The two best highlights of September: Tiger football went 4-0 for the first time since 1961, and I got a new cat!
Two weeks in, Rufus is doing great. He’s already putting on weight (other cats blocked him from the food in his last home) and seems happy! Since he has such a mellow and curious disposition, I ordered a harness and leash for him so I can take him on walks or to friends’ houses. He’s having fun exploring the neighborhood and my patio. I thought I was doing fine without a cat, but having Rufus around makes it clear to me that there was a hole in my life. I didn’t know I felt wrong until things were right again.
Oh and: I ran five miles for the first time! It was a huge deal for me. I am now feeling good after running four-plus miles, which people tell me is a sign that I’ve broken through to the next level. I’ve even gotten endorphins a couple of times. I think I could do a 10K now!
I devoured Mindy Kaling’s latest, Why Not Me?, over about two days. I think it might be better than her first book, though it’s hard to say since I love them both! Mindy and I are the same age, and it comforts me to know she’s going through some of the same struggles, even though she’s successful and famous. I also scored Sara Bareilles’ new memoir on Netgalley, but may not finish it by month end because I can only read it on my computer. Locked e-book formats are so much fun.
I was at Cooper-Young Fest for the live debut of “Give,” my friend Myla Smith‘s new duet with fellow Memphian Alexis Grace. Check it out on October 9!
Sometimes bands sneak up on me – I’m meh about them at first, but over time I realize I like a lot of their songs. That happened this month with Tame Impala. I also liked the new Ben Folds album, which is a total love letter to band/orchestra nerds, and CHVRCHES’ new stuff is my current running soundtrack. (I’m officially a fan, even though V-as-U remains a major pet peeve of mine. Looking at you, BVLGARI.)
My brother was in a commercial. (Ladies, he’s single!)
And here’s the Tigers reverse flea flicker heard ’round the world:
My parents, sister, nieces, and I went to Houston for my cousin Shelby’s wedding. She was a beautiful bride! We weren’t able to do a ton in Houston, but we enjoyed the Downtown Aquarium, and my mom nicely took me to the Rothko Chapel. I’ve liked Rothko’s work since college and had forgotten that his chapel was there. It was a cool experience. Other than that, it was niece time all the time!
My mom and I celebrated 901 Day on September 1st by painting Grizzlies buckets at the Levitt Shell – they’ll be used for charity donations outside the Forum. I went to the last Redbirds game of the season with friends. I thoroughly enjoyed my first Cooper-Young Fest as a near neighbor. Ashley and I ran the 4-Miler on Friday night (my furthest distance race so far!), and I spent all day that Saturday at the fest. I was able to walk over, which still makes me so happy.
Last weekend, my mom and my friend Kathy and I did the Tour de Coop, a bike tour of Midtown chicken coops and gardens sponsored by Grow Memphis and Revolutions Bicycle Co-Op. It was really cool, and I got plenty of ideas to share with my sister and BIL, who have talked about getting chickens! Yes, urban agriculture is my jam. #WhyImStillSingle
I went to a wine tasting at the Botanic Gardens featuring Australian wines… AND A KANGAROO WAS THERE. I got to pet him and everything. It was magical.
When I decided to move to Midtown, I also decided I would have an original painting by my friend Hillary Butler above the mantel in my new home, wherever that turned out to be. Well, I finally brought one home last weekend! It’s already a daily joy and reminder that some dreams do come true. (For reference, this is “Yabbadabbadoo” as a circle.)
I grabbed this Kukui Oil Curl Cream at CVS, because I can’t resist trying new OGX products OR anything with “frizz defying” in the name. I’ve only been using it for about a week, but I’m a fan! It might be more economical long-term than the shea butter cream I’ve been using… you don’t need a lot.
I got to see Emily (one of my BFFs from college) over Labor Day weekend! This fall, she and I and our former roommate Kathy have been friends for half our lives, so this was going to be a triple Half Our Lives Celebration, but some of Kathy’s kids got sick that day and she couldn’t be there. Still, I had fun with Em and Daniel and two of their kids.
Speaking of anniversaries, my church had its fifth-anniversary celebration service at the Shell. I couldn’t attend last year because I was in Hawaii, so I was really excited to go. It was wonderful and inspiring. This church is one of the best things that’s happened to me in a long time.
