June 25, 2019

A Cool Start to Summer

So, we've had some ups and downs this month, particularly in relation to the weather.
Join the club, right? 
While we certainly haven't had the severe weather that many in our country have experienced, we did get 2 nights of frost very late--June 8 and 9. 
I regret to say that I was not prepared.
All of my tomatoes and peppers died--the ones I had in the ground, the ones I had given my kids, and the ones still waiting to be sold. 
That was discouraging.
Going down to the nursery at the bottom of the canyon and spending money to buy more tomatoes and peppers was even more so.

These pansies are loving the cool weather!

Of course, my cool flowers aren't minding this weather--thankfully, that was most of what was really growing. However, the warm weather lovers that were up either died back or just gave up completely.
Cosmos and zinnias, especially.
The volunteer sunflowers that withstood April snowstorms were not ready for such a drastic change in temperature, I guess, because most of them died back as well. They have rallied somewhat now, but it was looking pretty sad come Sunday morning.
Sigh. No-one ever said farming was easy.

Last night, temperatures were supposed to go back down to 37 degrees. Again.
I didn't take any chances this time, and got all the tomatoes and peppers covered.
Just hoped for the best for the surviving warm-weather flowers.

It was about an hour before sundown when I realized how cold it was. I was working out in the greenhouse and my hands started to feel numb. Not a good sign in the middle of summer!
So I checked the weather and sure enough--temps in the 30's forecasted for overnight.
I knew I had to get tomatoes and peppers covered--my kids could not take the disappointment a 2nd time if they froze--and by the time I got them done it was past dark.
Thankfully, the flowers seem to have come through okay without covering.

All of this begs the question, though: when will it truly be summer?
It also reinforces to me that I need to put my time and money towards cool weather flowers, perennials, and shrubs. Basically, everything that won't mind an extended patch of cool weather. 

My cool flowers growing right now:
anemones, poppies, pansies, Bells of Ireland, bachelor's buttons, Queen Anne's lace (ammi majus), snapdragons, dill, feverfew

Peony 'Do Tell'
I've got one of these on each side of the front walkway. I left one bloom per plant to just see what I have in store, but starting next year, I'm going to let them all bloom and start to cut from them!

Perennials in bloom:
catmint, perennial bachelor's button, pincushion flower, peonies
+ yarrow, lilies (almost in bloom)

Shrubs in bloom:
roses, ninebark

I am also getting some perennial seeds started in the greenhouse, in hopes that they'll be ready to plant out this fall and overwinter for me.

In the meantime, the kiddos and I have been doing some work and playing too.
So that has been good.
So far I feel like I have kept a better balance between mothering and working this summer.

Here's to some actual WARM weather now! 
We're ready for it!

June 24, 2019

Girl Overboard, by Justina Chen Headley

Perhaps wealth is not everything it's cracked up to be...

Girl Overboard, by Justina Chen Headley

3.5 stars: This one won me over.

Syrah Cheng has a life to envy: ever since her father's company went public, they have joined the ranks of the uber-wealthy, with all the trappings: enormous mansion to live in and enough money to buy whatever they want, as soon as they want it. What no-one can seem to see is that she is miserable in the midst of all the luxury. Her parents never have time for her, her mother is always pushing her to lose weight, and worst of all--ever since her snowboarding accident several months ago, she can no longer do the one thing she loves the most. Well, technically she could still snowboard, IF her parents would let her (they won't) and IF her knee could handle it (highly doubtful.)

Syrah has also found it very difficult to make friends, as everyone seems to just want to befriend her to get to her dad, or simply because of their money. She does have one good friend, Age, who has been her friend since before the big money came along. They used to snowboard together, but things have gotten awkward with him lately as well. She has never been able to bring herself to tell him why she went off alone in the backcountry, when she knew full well it was a bad idea, but a certain summer camp counselor had everything to do with it.

Syrah is constantly expected to live up to the "Ethan Cheng Way" (she hasn't read the book yet), and constantly feeling like she is falling short. As some major changes come her way, she will have to figure out the Syrah Cheng Way to surviving life--the sooner the better.

* * * * * *

Syrah was a strong character, but one who doesn't discover her strength until later on--the best type to write a story about! I had my reservations about this book from the beginning. I mean, another book about the poor little rich girl? That's been done before! I was pleasantly surprised to find it had some depth.

As Syrah figures things out, she starts to look outside herself and realizes she can use this incredible legacy she now has at her fingertips to help others. That is the beginning of her inward shift.

I especially liked the way Syrah went from taking risks on the mountain, to taking risks in her relationships, with a much better payoff. She chooses to be vulnerable, to accept friendship in unlikely places, and to put herself in uncertain and awkward situations in order to get to know extended family better. In the process, she comes to realize how much she is loved (and always has been), as well as the first inkling of what her place might be within the family business.

Content: Some language. Some of the characters mention sex. Syrah tells an abbreviated version of the story of her first sexual experience, which was traumatizing to her, but doesn't go into detail. This is written for Young Adults--I wouldn't go younger than 16 with it. If your teenager has encountered some of these things at school already, this could bring up some good talking points.    


