Friday, September 22, 2023

Read in August 2023

I read 8 books in August, some better than others, which is what always happens! 

The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths is another installment of the Ruth Galloway series. This may be my favorite mystery series of all, so I was super bummed to hear that the final book in the series has been published. There are only 8 more for me to enjoy! (I did skip one book so far because the subject matter had to do with harm coming to children, and I try to avoid that.) In this book, a WWII plane is dug up, with the pilot still inside. Except: that pilot was supposed to have disappeared over the ocean. Of course, we get to visit with all our favorite characters, which is really the point of this series. I highly recommend it; it's got cozy vibes without being silly.
Yes Man by Danny Wallace had been on my TBR for almost 15 years! I couldn't figure out a way to get the book through the library or any free app, so I finally just bought a copy. The concept was so appealing to me: Wallace vows to say yes to every opportunity that comes his way, in an effort to have more experiences. But, that's not actually his experiment. Instead, he says yes to any question he's asked. This results in him saying yes to things that he doesn't want to say yes to (for example, his ex-girlfriend asks if he minds if she starts dating someone, and he says yes - even though he doesn't mind in reality.) He also says yes to junk mail, spam email, and advertising. Funny at first, the joke got old quickly. He has some interesting adventures, but in the end the book wasn't what I was expecting.

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim has some of the greatest lines every written. It begins:
Last night after dinner, when we were in the garden, I said, "I want to be alone for a whole summer, and get to the very dregs of life. I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to grow. Nobody shall be invited to stay with me, and if any one calls they will be told that I am out, or away, or sick. I shall spend the months in the garden, and on the plain, and in the forests. I shall watch the things that happen in my garden, and see where I have made mistakes. On wet days I will go into the thickest parts of the forests, where the pine needles are everlastingly dry, and when the sun shines I'll lie on the heath and see how the broom flares against the clouds. I shall be perpetually happy, because there will be no one to worry me. Out there on the plain there is silence, and where there is silence I have discovered there is peace."
The main character spends time in her garden, observing nature. It's a beautiful book... and then. Eventually you realize that this woman is very rich, and the reason she is able to sit alone in her garden for an entire summer is because she has staff taking care of her children, cleaning, and cooking all her meals. A section of this book is devoted to her sharing her opinions of the poorer townspeople and how they are uncivilized and do everything wrong. So odd! But it was written in 1899, and I could never quite figure out if it was supposed to be satire, or just a reflection of the opinions of the times.

Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe is about the Sackler family and their role in the opioid epidemic. I knew a little bit about Purdue Pharma going in but WOW was this eye-opening. This book is long but very readable, you will learn so much, and be so angry when you finish it. The Sacklers 100% knew what they were doing in pushing opioids, and straight-up didn't care when it became known that they were addictive. Terrifying.

When I had Covid I was looking for a short book to listen to, and so I checked out Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan. I enjoyed her previous novella (short story?) Foster, and this one is similar in its quiet tone. Set in the mid 1980s, it focuses on a coal delivery man who makes a shocking discovery at a convent. I liked Foster more than this book, however it was still a worthwhile read.

Unraveling by Peggy Orenstein: A memoir about shearing a sheep, spinning the wool, and knitting a sweater? YES PLEASE. As a pandemic project, Orenstein decides to knit a sweater from wool that she processes through every step. Shearing a sheep seems so hard! This was a quick read and a good reminder about all of the unseen labor that goes into everything we wear and use.

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang: The protagonist of this book is the most annoying person you will ever meet, and you will want to slap her constantly. After her "friend", the famous writer Athena Liu dies in front of her, June steals Athena's manuscript for the book she just finished and passes it off as her own. There are a lot of fun bookish memes that pop up, as well as the more serious topic of who gets to write about certain cultures. Kuang constructs this book in such a clever way. You'll be annoyed the whole time, but you'll also be forced to ask yourself some hard questions.

Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris: I am a sucker for any adventure memoir. This is the third long-distance biking book I have read, and unfortunately, the worst. I had a couple issues with this memoir. The first is that the author continually refers to herself as an "explorer." She's a white woman biking on established roads throughout Asia, where people have lived for thousands of years. Maybe in a personal context she is exploring the world, but she's certainly not An Explorer. The second issue I had was that this book is so full of tangents that there is very little content about actually biking the silk road. Why was I reading 3 pages about the first flight in North Carolina?? In contrast, the best biking book I've read so far is Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage, so pick that one up instead.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Things in August

There seems to be a great societal debate about what constitutes "fall". I'm of the belief that weather dictates fall; if it's 97 degrees in September, as it has been, it is not fall, I don't care how many pumpkin spice flavored items the store puts out. There are also people for whom fall is merely a state of mind, the end of August being fair game for spooky and autumn decor. Which type are you?