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
Posts I Loved:
♥ Everything at The Mudroom this month. Seriously, these writers are collectively killing it!
♥ Lisa Gungor at Storyline: Why Changing What You Believe Is Actually A Sign of Strength
♥ My supportive mom sent me this encouraging piece on aunthood and Kim Cattrall: “I am not a biological parent, but I am a parent.”
♥ Jen Clarke in the Flyer: My Choice for Memphis Mayor
♥ Kelle Hampton: Fill the Bookends with Beauty and Carry a Big Sword
♥ Addie Zierman: When Your Faith Is Not a Christian Romance Novel
Other than a few Netgalley reviews, I really slacked off on book tracking and reviewing this summer. So, even though it’s almost the end of September and time for this month’s list, here’s everything I read in July and August. Settle in!
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (5 stars)
I reviewed this here (and got a retweet from Erin Bow herself!). AMAZING.
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (4 stars)
For years, Sydney has lived in the shadow of her older brother, Peyton, a charmer who can’t stay out of trouble. After Peyton goes to prison on a DUI charge, Sydney changes schools to get a fresh start. There she meets quirky, bubbly Layla, her strong-and-silent brother Mac, and their crew of friends, all of whom draw her out and provide the love and acceptance her parents can’t. This book hits all the usual Sarah Dessen sweet spots, and I think it’s one of her best.
Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott (5 stars)
This short, profound book is exactly what it sounds like and has become a guide for my faltering prayer life. Though, along with Glennon Melton, I often add “WTF” to the list.
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (3 stars)
A Netgalley read I never got around to reviewing officially. While well-written and suspenseful, this chronicle of a fictional school shooting in small-town Alabama is incredibly depressing. In my opinion, there wasn’t enough resolution or redemption to justify the tragedy, and it felt almost exploitative. Not for me.
Has to Be Love by Jolene Perry (3 stars)
Another novel from Netgalley. Clara, an Alaskan high schooler, wants much more than this provincial liiiiife, but worry about her widowed dad and self-consciousness over her scarred face are holding her back from her New York City dreams. She’s also torn between safe long-term boyfriend Elias and sexy “older man” Rhodes. I appreciated various unique aspects of this story that set it a little apart from the YA pack, but overall I just didn’t love it.
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen (3 stars)
When Maya Van Wagenen was thirteen, feeling awkward and unpopular, she discovered a 1950s book about popularity. This memoir is basically her diary from a year spent obeying all of its rules. I give her props for her bravery, spirit, and general precociousness, but I cringed a lot. Probably because she hit on some of my own bad memories. Middle school: you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to go back.
In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin (4.5 stars)
In the final book of the Birthright trilogy, Anya opens a successful nightclub, makes some unexpected strategic decisions, and deals with still more setbacks. I can’t explain why I like these books as much as I do, other than like my experience with Tris in Divergent, I feel really comfortable in Anya’s head and enjoy her thoughts. I was also 100% satisfied with the ending, which I can rarely say about YA trilogies.
Rising Strong by Brené Brown (5 stars)
I reviewed this here.
Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot (4 stars)
As an old Princess Diaries fan, I couldn’t NOT read the first adult novel about Mia, which revolves around her engagement to Michael and the discovery that she has a half-sister. Meg Cabot did a great job writing a mature Mia who’s still her same endearing, well-intentioned self.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (4.5 stars)
My favorite summer read of 2015! Yes, this is thinly veiled Will and Kate fanfic (with Kate recast as an American), but it’s smarter, wittier, and more fun than you think… even if you, like me, aren’t really into the royals. Also, the authors deserve some sort of award for the detailed alternate royal lineage they created.
On These Courts by Wayne B. Drash (3.5 stars)
The true story of Lester Middle School’s road to the first of three basketball state championships, coached by Memphis native and NBA great Penny Hardaway. These events took place just a few miles from where I now live, but I never heard much about it at the time. I believe every Memphian should read this book. When I finished, I wanted to start volunteering with one of Penny’s charity organizations immediately. Still looking into it.
