sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 21, 2017

mapley maple impression
posted by soe 2:58 am

I just woke up from dozing off while working on a book review post, which is a sign I should close the laptop, brush my teeth, and go to bed, particularly since I’m still carrying around this lingering cough.

So I’ll share some photos I took Sunday while out for a bike ride. Some trees have totally dropped their leaves, but others have donned their best party attire for the upcoming holiday:

The majority of trees in this area turn yellow and orange. (I suppose the majority of trees everywhere do that.) But since I grew up in New England, I expect a certain amount of mapley red and usually am disappointed down here. Right now, the Japanese maples are out in full force, but mostly their red is a deeper, more purpley one and less fiery than the sugar maples of home.

So when I come across a solidly mapley maple (or, as in this case, a Japanese maple doing its best sugar maple impression), I just have to snap a picture, right?

Maple Near UDC



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November 19, 2017

coffeeneuring 2017: ride #3
posted by soe 1:57 am

There are nine books to write about for June, so I’m going with the easier option of a Coffeeneuring ride, especially since Rudi posted those photos for me.

Coffeeneuring Ride #3: Shop Made in DC (1330 19th St., N.W.) and Shaw (Watha T. Daniels) Library (1630 7th St., N.W.)

Shaw Library

Saturday, Oct. 21; 4.7 miles

Hot chocolate, cardamom kouign amann

If you’re going to talk about the revitalization of D.C.’s branch libraries, it’s impossible to have that discussion without highlighting the one in the Shaw neighborhood. This happens to be my current secondary library branch, the one I’m most easily able to get to on my way home from work. (more…)

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November 14, 2017

coffeeneuring 2017: ride #4
posted by soe 1:37 am

No, in case you were paying attention, you did not miss posts on rides #2 or #3. Because ride #2 was to my regular library, I didn’t think to take photos inside, so I want to go back and get some to show it off properly. And I had a good portion of the post for ride #3 done when I realized that I wanted to include shots that are on Rudi’s phone (and he’s sleeping).

So, we’re skipping ahead to ride #4:

Coffeeneuring Ride #4: A Baked Joint (440 K St., N.W.) and Rosedale Library (1701 Gales St., N.E.)

Rosedale Neighborhood Library

Saturday, Oct. 28; 11.63 miles

Hot chocolate, brownie-chocolate chip cookie bar

For this ride, the first of the longer ones I was planning for Coffeeneuring, I thought I’d thought things out enough. I’d requested some of my holds to be delivered to libraries around the city, hoping they’d arrive spaced far enough apart to accommodate my plan. I got the notice that Exit West had arrived at the Rosedale Neighborhood Library, and knew that library was the nearest branch to Mason Dixie Biscuit Company, where I planned to do the drinking portion of my ride.

Rosedale Library's Featured Books

The ride out went mostly fine, given I wasn’t fully sure of where I was going and that I’d put my phone in my pannier, rather than leaving it accessible for consultation, which meant I kept having to stop after a certain point.

The Rosedale neighborhood is in Northeast, just past where the H St. Corridor development extends, which means it’s a diverse neighborhood. On this Saturday before Halloween, there were lots of kids about and holiday preparations were firmly underway.

Rosedale Library Display

The Rosedale Neighborhood Library, which shares space with the local parks & rec/community center, was built in 2012 to replace two of the one-room kiosk libraries that had served the community since the 1970s (you can see the H St. one, now an arts space, here).

Like Northwest One, Rosedale’s branch is a large, communal space divided into sections using low-rise stacks. It’s got an open industrial ceiling, but they use these cool leaf mobile sculptures to help make it seem more homey, to help soften the light, and, I’m guessing, to help dampen the sound.

Leaf Sculpture Mobiles at Rosedale Library

This Saturday afternoon, the library was doing brisk business and I don’t think there were any empty chairs. I quickly found Exit West, perused the videos, and then went over to check out the new releases shelf, where I found a cookbook devoted to pumpkin/squash recipes that needed to come home with me.

Back outside, I looked up directions to Mason Dixie, only to discover, thanks to Google’s omnipresence, that it closed in 15 minutes. I’d considered many details, but never that a restaurant would close mid-afternoon. Clearly that option was not going to work. Retracing my steps homeward, I thought about where I could head that would still be open by the time I arrived. A Baked Joint came to mind and I pointed my bike toward the Mount Vernon/NoMa area of town.

