It’s been a busy summer so far–my sister get married at the beginning of July, so I didn’t get out a June post in time and I’m playing a bit of catch-up. I am, as usual, linking up with Leigh Kramer to talk about what I’ve been into these past two months.
June started off on a high note because I finally got my hands on the library copy of In the Sanctuary of Wings, the fifth and final book of Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series, and the final twist completely blew my mind. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series–they might be my favourite books of the last several years–if you enjoy fantasy or historical (ish) fiction with convention-defying female leads, I highly recommend them.
I also read through Victoria Aveyard’s King’s Cage at a record pace, and felt ambivalent about the ending until I realized the series was a quartet, not a trilogy, so hopefully closure (if not happiness) is still to come. I especially enjoyed seeing Evangeline Samos become a more complex character.
Another favourite series for June/July was the duology composed of Seraphina and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman, set in a world where dragons can take on human form, and the protagonist is half-human, half-dragon. I couldn’t put down either of the books–it was a compelling world with compelling characters, and I particularly enjoyed the dragon characters trying to understand humans.
July was also the month of playing catch-up with fiction most of my peers loved as teenagers. I tried reading Squire, the third book in Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small quartet, when I was about twelve and wasn’t able to fully appreciate it at the time, but this time I devoured the entire series in a matter of days. I especially enjoyed the way Keladry, despite being more of a tomboy by nature and one of the fiercest warriors in her cohort, deliberately wore dresses to dinners to remind her peers that there was nothing wrong with femininity.
Finally, I got my hands on the newest book by one of my very favourite authors from childhood, Gail Carson Levine. The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre is set in the same universe as The Two Princesses of Bamarre, but several centuries earlier, and features some of the same magic items and one common character. As someone who loved The Two Princesses of Bamarre and re-read it over and over, I was especially moved by the last lines of The Lost Kingdom.
As usual, you can see all the books I’ve read so far this year here.
Aaron and I finished watching the fourth season of Brooklyn 99 on Netflix, and we are now quickly running out of comedies to watch together before our favourites start back up in the fall. I feel like we’ve pretty much scraped the bottom of the barrel in terms of what Netflix Canada has to offer. I did watch (and absolutely loved) Playing House, and its touching exploration of female friendship, but I’m now caught up on that as well. Recommendations welcome!
In terms of live theatre, June and July were really good months. In June we caught Showstopper: An Improvised Musical in Toronto and it was just delightful. Basically, they take audience recommendations for plot and musical stylings, then make up a musical on the spot. They had the whole audience in stitches. We also caught the Drayton production of Thoroughly Modern Millie and the Stratford production of Guys and Dolls, and both soundtracks have been in pretty heavy rotation ever since. I especially enjoy Adelaide’s Lament from Guys and Dolls.
In addition to the Guys and Dolls and Thoroughly Modern Millie soundtracks, I downloaded the soundtrack of the new Broadway production of Anastasia and I’ve been enjoying the nostalgia, though I was disappointed to see that they’d replaced Rasputin and Bartok as the antagonists. I suppose the flying bat and the disintegrating limbs are harder to replicate onstage.
My very favourite album of the past two months, however, was definitely Nichole Nordeman’s newly released Every Mile Mattered. Nichole has been one my favourite songwriters ever since I heard To Know You on WOW 1999 (the very first CD I ever owned) and all these years later, even though the contours of my faith have shifted somewhat, her music resonates as much as it ever did.
June marked the start of strawberry season and, if you’ve been following my monthly recaps for awhile, you’ll know that strawberry season is second only to peach season in my books. Favourite recipes of the season included this strawberry and goat cheese bruschetta and these chocolate coconut waffles with strawberry sauce.
Peach season is only just starting out now, but I’ve already tried a few recipes, most notably this lovely peach focaccia.
Another food-related highlight of my summer so far has been the sudden ubiquity of iced tea. I got this iced tea bottle from David’s Tea, which also lets me make my own at home very easily, so I’ve been trying all kinds of flavours and staying hydrated without much difficulty.
Unquestionably, however, my biggest culinary accomplishment of the summer was baking the cupcakes for my sister’s wedding. I’d never done anything on that scale before, but I wanted to give it a try as a gift to my sister. It was a bit of an adventure: my sister was, of course, mid-move, so I used her kitchen to bake the cupcakes but gathered ingredients and equipment from a wide variety of sources, and since her apartment isn’t air-conditioned I ended up frosting the cupcakes in the church lobby, which I’m sure was an odd sight for visitors to the church office, but they turned out so well and I was really pleased with them. The cupcake varieties were gluten-free dairy-free vanilla, browned butter and peach with peach cream cheese frosting, maple bacon French toast with maple cream cheese frosting, chocolate with hot chocolate frosting, and lemon with raspberry frosting. My new brother-in-law and his father designed a lovely birch stand to display them. You can’t quite see it in the picture, but the white cupcakes on the bottom rung spell out “The Adventure Begins.”
June and July were wonderful, but busy months. One of my best friends came to Toronto for a visit at the beginning of June, so we met up there, toured the ROM, grabbed gelato, and saw Showstoppers. It was delightful.
In mid-June I went down to Harrisonburg, Virginia for a conference at Eastern Mennonite University entitled Crossing the Line: Women of Anabaptist Traditions Encounter Borders and Boundaries. I went to present some of my dissertation research, but the conference had a rich diversity of presenters, and I was particularly inspired listening to women leaders from Mennonite churches in Africa and Asia talk about their experiences. It was spiritually life-giving for me, and gave me hope for the Church, which has been in pretty short supply for me lately.
While I was nearby, I also took the time to visit DC, which I had never seen before. I spent the day at the Smithsonian Museums of American History and the American Indian, and I enthusiastically recommend both. If you get the chance (and don’t mind a lunch that’s a little on the pricey side), I also recommend the Mitsitam Cafe at the Museum of the American Indian. The plum agua fresca in particular was amazing.
July, of course, was marked by my sister’s wedding, which was lovely. I particularly loved this candid shot my aunt took of me and my sister before she left for her honeymoon.
While we were back in New Brunswick, we also had the chance to spend quality time with friends and family, which was great. I particularly enjoyed spending time with my oldest niece and hearing all about the robots she plans to design. I fully expect her to become rich and famous and support all of us someday.
And finally, July brought a lovely and unexpected professional opportunity: the chance to teach a course by myself in the fall. I’m really looking forward to it: I know the material well, and I’ve loved my TA-ships and my mentored teaching unit, so this is a great chance to take it to the next level. I’m enjoying all the prep work already and excited for the actual classroom component to start.
That’s it for me for the past two months. Be sure to check out some of the other posts in the link-up!