It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (October 4, 2021)

Well, it’s Monday again! And October. Shut the front door. Y’all, I am drained today. It was a busy weekend – good busy, but I’m wiped out. Last Wednesday, my very best friend Rebecca arrived in town from Florida. She was here to attend a CLE (that’s Continuing Legal Education for you non-lawyers out there) conference in DC, and squeeze in friend time around the margins. I picked her up from the airport and she was able to welcome the kids home from school before I drove her to her friend Shannon’s house to stay closer to the conference for a few days. She rejoined us on Friday and stayed all weekend – YAY! It was nice to have her company because – another reason I am drained – Steve was out of town for a partners’ retreat with his law firm colleagues, and I was solo parenting for four days straight. I was supposed to attend the retreat with him – spouses were invited and he turned out to be the only one without a date, but all of our overnight childcare fell through. I wasn’t super sad about not traveling this weekend, but solo parenting two feral pandemic children wiped me out. Plus something always happens when one parent is alone. This time, it was a playground injury during soccer practice on Friday. We narrowly avoided a trip to urgent care, and were very happy to see Aunt Rebecca’s welcome face walk through the door. The rest of the weekend was lots of good running around – soccer, a haircut for Nugget, garden center (and bouncy castle!), a Sunday morning hike, swim class, neighborhood walks, cooking – the list goes on. We did a lot, and I’m tired now but I regret nothing.

Reading. Whew! Although I didn’t have much reading time over the weekend, I apparently made up for that during the week. Three print books finished (all total delights) and one audiobook (Richard Armitage reading Agatha Christie is everything, ladies), and I’m now well into O, the Brave Music and loving it. Bodes well for the week ahead!

Watching. I am deep down a Monty Don rabbit hole on Britbox and not even mad about it. I watched an episode and a half while Steve was out of town, and +100 would do it again. Nugget, who loves plants, indulgently watches with me. Everyone else grumbles.

Listening. Most of the week was given over to my audiobook – The Murder on the Links – but I did turn back to podcasts after wrapping that up. And Nugget is more of a tunes guy in the car, so there was a lot of singing along to Decemberists songs on the way to and from his haircut.

Making. Well, Nugget and Aunt Rebecca and I made a masterpiece of driveway chalk. Behold! It got a lot bigger than the above – this was just the beginning. Also made: progress on a rather sloppy scarf I’m knitting; a clean guestroom; a fairy garden with Peanut, and some BIG travel plans. I’ve hinted a few times that Steve and I had a big trip on the horizon in February. I was oddly reluctant to talk about it though, because I had a funny feeling it was going to fall through. It kind of did, and kind of didn’t, but the short story is that over a year ago we had booked – and fully paid for – a trip to Antarctica in February 2022, and we learned a few weeks ago that our trip has officially been pushed to 2023. After spending two weeks trying to find a solution to still travel to Antarctica in 2022, we finally accepted that we’re going to be waiting another year, and we pivoted to thinking about what we could do to make this feel okay. I’m deeply disappointed, but I was not letting myself get too excited about it to begin with, because I did sort of think this might happen. As a consolation we spent last week researching, and this week we booked a different February trip – so we will have something really cool to look forward to in February after all. Our reshuffled travel plans are basically the polar (har, har) opposite of Antarctica: we’re trading in parkas for board shorts and penguins for sloths – we’ll be road tripping around Costa Rica. I think this is going to happen – hotels are booked, and some of the adventures are already arranged, with more to come. I’m taking stock of my camera arsenal and plotting out the best way to see sloths. I love making plans, and the will-we-or-won’t-we aspect of our Antarctica trip (we will, but just a year later than planned) was stressing me out. But I’m feeling good and confident about Costa Rica, which is a strange – but nice – sensation.

Moving. Meh, not much movement this week. No running – lots of neighborhood walks; gotta get those 10,000 steps in – and just one short hike. Must do better next week.

Blogging. September’s reading round-up coming atcha on Wednesday, and back to the ‘dacks on Friday. Check in with me then!

Loving. Can’t say it enough – I love, love, love seeing my cherished friends! Especially during a pandemic, when we don’t see each other nearly enough as it is. It’s been wonderful having Rebecca for a few days. We’ve been cooking, walking, laughing, and wishing we could do this every weekend.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

ADK 2021: Cobble Hill

Each evening in Lake Placid, after we wrapped up work/adventures for the day, Steve and I would wander out to dinner somewhere on Main Street and plan out the next day’s wandering. We’d compare work calendars and notes about fun ideas, and hash out a plan to tackle an adventure around conference calls. Because we were working, most of our adventures were bite-sized; that doesn’t mean they were lame. On Wednesday morning, with calendars clear of conference calls until 11:00, we woke to an early alarm and set out for Cobble Hill.