Girl Walks into a Bar…: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle by Rachel Dratch (4.5 stars)
I did not expect, and am just now owning up to, how much I LOVED this memoir. Rachel Dratch is the Everygirl contrast to the holy trinity of Fey, Poehler, and Kaling; the one who succeeds, at best, on her second try. After dating into her 40s and having a surprise baby at 44, she can speak truly and hilariously about the road less traveled by. I felt less alone after reading this. Debbie Downer, you’re the best.
P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han (3.5 stars)
In the sequel to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, the fallout from Lara Jean’s illicitly mailed love letters continues. As she and Peter work on their pretend-turned-real relationship, another love letter recipient, John, comes back into her life. Fun and cute.
Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong (3.5 stars)
Kristen Strong’s reflections on change are authentic and helpful – as an Army wife and mom, she’s an expert on the topic. Over the course of this book, through personal stories and Bible teaching, she encourages readers to embrace change and trust that God is working in and through it. She also tackles important but underdiscussed aspects like changes in friendship. I’m thankful that Girl Meets Change prompted me to think about change and my evolving (better) attitude toward it, and I have some thoughts I’d like to write about myself. I plan to go back to the book in the future and am sure it will help a lot of women. But at this moment in my life, I can’t really rave about anything with an ultimately “all things work together for good” message. IT’S NOT YOU, BOOK, IT’S ME.
Books for July: 7
Books for August: 7
2015 year to date: 45
I’ve been petless since the beginning of June. After losing two cats in under a year, I planned to take a long break. I moved the old cat dishes and toys to the attic and peeled the protective plastic from the back of my couch. I brought fresh flowers into the house. I left food and drinks unattended. I enjoyed an active life free of any guilty worries about a pet alone at home.
I decided it would be foolish to get another cat during this freewheeling time, when I’m traveling and going out a lot (and my pet-averse family agreed). So what if I was increasingly lonely at home and stared longingly at friends’ Instagrams of their cats. I remained in denial as my friend Stacy, a cat mom extraordinaire, continued to notify me of cats she knew who needed homes. I shut her down every time. It just wasn’t a good idea.
A few weeks ago, Stacy told me a couple she knew was looking for a new home for one of her cats, an orange tabby. They found this sweet, friendly cat hanging around their vacation condo in Hot Springs, without a tag or apparent owner. He kept hopping into their car, so they brought him home and called him Orange. Then the other cats in the house started ganging up on him, scratching him, and blocking him from the food bowl, and they decided he needed a new, one-cat home ASAP. The moment Stacy told me this story, I knew I was in trouble. The way I felt the first time I saw my townhouse, attended my church, met people I now love; that’s how I already felt about this cat. On top of that, I’d actually thought several times that I’d specifically like an orange male cat, but hadn’t mentioned it to anyone.
I got in touch with the owner and told her I was interested, but hesitant. She assured me the cat is in great health and would probably welcome some solitude after being pushed around. That weekend, I drove out to their country house to meet him, and he was great. Sociable, energetic in a normal young-cat way, affectionate but not in a pestery way. I was about to go on a long weekend trip, so I told her I’d come back to take him the following week. I told myself I could still change my mind. But the more I pictured having this cat around, the happier I felt. I think I’m just a person who lives better with pets than without them, and in a weird emotional sense it’s been more work for me not to have an animal friend than to have one.
So last Wednesday night (accompanied by my friend Kelsey), I brought home my orange cat, and I gave him a name I chose soon after my cat Peach died: Rufus.
My inspiration started with Rufus Thomas, Memphis bluesman and entertainer. Someone mentioned him on the news, and I made a mental note that this would be a great name for a Memphis cat. Then I thought about Rufus Wainwright, singer/songwriter beloved by hipsters old and new… though (confession) I only know him from his live cover of “Careless Whisper” with Ben Folds, which is one of my favorite covers ever.
In Never Been Kissed, one of my favorite movies, the high schoolers use rufus to mean something great or cool. If you’ve ever heard me say “It’s great. Totally rufus,” it’s from the scene when Josie reports at a staff meeting that that’s how her story is going.
But I think my ultimate reason for being drawn to this name was subconscious. When I was a little girl, I had a record of the Disney movie The Rescuers (with dialogue and songs), and I listened to it all the time. I hadn’t thought about it in years, and didn’t realize until this week that Penny’s cat in the movie is named Rufus.