June 21, 2019

Featured Author: Melanie Benjamin

I was really happy when I realized that there were more books I haven't read by Melanie Benjamin. All 3 of hers that I have read so far have been hits for me: historical fiction about real people. Then, always at the end, she talks some about what are the "facts" and what she extrapolated from that--which I am always so curious to know.

Overall, they are clean. They don't have language issues. She handles marital intimacy with care and isn't graphic in her descriptions.

In each book, I have been fascinated by the life of the woman I'm learning about, and feel as though I know them by the end of the book.

If you need a summer read with a bit more substance to it than the usual fluff, give one of these a try!

* * * * * *

The Aviator's Wife, by Melanie Benjamin

4 stars: Warm and understanding look at an iconic lady.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was never one to seek out the spotlight, as a child. She much preferred to blend into the background and let her pretty, vivacious older sister Elizabeth be the center of attention. Then she met Charles Lindbergh, a young aviator who had just become famous for his solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

Much to her surprise, he sought her out, and eventually even asked her to marry him. She could hardly believe it--that he would prefer HER above anyone else. Granted, his proposal seemed more practical than lovey-dovey, but that was just details, really. Wasn't it? She said yes, and overnight, the shy girl who sought the shadows was thrust into the blinding light of fame and publicity.

Though the country was going through the Great Depression, the Lindberghs never really felt the pinch. They were arguably the most famous couple in the world, given special attention by kings, presidents, famous actors and actresses, and hordes of hyper-interested fans.

This is the story of their life together and their marriage, told from Anne's perspective. The ways their marriage changed as little Charles Jr. was born, and again when his horrific kidnapping and murder happened. How they went on from there, and raised several more kids, amidst World War 2 and everything else.

* * * * * *
I happened upon this one at the library last week. As soon as I realized who the author was, I immediately snatched this one up!

This is one of my favorite types of historical fiction. I enjoyed learning more about the Lindbergh's, while getting some insight into what Anne may have been feeling and thinking throughout all that went on.

Content: A couple of intimate scenes--not graphic. For adults.


Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin

4 stars

Based on the life of Alice Pleasance Liddell Hargreaves, the little girl who was the inspiration for Charles Dodgson's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

Benjamin brings life to Alice's story, far beyond a sunny afternoon on the river with her sisters and some grownup friends. Her personality as a child was a delight, even as I feared for where it would lead her. Her personal triumphs and tragedies felt very real. Side characters were also well-developed: Dodgson and her mother, in particular.

I appreciated her notes at the end about her research, including what was fact as far as we know it, and what she interpreted. I want to read more by Melanie Benjamin!

* Originally reviewed Sept. 2013

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, by Melanie Benjamin

4 stars

Based on the life of Mercy Lavinia Bump Stratton.

"Vinnie" was born normal-sized, but after reaching toddler-hood, simply stopped growing physically. Her parents tried to protect her from life--wheels, horses, other children--but Vinnie would have none of it. She had big dreams; she wanted to make a difference; she wanted to see more of life than there was available in her bucolic home town.

As a teenager, when the chance came to join a showboat, she jumped at it and never looked back...much. From there on to P. T. Barnum's American Museum, to meeting and eventually marrying the world-famous small man, General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton), her life was much bigger than her family had ever dreamed it could be. But at what cost to those she loved?

Benjamin does an excellent job portraying the inner life of this intelligent, ambitious woman, who just happened to be 32" tall. This could be a fun one for book club.

Originally reviewed Sept. 2013.

* * * * * *
Looking on Goodreads, I've got more of hers to catch up on, as well. I'm happy about that! The ones I haven't read yet are The Swans of Fifth Avenue, Mistress of the Ritz, The Girls in the Picture, plus a couple more.

Have you read any by her? What did you think?

June 13, 2019

Series Spotlight: Half Upon a Time, by James Riley

This is a trilogy that has taken me many moons to finish. The first book was given to us long ago--I have forgotten how or by whom. I read it way back then and enjoyed it very much, but somehow my frugal  (i.e. CHEAP) side kicked in and I never bought books 2 and 3 to finish it out. The libraries where we lived didn't have it. So it goes.

Then I received book 2 as a Mother's Day gift, and serendipitously happened to find book 3 at the library. Maybe they purchased it since I last checked?! So after 5 years, it's done in a couple of days. Nice!