Cobble Hill rises 2,343 feet above downtown Lake Placid; it’s the local hike in a town full of local hikes. These days there isn’t even trailhead parking; you stride out of your hotel, walk up Main Street and partway around Mirror Lake, and you’re there. It’s a short-ish trail (just about 5 miles round trip counting the town portion) but with plenty of classic Adirondack granite and views.

There’s a pristine pond.

A decent amount of climbing – and you’re at the top, with a stellar view of a Lake Placid landmark – the ski jumps.

There’s Adirondack granite boulders to scramble over.

And lots of space for dorky summit selfies. What happened here? Steve looks creepy and I look terrified. I joked that he could be a serial killer.

Summit slayer, woman about to be murdered.

We were up and down this mountain before my West Coast colleagues had even woken up, and settled in for a day of lawyering – but feeling pretty smug about having climbed a mountain before the workday even started.

Next week: paddling another Adirondack lake!

DC Bike Ride 2021

You guys! I have a milestone to report: first start line since pre-pandemic. Look at me go!

Months ago, I signed up for the DC Bike Ride, billed as twenty car-free miles through DC. Apparently, this is the fifth year running for this event, although somehow I’d never heard of it before. I was stoked. My friend Zoya signed up as well, and we made plans to ride together, but at the last minute she decided to be in Boston that week (Zoya and her husband split their time between cities) so I was riding alone. No matter! I missed Zoya, but I was looking forward to a blissful ride around gorgeous DC scenery.

It had definitely been awhile, because I was not at all on my start line game. I used to have races and events down to a science, but apparently I’ve forgotten everything. I remembered to lay out my clothes the night before, but spent the early morning dashing around looking for my race dots, then realized halfway to DC that I’d forgotten a mask for the start line (but fortunately had a Buff in the glove box). I left my water bottle in the car (d’oh!) and spent the entire pre-race festivities worrying about whether I’d remembered to lock up. (I had a distinct memory of zipping my car keys into my bike saddle pack, but no memory of actually locking the car door. Figuring I didn’t have enough time to get back to the car and check before the ride started, I just trusted in my personal autopilot. Spoiler alert: I had locked the car.)

I also noticed, while riding from my parking spot to the starting line corrals, that both of my tires seemed to be lower on air than they were when I left the house. Very weird, considering I just had my bike tuned up for the race. And I don’t have a travel pump – another fail; I’ll be putting that on my Christmas list for sure. I found a volunteer who had a pump and got a quick top-off, hoping it would be enough to get me through the ride, and then I could figure out what the heck was going on with my tires.

From where I set up, in the middle of the intermediate riders’ corral, it took forty-five minutes from the starting gun to actually get across the start line – oof. I spent the entire time worrying about (1) whether I locked my car; (2) whether I would get back before my meter ran out; and (3) the air in my tires. Not the most restful start line experience – but pretty much all on me. The crowd had fantastic energy, and I was looking forward to a great ride if my tires held out.

8:45 a.m. – hey! The start line! Wahoo!

We set off through Potomac Park, bound for Haines Point – one of the most scenic spots in DC, so a lovely place to begin a race. The first few miles were quite bottlenecked, so I rode along slowly, looking for opportunities to thread through the crowd and find myself a bit more riding space. We rounded the corner and – look at that view!

What a place to ride! Normally there are cars whipping down this scenic street. It was very cool to share the road only with a few thousand of my best cycling friends. The last time I got to ride through cool car-free city scenery was 2014, when I did the Five Boro Bike Tour with my dad, brother, and sister-in-law. This ride had a similar feel (albeit much smaller crowds – not a bad thing) and it was fabulous. Would have been fun to ride with my family again – or with Zoya, as planned – but I had a grand time pedaling along by myself and enjoying the scenery.

My smooth ride was not to last, though. My front tire held up fine, but as I rounded the traffic circle near Arlington Cemetery, I noticed a sickening bump-bump-bump sound; it was my back tire, and it was completely flat. Woof. I thudded my way over Memorial Bridge, enjoying the stunning view of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, but wondering what I should do. I quickly dismissed the idea of pulling out of the race – my car was parked so far away that it wasn’t worth trying to ride back, and I’d be more likely to solve my problem by finding a race volunteer to help. Instead, I decided that my goal was just to get to the next rest stop, where hopefully a volunteer would have a pump (I had a patch kit in my saddle bag). I thumped over the bridge and under the overpass by the Kennedy Center, where several people helpfully informed me that they thought I might have a flat. I waved and agreed that I definitely had a flat, and hoped that no one else would talk to me or I may not be able to rely on my natural politeness to bite back a rude retort, and I might channel Phoebe Buffay and shout “THAT IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION!”

