September 28, 2019

Plant Files: Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

This plant is the star of my front flowerbeds right now!

Scientific name: Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy'
Common name: Stonecrop

Cold Hardiness: USDA zones 3-9
2 feet tall and wide
Full sun and prefers sandy/well-drained soil.
Very drought tolerant.
Blooms in fall and florets stay colorful through until killed by hard frost.

Much loved by pollinators.
If you go out on a warm day, these blooms will be just covered by bees and flies. 

Sedum, particularly this variety, is great as a cut flower as well.
You can cut the fleshy stems any time from when the florets first form and are green, all the way through the last color change.
They last practically forever in the vase and sometimes will even start rooting or growing in there.

I love the colors of the blooms!
They start this dusty pink color and then keep deepening until they become a rusty red.
They also bloom and provide long-lasting color in the late fall, when color can be hard to find.

They will die all the way down to the ground in the colder zones, like mine.
Don't worry, though, come spring they send back up little rosettes, and they're off and growing again in no time!

This is a tough plant! 
Let me tell you a little story.
One time in Washington, a friend of mine gave me some sedum starts from her garden. 
I neglected to plant them and alas, they sat out on my front garden wall in their tiny 4" pots the rest of the summer...AND fall AND winter. Yep. I'm not proud, but it's what happened.
Come spring, I was going to just throw them away, because any other plant would be dead and long gone by that point. Guess what? I saw green shoots coming up! 
Well, you'd better believe I took those starts back and got them planted that very day!
They each grew over the next few years into sizable clumps of beautiful plants.

I have 3 clumps out front, and just added 3 more to my back cutting rows.

This one is a winner!

August 15, 2019

August Bloom Day

I have got to start out this Bloom Day post with a couple of things I'm proud of.

As you know, if you've followed this blog, seed starting has not been a cakewalk for me. 
I have killed so many baby plants over the past couple of years! 

So, behold--2 plants that actually made it! 
(That's right, TWO! Can you be humble and proud at the same time? Humbly proud. 
It's a complicated feeling. Layers.)

First up:

The 'Frizzle Sizzle' pansy.

Isn't she a beauty? 

And here we have the New York Aster!
[Vigorous clapping is entirely appropriate at this point.]

(Give me my moment, alright? Remember, 2 PLANTS that made it?!)

The seeds for these plants are super duper tiny--specks, is all.
And now just look at it! It's almost 3 feet tall and about read to start flowering! 
(I think--it's a fall-flowering plant, apparently.)
This survivor right here gives me such a happy feeling whenever I see it!

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, here's the rest:

Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'
Very pretty, but very short stems for cutting.
I need some mini bouquets or dance flowers to put these in--they would really shine!

Same, plus a China aster.

This front pot--you can't go wrong with geraniums and sweet potato vine.
It always seems like the fancier I try to get with my flower pots, the worse they do.
This couldn't be any simpler, but I have been enjoying it this summer!

My 'Limelight' hydrangea is finally getting some blooms!
I'm wondering if it could actually use more sunlight.
This seems awfully late in the season for hydrangea blooms.
We've got frost coming in a month. 
Go Limelight Go!

'Fragrant Angel' echinacea, above and below

I have absolutely loved these, especially the green centers before they are all the way mature!
Love. I will plant a whole bunch more this fall if I can find them!

Let's see, roses haven't put on their fall blooms yet, sedums are still green (but coming), and I do have some sunflowers blooming out in my flower farm/cutting garden patch.
A handful of other stuff out there too.

What's blooming in your garden right now? 

August 7, 2019

The Year Of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes

What can I say? Another Newberry Honor book. Still plugging away at that goal, even though I have officially given it up.  This one was great!

The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes
Newbery Honor 2014

4 stars: Warm hearted and simply delightful!

Billy's Papa is an artist and his Mama is an High School English teacher. Unlike most other kids he knows, his mom is the one who goes to work every day, while his dad stays home and takes care of him and his little sister Sal.