My Rufus has already made himself at home at my place. He was totally relaxed on the long drive back into the city (my previous cats would have yowled the entire time), received a welcome package from godmother Stacy, and warmed up to me immediately. Having lived on a screened porch for a while, he seems thrilled to have the run of a two-story home. He’s lean, with long, skinny legs that he can’t quite control – he keeps sliding on the hardwood floor and biffing it off the bathroom sink. If he were a person, he’d be a clumsy basketball player. Which makes him the perfect cat for me!
I still have a little irrational anxiety that something will go wrong and prevent me from keeping Rufus. But it feels really right to have him with me. I’ve realized his presence will be healing in the same way I imagine being in a good relationship would be healing. I need to relearn that having a cat doesn’t have to be high-maintenance and emotionally difficult… it can be easy and fun and joyful!
So, my resolve lasted just over three months. I’m okay with it.
August was eventful! I had a good birthday with lots of people I love. I played Harry Potter trivia at Tamp & Tap (we did not place). I got a new bike, named it Serenity, and rode it 17 miles in the Meritan Midnight Bike Classic last weekend:
I went to my first Choose 901 pop-up shop and scored two awesome Memphis pride shirts (and met Rockey the Redbird in line!).
I had many summer adventures downtown, most notably running through/doing yoga in some fountains with my friend Kelsey. (Note: Wearing my Namaste All Day shirt was a total coincidence.)
August was a stellar reading month. My faves were Rising Strong (of course), highly enjoyable Duchess Kate fanfiction The Royal We, and SNL veteran Rachel Dratch’s memoir, Girl Walks Into a Bar. I especially recommend the latter if you’re also 35+, trying to date, and trying to laugh about it so you won’t cry. I actually LOLed at several of her stories.
Mid-month, I saw Myla Smith (woo!!!), Switchfoot, and NEEDTOBREATHE at Moon River Fest at the Shell. I also caught the end of Judah and the Lion’s set, when they covered R. Kelly’s “Ignition,” making me an instant and unconditional fan. Last weekend, I went to Live at the Garden to see Rob Thomas and Plain White T’s! They gave repeated shoutouts to us people in the back, which I appreciated.
Around Town/At Home:
Sorry to be a broken record, but I still feel actively thankful every day to live where I live. I’m close to so many places I love and surrounded by natural beauty. My little garden is thriving and I enjoy looking at my flowers every day!
I’ve been indulging in some retail therapy – mostly items I need for my upcoming Iceland trip (serious waterproof boots, a lined wool/fur hat, wool gloves and socks). But I also bought the Mayari Birkenstocks I’ve wanted all summer. They’re so comfortable, and much more stylish than my old classic Birks from high school and college.
I needed some large art to go over my bed, so I painted the Prayer of St. Francis, one of my guideposts for life. It’s not a Pinterest-perfect printout (lettering in paint is hard), but I like it, and it makes my room feel cozier. Maybe I’ll redo it another time.
My topcoat allegiance has shifted from Seche Vite to NYC In a Minute. It’s cheaper, easier to find, and has amazing staying power. This month I finished a manicure with the last of a semi-congealed bottle and figured I’d be removing it all in a few days. That manicure lasted almost two weeks!
Some new products I’m liking: ELF eyeshadow primer, Paula’s Choice cleanser for oily skin, and Revlon Rich Girl Red. I’m lazy and picky about lip color – if I can’t apply it carelessly and then forget about it, I won’t get much use out of it. It’s hard to find a lipstick (as opposed to a gloss or balm) that meets that standard, especially in red, but this red is sheer and perfect!
Every year around my birthday, I read and focus on the Psalm that’s the same number as my age. Psalm 36 is kind of a dichotomy, and really on point for me this year. #YearOfEnough
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
I wrote a new piece for Memphis Type History about the origins of McLean Boulevard. I chose the street mainly because I cross it every day, but I was surprised by how much interesting info turned up! In related news, I really need an Ancestry account.
