2018: In Review

Happy New Year’s Eve, friends!  In lieu of my usual Monday post, I am getting sentimental (you’re not surprised, I know) and looking back on the year that is wrapping up today.  2018 was a year of extreme highs and lows – we had some really joyful times, but we also had an unexpected death in the family that left us reeling for the latter half of the year.  I think if there was a theme or a lesson to 2018, it was that life is short and you should hug your loved ones as much as possible.

January was a hectic month.  I entered a particularly busy season at work and had several 70-hour workweeks in a row – ouch.  Poor little Nugget also got hit with a yucky stomach bug that we’re pretty sure he picked up while playing at a local children’s gym.  And the weather was super-weird, fluctuating from 65 degrees one weekend to below freezing for weeks on end.  But we managed to get outside a couple of times, even in the cold weather, kicking off the 52 Hike Challenge at Theodore Roosevelt Island in D.C.

February brought more cold weather, more indoor time, and more hectic weeks at work.  We only managed to hit the trail once, but we did host Peanut’s BFF and her mom for a fun play date.  The girls baked raspberry crumb bars (with some help from the moms) and we all enjoyed them with tea.  I had some grown-up fun, too, attending a rosé tasting event at the Embassy of France with my BFF and doing a bit of book shopping.

March means one thing – my sweet baby’s birthday!  We celebrated THREE YEARS of Nugget with a Star Wars themed birthday party, and true to his nature, Outdoor Boy chose to mark his birthday with a hike.  We hit the trails a few times this month, since the weather finally started to thaw, and we also made a trip to the National Zoo.  I also made a trip to Boston to work on a union campaign (my favorite part of my job) and spent an evening chatting into the night with sweet Katie.

April was a banner month, because I saw my favorite band, the Decemberists, in concert!  They don’t tour all that often and even more rarely come East, so it was a special treat.  The rest of the month was just as celebratory.  We marked Easter with a service at our church – joined by Aunt Rebecca – followed by egg-dyeing and a vegetarian feast with a Aunt Rebecca, Aunt Jenn and Uncle Robert, and Peanut’s very first friend (Jenn and Robert’s daughter).  Hiking was good, too – there was the Bluebell Loop Trail, naturally – a can’t-miss April tradition – a Mason Neck hike with Rebecca and her dog Brandy, and a muddy good time at Great Falls.

May saw more family fun – a visit from Grandma, who we don’t see nearly as much as we wish we did, and a Mother’s Day hike at Mason Neck.  We also started our garden for the year (dubbed “Squirrelbait”) – spoiler: this wasn’t the most successful year.  We visited Mount Vernon and petted the baby animals, and Peanut said lots of hilarious things.

June was a month of highs and lows.  We started with the highs – first a trip to Cornell for my fifteenth reunion.  How is it possible that so much time has gone by since graduation?  It was fun introducing the kids to the place where Steve and I fell in love.  After Cornell, we stayed upstate for a bit longer and swung by my parents’ house, where my brother Dan and his wife Danielle were visiting from Colorado.  We never get enough time with them, but we made the most of the few days we had – sailing on the Adirondack lake where my parents have a camp and hiking at Lake Minnewaska.  The end of the month brought great sadness, though – the sudden and unexpected loss of a beloved family member.  We’re still working through the grief that followed.

July was a sad month, while we grieved and tried to adjust to a new reality without someone we all loved in it.  We’d been planning to make a trip back up north to spend the Fourth of July with my parents, and we decided that we would keep those plans, because we wanted to be with family.  I didn’t recap most of the trip – too sad – but we made it to the lake again and my parents distracted us with an afternoon of hiking at Bash Bish Falls and dinner out in nearby Lenox, Massachusetts.  (Western Massachusetts is so lovely; I wish I got there more.)  We kind of drifted through the rest of the month; I don’t remember much of what we did, other than camp runs and play dates – and I finally learned to bake bread.  It didn’t occur to me at the time, but looking back I think that maybe my obsession with bread-baking this summer might have had something to do with needing an outlet and to do something with my hands when my heart was feeling so sad.