Let's travel back to August, a quintessential summer month. The first week was spent at a lake in Virginia with my entire family: 8 adults and 7 kids from 2-9 years old. All of the kids cried at least twice, as so happens when the cousins live off marshmallows and exhaust themselves playing. They did have a great time running around in a pack and swimming in the lake; as per usual, the adults continued to cook, clean, do laundry, and break up fights just like at home.

No one complained about being cold. Because this lake is HOT. Now is when I tell you that's used for cooling a nuclear power plant, but that's fine. Right? The water is nearly 90 degrees, which is just a little cooler than a hot tub. You had to get out of the water to cool off. I love kayaking almost more than anything, and I was able to escape a few times out on to the water. Other than that, we stayed at the rental house most of the time, due to the impossibility of wrangling that many people.

After vacation #1, we came back home for a week, then packed up and left again for vacation #2. Now that the kids are a little older, we took the risk of driving 8+ hours to western Massachusetts (the Berkshires area.) I just love New England, with the beautiful scenery, history, and architecture. The girls were surprisingly cool with all the old houses we visited. The first house we visited was Naumkeag, which definitely had the best gardens. And that view!

They had several cut flower gardens, which I examined closely. Their zinnias looked great; I definitely need to grow some lime colored ones next year.

Our rental house was on a lake! I spent as much time as possible on the screened porch looking at this soothing view. Although - photos lie. There is a highway on the other side of the hill, and it was quite loud with traffic day and night. Otherwise, this might have been my perfect lake spot. The lake was fairly small which meant no motorboat traffic. I even went kayaking a few times and was the only person on the water. {Sidenote: My dream lake is in the woods, free from motorized boats and annoying neighbors, and quiet. If you know this place, let me know! I have yet to find it.}

The mornings were consistently misty and rainy, but the view remained beautiful.

The quaint and quirky house was built in 1925. It was so charming and cozy on the inside. My favorite part of vacations is getting to stay in different and unique houses, and this one did not disappoint. If only we could have transported it away from the road!

We also visited a mansion called Ventfort Hall. Despite its imposing presence, only portions of the interior have been restored. There were no gardens at all! Eventually this will be an amazing place to visit, so check it out in about 10 years.

My main reason for wanting to visit the area was to see Edith Wharton's home, the Mount. Wharton is one of my favorite classic authors, and because of her interest in interior and garden design, I've wanted to visit for years. The house did not disappoint! Of the homes we visited, this one was the most well-preserved and presented. There were ample signs explaining the history of the home and about Wharton's life.

The gardens were smaller than I had imagined, but still very well done. We even lucked out with a blue sky when we visited.

The lake house came with kayaks and a paddleboat, which were a hit. After one try, the kids refused to swim in the lake that was filled with vegetation, so the boats were used every day. Mary completed her first solo kayak outing!

Our final destination of the vacation was to the Hancock Shaker Village. Oh, I loved it! Don't get me wrong, I prefer to live in an era with antibiotics, but the idea of making your own living and creating your own buildings, food, baskets, textiles, and tools is completely fascinating. 

Particularly dangerous for me was weaving on this loom. Mary even tried it out. Why dangerous? Have you met a fiber enthusiast? I might be a prolific knitter and already own two spinning wheels, but that hasn't stopped me researching looms. There is very likely one in the cards for me.

At this point I should mention that I had been starting to feel sick with a sore throat. I was tired and hot while walking around the buildings, more so than the temperature would cause. So yes, my friends, it turns out I caught Covid on this vacation. Whomp whomp. I managed to escape its claws for over 3 years, but it finally caught me. It was miserable riding back in the car for 9 hours the next day, with only gas station toilet paper to blow my nose with. Luckily, no one else got sick despite being trapped in the car with me for an entire day.

The flowers continued to bloom, but took a hit from the super dry summer and heat. I had a wonderful friend come water a few times while we were gone to ensure their survival. I'm going to take some time this winter to really think about how much work I can afford (time-wise) to put into my flower business. I was incredibly busy this summer, often working at least an hour in the evenings after working a full day at my job and attending to children. 