A Baked Joint is a sister establishment to my favorite cupcake shop in D.C. and I hoped they’d share the same approach to making hot chocolate, which involves a large frappe glass, oodles of whipped cream, and chocolate chips. Should you find yourself craving cocoa, they have my vote for best in region. The bakery case was starting to look a little bare, so the cashier recommended this half-brownie-half chocolate chip cookie bar. It was large and rich, and I definitely should have brought half home with me to eat later instead of gorging myself on the entire thing in one sitting.

Coffeeneuring at A Baked Joint

I found a table outside next to their greenspace and read my books for a while. I had just commented to the woman reading at the table next to mine that I kept hoping the light above us would turn on when I looked down and realized there was a rat near my foot. (I had seen the holes in the ground when I sat down, so I knew there was a burrow, but I’d figured they’d wait until it was legitimately dark to come out. Oops!) We both agreed that was the sign that it was time to move!

After taking my dishes inside, I came back out to the bike racks (the cafe is conveniently located next to a bike shop, so there were lots of places to park) only to discover that my seat cover had been stolen. When I’d arrived, some young men had been hanging out nearby and while I was inside I noticed they were pulling wheelies awfully close to the tables (I have seen some very balanced guys ride wheelies for blocks in traffic, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they were totally in control and not actually endangering anyone). Because they were gone when I came back outside, I didn’t give them another thought until I returned to the bike. And I didn’t actually see them take it, so I could totally be wrong. They didn’t take my pannier or any of my lights, thank goodness, so it clearly had been a stupid dare, but since I use a seat cover because my silicone gel-filled seat has some big, leaking holes in it, I was irked. Luckily, I had a plastic bag I use for rain protection in my pannier, so I tied that over the seat and rode home on it. Since the seat cover had big chunks of silicone stuck to the inside, I’m really hoping whoever stole it decided to put it on their head and then got them stuck in their hair. It would serve them right!

Much to my delight, the company where I buy the seat covers (I’d wondered if they’d be stolen, so had ordered two and then had the first one taken from in front of my office the first week I used it) had a free shipping sale two days later and new ones (3 this time, with one being boring black so as to attract less attention than the ones I prefer) arrived within the week.

So, not quite the ride I’d planned for or wanted, but still it was good to check out a new neighborhood and a new library.

If you missed it, this post explains what Coffeeneuring is and why I’m visiting local libraries during it.

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November 6, 2017

coffeeneuring 2017: ride #1
posted by soe 1:03 am

Every fall, M.G. hosts a Coffeeneuring challenge in which participants ride their bicycles to someplace and drink coffee or another similar beverage. This is my fifth year taking part and I decided to put more thought into the option to a theme within a theme than I did last year, when my plan to finish knitting projects and books during the event scaled down to knitting and reading.

So, I opted to make this year’s theme within a theme visiting some of D.C.’s 25 branch libraries. Some of these libraries are ones I’ve been to before, while others are entirely new to me.

Coffeeneuring Ride #1: Sugar Shack Doughnuts (1932 9th St N.W.) and Northwest One (155 L St. NW)

Sugar Shack in Shaw

Saturday, Oct. 14; ~6 miles (I’ll give concrete details after I get them from Rudi’s Strava details)

Hot chocolate, doughnuts (sprinkled and Butterfinger)

I kicked off my first Coffeeneuring ride by convincing Rudi we ought to ride over to Sugar Shack in Shaw and see if they still had quidditch doughnuts (they included a Golden Snitch doughnut hole) in the afternoon. Alas, they did not. But because I like to stay up to date on my doughnut shops, I knew that Sugar Shack’s social media feeds always includes offers for free doughnuts in exchange for certain things, like wearing a sports jersey or having a “q” in your name. So before we left home, I checked and that day’s challenge was to sing the Hogwarts school song and you’d get a free house doughnut. If you’re familiar with the Harry Potter world, you’ll remember that the song has neither a set tune nor tempo, so all you have to do is sing a couple stanzas and you’re golden. So we did. (Rudi opted for singing to “Ode to Joy,” while I literally just made up a melody as I went along.)

Sugar Shack Goodies

Which meant we got to eat two doughnuts each — one for lunch and one for dessert. Mine were sprinkled and Butterfinger (the ones on the left), which I combined with a cup of hot chocolate. The doughnuts were tasty, but the hot chocolate lacked whipped cream or marshmallows, which, in my opinion, make hot cocoa such a desirable drink while out. (And, yes, those are knitted doughnuts hanging from the ceiling in the photo at the top.)

