50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch

July 16 — the date of the Apollo 11 launch — is an anniversary I celebrate every year. And this year, it’s a big one.


I wasn’t even born when these three headed off to the moon, but I’ve read enough about them that I feel a strong sense of connection.

Now it’s been 50 years since the world watched them take off on July 16, and it doesn’t seem possible that it could’ve been that long ago.


Anyway… let’s talk Apollo 11 books.

Here, in my opinion, are the best of the bunch…

Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys by Michael Collins

Michael Collins is my favorite of all astronauts, and his book is far and away the best astronaut memoir I’ve ever read.


A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin

The basis for the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon, and so wonderfully human-centric.


First on the Moon: A Voyage with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. by Gene Farmer and Dora Jane Hamblin

An up close and personal account of the astronauts




So yes, there are big photographic retrospectives being published, and they’re so worth a look. But to find out who these people are… the wordy books are really the way to go.

So, my fellow space geeks (I know you’re out there!)… what are your favorite books about the Apollo program?

Plan better parties

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

3 words: conversational, thought-provoking, intriguing



You know how sometimes you pick up a self-improvement book and you don’t even want to put it down? This is one of those.

Right from the start, I was drawn in by Parker’s conversational tone and then held rapt by her surprising statements about how to put together better gatherings.

I finished this book in a whirlwind right before hosting a party, and I went from my usual Mary Richards near-fiasco to a level of confidence I hadn’t had before. 

Here are my favorite takeaways from the book:

Have a purpose for your gathering

And if the purpose isn’t evident, sit down and figure it out ahead of time. This’ll give you a destination to aim for. It seriously helps make decisions about how to make the event meaningful.

Be a bossy host

Parker warns against the dangers of being a chill host — which is done to be kind, but ends up being unhelpful. Be a little bit bossy. The host should protect guests from boredom and uncertainty. Have a plan.

Equalize your guests

If people attending the gathering differ due to perceptions based on career or status, take steps to bring everyone to the same level for the duration of the gathering so they can connect as equals.

Make each gathering different from all other gatherings

Think about how this gathering will be unique and play up those aspects. 


While I’ll never be the hostess with the mostest, this book helped me up my game and made me feel more solid in my role as host.

Don’t you just love it when a book can do that for you?

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning how to plan parties that are more meaningful and meetings that are more effective, new ways of conceptualizing gatherings, why being a benevolently bossy host can be best

So, my friends… please tell me your favorite hosting tip. Or the best thing you ever experienced as a guest at a gathering. I love this stuff.

Red, white, and blue — and learning something new

As a kid, I did this dorky thing almost every year on the 4th of July: I’d sit down in the family room (the perfect room for summer — all windows on two sides) and teach myself something new. 

I’m not sure what that was all about, but I suspect that after a full month of summertime — and reading whatever I wanted all day long (oh my gosh… the bliss of it still hits me today) — I think I was feeling the need for some academic rigor. 

So I taught myself the sign language alphabet one year. And the Greek alphabet another. And the phonetic alphabet after that (…so when I saw the title Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I knew that wasn’t very nice language).  

And this year, I learned some bloggy things. The biggest part of the day I spent learning to use the Elementor plugin for WordPress. 


I reworked my About page and pre-posted a couple of upcoming posts, and then attempted to do some stuff to the header, but that didn’t work out as well. 

But I learned stuff!

And it was fun. And I didn’t even say Whiskey Tango anything at any point during the process. 

And then the Dear Man and I went for a stroll through our beautiful new neighborhood and looked at all the lovely old houses, and we talked history and it was so pleasantly geeky. And now here I am, writing this post and feeling excited about all the things I can do with Elementor. 

And now, your friendly Independence Day dork is signing off for the week. 

My fellow Americans… I hope you had a happy 4th!

What are your favorite 4th of July traditions? 


What I’ve been reading: June 2019

Oh my goodness, such good reading. I just finished Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six and I’m having that afterglow that comes from reading something absolutely amazing. I tore through it like nobody’s business and it gave me that childhood feeling of just being absorbed completely in a book. Of course, the subject matter (all that sex, all those drugs, all that rock & roll) were nothing like my childhood reading — but the sensation of rapt reading: that was me at age 9. 