And then, just like that, summer was over. BOTH kids are in elementary school this year. I won't lie, leaving the daycare that we have been going to for over 9 years was emotional. Some of the same teachers and staff helped raise both girls, and we'll miss them. On the bright side, I've gained an hour and a half of time back every day because I don't have to drop off and pick up, and we don't don't have that large bill every week.

The fact that this point is coming halfway in September shows how the month is going. With back to school and everyone scheduling work meetings after labor day, I haven't had a spare minute! My job is very meetings based (unfortunately) and it's not uncommon to have blocks of 3 hours with no break. But, I do have a short trip coming up that I am very much looking forward to. I hope you are all back in the swing of things!

Friday, August 25, 2023

Read in July 2023


Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld: I'm not a huge romance reader, but I really enjoyed how this one broke out of the genre a little bit. It was a fun listen while I worked on my quilt last month.

Close To Home by Robert Dugoni: The Tracy Crosswhite series continues to be one of my favorites, however I liked this particular book less than the others. While most of the others involve investigations of either new or cold cases, this one had a straightforward crime with an obvious perpetrator. The majority of the book is about the Navy legal system which I didn't find interesting. The author is a lawyer so it's no surprise that a legal thriller would come up eventually. I will definitely continue on and hope that we get a good mystery in the next book in the series.

The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike's Elite Running Team by Kara Goucher with Mary Pilon: I think we know as a society now how dangerous these elite athletic clubs can be. Although thankfully no one in this story is underage, it's disgusting what the head coach of this running team got away with. Reading about the inside of elite running and how brand deals and payouts work was fascinating. I recommend this one even if you're not into running or sports.

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller: After finding Claire Fuller last year, I'm reading through all of her books. I can't put my finger on why they are so good; there is an underlying level of creepiness, combined with exceptionally human characters. She also tends to write about people who are on the fringes of society, which is especially true in this book. After the mother of adult twins dies, she leaves them in a precarious situation in which they struggle to make enough money to live on and keep position of their home. This was such a heartbreaking, but also life-affirming read.

An American in Provence: Art, Life, and Photography by Jamie Beck: I bought this book for myself as a birthday present, lured in by the beautiful photographs. It does contain a lot of text though; which is mostly all in teeny tiny font. I kept putting off reading this because I could barely see the words! Also: this woman is over-the-top annoying. Did you know that all you need to do to really live your life is to move to France, eat organic local food, and stroll through fields taking pictures of yourself, sometimes topless? But, make sure to be wealthy, name drop a lot, fly all over the world taking photos for luxury brands, and be disillusioned with the expensive real estate that you personally own. Oddly, she doesn't even mention until halfway through the book that's she's married at the time she decides to move to France solo. Eventually she has a baby which is the perfect time to talk about how French health and childcare is so much cheaper and better. WE KNOW. I felt like she was rubbing these things in the faces of Americans who already realize our healthcare system sucks, and personally judging those of us (which means, basically all Americans) who can't just get up and move to another country in protest. Oh, and about those gorgeous photos: they are all heavily photoshopped, which she freely admits to in the book. (Apparently you can buy prints of them.)

A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr: I wish I could remember where I got this recommendation from! This short book, published in 1980, is about a WWI veteran who arrives in a small English village to restore the frescoes in its church. Over the course of the summer, he uncovers a stunning work of art while forming relationships with some of the town's residents. It's a quiet book with a strong sense of place and time, perfect to read in the summer.

The Best Strangers in the World: Stories from a Life Spent Listening by Ari Shapiro: I read a lot of memoirs, and the bulk of them have to do with some kind of trauma or terrible situation. So, it was refreshing to read about someone whose life just kind of, worked out. Being gay and Jewish comes with its challenges, but Ari Shapiro has had a pretty charmed life. He writes about it in such a way that you're just happy for him. 

The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell: I hadn't read a Wallander book in a really long time, so I decided to listen to this one. It was published in 1992, which was a completely different time, both in terms of technology and politics. Much of the book takes place in Latvia, which had only just become independent from the Soviet Union. There wasn't too much investigating in this book, but rather things just happen to Wallander. I actually like the TV series with Kenneth Branagh better than the books.

I'm realizing that my Summer TBR was too ambitious, not in the total number of books, but in thinking that I would be able to stick to a list! The new books at the library are just way too tempting. There will be a handful of books left over by the time we hit September, and I still plan on reading them, just not within a dictated time frame. 