August was the month we reserved for our summer vacation, and we managed to have a pretty good time.  We drove back up to New York (three trips to the Empire State in three months!) and spent a week in the Adirondacks with my parents.  We got a cute Airbnb apartment right in downtown Lake Placid and used it as base camp for a week of hiking and water fun.  Steve and I climbed our fourth Adirondack high peak (Big Slide Mountain this time); the kids splashed and played at the Lake Placid beach, and we celebrated Peanut’s sixth birthday on the trail.

September was quiet after the wild swings of summer, and that was what we needed.  We hiked at Great Falls with new friends who just recently moved to the area from San Francisco, and the kids went back to school.  Most of my month was taken up with back-to-school activities – as kindergarten class mom, I had a lot to do with back to school night, first PTA meetings of the year, and more.  Volunteering in Peanut’s classroom was one of my fall goals, and I have loved being around the school more.

October is my favorite month!  It’s my birthday month, fall splendor is everywhere, and Halloween is the best way to close out a month – if you ask me, which I realize no one did.  I cashed in my birthday authority by dragging the family out for a cold picnic and hiking in Shenandoah National Park – Nugget’s happy place.  During the week, I treated myself to a lunchtime excursion to see No Spectators: the Art of Burning Man at the Renwick Gallery with my friend Susan, and it was fabulous.  The rest of the month, we fit in several more hikes, watched the beginning of the fall foliage changing (it’s really a November phenomenon in Virginia, but it starts in October) and celebrated Halloween at school and in the neighborhood.

November was Steve’s birthday month, and we celebrated on the trails, of course!  Governor Northam had recently opened a brand-new state park – Widewater State Park, near Stafford – so we headed down there to check it out.  Even with the very barest beginnings of a trail network, it was lovely.  I also changed jobs in November, after a long search for a new opportunity, and enjoyed three days of “funemployment” – which I spent reading and chaperoning Peanut’s field trip to the weirdest farm ever.  And of course, one of my favorite holidays – we shared a Thanksgiving feast with my parents and our beloved next door neighbors, then spent Black Friday working off the mashed potatoes on the trail at Great Falls.

December – we made it to the end of the year!  I started the year with a business trip to Philadelphia, which was a lot of fun – and I got to see the lovely A.M.B. into the bargain!  Back in Virginia, we tried out a new tradition and cut down our own Christmas tree, then decorated it with all of our favorite ornaments.  We filled the month with other holiday fun – like a trip to the Christmas trains at the U.S. Botanic Garden – and even made it up to Baltimore to spend a day at the National Aquarium.  We ended the month with a little over a week at my parents’ place and managed to squeeze in almost everything we wanted to do – lots of friend time, hiking, family fun and playdates.  A good way to bid the old year farewell.

And now, it’s 2019!  Here’s hoping for lots of joy and adventures this year – we need them.



My 2018 Christmas Book Stack

I know, I know, I haven’t recapped the actual holiday yet – next week!  But what I really want to show you is the stack of books I unwrapped on Christmas morning – because, to be honest, that’s always what I want to know about other people’s holidays: what books did you get?  Isn’t that terrible of me?  Oh, well.  Here’s what I received…

From Steve:

  • Drawn From Memory and Drawn From Life, both by E.H. Shepard and Slightly Foxed Editions No. 44 and 45.  I thought I had all the SFEs I wanted, then they rolled out two new releases I simply had to add to my collection, just in time for Santa to swing by Hoxbury Square, London, and toss them in the sleigh.  For those of you scratching your heads over E.H. Shepard’s familiar name – he’s the illustrator behind the classic depictions of Winnie-the-Pooh.
  • The House at Pooh Corner and The Complete Poems for Christopher Robin, both by A. A. Milne, in gorgeous Folio Society editions.  I’ve already got Winnie-the-Pooh in the same edition and these are going to be a beautiful addition to my children’s classics shelf.
  • Hons and Rebels, by Jessica Mitford.  Santa was shopping my Amazon wish list!  It was funny, because I had just discussed Hons and Rebels with my friend Susan over lunch, not two weeks before Christmas, and she was telling me how wonderful it is.  It was probably already winging its way to Steve for wrapping by then!
  • The Common Reader and The Second Common Reader, by Virginia Woolf.  Woolf isn’t normally my cup of tea, try as I do to like her experimental style.  But these books of her essays about authors, reading, and books sound great, and I added them to the Amazon wish list just in time for Santa’s snooping.
  • A Country Doctor’s Commonplace Book, by Philip Rhys Evans.  My first reaction to seeing this in the Slightly Foxed catalogue was a decided “meh,” but then I read the delightful and hilarious snippets and snatches that formed the little book’s preview, and I was completely charmed.  I look forward to laughing over this book in the very near future.
  • In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor.  It’s a very Mitford Christmas for me, apparently – I have been reading Nancy’s Christmas Pudding, received Jessica’s memoir (above) and will also get to peek into Debo’s correspondence.  I find the Mitfords absolutely fascinating, and Patrick Leigh Fermor is an illustrious figure in his own right, of course, so I can’t wait to tear through this.
  • A Notable Woman: The Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt.  I’ve got a weakness for diaries and primary source materials that breathe life into different eras – an ongoing obsession since I first pulled L. M. Montgomery’s five volumes of diaries off my grandmother’s bookshelf and curled up with them in her overstuffed armchair, many years ago.  These were another Amazon wish list item, and I’ve been not-so-secretly admiring them over on Jennifer’s blog and Instagram.  I’m excited.
  • Tartine Bread.  I always tease Steve that his cookbook gifts are half self-serving – because while I’ve been wanting Tartine Bread for years, and especially lately since I finally learned how to bake bread somewhat reliably for myself, let’s be honest: he’ll be the one eating most of the results.  But y’all?  I’m going to enjoy this book.

From my mom:

  • Whiskey in a Teacup, by Reese Witherspoon.  I probably wouldn’t have bought this for myself, but I’m sure excited to have it – so thanks, Mom!  My BFF Rebecca really enjoyed it and kept texting me snippets of Lady Reese’s wisdom – especially the part about how children belong at weddings.  (Longtime readers may recall that Peanut was Rebecca’s flower girl last year, and Nugget rocked the cutest gingham bow tie at her wedding.)
  • My Squirrel Days, by Ellie Kemper.  My mom has a tradition of giving me a comedienne’s memoir every Christmas.  I’ve received books by Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, and Lauren Graham – and Ellie is this year’s addition.  I love these smart, hilarious women’s voices and I’m sure I’m going to enjoy this.  And when I’m done, Ellie can keep company with her Office co-star Mindy, and the other funny ladies, on my nonfiction shelf.

From my brother:

  • The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh, by Kathryn Aalto.  It was a very Hundred Acre Wood Christmas for me, huh?  I actually already owned this one, so I’ll probably exchange it for something I don’t have yet.  But it’s delightful – my brother and sister-in-love clearly know what I like.

There it is – quite a respectable book haul!  Books were really all that I wanted this year, so I was happy to find so many of them under the tree.  And I foresee some really excellent reading this winter…

If you were celebrating a holiday this December, did you receive any books?  Do share!

Advent-ures 2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  (That’s what the song says, at least.  I’m more of a summer kind of girl, myself.  But I do love the holiday season too.)  As always, I’ve been dragging the family out to make memories, determined to fill up our hearts and photo albums at every opportunity.  It’s what I do.  We’ve actually missed a few of our normal traditions – no Old Town parades, no Christmas in Little Washington, and we’re not going to be watching Santa waterski down the Potomac this year due to a schedule conflict.  But we’ve done a lot.

Visiting a Christmas Tree Farm

Starting with – cutting down our own Christmas tree!

Steve grew up with a real tree but I’ve had a faux tree for basically as long as I can remember.  I’ve always been squeamish about the idea of cutting down a living tree, but Christmas tree lots give me the sads.  But in 2017 I read that in order for a faux tree to be more environmentally friendly than a real tree, you have to keep it for seven years.  That’s the line at which the fake tree’s lifespan surpasses the effects of off-gassing, water use and chemical processing it takes to produce it.  The problem is: we weren’t keeping our fake trees that long.  These days it’s almost impossible to find a nice one that isn’t pre-strung with lights, and our pre-strung trees were dying after three to four years.  So I read up on Christmas tree farms, liked what I learned about their sustainability, and agreed to give it a try.  (We may go back to a fake tree in the future, but for now we’re experimenting with real.)  So – off to Middleburg, Virginia we went, to cut down our own Christmas tree!