Billy's going to start 2nd grade soon, and he has some worries. 1--Is he smart enough for 2nd grade? 2-Is it babyish to call his mom and dad Mama and Papa? 3-Will his teacher like him?  In the introductory letter his teacher sent home before school she said it was the Year of the Rabbit, but his Papa says it's going to be the Year of Billy Miller. He's pretty sure his Papa is right!

* * * * *
I didn't know what to expect going into this one, and to be completely honest, I had been putting off reading it a bit, because it just didn't catch my eye. It was a happy surprise to find how much I enjoyed it. It reminded me of a Beverly Cleary book, in that the situations are all everyday stuff that every kid goes through. The family is generally happy, even though the father is struggling with his art ("looking for a breakthrough".)

Sal made me chuckle a couple of times, and Billy's worries and the resolutions were like a window into my own 7-year-old's world. Things that seem small to the grownups loom large when you're 7. It's good to remember that. There was so much that made me smile. Billy is surrounded by loving adults--even the babysitter! You know that he's going to get all this stuff figured out.

I'm encouraging my boy to read it. I hope he does, because I think he would find a lot in common with Billy, and a lot to like about the story.


Have you read this one? What did you think? My favorite were the Drop Sisters.

July 31, 2019

Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson

I've had a stack of books checked out from the library for 3+ weeks now. This is the first one in the stack I've gotten to--partly because I knew it would be a quick read due to format. It was the perfect length for a little sit-down rest between lunch and afternoon projects.

Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson
Newbery Honor 2016

4 stars: Troubles associated with growing up, plus ROLLER DERBY!

Astrid had never even heard of roller derby, until one night her mom takes her and her best friend Nicole to see a bout. Astrid loves every minute of it! She wants to do it so bad! She is very excited when her mom points out that they are offering a camp for girls ages 12-17 over the summer, and even more excited when her mom signs her for the camp. The only damper to this fun time is that her bestie Nicole isn't doing it with her. You see, Nicole actually likes ballet and wasn't really into the whole roller derby thing. They have been attached at the hip for years now, so this is going to be a big change.

Despite her dreams of instant success and stardom, as it turns out Astrid isn't very good at roller skating, and also, she is way out of shape compared to everyone else. What she lacks in skills, however, she makes up for in determination. She is going to do this! Make way for this girl!

* * * * *
Roller derby ladies are like, 1000x cooler than I will ever be, but I think they're awesome. Also, it doesn't sound fun to me at all in reality, but reading a book about it was great fun. One of my favorite parts were all their roller girl names. I'm not going to lie--I spent a good portion of the book trying to come up with a name for myself. Haven't thought of a worthy one...yet. I may or may not get back to you on that.

Like so many middle grade novels, this one was about changing friendships, and discovering yourself. The roller derby itself made for a fresh take on the age old topic, and the graphic novel format was a perfect fit, keeping the narrative moving at a fast clip. Astrid's growth was satisfying and realistic. I liked her as a character very much.

I don't read very many graphic novels, but this one was a hit! Glad it got some recognition. Oh, also my 9 year old daughter told me that it was "a really good one." So there you go.

Content: One swear word, mentioned as something Astrid was called by a bully.


July 25, 2019

2 Books Featuring Wedding Planners

Have you inadvertently read a couple of books back to back that were on a theme? That happened to me this month. The first book I chose as a prize for Summer Reading (they let adults get prizes here along with the kids--if you turn in your reading log, that is!), and the second one has been sitting on my shelf for quite awhile now.

Anyway. They both featured wedding planners. Random! So, if you like that very particular niche, then this set of books should be right up your alley!

Once and For All, by Sarah Dessen

2.5 stars: I liked Louna a lot. The not so much.

Louna's mom is a wedding planner extraordinaire. She's so good that her schedule is booked up months, or even years in advance. She has it all down. Her business partner William makes up for anything she lacks (he's the best at comforting nervous brides) and Louna fills in wherever she's needed. It's like clockwork...except for when it isn't.

