Bookends: August 2016

August was a month of berry-picking and watching monarch caterpillars turn into butterflies. I love having the monarch caterpillars chowing down on milkweed in my dining room and forming their chrysalides and then flying around sipping nectar from the flowers in my yard. The new butterflies often perch on my children’s hands or shirts for a little while before flying off, and we all get to see them close up.

“Look! He has fur on his back!” says my son.

“See his proboscis?” asks my daughter, pointing. “He’s unrolling it like a long spring!”

There’s a 50-caterpillar special going on at the place from which we order our monarch caterpillars and/or eggs. I have been so tempted, but alas! I don’t really have the space—or the milkweed supply—to rear 50 butterflies. Maybe I could add a “butterfly room” to my house and fill it with milkweed and caterpillars. I’m sure that would improve my home’s resale value.

Here’s what I read in August when I wasn’t picking (and eating) berries or feeding toxic plants to insect larvae (don’t worry; it’s not toxic to them):

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Weekly Walk 47

Nine weeks after the summer solstice, and it’s still summer, although the season seems to be growing a little stale.

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Weekly Walk 46

Eight weeks after the summer solstice, we took my sister for a walk.

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corn, both tall and short

Weekly Walk 45

Seven weeks after the summer solstice, and we’re back to full-on drought.

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Weekly Walk 44

Six weeks after the summer solstice, and we got to hike in the rain!

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Bookends: July 2016

July was hot here. Of course, New England heat isn’t as hot as Utah heat or Arizona heat or the heat southern California had earlier in the summer, but we complain about it because we don’t expect it. Cold we revel in. Snow? Bring it on. But we don’t know what to do with heat but run our air conditioners and drive everywhere because it’s too hot to walk.

Not being a native New Englander, I walk in any weather and complain about both the heat and the cold. But more than the weather, I complain about driving. Man, do I hate driving around here. Except it does provide one of the only outlets for my creativity as it inspires myriad assemblies of swearwords never before heard by human ears. You know how in music there are only seven notes (plus sharps and flats) but an essentially infinite number of unique compositions? That’s how my swearing is when I’m behind the wheel. I’m a maestro of malediction. A virtuosa of vulgarity. An expert at expletives. It’s a skill that makes my children’s homeschool education rather more well-rounded than I would like and part of why we walk as many places as possible.

At any rate, here are the f***ing books I read during July:

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Garden in the Woods

Earlier this month, we visited Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts, where we met some of my spouse’s former workmates. We had a picnic lunch and then walked around. It was hot and my kids were kind of complainy with Dad and his friends talking science all afternoon, but I did my best to ignore them all and enjoy the scenery, camera in hand.

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Nature in the Neighborhood

We see a lot of plants and animals on our hikes, but we don’t need to head into the woods to see nature.

On a walk around our neighborhood this past weekend, we spotted this katydid standing on the sidewalk. I think it’s a Northern Bush Katydid (Scudderia septentrionalis).

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Weekly Walk 43

It’s five weeks after the summer solstice, and while I’m not about to complain about the heat since so far we can still get by without running the air conditioner if we don’t mind sweating a bit (which we don’t…usually), I will admit that the lack of rain is starting to get to me.

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Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James

Atlas of Unknowns was the June 2016 selection for the SBC (the accidental book club I started with my sister). Comment below, or check out our Goodreads group to join the discussion.


4330608I am not sure why I finished this book. Maybe it’s just because I love stationery and enjoyed the invitation card subplot. Because I wasn’t really engaged with the characters, most of whom I found flat, and much of what happened I found either overdone (like the documentary film thing and the points about immigration, which were excellent points but were handled in too heavy-handed a fashion to feel very poignant to me).

And the ending was a particular disappointment. Characters acted in ways that I found inconsistent, and the portrayal of seven-year-old Linno didn’t seem realistic to me. Based both on my experience of seven-year-olds and on the way James wrote her parents, I find it highly unlikely that Linno would have been aware of the America debate, much less reflecting on it to the depth that she did.

Two things I found interesting: Read More