As I pedaled over Whitehurst Freeway towards Georgetown, scanning for a rest stop with the bumping getting worse all the while, I spotted two riders in yellow shirts pedaling slowly along the right side of the road. When I got close enough to read the back of their shirts (“Conte’s Bike Shop Mobile Mechanics”) my heart soared. I drew up next to them and called over, “Excuse me! You guys doing repairs?” They were. Hallelujah. They quickly diagnosed my flat tire as a valve problem – not a hole, thank goodness – and kindly (and efficiently) replaced my inner tube, pumped up the back tire and topped off the air in my front tire, before sending me on my way. HEROES, totally saved my ride. The last eight miles of the ride were as smooth as the first twelve were bumpy.

Finish festival! Thanks to the Conte’s Bike Shop Mobile Mechanics, or I would never have made it – I’d have had no choice but to peel off and ride back to the car at my first opportunity.

I’d have liked to stay and enjoy the finish festival, but I was still worried about whether I’d locked my car, and I had definitely exceeded my parking meter (because of the flat tire; even with the extra forty-five minutes to cross the start line I’d have finished well before my meter ran out if I hadn’t run into that trouble on the course). So I snapped a quick picture, collected my new water bottle, and rushed to the car. I was parked right across the street from the Washington Monument, and I did stop for a solemn moment with the white flags commemorating the American victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please get vaccinated, my friends.

What a crazy ride that was! Hopefully, the next start line will lead to a smoother experience – but that’s all on me; this was a fabulous event and I’ll definitely be repeating the ride next year.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (September 27, 2021)

Monday again – whew! How were your weekends? Ours was another combination weekend – a crazy-busy Saturday and a much more low-key Sunday. On Friday evening, Steve took Nugget to soccer practice; Peanut and I stayed home so she could get a head start on cleaning her room (don’t ask). Saturday came early; I mean really early. My alarm went off at 6:00 sharp so I could make coffee and rush out the door to my first starting line since pre-pandemic: the DC Bike Ride, 20 miles of car-free riding around the monuments. It was a bit of a bumpy ride (entirely my fault – the event itself was wonderful and seamless) – more to come on Wednesday. I rushed home with just enough time to slam lunch and pick Peanut up from Brownies, and then we rolled right back out the door for apple-picking. I’d actually thought ahead and booked tickets at a farm out in Loudoun County; we had to take a major detour to get to the orchard (because of a car accident entirely blocking one side of the highway – hope everyone is okay) but it turns out the farm country around the area is beautiful and we weirdly enjoyed the extra thirty minutes in the car. And of course, apple-picking was a delight, as always.

Sunday was much more low-key. I kicked around the ideas of a long run, and a long walk, but ended up not leaving the house/yard all day – except to take the kids to their weekly swim class, and later, to walk Nugget over to his buddy’s house in a cul-de-sac across the street. The rest of the day, I just puttered around – folding laundry, drafting and scheduling travel recap posts for the blog, making the first pumpkin curry of the season for dinner. I want to get a bit more organizing done this week, but it was a quiet day and I made a start, and that’s what I needed.

Reading. Not a bad reading week! After months of dipping in and out, I finally finished James Herriot’s classic memoir, All Creatures Great and Small, on Audible. Most of my page-turning hours were devoted to The Greek Myths, which I finally finished up on Saturday night. More to come on that, soonish. Sunday’s reading was my reward for finishing an eye-popping trek through the entire landscape of Greek mythology, and about as far from the homicidal, cannibal orgies of ancient Greek gods and heroes as it’s possible to get – Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. I’m trying not to read too fast, because it’s a total delight and frankly, much more relaxing and enjoyable than The Greek Myths.

Watching. We’ve been letting Nugget pick the evening viewing lately (don’t feel too sorry for Peanut; she had a stretch of about two weeks of dictating TV) and it’s been Shark Central as a result. We did, however, carve out some time for the latest season of The Great British Bake-Off and watched the first episode – which just dropped on Netflix – over two nights. And I’m still keeping company with Miranda Mills’ YouTube channel as I wash dishes and fold laundry; I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when I finish all the back episodes. I’ll have to go back to avoiding housework.

Listening. I’m on an audiobook jag! After I finished All Creatures Great and Small over several walks and one day of driving to work (!!!) last week I was on such a roll that I immediately downloaded my next Audible listen – The Murder on the Links, read by Richard Armitage (#swoon). I would literally listen to Richard Armitage read the phone book.

