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Reading Round-Up Header

Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby.  I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book.  Here are my reads for September, 2017

Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1), by Kevin Kwan – I really enjoyed this fun romp through the highest of high Singaporean society.  Rachel Chu, all-but “ABC” (American-Born Chinese) little knows what she is getting into when she accepts her boyfriend’s invitation to spend the summer with his “traditional” Singaporean family and be his date to his best friend’s wedding.  It turns out that the wedding is the biggest society event in the country and that Nick is heir to a massive fortune and the most eligible bachelor in Asia.  As Rachel navigates the treacherous waters of Nick’s disapproving family and the legions of women who will do anything to snatch Nick away from her, Nick’s cousin Astrid is dealing with her own private heartache – oh, and Nick’s mother Eleanor and her Bible study group are determined to get rid of Rachel once and for all.  Great literature this is not – but good fun it is, and I am anxiously awaiting the movie.

It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis – I had been waiting and waiting – months, in fact – to cycle to the top of the library wait list and take home Sinclair Lewis’s eerily prescient classic.  In It Can’t Happen Here, Lewis illustrates, with terrifying specificity, how Fascism could take hold in America and what the consequences could be.  The book was written in 1935, when Fascism was on the rise in Europe but most Americans were blissfully ignorant of the fact, and was Lewis’s wake-up call to a sleeping public.  But after the 2016 election and everything that has happened since, it seems all too frighteningly real.  Lewis paints in shuddering strokes the picture of an American politician who rides into power on a tide of Populist resentment and then proceeds to grab power from left to right until he has created a dictatorship and Fascist kleptocracy with himself as the center and primary beneficiary.  Sound familiar?

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel – This was another one that had been on my list for awhile.  Fun Home is Bechdel’s memoir of growing up in a funeral home, her relationship with her father, and her coming out as a lesbian.  It’s really engagingly written and drawn, and a fascinating glimpse into another life.  (I also know that Bechdel’s work has helped a lot of people on their coming-out journeys, and I think that is really something to celebrate and admire.  She has lent her voice and her cartooning skills, and used her platform, in such an admirable way.)  I found Bechdel herself to be an engaging and lovable figure in the memoir, and was completely fascinated by her relationships with her parents, and her father in particular.  (I also loved the little glimpses into the library of her dad, who was an English teacher and avid reader, and the connection that Bechdel’s own enjoyment of reading gave them – complex and tenuous as that connection may have been.)

The Birchbark House, The Game of Silence, The Porcupine Year, Chickadee, Makoons (Birchbark House #1-5), by Louise Erdrich – Somehow, I only just learned of the Birchbark House books, thanks to a social media post.  Someone in my Twitter (or Facebook?) feed wished for a Native American series akin to the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and another user piped up, “There is one – the Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich.”  I immediately dashed (well, cyber-dashed) to my library’s website and reserved the entire series, and I spent about a week and a half tearing through them, laughing and crying and making mental notes about how to make pemmican and preserve seeds (useful information, I think).  I laughed a lot, and cried a lot, too.  The books follow the life of Omakayas, a young Ojibwe woman, from girlhood through adulthood and motherhood.  Omakayas means “Little Frog,” and she was so named because “her first step was a hop.”  Adopted as a baby, Omakayas grows up as a treasured daughter, granddaughter, sister and friend.  Her life is not without hardship – her family is torn apart by smallpox in the first book (a scene in which I cried floods while reading and floods more while telling a work friend – our firm librarian; hi, Susan! – about the book) but is not without its joys, either.  Had these books been published when I was a young reader, I know I would have devoured them.  As it is – I devoured them.

So – eight books this month, and seven of the eight were from diverse or underrepresented groups (Asian, Native American, and LGBT+) – and all fantastic.  It’s hard to pick a highlight, since I pretty much loved everything I read this month.  But It Can’t Happen Here is an incredibly important classic that I’d been wanting to read for a very long time, and the Birchbark House books were absolutely marvelous.  Another great month of reading!  I’m so glad I am a reader.  Books bring joy to me every single day.

