12.05.2017

Book Report the Fifth

Because I completely forgot about this tradition until...well...now, I am upsetting my usual pattern of posting my annual book report in October. Which makes this more like an end-of-the-year kind of list, which is what I purposely tried to avoid when I began posting these lists in October (I have to be different!).


But there's nothing I can do about it now, except to set a reminder for myself next October and avoid this non-dilemma in the future. This year's list will be called Books I Read in the First Year of Trump Reality, which covers November and December of 2016 in addition to this entire year.

This year my descriptions are a bit more brief than usual and not very reflective, in part because I'm doing this in a rush. If you want to chat more about any of these, I'd love to do that.

So without further ado, the books I've read since Book Report IV, Book Report III, Book Report II and Book Report I:

1. Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett: I finished reading this book the day before the 2016 presidential election. I am grateful I did. Krista's interviews have provided great insight and solace for my soul. This book was a reminder that there are reasons to be hopeful and to have faith in our fellow humans, and in ourselves.


2. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple: A quick read that gave me a mental break of sorts. I don't think it was any better or even much different from Where'd You Go Bernadette, so ultimately this one was just "meh" for me, since I felt Bernadette was over-hyped.
3. Great House by Nicole Krauss: I honestly don't remember reading this book, but Goodreads says I did. Am I getting old? Or was I just stressed? I loved Krauss' History of Love years ago, too, and don't really remember much of that, either; but in both cases, I do remember it's a multi-generational plot. So...if you like that sort of thing...


4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: A book I read because everyone was reading it and the movie was out. I totally suspected the ending before I got there, but that didn't keep me from enjoying it.
5. The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie: I loved this one. A love story of sorts that didn't take itself too seriously and features a squirrel! I laughed out loud throughout and was sad when it ended.


6. The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman: A compelling WW2 love story, but my biggest beef was that the story started at the end, which in this case kind of took away a bit of the drama and amazement. Still, a beautiful story.
7. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: I normally don't read books about plagues wiping out civilization, but this one was so fun to read and different from what I expected that I highly recommend it.


8. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier: A classic that is now one of my favorites. I read a copy from the 1930s and I think it helped me appreciate how thrilling it must have been when it was published because it holds up, seven decades later. I read this on the plane to Buenos Aires, and while I normally have a fairly short attention span for books on plans (so much in-flight entertainment temptation!), this was one I had a hard time putting down.
9. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: One of the most lovely, inventive, strange and poignant things I've read in years. This book is not for everyone, and there are times when you just have to ride it out until you catch on, but it was so rewarding to enter this bardo-universe and consider grief and love and life.


10. High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver: I'd eventually like to read all of Kingsolver's books and essays. This is the furthest back I've gone yet, and she's consistently steadfast in her concern for the environment, thoughtfulness of nature, and appreciation of our own biology.
11. East of Eden by John Steinbeck: I could cry just thinking about the ending of this book. I wish it hadn't taken me so many years to get to it. I hope to read it again at least once before I reach 60.



12. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie: People say grief is not linear. Sherman Alexie added this beauty to that idea, in describing what he has experienced in grieving - in a most complicated way - the death of his mother: "Great pain is repetitive. Grief is repetitive. And maybe, this repetition can become a chant inside a healing ceremony."
13. Commonweath by Ann Patchett: I tried out the audiobook version for this, and I learned more about myself in the process than I retained about the plot of this novel. Throughout the listening experience I felt really disappointed and bored by the plot but somehow listened to the entire thing. Then I went to Goodreads to see what others thought. While many of them said it was not Patchett's best, I began reading passages some had posted as favorites from the book. I couldn't remember hearing a single one of them. My listening comprehension is bad, but I didn't think it was that bad. I got the plot but missed the beauty on this one. Either the audiobook reader was less-than-great (and I think that was true) or I simply need to read words on a page to let the words really sit with me and sink in. So I'm not sure what to say about this one.


14. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron: After feeling bad about my listening comprehension, I tried once more to listen to an audiobook, this time read by the author herself, and it was much, much better. Nora Ephron was one of the best. I laughed out loud, cried a little, and am determined to one day try cabbage strudel. Loved it.
15. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver: I want to live in the woods. The end. ...Okay, not really, but boy did I crave some time in nature after reading this book. I feel so out of touch for not knowing about birds, trees, bugs, and the life cycles and food chains that surround me. This is probably one of my favorite Kingsolver books to date. It's a little sexy, which, depending on your taste, may scare you away. But I found each storyline compelling if a little preachy (it's Kingsolver, what do you expect?).


16. Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi: It's not a year in books without a little self-help. In this case, I was convicted to read this to help tame my phone habits and reclaim time to do absolutely nothing and spur on a bit of creativity. Zomorodi is the host of a program called "Note to Self" and I found her writing style to be a bit like reading a radio transcript, which is to say a little tedious. But the main points of the book were good. I have never been all that addicted to my phone, but I think part of that is because I'm on the computer so much of my day that I don't feel as much of a need to constantly check updates. But I did end up deleting the Facebook app from my phone after feeling inspired by what I read. Instagram is still where I spend the majority of my phone time, but I've weaned myself off of that a bit, too. It's hard! But probably worth it for my sanity and creativity.
17. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance: This was hard and it was good. This was just one perspective, of course, and it was, at times, fairly harsh, but also full of love and pride for family. It made me look around at my own neighbors who may be going through similar issues of drug abuse, lack of social support/capital, and living in destructive cycles. It felt like a good bookend to this list. I can't be in denial about the world I live in. At Thanksgiving this year, we went around the table asking each other some fairly deep questions, and the one that stuck with me was about what each of us feels is our highest obligation to our country. My 17-year-old niece was the first to answer, and in my opinion, her answer trumped them all: Get to know your neighbors. How can we help if we don't understand?


12.01.2017

Weekly: Nov. 24 - 30

This morning on my way in to work, I was thinking about how just a week ago, I was watching Matt Lauer on the Macy's Day parade, wondering how much longer people would still watch such a commercialized parade. Little did I know it would be the last time I'd actually watch Mr. Lauer himself. Barf. I, along with everyone else I know, am praying Tom Hanks is still a decent dude. My faith in male celebrities hinges on this. What a horrible spectacle this all is, but glory be to all the women who are braver for this chapter in our culture.


---------

Moving on, then.

What I ate: If you've noticed recent posts on my blog, I'm indulging in butter and stewed prunes. Welcome to the edge! Other things include:

  • A recipe, from my friend Sara, for Mediterranean baked sweet potatoes. She sent me the link last week and at first glance I couldn't understand why she was so wild about it. I'm not that big on sweet potatoes, but I had some left from my last CSA box. On a night when I was on my own for dinner, I had my perfect opportunity to try this out. Verdict: this recipe is worth raving about. It actually reminded me a lot of my favorite recipe for baked falafel with the spices, chickpeas, tahini sauce and tomatoes. If you're intrigued, try it.
  • Sugarplum gingerbread cake, which I blogged about.
  • Peppermint ice cream. Because this is one thing I crave at Christmas time, as I do Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker Sweet tea (which I can't find anywhere in Spokane, harumph).
  • Autumn minestrone, an oldie but a goodie.
  • And these meatballs, another Smitten Kitchen favorite, paired with a perfectly complementary pasta.
What I read:
  • Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley. She was never on my radar before now, and this was published in the 1970s. Her short stories in this collection are challenging and I'm about halfway through them, just relishing and re-reading parts in an attempt to understand what she's really talking about. I am trying not to consult Wikipedia too.
  • My friend Leah contributed a couple pieces to this issue of The California Sunday Magazine, which is devoted to teen voices in this complicated moment in time (though it's never not been complicated). While I consider it a personal mission to not become too out of touch with younger generations, I know I can only understand so much. But several of these stories hit so close to home and also open my eyes to the complex issues and tragedies these teens are dealing with right now, unique to their generation.
Afternoon at Rockwood Bakery
What I watched: 
  • 20th Century Women, available on Netflix streaming right now. I really liked this one, particularly the era in which it was set, the use of music in showing generational divides, voiceovers, the kid who played the son (Lucas Jade Zumann), and Annette Bening. She was so, so good. 
  • Lady Macbeth. Not my cup of tea. 
An unfinished blanket Margot found to collapse on. Alternate title: The Kitty and the Pea

