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.



Things to Eat - Carolina Shrimp Boil & Our 8 Week Meal Plan (April through May)

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In April and May my dinner planning fell apart.

In my defense, work became crazy busy (which is awesome! I have the best clients ever!) and Dan chipped in a lot. Then between soccer and tennis lessons the kids kept us busy every night (plus - piano, flute, cello, the spring concert, the second grade wax museum, various vacations, etc.) Several dinners were "make it work nights."

Anyways, we ended May with our annual Memorial Beach house vacation and Jenny's fantastic shrimp boil. Here's her recipe:


1/3 lb shrimp per person
2-3 dozen crab claws
2-3 dozen fresh clams
2-3 smoked sausages, I use turkey, cut into pieces
1 bag new potatoes
1/2 ear of corn per person
1 package Zatarsns crab and shrimp boil seasoning
Lemon cut into quarters

Boil water in huge pot and add seasoning bag. Add potatoes, boil until soft, add sausage and corn, boil 10 mins, add crab and clams and lemon. Boil until clams pop open. Add shrimp, and boil about 4 mins until they turn pink. Drain pot and dump all on newspaper on a table. Serve with melted butter, lemons and cocktail sauce.


MONDAY - Taylor Gourmet.

TUESDAY - Taco Tuesday - ground beef tacos.

WEDNESDAY - Zuni chicken (via Gwyneth's It's All Easy). This is our new favorite chicken recipe - so so good.

THURSDAY - Black bean bowls with rice, cheese, and homemade chipotle salsa (I'm still a salsa snob).

FRIDAY - Family dinner at Atila's.

SATURDAY - Road trip to Richmond with the kids - dinner at Burger Bach.

SUNDAY - Dinner at Sandbridge beach with friends.

WEEK 2 - Spring Break

MONDAY - Dinner at Kala Coleman's photography workshop (in NC).

TUESDAY - Dinner at Kala Coleman's photography workshop (in NC).

WEDNESDAY - Dinner at Sandbridge beach - Baja restaurant, which was surprisingly good.

THURSDAY - Dinner at the beach house - our friends make us pasta. yay!

FRIDAY - Dinner at the beach house - our friends make us fajitas. yay!

SATURDAY - Dan welcomes us home with pork chops (so good!), applesauce, salad, etc.

SUNDAY - Pizza with friends.


MONDAY - Homemade tabouli with leftovers.

TUESDAY - Pesto pasta with a side of baked asparagus.

WEDNESDAY - Chipotle (preschool fundraiser).

THURSDAY - Dinner out with friends.

FRIDAY - Grab a quick salad before Fun House (the play) with Dan.

SATURDAY - Dan bakes chicken.

SUNDAY - Neighbors' BBQ.



MONDAY - Black bean bowls with red salad (salad recipe via The Forest Feast). The kids love this salad, it's sort of a pain to collect the ingredients but preparation is easy.

TUESDAY - Dan makes chicken and potatoes with asparagus.

WEDNESDAY - Family dinner out at Marble and Rye.

THURSDAY - Spaghetti.

FRIDAY - Steamed dumplings from Trader Joe's frozen aisle. Lazy lazy mom.

SATURDAY - I photograph a wedding (and eat there), Dan takes the kids to a block party.

SUNDAY - I take engagement photos, Dan makes pork chops and salad.



MONDAY - Dinner out with a friend. Kids eat pierogies.

TUESDAY - Spinach orzo salad with added italian sausage (via Simple Recipes). This was really good.

WEDNESDAY - One pan faro with tomatoes (via Smitten Kitchen's blog).

THURSDAY - Williamsburg overnight trip with the 4th grade. Dinner at the Golden Coral (so much food, yet none of it tastes good).

FRIDAY - I photograph a wedding, Dan makes dinner (fish tacos). And then our friends host us for Cinquo De Mayo (yay margaritas!)

SATURDAY - Leftovers after Guardians of the Galaxy II (everyone ate too much popcorn and, thus, didn't want much for dinner).

SUNDAY - Friends for dinner(so good to see Jim and Val - in town for a week from Indonesia). Dan makes steak, salad, and green beans.