There's always snags and things to watch out for, but this time it's not a thing, it's a person: Ambrose Little, the son of the bride. He's out flirting (!) with some girl and holding up the entire wedding ceremony. Louna is sent out to find him...and the rest is history. Ha! Not quite. She yanks him into line, sidesteps his multiple attempts to get her dance and thinks that he is out of her life after this one night. Not so fast.

Ambrose just keeps turning up. The thing is, Louna can't stand him. The other thing is, she hasn't recovered from a tragic first romance and the last thing she wants or needs is this clown of a boy hanging around.  I think you can probably see where this is headed.

* * * * *
There was a lot to enjoy in this book. All the wedding planner bits were very funny and spot-on--from the handful of weddings I have seen, anyway. I also liked Louna, and her best friend Jilly, with all the younger siblings hanging around all the time. Ambrose--couldn't stand him. Hey, I guess that meant I related to Louna a little better?

Here's what bugged me: in my mind I have Dessen pegged as a "clean" young adult author. Meaning, that most of her books don't have the sex, violence, or bad language. This one was mostly clean. However, there is a sex scene. No, it's not graphic, but it's there. I was disappointed with that to begin with--there was that hint of betrayal (Sarah Dessen, how could you?!) If that weren't bad enough, though, it was at the end of 1 NIGHT knowing this guy. Not going to say who. I was so frustrated with her, with the boy, with Dessen for coming up with this nonsense. Just a lot of frustration.

I realize that the idea of High Schoolers having sex has become totally normalized. I get that, but I don't have to like it and I certainly don't buy into it! It really bugs me that it's just expected, pretty much, if 2 book teenagers are in a relationship that they're going to have sex. Anyway, that is not the norm in my home! I'm not keeping this book around, even though I liked almost everything else about it, because I'm certainly not going to hand it to my teenage daughter someday.

End of rant.

Content: Guess I don't need to belabor the point any more. There is a sex scene. Oh, also there are some school shootings, which are there but not really dealt with much.

Diamond Rings are Deadly Things, by Rachelle J. Christensen

4 stars: I want more!

Adrielle Pyper is an up and coming wedding planner in Sun Valley, Idaho. She has just gotten her feet on the ground and is starting to book some high-rolling clients when her store takes a devastating blow. They have recently started to sell wedding gowns, and their first shipment included some very expensive, one-of-a-kind gowns. Well, someone broke into their shop and vandalized the gowns, including the one meant for a famous (and very picky) client.

On top of that, Adrielle finds something...very unusual in the hem of a different gown, that has her wondering what she has stumbled into. Yes, she should call the police, but they simply can't afford to have this gown confiscated as evidence right now! If she can keep these items safe until after the wedding, then bring in the police, it could mean the difference between her business thriving and folding.

There's a bit of romance, too.

* * * * *
This was a fun one. As a fairly new business owner myself, I was rooting for Adrielle. I always roll my eyes when the characters in a mystery say, "But I CAN'T go to the police! I had better solve this myself." At least this time it seemed like the reasoning behind her delay made sense beyond just a whim.

I liked her as a character and her friend and family. The love triangle was okay. I mean, it was obvious who she should pursue, but she had a few mishaps getting to that point, of course. Unfortunately, I guessed the twist. Actually it really reminded me of a different book I've read--can't think of the name of it right now--so I had my suspicions early on. I was right.

Despite that, I want to read more in this series, and by this author. It was a fun quick read.

July 20, 2019

July Bloom Day

A belated Bloom Day post for July. (Is there any other kind? HA!)

Despite my feeling like everything is a whole big mess o' weeds, I do have a few things blooming this month. Oh, and it IS a mess of weeds too. They are not mutually exclusive!

 These Shirley poppies keep coming and bringing me joy.
They're not great for cutting, but I still love 'em!

These lilies. 
Just can't get enough of the pink and purple-speckledy goodness.
These ones are planted out in front, down the line. 

Okay, these lilies are fine too, but you know--not like the pinks above.
They have been very useful for cutting this year.

Bachelor's buttons 'Blue Boy' keep pumping out the blooms.
I just went and deadheaded a bunch yesterday in hopes of keeping them coming.

