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Well, this weekend didn’t exactly go according to plan.  The idea was that we’d make a family grocery run on Saturday morning, then all head out to a birthday party together, (finally) get pictures hung during naptime, and kayak on Sunday.  I even went so far as to post a picture on Instagram from our last kayaking excursion with the caption “Weekend plans.”  The parenting gods thought that it was hilarious that I was making actual plans, and obviously threw a gigantic wrench – in the form of a sick kiddo.  Poor Peanut had a tummy bug and fever all weekend, and ended up camped out on the couch for two solid days with Steve, while I ran around trying to keep Nugget away (both from the germs, and from his short-fused sister).  Saturday’s grocery run and birthday outing ended up being mommy-son time, and instead of kayaking we hit the splash pad and two playgrounds on Sunday.  No paddling was done, no pictures were hung and no blueberry fool (Peanut’s baking request for the weekend) was made.  Of course, I felt sorriest for Peanut, who would have much rather been feeling good and having fun (although her consolation prize – two straight days of Elena of Avalor – made her pretty happy).  Anyway, here’s hoping for a healthy week ahead and a better weekend next time.

 

Reading.  Another slow reading week – it seems that summer is a slow reading season for me lately.  What used to be my most productive reading months of the year are now my least productive – but that’s okay.  Life would be boring if it always stayed the same.  Anyway, I finished Queen Lucia this week (liked, but didn’t love it) and am now about halfway through Behold the Dreamers.  I placed a hold as soon as I learned that it was to be the new Oprah pick, and apparently I got in just ahead of the hordes, because while I was able to get the hardcover within days, there is now a queue a mile long for it at the library.  So I’m feverishly reading it against the deadline – it’s excellent, as expected.

Watching.  Nothing during the week, but Steve and I had another grown-up movie date on Saturday!  Don’t all fall off your chairs at once.  We watched Thirteen Days, a movie I was obsessed with one summer in college, but hadn’t watched since, and which Steve had never seen.  Aside from thinking Kevin Costner’s Boston “accent” was an embarrassment, he really enjoyed it.  I fell asleep during the climactic scene.  I just can’t hang like I used to.

Listening.  Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts.  The latest episode of Annotated – on the world’s most fascinating librarian – was absolutely enthralling and I now have An Illuminated Life on my to-read list.

Moving.  Again, don’t all fall off your chairs at once, but – I went to yoga this weekend!  I used to have a fairly regular practice when I lived in Arlington and Alexandria before (at Tranquil Space Arlington and Pure Prana, respectively) but never connected with a studio in Buffalo, and for the past year, have not been able to make it work.  I thought I’d go back to Pure Prana, but their class schedule has not gelled with mine.  Mid-week I was googling and realized that another studio I’d always wanted to try, Radiance Yoga, had a much better (for me) schedule.  I hit a vinyasa class (my favorite style of yoga) on Sunday and felt amazing afterwards.  I bought a “new student” pass and have a month’s unlimited yoga, so I think I will try to go a lot more over the next few weeks, while I have the pass.  It would feel great to get back into a regular yoga practice.

Laughing.  So, I shouldn’t laugh at this, but Nugget is a total liar.  Every morning, one of the first things we do after taking him out of the crib is to change his diaper (obviously).  And every morning without fail, and every weekend diaper change (no matter what time of day) he tries to convince us that “Kelly just changed me.”  It’s the worst lie ever, because clearly our beloved nanny does not sneak into the house and change his diaper just before dawn every day.  He knows we know he’s lying, but he is living in hope of the day that we will believe him and he’ll get a reprieve on the diaper change.

Loving.  So I have a couple of weddings to go to in the coming months – one next month and one at the end of September – and I’ve finally settled on what I’m going to wear.  I’d been agonizing over options and had almost settled on my trusty black strapless cocktail dress that I wear to every wedding, but on a whim I decided to order this dress from Modcloth.  It arrived yesterday, I tried it on, and I absolutely love it.  It needs shortened, and I have to get a navy blue slip to go under it, but once those two things are taken care of, it’s going to be PERFECT and I absolutely cannot wait to wear it.

Blogging.  July reading round-up coming to you on Wednesday, and musings on being back in the D.C. area for one full year (as of Saturday!) on Friday.  Check in with me then!

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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?