The kids went tearing down the mowed path, ready to pick out their tree.

How about this one?  Too small, Charlie Brown.

Peanut liked this one, but it was a little oddly shaped, so Dad vetoed it.

Ohhhhh, the sass.  So much sass.

Found it!  Steve stopped in front of this Douglas fir and I said: “It’s a beaut, Clark!”  He cut it down while I stood supporting it from the other side, sniffling that I felt like a murderer.  I still feel a little guilty, actually.  But I try to remember that the tree gave oxygen to the atmosphere all year and that three to four replacements were planted in its place.

We hauled our victim tree out in the big yellow wagon.

While Steve took care of paying for the tree, getting it wrapped, and loading it on top of the old four-wheel drive sleigh (sorry, Clark) the kids and I warmed up by a delicious-smelling campfire.

I harassed the littles with photo shoots and checked out the coordinated outfits of the families who were clearly planning to combine their tree-cutting with Christmas photo-taking.


Such cuties.  Most adorable kids ever, and not a bit biased.

Finally, Daddy motioned us over to the car.  We drove home gingerly with the tree secured by several miles of rope.  Daddy set it up immediately and we wasted no time in pulling out the lights and ornaments.

Now it’s officially the holiday season!

Warming Up in the National Aquarium

Last Christmas, my high school BFF gifted our family with tickets to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  It’s one of the most expensive family activities in the area – adult tickets are $40, incredibly steep when you consider that most museums are free – so having gift tickets was a blessing.  We applied the gift tickets to a membership so that we can go to the aquarium all year long; everyone in our family loves it.  It’s not Christmassy per se, but last weekend we found ourselves in Baltimore, darting through the raindrops to the aquarium entrance.

My favorite part of the aquarium?  Seeing the wide-eyed wonder on these two little faces.

(My second-favorite part is the gigantic multi-story coral reef.)

The puffins are cool too.

There was a touch tank full of moon jellies.  Nugget bravely reached a finger in and petted one of the jellyfish.  Peanut, Daddy and I took a hard pass.

Brave boy.

Hello, turtle.

So much fun!  I’m glad we have the membership, and I can’t wait to go back on chilly weekends this winter.

Christmas Trains at the U.S. Botanic Gardens

Finally, while we have missed out on most of our usual Advent fun this year (due to scheduling snafus, some poor planning on my part, and a yucky cold in Nugget’s nose a couple of weeks ago) I insisted that we make it to the Botanic Gardens for the Christmas trains.  That’s a can’t-miss activity.  It’s mainly for Nugget, but we all enjoy it.

While we waited in line, we enjoyed some of the plant-based D.C. landmarks.  The garden does them every year, and they never fail to impress.  The Washington Monument!

Waiting impatiently to enter the train room…

It was delightful as always!  My favorite year was 2016 – for the National Park System’s centennial, the train room was NPS-themed.  This year, the trains circulated around various train stations, natural elements and the North Pole, but it was still beautiful.

A certain little boy was very taken with the whole thing.

(His sister was impressed, too.)  Hello, Thomas!

After we’d had our fill of the trains, we checked out the rest of the Botanic Gardens.  I demanded pictures by the poinsettia wall.


(It was nice to have these pictures to look at later, after they were both so obnoxious in Michael’s that I wanted to kick them out of the car.)

The final stop on the way out of the Botanic Gardens is the D.C. landmarks – of course.

Hello, Mr. President!

I had to snap a picture of the Supreme Court for us lawyers in the family.

The National Museum of African-American History and Culture.  (Still on my to-do list.)

A miniature Botanic Gardens.  The roof looks like it’s made of onion skin?

The Library of Congress.  Hello, beautiful!

And the Capitol – always the most impressive of all.

The days are ticking closer and closer to Christmas now, and I still have a lot to do.  I’m entering the whirlwind of gift-wrapping, card-writing, FedEx-running and friend-lunching that always characterizes the latter part of December.  But I don’t mind any of it, and I hope that my kids grow up remembering how I packed the holiday season full of fun and family from October to January.

How have you been celebrating this holiday season?