Posts I Loved:
♥ Kate Conner: To Remember When Life Is So Messy (this echoes some things I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time)
♥ My friend Becca O: The courage to have no plan. (Related, lately I often quote Phoebe to myself: “I don’t even have a ‘pla’.”)
♥ Leanne Penny reflects on faith and Rich Mullins: The Heaven In His Eyes
♥ Abby Norman on meeting activist Bree Newsome: Grit Calls Out to Grit
♥ Emily Maynard On Being a Second Wife
♥ Tara at No Need for Mirrors: When You Can’t Fall Out of Love
♥ Post of the month: Danielle Carey, The Opposite of Dying.
I had a great birthday weekend! My birthday won’t be over the weekend again for a while, so I wanted to make the most of it. On Friday night, my friend Sara and I hung out by the river and watched the sunset. We had planned to walk at the park there, but the sunset was so spectacular, we ended up just sitting and talking. I should do that more often. It was lovely.
On Saturday, as a birthday present, my parents generously bought me a new bike to replace my old one that got stolen. The ability to bike to places was a big part of why I wanted to live in Midtown, and I’ve felt a little lost without wheels. The store only had one duplicate of my old bike (though in a different color), and when I asked an employee to take it down for me, he said I needed a smaller bike frame. Turns out all adult bikes are not created equal. I’d always thought it was normal not to be able to reach the ground when stopped. :P It’ll take a while to get used to a different posture on a smaller bike, but I must say it feels better and I’m not struggling as much. Anyway, apparently I’m still going through a legit grief process for my old bike, but I’m still happy and thankful to have this!
I spent the rest of Saturday at Moon River Fest at the Levitt Shell! While the first fest last year was very low-key, this one sold out a week in advance, and we waited 20 minutes in line just to get in! I came early to watch Myla rock the house…
…and returned later to see Switchfoot (whose The Beautiful Letdown helped get me through my Reality Bites years) and one of my favorite bands, NEEDTOBREATHE. This was my third NTB show, and they never disappoint!
The fest was created by Drew and Ellie Holcolmb, so they took the stage last. They incorporated some fun visuals, like confetti, and turning off all the lights and playing only by the light of everyone’s phones. It was a little bit magical.
For my big birthday celebration on Sunday, I wanted to watch the sunset from the new observation deck at the newly-reopened Pyramid, but it closes at 7:00 on Sundays. NOT COOL, BASS PRO. So I contented myself with dinner on the patio at Slider Inn (one of my faves) followed by games at Rec Room. I’ve been hearing about Slider’s Jameson slushies all summer and was excited to try one. It lived up to the hype!
As usual, I felt loved and celebrated, and thankful to have so many great people in my life.
I’m generally hesitant to ask for prayer for myself even in dire circumstances, but since I was at church on my birthday, I decided to go to my friend Dianne, our prayer minister, for a birthday blessing of sorts. One thing she prayed (more than once) was for me to know that God isn’t through with me. There’s no way she could have known how much I needed that. It might sound ridiculous if you’re not in my head, but lately I’ve genuinely felt like my story is over in certain ways. Like this is the best it’s going to get and it’ll just have to be enough. In the big picture, I’m not feeling very excited or expectant about the rest of my life. Yet several friends have recently told me, without me mentioning this specifically, “The story’s not over.” And now this. I know it’s not an accident, so… may it be so. On to 36!
A year or so ago, I wrote about my role models. That list holds strong and true. But if I rewrote it today, Dr. Brené Brown would be at the top. I’m going to Houston next month (her home base), and I checked her website to see if she was teaching a seminar or making a local appearance that weekend – anything where I could, even briefly, sit at her feet and under her tutelage. Sadly, she’ll be on a national tour with Oprah (NBD), but in any case I was forced to accept it: I’ve become a full-blown Brené Disciple.
Most people know Dr. Brown from her 2012 breakthrough Daring Greatly. The centerpiece of that book, and much of her work and research, is Theodore Roosevelt’s famous “Man In The Arena” speech. After marinating in and living out the Daring Greatly message for several years, she needed to hone in on that first part about failure, the falling down marred with sweat and blood. Because when we’re living bravely, we will fall down again and again. How do we keep getting up, and going back into the arena? This was the inspiration for her new book, Rising Strong.