Making. Another busy week in the kitchen – par for the course when I’m Whole30-ing. I actually snapped pictures of every evening’s dinner so I could show you what I actually eat on Whole30, but it’s going to be a few weeks before that post goes live; I just have a lot of content pre-planned right now. I’ll get to it eventually, I promise. And with the onset of cooler weather – it’s been almost crisp in the mornings – I am starting to get the itch to take on a craft project. I’ve been eyeing embroidery kits online, although I’ll probably choose to be responsible and knit up some of the yarn I already have, instead. I’d like to make a pair of fingerless gloves.

Moving. Most of the week was light on movement, sadly. No running at all, as I was saving my legs for the DC Bike Ride on Saturday. I had big plans to get out for one more training ride before the event, and to meet my friend Dorothy for another morning of paddling, but weather and work interfered with both. But at least I got in one great workout – those twenty car-free miles through DC! Recap (!!!) to come on Wednesday.

Blogging. See above: on Wednesday I have a recap of the DC Bike Ride for you (just said that, heh). And on Friday, back to the ‘dacks for more summer travel – we’ll be doing that for awhile.

Loving. I’ve said many times that I can’t choose a favorite season; I am truly undecided as to whether I love summer or fall more. Growing up, fall was the clear choice – I’ve grown to love summer more in adulthood. Instead of mourning summer, or feeling bittersweet about the turn of the seasons, I am looking at the transition to fall as another phase in my favorite half of the year (although I adore winter too – spring is really the only season I could take or leave – so maybe it’s my favorite three-quarters of the year). Between apple-picking, pumpkin curry-making, and Halloween costume-shopping, I’ve embraced the new season. Nugget and I even had a grand leaf-stomping yesterday. Bring on woodsmoke, harvest moon nights, red leaves, crackling bonfires, little monsters begging for candy, spiced apple cakes, steaming tea, brisk bus stop mornings, and soft yoga blanket reading nests.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

ADK 2021: Paddling Lake Placid

When I sat down to plan a week’s worth of Adirondack paddling, Lake Placid was the top of the list of lakes to hit. How could it not be? Just a five minute drive – or less – from our hotel, it doesn’t get more convenient. Or more beautiful! I’d paddled Lake Placid before, with my dad – we dropped our kayaks in at the Lake Placid boat launch, paddled four miles to the back slope of Whiteface Mountain, and floated around drinking wine. (An epic day.) I was eager to show Steve the same paddling route – minus the wine, because this was a quick late-lunchtime escape, and we were headed back to “work” afterwards.

Steve grew up in the Adirondack region – just “outside the blue line,” as locals say, in Glens Falls. But he wasn’t an outdoorsy guy, and he didn’t paddle growing up. So this was his first foray onto Lake Placid.

Obviously he loved it.

I was excited to show him the gorgeous Adirondack camps and boathouses. We’d love to own lakefront property in Virginia someday (longterm financial goal alert!) and I think the boathouses inspired him. He especially liked the Japanese-style one; I preferred the more traditional Adirondack architecture – but they are clearly all stunning.

As we checked out the classic architecture, another Adirondack symbol popped up a few dozen yards away – a common loon! I can’t get enough of them. Sorry for the blurry picture – iPhone zoom.

As we paddled up toward the back slope of Whiteface, we passed by a group on a pontoon boat, who had obviously started their happy hour early. (No shade!) One of the men on the boat shouted to us, “You guys look so beautiful, paddling with the sun behind you!” Blushing, we laughed as his friends reprimanded him: “You can’t say stuff like that to strangers!” (“What!?” he protested. “It was a compliment!”) We laughed and assured him that we were flattered and not at all weirded out.

Approaching Whiteface – this might be the most serene, pristine bay in all of the Adirondacks. Change my mind.

We bobbed around for a few minutes, drinking water from our Nalgene bottles (not wine, sadly – next time, maybe) before reluctantly turning back toward the boat launch. We had another four miles of paddling ahead, so that was something to look forward to, at least.

(I love my paddle.)

Heading back to the boat launch, we passed our pontoon boat friends – and the same garrulous gentleman called to me “You have the smoothest paddle stroke!” I shouted back that I’d been paddling for twenty-five years and he replied “It shows!” As we cruised off, I heard him protesting to his friends, “What, I can’t compliment people’s paddling strokes either?!” Steve and I paddled off, laughing to each other that our new buddy reminded us of our dear friend Seth, who lives up in the Adirondacks and makes friends everywhere he goes. But really – in a place like this, how can you not be so full of joy and life that you want to befriend absolutely everyone?

Next week: a classic LP village hike.

Themed Reads: Set in September

I love reading seasonally through the year, as you know – summer books in hot weather; Christmas books at the holidays, etc. Surprisingly, though, I haven’t found many books set during the month of September. You’d think that the beginnings of crisp weather and the turning of another school year would present ample material for novelists – and maybe they do and I just haven’t found them, but it seems to me that there’s a niche to be filled here. There are a few standouts set during the ninth month of the year, though, and they’re as lovely as September itself.

