The Winternight Series by Katherine Arden

Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Synopsis At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year but Vasilisa doesn't mind--she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil. After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa's new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa's stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent. As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed--this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales.

Thoughts - I read this book in 2017. The second book hadn't come out yet and I sort of forgot about the series. I thought about it again and thought I'd complete the series since the next two books had been published. The following thoughts are copied from my 2017 post. This is a magnificent tale.. it took me a while to get into it.. there are a lot of Russian terms and initially I found my self rereading paragraphs.. so I will say do not read this when you are in the mood for something light and quick.. this is a deep and all consuming sort of tale and so worth it.. this may just be my favorite of the year.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

SynopsisVasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, she has only two options left: marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey. after she prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues—and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy—she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.

Thoughts - Since I was reading the second book after 4 years it again took me a while to get into.. it has a lot of Russain terms, thankfully Ms. Arden provides a glossary at the back of the book. Within a couple of chapters the story had managed to fully absorb me. The writing is so rich. I don't really now how to describe it but I can tell you this.. being a women it pretty much every century has sucked. But I'll still take this century. Hands down. This is by no means I light book. I highly recommend it though. 

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

SynopsisNow Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

Thoughts - WOW.. just wow. I am glad I read the last two books back to back. The last book starts seconds after the second book ends and a chapter in and my heart was already shattered. The author made such a bold opening move. I hated her and was in awe of her for being so courageous. It was a magnificent story. The fantasy/folklore gets more intricate and complicated with every book as our heroine learns more about the world and herself. I had to reread parts especially about 'midnight' that I didn't initially understand fully. But once again.. a terrific must read book. The heroine is young and na├»ve, yet so strong and courageous. It was wonderful watching her grow into this amazing woman. I started the book in tears and ended it in tears.. this time happy tears. 


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Friday Photography

Photograph Fluffy White Scottish Sheep

Scottish Sheep Grazing in the Isle of Sky Scotland
Scottish Highlands Travel Art Print Home Decor

Sheep - Scottish sheep found in the Isle of Skye. Over 100,000 sheep inhabit the beautiful island. To read more about our trip to Scotland click here

You can buy this print here. Get Free Shipping with code BLOGGER

Prints also available in larger sizes. Contact for more information and special requests.

I am open to wholesale and licensing opportunities. Get in touch for more information.

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Spring Break in the Outer Banks

It already seems forever ago but late March we found ourselves in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. We choose this coastal destination mainly because it was off season there.. so less crowds. It was approximately a 7 hour drive.. we set of Saturday morning and we reached Kill Devil Hills late afternoon. We rented this AirBnb. It was a condo, a walk away from the beach and tons of restaurants. And so beautifully decorated.

We walked over to place a take out order at Bonzer Shack and walked on the beach till our food was ready. 

Day1. We had breakfast at Stack em High

and then off to Jockey Ridge State Park. It is a free state park and home to the tallest active sand dunes in the eastern United States. When we walked up the first little dune and entered the main park area it was a wow moment.  

They ran around and flew kites. On the other side of the dunes was the Roanoke Sound. They had a small visitor center which was worthy of perusal.

Our next stop was the beach near Jennettes Pier.. while a little windy, it was a sunny day but the water was frigid. 

Afterwards we grabbed lunch at Food Dudes and just chilled out at the apartment. And picked up take out from Khan Mongolian Grill for dinner. 

This trip we also decided to give each child some spending money. They were allowed to spend it at their discretion though we guided them towards making better decisions. In the end they both came home with a couple of dollars left over. 

Day 2. We stood in line to grab some of the famous Duck Donuts and drove down to another beach near Avon Pier to enjoy a little breakfast at the beach.  The Outer Banks have a total of seven piers.

These were incredible. Piping hot. Turns out there is a Duck donuts 20 min from our place as well.. 

Pigeon prints!

Afterwards we headed to the Wright Brothers Memorial. 

There was a small indoor museum and large outdoor grounds. There are large stone markers placed for each of their early flights. Their story is quite the lesson in perseverance.

We stopped for lunch at Goombay's Grill. We noticed that most restaurants in the OBX did a lot of fancy drinks for kids.. and they all came with toys. So my boys were extremely excited. We are a no soda, no sugary juices family when at home but we let them indulge a bit when we go on vacation. Below is a video of H's drink.

As for restaurants in the time of Covid. We got take out for all of our dinners and some of our lunches. But we did venture inside some restaurants for breakfast and a couple of lunches. 

We went for a short walk at Sandy Run Park.. and saw so many turtles. We found a green snake and a couple of osprey.

There were many many mini golf places dotting the Outer Banks and they kids had been asking to go since they spotted the first one.. So we played mini golf. Bought some very strong coffee from the Front Porch Cafe and bought a painted tile made by a local artist, Stephanie Kiker. And then off to the Duck Boardwalk. The boardwalk is about a mile long and the perfect way to see the Currituck Sound. The boardwalk is dotted with shops and eateries. We picked up a pizza from Dare Devil's Pizza on our way back to the apartment.

Day 3. We had breakfast at Miller's Seafood and Steakhouse and then journeyed south to Bodie's Lighthouse. The current Bodie Island Lighthouse is the third that has stood in this vicinity of Bodie Island on the Outer Banks in North Carolina and was built in 1872. It stands 156 feet tall and is located on the Roanoke Sound side of the first island that is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. 

Our next stop was at the Pea National Wildlife Reserve. It was a short and easy walk around the reserve. A dream for bird watchers. There were many types of what we assumed were ducks and quite a few pelicans as well. 