What I listened to:
  • My two song obsessions right now: "Makeba" by Jain and "Soy Yo" by Bomba Estéreo (the videos are awesome, too). 
  • We have listened to a LOT of Natalia Lafourcade this year, and this week was no exception. And I just learned she's on the soundtrack to Coco. (If you're a jazz-standard nerd, you should watch this video for its sweet similarity to "The Nearness of You.")
Other excitement:
  • I decorated for Christmas a little. The tabletop trees are plugged in, but no ornaments yet.
  • A puzzle. We're a week in and it's finally feeling like we're making progress. (It's the Cinque Terre in 2,000 glorious pieces.)


Most of the remaining pieces are shades of blue


11.29.2017

Plummy

I'm a cluttered state of winter emotions right now. I don't feel like decorating for Christmas or getting particularly festive. But as my Oma wisely used to say, "Appetit kommt beim essen."

Appetite comes with eating.

Christmas spirit comes with Christmas baking.

So I made sugarplum gingerbread cake, from a recipe in a recent New York Times Magazine. Normally, I don't view stewed prunes as a positive, but in this case it inspired visions of the Nutcracker Suite. They were mixed into a molasses-y rich batter with all the spices one desires for such a cake: ginger, cinnamon and cloves. And one odd-ball ingredient: spelt flour.

I always get a thrill when I turn cakes out of this Bundt pan. Isn't it pretty? Each piece is like a mini mountain range.


One thing I learned recently in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is to look for cake recipes that call for oil, rather than butter, if you want a moist cake that lets the flavors shine through. This recipe is a perfect example of how that works. I used grapeseed oil, and now we're on day 3 and this cake is still tender and only just a slight bit dried out around the edges. I think the prunes help, too.  

While the Christmas decorations are still, at the moment, stashed away in the storage closet, I am starting to think that maybe it's time to get some eggnog for the fridge. It's a process.

Sugarplum Gingerbread Cake
Adapted slightly from New York Times Magazine, which was adapted from Genevieve Ka

1 c. (184 grams) pitted prunes, quartered
2/3 c. molasses
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Butter/spray for pan
1 c. (137 grams) spelt flour
3/4 c. (108 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 heaping T. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. table salt
3 large eggs, at room temp.
1 c. (215 grams) packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 c. grapeseed or other neutral oil, like canola
2 tsp. cocoa powder (optional - I didn't use)

Put the pitted prunes and 1 1/2 c. water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the prunes start to break down. Remove from heat and stir in the molasses and baking soda (note: not powder). It will foam up a bit and it's kind of exciting. Set it aside.

Set your oven rack to the center position and preheat to 350. Generously butter and flour your bundt pan of choice, then place it on a baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder (note: not soda), spices and salt - set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and brown sugar on medium speed until the mixture has turned thick and slightly pale - about 3-4 minutes. With the machine on, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream down the side of the bowl, beating until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and with the mixer on low, add the molasses mixture, which should be slightly cooler by now. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing on low only until all traces of flour disappear, folding in the last bits by hand. Transfer batter to the pan.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the tallest part comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully invert cake onto the rack, lift away the pan and stand in awe. Let it cool completely before dusting it with the optional cocoa powder. Cut and serve.

11.21.2017

Buttery weekend

Last weekend we were at Auntie's Bookstore and I got that familiar feeling of being overwhelmed by the number of books I will never read. Or the cookbooks I will never cook from.

But worse, holy lords!, my conscience nags, think of all the books that are just sitting on my shelves at home right now, books that are half-read, cookbooks that are barely weathered.

Rather than buying anything new, I returned home and hung out with my books. It's a weird combo of feeling a little depressed and a little grateful. Look at all I don't have. Look at all I do have. Hey, it's the holidays. This feels appropriate.

Rhubarb compote
Also appropriate in this moment: butter-laden recipes. In November and December, butter is cheap, and there are likely things sitting in your freezer or on your counter that could easily be transformed into a sweet or savory filling in a buttery tart dough.