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Happy Labor Day, friends!  If you’re American, I hope that you’re having a great holiday weekend (if you get Monday off – I do, yay!) and for my friends around the world, I hope you’re having a wonderful start to your weeks.  Funny story about Labor Day: when I was in college, this holiday was the holiday for my major.  I majored in Industrial and Labor Relations and we got the day off when everyone else had to attend classes, but there were events all day long.  We had trade union leaders and organizers who would come to speak to us, and a big picnic where we all ate coleslaw and sang solidarity songs.  It was good times.  These days, Labor Day is more about the end of high summer, looking back on golden days of fun and gearing up for the busy back-to-school season ahead.  I usually find myself really conflicted at this time, because I love summer and fall almost equally (fall barely edges out summer into the top spot) and I’m always finding this particular seasonal change a little bittersweet.  But this year, for whatever reason, I feel like I’ve had my fill of summer fun – we really lived it up – and I’m pretty unreservedly excited about fall.  Bring on the puffy vests and pumpkin spice; I am ready!  And just in time, too, because we had a weirdly cool weekend.  I think we’ll have a few more weeks of hot temps, but at least for Saturday and Sunday, it was chilly enough for flannel shirts and cups of tea in the evening.  Of course, that didn’t last even the whole three-day weekend; by the time our Sunday-evening walk rolled around, I’d traded my flannel in for a bike race t-shirt, and today is supposed to be pretty hot and sunny.  We have a fun activity planned for the day, which I’ll tell you about soon, but for now, a look back at last week.

Reading.  Very, very little to report this week.  I’ve slowly continued making my way through Mollie Panter-Downes’ London War Notes, and it’s a really lovely read.  Ponderous and haunting, but with little bits of humor sprinkled in – like Mollie’s wry recounting of the PR machine’s effort to get the British public on board with the Soviet Union after they became unlikely allies, which was finally achieved by the newspapers noting that the USSR Ambassador’s wife is a keen gardener who avidly tends her rose garden. A rose garden is the way to the British heart.

Listening.  The parade of podcasts continues.  I really need to get back to Audible, but I’ve been making such good progress toward an empty podcatcher that I kind of can’t stop won’t stop.  The best, clearly, was the “Sorry/Not Sorry” episode of Sorta Awesome.  I laughed so hard that I was almost sobbing, and the people on the metro probably thought I was a complete loony tune.  But metro people, you just don’t understand.  Sorry, not sorry!

Watching.  Saturday night couch dates continue!  It was my turn to pick this week, and after I hemmed and hawed and gave serious consideration to Captain Ron (it’s a thing and if you haven’t watched it you just won’t get it) we watched Wonder Woman.  Finally!  I’ve been dying to see it and was really bummed I missed it in the theaters.  Also, I totally called who Ares was, and between that and knowing that the Indominus Rex was still in the cage in Jurassic World, I’m feeling pretty pleased with my movie intuition these days.

Moving.  Kind of a slow week, because early in the week I was starting a Whole 30 (never a good time to also be doing a lot of activity – all my energy goes toward managing the metro queasies) and still coming off of Pacific time.  (It’s been a slow transition.)  But at the end of the week I bit the bullet and set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. power yoga, and it was so nice to be back on the mat.  Saturday I made it to my vinyasa class, and on Sunday we hiked at Piscataway Park (pictures coming).  Looking forward to a good week of yoga and hopefully a run or two.

Loving.  My front porch!  I did a quick little makeover for fall and I’m delighted with it.  Picked up a cutesy little pumpkin sign for the front door at Michaels (yes, I am That Lady, apparently) and two little pots of mums, which I plopped right into two ceramic planters I already had.  I love the color combination of the orange mums against the blue and green pots – I tend to be drawn more toward neutral colors that can be found in nature, and greens, blues and oranges are my favorites.  I also checked a lingering porch task off and bought a shepherd’s hook for the front yard so I could move the bird feeder off the porch.  Surprising only me, the birds have been a little bit… disrespectful… of my space (while eating the food I so generously provide every day).  I was the only one who didn’t see that coming, apparently – anyway, the feeder is now over to the side of my front walk and I like the new spot much better.  I have a better view of the feeder from my favorite chair, and it’s just all-around more pleasant.  Looking forward to some long evenings sitting out on the porch watching the birds this fall.

