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!