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I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s August Break again this year.

august break 2014 list

It’s a fun way to capture some photos, savor the last month of summer, and take a break from so many words. I don’t expect to take the month entirely off from writing, but I will be sharing some photos here.

First up: lunch.

jer shake shack lunch

The hubs came to Harvard Square today, and we had lunch at Shake Shack.

katie shake shack

With a strawberry shake. Yum.

Happy August, friends. And happy weekend.

harvard yard construction

I work at Harvard. And right now, I work in a construction zone.

For the past year and a half, I’ve worked in a red brick building on Appian Way, a quiet Cambridge street several blocks northwest of the bustling center of Harvard Square. And for months now, since the construction crew began work on a project that includes adding two new floors to our building and various other improvements, we’ve lived with the sounds of drills, jackhammers, and construction workers shouting instructions to one another.

The elevator is permanently out of service until it can be brought up to code. Scaffolding wraps around the outside walls of our building, and a thick film of construction dust coats the windows in our ground-level office suite. By the time you read this, my colleagues and I will have moved across the street to a temporary office suite in the library so the construction crew can install a (long overdue) sprinkler system in our usual location.

Over in Harvard Yard, three blocks away, it’s a similar story.

I’m over at the Art House America blog, talking about life in a construction zone. Please click over there to read the rest of my essay.

hibernation books

Ruin and Rising, Leigh Bardugo
This conclusion to Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy finds her main characters on the run, searching for a secret weapon to use against the Darkling and his forces. Several plot twists I didn’t see coming; lots of heartbreak; some sweet romantic moments. Really enjoyable, like the others in the series.

Falling in Honey: How a Tiny Greek Island Stole My Heart, Jennifer Barclay
Barclay has loved Greece since her backpacking student days, but after a bad breakup, she spends a month on the tiny island of Tilos. The friendly people, delicious food and gorgeous views sustain her through more romantic ups and downs. I got tired of the dating play-by-play, but the descriptions of Tilos made me want to hop a plane immediately.

The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, Susan Elia MacNeal
In November 1941, SOE agent Maggie Hope is hiding out in western Scotland, training new recruits and healing from a disastrous mission to Berlin. When her dear friend falls ill under suspicious circumstances, Maggie takes up the case. Meanwhile, U.S. and British relations with Japan grow increasingly strained. Fast-paced and fascinating – a solid entry in the series.

In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey, Samuel Fromartz
Fromartz, a longtime home baker, delves into the science and technique of bread baking, traveling to France, Germany and all over the U.S. to learn about baguettes, rye, sourdough and many varieties of flour. I liked the baking anecdotes better than the discussions of fermentation, but Fromartz blends them together engagingly. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 4).

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, Bernie Su & Kate Rorick
Based on the popular YouTube series, this retelling of Pride & Prejudice is ultra-modern (set in California; Bing Lee is a Harvard-educated zillionaire) and seriously fun. Lizzie’s voice is sharp, clever and hilariously snarky. I’m now watching (and loving) the web series.

Lizzy & Jane, Katherine Reay
Elizabeth Hughes has achieved modest fame as a New York chef, rarely visiting her family in Seattle. When a cooking slump coincides with her sister’s chemo treatment, Lizzy reluctantly heads home. An interesting take on Austen (Lizzy and Jane are quite different from the Bennet sisters); a lovely novel of food, family and new beginnings. (I also loved Reay’s debut, Dear Mr. Knightley.) Anne generously sent me her advance copy. To review for Shelf Awareness (pub date Oct. 28).

Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer, Dorothy Gilman
Mrs. Pollifax heads to a fictional African country with a few characters from her previous adventure, and finds a rash of deaths caused by a mysterious killer. Not the best in the series, but I love Mrs. P.

Bunny Buddhism: Hopping Along the Path to Enlightenment, Krista Lester
This was an impulse buy at the Booksmith. It’s a compilation of tweets by Lester on bunniness, Buddhism and living (and hopping) on purpose. Utterly charming and so much fun, especially if you love bunnies (I do).