Blogging.  Some good summer content coming your way this week – a wrap-up of my summer list on Wednesday, and another California recap on Friday, this one doubling as my August contribution to my 12 Months of Trails project.  It’s a good one, so do stop by!

Asking.  What are you reading this Labor Day weekend?

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Happy new week, y’all!  So, I have a little secret.  If we’re friends on Instagram, you already know this, but – for the last week and a half, I’ve been on vacation in California!  (My Instagram account is set to private, so I feel a little more comfortable sharing real-time updates when we’re traveling, but on the blog, Facebook and Twitter I like to keep mum about trips until we’ve returned.)  We left on Wednesday, August 16th and returned to D.C. on this past Friday.  It was an epic trip and we had some amazing adventures and a lot of fun with family and friends.  The trip was to celebrate the wedding of my oldest friend, Adam, and since we were buying four plane tickets and my parents, brother and sister-in-law were also attending, we turned it into a family reunion and spent a week in Santa Barbara together with my aunt, uncle and cousin – who live there – after the wedding.  I have many, many stories and pictures to share, naturally, starting on Friday!  Meanwhile, we spent a quiet weekend after getting back home late on Friday night.  Steve had to work full days on Saturday and Sunday, so my weekend was about vacation recovery and reentry, getting the kids off Pacific time (not an easy task) and preparing for the week ahead.  We have another week-and-a-half to go before Peanut’s school starts up for the year, but I’m already getting into back-to-school mode – thinking about getting organized, planning, and getting routines down for the coming school year.  Plus, I’m starting a Whole 30 today (one month to go until I’ve got to wear a Maid of Honor dress…) and I’ve learned after many rounds that failing to plan is planning to fail.  So anytime I wasn’t wrangling children this weekend, I was grocery shopping, meal planning, and vegetable prepping.  We now have a fridge full of fresh and roasted veggies, and I am ready.  So let’s do the thing!

  

Reading.  Kind of a slow last two weeks of reading – wish I had more to report!  I left London War Notes at home when I went on vacation, taking only my kindle (luggage space being at a premium with all the kid gear we had to tote).  Now that I’m back, I’m back into it and loving it as much as ever.  On vacation, most of my time was spent (1) adventuring; (2) enjoying time with family and friends; and (3) squeezing in work – so I didn’t have much time to read.  The only book I finished was Anusha of Prospect Corner, which was written by my lovely friend Amal and her twin daughters.  It was every bit as charming and delightful as I expected it to be and I enjoyed every moment spent with Anusha, Pramila, Manoj and the rest of the Prospect Corner residents.  After Anusha, I turned to Coronation Summer, also on kindle, but didn’t have many chances to read it – right around that time, work really heated up and I was spending every free moment trying to stay on top of things.

Watching.  Very little TV, since – duh! – we were on vacation and I was usually working in the evenings.  I think the only thing I’ve watched in the last week and a half has been cartoons, on the iPad, over the kids’ shoulders.  They, however, have totally overdosed on screen time – between the plane, and all the restaurants, they need a serious iPad detox.

Listening.  I’m deep into the back-to-school episodes of all the parenting podcasts in my podcatcher.  Absolutely loved the discussion of routines on The Home Hour, and the “new year for moms” goals chatter on The Mom Hour.  At some point I need to go back into Audible and finish up my Classics of British Literature course.  Maybe this week…

Moving.  No formal exercise to report this time around, but I’m coming off of a super-active vacation that included multiple days of hiking, sea kayaking, and chasing kiddos around three different beaches.  Plus yesterday, I took them to the zoo.  The National Zoo is set on a deceptively steep hill, and pushing two 30+ pound kids, plus a stroller, from Lot E to the Pachyderm Plaza is no joke.  Looking ahead to this week, I can’t wait to get back to the yoga studio, and I’m scheming up some MCM 10K training runs, too.