So in the spirit of appreciating what I already have, in one Saturday, I used one well-loved cookbook and one pound of butter to do just that - dinner (big savory tart) and dessert (sweet mini tarts). The cookbook was Deb Perelman's The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. It's been awhile since I've tried anything new out of it.  (And I've since been tempted to buy her brand new cookbook.) Trying new recipes gives new life to older cookbooks, and until Saturday, this one's pages were mostly well-worn in the pizza dough section (I've since memorized her recipes for pizza sauce and rushed pizza dough).

First, I rid my freezer of rhubarb and made her recipe for rhubarb hamantaschen, starting with a simple rhubarb compote.

This is a cookie that's traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday of Purim. I'm not Jewish, and it's not Purim, but each time I page through the cookbook these catch my eye. They're so pretty, and in the last few years I've become a real fan of jammy cookies.

It was only after I put these in the oven that I learned how difficult it can be to keep the corners together. But I still got a few good triangles, and the taste was what mattered most. If you'd like the recipe, here is one blogger's very enthusiastic transcription of it. 

I didn't let these floppy corners get me down
After a couple of hours, I continued on. Next up in my Smitten Kitchen Saturday was a butternut squash galette.

This tart dough, by comparison, was just as I'd hoped: flaky and melt-in-my-mouth. And it was a dream to work with. I used a combo of white and whole wheat flours, and mixed it with nonfat Greek yogurt and white balsamic vinegar in addition to a stick of butter. The contents included roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, fontina and fresh thyme (the cookbook calls for thyme, though her original website recipe calls for sage; either would be lovely I'm sure), with just a pinch of cayenne pepper. Pair it with a salad and you really need nothing else for a complete meal.

I only remembered to get a photo of the finished product, right before we sat down to watch The Big Chill (how have I lived my whole life without seeing this movie?!).


I highly recommend this recipe.

I know what you're wondering to yourselves: How does one handle all this butter on a single day? Turns out, you don't need to eat everything in one sitting. You can spread this out over several days or even a week. Enjoy every single bite, savor slowly, and double your normal vegetable intake for awhile. If you feel your conscience try to guilt you about it, be grateful for the very thing that is sitting in front of you on your plate. It's the holidays. This is appropriate.

11.17.2017

Weekly: Nov. 11 - 17

The November blues are trying to weasel their way into my mood and I'm looking for every good thing to focus on right now.

It comes as no surprise to me that I spent money this week on things like super-soft clothing and airline tickets. Instant mood-boosters.

What I read:
  • Still working on Hillbilly Elegy - I should wrap that up this week and start on my neglected stack of New Yorkers next. I unsubscribed so I could catch up and stop feeling guilty. Speaking of which, this was the last piece I read and it was terrifying. 
  • This was an interesting read one morning over breakfast. 
Pizza prep

What I ate:
  • Sausage and shells, a signature dish of Joel's, made with fancy pasta we picked up in Seattle. Friday night was so dark and dreary that it needed something comforting but bright. This made us cheerier. 
  • Pocho Tacos, from Bon Appetit. This will be going into my permanent recipe binder. I didn't use the pine nuts, and I swapped Greek yogurt for creme fraiche and soft corn tortillas for hard shells, but were these ever tasty. I made the salsa and have been enjoying the remainder on scrambled eggs each morning. I also made Deb's recipe for slow-cooker black bean ragout for a side (also good as leftovers with anything). 
  • Homemade pizza, in a clean-out-the-fridge/pantry style. Salami, olive, red onion, tomatoes with fresh mozzarella. I love making pizza because it is always like a miracle how it just comes together. 
  • Made-up soup with beans and tomatoes. Joel mixed a couple recipes together with the stuff we had in the fridge and I hope he remembers how to recreate it in the future.
  • Swedish sandwich cookies. I'll share the recipe in a future post.