MONDAY - Leftovers and homemade tabouli. As a kid tabouli was my favorite food, I practically lived on it, even through my twenties. Then we sort of took a break for awhile. But now T loves it too, so I've been making it more and more (though T still thinks Lebanese Taverna's version is better than mine).

TUESDAY - I have a photo shoot, Dan makes hot dogs with fries.

WEDNESDAY - Pesto pasta with a side of roasted asparagus.

THURSDAY - Red beans and rice (https://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/monday-night-red-beans-rice) before the girls' spring concert. I'm not sure what I did wrong, but this was too spicy and the flavors didn't meld well. Oh well.

FRIDAY - Dinner at a friend's happy hour.

SATURDAY - Lalibela Ethiopian take out for Mother's Day (Yay!!!). This is our new favorite restaurant. I'm addicted.

SUNDAY - I have a photoshoot, Dan makes homemade pizza.


MONDAY - Dinner out with a friend, Dan and the kids have leftover pizza.

TUESDAY - Taco Tuesday - simple ground beef tacos.

WEDNESDAY - Camping at Shenandoah River State Park - Dan grills pork chops with baked beans and apple sauce. So good!

THURSDAY - I have a client meeting, Dan grills chicken and burgers.

FRIDAY - Kale, tomato, and lemon magic one-pot spaghetti (via epicurious) w/apple matchstick salad (salad recipe via The Forest Feast). I loved this salad, but the kids hated the pecans (sadness). The spaghetti ended up soggy. (Basically, meal fail).

SATURDAY - Dinner at happy hour.

SUNDAY - Dan makes catfish, mashed potatoes, and peas.


MONDAY - Nachos!! I had a nacho craving, so I made huge plates with cucumbers, tomatoes, and black beans, the kids called it my "best meal ever."

TUESDAY - Leftovers from Sunday and "clean out the freezer" for vacation (TJ's risotto, pizza rolls, bagel dogs, etc.).

WEDNESDAY - Family dinner at Busboys & Poets

THURSDAY - Plain pasta with red sauce.

FRIDAY - Dinner in Richmond at my in-law's house.

SATURDAY - Pizza in Nags Head, NC at our crazy crowded beach house.

SUNDAY - Jenny's shrimp boil at the beach house.


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

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Happy Friday!!

On Wednesday, we returned home after five days in the Outer Banks and I'm still feeling discombobulated. As always, we filled a beach house with eight families and everyone had a blast. More photos to follow soon.

In the meantime, have a fantastic weekend and don't forget to check out this week's awesome in 5 Hours 'Til Bedtime. (So many fantastic images this week!!)


* I want to see this art in the desert.

* Teenagers of the 1970s.

* I can't wait to make this recipe.

* 11 innovative ceramic artists. I love the balloon dinosaur.

* I'm so excited for the return of the old J Crew (preppy, reasonable prices, practical/cool clothes).

* Maybe I need to buy more pepto bismol.

* I can't wait to check out DC's newest interactive art exhibit!

* "33 things I learned from this season's cookbooks."

* I just bought this camera and I'm in love (so much lighter than my bulky Canon Mark III and it takes amazing photos!).


Things to Do - Project 52, Weeks 17 & 18

As cheesy as it sounds, this little collection of 2017's everyday moments makes me so happy.

As exemplified by the wise words of Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

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(1) DC's graffiti church - this place is amazing.
(2) P practicing the flute (in the spring concert, P had a duet and F had a solo).
(3) F jumping in front of Union Market's heart mural (during our mural photoshoot, which was crazy fun - the kids all had a blast).
(4) I found this note on my iPhone and it cracked me up.
(5) Seems to me like heavy reading for a 5th grader, but F loved both books.
(6) Best friends.
(7) The boys in the morning - I know I should try and limit screen time, but after school they spend all their time outside, so it seems harmless enough to let them play on devices before school.
(8) I know I post too many dog park photos, but we have a blast there.
(9) P and Laney arting on Saturday morning after their soccer game.