Creating a TBR for the year, however, has been successful. I'll update on that at the end of the year and will definitely be making some lists for 2024!

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Flowers and Parades

Fresh off our August vacation, I will attempt to test the limits of memory and recall what happened in July. Of course, there were flowers. In July things really get kicking, including the weather. If you are familiar with the mid-Atlantic, you know that it's the humidity that really gets you. We had several days of 90+ temperatures with 80-100% humidity. On those days I usually don't start working in the garden until it's starting to get dark, which is a race against time now that the days are getting shorter again. The flowers though, the flowers are amazing.

We live in an odd location. The county is a suburb of Washington, DC, contains about a million people, and is one of the most diverse in the entire country. But if you travel to the edges, you're suddenly in farmland and the vibe is completely different. There is a local 4th of July parade that we go to every year that features the odd tradition of every float throwing masses of candy to the kids. It's a combination of Halloween and Mardi Gras, with children going nuts and swarming the street. It also features Santa at the end, as all parades in July should. 

Literally anyone can sign up to be in this parade. It's mostly local businesses and fire engines. One year there was a grocery store delivery semi truck. This year there was a bunch of kids hanging out in a dumpster. The bar is low, my friends.

The dahlias have started producing and I'm reminded why this is such a popular flower. They are truly showstoppers. The bugs also love them which necessitates putting organza bags over each bud to protect the flowers. The bag strings are always getting caught when I try to pull them off which leads to much colorful language. 

The above is "Edinburgh" which is my favorite. Below is "Hollyhill Black Beauty" which is also my favorite. The cool thing about dahlias is that they just continue to get better and better as we get into fall. The same plant will produce flowers that look completely different from the first blooms.

It's all about the angle, right? If I crouch down in the corner of the yard, I get get a photo that disguises all the weeds and McMansions, making it look like the garden is a lush paradise. You can't even see all the bug damage!

For some reason my workplace decided to have Take Your Kid to Work Day in the middle of the summer instead of on the actual day in April. Mary was already signed up for camp that day, but I took Cora and she absolutely loved it. Between making slime, putting Mentos into Coke bottles to make a fountain, and watching fun science tricks, she did not get an accurate picture of what work is like. I have never gotten to make slime at work! The whole thing must be to trick kids into wanting to have a job one day, and then when they get there it's like, "HAHA actually you just have to sit at this computer all day and listen to people complain. No, you can't just make fire turn different colors."

I managed to escape giant zucchini for years, but this year the girls wanted their own garden. They planted some seeds and watered them a few times, and then proceeded to forget about the whole thing. Still, zucchini grew because this plant will survive the apocalypse. They resulted in some delicious chocolate zucchini "bread" (i.e., cake) and something called a zucchini pie, which was like a crustless quiche. Both were delicious.

At the beginning of the year I set out to finish up some lingering projects, and I've finished most of them! I completed an art journal, and this month I finished the last page in my watercolor sketchbook. Almost all of the paintings were from tutorials, so I'm hoping to branch out now and start painting my own compositions. 

I also finished my quilt! The quilting went way faster than I thought because I ended up with some free time over the long 4th weekend, when the kids were at their grandparents and I was blessedly alone in the house. I got the whole thing done in a few hours while listening to an audiobook. I had originally planned to hang it on the wall, but it's migrated down to the couch for now. Next up, I have ANOTHER unfinished quilt to work on. After I finish that, you can guess what I'll do. Start another and then take 10 years to finish it.

On to the last month of summer break; school starts in 21 days!

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Read in June 2023

I'm happy to report I'm back on track after a disappointing reading month in May. I finished a book that took me four months to read, but I think is going to be one of my life-long favorites: East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I'm always hesitant to make such declarations, because someone might read a book I loved and not like it (and this one is an investment at 600 pages). However, it came around at the exact right time for me and I did not want it to end. East of Eden is loosely based on the store of Cain and Abel, and has some other biblical themes sprinkled throughout, but it's not heavy-handed. The story spans multiple generations of the Trask family, from late 1800s New England to WWI era California. It doesn't take long to become invested in the characters, and even root for the evil ones. Steinbeck is an excellent writer and I particularly enjoyed the touches of humor. It's a the perfect mix between readable but also slightly challenging. (I found this spoof of the book with Penn Badgely and it's pretty funny - but not accurate to the story.)