The other book that’ll stay with me was The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. I hosted a gathering shortly after reading it, and I gotta say: way better hosting because of it. Useful and thought-provoking ideas. 

Here’s a full look at the month’s reading…

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

3 words: wry, ironic, grim humor

Give this book a whirl if you like… raw war stories, strong narrative voice, science fiction elements woven into a story, mid-century tone, books that keep you wondering

I read it because: book club

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

3 words: sympathetic, character study, emotional

Give this book a whirl if you like… troubled lives, people doing the best they can in difficult circumstances, immigration, Chinese-American experience, cross-cultural adoption, musicians, highly discussible books

I read it because: book club (re-read)

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

3 words: eye-opening, encouraging, life-changing

Give this book a whirl if you like… examining how our view of effort vs intelligence affects our learning, rethinking talent and intelligence, focusing on hard work

I read it because: I heard a book talk about it and was intrigued

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

3 words: conversational, thought-provoking, intriguing

Give this book a whirl if you like… how to plan parties that are more meaningful and meetings that are more effective, new ways of conceptualizing gatherings, why being a benevolently bossy host can be best

I read it because: Daniel Pink recommended it in his newsletter

Southern Lady Code: Essays by Helen Ellis

3 words: witty, snarky, funny

Give this book a whirl if you like… smart, funny essays; hilarious, strange family stories; celebrating one’s own particular weirdness; well-crafted personal essays; a woman’s perspective

I read it because: I loved her book American Housewife

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

3 words: somber, intense, poignant

Give this book a whirl if you like… stories of the road, orphans, pre-teen narrator, the Great Depression, chosen family, fleeing by canoe, children’s friendships

I read it because: free ARC from a friend who scored it (how amazing is that?!)

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

3 words: creative, compulsively readable, fast-moving

Give this book a whirl if you like… rock stars; documentary / oral history format; grim humor; the creative life; sex, drugs, and rock & roll; 1970s pop culture

I read it because: all that buzz

What were your favorite books this month?

My 19 for 2019 list: mid-year update

19 goals for 2019 — it doesn’t seem so very ambitious. But almost half the year’s zoomed by, and guess what? So much still to do! But there’s been some progress…

Here’s my goal status tally at the midpoint of the year:

Completed: 7

In progress: 6

Not yet: 6

So it could be worse.

In March, I’d made some progress, and today we’ve got an update on what’s happened since then.

Newly completed

Perfect my Caesar salad

If you don’t expect homemade Caesar dressing (and I don’t), I’ve got this one nailed.

Here’s my formula:

  • Organic romaine
  • Shaved Parmesan
  • Marie’s Caesar Dressing (based on this review)
  • Croutons: the crouton part of this recipe from Bon Apetit; I like to use Lucky 7 Grain & Seed Batard from Trader Joe’s


Style our kitchen island seasonally

We’ve now been in our new house for all four seasons, and we’ve styled the island for each of them. Here’s our summer look…

Figure out the layout of the den

We have a sweet little den in our house, and it’s my upstairs lair. It looks like this except for when I swap out the typewriter for the laptop…

Get the TVs set up

OK, so we got one TV set up. And the other one went into storage, since we don’t need a TV upstairs. (Seriously: we hardly even watch the one in the living room.) We hired an electrician, he added an outlet in the floor (it’s all hidden!) and now we’re all set. (And the most exciting part about hiring the electrician was actually that now I can run on the treadmill in the basement. I love that.)

Research the history of our (school)house

While this will be ongoing (probably for years), at this point I’ve tracked down some of the major information and have seen historic photos of our place. As a yearly goal, I think we can say it’s been achieved.

In progress

  • Learn Instagram Stories with the Dear Man
  • Spend some serious quality time with our sisters
  • Learn & use 12 new techniques on the blog  
  • Go on at least 3 history geek trips with the Dear Man
  • Have dinner twice monthly with a good friend
  • Maximize the use of our new Instant Pot

What I haven’t even started yet

  • Find out if my vintage typewriter actually works… and if so, use it
  • Write a series of blog posts
  • Actually go through all those boxes in the basement
  • Do at least 3 of the activities in This Is Where You Belong
  • Fix formatting on all blog posts
  • Go on a field trip with a good friend

As mid-year approaches, how’s your year looking? Any re-tooling of your goals for the year? (I love this stuff.)