I’d had when planning an Adirondack vacation with shorties.  Check in with me then!

Loving.  Peanut’s class is in the middle of a unit on Colonial history – hence our trip to a Colonial farm on Wednesday – and she is having the best time learning about life in Colonial Virginia.  I’ve always been a big history nerd, so I am super excited that she’s interested in it too.  Maybe a trip to Colonial Williamsburg is in the offing?  She’s at a really fun age right now and I’ve been able to share some of my interests and my favorite books with her.  I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and I’m so jazzed that we still have so much fun and bonding ahead of us.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.  How is it November already?  I don’t know where this year is going, but this is going to be a good week.  I have three days of “funemployment” – I start my new job on Thursday – and I’m jazzed to vote tomorrow and to chaperone a kindergarten field trip on Wednesday.  This weekend was good, too.  It got started a bit late, as I was wrapping up my old job until about 6:30 on Friday evening – late for me.  When I got home, the kiddos were bouncing off the walls and my dear Zan was waiting on my couch.  I quickly read the kids stories, then let Dad handle the rest of bedtime while Zan and I slipped out for a glass of wine at a restaurant around the corner from my house.  We chatted for an hour about my new job, her upcoming business travel, and more.  Saturday was a good day – relaxed and peaceful.  We took a family walk to the farmers’ market and the library, where I checked out nine books (whoops) and scored bigtime at the library sale – two 1930s editions of Lytton Strachey biographies (Queen Victoria and Elizabeth and Essex) for a dollar each, who dis?  On Sunday, we hiked at Huntley Meadows, which was ablaze in color.  The rest of the weekend was chill – lots of reading on the back patio while the kids dug in the sandbox, zooming trucks around Nugget’s bedroom, listening to Peanut practice on her early readers, chatting with my brother and his wife on their way back from a ski equipment sale in Aspen, and relishing the stories of our next-door neighbors who just returned from a honeymoon in Italy.  (Gelato featured heavily.)  All good, nourishing, life-affirming stuff.


Reading.  I’ve been churning through books this week.  Finished The Floating Admiral early last week (recap coming soon), listened to the last of Educated while putting the finishing touches on the art project for the kindergarten class Halloween party, then blazed through The MothersHallowe’en PartyThe Radical Element and I Should Have Honor over the latter half of the week.  Look at me go!  It was such an active reading week that I almost feel like I should have highlights – The Radical Element probably takes the crown if I’m choosing the best of the week, but I have enjoyed it all.  At press time, I’m not sure what book will be next; I have a teetering library stack to deal with.

Watching.  As might be expected with such a busy reading week, I was light on television (even for me).  We watched a couple of episodes of The Good Place to close out the second season, and an episode of The Great British Baking Show on Sunday night.  Highlight: Julia’s bread week showstopper, which prompted the line: “I made a snail.  It looks… very inappropriate.”  Steve and I almost choked on our wine.

Listening.  Lots of listening in addition to the reading.  I didn’t want to carry more to work than strictly necessary, since I was lugging huge shopping bags of office detritus home with me on the metro all week – so I stuck to my earbuds.  I finished up Educated, as noted above, via Audible.  Then switched back to my backlog of podcasts and listened to selected episodes of my favorite book podcasts – The Book Riot PodcastTea and TattleTea or Books? and From the Front Porch.  The Tea and Tattle episode on autumnal reads was particularly delightful.

Making.  About thirty felt capes and the same number of foam sticker superhero masks for the kindergarteners’ pumpkins.  They looked homemade, but the kids didn’t care, and it was a labor of love.

Blogging.  I have a cozy week of posts prepared for you.  On Wednesday, I’ll share my reading recap for October, and on Friday, prepare for a Halloween photobomb.  We had such a fun holiday and naturally I documented every second.