The other fiction I read / listened to were:
  • Village School by Miss Read: This is the first in an extensive series, begun in 1955, following the events of small town in England. It's so calm and heartwarming - school races, choir concerts, and trips to the sea. Nothing dramatic or terrible happens. Just Google a picture of Dora Saint, the author. This woman should be everyone's grandmother.
  • Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell: After reading I Am, I Am, I Am and The Marriage Portrait last year, I want to read everything that O'Farrell has written. Hamnet is written in the same style as The Marriage Portrait, which I really loved but opinions differ, I hear. Hamnet is Shakespeare's son, who died at a young age. The book mostly focuses on Shakepeare's wife, Agnes, who O'Farrell portrays as unconventional for the time, connected to nature. I liked The Marriage Portrait more, but this was still a solid 4 stars.
  • The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf: In the summer I love to listen to thrillers, which match the relaxed (haha) feel of the season, and don't require a lot of attention as I garden or put together flower bouquets. This story of a woman writing a book alone in a cabin, trapped in a snowstorm, seemed promising. During the storm, she discovers a nearly-frozen child in the snow, who she takes back into the warmth of her home. The storyline is connected to tragic events of the past, and the two stories come together at the end. I figured out what was going on pretty early though so it wasn't as suspenseful as I hoped. So, I went on to:
  • The Last Word by Taylor Adams: A woman housesitting at a remote beach house leaves a 1-star review of a book online, and after getting into an internet fight with the author, strange things start happening. Yep, another book about a woman alone in a house in a remote location! This one really fit the bill though and I enjoyed it. The suspense kept going throughout the entire book, and there was an unexpected vein of humor that made this stand out among many similar thrillers. I will definitely read more by this author.
  • A Thousand Splendid Sons by Khaled Hosseini: Hosseini is also the author of The Kite Runner which was THE book back in 2003, which I never got around to reading. (I will soon!) I was looking for a short audiobook and this book came up, and I'm glad it did. It is the story of two women who are thrown together in Afghanistan through sad circumstances. I learned a lot about the politics of the country, and the strong friendship portrayed between the two women was top-notch. I love stories of women helping each other - but heads up, this book is sad.
  • Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh: I'm normally not a fan of literary fiction, but I went against my instincts and picked this up because the premise seemed so promising. It's based on the true story of a mass poisoning of a French town in the 1950s. However, when I had 45 minutes left the audiobook left and no poisoning had yet occurred, I felt misled. It's really the very odd story of two women, the baker's wife and the ambassador's wife. I appreciated the writing but the story was just too creepy and weird to me.
I also sprinkled in some nonfiction, which were:
  • All the Beauty in the World by Patrick Bringley: Having worked in two museums, I was so excited to read this book by a former guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The book is a mix between stories of interactions with visitors and other guards, and deep-dives into certain works of art. I absolutely loved the behind-the-scenes glimpses, and Bringley has a real reverence for art that can only come from a decade of looking at it intensely.
  • Jerusalem: Chronicles From the Holy City by Guy Delisle: I've now read all of Delisle's graphic memoirs, and they all have the thread of being judgmental of the culture he's in. I did like the explanations of what is going on in Israel/Palestine, because I didn't know too much about it, but Delisle still has an attitude of "these people are ridiculous, I can't wait to leave." In this book he shares the story of teaching a comics class to a group of Muslims, and then being annoyed when after showing them a comic containing naked people, they walk out. It's surprising that someone who has traveled so extensively has so little cultural sensitivity, but here we are.
  • On Writing by Stephen King: In general I have always liked King's writing, but this book, written over 20 years ago, really made him seem like a jerk. Which is weird because he wrote it. There are some good tibits of writing advice in here, but it's overshadowed by his critique of other authors' writing; he even names names. Insulting others serves no purpose here, other than to make King seem cocky. Skip this and read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott instead.
I have so far checked off five books from my Summer TBR, and didn't finish one. I think Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao is likely an objectively good book, but after 50 pages it was not clicking with me, so I returned it to the library. It is about a friendship between two girls in the lower castes in India, so if that's a subject that interests you and you read it, please report back if you liked it! 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

June Bugs

It has been an excellent fruit summer. I've spent the past 5 years working on a raspberry hedge and this year it has paid off with dozens and dozens of raspberries that can't be eaten before they overripen and drop off. The season seems to be extra long with a crop lasting several weeks. Having a ready snack when I'm out working in the yard may be one of the best things in life.