Loving.  Vacation!  I really needed the escape, and it was so great to spend time with family members that we don’t see nearly enough (we only manage to get together with Dan and Danielle once a year at the most – I’m trying to figure out a way to change that) and with dear friends.  And of course, watching my oldest friend – our moms started putting us in playpens together when I was only six weeks old – marry the love of his life was one of the highlights of the year.

Blogging.  August reading post coming to you on Wednesday, and the first California vacation recap on Friday.  Check in with me then!

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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Reading Round-Up Header

Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby.  I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book.  Here are my reads for July, 2017

The Brandons (Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire #7), by Angela Thirkell – Funny to go back to the series in order after accidentally reading Northbridge Rectory outside its proper place, and to find myself in another story in which a younger male character fancies himself in love with an older woman who is blissfully ignorant of her effect on the younger generation.  (Coincidence, or is this a thing with Thirkell?  August Folly had a similar plot.)  Anyway, I loved meeting the Brandon family – flirtatious Mrs Brandon and her adult or near-adult children Francis and Delia.  Delia is one of my favorite Thirkell creations ever (she’s Lydia Keith, without being irritating – and unsurprisingly Lydia is a friend of Delia’s and makes an appearance).  I also loved seeing Mrs Morland and Tony again.  Such a fun romp!

In This Grave Hour (Maisie Dobbs #13), by Jacqueline Winspear – I’ve been waiting and waiting for the Maisie Dobbs series to work itself up to World War II, and while there have been hints of the coming conflict since book #8, In This Grave Hour finds Britain officially at war.  Maisie’s friends and family are preparing for the next war – Priscilla and Billy worrying about sending their sons to fight, Sandra preparing to welcome a baby into an uncertain world, Frankie and Brenda taking in young refugee Londoners – and meanwhile, an old acquaintance requests Maisie’s help in unraveling the murder of a Belgian refugee from World War I (now “the last war”) who had settled permanently in England.  Before Maisie has time to do much digging, another former Belgian refugee is murdered.  So while Maisie’s circle is turning their attention to the next conflict, Maisie herself continues to work on making sense of the last one.

Jane of Lantern Hill, by L.M. Montgomery – Although it’s one of my favorite summer books, I hadn’t read Jane of Lantern Hill in many seasons.  One of Montgomery’s lesser-known heroines, Jane is a Torontonian who lives unhappily with her mother and grandmother in a big, opulent, dismal house.  One day she discovers that her father, who she had always believed dead, is actually alive and living on Prince Edward Island.  Not long after, Jane’s mother receives a letter from her estranged husband, summoning Jane for the summer.  Jane reluctantly goes, but it’s not long before she falls in love first with “Dad” himself, and then with Prince Edward Island.  Over two summers on P.E.I., Jane grows from an awkward and miserably unhappy child into a confident young woman.  But while Jane is capable of fixing up a house and cooking anything Dad wants to eat, is she capable of mending her parents’ broken relationship?  You’ll have to read this joyful book and find out.

Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome – I’d never heard of this book, and only vaguely heard of the unfortunately named author, until The Folio Society reprinted it as part of their May collection.  One glance and I knew it was a book in the grand Wodehouse style (although it actually predated my friend P.G., who was almost certainly influenced by it) and I had to have it.  J. and his two friends Harris and George, along with their incorrigible dog Montmorency, embark on a rowing vacation up the Thames.  Along the way, J. treats the reader to his musings on everything from English history (oh those unfortunate souls who found themselves running into Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn “spooning all over England”) to the trick behind getting a kettle to boil in a boat (act like you don’t want tea) and everything in between.  Aside from one offensive word that was very jarring to this modern reader, it’s a perfect book.