R. C. Sherriff’s A Fortnight in September – republished by Persephone Books – has proven popular enough to be made into a Persephone Classic, and for good reason. It’s one of those books in which nothing happens and at the same time everything happens. Covering a family’s annual seaside holiday from the delicious anticipation of the night before to the last bittersweet walk on the promenade, it’s a poignant and sweet read that will stay with you.

One of my recent reads – just this month! – Crooked Sixpence, by Jane Shaw, follows six intrepid friends as they investigate some seriously sinister goings-on over a few hot September weeks. Why is the kindly and beloved local squire (grandfather to two of the gang) receiving poison pen letters with the apparent aim of driving him from his ancestral holdings? What is the connection to the spooky “Tudor Boy” ghost who has been appearing nightly and clanking across the too-aptly named Villain Field? And how is this all connected to the Roman coin that a local shut-in gave to the lead character? There’s haying, a rollicking camping trip, and lots of good food (advice: DO NOT read this book hungry).

Finally, can’t leave out the ultimate – September, by Rosamunde Pilcher, actually takes place mostly over the course of six or so months leading up to the climactic September ball. As is typical for Pilcher, it’s a hefty novel packed with detail – there are picnics in the Scottish heather, lots of tea, a cast of fully-realized characters, and a poignant climax. I love Pilcher’s novels, and although this didn’t top The Shell Seekers as my favorite (although if you’ve read that one, you’ll recognize one of the characters in September) it was a cracking good read.

What are your favorite books set in September? Any recommendations for me?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (September 20, 2021)

Well! Good morning. So that busy weekend that didn’t materialize last weekend, that I predicted would come in force this weekend? It did. In force. I’m not even sure I can remember everything we did, let alone summarize it all in one to three efficient paragraphs, but I’ll try. We kicked off the weekend with the first soccer practice of the season, after sitting out last week on the sick list. Nugget dove right into soccer as if he hadn’t had a week’s break since camp, and was proclaimed “a baller” by the coach. We got home late – this will be the story of Friday for the next few months – and treated ourselves to Peruvian chicken to celebrate the end of a loooooong week.

On Saturday, we were up early and out the door for Nugget’s first game – Honduras (his team) vs. Australia. I’m pretty sure no one kept score, which was a good thing because if they had we’d have gotten absolutely shellacked. But it was adorable, and Nugget had a fabulous time, which is what matters. No sooner did we arrive home from Saturday soccer than Peanut and I were out the door again – for a stop at the local office supply store to print her requisite forms for Brownies (the girl behind the desk, seeing that we were printing Girl Scout forms, asked us to please promise to come around at cookie time – this is why I love supporting my neighborhood businesses), and then off to Peanut’s Brownie investiture ceremony and first badge activity: a painting class at a local historic mill and museum. She came home with orange paint-encrusted fingers, proudly clutching a baggie with her investiture patch and her first badge. Then – after a morning dedicated to kiddo activities, Steve and I insisted on family time. We gathered the whole crew up again (grousing at not getting to spend the – beautiful, sunny – afternoon watching cartoons) and rolled off to Seneca Regional Park to challenge ourselves with a slightly longer loop than usual. Once they got over their dismay at being torn from the TV, the kids were surprisingly good, and a few miles of river and woodland views were very good for the soul, indeed.

Still with me? If not, I don’t blame you. I was apparently tired after this day of monumental activity too, because I sacked out at 9:30 on Saturday night (party animal) and slept until almost 8:30 on Sunday morning – nearly eleven hours! Guess I needed it. Anyway, I rolled out of bed and immediately laid out adorable outfits for the kids to wear apple-picking, which is what we’d decided to do on Sunday morning before their midday swim lessons. So it was my turn to be dismayed when Steve glumly announced that the orchard I’d intended for us to visit – the only one that doesn’t require advance reservations – was out of everything except Red Delicious. As we all know, Red Delicious is not delicious. (This is a fact, not an opinion.) So we postponed apple-picking until next weekend, reluctantly, and after I’d wrestled both kids into their cute orchard themed outfits, they refused to change and ended up hiking (our Plan B) in a gingham shirt and apple-print dress, respectively. And now everyone knows what they’ll be wearing next weekend. Follow me for more elementary school fashion tips! Anyway – we squeezed in a quick hike at our local fave, Riverbend Regional Park, then tooled off to swimming. And after all that, I felt like I’d earned a lazy afternoon at home, so that’s what I gave myself. I went for a walk, did some work, made Whole30-compliant golumpki for Sunday dinner, and read on the couch for hours. It was good.

