Places to Go (Vacation) - One Day at the Beach in 15 Photos (Nags Head, NC)

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Some photos from our first night in the beach house (over Memorial Day weekend). 8 families. 36 people. So much fun!


Things to Read - Three Awesome Short Story Books for Summer



Elizabeth Strout's novel - My Name is Lucy Barton - was one of the best books I read this year. So when I learned that Strout wrote a follow-up short story collection centered on the small, Illinois town where Lucy grew up, I couldn't wait to read it. And the stories are wonderful. You learn about Lucy and the childhood poverty she endured, as well as more about several of the minor characters in the first novel.

Some critics have called the characters sad and lonely, but I found the collection hopeful - full of moments of surprise and beauty.

One of my favorite passages - "As Dottie thought about this, going back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room, she saw Shelly Small as a woman who suffered only from the most common complaint of all: Life simply had not been what she thought it would be. Shelly had taken life's disappointments and turned them into a house. A house the, with the clever use of the right architects, had managed to stay within the legal code yet became a monstrosity as large as Shelly's needs . . . but it had not been enough. What Dottie had not said to her, because it was not her place, was that Shelly had a husband who would break into song at the breakfast table with her in a room full of strangers sitting nearby, and that was no- excuse me, Dottie though - small thing."


I first read Grace Paley a few months ago and since then I've become obsessed. How have I never heard of her before? She's like a surreal, feminist, John Cheever. Despite the fact that Paley wrote these stories in the 1960s and 1970 many of the characters are still relatable today.

One of my favorite passages -

"He said, Tell me again. He was in a good mood. He said, You can even tell it to me twice.

I repeated the story. They all said. What?

Because it isn't usually so simple. Have you known it to happen much nowadays? A woman inside the steamy energy of middle age runs and runs. She finds the houses and streets where her childhood happened. She learns as though she was still a child what in the world is coming next."


One of my favorite authors ever is Haruki Murakami, though in general I like his short stories more than his novels (but Norwegian Wood and Sputnik Sweetheart are so so good too). And this is the first collection he's released in the last ten years.

As described in this New Republic article, "Like Murakami’s novels, the best of these stories are beautifully, delicately unsatisfying. They shy away from resolution, leaving the reader suspended in midair. . . . The unknowability of Murakami’s characters is most effective when it hints at the mysteries of our world, when it reminds us that everyone we meet contains so many depths and contradictions that we can never fully know them."

. . . .

"Do we really need another book about men without women? I’d say that the answer is no. Even leaving Hemingway aside, at least half the literary canon is about men without women already. But stories about loneliness, about estrangement, about lack: There our appetite is endless, and Murakami offers up a new and striking way to feed it. Where Men Without Women tries to make a statement about, specifically, men and women, it fails: too self-conscious, too glib. But for people intrigued by the many facets of loss, the rest of the collection offers classic Murakami—refreshing, unusual, lustrous, with a vacancy at its heart."


Things to Do - Project 52, Weeks 19 & 20

I'm so behind on this project - these photos are a month old. Oh well, May was a good month.

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(1) Sunday morning family meeting. These are my people.
(2) I thought my kids avoided the fidget-spinner addiction, but they eventually succumbed.
(3) P helping Dan repaint the kitchen.
(4) My husband, the gardner.
(5) The best movie ever.
(6) My kids fighting over a fidget spinner.

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WEEK 20 - Apparently mid-May had a blue/green theme.

(1) Hiking in Shenandoah River State Park.
(2) T's self-portrait of what he'll look like as an old man.
(3) Pre-camping.
(4) A river snake by Longbranch Nature Center.
(5) F at Shenandoah River State Park.
(6) P's art wall.
(7) F reading.
(8) P post-hike at Shenandoah River State Park.


Things to Do - Random Links & 5 Hours 'Til Bedtime

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One last photo of our camping trip. Usually I focus on candids when I photograph my own children. But every once in awhile, when there's phenomenal light, I'll say, "please stand here and talk to me for awhile." Often these conversations end up being the highlight of my day.

Have a great weekend everyone! Don't forget to check out this week's awesome on 5 Hours 'Til Bedtime.


* This video made me happy.

* Summer reading.

* Aren't these pants adorable?

* Have you seen these water-activated street murals? The perfect cure for a rainy day.

* The 11 best kickstarter-funded products, according to kickstarter employees. I'm thinking of buying this one to celebrate the beginning of summer.

* Have you seen Wonder Women yet? We all loved it. This article sums it up well - “I felt like I was discovering something I didn’t even know I had always wanted. A need that I had boxed up and buried deep.” After watching movie after movie where men saved the day with a well-timed punch while women cleaned up the mess around the edges, Wonder Woman is a goddamn revelation."

* How to raise a feminist son.

* The 25 best films of the 21st century so far. Do you agree? I'm so glad Boyhood made the list.

* Where to go camping in Northern VA.

* I'm a little obsessed with this song lately.

* I would LOVE to do a photo session like this one.


Places to Go - Wednesday Night Camping at Shenandoah River State Park (Bentonville, VA)


A few weeks ago, I had a relatively easy weekday schedule (no real estate work, no weddings to edit) and Dan just finished trial, so he had a few mellow workdays too. Thus, we decided to take the kids out of school a few hours early and head to Shenandoah River State Park to camp for a night. I've wanted to spend a night here for awhile now, but weekends are usually booked solid up to a year in advance.

And now I see why. The campsites are AMAZING!! Huge. Private. Water views. Plus, since the sites are walk-in (a really short walk), you don't have to listen to cars all night long.

Dan fished. We hiked (we didn't see a single other person on any of the trails). P explored. T kept the fire burning. F read (of course).

We saw snakes. And butterflies. And honeysuckle.

Turns out camping on a Wednesday night is pretty awesome. I wish we could go all the time.

Shenandoah River State park is only 75 miles from Arlington (about 1.5 hours away). They also have a zipline course that looks super fun (I really want to try it next visit). You can find more info on the park here.


The baggage carts were a huge hit. Somewhere along the way they became a "ride".


Seriously, how gorgeous is this campsite?


Several of the park's trails leave right from the campground. We're hoping to take the kids overnight backpacking this summer (fingers crossed), so T decided to test out his new pack.



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