Blueberry Babies

As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a hot second, I love taking my kids to pick-your-own farms.  Apple-picking and berry-picking was something I did with my grandparents when I was a kid, and I cherish those memories – of hours spent in the strawberry fields, filling up flats with my grandmother, and then taking my fruit home to bake something special with her.  I have always known that I would carry the tradition on with my kids, and at two and four, they’re old hands in the orchards and fruit fields.

There are so many picking options in the summer – it’s hard to know where to start!  Pick-your-own flowers are a thing here, and there’s a place to pick any kind of fruit or vegetable that interests you.  We missed strawberry season again (every year) but blueberries were still an option, so I declared last Saturday blueberry picking day.  I love picking blueberries with the kiddos – they’re not ready for the blackberry and raspberry brambles, but blueberries are a perfect choice.  No thorns, growing in thick clusters on high bushes – it’s as if someone designed blueberries to be harvested by toddlers.

Longtime readers may recall that I loved picking blueberries at Awald Farms when we lived in New York.  For our first blueberry season in the D.C. area, I hoped to find something just as good.  I considered a few options in Loudoun County, but we always seem to go out there and I was in the mood for something different, so I was definitely interested when I found Butler’s Orchard, a family-owned farm in Germantown, Maryland.  I tossed out the idea of blueberry picking at Butler’s while discussing a playdate with one of the other moms from Peanut’s school, and she was into the idea.  So on Saturday, we met up with C and her mom for some pick-your-own fun.

There was a big, beautiful farm stand right at the entrance to the farms.  We stopped inside to pick up our buckets (they had other places to pick up picking containers as well, but we wanted to get the lowdown and check out the market too).  There were plenty of other fruits and vegetables for sale, plus a kids’ area with toys and books, some berry-themed home décor items, and prepared foods and pantry goodies.  Plus…

PIE!  Heck yeah!

After picking up our buckets, we hopped back in the cars and drove to the fields.  After only one wrong turn, we found the blueberry fields.  Although the sign warned that the picking was “scattered” because it was the end of the season (note: why can I never seem to keep track of when the picking season is, for anything?) we found that there were still plenty of blueberries and we had no trouble finding lots of fruit left on the bushes.

Is there anything prettier than blueberries on the bush?  I don’t think so!

The crew got right down to business.  Daddy and Nugget started picking and Peanut tested the merchandise.  Nugget needed a bit of explanation but he seemed to grasp the berry-picking concept pretty readily.  (It’s not his first rodeo…)  And there was only one berry-flinging incident.

Rows and rows of beautiful berries!

I loved Butler’s Orchard!  I don’t think I’d ever been to this corner of Maryland before – it was so beautiful.  Lovely rolling hills and lush greenery – reminded me of the Hudson Valley, near where I grew up.

Peanut and her little pal had a great time picking berries and chattering away, and I had a similarly great time picking berries and catching up with the other mom.  We vented about work, talked about plans for the next school year, and traded ideas about Christmas traditions.  (Never too early.)

I’m not sure where the boys were – probably in the parking lot, greeting the trucks – but the girls had a grand time.

Eventually, we all agreed that the sun was baking and it was time to find shade and call it a day on the picking.  We both ended up with slightly less than half of our buckets filled.  But considering the sad little handful of berries I got last year (when I spent the entire time chasing Nugget away from the cars) we did very well indeed.  Our haul:

Blueberries all freshly picked by Peanut and me!  (The peaches were from the farmstand.  And unpictured – I obviously also bought the kids books: a berry counting book for Nugget and a garden science book for Peanut.)

So, what to do with all of these berries?  My plan was to shove them in our mouths by the handful, but Peanut had a better idea.

PIE!  We pulled up a recipe online (actually cobbled it together between Martha Stewart and Ina Garten) and got to work.  Peanut helped out with pretty much every stage of the baking!  (Nugget was a liability.)

She was so excited to be baking like a big kid.  I had to drive the ship, of course, but she surprised me by doing a great job following my directions.  Now I want to make baking with her a regular activity!

The final product looked pretty fabulous, if I do say so myself.  And it tasted fabulous, too…

We’ve definitely redeemed ourselves after The Great Gingerbread Fail of 2016.  Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk, my friends!

Do you like to go berry-picking?