Reading. ‘Twas another busy one! After spending most of the week over my re-read of Gwen Raverat’s delightful Period Piece, I blazed through three books between Friday and Sunday: first, Agatha Christie’s debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, followed by the slim but entertaining The House Party, a social history of upper-class “week-end” entertainment in the interwar years in Great Britain (mostly in England, but a dash of Scotland for good measure). And then polished off Business as Usual in a day and loved every word – another contender for the year’s top-ten list. I finished off the weekend by diving into Robert Graves’ doorstopping The Greek Myths (off my Classics Club list) and I do hope I’m sufficiently recovered from James A. Michener for the epic task ahead.

Watching. It’s been an all-over-the-place sort of watching week. We spent three nights over The Lizzie McGuire Movie – I had a hunch Peanut would love it, and I was right. Around Lizzie we tucked some Rock the Park (studying up for some travel we have coming up this fall!) and a “grown-ups movie night” featuring an episode of The Crown, because we’re well behind and need to finish this season before the next one drops. Oh, and I’m still working my way through Miranda Mills’ YouTube channel while washing dishes, and enjoying it so much that I often find myself cleaning unnecessarily just to watch another episode.

Listening. I have to tell you, listening to music in the car with kids is a complicated business. Nugget requested “tunes” on the way home from swimming. I asked what he wanted to listen to, and he said “Classical” so I obliged with Holst’s The Planets. But apparently by “Classical” he meant “something with singing” so I suggested Charlotte Church as the only classical music I happened to have downloaded that also involved singing. Dramatic gagging ensued. (What’s their problem with Charlotte Church, I ask you?) Then Nugget clarified that when he requested classical music “with singing” he meant The Decemberists. I started to quibble – The Decemberists are rock, after all – but decided it wasn’t worth it, and we listened to Your Ghost four times in a row. You see what I mean? Complicated business. Anyway, other than negotiating kiddo music choices, I’m pleased to report that I knocked another hour off my audiobook (All Creatures Great and Small) and listened to several bookish podcast episodes while walking around my neighborhood.

Making. Lots of cooking this week, as always with a Whole30, but the highlight was definitely Sunday evening’s Paleo golumpki. (Turkey instead of beef/pork; cauliflower rice instead of white rice; and tomato puree with almond milk whisked in instead of Campbell’s soup – and it tastes unnervingly like my grandmother’s.)

Moving. Bit of a lazy week, this one was. Just one run and two hikes, plus daily neighborhood walks – usually after the kids board the school bus. Sometimes I see them barreling along through the neighborhood if I time the walk just right.

Blogging. It’s going to be a good week! I have September’s Themed Reads coming for you on Wednesday, and continuing with Adirondack recaps on Friday. Check in with me then!

Loving. I recently found a new-to-me social media follow – @nattieupnorth on Instagram – and I can’t recommend her highly enough. If you’re an outdoorsy type and you’re around social, do check her out; she posts beautiful photos and stories about life in Minnesota (I’ve never been, but would love to go). I found her through YouTube, actually: her justifiably popular video about how she, one tiny person, hoists a 90-pound fishing kayak onto her car without help. Clearly a force to be reckoned with! I’ve been loving following her posts; they’re bringing so much extra beauty to my days.

Asking. What are you reading this week?

ADK 2021: Hiking Phelps Mountain, Adirondack High Peak #5

As we planned our week of mostly-working-but-also-some-fun in the Adirondacks, Steve suggested that we bang out another high peak; I was skeptical that we’d be able to fit it in around work, but still willing to listen. As we looked over our list of “peaks to get to, soon,” Phelps stuck out to both of us; the hike up was relatively short, we could knock it out in a morning if we skipped Tabletop (the neighboring high peak, often paired with Phelps), and the views were supposed to be great. Looking over the weather for the week, Steve suggested that we go for it on Monday, which looked to be the best weather day. Having nothing urgently pressing until Monday afternoon, I agreed, and we set our alarms for zero dark thirty.

We arrived at the Loj with plenty of parking spaces still available – a good omen. After a few minutes of chatting with one of the local park stewards, we set off on the first – flat! – portion of the hike, through the woods to Marcy Dam.

I hiked along at a fast clip (about the same speed as a neighborhood walk, which is lightning for an Adirondack hike) and marveled at how easy it felt so far. Figuring it wouldn’t last, I made up my mind to enjoy the gently rolling groomed trails while I could.

The first (easy!) portion of the hike flew by, and before I knew it we were standing in the middle of a stunning vista at Marcy Dam. I couldn’t get enough of this view.

After Marcy Dam, the trail begins both to climb and to look more like an Adirondack trail. Saw that coming a mile away – no, I mean literally.

Stream crossing? Let’s do it.

A little more than a mile from the summit, the trail began to really climb – as we knew was coming. The intel on Phelps was that it’s a relatively moderate, gentle hike until you get to the last mile, and then it wallops you. Well, no stopping now.