What I saw:
  • The Mambo Kings perform with the Spokane Symphony. One of those experiences where if it were any other venue, you'd get up and dance - but, being part of the symphony crowd, my head was the rockingest and my foot was the tappiest of the whole row. 
  • Murder on the Orient Express. There was a lot I enjoyed about this movie, but ultimately, it was not a favorite. Very fun to see all the celebs in the ensemble cast, though. And it was a fun start to what looks like a promising winter movie season.
  • Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (on Netflix). I came away from this documentary asking myself how I might be a little more like Joan. For one thing, her breakfast meal was (maybe still is?) Coke and smoked almonds. If that is not supremely cool, I don't know what is.  But I also admired the way she approached writing as a path toward understanding. When she stepped into troubling or tragic situations, she saw gold. She knew the stories needed to be told. I'm ashamed to say I've never read her books, though I've known a bit about her and have read a few pieces here and there. This documentary increased my admiration for her and I'm considering which of her books I'd like to read first. If you're a Didion-ite, please let me know where to start. 
Mambo Kings

What I listened to:

  • War Paint, original cast recording. Fascinating true story, with the incomparable Patti Lupone. 
  • John Mayer, Room for Squares. This was a weird cure for a Thursday afternoon slump. I had this album on repeat during my sophomore year of college. I was in love with John then, when he was yet to become a household name. While I've since moved on in my musical infatuations, I never lost my love for "No Such Thing." I let that tune rip through my tiny computer speakers and I felt better.

Other excitement:
  • I raked the front yard. Now that we have a giant rake (I've never had one so huge) that can clean a postage-stamp yard like ours in, like, 5 minutes, I'm tempted to start offering to rake the neighbors' for some cash. Raking is the most satisfying yardwork, in my opinion.
  • Got a haircut and some fresh color for my long hairstyle. This is likely the last trim before a very dramatic cut in the spring.
  • Flash mobs. I got to help coordinate one at Whitworth for our Christmas video. I had stressful dreams about it for two days leading up to it. But it happened and it worked and I had goosebumps for all two minutes and 15 seconds of it. 
  • Napoleon brandy. I bought it for a recipe but we're about to polish off the bottle after a couple weeks of nightcaps. It's very wintry of us. 



11.09.2017

Weekly: Nov. 3 - 10

Where I went: This weekend we made a verrrrrrry quick trip to Seattle for a birthday surprise. It ended up being one of those experiences you know you'll laugh about later, though we were already laughing about everything (with exhaustion, maybe) before the day was over. Lessons learned: don't leave Spokane the day of the Seahawks game when it's snowing if you want to watch the whole game; always carry chains; know how to put on chains; expect delays; Jerroll's and Winegars is not a bad place to kill a couple hours in Ellensburg. Despite what you may have inferred from what I just listed, the surprise worked out, and we were all surprised it did.

View from our room at the Best Western the next day

What I ate: In Seattle, we enjoyed a Thai dinner at Soi, donuts at Top Pot the next morning, and lunch at Uneeda Burger in Fremont (I was feeling guilty about the donut and enjoyed a kale salad - but ate a bite or two of the philly burger and fries and boy, oh boy). I also made the recipe for Coq au Vin Rose from Dinner in an Instant. I highly recommend it - though next time I'll opt for simple cuts of chicken thighs and drumsticks (she calls for whole leg quarters which took forever to brown).

What I read: As we neared the one-year mark for Trump, I began Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. This past year has brought some important insight for me as I examine the bubbles in which I have chosen to surround myself, and how I can challenge and broaden my own perspectives on issues. This felt like good thing to read. So far, so good.

Also, when we were in Fremont we went to The Book Larder, which is the bookstore of my dreams. Because it is a cookbook store! Nothing but cookbooks, young and old. They were even holding a class with a Seattle chef when we tiptoed in (it was a small space and it felt like we were interrupting, though they were very welcoming). More reasons to love a big city like Seattle. Little delights everywhere - on a Monday, even! I had to give myself a time limit, otherwise I could have easily spent the entire afternoon there and we would have returned to Spokane long after dark. But before I left, I picked up a sweet little book, Fika, which is all about Swedish coffee culture, and the importance of slowing down to sip and eat treats. Good winter goal, no?
Eastbound on I-90, somewhere between George and Moses Lake

What I listened to: When the snow hit on Saturday, I queued up a winning playlist of Sinatra, Harry Connick, Jr. (We Are in Love and When Harry Met Sally soundtrack, specifically), and Nat King Cole. Cozy weather is made for this stuff. I also listened to Count Basie's "Li'l Darlin'" no less than eight times after hearing it on the new Whitworth jazz band CD (it shows up in my work mailbox and I'm always delighted). Talk about slowing down to enjoy stuff. I remember when my jazz choir director used this tune to demonstrate how to "walk the dog," i.e., leaning back as far as you can go and not losing control of it. Those Whitworth kids got it right.

