rocks nubble light maine

Last Saturday, I woke up to grey skies and spitting rain. The hubs was out of town on a work retreat, and my friend Adam and I had planned to drive up to Maine in search of fall colors and fresh air.


We almost didn’t go. It had been a long week for both of us, and the howling wind made me want to hunker down and watch movies all day.

I knew I’d get cabin fever, though, and we hoped the skies would clear up if we drove north. So we hopped in my car and hit the road.

We stopped first at the Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick. It was cold (and crowded, despite the photo below), but gorgeous.

nubble light cape neddick maine

We wandered around and took photos of the light and the waves, then bought steaming bowls of soup from a nearby clam shack (chowder for me, lobster bisque for him) and ate them sitting in the car.

Our next stop was Two Lights State Park, up on Cape Elizabeth. Adam had been there before, but I never had. It is windswept and understated and quietly stunning.

rocks waves two lights state park

We climbed all around the rocky cliffs – which go right down to the water, great slabs piled on top of one another to form a sort of natural terrace.

adam two lights waves rocks

Ahead, we glimpsed the blue sky we’d been chasing (though we never quite reached it).

rocks waves blue sky two lights state park maine

The wind roared in our ears, frothing the waves into whitecaps and sending the clouds scudding across the sky.

It reminded me of being in Ireland, long ago: climbing up to an old ruined fort on the largest of the Aran Islands and letting the wind blow my hair straight back and pull the breath right out of my lungs.

katie two lights rocks

Here, on the other side of the Atlantic, I remembered a favorite line from Anne of the Island:

Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.

Without consciously realizing it, that was exactly what we had done: left the city behind to come stand on the edge of the world, letting the wind – and each other’s company – blow the fog out of our souls.

It was a bracing antidote to the daily frustrations and larger struggles of the week. Just what we needed.

Our last stop was Bug Light – a glimpse of blue sky, a dramatic sunset, and the tiniest lighthouse I’d ever seen.

bug light sunset sky

We headed home (stopping for dinner in Portsmouth) – windblown and tired, but utterly at peace.

What are your best antidotes for soul fog?

Poem for October

red leaves sunshine


The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

—Emily Dickinson

apple maple leaves


strand books nyc exterior

September was a good reading month. (I took the latter half of it off from buying books, so I could try to make a dent in the TBR stacks.) Here’s the final roundup:

A Window Opens, Elisabeth Egan
I picked up this novel after reading Lindsey’s glowing review. It follows Alice Pearse, a thirtysomething mother of three and book lover who takes a job at a flashy “new media” company. Alice juggles her kids’ schedules, her father’s healthcare and her husband’s struggles, while harboring serious doubts about her job. Compulsively readable and often witty; flawed but thought-provoking.

Goodbye Stranger, Rebecca Stead
Tabitha, Bridget and Emily have been best friends for years. But seventh grade brings new challenges for them all, and tests their long-standing “no fighting” rule. I loved the girls’ intertwined story; I especially loved Bridge, who isn’t quite sure how to navigate this new world, and her friend Sherm. Wise, moving and true. (I also loved Stead’s When You Reach Me.)

First Bite: How We Learn to Eat, Bee Wilson
The way we learn to eat as young children can have a powerful effect on the rest of our lives. Wilson explores eating patterns through the lens of weaning, baby food, social experiments, family dinner, eating disorders and more. She occasionally gets bogged down in the research, but gleans some fascinating insights. (I also loved her book Consider the Fork.) To review for Shelf Awareness (out Dec. 1).

Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler, Trudi Kanter
When the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, Viennese hat designer Trudi Kanter (a Jew) and her family had to flee the country. Trudi’s memoir chronicles their roundabout journey to England (with some lovely scenes of prewar Paris and Vienna). A bit disjointed at times, but vividly told. Trudi is a sharp-eyed, resourceful, even cheeky narrator.

A Century of November, W.D. Wetherell
After losing his son, Billy, in World War I, widower Charles Marden travels to France from western Canada to see the place where his son died. A harrowing journey, told in beautiful sentences; a stark, often surreal portrait of the aftermath of trench warfare.

Miss Buncle Married, D.E. Stevenson
Barbara Buncle (now Mrs. Abbott) and her husband move to a new village, and find themselves exasperated and delighted by their new neighbors. I missed the fun of Barbara-as-author, and the beginning was slow, but in the end, this novel was as much fun as the first one.

The Case of the Missing Marquess, Nancy Springer
Who knew Sherlock Holmes had a younger sister? Enola Holmes, left alone when her mother disappears on her 14th birthday, heads to London to try and find her. Along the way, she solves the titular kidnapping case. A fun beginning to a middle-grade series, with cameos by Sherlock and Mycroft. Found at the Mysterious Bookshop in NYC.

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

What are you reading?

Apples, apples everywhere

apple trees blue sky

Every September, we head to the orchard. And every September, I am enchanted.

After five years in New England, we have established a few beloved traditions. This is one of my favorites.

apple trees branches

I am always amazed by the low, rambling trees: so different from the tidy rows I remember seeing in picture books. (There are no apple orchards in West Texas, where I grew up.)

The reality is messier, though the different varieties are clearly marked. We always head straight for the Empires, plucking them off the branches, crunching as we go.

This year, we had a big crowd: both newbies and veterans. We arrived in a pack, then wandered the rows in loose, straggling groups, picking, laughing, snapping pictures.

adam jer orchard

The guys always have to do a little climbing, and a little horsing around.