The Age of Orphans (The Age of Orphans #1), by Laleh Khadivi – A young Kurdish boy witnesses the massacre of his village’s entire menfolk during his first battle with the forces of the new Shah of Iran.  As is the policy with all battle-made orphans, the boy is conscripted into the Iranian army and given a name – Reza Khourdi.  (Reza for the Shah, and Khourdi after his tribe.)  Reza grows to manhood in the army, rises through the ranks and marries a well-off Tehrani woman.  However, his proficiency is noticed and he receives a plum assignment to return to the region of his birth and assist in putting down Kurdish rebellions.  As Reza sees more and more of himself in the Kurds, his marriage and family – and his own identity – feel the strain.  I thought this was a gorgeously written book, although parts of it were very brutal.  (Always in a way that served the story, but it’s hard to read.)

Queen Lucia (Mapp & Lucia #1) – Lucia is the doyenne and cultural ruler over her little kingdom – a small English village called Riseholme.  With her husband Peppino and faithful subordinate Georgie by her side, Lucia aims to set the standard for all art, culture and entertaining in the area.  But when a young, beautiful and talented opera singer moves to town, Lucia has a revolt on her hands.  Georgie switches allegiances to Olga, the opera singer, and another local resident watches with relish as it appears Lucia is going to fall from her throne.  So, I liked – but didn’t love – this.  Lucia irritated me (as I think she was supposed to) although less so after one scene in which she is thoroughly embarrassed and exposed as (gasp!) unable to speak fluent Italian.  I was also vaguely uncomfortable with Mrs Quantock and Lucia’s battle over “the Guru” – although I can’t put my finger on why, and I loved the image of Lucia dressing in goddess robes and teaching yoga.  I’m invested in the characters now, so I will definitely continue on with the series – hopefully the next book is even better.

Slow month – only six books in July.  For a relatively long month, that’s pretty surprising, even in the summer.  I (more or less) enjoyed everything I read, but Three Men in a Boat and The Brandons had to be the highlights.  It’s always nice to visit with Maisie Dobbs, too, and to pay a call on P.E.I.  No duds this month, just not much in the way of reading time or inclination.  I’m expecting more of the same in August, but do check back in…

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Well, it’s been about a month since the last update, so it’s time to go back to the garden and share progress.  As you can see, things are definitely growing.  This is the most successful garden I’ve ever had – tomatoes and herbs galore.  But this year is about learning, and I have so! many! questions!

Question.  What the heck is going on with the tomato plants?  I’m getting a pretty consistent flow of ripening tomatoes and I harvest them every few days to keep ahead of the squirrels.  But the foliage itself is really patchy.  I still can’t decide if it’s verticillium wilt or if it’s just the sun burning out the leaves.

Like I said, the tomatoes themselves are growing.  But the leaves are not nearly as lush as I was expecting and a lot of them are brown.  I’m pruning almost as many leaves as I am harvesting tomatoes.  It’s very strange, and I also wonder if I’m getting as many tomatoes as I would if the leaves were all big, bright and healthy.

That said, I am getting tomatoes.  This is still the best my tomato plants have ever done.  I’ve never had them actually fruit before!  (Except for one year in Elma, when the rabbits ate my entire paltry crop as soon as it ripened and I never got any.)

Enough about the tomatoes.  (Although if anyone knows what the deal is with the crispy brown leaves, please do lay it on me.)

Question.  What am I going to do with all of these herbs?  The basil went nuts after I transplanted it and I now have a pesto factory on my hands.

The mint is finally growing, too, and I have to harvest and use some of it before it bolts.  I was expecting this from the mint, but not from the basil.  Seriously!  Recipes, please!  Especially for mint – worst case scenario, I can make and freeze ten pounds of pesto.  But what am I going to do with all of these mint leaves?

The other herbs are getting after it, too.  The parsley isn’t looking quite as robust as I’d expected, given that I once had a parsley plant survive the Buffalo winter outdoors.  But I definitely have enough parsley for all the tabbouleh I’d ever want.  And as for the rosemary and thyme, well, they’re off to Scarborough Fair.

It’s all very exciting, but now I have to figure out some recipes.  Gotta use this homegrown produce!