The girls and I went blueberry and cherry picking, which we haven't done in many years because of my annoyance with our local farm. It's only 5 minutes from the house, but they have changed their model so drastically that it's clear that they exist only for entertainment. In addition to having to make reservations in advance (which usually sell out), you have to pay an admission fee, a service fee, and can only use their containers when picking. Ten years ago I used to go there, without fees, and fill up buckets with strawberries, blueberries, and cherries to freeze and can. This year, I spent $42 on two pints of blueberries and two pints of sour cherries. It seems like most people go here so they can take pictures of their babies in the orchard, which is fine, but in catering only to this audience they've left out the people who want to pick 15 pounds of fruit. Obviously the solution is for me to start my own orchard, in my free time.

Like many others on the East coast, we had lingering smoke from the Canadian wildfires for many days in June. It's difficult to capture in a picture, but you can see the haze in the background. Recess and sports were cancelled when the air quality reached hazardous levels. I hope for everyone's sake the fires are out soon!

By the end of June, all of my plants go from neat and tidy seedlings to giant bushes overflowing with flowers. Oh, and so do the weeds. Last year I had 5 subscribers to my flower CSA, and this year I have 18. Every few days I am cutting buckets of blooms and making bouquets. I've come to recognize that the warmer half of the year is a series of microseasons, where every two weeks or so different flowers and bugs peak. 

Freshly weeded: three weeks later the weeds had taken over and it was time to weed again. My favorite tool for this job is a stirrup hoe: no bending over! Using it gives me active minutes on my Fitbit, so it's basically working out. I've contemplated putting down mulch in the paths, but I worry that it might just make weeding more difficult. I also like to strip stems as I go, dropping the leaves in the paths. They either compost there or I rake them up later. Having mulch in the paths would probably make this process messier.

I filled the biggest order I've ever had, 15 bouquets for teachers at an elementary school. I was white-knuckling it hoping I would have enough flowers. Harvesting and putting all these bouquets together resulted in several late nights that I am glad to have in my past.

See how the flowers in the photo above and in the one below are completely different? Again, a 2-week microseason. This is the coolest and most rewarding part of growing flowers: getting to grow and introduce to people the incredible variety when you buy local. Grocery store flowers are the same year round because they are grown in greenhouses under controlled conditions and shipped very long distances. The varieties are always the same, because those are the ones that ship well. 

It's not all overflowing buckets of perfect flowers - thrips have been my #1 enemy both last year and this one. I have not been able to stop them no matter what I've tried (which hasn't been much because I draw the line at non-organic pesticides). They are primarily on my snapdragons, which is heartbreaking because they are such a great long-lasting flower. They seem to be attracted to the lighter colored flowers, so next year I'm only going to grow red, purple, and other dark colors. If anyone has a successful thrip remedy, please let me know!

So one day I was in my office working, when this florist shop van stopped on the street right in front of the house, and proceeded to sit there for a really long time. Doesn't the driver look shady? Were they checking out the competition? This is a long, straight street, and there really isn't a reason why someone would park here. Sketchy! (Do people say sketchy anymore? I was born in the 80s after all.)

As all parents of school-age children know, May and June are packed with year-end events. Cora had her preschool graduation (some kids knew the song they performed and some just looked confused, as expected for five year olds.) She also had her dance recital, which to be honest, was brutal. Her class performed second out of 39 performances. They hold the children hostage until the end so we were forced to watch 37 more amateur dance performances by children we had no connection to. Also, I'm no prude but some of the costumes worn by preteens and teenagers were shocking. And the dance moves they were doing - yikes.

The previously mentioned orchard also has these big slides. Once, as an adult, I went down one. Worst decision of my life. See all the ridges? I felt like I had just slid down a cheese grater.

Life Off Headset will recognize the two above photos immediately :) We went to The Kennedy Center to see The Lion King musical, and it was fabulous. I'm not a big musical person, but I do love live performances and the costumes, dance, and acting were as amazing as you've heard. Since I'm pretty grumbly in this post, I am also going to grumble about the people who were using their cell phones during the show. We all paid a lot of money to see this show, and for a lot of us it will be the only time we see it our lives, and yet some people just HAD to Google things at that exact moment. The ushers came around and told people not to do it, but that wasn't always effective.

The puzzle of the month was another thrift store find, isn't it cute?

I'd love a relaxed, quiet summer, but that isn't how it goes these days. Coming up are more camps, vacations, events, all requiring planning and disruption of routine. At least there are no snow outfits to deal with.