Thursday, August 20, 2015

Best : July 2015.

Today is the last day of my summer vacation, the first real summer vacation I've had since middle school, and to be honest, I'm a little relieved. This has been an absolutely wonderful and full summer, but it's also been exhausting. I'm looking forward to having a regular, boring, consistent schedule again, being able to just veg out in front of the TV at night. I'm ready to get back to my libraries and my kids, ready to contribute to something larger than myself again. 

But seriously, it was a good summer. Here's some highlights from the first part of it: Julio, Julho, Luglio, Juli--the most summer-y month of them all!

Hahaaaa so, July was a month of attempting to make a lot of new dishes and...failing miserably a lot. I tried to make baked beans from scratch for the first time and after almost three days of cooking, half the beans were still hard. I tried to make a bunch of slow cooker recipes that all ended up pretty terribly and all made approximately 298273208 servings. In the end, I think the dish I made that was tasty enough that I'd be likely to make it again was Pineapple Fried Rice from my Budget Bytes cookbook. I added some chicken to make it more of a full meal. This proves to me once again that no matter how I try to stray and experiment, Budget Byte meals are always the most satisfying. Which probably makes me a pretty mediocre and stereotypical cook, but I'm fine with it.

Say hello to two of the best recent YA reads I've had the pleasure of absorbing my eyeballs into--both with such pretty covers! But both so different! Shadowshaper is just so fun, while also being creepy and slightly scary--I was NOT a fan of some of these spirit creatures. While a totally different story, my reading experience of this reminded me a lot of Alex London's Proxy--short chapters, lots of action, a quick-moving and really unique plot, all with--gasp--diverse characters. So essentially, the type of book that teens will love. Plus, art! Caribbean inspired legends! New York! Diverse, urban fantasy like this is where YA needs to go.

As much as Shadowshaper might suck in reluctant teen readers, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender might repel them. The writing here is so lovely--it is genuine magical realism in YA, perhaps the best I've ever seen in the genre--so lovely and epic that this book will probably appeal to advanced readers, or adults. Anyway, even though the writing in this epic might seem whimsical at times, do not let it fool you! Shit turns real serious real fast in this thing. It is devastating, but still so very wonderful.

Okay, I don't know if this totally counts for this category, but goddamn was the Women's World Cup the best thing I watched on TV this month. My feelings about this team are too big to even put here.

And now to the real world stuff, the best things I did this month, or at least some of them:

Kim & Cliff came up and there was barbecuing, Drunk History watching, distillery tastings, Hopworks eating, Dairy Queen blizzards, and sparklers. And a heat wave. Way too much of the heat wave.

The most stressful part of this summer was that our dog got real sick, but before she was too weak, we went on lots of hikes together. She appears to be in recovery now, so I'm hoping we can continue going on weekend hikes this fall. I love that stupid goober, and I love this stupid beautiful state.

Cousin Brian and his wife Ann and their dog Charlie Bucket stopped by Portland for a few days on their epic road trip summer, kicking off our Summer of Visitors. I will feel eternally sorry for people who don't have cousins like mine.

Then Kathy's brother Jon stopped by for a few days. He got to experience the coast, Ground Kontrol, a Timbers match, our car breaking down on the side of the highway, and meth-fueled confrontations on the bus. Whatta lucky guy!

Chapel Hill friends Anna and Reiko ALSO stopped by for a few days! I know! Most of their short visit was consumed solely by eating and drinking...the way it should be.

The one Manda-Kathy-Jill vacation we made happen this summer was a weekend trip to Bend and Crater Lake and it was awesome and very much needed at the time. The weather at Crater Lake was perfect, the cider at Atlas Cider in Bend was so very very delicious, and the "hotel" we stayed at in Gilchrist was so very very strange. Other highlights included taxidermy, seeing a deer on the wrong trail, a weird Scrabble game, and the cider. I already mentioned the cider, but yeah, it was good.

Perhaps the most amazing thing to happen all summer was that after many many miles and many years of people telling us we needed a new car, we a new car. (Thanks to help from my mom, who was moved to my action by apparent concern for my safety. Thanks, Mom.) I thought I'd be all sentimental about the good ol' dusty red Corolla, and envisioned writing a nostalgic blog post about all the places she took us, and that might still happen one day, but to be honest, I've been so overcome by feelings of OMG MY NEW CAR IS SO AWESOME that it's hard to really concentrate on anything else. Our new child is a 2010 Honda Fit and let me tell you! The AC works! The engine is so quiet and smooth! Its paint is shiny! It is all a little too much to take in.

Love you, summer in Oregon. Thank you for the good times, but no thanks about the heat waves and drought. Let's do better about that next year, yes? Yes.

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