The Winter List 2019

Another season’s change is upon us – is it just me, or do they seem to go faster and faster every year? – and it’s time to make a list of hopes and dreams for winter.  I’ve always liked winter, but three years in Buffalo kind of stamped out my enjoyment of the season, try as I did to embrace it.  So I’m going to try to get some of my old appreciation for the cold months back this year.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Take a snowy (hopefully) weekend getaway to the mountains.
  • Bake an olive oil citrus cake.  I put this on the list every year – this year, it’s happening!
  • Take Peanut to her first movie in the theater.
  • Make progress on cleaning out the basement.
  • Take the kids to play at Badlands.
  • Read some Dickens.
  • See Huckleberry Finn’s Big River at the Adventure Theatre.
  • Go ice skating on the Empire State Plaza in Albany.
  • Take Peanut to see Angelina Ballerina: The Musical in Gaithersburg.
  • Complete a “vegan for 100 days” challenge.

There!  Some outdoor fun, some bookishness, some family stuff and some food – sounds like the makings of a good winter to me.  After checking every item off my list for the first time ever this fall, I’m excited to see how the winter goes.

What’s on your winter to-do list?

Blahhhhh.  It’s Monday and I’m exhausted from the weekend.  There are certain seasons in which I’m happy to just laze around, run errands and straighten up the house on weekends, but the holiday season isn’t one of them.  Steve would tell you I’ve always been a big one for dragging everyone out to make memories and having kids has just exacerbated it.  What can I say?  I want the kids to be able to look back on a childhood full of fun and magic and if that means I have to shout at everybody to put their shoes on, I guess that’s just the price we all have to pay – right?  Anyway.  This weekend was packed full of all the activities we didn’t manage to do last weekend.  On Saturday we pulled out our shiny new National Aquarium membership and spent a few hours with the fish.  My favorite part of the aquarium in Baltimore is the gigantic – multi-story! – indoor reef.  On Sunday, we braved a rainstorm to stand in line for the Christmas trains at the U.S. Botanic Garden.  This was our third year attending (I think? I know we went two years ago, and I’m pretty sure last year, too) and it never disappoints.  My favorite part is always the D.C. monuments and landmarks constructed out of bark and other plant material, but the kids love the trains.  Nugget was delighted to see his friend Thomas chugging along through the exhibit and Peanut thought the North Pole display was magical.  We spent Sunday afternoon working feverishly on a research project for school (due today; we waited until the last minute but we got it done) and I was glad to curl up with Michelle Obama’s memoir and a cold kombucha after tucking the kiddos in for the night.  And now – a new week beckons.


Reading.  Some reading week, all right.  I spent the entire workweek on The House of the Spirits and was about halfway through the 488 pages when I sat down at the computer to renew my library books and discovered there were holds – ouch.  I was sure I’d end up with overdue fines as a result, but somehow I powered through more than 200 pages on Saturday and was able to return it on time.  Yay, me!  Next I checked one off the longtime TBR and read the first volume of Art Spiegelman’s classic Maus.  Finally, after two tough reads, I rewarded myself with a book from my own shelf and one I’ve been looking so forward to – Michelle Obama’s new memoir, Becoming. #myforeverfirstlady

Watching.  Well – I didn’t actually watch anything this week.  I’ve been craving one of my favorite classic 1930s screwball comedies, but I haven’t turned the TV on for myself all week.  (I feel like I get asked all the time how I manage to read as much as I do.  Part of it is being a fast reader, but a lot of it is simply the fact that I don’t really watch much TV at all – I probably average about an hour a week of actual TV watching.  No shade to TV; there’s lots of great material there.  I just mostly don’t gravitate to it.)

Listening.  A hodgepodge, which is pretty usual for me.  Some podcasts – my favorite parenting and home podcasts are putting out their holiday episodes, which I always enjoy – and a little music.  Decemberists, Offa Rex, Christmas carols.  I popped the Shins into the car CD player this week and enjoyed it, but there’s really nothing that comes close to the Decemberists and my beloved R.E.M.