Still all smiles, though!

The last mile was an Adirondack mile, to be sure – scrambling up creekbeds, grasping at tree branches, heaving over boulders, and gaining about a thousand feet of elevation in the final third of a mile. No pictures, because my mind was completely focused on the job. But eventually, we pushed over the final boulder and found ourselves on a windswept summit ledge.

High peak summit number 5, in the books!

And even more beautiful than I’d expected.

We kicked back and enjoyed the view for awhile.

And posed for summit selfies, because we’re nerds.

It was just so hard to even think about saying goodbye to this view.

We did stop to find the spot where the summit marker was once planted – no longer.

Eventually, reluctantly, we turned our backs on the summit and started the descent; work and conference calls beckoned.

We did stop at Marcy Dam so that Steve could try out his Grayl filter bottle (a very generous Christmas gift from his Mom). The water was delicious.

I wished we’d had time for Tabletop – not only to tick off another high peak, but because I didn’t want to leave the woods. But Steve was dealing with a hiking boot problem (his ankle boots were nowhere near as grippy as the sneaker-style boot of the same model, go figure) and he was sliding perilously across the Adirondack granite; he even broke a hiking pole. And we did each have several hours worth of work to do. So it was back to reality for us – but with the memory of a beautiful day in the woods and on another windswept peak. As we drove back to Lake Placid, we started planning our next peaks – for the next trip.

Next week: a perfectly Placid paddle.

One Second Everyday: Summer 2021

I always have big plans to capture an entire year in a One Second Everyday video – haven’t been able to make that enough a part of my routine yet to actually do an entire year’s worth of video, but maybe in 2022. In the meantime, I’ll settle for a video of my favorite season (well, favorite tied with fall).


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (September 13, 2021)

Mornin’ all. How were your weekends? This was supposed to be the first busy weekend of the fall – but that will come next weekend, as it turns out. Nugget’s first soccer practice and game were scheduled for Friday and Saturday respectively but… womp, womp… he failed his health screening, thanks to his proximity to his sister and her gross cold and ear infection. He was patient zero and gave her the bugs originally, so I guess fair’s fair – but he was understandably bummed. We were a bit frustrated at the restrictiveness and rigidity of the soccer league when it came to the health screening – safety first, we totally get that, but between Peanut and Nugget they had four negative COVID tests this week, and both were cleared to attend school by the pediatrician, but Nugget was still scratched by the league safety committee. To be honest, it seemed a bit hard knocks that what the pediatrician considered healthy enough to attend school somehow wasn’t healthy enough to play soccer outside – but them’s the breaks. He’ll play next weekend, and I am hoping that other families are as conscientious and honest as we were, because the list of symptoms that the soccer league considers disqualifying (including being in contact with someone with a headache – thank goodness I don’t work in law firms anymore) is so extensive that I’m legit concerned that the league is either going to have (1) a bunch of teams that have to forfeit games due to having NO players; or (2) lots of lying parents. But the league made a decision and we respected it.

Anyway, you’d think no soccer practice and no game would have freed up oodles of time, but we still did a bit of running around. On Friday, my team at work had a virtual murder mystery to start the weekend; we all dialed into zoom, several people had drinks (not me – Whole30, round floppity jillion) and we solved a murder, #nobigdeal. I’m pleased to report that my team WON and I WAS CAPTAIN. You guys can start calling me Young Miss Marple. So – after I singlehandedly caught a killer (okay that’s not what happened) we quickly fed the kiddos and rushed off to their school for the first PTO event of the year – an outdoor screening of The Incredibles 2. It was a blast, although I stood in line for more than half an hour to get the kiddos popcorn. We set up camp chairs, chatted with neighbors and friends, and made it half an hour into the film before everyone got cold and we packed it in for the night. That was the big event of the weekend, as it turned out – other than a hike on Saturday (Nugget got to use his new kidizoom camera) and swim lessons on Sunday, it was a quiet couple of days. I read a lot, did some work on Sunday afternoon, took a long ramble around the neighborhood – the usual good stuff. And now it’s off on another week.

Reading. Hello! I’m sure you must be wondering, so just to be clear: yes, I did other things this week – my job, for one, and putting dinners on the table, and taking the kiddos to activities, and making coffee, and walking. It just happens that I also have my reading mojo back, yippee, and that these are all pretty short books. So – to sum up quickly: I finished The Hour of Land on Tuesday, and it was wonderful to the last. For something completely different, I turned to the summer issue of Slightly Foxed (trying to knock it out before the fall issue arrived, which it did a few days later). That’s always a quick read, and then I moved on to another quick read – Maggie Smith’s slim volume of new poems, Goldenrod. Enjoyed, then snatched a September title off my stack of Girls Gone By paperbacks – Crooked Sixpence, which was good fun. By this point I was on a vintage book roll, so I finally turned to a World War II home front memoir I’ve been saving – Spam Tomorrow, by Verily Anderson. It was absolutely wonderful and will definitely be a contender for my top-ten list at the end of the year. Finally! Finished Sunday off by starting a re-read of Period Piece, which I read a few years ago and loved. It’s been a good reading week indeed.