Loving.  Sort of a bittersweet loving this week as I finished up my old job on Friday.  I knew the career move was necessary, but it was surprisingly hard to go.  In the end, I hefted three full shopping bags and choked back tears as my friends Sam, J.B. and Renee walked me out for the last time.  I had my reasons for making this change, and I know it’s the right decision, but I am just now realizing how much the firm gave me – not just an excuse to get out of a toxic situation and come home, but a bunch of hilarious war stories and a whole new set of friends.  My last day was filled with promises to email all the time, plans to get together for lunch in my new neighborhood, hiking invitations and a flurry of text messages.  I’ve had a lot of stress and my share of tears, but in the end the emotion I felt most was gratitude for the many, many friendships I’m taking with me.  No regrets.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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Here we go again – Monday is back, and round and round it goes.  This is my last Monday at my current job and I’m having surprisingly bittersweet feelings about leaving.  I’ve known for awhile that this job wasn’t for me, and in fact, that’s why I set the word “begin” as my 2018 word of the year – because even as far back as January, I was craving a new beginning in my professional life.  (I can now also explain that the super-secret-not-a-baby project I’ve been working on all year has been a turbocharged job search.)  Anyway, I’ve got a new job at a new firm, I’ve accepted and cleared all the pre-employment hurdles and I’ve given notice to my current firm and now I’m unexpectedly sad about it all.  It’s the right thing to do for my career, but I’ve made some wonderful friends at my job and I’m going to miss them.  The good news is, I’ll only be a few subway stops away, so we can keep in touch.

Anyway, I wanted a laid-back weekend going into what I know is going to be an emotional last week at my current job.  We started the weekend with a date night on Friday.  Why didn’t someone warn me how sad “First Man” is?  On Saturday, we didn’t do much of anything.  We lazed about the house, I read, and the kids watched The Incredibles 2 – finally.  I took Nugget over to the soccer field at the neighborhood elementary school to hit his t-ball for a little while, and then we played on the school playground.  Sunday was more eventful, because it was the nicer of the two days and we saved all of our outdoor fun.  In the morning, we drove out to Loudoun County to pick our pumpkins for the season.  The kids had a blast charging around the pumpkin patch and sitting on all of the (non-rotten) pumpkins, reciting lines from Curious George: A Halloween Boo-Fest all the while.  After we’d loaded the trunk of the car with pumpkins and a(nother) dozen apple cider donuts – ’tis the season – we headed to a nearby nature sanctuary for a picnic lunch and a bird-spotting hike around a meadow.  Then home – via the library, naturally – to carve our pumpkins and have a cozy evening.  I made ravioli with veggie Bolognese, and we ended Sunday evening as we always do – the kids tucked up in bed, parents hanging out on the couch with a book (me) and the remote (Steve).  Yes – cozy.

Reading.  It’s also been a cozy reading week.  I blew through I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life on Monday – love a book about books.  The rest of the week was taken up with The Floating Admiral, a team-written mystery novel by the original Detection Club (including such luminaries as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, and Anthony Berkeley).  It took me the week to get through because I was leaving my beautiful Folio Society edition at home during the days – I don’t trust the ravages of the Metro – and listening to Educated on my commutes instead.  Anyway, I finally finished The Floating Admiral on Sunday morning, and the same day started two new books – The Mothers, which I have out from the library, and Hallowe’en Party on my kindle, because it seemed like the thing to do going into Halloween week.

Watching.  Sort of this and that.  Steve had plans with friends one night earlier this week, so I watched an episode of The Great American Read – I’m slowly catching up.  (I know results are out, so please, NO SPOILERS.)  Otherwise, we are almost done with the second season of The Good Place and it’s still SO good.  And, of course, First Man on Friday night – two movie dates in a month, who dis?

Listening.  As noted above, it was an earbuds-heavy week for me as I listened to Educated, my book club book for this month, on Audible during my commutes every day.  I’m down to just about four hours left in the audiobook.  It’s hard to listen to, but I’m already looking forward to an excellent discussion with my book club.

Moving.  I bike-commuted last week!  I rode in on Monday morning and then, because it was soooo cold, left my bike in my office overnight and rode it home on Tuesday afternoon (warm, sunny and gorgeous).  I enjoyed biking to work and would definitely like to make it part of my routine, but I think the weather has pretty much turned now and so it might be awhile until I ride in again.  Other than the exciting bike commute, it was the normal movement – some city walks during the week and some toddler-chasing and easy hiking on the weekend.  Definitely need to fire up the Barre3 online workouts again.