Oops. More poppies. 
Double pinks this time.

And...we'll finish it off with a look at my snapdragon patch in bloom--with the dead weed field behind. We're hoping to get a sprinkler system put in back there and actual grass planted this fall.
So these are the snaps I bought as a flat from the grocery store (!) this spring. 
I noticed that they were the same variety ('Rocket') I had tried starting from seed, but were ever so much bigger than mine at home. Best $20 I spent all spring!
I love snapdragons!
With a good hard pinching at planting time, these are all putting up 4-6 stems, and the ones I 've already cut on have put up some new side shoots as well. 
If I could keep cutting snaps until fall, I would be so happy!
In any case, I'll take them for as long as they'll go!

I have a handful of roses blooming now, as well, but most of them have come and gone with their first flush. So just got them deadheaded this week as well. Hoping for a second round in about a month.

What's blooming at your house this month? 

July 13, 2019

Mini Theme: True Medical Mysteries

I really enjoy books where a medical case is presented, and then the doctor has to try to figure out what in the world is going on with that patient. The hope is, of course, that they do figure it out in time to save the patient. True stories--just to be clear.

If this type of book sounds interested to you, read on! I have a handful to get you started.

Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis, by Lisa Sanders

4 stars: Problems and perils of diagnosing patients, with interesting case studies to back up her points.

As the title would suggest, this book is from the POV of the doctor. Sanders says in the introduction that she hoped to put readers right there at the bedside, with the clues (symptoms) presented and the knowledge or lack thereof that the doctor has to go on in order to find the correct diagnosis. As such, it is broken into sections based on the parts of a physical exam: the patient's history, the actual physical exam, technology/testing, and what she calls "Limits of the Medical Mind." Each section has chapters within it delving into more detail about the various aspects of that method of diagnosing patients, along with case studies of real patients.

* * * * *
I found this one fascinating. Then again, I also like to read my husband's medical journals when they come in the mail. There are so many variables standing between the sick patient and the saving treatment, including: the way they tell their story to the doctor (do they leave out crucial details or tell so much that the important stuff gets lost), what symptoms are presenting at the time of the exam, what the tests show or don't show, and so on.

I was reminded again of the importance of networking amongst doctors. Many of these difficult cases were solved by the doctor/s calling up a friend who was a specialist in that field, or even just another doctor with a lot of experience, and running the case by them to get some feedback. Often it was the collective memory of knowledge that came to the right conclusion, more so than one particular doctor.

If you liked this one, I've got 2 more for you!

The Medical Detectives, below, is more about epidemiologists figuring out what has caused clusters of severe illness, rather than individual cases, but still fascinating.

The Medical Detectives, by Berton Roueche

3 stars: Stories you'll want to tell someone else about! (Though maybe not over dinner...)

A compilation of 25 different unusual medical cases. A handful are presented as the doctor trying to figure out what could be causing certain symptoms, but with most, the disease is known and it's up to epidemiologists to track down the specific cause along with who else might be affected--or infected, as the case may be. 

Somewhat uneven writing between chapters, with some very slow and tedious to get through (particularly the chapter about aspirin) and others high interest to the end. Since they span decades, I suppose it was to be expected. 

I ended up retelling many of the stories to my kids. They clamored for more! In fact, my 8-year-old picked it up to read on his own, but got bogged down a chapter or two in. I guess you can tell there's a strong medical influence in our home! 

Also, wash new clothes before you wear them. it. Please. Thank you.


It has been almost 10 years since I read this one, so I can't tell you what angle it takes. I do remember that I liked it--perhaps this was the catalyst to my seeking out these others!

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, by Oliver Sacks

4 stars: Fascinating.

I had to keep discussing the case studies with my husband just to be able to tell someone. I would recommend skipping all the introductions (there's one for each section), unless you're very interested in the author's research and networking with other doctors.

**My reviews were much shorter back in the day! :)

What have you read that would fit in with this Mini Theme? I'm always up for another!