 

 

That pesky Monday again.  They just keep coming around.  I’m living for the weekends these days – we’ve been packing so much summer fun into every golden hour that I’m always counting down to the next one.  Last week was a doozy at work – several long days (including 13 hours in the office on Friday – I was at my desk and working by 6:30 a.m. and didn’t leave until after 8:00 – some way to start the weekend).  I really needed a low-key, relaxing weekend.  So, obviously, I did the opposite.  On Saturday morning we were out the door bright and early and headed up to Maryland to pick blueberries with friends.  I have a whole recap coming on Wednesday; it was a great day.  We spent a little less than an hour picking and filled about 40% of our (big) bucket.  Peanut asked if we could make a pie, and we had enough blueberries to make a pie with berries to spare, so I said of course.  The rest of Saturday was as busy.  While the kids napped I snuck out for a walking (and ice cream) date with my friend Allison.  She’s due any day now with a baby girl, so it was great to squeeze in some girl time before her little bundle arrives.  We also stopped by 116 King, a seasonal pop-up, because my sorority sister Katie, who is now a jewelry designer, was hosting a trunk show.  I bought two pairs of earrings from her, and she told me that my little little little, Elizabeth, would be stopping by the store with her husband and daughter later in the afternoon.  So after I walked Allison back to her car, I grabbed my crew and dragged them back out to the pop-up, where we had a fabulous time chatting and catching up, and kept the evening going over pizza with Elizabeth and her family at Pizzeria Paradiso.  After a busy – but wonderful – Saturday, we decided that Sunday would be all about baking.  A family trip out to Wegmans replenished the baking supplies, and then Peanut and I rolled our sleeves up (metaphorically – it’s scorching hot here, so we were not in long sleeves) and baked that blueberry pie that she had requested the day before.  We made pie crust from scratch (and it actually turned out pretty well!) and made the filling with some of our blueberry haul from Saturday.  The pie was delicious and I loved baking with my girl.  She’s getting to be so much fun and it makes me so happy that we can finally bake together – she listens and follows my directions and she clearly loves every minute of baking with Mommy.  I’ve been waiting for this for years!  Definitely going to be making Mommy-daughter baking a regular thing.

 

Reading.  What with the crazy work week, I didn’t have much energy for reading – and that carried over into the weekend.  Usually I have no trouble separating my fun reading from work, but this week I was so fried that I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to read for hours after putting the kids to bed – or on my commutes.  But I did manage to finish The Age of Orphans, which was beautifully written but didn’t quite touch my heart the way I expected it to.  Now I’m on to Queen Lucia – the first of E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia series, which I’ve been meaning to get to for ages now.  I’m not far in yet, but really enjoying it.

Listening.  Lots of listening, because podcasts have been my entertainment of choice on my commutes – I just haven’t had the energy to get out my book.  I listened to both of the episodes of Annotated that have aired so far and was really impressed.  And I’m still loving The Mom Hour – the “We Hate Fun” episode had me laughing out loud in the lunch line.

Watching.  I thought I was going to say “nothing” this week, because I’ve really not had the wherewithal for much more than staring at Facebook.  But it turns out I do have something to report, because on Saturday night, Steve and I had a movie night after the kids went to bed!  Look at us doing grown-up stuff!  Like real adults and everything!  We watched Rogue One (which neither of us had seen) and it was great.  Sad, but great.

Moving.  Nothing to report here.  When you have a summary judgment brief and a big discovery production in the same week, morning jogs and evening yoga sessions do. not. happen.  Maybe next week…

Loving.  I already went on and on about all my friend time on Saturday, but I have to gush some more.  Missing our friends and our social life was a huge part of why we were discontented in New York and why we decided to move back to D.C., and we have loved being back in town and hanging out with the people who are such an important part of our lives.  But what I never expected was how many new friends we would make after moving home.  Our blueberry picking date was with one of Peanut’s school friends, and Peanut has a knack for befriending the kids with the best moms.  I never realized that having a kid in school would mean a new social circle for me too, and I’ve loved getting to know some of the other parents at Peanut’s school here.  My walking date was with a new friend from my neighborhood buy nothing group, Katie was in town from New York (and do check out her jewelry – it’s fabulous!), and Elizabeth returned to D.C. fairly recently.  As an introvert, it’s not easy for me to meet people or make new connections, and it’s been a pleasant surprise how busy and socially active we have been since moving back home.

Blogging.  Recapping our blueberry picking morning on Wednesday (’tis the season for photobomb recap posts!) and then it’s time for another garden update on Friday.  Check in with me then!

