I started this post in Nashville towards the end of a cozy and fun 5-day visit with my cousin. Off and on it was chilly and wet, ideal weather for sitting inside by the glowing Christmas tree and sipping a creamy, spicy Clevr chai latte.
When I visit dear friends I love to experience their day-to-day routines: walking a regular route around the neighborhood, going to the grocery store, and visiting a favorite restaurant. I also love being in someone else's home for a few days, especially someone who is so thoughtful about decor and organization, as my cousin is. A few home inspiration tidbits I'm taking with me after this trip include: Tommy Bahama pillows make a great guest pillow (and are quite affordable), these vinyl kitchen floor mats look just like a rug but are squishy beneath your feet and can be wiped down, clear bins are great for pantry organization, and now I'd like to upgrade our front door to a Yale smart lock.
We also did some fun Nashville things like visit Ann Patchett's Parnassus Books, share many delicious donuts at East Park Donuts (all the cake varieties were our favorite; thanks for the rec, Lee Anne!), sip drinks in an actual greenhouse at Greenhouse (which had a great mocktail menu), and eat at the fresh and tasty Radish Kitchen (get the sweets and lentils!). I can tell that there's no shortage of great places to eat and drink in Nashville – I look forward to sampling more on a future visit.
A break is nice
Not only did I really enjoy my time in Nashville with my cousin, her husband, and their very cute baby, but it was also quite nice to have a break from my day-to-day parenting and home admin responsibilities. All the kids are healthy, growing, and doing great. And also they have big, big emotions that wring us out. Maeve has quite a staunch attachment to me. Despite Chris being a present and very involved parent since the beginning, it's me Maeve wants for bedtime every night ("Mama put me down, okay?"), to drive her to daycare, and sometimes to fetch anything she's asked for, even if Chris is closer and is trying to hand her the exact snack/cup/toy she asked for. "Noooo! Mama!" Chris continues to be the involved and present parent that he is, and we try to switch off bedtimes, etc. so that I'm not the only one, but it can feel exhausting to tip-toe around the strong mama preference.
The boys have their big emotions too. Like asking for a purchase out of the blue at 5 p.m. and proceeding to become so angry and upset that our answer was not that we'd go out that night and make a purchase. (Our response was that we probably could purchase the thing but need to look at prices and make a plan to buy.) I find it really challenging to be the recipient of angry emotions when I'm being calm and, in my opinion, understanding. I know kids don't have full control over their emotions yet. But it's still upsetting to be yelled at.
Being away from the house also makes me realize how much home management is part of my day-to-day life and brain space. It's hard for me to see any cabinet or home chore that I don't want to improve with a system, whether that's a better storage solution or implementing some new practice for efficiency's sake. Overall I think it's a beneficial trait but in a home with three young kids there's no achieving organization. You just chase it anew everyday (or some days feel that way!). On top of that someone always needs new shoes or we have no pencils in the house for homework. Despite all the things that we are on top of stocking there's always something that's out or broken it seems. All of that sounds like such a drag (and sometimes it IS) but also stepping away gives me perspective on how much Chris and I do just to care for the kids and our house. It's nice to remember to give ourselves credit for all we do!
Ho-hum reading lately
Several times this year my reading life has become waylaid by so-so books, or books that I'm enjoying but are so long that I don't finish them before they are due back to the library (as happened recently with The Once and Future Witches). I don't mind quitting a book but if I was enjoying it for a spell, or especially if the book is for a book club discussion, I try to push through. So what happens is that I'll be enjoying a book well enough but my interest fades. Then I'll find myself not picking up a book or audiobook but also not moving on to something else. I feel as though several precious reading weeks of my life this year have been lost this way!
A few books that detoured my reading this year: The Lincoln Highway, The Electricity of Every Living Thing, Write for Your Life, The Ex Hex, Dead Lions, The Reading List, The Catcher in the Rye, Transcendent Kingdom, Do Less, and The Hidden Palace. Some of these I think I would have enjoyed more if they'd found me at a different time in life. Probably one in which I have more reading time. When time is limited then every hour reading is precious and cannot be used on ho-hum books!
Perhaps I need to spend some time with my TBR list since reading is a hobby that I love dearly. I love reading great books during the holidays and usually find myself with a bit more time, so I'm hoping to finish my reading year strong. I'm not sure if I'll make my goal of 80 books but have read about 67 so far which I think is fantastic, especially given that I've encountered several blah books. (And a note that if I read more than about 25% of a book but then lost interest I count that as a book that I read.)
Feeling hopeful after the midterm elections
We waited and waited and waited for the Arizona governor race to be called and were relieved when the democrat Katie Hobbs was officially announced as the winner. Arizona is not known for being progressive but here's a fun fact for you: Arizona has had the most female governors of any state and Katie Hobbs will be our fifth. We were also so happy to see that Adrian Fontes won election to secretary of state. I had the chance to meet Adrian last year at a backyard fundraiser and he made the point that the secretary of state certifies elections which is a more important role than ever. The other candidate who ran for the position denies that Biden won the 2020 election.
In my opinion, the majority of Americans voted for democracy, fair elections, and women's rights. A slim majority but a majority. The endorsement of our former president did not have the winning effect he thought it would. What I hope going forward is that our congress will find ways to put aside the influence and wishes of our former president and forge a new path. I hope that the Republican party will take note of where our country is and what most Americans want. I would love to see more Republicans on the ballot who I might not completely agree with but who I feel I could trust to lead with integrity. I would love to see more moderate candidates from both sides because we can make progress by finding the middle ground on many issues. I hope that I can keep feeling this optimism as we embark on the very long road to the 2024 election.
Thanksgiving next week!
We're hosting Thanksgiving next week and will be joined by in-town family. I'm looking forward to it! And especially since we're ordering in from Uprooted Kitchen. I'm still planning to do some cooking and will make pecan pie squares (that I tested last week), a paper bag apple pie (that I made last year and loved – and I don't usually love apple pie!), and the chocolate pie. Chris has taken up the mantle from his mom of baking the traditional Wharton family challah bread.
I'm also looking forward to one of my favorite meals of the year: coffee and pie on the morning after Thanksgiving. Preferably in a quiet house alone so I need to ask Chris if he's up for taking the kids out.
I'm going to wrap this up so I have time to record the audio, joined by a mug of glazed lemon loaf tea. I hope you've found good things in November, friends! And I'm wishing you a cozy and delicious Thanksgiving next week if you're celebrating.