Dr. Brown identifies three guideposts for rising strong: reckoning (identifying and owning our emotions after a fall); rumbling (digging through shame and fear to get to the truth); and revolution (what happens as this routine becomes ingrained in our lives). Taking a cue from Anne Lamott, she encourages creating “shitty first drafts” to help us express how we’re really perceiving a painful situation. This process takes courage, but could eliminate so much unnecessary stress in relationships and even within organizations.
Rising Strong could not have been more timely for me. Over the last few years, I’ve been working hard at daring greatly. It hasn’t happened by accident, and it’ll be a lifelong process. I’m more comfortable taking a variety of risks big and small. I care a little less about what other people think, or doing what’s expected. I’m committed to being real about my struggles even if it makes others think less of me. But I’m also experiencing some significant hurt, shame, and fear that I could have avoided by not stepping out. I’m learning what it feels like to have the ground taken out from under me repeatedly because I choose to keep entering the arena. To keep trying, hoping, and loving. I’ve seriously looked over at Daring Greatly in my bookcase and thought things like, “Well, now I’m beaten-down and tired and I don’t know how many more times I can get back up. What am I supposed to do with that?!?” Thankfully, my guru Brené was already on the case.
Rising Strong will be released on August 25. I plan to get a physical copy that I can mark up to my heart’s content. I suggest you do the same!
Recommended for: EVERYONE IN THE WORLD.
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I spent last week in the Florida Keys for my family’s annual lobster-diving pilgrimage. We typically wait until the regular lobster season is underway, but this year we went for the two-day mini-season that precedes it by a few weeks. (If you’re unfamiliar with Florida lobstering, check out my brief overview from a few years ago.) This year our crew consisted of me, my parents and brother, both of my paternal uncles and aunts, our friend Dale who’s basically family, and my cousin Cliff and his wife and kids.
The first day of diving was a ten-hour affair, starting before sunrise. Out of a possible 72, we caught 49 lobster, which is nothing to sneeze at, but anything below limit is considered shameful when you’re a Wilkerson. Overheard after three straight lobsterless hours: “Okay, I have an idea… but we’d need someone to stand guard with a spear gun.”
I’ve never been a prolific lobster diver, because I have trouble equalizing my ears and getting down to the seafloor without burning up all my oxygen. I leave the bulk of the work to the guys, which is fine with them. But after a lifetime of snorkeling and diving, I tried a weight belt on this trip, and it was a game changer. Suddenly I could sink and stay down without overexerting myself. I was so thrilled, I totally ignored the usual pain and pressure in my ears. By the end of the day, I couldn’t hear at all out of my right ear, and my dad insisted I go to the ER because he thought my eardrum had burst. Thankfully, before I paid my hefty copay, a nurse heard me describing my symptoms and assured me that all I had was water trapped in my middle ear. After I came home, I got some antibiotics and it’s gotten mostly better on its own. God bless you, nurse at Fisherman’s Community Hospital of Marathon.
My mom and I opted out of the second day of lobstering to go on a tourist snorkeling boat! We snorkeled at a couple of locations, including Coffins Patch, a protected area with the best reef I’ve seen since I was a kid. The fish came right up to me!
Mask face is the sign of a good time!!!
We spent some time poolside at the hotel and saw a few iguanas. One of them was at least five feet long and a truly majestic creature. I took at least twenty pictures of him.
In the afternoon, my mom and I headed to Key West, with a brief detour on Big Pine Key to see Key deer. We were on our way out after no deer encounters when we spotted a fawn in someone’s yard. I jumped out of the car to get close to it, and was so entranced I didn’t even see its mother crossing the street. She nursed it a few feet from where I was standing. (The deer are totally protected there, so they’re very tame.) It was amazing!
I’ve been to Key West before, but it had been years and I didn’t remember much about it. We quickly hit up the beach and Southernmost Point.
Then it was on to Mallory Square for dinner, key lime mojitos, and the sunset.
As you may have heard, Key West has its share of weirdness. Among other things, there’s a park with artistically-placed busts of all the founders of Key West (or, as I excitedly called it, “a bunch of heads!”), and The Cat Man. About halfway through his act, we got too concerned about the overall welfare of the cats to keep watching. I mean, I don’t know too many cats willing to walk tightropes and jump through flaming hoops on command.