Making.  A menorah and nine glittering “candle fairies” (one shamash fairy and her troupe of eight candles) for Peanut’s school holiday project.  Each kid chose a holiday to research and represent with a paper-based project.  Much to my delight, Peanut picked Hanukkah – although I don’t personally celebrate the holiday, I love absolutely everything about it – and we had fun making a play set with the “candle fairy” paper dolls, a menorah and two dreidels with pockets to house the fairies.  I texted pictures of the project to a good friend who is Jewish, and she adored it.  I’ve also made progress on my own Christmas preparations.  Cards will go out tomorrow (I think) and I’m done with the kids’ shopping.  I have a bit more to get for grandparents and extended family, but I’m getting close.  (Also, why is anything after December 15 considered “last minute” shopping?  Hello, Amazon Prime ships in two days!)

Blogging.  Winter list on Wednesday – gotta keep the momentum going after a great fall.  And I’m recapping our Advent adventures on Friday.  We didn’t do everything I wanted to, but we’ve done a lot.

Loving.  The family-friendly theatre season is on point this year!  Peanut and I are continuing with our tradition of a girls’ date to the theatre in the days leading up to Christmas – we’re seeing Fancy Nancy’s Splendiferous Christmas this year – but I’m also giving theatre tickets to a few other shows as Christmas gifts.  I don’t know if the kids’ theatre scene in D.C. has always been great and I’m just now figuring it out, but I’m so hype to see some shows this winter.  I’ve loved theatre (both musical and otherwise) since I was in high school, and it’s great fun to share it with Peanut.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

Tree Trimmings, 2018

Recently, someone asked me whether my tree was “designy or personal.”  The answer is – personal; definitely personal.  Back when Steve and I were newlyweds, I had the idea to make our tree coordinated and – I guess “designy” would be the right word.  It was, for maybe a year or so, but it fell by the wayside fairly quickly.  Today it’s a hodgepodge of kid-created ornaments, things picked up during our travels, and reminders of where we live.  But that conversation reminded me that it’s been years since I took you on a tour of our Christmas tree.  So how ’bout we do that?

This old favorite might look familiar – it’s the lighthouse from Block Island.  My brother lived on the island for more than two years and he gave this to me one Christmas.

More old favorites – Mount Vernon as a gingerbread house and two teapots in the Washingtons’ china patterns.  We bought these before we moved to New York for three years, to remind us of Old Dominion.

We have political statements on the tree, too.  No Stamp Act!


And there are other nods to George and Martha, too.

Still on the Virginia theme, I bought this handmade clay ornament at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.  It looks (a little) like our house here.

In recent years, we’ve fallen in love with Little Washington, the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We missed this year’s Little Washington Christmas parade, but at least we have this nod to the famous Inn at Little Washington on our tree.

Speaking of the Shenandoah Valley, a couple of years ago we decided to start collecting ornaments from every national park we visit.  One of the first to be added to the new collection, of course, was an ornament from Nugget’s happy placeShenandoah National Park.

We also have this one, from Joshua Tree National Park.  I’d love to get back there someday and camp in the park.  The night sky over the desert must be incredible.


We have other ornaments picked up from our travels, too – like these handmade pottery ornaments from the Outer Banks – the Hatteras Light and a great blue heron.


And the Adirondacks.  A loon and a red canoe (couldn’t find a kayak) to commemorate paddling on Mirror Lake this past summer.  (We’ll have to add a kayak after our trip to the San Juans this coming summer.)

And no tree would be complete without a nod to Cornell, too.  This happy snowman is ready to take the Big Red straight to the Frozen Four!

Travel isn’t the only thing we celebrate on our tree, though.  Miss Austen graces a branch.

And we have some seals in winter knitwear, because Peanut has a longstanding love affair with pinnipeds.  (I’m trying to convert her to Team Cetacean, though.)


Speaking of Peanut, we have some familiar faces on our tree, too.  Miss Peanut and Mr. Nugget doing their favorite things – picking flowers and hiking, respectively.


And, finally, no tree is complete – at least, not in a house with young children – without some kid-made ornaments.  The gold handprint on the left is courtesy of Peanut, and the little fingerprint snowmen in the right are Nugget’s work, both from their time at Westminster Early Childhood Programs back in Buffalo.

What special holiday decorating traditions do you have?


