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 rest...eh 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 23, 2019

Humble Pie, and Other Delicacies

So, remember how last week I swore up and down that I NEVER planted anything in July anymore, because “Ho, ho, aren’t I so smart now?” or something along those lines… Yeah, well, maybe it’s good for us every so often to make such definite statements—gives our guardian angels a great laugh. So, here I am this week—yup, it’s still July folks—planting my fool head off! How does this happen?! I’ll tell you.

A certain friendly neighbor of mine, who happens to love gardening and plants as well, offered to share a bunch of starts with me. Starts = baby plants! I can’t turn down free plants! It’s not in my DNA. Plus, she had some plants that I’ve been wanting—feverfew! lady’s mantle!—plus several more that I am happy to have. It was a short contest between conflicting core values: never plant in the heat of July vs. here, take some free plants! There was a clear winner. I filled up every pot I had brought along with me, and then some.

Okay, okay. I will give you a list of everything I brought home, because I can tell you are DYING to know. (HA! Yeah right. Just humor me, alright?) 

Lady’s mantle: the leaves are as beautiful as the flowers! (Not sure why these have different color veins.)

Feverfew (as mentioned) x 12

Lady’s mantle x 3

White irises x 3—big and beautiful; these things are at least 3 feet tall;

White perennial phlox x 10

Heuchera—one long, ungainly stalk that I split into 2 pieces

Purple salvia x 1

Wednesday I planted half of the feverfew, all 3 lady’s mantle, the salvia, one phlox start, and the heuchera. I have been under some pressure to get the rest done. You see, we are leaving on a trip tomorrow morning—Saturday. In this hot weather, I had my doubts that these starts would live through our absence, unless I could get them into the ground.

There they are. Yum!

Thursday was going to be Round 2 of planting. Best laid plans often go awry, and all of that, because instead we ended canning apricots. My awesome in-laws brought up several boxes of apricots and even stayed to help us can them. 36 jars of apricots and 18 jars of jam later, we got that taken care of. I’m happy that we did it—we love apricots! However, it didn’t leave much time for more planting. I got a little bit more planting in during the 45 minute window after I put kids to bed and before dark. I also acquired approximately 53 more mosquito bites during that same time frame.

Today, though. It had to happen! I got up and walked out the door to sprinkling rain! What?! In July? I was LOVING it! Perfect transplanting weather, for the win! It stayed cool and rained on and off all day. I was so happy!

This was my Planting Priority Plan (or PPP for short!):

  1. Last 3 feverfew: these were in the smaller 6” pots and I didn’t think they would make it while we’re gone unless they’re in the ground. The only setback was that I wasn’t 100% sure where I wanted to put them. I ended up planting them in the back corner flowerbed, around the birdbath.
  2. Phlox: these would have been #1, because they kept wilting on me, but the place I wanted to plant them was very dry (side task: replace the sprinkler head there!). So, I needed to put the water on that area. The rain helped me out there, but I did add a little extra water prior to planting just to soften up the under layers of dirt. Some of these also went into that back corner flowerbed— I think planted 3 different groups there—then I put one right in the middle of my front oval bed. Oh, and a few over by the honeysuckle bush.
  3. Irises: of all my precious pass-along plants (PPP for short—again), these got the vote of “Most Likely to Survive While We’re Gone.” So they were my last priority for planting, and I actually didn’t get to them today. Not stressing about it.

As usual, it took a long time to get all these plants in the ground, because I was pulling out bindweed for 20-30 minutes first in every location. Sigh. An Abomination of Bindweed.

I’m very excited to add all these plants to my flowerbeds! The white will be especially useful in making arrangements, because it goes with all the other colors. Yes, they are all going into my flowerbeds at this point. I want to get set up with raised beds that are full of perennials just for cutting, but I have not made that happen just yet. I think when I take out that dead cherry tree out back, I want to put a raised bed in its place and fill it up with coneflowers and daisies of different varieties. #goals

That rain today was such a blessing! I was able to get all my outside chores done, then come in and put together flower arrangements for my 2 business subscribers, get packed, get my baby’s clothes packed, and still make it down to my niece’s rehearsal dinner down in Provo (1.5 hour drive.) Busy day!