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

Hibernation weekend.

tea books balcony garden

This past weekend, I had an unusual amount of solitude. My husband was in Texas, celebrating his niece’s second birthday. He left Thursday morning and came back Sunday night. I had to work Thursday and Friday, but I toyed with various possibilities for the weekend. Should I spend Saturday wandering around Boston, dropping in and out of museums and cafes? Drive out to western MA and explore a few cute little towns? Hop a train to NYC for 36 hours?

As you might have guessed from the post title, I didn’t do any of those things.

I hibernated.

I slept – 11 hours on Friday night alone. I read, finishing three books and starting another one.

hibernation books

I did laundry, washed dishes, baked two batches of muffins on Saturday afternoon.

muffins

I watered my balcony garden and picked some fresh basil to sprinkle on top of my fried eggs. I knitted and wound yarn and binge-watched half of Veronica Mars, season 1. (I am officially hooked.) I began watching (and giggling at) the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube after flying through the book version.

July has been an unusually social month: we had two sets of houseguests in a row, first a pair of friends and then my parents. Work has been alternately deep-summer-slow and totally crazy: my team is relocating soon, temporarily, to a building across the street while construction work happens in our office. I love having guests to stay, but it requires a lot of planning and energy and disruption of the usual routine. And after two weeks of that, I was exhausted.

For an overtaxed introvert, a hibernation weekend was the perfect cure.

I felt a wee bit guilty about “not taking advantage” of a free weekend and sunny summer weather, until I realized that even thinking about making plans was making me tired. I barely talked to anyone (except the ladies at the library and the checkout girl at the grocery store), and it was glorious. (Though I was ready for some social time by Sunday, and so happy to see the hubs when he flew back in at 11:30 Sunday night.)

Lesson learned (again): a weekend at home may not sound glamorous, but sometimes it’s exactly what I need.

Any fellow introverts/hibernators out there? When was the last time you indulged in some serious solitude?

tealuxe teapots tea

  • Tea towels. Every time I walk past Anthropologie or browse on Etsy, I spot colorful, quirky towels splashed with flowers, fruit, dachshunds or whimsical maps of my favorite cities. Even without a dishwasher, I’ll never have that many dishes waiting to be dried.
  • Coffee mugs. I have a couple dozen, but I fall in love with new ones all the time. (However, my mug shelf is crowded enough to prevent new arrivals, at least for now.)
  • Pairs of ballet flats. Cute, comfortable and functional. (I really do need some new red ones, as mine are starting to fall apart.)
  • Whimsical art prints. Which are nearly as ubiquitous as tea towels, sometimes featuring the same artwork. I don’t have nearly enough wall space for all the goodness out there.
  • Scented candles. I finally splurged on a Volcano candle from Anthropologie last month, and I love it. I also love the Bath & Body Works 3-wick candles, but I usually wait until they go on 2-for-1 sale.
  • Notepads. I like Moleskine-size journals, but I buy far more small, funky notepads than I can actually use. Ditto Post-Its, and stationery in general.
  • Graphic tees, though they’re not really work-appropriate wear. I have tees featuring llamas, the Boston skyline, Coronado Island (near San Diego), the covers of several books (from Out of Print), and a favorite slogan from Harper Perennial: “Read Wisely.”
  • Striped tees. I have a stripes addiction.
  • Yarn, though it’s easier not to buy yarn in the summer when just thinking about a pile of it on my lap makes me sweat. (Ditto scarves, knitted and otherwise.)
  • Blends of tea. Especially black blends flavored with fruit or spices. And teapots, tea strainers and other tea paraphernalia. But you knew that already.
  • Books. Obviously.

What could you buy a million of?

rockport ma boats harbor

For the last few summers, my parents have flown up from Texas to visit us in Boston. We’ve walked most of the Freedom Trail, savored Italian dinners in the North End, gone to two Red Sox games at Fenway (sadly, we’ve been rained out both times), and wandered Harvard Square. This year, we decided to do something a bit different, and explore Rockport, a charming little town on Boston’s North Shore.

rockport ma harbor ocean

J and I had been up to Rockport before – some friends of ours live there, and we’ve enjoyed visiting them. But this was Mom and Dad’s first time in Rockport, and it was utterly lovely.