Northwest One Library

We then ventured down to Northwest One, which I’d ridden past before on my bike, but had never stopped at. Located in a municipal-style building, the library abuts the Walker Jones Education Campus, a K-8 school. They have an adequate number of bike racks, but they’re right next to the trash and recycling bins, so if there were a bunch of bikes, it could be challenging to lock up. Inside, the library is a single main room divided into sections using the stacks (and some small meeting/study rooms off to the side).

Halloween Display at Northwest One

The room is tall, with many windows, so there’s a lot of light. The library has tried to make the room scale better by hanging a bunch of Calder-inspired mobiles from the ceiling, which makes the space very cheerful.

Northwest One Library Interior

I got them to unlock a dvd I’d already checked out, found a made-for-HBO baseball movie (Soul of the Game) that takes place part of the time in D.C., and pulled Jeff Zentner’s most recent book off the new-release shelf.

Northwest One

We stopped by Giant and did some grocery shopping on our way home, which meant we were heavily laden down for the last couple miles. But all in all it was a very enjoyable start to the Coffeeneuring season.

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September 25, 2017

first fall weekending
posted by soe 1:09 am

This weekend was a busy one. Rudi and I began it with an outdoor showing of last year’s version of Ghostbusters, which we enjoyed just as much the second time as the first.

On Saturday, I began the day slowly, sleeping in, but with an agenda: Saturday was Art All Night D.C., the sixth annual event modeled after Paris’ all-night cultural party, Nuit Blanche. D.C. lacks the night owls of Paris, though, which means that its event was scheduled to run 7 p.m.-3 a.m., with various locations signing off early as so moved them.

We started out down the street with fire twirlers, costumed players taking each other on with flaming weapons, in a cross between a Renaissance Fair and WWE. We moved on to our local chai bar, where we got to listen to a d.j. playing Hindi music, check out a couple of artists’ work (including one with giant luxo lamps), while partaking of some tasty beverages.


We moved on to the next neighborhood, where we found the garden center already closed, but the coffee shop open. We were treated to a concert by Wytold, who play electric cello and banjo. They perform many of their own works (we bought a cd!), as well as mashups, including one of Tupac mixed with the theme from Jurassic Park.


After hanging around there for a while, we moseyed down to Blagden Alley to the D.C. Alley Museum, where there are a bunch of murals, which were being illuminated for the first time. It’s really amazing how diverse these creations by talented street artists were, ranging from portraits to abstract artwork. We also got to go into a hip p.r. agency, where a jazz band was performing.

Love Garages

Let Go

Mosaic and Painting


We moseyed up to the Shaw Library to use their bathroom just before midnight, then crossed the street to check out the artists selling their wares in an empty lot, headed into a parking garage for a dance party/mobile bar, and passed any number of artists on the street and in businesses dancing, showing their art, and demonstrating body painting. Our final stop of the night was Sugar Shack doughnuts, where we found the selection picked over, but still delightful, particularly when the counterman gave them to us for free.

We headed back to Dupont with the hopes of finishing the night at art events in our own neighborhood, but they all seemed to have closed far earlier than the 3 a.m. ending time led us to believe. We were tuckered out from all that walking though, so were just as happy to head home for the night.

This morning, I got up early for the farmers market and then spent the afternoon sweltering at the D.C. State Fair. I ate local pizza, drank local root beer, and consumed a slice of cherry pie, a contender for the best home baked pie category, that was both a treat for the eye and the palate. I bought a new dish towel, and after wandering off to the local branch of the library, a pile of books and dvds from their Friends-of sale.

D.C. State Fair Cherry Pie

Friends of the Library Book Sale Haul

We concluded the evening by watching the first episode of Star Trek, which I wasn’t wowed by, which is good because the rest of the series is going to be a paid show, and I only believe in paying for shows by watching commercials, a dying concept which has definitely contributed to the large number of books I’ve read this year.

How was your weekend?

Category: arts,dc life. There is/are 4 Comments.

September 5, 2017

national book festival and other weekendy things
posted by soe 3:28 am

This long Labor Day weekend marked the traditional end of summer fun and the recognition that fall is nigh. It meant time at the pool, enjoying the last days of outdoor swimming. It meant harvesting our basil plants from the garden, but still getting to have our traditional Sunday summer supper of caprese sandwiches and corn on the cob. It meant spending the evening at the park, but being home by 8 because you can no longer read outside. It meant buying tomatoes at the farmers market, but also leeks because the idea of hot soup no longer requires taking a nap.

But it also meant the 17th annual National Book Festival, hosted by the Library of Congress, one of my favorite events of the year.