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

Waaaaaaaay back in the day, when Steve and I were first discussing moving to Buffalo, I told him that if we were going to be New Yorkers again, I wanted to work on the goal of becoming Adirondack 46rs.  46rs are a particularly insane group of peakbaggers; you earn the title when you have summited (and then descended) all forty-six of the high peaks in the Adirondack Park.  The high peaks are defined as mountains with an elevation over 4,000 feet (although the measurements were taken over a century ago and aren’t completely accurate – there are a couple of peaks that are shy of the 4,000 mark, and at least one that wasn’t included on the list when it should have been; 46rs are a tradition-loving bunch and so they’ve stuck with the original list).

Well, as my longtime reader/friends may recall, Steve and I made a start at chipping away at the list back in 2014, when we climbed Cascade and Porter in the same day.  (Not the crazy endeavor it sounds; there are a few high peaks that can be strung together for the chance to knock off two in a day, and neighbors Cascade and Porter are on that list.)  We had a great time on those peaks, learned some helpful lessons, and descended ready to take on our next Adirondack adventure sooner than later.  Of course, you know what happened – I found out that I was pregnant (and in fact, I had been pregnant when we climbed the peaks; I just didn’t know it!).  Scaling mountains took a backseat to pregnancy and then parenting another newborn, and next thing we knew, we were moving back to Northern Virginia with only two of the 46 peaks done.

But we’re still in upstate NY fairly regularly to visit my parents – in fact, we probably make the trip from D.C. to Albany just as often as we made the trip from Buffalo.  So why not keep working on the list?  I figured the Fourth of July weekend was a good opportunity to knock another mountain off the list – after all, it had been Fourth of July weekend when we climbed Cascade and Porter three years ago.  So I asked my parents if they would watch the kids one day so Mom and Dad could escape to the ‘dacks for an adventure.  They said of course, and at 3:45 a.m. our alarms went off for the trip into the park.  We drove through the sunrise and some weird walls of fog, and by 6:30 a.m. Steve was signing us into the trail register for our chosen peak – Giant Mountain.

Ready to go!

Giant’s original name was Giant of the Valley – I love the poetry of that.  (In my head, that’s still its name.)  At 4,627 feet tall, it’s the twelfth highest peak in the park – quite a bit taller than Cascade and Porter, the 36th and 38th highest respectively.  It’s also the tallest peak in its immediate vicinity, and it looms over the entire Keene Valley.

The Trail

One of the things I always want to know when I am reading blog recaps to plan Adirondack hikes is – what’s the trail like?  Adirondack trails run the gamut from smooth and maintained to boulders all the way up.  But blogs never seem to share what I think is pretty pertinent information.  Perhaps you’re just supposed to assume that all high peaks hiking is going to be mostly scrambling over huge masses of granite.  (That would be a safe assumption.  But I like to know.)

So, there was a lot of bouldering and a lot of scrambling.  It’s the ‘dacks, after all – comes with the territory.  But one thing Steve and I kept discussing, all the way up Giant, was how much better the trail was than the trail up Cascade.  There were stretches of actual! maintained! trail!, and the bouldering sections were broken up with recovery stretches in between.  It was a completely different hiking experience from Cascade, and we agreed that we far-and-away preferred Giant.

I mean, sure, there was some of this.  That’s the trail?  Yeah, get used to it.

There were also a lot of switchbacks.  Giant is a popular mountain, but it’s definitely not everyone’s favorite.  One of the complaints I heard from multiple people about Giant is that there’s really no warm-up; you get out of the car and you start climbing, and you don’t stop climbing until you summit.  The reason Giant is popular is the relatively short distance of the trail – only about three miles to the summit.  But that short distance also means that it’s all climbing.  We knew that going in, which probably helped.

The Conditions

Remember how last week I told you that Grafton was muddy?  Well, that should have tipped us off that we were in for a wet time of it on Giant the next day.  (Of course it didn’t, because we are slow learners.)  And man alive, was that trail wet.

Had to climb up that thing!  Steeper than it looks!

So, I don’t mind getting dirty on a hike, and I certainly don’t care about a little thing like mud on my hiking boots.  I could happily slosh through puddles – and I did.  (Oh, and by the way, I was wearing my Oboz Bridgewater BDry boots, and they kept my feet completely dry through the entire soppy day.  They were also popular choices on the trail; I saw three other women wearing them – all in the red color, too!  We exchanged the secret handshake.)