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(1) P outside the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery, helping me test out the light for a couple I'd be photographing there in a few days.
(2) Every time I think the kids have finally outgrown this old playhouse, they recreate it somehow. This time T tried to make Coco a doghouse, but she kept escaping.
(3) My house is always full of children and this makes me happy (for the most part).
(4) On Saturday, while on my way to P's soccer game, I saw two young children on our street - one had a wheelbarrow that he could barely push (it kept falling over) and one was on a bike. And I thought to myself, "what on earth are those random kids doing?" Of course, because this is my life, one of the random children ended up being my son. And the wood was for fort building in my front yard.
(5) P's art.
(6) P after soccer practice, looking tired and bad-ass.
(7) I chaperoned an overnight trip with P's 4th grade class to Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, and Great Wolf Lodge. And this not-very-good photo is the best photo I took (chaperoning is exhausting).
(8) P at Artomatic with me, on a cold rainy Sunday.


Things to Do - Grateful List (March/April 2017)

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Isn't it crazy how March feels as it it was so so long ago?

* Family bookclub reading - A Young People's History of the United States (P kept saying, "this book is so biased. not everything in american history is bad."), We Should All Be Feminists, and A Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions. (If you can't tell, I picked this month's books)
* Reading The Mothers
* Reading A Separation
* Watching the Detour with Dan (hilarious!)
* Watching Unreal, Season 2 (trashy tv, but still fun)
* Listening to the Head and the Heart's Signs of Light album
* Listening to S Town (podcast)
* Listening to This American Life's podcasts on (1) Ask A Grown Up and (2) In Defense of Ignorance
* Attending the middle school's production of Legally Blond
* Attending Ragtime with the girls at Ford's Theater
* Attending Fun House at National Theater (Dan hated it, I loved it).
* Fawning over the work of Eugene Richards

* Slow flow Wednesday night yoga at Journey Yoga
* Omescape DC and a night out in Adams Morgan with friends (this was my first escape room experience and I loved it)
* Taking the girls and their friends on a DC-mural photoshoot (Yards Park, the graffiti church, and Union Market)
* The perfect family date night - dinner at Atilas then Drunk History before bed
* Easter baseball as a family (the Nationals won!)

PLACES (Vacation)
* A fantastic girls' weekend in Charleston, SC (mead tasting, lunch at Husk, shopping, dinner out, etc.)
* A weekend in NYC with Dan (Sunset Boulevard & the Comet of 1812 on Broadway and the Whitney Biennelle with Jenny)
* Kayla Coleman's fantastic photography workshop (Castle Hayne, NC)
* A relaxing few days in Sandbridge, VA with friends - sunset on the beach, easter egg hunts, walking through the backbit, and after dinner jam sessions

* Roasted shisato peppers
* F making tahini blondies (from the Molly on the Range cookbook)
* Lunch at Jaleo with Sushant (a college friend who I haven't seen since graduation)

* My new mugs from Society 6

* F's love of math dice (she joined the team and competed)
* P and F's basketball team both made it to the second round of playoffs
* Constant nerf wars in the cut through
* Our first (and only) snow day of the year
* F was elected as a class representative to go to a conference and give a talk on her grade school's recycling program
* 70 degree days
* Same basic spring wonders each year - open windows and waking up to birds singing, lilacs, peonies, family dog walks at dusk
* A spontaneous afternoon of drinking with the neighbors on a rainy Saturday


Things to Wear - 12 Cute Shirts for Spring/Summer

New Yorker recently published an article about J Crew's possibly bankruptcy, coupled with a few theories as to what might have gone wrong (you can read it here).

In college, I was J Crew obsessed - dreaming of the day I'd be able to afford a whole wardrobe purchased solely from their catalog (from PJs through business wear). But somewhere along the way the prices kept escaping my comfort zone - hundreds of dollars for a simple pair of flats seemed crazy. Plus the models became skinnier and the styles quirkier.

After reading the article, I realized that I've barely shopped at J Crew in the last five years. So I decided to look online and see if they still sold clothes I coveted. And once I started shopping, well, I ended up with this post.

I love easy/flowy boho style tops and this spring they seem to be everywhere.


1. Gap ($44.95)
2. J Crew ($88)
3. Anthropologie ($118)
4. Zara ($39.90)
5. Madewell ($98)
6. Anthropologie ($98)


7. Madewell ($98)
8. Zara ($39.90)
9. Zara ($49.90) (I have no idea where I'd where this, but I find the photo's shirt/pant combo killer).
10. J Crew ($68)
11. Zara ($49.90)
12. Zara($35.90)


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