I am not a morning person, so while every year I plan the authors I’d like to see from the first time slot to the final one, I’m not sure I’ve yet managed to arrive early enough to catch the first act. This year was no different, and I didn’t walk into the convention center until noon, shortly before the first panel I’d declared “must see” in my head.

Melissa de la Cruz, Nicola Yoon, and Sandhya Menon

On the YA stage were Melissa de la Cruz (who’s got a Christmas-themed romance coming out this fall, as a follow-up to her Hamilton-themed YA novel), Nicola Yoon (whose The Sun Is Also a Star is the reason I was there), and Sandhya Menon (I read When Dimple Met Rishi earlier this summer — it’s cute) to have a panel discussion about falling in love. While I tend to prefer a single author reading & talking about her/his experiences to conversation-style presentations, this one seemed to work well. All three had interesting things to say not only about love (“You all really love our husbands,” since that’s who the male leads are at least partly modeled on), but also about immigration and diversity.

A.S. King

I tracked down a copy of the festival poster (my collection will someday be framed and will festoon the walls of my home library) and proceeded down to the basement, where the kids’ stages were set up. Amy Sarig (A.S.) King was sharing her new middle-grade novel, Me and Marvin Gardens, about a boy in a town where housing developments had taken over the areas that had once been farm fields and the plastic-eating monster he finds. She used to live on a farm and shared how she raised chickens and would have to plan 20 weeks ahead of when she wanted to send out manuscripts because she’d need to sell enough to cover the cost of postage. She was also really funny with the kids: After she spoke admiringly of Where the Wild Things Are and the librarian who introduced her to it, a kid asked if she’d written it. After clarifying the point, the kid asked if they were friends. “No! I wish!” she said to them, adding to the adult audience members, “That’ll have to wait for later.”

Kathleen Glasgow

Back upstairs I went to hear Kathleen Glasgow talk about her YA novel, Girl in Pieces, about a girl who lives through terrible things and survives them in part by engaging in self-harm. She says she gets a lot of criticism from parents, who feel her work is too dark, and therefore inappropriate, for teens to read. But those are the very stories we need to tell, she explained, so that teens living those dark stories have a place to process them. She also said that it was particularly important for YA novels to offer a glimmer of hope in them (and even better if the protagonist is responsible for creating that hope themselves), because teens without any needed to be able to see that things can get better.

Kelly BarnhillAt this point, it was necessary to pause for lunch and to sit quietly by myself for a bit. I find this helps me deal with the crowds, which are much more oppressive inside than they were when the festival was down on the Mall.

Afterwards, I returned to the children’s stage, where Kelly Barnhill was talking about her lovely fantasy novel, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, who had a really engaging way of interacting with the kids in the audience. After being joined by Rudi, who hadn’t been able to get in the room where Michael Lewis was speaking, we raced back up to YA to catch my other must-see author, Angie Thomas, who wrote The Hate U Give.

Angie Thomas

Angie’s session was an interview between her and a reporter from the Washington Post, and I don’t think it worked as well as it could have if Angie had just gotten up and spoken. The interviewer asked her about how the main character uses two ways of speaking — one at her predominantly white school and one at home in her primarily Black community — and asked how she’d done that and if she’d thought of Starr as two separate characters. I literally groaned aloud and whispered angrily to Rudi that only a white interviewer would ask such a stupid question. Angie answered more gracefully, explaining the term is called code switching and that she was doing it right then and that it’s a skill many people of color use to navigate in social settings. She spoke about how she found adult books boring, how “reluctant readers” often aren’t so much reluctant to read as reluctant to read what people give them to read, about the upcoming film adaptation, about her second book, about how white feminists are often slow to see their own privilege, and about how you can write outside of your lived experiences, but if you get things wrong, you should expect to be called out on that and to be graceful about it.

Finally, Rudi and I went down to the graphic novels stage for the final authors of the night. Gene Luen Yang shared that the superpower he’d like most is the ability to multiply time so he could make his deadlines, two editorial cartoonists spoke about how they developed their personal styles and about creating political commentary in this era. We also got to see Lincoln Pierce, whose “Big Nate” strips are among my favorites in the Sunday comics. But the highlight of the stage was definitely Roz Chast, whose exhaustion at the end of the day made her very giggly and slightly confused about the prompting messages being held up for the moderator. She shared that living in the suburbs made her far more nervous than living in the city, although she punctuated this by telling the story of a man who had a sink hole open up beneath him as he walked, swallowing one of his legs.

Roz Chast

All in all, another good festival, and I’m looking forward to next year’s.

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