The thing with a wet day in the high peaks region is that because a lot of the hiking involves walking and scrambling over bald granite, if the rock is wet it can get slippery and treacherous fast.  I’m adventurous and generally up for pretty much anything, but I’m actually terrified of falling on ADK granite and tumbling down a long rock slide.  Hikers have died in the high peaks and it’s not something to play with.  So I was taking my time and going verrrrrry slowly over the exposed rock.  Steve said he thought I probably could have trusted my footing more, and I’m sure he was right.  But I’d rather take it slow than take a potentially devastating fall.

Here’s some extra-slick granite to climb!  Enjoy!

So, I’m selling this whole peakbagging thing really well, right?  I’ll bet you’re thinking – this sounds terrible.  Why would anyone do this?  Well – that picture, above, is why I do it.  First views, less than a third of the way up the mountain.  The magic of this park is this – it makes you feel so small, and yet wraps you up in something so big.

The Washbowl

After a little less than an hour of climbing, we came to a landmark that I’d been waiting impatiently to see for months – ever since we started planning the hike.  Giant’s Washbowl is a small but stunning pond that is perched right around the 2,300 foot mark on the slopes of Giant.

As we approached the pond, I literally gasped out loud.  It was more beautiful than anything I could have possibly imagined.

There was a super rustic bridge over the narrowest part of the pond – you could see the axe-marks in the logs.  Steve remarked, “That’s the most Adirondack bridge that was ever built.”

Just on the other side of the bridge was the perfect peaceful little rocky beach.  I rushed over and snapped a few dozen pictures.  I was in awe of the beauty all around me.

This was when Steve announced that he was going to hike “Ron Swanson-style” for the rest of the climb.  I asked him what that meant, and he said he was going to conserve energy by not smiling.  For the rest of the hike, we assumed our tired-hiker personas – he became more taciturn and grouchy and I matched him by being as annoyingly upbeat and positive as he was grumpy.  And in case you’re wondering, yes, I did call him “Ron” all day, and yes, he absolutely called me “Leslie.”

I reluctantly tore myself away from Giant’s Washbowl – heart burning with envy toward the lucky people who camp there – and we continued on with our climb.

The Views

One of the things I’d heard about Giant was that while it can be a bit of a beastly climb (although I didn’t find it all that bad on the way up – down was another story, though) the mountain more than makes up for your hard work by really delivering in the view department.  That turned out to be totally true.  There were multiple opportunities to stop and take it all in, and Steve/Ron was constantly hurrying me along because I/Leslie kept pausing to gape at the majesty around me.  The view above was my favorite – Giant’s Washbowl, from the vantage point of another 90 minutes or so of hiking.  I couldn’t believe that we had climbed all that way (and still had more to go – oof).

The Summit

After a little less than four hours of hiking, we found ourselves making the final push to the summit and our third Adirondack high peak.

Working hard, looking forward to celebrating on top of the world!

We came around a corner, felt the wind biting, and there it was:

The views were absolutely unreal.

I stood on the bare rock of the summit and felt like I wanted to say something to mark the moment, but there were no words.

We took off our packs and dug into our trail snacks – we were both feeling pretty hungry by this point.  We probably spent about an hour on the summit, soaking in the view, refueling, and celebrating our achievement.

Three peaks down!  And speaking of down…

The Descent

I’m weird.  I much prefer climbing to descending.  I never want to leave a summit because I know what’s ahead of me – a few hours of treacherous picking my way over exposed rock and rooty, bouldery trails – even on a good day, and as already established, the trail was muddy and slick.  I spent the next several hours nervously skidding down the mountain.  I did a lot of butt-sliding (the Adirondack butt slide, you guys – no shame) and a fair amount of whimpering.  No pictures, because I didn’t want my phone in my hand as I tried to survive the descent.  Eventually we made it back to the trailhead and our car.  I was elated and excited on top of the mountain, and totally spent on the bottom.

The Reward

Noon Mark Diner.  Blueberry pie.  (Oh, and dinner too – but look at that PIE!)  I kept expecting Luke Danes to come around the corner in his flannel shirt and backwards baseball cap and judge me for ordering a coffee at 4:00 p.m.  The waitress did seem a bit surprised by my order.  But I’m sure she could tell by the fact that I was covered in mud and looked a bit unhinged that I’d just come off some mountain or another.  And the fact was I had a bit of a dehydration headache – the coffee was necessary.