I drove up with my parents on a Thursday afternoon (J had to work, and joined us later that night). We checked in at the Eagle House Motel, a basic but charming hotel just off Main Street. We loved the location – it was so close to everything – and the friendly innkeeper, Gary, gave us several great restaurant recommendations.

eagle house motel rockport ma

We spent part of the afternoon wandering Bearskin Neck, a narrow spit of land crammed with shops and restaurants – lobster shacks, ice cream stands and a couple of sit-down eateries. Such fun to poke into lots of different places.

bearskin neck rockport ma

We ended up, not surprisingly, at the charming Toad Hall Bookstore, housed in an old bank building.

toad hall bookstore rockport ma interior

There’s a narrow spiral staircase leading up to a loft area (which houses used books) and down to the basement (which is the children’s section). It’s a small place, but I could have browsed for a long time. (I bought a novel set in Paris, and scored a vintage Georgette Heyer hardcover at the tiny used bookshop down the street.)

We had dinner that night at the 7th Wave, down on the wharf, and Dad got his lobster fix. You can’t get seafood like this in West Texas.

dad lobster rockport ma

We ate on the rooftop deck, and this was our view:

rockport ma boats rocks harbor

I didn’t take a picture of my oysters, but they were delicious, and the lobster bisque was divine.

After dinner, we walked back down to the water to watch the sunset.

rockport ma sunset

And to take a family selfie.

 

family rockport

The next morning, after coffee and pastries at Brothers Brew (the scones!), we wandered through town a bit more, then drove up to Halibut Point State Park. There’s an old quarry, now filled with water, and rimmed by rocks which J had to climb.

halibut point rocks

J and I also love the park because it gives us a chance to retell our favorite Fozzie Bear joke.

quarry halibut point state park rockport ma

I’d only been to the park in the winter before (it feels like standing on the edge of the world), but the views in summer are just as stunning. That’s New Hampshire over there.

halibut point state park rockport ma

That night, we headed to the Shalin Liu Performance Center, home of Rockport Music, for a truly stunning concert.

shalin liu interior rockport ma

Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas (a Scottish fiddler and an American cellist, respectively) brought down the house.

alasdair fraser natalie haas concert rockport ma

We tapped our toes and clapped along to Highland reels, and sat mesmerized as they both drew haunting, complex melodies from their bows. As you can see, the back of the stage is a window onto the harbor, complete with boats, gulls and even baby ducks. Between the music, the company and the view, it was an amazing night.

We headed back to Boston the next morning, but not before discovering that Mom and I were inadvertently matching. (We did not plan these outfits.)

mom katie red shorts matching

I snapped a photo with my sweet husband to cap off the trip.

jer katie rockport ma

All in all, a fabulous two days. Rockport, you were lovely. We’ll be back.

Back in early June, I posted a Summer Manifesto – a list of things I wanted to be sure not to miss this summer. Somehow, we’re almost through July, and the warm, golden days are flying by. So, here’s an update on the manifesto (with photos).

berry bowl strawberries blueberries summer

  • Visit the farmers’ market at Harvard – every week if possible. Buy loads of fresh produce, especially berries and tomatoes. I’m walking over to the market every Tuesday, and I have spent an obscene amount of money on raspberries and tomatoes (even for me).
  • Go to Shakespeare on the Common – they’re doing Twelfth Night this year. (It starts this weekend!)

katie cavendish beach pei

family rockport

  • Host my parents for a visit, and take them up to Cape Ann, north of Boston. That photo is a family selfie, taken in Rockport, where we had a wonderful time (details forthcoming).
  • Dig into some summer reading. (Maybe I’ll make a syllabus like Anne.) The syllabus did not happen, but the reading is definitely happening. Favorite summer reads so far include Mambo in Chinatown, All the Light We Cannot See, The Alpine Path, Parnassus on Wheels, Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy, and my third reread of To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Drink fruity summer teas, eat Ben & Jerry’s Greek frozen yogurt, and balance it all with salads. Check, check, check (though I could use some more salads).
  • Go to an outdoor movie. (Not yet, but soon!)
  • Tour the Longfellow House, which is right down the street from my office. (Ditto.)

book limeade harvard yard summer

  • Spend lots of time outside – reading, lounging, walking, relaxing. Every lunch break, every evening, all the extra time I can. Summer is so short in New England, and the only thing to do is soak it up.

How are you savoring summer?

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