Eventually, we all met up at the other side of the farm, for apple cider donuts, chili dogs and more photos.

katie abi orchard

This is our sixth year picking apples together. Abi loves it as much as I do. We have been friends since our freshman year in college, and I am constantly grateful that we get to live this Boston life side by side.

katie evie orchard

Sweet Evie (who belongs to Abi) is too young to pick apples yet, but she happily came along for the ride.

We had such perfect weather this year: blue skies, crisp air, golden sunshine. Of course, I love sharing it all with this guy.

katie jer orchard apple trees

I’ve already made one apple crisp, and snacked on a few apples out of hand. Yum.

What are your favorite fall traditions?

red leaves blue sky autumn

I woke up last Monday morning to a certain realization: fall had arrived, seemingly overnight.

After the snowiest winter on record, we enjoyed – even gloried in – a hot, sun-soaked summer. I hesitated to complain about the heat, because the memory of winter’s sharp cold and piles of gray-edged snow lingered in my mind. (I always hesitate to complain about heat in New England: it feels like tempting fate, because I know winter is coming.)

ogunquit beach sunset

When the heat index rose this summer, I simply slathered on more sunscreen, turned the ceiling fans up a notch, and stocked up on lemonade and ice cream. The hubs and I escaped to the beach on multiple weekends (see above), and if things got really bad, we retreated to places with air-conditioning.

But by the time my parents visited in early September, I admit it – I was ready for fall.

The temperature swung from 90 to 60 degrees while Mom and Dad were here, but we had a few more summer-like days after they left. I did my best to savor them, going kayaking on the Charles River and walking around in shorts. But last Monday, the shift in the air was sharp and sudden. Autumn is here.

kayak river light water

In response to the sudden shift in seasons, I’m enjoying – and making – a few subtler changes.

I’m sipping fall teas – cranberry almond, Cream of Earl Grey – instead of summer’s ginger peach and blackberry sage. I ordered a couple of favorite autumnal candles, and I’ve switched from my beachy summer perfume to a crisp, classic scent. I’m wearing jeans and ballet flats and button-downs. And I’m thinking about fall activities, fall reading and other things on my autumn list.

Fall in New England is so lovely every year: red leaves, blue skies, juicy apples, that energizing crispness in the air. I know we are heading toward winter, but for now I’ll do my best to savor every moment of this season.

How do you mark or observe the change in seasons?

Summer Fri-dates

katie jer cliff walk

My husband and I didn’t do a lot of traveling this summer. Aside from a lovely anniversary weekend in Maine and a quick August getaway to Rhode Island, we stayed pretty close to home.

But our schedules were both flexible enough this year to allow for a new summer ritual: what we dubbed “Fri-dates.” Whenever possible, we planned fun day (or half-day) trips to local spots on Fridays, and soaked up both the summer sunshine and some extra time together.

On July 3, we started the holiday weekend with a trip to our beach (a mile from our house) and a little light reading.

between you and me beach

The following week, J came up to Harvard Square and we spent some time at the Harvard Art Museums – a favorite spot of mine. (The courtyard currently features this cool triangle sculpture.) Afterward, we ate dinner at Daedalus.

triangle sculpture harvard art museums

Our next adventure was quite close to home: Steel & Rye, a hip new restaurant in Milton, the next town over.

steel and rye lights sunset

The patio lights created a lovely ambiance, and the food – including this raspberry dessert confection we shared – was delicious. So fun to discover a new favorite spot in our neighborhood.

raspberry dessert steel & rye

A couple of weeks later, we drove up to Ogunquit, Maine, for an afternoon of exploring. We met some friends for an early dinner and made it to the beach (with ice cream) in time for this luminous sunset.

ogunquit beach sunset

Our next destination was Scituate, MA, a little south of where we live.

sailboats scituate ma

We explored the quaint downtown area, spent a couple of hours reading on the beach, and then ate a delicious Italian dinner al fresco (with live music!).

snicker of magic book beach summer

Next we headed to Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA.

crane beach ipswich ma

More reading on the beach, and a yummy dinner at a hip little place called Salt.

mary oliver winter hours beach

We wrapped up our string of beach dates with another afternoon close to home.

recipes for love and murder cover beach

And a few weeks later, we had an early fall Fri-date: a fascinating evening spent exploring the Science Behind Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Science.

mike sully monsters inc

I love a good road trip or weekend getaway. But it’s been nice to remember that there are adventures waiting in my backyard – and to savor them with my favorite person.


Solitude in the City

central park yellow flowers nyc

On a Wednesday morning earlier this month, I boarded a train from Boston to New York City. My husband was headed to a work conference in Texas, and I had decided to take a solo adventure while he was away.

When I told people about my plans, their initial response was always the same: “By yourself?”

My mother was doubtful, my sister surprised, my friend Abigail wistful. “You’re so brave,” she said. I’m fairly certain they all expected me to be nervous about spending three days in the city alone. But I could hardly keep the glee out of my voice.

I’m an introvert by nature, a small-town girl by upbringing and heritage. I’m the granddaughter, on both sides, of farmers who raised cattle and alfalfa hay on quiet green acres bordered by forests. I’m a West Texan, and I admit to loving the solitude and freedom of those wide open spaces: long gray ribbons of highway stretching to the horizon, the silhouettes of tall pump jacks and mesquite scrub against so much sky.

sunset sky west texas

I’ve come to cherish a different kind of solitude in recent years, though: the experience of being alone in a city.

I’m back at the Art House America blog today, sharing my love of being alone in the big city. Please join me over there to read the rest of my essay.


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