The Fall List 2018: Recap

FINALLY!  A season packed full of fun, with every.single.item crossed off my seasonal to-do list.  After the Summer of Torrential Rains, I really needed a few months of good weekend weather.  We were sorely in need of family time and we made sure to pack the autumn season full of it.

  • Pick apples at Butler’s Orchard (and maybe some raspberries too?).  Done!  Well – not at Butler’s, because it was closed on the day we wanted to go.  And not berries – we were too late in the season.  But the kids and I drove out to Bluemont with some friends on Columbus Day and enjoyed a day of apple picking at Great Country Farms, followed by a hike to Bears Den Overlook – a lovely way to play hooky from work.

  • Hike Big Meadows at Shenandoah National Park – moving this one over from the summer list.  Done!  I cashed in my birthday rights for a day trip out to Luray, and we had a picnic (hot soup in the chilly fall air) and hiked Big Meadows and the Story of the Forest Trail.  Big Meadows was absolutely magical!

  • Roll up my sleeves and do some fall baking with Peanut.  Calling this done, even though Peanut only helped with taste-testing this time (ha!).  I had fun whipping up a cranberry-apple spice cake with maple buttercream and candied cranberries to take to the neighbors’ house for Thanksgiving dessert.  And there’ve been several batches of sourdough bread, sourdough rolls, and spiced apple cornbread – yum.

  • Catch up on the 52 Hike Challenge before it gets really cold.  Done!  Well – I’m calling it done.  The next hike I do will be hike 52 – wahoo!  (I’m saving it for something special.)  I have loved spending so much time on the trails this year.


  • Read cozy mysteries – as many as possible.  Calling this done.  I have had a great year of reading, now that it’s almost over, and there’s no season like fall for curling up with a blanket, a big cup of tea and a cozy mystery.  I visited with Lady Georgianna and Hercule Poirot, two of my favorite sleuths, and had fun experiencing a different kind of mystery novel in The Floating Admiral.

  • Run the Wonder Woman virtual 5K (and maybe the Alexandria Turkey Trot).  Done!  Not the Turkey Trot – I was too busy cooking all day – but I did manage to squeeze in 3.1 miles on the Potomac Yards trail for the Wonder Woman virtual 5K run.  I made the plans to do the run “with” my fellow Wonder Woman fan, Katie – she got it done sooner than I did, but I made it happen eventually!

  • Volunteer in Peanut’s classroom.  Done!  I made a goal that I would be more present and visible at school this year, especially for Peanut – Nugget is such an easygoing, happy-go-lucky guy that he doesn’t really need me at school, but Peanut does.  It’s been a commitment, but I have been around a lot more in Peanut’s class and I think it’s been helpful.  I am a class mom, so I helped to lead Back to School Night for the kindergarten parents, co-hosted the class Halloween party (and was in charge of the Halloween art project – superhero pumpkins!), chaperoned a field trip to a nearby Colonial farm, and helped serve muffins and open applesauce cups during the Togetherness Feast before Thanksgiving.
  • Get back into Barre3.  I could have done better with this, but I’m calling it done.  Getting to class has proven too hard to fit in, but I signed up for Barre3 Online and have done some workouts from the comfort of my bedroom.  Hoping to keep this going over the winter – I really do enjoy Barre3, I just don’t enjoy the fact that my kids are already awake before I have to leave for the 5:45 a.m. class.

  • Pumpkin picking, of course!  This is an easy one to put on the list, because it’s guaranteed to happen.  We went back to Wegmeyer Farms this year and the kids had fun choosing their pumpkins and snacking on apple cider donuts.  The best!

  • Take the kids trick-or-treating (they already have their costumes!) at Mount Vernon and in the neighborhood again.  Another easy one, because Halloween is coming whether I’m on my game or not!  We actually didn’t make it to the Mount Vernon trick-or-treating this year, but the neighborhood block party was bumping as usual.

How about that for a seasonal list?!  It was a great fall.  In addition to all of the fun above, I changed jobs and we hosted my parents for Thanksgiving.  We really did need this bright and happy season, and I feel a bit more human again after a summer that left us all pretty emotionally banged up.  Here’s hoping we can keep this momentum going and get more joy and more family bonding in over the winter.