Question.  Why will my son eat tomatoes outside, right off the vine or out of the colander, but won’t touch a vegetable indoors?

He was shoving them in his mouth by the handful, saying, “Mmm-MMMMM!  Mmm-MMMMM!  Mmm-MMMMM!”

Well – there’s nothing like a vine-ripened tomato, just picked and still warm from the sun.

How are your gardens growing this year?  Does anyone know what’s up with my tomato plants?

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Happy Memorial Day to my American friends, and happy new week to my friends around the world!  If you’re celebrating today, I hope that you have lovely and relaxing holiday weekend plans.  Maybe including grilling?  We need to get a new propane tank and get our grill cleaned up, so we won’t be doing any grilling today.  But we have been having a fun weekend – lots of time spent outside, which is just as I like it.  On Saturday, we drove out to Seven Oaks Lavender Farm in Catlett, Virginia, for “Exploration Days” – a special event for the two-to-five set.  And yesterday, we spent the morning exploring Jones Point, a small NPS-managed park down by the waterfront in Old Town.  When we moved away, the park was going through a big clean-up and refurbishment effort, and we were excited to see the results.  It’s gorgeous and so much fun now, and I predict that we’ll be spending a lot of time there this summer – especially because it’s walking distance from our house.  Today, we have special plans – spending the late morning, lunch hour and early afternoon with our dear Buffalo friends Zan and Paul, who are in town – hurray!  Zan and Paul have tons of friends in this area (they lived here for many years) so we are always grateful when they squeeze us in on their visits, since they have so many people to see.  I’m looking forward to a good catch-up session with Zan, and Peanut is hoping that Zan will take her to the playground.  Haha!

  

Reading.  Pretty productive reading week, amazingly enough.  I am totally burnt out and completely stressed at work, but I managed to finish two books and start another.  It took me a week, but I made it through How to Be a Tudor, and I am now prepared in case of involuntary time travel (read on).  Then, with library deadline pressure relieved, I finally got back to – and finished – A Gentleman in Moscow, which I absolutely loved.  Finally, I picked up another book from my shelves: A Traveller in Time, one of my gorgeous Folio Society editions, about a young girl who abruptly and accidentally travels back to Elizabethan times and finds herself caught up in the famous Babington Plot.  Loving it!  Of course, you know that time travel novels are my weakness.

Listening.  I worked my way through a couple of podcast episodes, but nothing that really got me excited, then downloaded Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?, Alyssa Mastromonaco’s memoir of working in the Obama White House, with my May credit from Audible.  I’m about half an hour in, and really enjoying it.

Watching.  Last night, I dreamed about making potato canapes, which means that I probably have been watching too many episodes of The Great British Baking Show.  From that, you can tell that’s all we have been watching – and I think it’s time for a break.

Moving.  Aside from several long walks, not much moving last week.  I tried to start the Hundred Pushup Challenge, but haven’t been able to make it past the baseline test.  You’re supposed to do as many good-form pushups as you can, to find out where your baseline is – well, every time I try, I get to eight good-form pushups and then someone sits on my back and I end up face-planting into the rug.

Blogging.  May reading round-up coming on Wednesday, and Memorial Day Weekend fun on Friday.  It’s gonna be a good one – check back!

Loving.  The best part of last week was meeting my long-time blogging friend, Amal, for dinner out in Philadelphia.  Amal and I have been regular commenters on each other’s blogs, and Twitter pals, since 2012 – so almost five years now!  When I had a business trip to Philadelphia that was going to keep me overnight, of course the first thing I did was see if she was free for dinner.  We had a wonderful evening, chatting as hard and fast as we could.  The conversation started the minute we spotted each other, and continued for hours, and the whole evening was such a delight.  I wasn’t thrilled about having to take the business trip (the work part was really super stressful), but at least it gave me a great excuse to finally meet up with a lovely friend!

Asking.  What are you reading this holiday weekend?