Other excitement: 

File under: Money You Can Feel. We insulated the attic this spring, and this week we insulated the crawl space under the bedroom and laundry room. Someone told me yesterday we're expected to have 90 days of snow on the ground this winter. How do they know this stuff?!!

We've been playing Mille Bornes off and on over the last 7 or so years and have a running score on the whiteboard in the kitchen. I'm nearly in the lead and as of last Saturday night we're both about to crack 100,000 points (an average game score earns about 1,500 for the winner).

I also learned how to play Texas Hold 'Em (bargaining with beans) while the family was in town and I still wonder if I'll ever understand poker. Not likely.

A Mille Bornes game I did not win

11.02.2017

The week (and a half)

Halloween sunset

What I read:

  • I finished up Prodigal Summer before the weekend (which made me want to commune with nature...it also made me realize I don't know an ash tree from a chestnut, and don't know a robin's song from a finch's. I even felt compelled to save and study the lives of the boxelder bugs that always make their way into our house. So...I loved this book). 
  • Bored and Brilliant: Quick, thought-provoking read. This is one of those books that makes you grapple with your use of technology, but I liked that it was not an anti-tech book. Just one that makes you think about how to use technology, particularly your smartphone, in smarter ways that don't impede your creativity. The basic idea is that we need to re-learn how to be bored. I came away feeling pretty OK about my phone use, but it made me want to use it even less. 
  • After reading an article about Thoreau in the latest issue of The Atlantic and being totally entranced by the illustrations by Lisel Ashlock that accompanied the piece, I went down a rabbit trail and found that she illustrated a book called Do Unto Animals, which I promptly ordered and started reading. It's a very sweet guide to treating animals humanely whether they're in your home or backyard or on a farm. It was a nice way to follow up on the feelings I was having after reading Prodigal Summer.

Margot cuddling up to Bored and Brilliant

Saturday morning walk with Luna

What I ate: One of the big reasons I bought my Instant Pot this summer was because I learned that Melissa Clark (my favorite living recipe developer) was coming out with a pressure cooker cookbook. I think I ordered my Instant Pot and pre-ordered that cookbook, Dinner in an Instant, on the same day. The cookbook arrived a couple weeks ago, and we tried out her recipe for smoky lentils and sausage on Halloween. Great success! If you have an Instant Pot and eat meat, you should probably get her book.

On Saturday, I had the greatest excuse to make pretzels: a neighborhood Oktoberfest party. I think pretzels might be one of my most favorite things to make. The dough is so fun to work with and the finished product is so satisfying.

And it's officially soup season (YES!), so I returned to an old favorite recipe for creamy parsnip soup from who else, Melissa Clark, and instead of serving it with a boring loaf of bread (I don't mean that), I tried this recipe for rosemary almond meal bread from Sprouted Kitchen. It was quite tasty, and another nice gluten-free discovery.


Parsnip soup, pre-puree, and the rosemary loaf

What I watched: Stranger Things 2. We finished it on Halloween and I was totally on a high from it. I didn't think I could get into it again like I did the first season, but after the fourth episode I was back in its grip.

Other excitement:

I ordered this pin to have for the anniversary of Nov. 8, 2016.

I have been watching squirrels with great delight. They were everywhere last week and were working seriously hard. This one paused above us while Luna investigated the smells on the ground.

I've also been enjoying how loud the falling leaves were in the quiet morning hours. I took this photo around 5:30 a.m. on my walk with Luna - if you look closely you can see a couple on their descent.


I found it sweetly coincidental that I had car trouble while my car-loving brother was in town for work. After getting a new battery and new starter installed, I got to share a pizza dinner with both brothers on Wednesday night. After a very satisfying bag of popcorn at the mechanic's.