Cooking.  It wasn’t as big of a batch-cooking weekend this week, as I still have a lot of food left over from my cooking extravaganza last weekend.  But I added to the stores with one meal’s worth of ravioli and Bolognese, plus two extra containers of Bolognese and a big tin of roasted pumpkin seeds – my favorite!

Blogging.  I have a great week in store for you.  On Wednesday, I’m going to show you pictures from the most incredible museum exhibition I attended last week with my friend Susan.  (Local friends, take note: this is one you don’t want to miss.)  And on Friday, I’m finally going to share the pictures from the final hike of our Adirondack vacation – yes, the one I keep teasing and then flaking on.  You’d be quite justified in shaking your head and saying never gonna happen, but I swear it’s for real this time.  The pictures are out of the camera (what an ordeal that was) and the post is written and scheduled.  I hope it’s worth the wait.  (It’s not, but what can you do?)

Loving.  I started following Oceana on Instagram last week and you guys, I seriously can’t get enough.  Adorable baby polar bears!  Penguins holding hands!  Whales galore!  If you’re a fan of marine life, go check it out immediately.  The sea otters snoozing in their kelp blankies will melt the coldest heart, I promise.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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One of the things that my reading friends find most surprising is my confession that – up until very recently – I’ve never belonged to a book club.  The closest I got to a book club-type environment was in college, junior year, when I volunteered to lead a freshman book discussion group as part of a pilot program that my university was rolling out with the idea of having every freshman participate in a class-wide reading event.  The book was going to be provided to each freshman as part of their admissions package, and I didn’t see why they should get a free book and I didn’t, so I signed up as a discussion leader.  The joke was on me, because the book was Guns, Germs and Steel, and I spent the better part of my summer slogging through it.  The only fun I had with that book came when I brought it on vacation and my friend Adam attacked the “Speedboat to Polynesia” chapter with a red pen, crossing out the word “speedboat” everywhere he saw it and writing in “jetski” instead.  But I digress.

Anyway, I’ve never been in a real book club – one that meets regularly, drinks wine and dissects popular fiction and nonfiction titles.  My mom is, and her book club has been going strong for more than seven years now.  Those ladies have it figured out.  Sometimes I pass them a recommendation through my mom and wait eagerly to hear whether they liked my choice or not (generally, they do).  But I’m not local to the area, so I’m not in the club – alas.  I’ve considered asking if I could join from afar and participate by FaceTime, and I bet they’d let me.  But it just wouldn’t be quite the same.

So as you can see, I’m not opposed to the idea of a book club.  I love the idea of a book club.  But it never seemed to be an option for me.  I didn’t know how to find one, and the introvert in me didn’t particularly want to start one – nor did I know how to go about recruiting members – or to be in charge of things like setting rules and expectations, admitting (or not admitting) new members, or anything else that might make me unpopular.  So I participated in online readalongs when I could and dreamed of a book club falling, fully formed, into my lap.  They’d be wine-drinkers and classics-readers.  We’d sip rosé and debate things like “Henry Tilney: mansplainer or not?”  This was never going to happen.

Then along came the Buy Nothing Project.  For those not in the know, BN is a national network of hyper-local neighborhood gifting economies.  It’s generally managed through Facebook, and in order to get into your local group you have to prove that you live in the neighborhood.  Without getting too deep in irrelevant details, it’s basically a gift exchange where people give and receive gifts – of time, goods, instruction.  Some people do more giving (seeing the group as a way to purge and declutter), and others do more receiving.  There is a very defined set of rules for how gifting is supposed to work, and a pretty particularized culture that grows up around the gifting economy.  I was a little nervous about getting involved, but I wanted to unload baby gear and a number of other things, and I liked the idea of giving to – and hopefully getting to know – my neighbors.  We had just moved back to the DC area after three years of feeling very isolated in western New York, and I was craving a community – and that’s what I found.  My first “Buy Nothing friend” was a woman named Allison.  I gave her a set of bookends and we were fast friends after that – we took long neighborhood walks while she was pregnant, she accompanied me to a friend’s jewelry trunk sale, and we enjoyed many sessions of tea, banana bread and marathon chats.  I delivered four large boxes of toddler girl clothing to her after her daughter was born.  She loaned me her expertise as an educator when I needed to bounce school-related frustrations off of someone, and she picked up and held mail for me when our family went out of town unexpectedly.  She’s a terrific neighbor and an even better friend.