Watching. Well – not much as you can see; I’ve been reading of an evening and not wandering down to the TV room at all. I did join Steve and the kiddos for “family TV time” and “family movie night” as I always do; Peanut has been choosing lately and we all watched “Home” (a Netflix original about a little alien who learns big life lessons, starring Rihanna, J.Lo and Steve Martin, because why not) and “Leap” (another Netflix cartoon I didn’t like as much). I’ve also been catching up on Miranda Mills’ YouTube channel while washing dishes of an evening; it’s made me actually look forward to loading the dishwasher, so basically it’s a miracle show.

Listening. The usual suspects – podcasts, namely The Mom Hour (loved the episode on breakfasts) and Tea or Books? – always winners both.

Making. Lots of food prep this week! I’m a week into a Whole30 – needed a nutritional reset after a summer of moving a lot but not paying much attention to eating – and that always entails lots of chopping, sauteeing, roasting, braising – basically, my entire kitchen toolbox comes out to play and I’m not even mad about it. The highlight was a chicken and kale stew that I made earlier in the week and finished off on Friday.

Moving. It was a busy week at work and movement fell a bit by the wayside. I still got in my 10,000 steps a day – I’m on a streak since early June and not letting up now. The highlight, though, was sneaking off for a pre-work paddle on the Potomac with my friend Dorothy. I’ve known Dorothy for years through my college alumni club – we both served on the Board of Directors for a few years, and were co-Vice Presidents for Programming, and we’ve kept in touch over Facebook but it’d been ages since we got together in person. Dorothy texted me in August to ask if I would teach her to kayak – obviously, I immediately said (there’s not much to teach but) of course I would. It’s all part of my plan to snag myself another paddling buddy. (Clearly I love paddling with Steve, but sometimes you just want to hit the river with a girlfriend, know what I mean? And yes – that is Steve’s life jacket and paddle; I loaned them to Dorothy, wasn’t that generous of me?) It wasn’t much of a workout, but we had a fabulous time chatting all the way to Chain Bridge and back, and at the end we agreed to make this a standing date until the boathouses close and then switch to hiking. Three cheers for active outdoorsy girlfriends!

Blogging. Continuing with summer catch-up all week! On Wednesday I’m showing off my shiny, newly-finished One Second Everyday video full of summer fun, and on Friday, it’s back to the Adirondacks for some peak-bagging. Check in with me then!

Loving. When we were shopping around for a new hometown in the spring of 2020, I read an article about the exurb hamlet where we ended up. The article painted an idyllic portrait of big yards (and often unreasonably big houses to go along with them, but let’s focus on the yards); neighbors gathering at the local coffee shop for Saturday morning vintage car shows; Fourth of July parades; and outdoor movies on the village green all summer long. After four years of city living (and before that, three years of cold loneliness in western New York) that warmth was just what I wanted. We had to wait for it – for obvious reasons, most of the local town activities were cancelled during our first summer here (and our second, too). But this weekend I finally got a taste of what I moved for (along with outdoor space, cheaper rent and better schools, of course). The PTO at the kiddos’ elementary school hosted its first event of the year – a movie night, discussed above. I thought it was a virtual event and that we’d all watch The Incredibles 2 at home on Disney+… so you can imagine my surprise when Steve told me no, it’s a real event, with tickets and popcorn and everything. We rolled up to the school as the sun was setting and the PTO volunteers were inflating the big outdoor movie screen. We staked out a spot, set up our camp chairs, and not seconds later were attacked with hugs by the mother of one of Nugget’s tee-ball teammates (and kindergarten classmates). (“I’m a touchy person,” she said, rubbing my arm, “I hope you don’t mind!”) She introduced us to her in-laws, nieces and nephews before the whole bunch of them wandered off to find some ground that wasn’t already taken. And I turned around to see two neighbors – and new bus stop friends – waving. Steve and I wandered to their blanket (the kids had long since decamped for the playground and basketball court with a clump of friends) and we chatted about the block party they’re planning – the last one was a dud, apparently, and they have their minds set on redemption. And then it got dark, and we snuggled in to watch the movie under my favorite orange shawl, and I oozed with gratitude for this little town and these warm people, and finally getting to experience the charm that we moved here for.

Asking. What are you reading this week?