Back in Marathon on Friday, my family fulfilled a long-held goal of snorkeling at Sombrero! It was amazing. Photos taken by Kevin with his GoPro:
We ended our trip with lunch at Burdines, one of my favorite places in the world! You can’t beat the view, the food, or the fried key lime pie. As usual, I ordered the slider platter that includes a chicken florentine burger and a shrimpburger. My dad also bought me a koozie, so I can think fondly of Burdines while enjoying a brew on my patio at home.
It was a good time with extended family, and dare I say, much more vacationlike than most of our lobstering trips. I love the Keys!
In July, two of my best friends threw me a wonderful housewarming party. We had a great turnout, great food, and great sangria. I felt happy and loved!
The Fourth is my favorite holiday. This year I was excited to go to the “parade” in my new neighborhood, since I’ve never lived in a neighborhood that had one. In the evening, I watched fireworks from a downtown rooftop with a great group of friends.
On the 3rd, I ran the Stars & Stripes 5K for the first time. It started and ended at Tiger Lane, so I couldn’t say no. It’s been almost a year now since I ran my first entire 5K, and although I still wish I was faster, I’ve shaved four minutes off my time without working very hard at it. Very encouraging!!
My sister and nieces visited for a week. Fifoo, Debra, and I had a sleepover at my place, and we and our mom took both girls to the Children’s Museum and to a friend’s pool. Baby E also met my friend Caroline’s son, who was born in the same month. (We had previously introduced them over Skype.) Aunthood is the best.
Unsurprisingly, my book count goes way up when I stick to fun fiction and memoirs instead of trying to enrich myself with heavy stuff. I figured summer is a good enough excuse to imbibe all the YA I want. My favorite book of July was Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules.
From the first listen, I’ve been obsessed with San Fermin’s “Jackrabbit”:
Also, Paper Towns is the best soundtrack since Garden State. Yeah, that’s a bold statement and I stand behind it.
I went to Miami and the Keys for my family’s annual lobster pilgrimage. More on that later.
One Sunday afternoon, I locked myself out of my house while hanging up some outdoor lights. My mom came over with the spare key, and we ended up walking to Cooper-Young and watching the US women win the World Cup at Young Avenue Deli with a huge crowd of people. It was exactly the kind of evening I used to imagine when I thought about moving to Midtown. I still feel so lucky every day to live where I do.
Another Sunday, I biked all through and around Overton Park. Sadly, it was my last neighborhood ride for a while – as you know if you follow me on any social media, my bike was stolen off my patio last weekend while I was in Florida. I loved that bike, have made many happy memories with it over the last five years, and was looking forward to many more. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a new one before the Midnight Bike Classic at the end of the month, but I’m still grieving my old bike.
My partners in crime and I attended a Paint Nite at Fox & Hound. I’ve been to several painting places over the years, but I think this was more relaxing and fun than an actual painting studio!
On the rare evening the temperature’s dipped below 90 degrees, I’ve enjoyed my new outdoor patio lights. Inside, I had an original print I bought in Wynwood in Miami custom framed at Art Center. It was worth the trouble and expense!
When it’s this hot, the seared ahi tuna salad from Local rocks my world.
At my housewarming party, Alanna had everyone write notes for me on paint chips and hide them around the house. I think I’ve found most of them. My two favorite notes: meaningful Counting Crows lyrics, and Kelsey and Claudia’s two-parter with the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Because you never need a reason for Will Smith.
Oh and: I BOOKED A TRIP TO ICELAND!!!! Much more to come in time.
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
On The Blog:
I posted about my garden and my copycat recipe for Babalu’s veggie tacos. Don’t give up on me… someday I will write something of substance again. There are several posts bouncing around in my head, but I can never focus and quiet myself long enough to sit down and write them. Is it possible to develop ADD suddenly at almost-36?
Posts I Loved:
♥ Best post I read in July: Hannah Brencher (as usual), Drop The Mic and Go Find Sarah.
♥ The Washington Post launched Solo-ish about a month ago, and I’m loving it! It’s a fresh take on all kinds of topics affecting singles.