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We’ve been having our customary weird spring weather – stretches of hot and sunny, broken up by other stretches of grey and gloomy.  Most of May has been chilly and rainy, so I was very glad to see sunshine and blue skies on Sunday morning – a perfect day for the hike that was my Mother’s Day wish!  We briefly considered Sky Meadows, but decided it was too much of a haul – I was glad, as it turned out, because I had to squeeze a work call into Sunday morning and we didn’t end up getting out the door until after ten as a result.  Sticking close to home worked much better.

Steve and I had hiked Mason Neck State Park back in 2010 or 2011 – well before kids appeared on the scene.  I remember liking the park, but for whatever reason it didn’t get on our regular hiking rotation.  They’ve done a lot of trail work since our last hike there, and it’s not as far as I remembered (about a 35 minute drive – not bad at all) so we will definitely be back!

First stop was a little offshoot trail near the water.  My small Pisces is always clamoring to get as close to the water as possible (there’s a line where the sky meets the sea and it calls meeeeeeee) so we checked out the spur, mainly for him.

He was pleased.  I think he’d have liked to swim, though.  Another time, little fish.  Another time.

Back off the spur trail, we headed for the main event – the Bayview Trail.  On our way, we passed these cool bird feeders.  There were a few folks out birding with their long-lens cameras.  I made a note to bring my big camera next time we hit this park – I guess it’s a good spot!  We saw an osprey feeding within five minutes of starting our hike – auspicious, indeed!

Gush alert!  I love the Chesapeake area, and I am so grateful that my kids get to grow up in such a beautiful place.  Virginia has everything!  Beaches, mountains, lakes, cities…

Headed for the trailhead, I made another mental note – looks like you can rent kayaks and take them out on the water here!  Very good to know.  I made a comment about Peanut being old enough to sit in a child’s seat and go out paddling with Mommy, and she proceeded to break my heart into a million pieces by saying she DOES NOT WANT to kayak.  Sigh.

The Bayview Trailhead is just over this boardwalk!  I love wetlands, and Mason Neck has a huge network of boardwalks – such fun.  They also had something else…

Turtles!  We saw this family sunning themselves on a log, which totally made Nugget’s day.  He loved spotting them (but he also thought that some of the logs were alligators).

And then we were onto the Bayview Trail loop, enjoying a constant rotation of beautiful sights – the Potomac to one side of us, gorgeous flowering bushes to the other, and woods all around.

Stopped for a drink of water.  Sure, little buddy, I’m happy to let you use my head as a table.  #motherhood

Periodically, there were little offshoot trails leading down to sandy beach areas.  Egged on by our little water-lover, we checked out every. single. one.

After a little bit of a walk through the woods, we found ourselves entering the big wetlands area – serenaded by the songs of bullfrogs as we went along.

I looked for frogs on the lilypads – sadly, they were all hiding.  We had fun checking out the wetlands area, which was absolutely bursting with life.  Nugget said he saw more turtles.  I didn’t see any, but the little guy is insanely sharp-eyed, so we tend not to doubt his word.  Although he did also claim to see several more alligators, so…

^One of the new boardwalks.  The park had really expanded and revamped its trail network since the last time we were there, and it was a pleasure to hike.  They clearly paid a ton of attention to the hiking experience, and with great effect.  It’s easy to see why Virginia state parks are considered some of the best in the country!

More kayaks!  I wished that I could’ve gotten out on the water.  Maybe next time!  If I’m really lucky, I’ll even be able to convince Peanut to join me.  I think almost-five is old enough to take a short paddle, if only she didn’t act like the very idea was repulsive to her.  (Four going on fifteen…)

As we headed for the car, there was one last treat in store – a few brightly colored birds at the bird feeders!  I crept as close as I could get to the feeder, intent on capturing a picture of the brightest red cardinal I’ve ever seen.  Unfortunately, Nugget chose that moment to shout “BIRDIE!” at the top of his lungs, and scared the cardinal away.  But the goldfinch was made of sterner stuff.

What a fun morning hiking Mason Neck with my little family!  I sure am glad to be an outdoor mom.

Have you done any fun hikes recently?

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