Half Upon a Time (Half Upon a Time #1), by James Riley
4 stars: Delightful, with a side of sarcastic wit.
Jack has problems, like his grandfather's insistence that he rescue a princess when there are none to be found, for instance. Then a princess literally falls from the sky, and whether she likes it or not, she definitely needs rescuing. Figuring out who she is (could her grandma really be Snow White, or what?) and getting to the bottom of the whole situation is going to be an adventure for all involved.
A mashup of all sorts of fairy tales, Riley's quick wit and deft turn of phrase had me laughing in several parts of this book. The "modern girl dropped into a fairy tale world" theme worked very well here, because we got it all from Jack's point of view, with plenty of sarcastic exchanges between the characters. Along the way there were close shaves with giants, witches (and their children), and a wolf.
It did leave several loose ends to tie up, but it is the first book of a trilogy, so I suppose that's to be expected.
Content: clean
(Originally reviewed September 2014)

** 2019 update: While I did not find it as laugh-out-loud funny as the first time around, I still enjoyed it very much. I would stick with the 4 star rating.

Twice Upon a Time (Half Upon a Time, #2), by James Riley

3 stars: It's the middle book--what did you expect?

Jack, May and Prince Phillip are back to save the world--again. Well, sort of. In attempt to find out who May really is, they happen upon several legendary characters in need of some assistance; if by "assistance" you mean "demand favors at the risk of their lives." The Pied Piper, Bluebeard, the Little Mermaid, and several more. The problems keep coming and these 3 friends keep finding themselves in deeper and deeper water...um, literally and figuratively.

Meanwhile, Jack's dreams are constantly disturbed by an Eye (Wicked Queen's extraordinary guards/henchmen) named Lian who hassles him, predicts his every move, and smacks him around quite often just for the fun of it. It doesn't help that the Mirror's prophecy hangs over all their heads: one of the boys will betray May and one will die. Nothing like a good old prophecy to keep things chipper.

It will take everything they've got simply to survive, but rest assured they'll do it with plenty of sarcastic comments and foolishly bold feats of daring.

* * * * *
Well, talk about a sidetracked adventure! One or two questions about a person's identity become a tidal wave of things gone wrong. The verbal sparring of three main characters was still my favorite part of the book. There were some plot lines that didn't make sense for most of the book, which got old, but I was willing to stick it out based on my general enjoyment of it. It was fun to see how many stories and fairy tales I could spot.

Content: Clean.

Once Upon the End (Half Upon a Time, #3), by James Riley

4 stars: The plot twists in this one were great!

The 3 friends are at the beginning of this final tale, with Phillip and his rescued Sleeping Beauty (Penelope) back in his kingdom doing boring royal stuff; May sleeping in an attic and cooking and cleaning for her surly stepmom and stepsisters; and Jack on the side of the Wicked Queen as one of her Eyes. Nothing is going right for any of them, it seems. And yet...

* * * * *
I'm not going to go any further with my description, because I don't want to give anything away. Never fear, though, there are adventures aplenty still ahead for our Fearsome Threesome--oh, Foursome, I guess now, with Penelope. There were some fun and very clever plot twists that kept everything hopping and incidentally, made certain parts of Books 1 & 2 make more sense.

I was satisfied by the ending--of the book itself and of the trilogy.

Content: Clean.

* * * * * * * * * *

This is a fun series. It's Young Adult/Teen, but I would say probably young teen. Actually, my 11 year old and my 9 year old have read the first book and liked it, so it could go down to elementary-aged kiddos as well.

I appreciated that Riley kept it squeaky clean throughout the series. Even with the boy/girl dynamics, there were a couple of kisses to awaken sleeping...people, but other than that, it was all just fun and innocent. Even the kisses were innocent--everyone was pretty embarrassed by the whole thing, to be  honest!

The characters are all very witty and full of ready one-liners for every perilous situation they encounter. While everything did come together by the end, I liked that it didn't just fall into place from the get-go, particularly with certain relationships. Jack's relationship with his Dad and sister was an interesting story arc.

I guess now I may actually have to purchase book 3, so we have the whole set at home!

June 11, 2019

Linnae's Home for Unwanted Plants

Do you want to know how to really make my day?
Tell me you're clearing out your flowerbeds and have a bunch of plants free for the taking!

This bleeding heart bush was a rescue.

Or even just bring me some of your extras!
I had a friend do just that last week and it was awesome!

She brought over several clumps of daisies (I love daises!), one big clump of tulips just dripping with bulbs, and another one of daffodils, plus some irises.

So I have been busy planting this week. 
I have almost got them all in the ground, finally.
I just put in the tulips, daffodils, and the last of the daisies today.
I still have to find a place for the irises.

I really just love it when that happens!
There was a lady last summer who posted something on Facebook that was similar to that--just come dig out whatever you want. You had better believe I jumped right on that!
I was the only one there when I went and I made a haul!
Several buckets of alliums, a couple of hostas, raspberry starts galore, irises, what else...I don't even remember everything. I am very well aware of what all those would have cost to purchase at the nursery. I brought home a couple hundred dollars worth of plants from that one morning.
It's like Christmas--but in the summer...and involving lots of digging!

Anyway, I love it.

I am even thinking about adding a service to my business along those lines.
Sort of as a consultant, I guess.
So if you need someone to come over and tell you what certain plants are, or what may be worth saving in an overgrown flowerbed, call me up! 
I might charge a fee, or I may just ask to take home any extras. :) 

Plant Rescues R Us!