What does this have to do with book club?  Okay – I’m going on and on about Buy Nothing.  But you see, it’s inextricably bound up in our neighborhood book club.  One day I logged into Facebook and navigated over to the BN page for my neighborhood to post a gift.  Longtime readers may remember that I used to have a subscription to Book Riot Quarterly boxes: one month, I somehow received a duplicate box and that box had moved with me twice now.  It was time for it to go.  So, I posted it.  BN encourages participants to have a little fun with choosing to whom they will gift an item, so I asked interested neighbors to tell me their favorite book – and the responses poured in.  In the end, I chose a woman who said her favorite book was The Master and Margarita, which is a book I also love – but I had never met anyone who shared my appreciation for it.  (I only know one other person who has read it, and she disliked it.)  After I chose my gift recipient, I made the offhand remark that there were so many readers in the group, we should start a book club.

The idea took off immediately, and the Buy Nothing book club was born.

We met for the first time back in April.  I hosted the meeting, which was a get-to-know-you meeting.  We gathered on my couch, sipped wine (just like in my dreams!) and talked about our families, our jobs, our other interests, and our reading lives.  We agreed on certain parameters for the group – we’d rotate hosting, the host would choose the book that we’d be discussing at her meeting, and we’d try to stick to books that were older so that people could get them at the library easily, or at least obtain an inexpensive paperback – since forcing people to buy a $27 hardcover each month in order to be part of the book club went pretty directly opposite our gifting economy ethos.  (The library system in our town is wonderful, but we’re a city of hardcore readers and any popular new title is guaranteed to have a waiting list no matter how many copies the library orders.)

The book club took off immediately.  I hosted the second meeting as well, and we discussed Northanger Abbey.  (The club mostly hated it.  I cried into my wine a little bit.)  We spun out into a separate Facebook group after our group chat became too popular and unwieldy for me to manage.  Little traditions started to emerge.  One woman brought rice krispie treats to every meeting – now we all look forward to them.  Someone always has a gift to exchange.  One member brought a “Pete the Cat” puzzle for my kids; another loaned me some mason jars (which I need to return – oops).  I handed off two big bags of toddler boy clothes at the third meeting.

This is not to say we haven’t had our hiccups.  We’re a new club, still getting our feet under us as a unit and getting to know each other as individuals.  Our preference for inclusivity has led to something of a revolving door of new members who come and go while the core of the group stays relatively stable.  We’re still figuring out our system for choosing books – we’ve had one book that needed two meetings, because it was so long, and a couple of new releases that violated our self-imposed rule against $27 hardcovers.  (Including this month’s pick, Educated, by Tara Westover – a 2018 release.  It’s excellent and I know our discussion is going to be really rich – I’m especially interested to hear what the other girls have to say about unreliable memory – but we’ve had to scramble to make sure no one had to purchase a copy if they didn’t want to do so.)  We also have a hard time staying on topic and the conversation often veers away from the book and on to neighborhood issues, the BN community, decluttering and parenting talk – shared areas of interest for many of us, but not what we are meeting to discuss.  (I often am the one struggling to keep the group on subject.  My mom mentioned that her book club has a rule that they eat first and talk about whatever they want to discuss while they eat, but once the food is put away they only discuss the book.  I may propose that to my group, but I don’t want to seem dictatorial.)

Which brings me to wonder: how on earth am I in this position?  Yes, I’ve wanted to join a book club for years – but as an introvert (and one who is generally retiring with people I don’t know well and especially in groups) I wanted to slip into a fully formed book club, spend a few meetings just listening, and not be in charge of anything, ever.  My working life requires me to counsel managers through personnel matters on almost a daily basis, and while I love what I do, I didn’t want to boss my book club.  I wanted to ring the doorbell with a book and a bottle of wine in my hand, curl up on someone’s couch, and let other people run the show.  So that’s what I’m allowing myself to do now, and it’s nice to cede control.  When it’s my month to host, I try to keep the group focused, but otherwise I am content to sit and enjoy my neighbors’ company.  Sometimes we veer off subject – okay, we always veer off subject – but I couldn’t find a better community.