The Next One?

I studiously avoided mentioning more peaks to Steve for a few days after the hike, but I’m already whittling down a list of the next likely targets.  It probably won’t be until 2018, because I don’t think we have any plans to be in New York during the prime autumn hiking season, what with all of the other travel we have coming up.  But I can say for sure that there will be more peaks bagged – I think Phelps might be next, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Three peaks down!  What’s the toughest hike you’ve done recently?

I usually try to get this post up by the end of June, but here it is mid-July and I’m just now getting around to sharing my ten favorite books of the first half of 2017.  Blame summer!  There’s just so much to do and so much to share – but, slowly but surely, I’m catching up all around and ready to talk reading for the first half of the year.  I’ve read some great books this year – as always.  It’s been a big comfort reading year for me, as I knew it would be.  So, without any more preface, my ten favorites (so far, and as always these are books read in 2017 but not necessarily published this year) from the first half of the year:

Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope – The second volume in Trollope’s celebrated Barchester series returns us to our old friends Eleanor and Mr Harding.  The cataclysmic waves that reverberate through Barchester after the Bishop dies and a new Bishop with a completely different philosophy takes over are riveting.  Wonderful new characters – Mrs Proudie, the Thornes, the Stanhopes and more – enter the world and it’s just a delight all around.  I laughed out loud in nearly every chapter and enjoyed every second of this book – probably my favorite of the year so far.

The Making of a Marchioness, by Frances Hodgson Burnett – A romance between two decidedly unromantic characters – what could be better?  Emily Fox-Seeton, a gentlewoman in reduced circumstances, unwittingly and unintentionally charms one of the most eligible aristocratic bachelors in all of England.  The proposal – over a fish bucket! – is an absolute gem.

 

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly – If you had no idea that black women worked at NASA in huge numbers (as “computers” – mathematicians) and that they were responsible for the calculations that kept WWII planes in the air and brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon and back home, then you are just like me.  This was a fascinating book that deserves all the attention it got.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I want to!

Northbridge Rectory, by Angela Thirkell – I mistakenly skipped a couple of novels in the series and ended up in the middle of WWII, and it turns out it’s totally true what Thirkell bloggers say – the WWII books are the best.  This one follows Verena Villars, wife of Vicar Gregory Villars, and a surrounding cast of neighbors, friends and billeted officers.  It was delightful and I was truly sorry when it ended.

 

Greenery Street, by Denis MacKail – A rare novel indeed, Greenery Street tells the story of a happy marriage.  Ian and Felicity Foster tie the knot and set up their first home in Greenery Street, where they tackle all of the common travails of newlywed-hood: Money Concerns; Family Drama; Rude Neighbors; and Problems With The Servants.  (What, you haven’t had that last one? Ha!)  It’s a joy and a hoot.

 

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas – Starr Carter, aged sixteen, is on her way home from a party with her oldest friend Khalil when they are stopped by the police.  Moments later, Khalil is dead – a victim of police shooting – and Starr’s life is changed forever.  Starr deals with her legal limbo as “the witness”; her grief over losing her friend; and the different reactions of others in her neighborhood and school communities.  It’s a powerful, heart-rending read.

 

Hag-Seed, by Margaret Atwood – Atwood’s contribution to the Hogarth Shakespeare Project follows a washed-up old theatre director who takes his revenge on the former underling who betrayed him in the most Atwood-Shakespearean way possible: with a psychedelic and terrifying production of The Tempest, performed by a local correctional facility’s inmates.  Like ya do.

 

The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge – Maria, orphaned but not alone, arrives at Moonacre Manor to live and claim her birthright.  On her first moonlit drive in, she sees a magical white horse.  Maria discovers that Moonacre is a lovely, magical place but with a tinge of old sadness, and she sets about correcting a generations-old mistake and righting the wrongs of the past.  Lovely and charming.

 

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles – Count Alexander Rostov is in his thirties when he is found to be an unrepentant aristocrat and sentenced by the Bolshevik to a lifetime of imprisonment in the grand hotel he calls home.  Count Rostov’s sphere of movement is limited but he comes into contact with fascinating and wonderful characters from every walk of life, while Soviet history takes place right outside his window.  I just adored Count Rostov and every other resident of the Metropol.