♥ Ed Cyzewski: If There’s a Slippery Slope, Jesus May Be Leading Us Down It
♥ Angie at My So-Called Chaos: My Heart’s Too Big For My Own Body
♥ Loved this charming story from Amy Peterson: A Love Note From Juanita’s
♥ Mandy Hale aka The Single Woman: Why I’m Still Single: The Ugly Truth. Preach.
♥ Added to my Year of Enough board: Oh Heck Yeah, You ARE Worth a Lot!!!! by Kerry Smith. (PS: Kerry was one of my campus ministers in college and is a wonderful person.)
A few hundred years in the future, as global climate change leads to increasing shortages, war wipes out most of the population that hasn’t already died from lack of viable water. In desperation, the United Nations appoints an AI, Talis, to find a way to save what’s left of humankind. His solution: nuke a series of major cities to get everyone’s attention, then take over the world and keep the peace himself. His strategy: make war personal by taking a hostage child from each world leader while they’re age five to eighteen. If any leader declares war, their child’s life is forfeit.
Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, has grown up in one of these Preceptures, with the heirs of the world’s kingdoms and confederacies as her de facto family. She works and studies hard, flies under the radar, and tries to be realistic about her chances of surviving to her eighteenth birthday. Then Elian, a new hostage from a newly formed nation, arrives at the Precepture kicking and screaming. His nation borders Greta’s, and she knows immediately that their countries are going to war; both of them are going to die; and she’s not ready to die before she’s ever really lived.
So many books have claimed to be the next Hunger Games. The Scorpion Rules really is, in its own way. It’s not exactly dystopia; there’s no rebellion, and Talis is the most likable, entertaining robot overlord ever, like a Terminator created by Joss Whedon. But it’s suspenseful, disturbing, pulls no punches, and takes the road less traveled by at every fork. There is a love triangle, but it’s not the kind you’re used to, and really it’s part of a big love pentagon which I found pretty understandable under the circumstances (and which doesn’t drive the plot).
In addition to being a novelist, Erin Bow is also a physicist, and it shows. The science in this book seems pretty solid. I hadn’t read any of her work before, but I’m on board for more of her nuanced, darkly hopeful writing. The Scorpion Rules is one of my top 10 fiction books of 2015, no question. I stayed up way too late reading it several nights in a row, and in fact, I’m already in the mood to read it again.
Recommended for: Anyone who likes to read and isn’t freaked out by what I described in this review
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Lucky me!!
Over the last year or so, my cooking mojo has dwindled to almost nothing. Living in Midtown makes it even easier to go out with friends (someone’s running a special every night) or grab something on the run. When I do eat at home, it’s usually a salad or an omelet, something I can throw together with minimal effort. However, I still get occasional flashes of inspiration. Such was the case last week when I tried the veggie tacos at Babalu and thought, I must replicate these at home ASAP. It was easy to do. I took note of the ingredients listed on the menu and Googled a recipe for chipotle dressing. It’s not a perfect translation of the tacos, but the results were delicious. Here’s what I did:
Copycat Babalu Veggie Tacos
1 pack small corn tortillas (blue if you can find them)
2 yellow squash
1 container of mushrooms
Small bunch arugula or spring mix
1 cup corn (I forgot this)
½ red onion (unless you’re allergic, like me)
1 block cotija cheese
Chipotle Vinaigrette Ingredients: (from here – this makes a LOT of dressing)
1 ½ cups canola oil or other salad oil (not olive oil)
½ cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1 ½ chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I couldn’t find these, and substituted another jarred hot pepper)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1. Slice the zucchini and squash in half. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little oregano. Grill skin-side down until browned.
2. Slice the mushrooms and radishes (and red onion, if using). Sauté in olive oil until they look cooked. Add the corn during the last couple of minutes.
3. Combine the dressing ingredients, except for the oil, in a blender or Magic Bullet. Add the oil gradually. Or totally forget that dressings are supposed to be emulsified and blend everything at once. It’ll still taste good.
4. Retrieve the squash from the grill and slice it up. Grate the cheese. Heat the tortillas.
5. Combine all the veggies in a large bowl.
6. Assemble the tacos: dressing on the tortilla, then the grilled veggies, then some arugula. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Yay!