Are you a member of a book club?  How do you keep them on subject?  (Asking for a friend.)

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Monday, you’re showing up too soon as always!  I am particularly sad to bid goodbye to this weekend.  Nothing especially exciting happened – it was just a nice, relaxing couple of days.  I decided that I wanted to be mostly analog, so I almost completely unplugged from my phone and it was glorious.  On Saturday morning I took Nugget out to run errands – we got him a haircut, returned a jacket to Target, and did a big grocery stock-up run at Wegmans.  Once we got home, I spent a few hours doing a big batch-cooking marathon, then we headed out for a family walk.  We’d intended to walk down to the river, but only made it as far as the playground.  Oh, well!  Sunday was more of the same – with the addition of a hike in Rock Creek Park in the morning.  A few of the trees are just starting to show color, but our peak foliage is still a week or two away.  In the afternoon – more batch-cooking (the fridge is loaded) and then I took Nugget for a bike ride to the playground.  It was very simple, and just right.

Reading.  It was a pacey reading week, even for me.  I started the week back in John Moore’s Brensham, visiting with old friends like Mr. Chorlton and Pistol, Bardolph and Nym, and meeting new ones like William Hart – The Blue Field is the final volume of Moore’s Brensham trilogy, and I’m sad to leave that world behind.  Next up, I blazed through the latest Lady Georgianna mystery – Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding.  Georgie can’t seem to make it through a month without stumbling on a dead body or a conspiracy!  Finally, over the course of Saturday and Sunday, on the recommendation of my friend Zan, I read the heartbreakingly powerful The Girl Who Smiled Beads, a memoir of life as a refugee after the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s.  At press time, I’m not sure what will be next – but I’m definitely looking for something lighthearted.

Watching.  We’re still working our way through The Good Place, season two.  It’s just as fantastic as the first season (except for not enough Bad Janet! the people demand more Bad Janet!).  My brother told me that he and his wife tried to watch and couldn’t make it through the first episode.  WHAT?!?!

Listening.  I was switching back and forth between Audible and podcasts this week.  I’m listening to Educated on audio, as it’s my book club book and the audiobook was the only free (well, I spent a credit on it) version I could get ahold of.  We’ve definitely fallen off the wagon of trying to pick things that are in the public domain or at least out for a few years so that folks don’t have to spend money to get the book.  It’s hard to listen to, but I do think we’re going to have a lot to discuss at book club.  The rest of my earbud time has been spent with podcasts – mostly Speak Up for Blue, but I also listened to the fall top ten list from Sorta Awesome.

Making.  Per the above, it was a very cooking-heavy weekend.  Maybe it’s the arrival of cold weather (which I can’t celebrate – I know lots of people are jumping for joy, but I like heat and I’m in deep mourning for my flip-flops) but I just felt compelled to stock my fridge this weekend.  In addition to the usual chopping of cucumbers and fruit for the week, I made red wine-braised lentils; coconut tofu curry; roasted butternut squash; tofu, apple and butternut squash breakfast hash; and homemade cinnamon applesauce.  We will be eating well this week.

Blogging.  Talking about book club on Wednesday, and then (hopefully) sharing pictures of our final hike of vacation on Friday.  (They’re all still in my camera, and I need to dig out the USB cord so I can get them uploaded.  Here’s hoping.)