Emily Climbs, by L.M. Montgomery – A re-read of my favorite installment from my favorite series, Emily Climbs follows Emily Starr as she leaves New Moon to attend high school in Shrewsbury.  Like with any good L.M. Montgomery novel, there are parties and social events, a healthy dose of academic competition, and a whole lot of gorgeous descriptive writing.

 

Ten!  It was a good first half of 2017 – at least where books are concerned!  (Don’t get me started about the news.)  I read some good ones and it was tough to whittle them down to ten favorites.  I can already tell that it’s going to be hard to choose a top ten at the end of the year…

What books stood out for you in the first half of the year?

Hey, y’all – how were your weekends?  Ours was too short, especially after the first five-day workweek back after a couple of short ones in a row.  I did a lot of running around and not enough chilling (although there was some chilling).  On Saturday morning I got up at an ungodly hour and squeezed in about four hours of work between the pre-sunrise hours and a little time Steve bought me by taking the kids out for the week’s grocery run.  I got enough done that I was able to power down for the rest of the weekend, which was a relief.  Once they got back from the store, I was out again almost immediately – off to a friend’s baby shower.  I got home from the shower just as naps were ending and we walked over to the library for awhile.  I ended Saturday evening basically passed out – after getting up at 4:30 a.m. to work, 9:30 p.m. is basically my limit.  Since Saturday was full of work, errands and social events, I wanted Sunday to be earmarked for just fun.  In the morning, we checked out a new family activity – kayaking on the Potomac!  As my friends know, I love kayaking but have never been able to find a way to make it work with my little duffers.  But I think I finally hit on the solution – we found a boathouse that will let the kids duff (ride along without paddling) in single kayaks, and it happens to be on a particularly peaceful stretch of the Potomac.  We were out for about an hour, which is Nugget’s sweet spot – then we headed home for lunch and naps.  I finished two books (my home book and my commuting book) while the kids snoozed, and we ended the weekend with a chill Sunday evening – a walk to check out a new-to-us Mexican restaurant, then bubble baths for the kiddos and a couch night for Mom and Dad.  Sunday was a great day – wish every day could be that warm, sunny, and packed with fun.

   

Reading.  Kind of a slow reading week, because I can’t seem to stay awake at night.  (Not pregnant.)  But on Sunday I finally finished Three Men in a Boat, which was absolutely hilarious – although warning, there is one offensive word that is jarring to the modern reader; other than that, it’s a perfect book.  I also finished Jane of Lantern Hill, which I’d been reading on the Metro (not wanting to take my big, beautiful hardcover copy of Three Men in a Boat a-commuting).  I picked up The Age of Orphans, which I have out from the library, shortly before naps ended.  I’m not far into it yet, but I’m intrigued.

Watching.  Not much TV this week – just a couple of episodes of National Parks Exploration Series.  They’re fun to zone out to and look at pretty scenery.  (And good for getting excited for a few national park visits coming up in the next few months!)  The major viewing in our house wasn’t so much for the parents this week, as for the kids, who have discovered the joys of watching The Lion King songs on YouTube.  They haven’t seen the movie yet – we’re waiting for the digitally remastered version.

Listening.  More podcasts this week.  I’m working through my podcatcher a bit and have been enjoying catching up with The Book Riot Podcast and The Home Hour in particular.  And because I only had about 36 hours of downloaded audio in my podcatcher, and only a few hundred in Audible, I clearly needed another podcast, so I let myself be talked into subscribing to Annotated.  Haven’t listened yet, though.

Moving.  Since I took last week off from my Monday reading posts, I’ve been doing a lot of moving – a few hikes (including climbing a mountain), two kayaking excursions, and lots of kiddo-chasing.  All weekend warrior stuff, so I really need to make more time during the week.

Blogging.  I have a good week coming up for you here on the blog!  My top ten favorite reads of 2017 (the first half) on Wednesday, and a big hiking recap on Friday.  Check in with me then!

Loving.  I recently stumbled across KidFriendlyDC, and I am hooked.  I have them to thank for clueing me in to Fletcher’s Cove, and now we have a great family-friendly kayaking spot to frequent!  And they’re also to blame for the ballooning of my list of activities to do in the area.  So great to have another good source for fun ideas!

Asking. What are you reading this week?