We saw an extraordinary amount of duck or geese flying.. migrating. Not sure but it was quite a sight. 

We stopped to have lunch at Watermen's Bar and Grille. side noted - the houses in the area looked amazing.. I like looking at houses.. I can spend hours on Zillow.. some of the houses especially in the southern part of Outer Banks as well as near Duck were just exceptional. 

Our final stop was at Cape Hattera's Lighthouse. There were parts under construction. There was no giant map to point you in the direction of any other hikes in the area nor a proper visitors center and it was honestly a bit of a let down. So with a little Google magic we hopped back into our car and headed for the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. There was no entry fee and we arrived 30 minutes before closing so we made the most of our time and took no pictures. Did you know that there have been over 3000 ship wrecks off the coast of the Outer Banks? This is mainly do to shoaling. From what I understood the sea bed in the Outer Banks region is constantly changing creating and dissolving sandbars with such speed that they could not record all the changes fast enough to be able to make a functioning map for seamen to follow. The five lighthouses present on the banks' primary purpose was to warn ships to not enter the area. 

There was a beach entrance across the street from the museum and we decided on a quick stroll. The beach was a see rock collectors dream. I am not one to bring home sea shells and rocks.. that's more of H's thing but they were all just so pretty! We brought home some but it took an immense amount of restraint to not bring back a bag full. Below are just a few. Are you a rock/shell collector? what do you do with them? Put them in a bowl? 

Day 4. We caved and bought Duck Donuts again! We had booked a 10 am kayaking trip with Outer Banks Kayak Adventures The weather was perfect and we had such a wonderful two hours on the water. H and I shared a kayak and D kayaked all by himself. We were very impressed. We had to maneuver through narrow canals and dodge low hanging branches. We saw many many turtles and even a baby alligator.

We had lunch at Mama Kwans and then went back to the apartment.. It's one of the things we like most about staying at an AirBnb or Vrbo, its easy to just go back and hang out, plenty of space for everyone. Not so enjoyable when you are in a cramped hotel room. Later that evening we went to Roanoke Island, the home of the mysterious 'lost colony'. Many things were closed due to Covid, others were closed due to it being off season. Not much fun. We grabbed dinner at Ortegaz. 

Day 5. We were having breakfast at Bob's Grill when we got a call from two tours that we had booked for  that day, both would be cancelled due to high winds and rain. So we called it a day and headed back to the apartment. Played board games, read and watched a movie. 

Day 6. I called around and managed to get another slot to go see the wild horses of Corolla. It was still a cold day. We had breakfast at Millers again and went on a  hike through Nags Head Woods.

Then we headed to Corolla for our wild horses tour. The belief is that long ago a few Spanish ship's wrecked and the horse on the ships swam to the Outer Banks and have lived there ever since. The tour operator advised to bring blanket as it might be a little chilly. I have to tell you.. it was not just chilly. It was arctic cold to be driving around a beach in an open truck! 

The kids ducked underneath their blankets and didn't come out until the tour was over. We saw one distant horse. The tour guide said the horses don't like the wind so we many not see any today.. um.. excuse me?! Then why are we on this tour? I understand not being able to control the horses and us not being able to see any.. happens on whale watching tours as well. Matter of luck. But if you know for a fact with your decades of experience in the business than you should let people know even on the day of the tour that the weather is bad and you can come but our advice would be to skip it.. because the chances of seeing a horse are going to be low to not existent. We were able to suck it up but I felt bad for the kids.. we were afraid they'd get sick.. I don't think an elderly person could have handled it either.. we were just counting down the minutes until this wretched tour would end.. we didn't even care about the horses anymore.  

Day 7. Packed up. Had our last breakfast at Stack em High. Said goodbye to the Outer Banks and headed home.
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Where Are You From?

Where are you from? Pretty simple question. Good conversation starter. We get asked all the time.. and we reply, simply, New Jersey. And if it ended there... then no problem. Have a quick Jersey related convo, you've been there.. something about the Giants.. and we move on. But the conversation has actually never.. ever.. gone that way. 

And we already know what the next question is going to be. 'No but really, where are you from?' Now in our brain we are contemplating whether you are just trying to start a conversation and because you are white and have never actually experienced racism you don't know that you are making us very very uncomfortable. Or are you going to be an actual racist and are going to tell us to go back to our own country. 

Thankfully that is the worst we have ever had to experience.. but we know it can get so much worse and we don't know when that day will come that we will be spit on or punched or worse.. our children standing there next to us. 

Now I know what you want to hear.. but why is it my job to satisfy you? So we may reply with New Jersey again, America is also an answer. And you would think this person would get the clue and except our answer and move along.. But nope. And the thing is this is my country, born and raised. Spent about a decade out of America and then came back. My kids know no other country yet for the solitary reason that they are brown, they too will have to deal with this question. 

Here is the final question. 'But where are your ancestors from?' Now they know they will get the answer they desire. After all it is all about them isn't it? Worried, saying a prayer under our breaths but with feigned nonchalance we say Pakistan. And finally they are satisfied. A smile spread across their face. There have been instances where they have said Namaste to us.. not a Pakistani thing. You are now confusing us with Indians. We smile back because all our lives we have been taught to be non confrontational. Shrug it off.. 

I don't often post about politics or race.. and my pronouns are all over the place.. but this happened to us last week while we were on spring break but this time it wasn't just something annoying that happens to us often. For the first time it was actually scary, made my sad and angry. No ones ancestors are from here except the Native Americans. Do white people get asked that question? 

I am keeping my comments turned off for this one. 
Today is also the first day of Ramadan. 

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