Loving.  After my marathon cooking weekend, I have to give shouts to my favorite All-Clad soup pot – similar to this one.  It’s my go-to cooking vessel and it’s called into service several times a week and still looks brand-new.  This weekend I used it for the braised lentils, the tofu curry and the applesauce.  It wasn’t inexpensive, but I’ve been using it regularly for almost ten years now and man, do I love it.  There’s something about the sight of soup, stew or curry bubbling away in that gleaming stainless steel – it’s as comforting as it gets.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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Yawwwwwwn.  I’m even more unready for Monday than usual.  I stayed up late on Saturday night (well, late for me, which means a little after 11:00) and on Sunday-into-Monday I was up for a few hours in the middle of the night – so I’m feeling extra sleepy this morning.  It was a lovely weekend, though.  My birthday fell on Saturday this year, so we had a big weekend of celebrating on the trails.  I don’t love having a big deal made out of my birthday these days – all I want is a day or two of quality time with my three favorite people, bonus points if it’s mostly outdoors.  And that’s exactly what I got, so I was well contented.  On Friday evening, I came home and the kids gave me my birthday presents early – an(other) adopted southern resident killer whale (J-26 Mike! he’s always been one of my favorites; he’s GIGANTIC) from everyone; the 25th anniversary Automatic for the People on vinyl from Steve; and a homemade card from Peanut (“HAPPY BRTHDY FAMLY MOM”) which I absolutely loved.  She was upset that she didn’t have a present for me, but I assured her that cards are my favorite presents, this one is the best one I’ve ever gotten, and I’ll treasure it forever – all true statements.  On Saturday, we were up and out the door to Shenandoah National Park – my birthday request.  We packed a picnic of homemade vegetable and bean soup, fresh baguette, sliced veggies, my goat cheese and sundried tomato pesto spread, and apples from our apple-picking trip last week – yum.  We knocked out two hikes in the park – Big Meadows and the Story of the Forest Trail – and it was chilly but beautiful.  We started Sunday with another hike, this time at Fletcher’s Cove, where we like to go kayaking in the summertime.  Turned out there was a beautiful trail down by the river – beautiful, but insanely muddy.  We all fell in the mud, then rushed home to clean up and welcome Zan and Paul over for football and friend time.  The guys watched the Bills game while Zan and I ate soup, caught up, and took Nugget to the library.  Ended the weekend as I always do – curled up on the couch with a book.  It was all delicious.

 

Reading.  My reading week went from charming to interesting but unnerving, and back to charming again.  I finished my re-read of Queen Lucia last Tuesday, then turned to Fear: Trump in the White House (the new Bob Woodward book for those who’ve been living under a rock).  It may be different elsewhere, but in my community of Washington, DC and NoVA, everyone is talking about the new book and I felt compelled to read it.  It was chilling.  After that, I obviously needed some comfort reading, so I picked up the final volume in the Brensham Trilogy of lightly-fictionalized memoirs about English life in a country village in the middle of the last century.  It’s basically the literary equivalent of a thermos of hot tea, and I’m loving every minute.

Watching.  The second season of The Good Place dropped on Netflix, so all other viewing has been pretty much suspended while we laugh until we cry at the antics of Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, Michael and Janet.  (“No, this is good!  He’s having an existential crisis!”)  I did branch out one night last week when Steve had plans, and watched the fall kick-off episode of The Great American Read (yes, I’m woefully backlogged).

Listening.  The best listening was to my vinyl of Automatic for the People on Saturday night!  That was a very cool gift.  Other than that – lots of podcasts, mainly Speak Up for Blue and Marine Conservation Happy Hour.

Making.  Is there anything more comforting than starting the week with a huge container of homemade soup in the fridge?  I threw together one of my odds and ends soups and it ended up particularly good, featuring tricolor carrots, broccoli, orange cauliflower, brown rice and navy beans, and lentils.  Yum!  A very good way to fuel up before hiking and to welcome friends over, and I’ve got enough left over for a week’s worth of delicious lunches.

Blogging.  Mixing it up this week.  I’ll have my third (and penultimate) 52 Hike Challenge update for you on Wednesday, and on Friday, instead of sharing our sixth and final day in Lake Placid, I’ll show you a few snaps in town and on the water.  (We’ll do the last day of vacation next week – I’m not ready to be done!)

Loving.  Like I said above, birthdays aren’t really a big deal to me anymore (at least, not my birthday – I do make a big deal out of the kids’ special days).  But I felt really loved all weekend.  Between lots of time on beautiful trails with my family, the thoughtful gifts my sweet ones gave me, tons of love on Facebook and an absolutely hilarious card from my work wife – it was just a nice way to celebrate surviving another trip around the sun.  I feel pretty great about the people in my life, and that’s a nice place to be.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

 

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