My husband brought me home a new hose, sprinkler, and timer for the garden, so that it will get watered while we’re gone, bless him. I still need to figure out drip irrigation, but I haven’t taken the time to sit down and do it. Our sprinkler from last year—and our best hose—both sprung big leaks this summer, so that has been an issue.

We’re off! I’ll see you next week—maybe I’ll have some fabulous wildlife pictures to share. :)

July 20, 2019

Bring Out Yer Dead! Plants

Here in the heat of midsummer, it has become apparent that various and assorted plants that were assumed to possibly still have a spark of life, are actually stone dead. Yup. It’s time to pull out those quitters and put some things in that will actually thrive! (We hope.)

My plan today was to do just that. Everywhere in the yard, orchard, garden, etc. However, as such plans tend to do, this one went a bit awry. I got sidetracked deadheading roses, chopping back catmint, weeding the front flowerbeds, and planting that one lone geranium that has somehow survived without watering in its pot since May. (See! Now THAT’S the kind of perseverance I want to see more of around here! Good job geranium. Props to you. You got a pot all to yourself just for that.)

So, for my own record-keeping, here’s a list of what I did, and what I still need to do.

Yanked Today 

Bonus! It was much easier to get all that grass out of there once the dead rose was gone.

  • The dead English rose in the front fence flowerbed. It was supposed to be hardy to zone 4. Phhht. Tell me another one. It’s fellow got a stay of execution thanks to one live branch coming up, but only just. When you’re front and center, you gotta LIVE!
  • Garden peas. These I don’t have as much rancor towards. It was just their time. The kids picked all remaining peas and ate them first—even the nasty old ones that I suggested throwing to the chickens. They would not be deterred. Better them than me, I guess!
Yummy peas. These were from a couple of weeks ago. Today’s were not nearly so delectable. Trust me.

I am toying with the idea of starting some peas now for fall. I have never attempted a fall crop of peas before, because usually by fall I’m ready to put the garden to bed. Have you done it? Do you recommend it? I really do love peas fresh from the garden, so maybe just maybe it would be worth the end of season work.

Okay, so there were only 2 today. Hey, 2 is better than none!

Headed for the Chopping Block

  • The sweet cherry tree in the orchard. It was looking mostly great last year, until Attack of the Aphids happened. Then the grafted half died off completely. Then apparently the rest died, because that’s what it is now: dead all the way through. It’s right between the greenhouse and a rose bed back there, so once it’s gonzo, I think I’m going to put in a raised bed there or something.

We never even got any cherries from it—the cheapskate! Teasing us with the possibility of cherries, only to snatch that dream away. Four words for you, cherry tree: Goodbye and Good Riddance!

I still want cherries, so I am scouting out a different location for a new tree. Maybe somewhere in the front, across from my pie cherry tree. Also, no fancy grafted one this time. That tree was supposed to have 2 different varieties on it, but the trouble all started with the graft. Even before the aphids, there was a deep crack that had buggy webbing inside it, right at the point of the graft. That could not have been good.


  • Apple tree. I tell you what, we can’t seem to keep our orchard trees alive for anything! We’ve lost one each year up until now, and this year we’ll be pulling out 2! It’s rough. Strangely, the tiny apple tree that’s pretty much been a deer buffet bar is the one that’s surviving. Weird.


  • Sycamore out back. This one makes me sad. We had such high hopes for this tree. It was supposed to grow fast and be a climbing tree before all our kids were out of the house. We were also hoping for some shade for what will eventually be the back yard. We bought it big and it lived for…awhile. Nope. Not anymore. Done. Firewood. (SIGH)

Also, the front oval bed that looked amazing this spring is a mess right now. It needs some major help and attention. Mostly, I think, it needs some summer bloomers to fill in the gaps and help compete with the weeds. I’m thinking ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ echinacea, if I can find it this fall. Guillardia would work too. It’s got a few roses blooming, and the ninebark looks fantastic, but most of the rest is just an eyesore—to put it plainly. It is.

So round about next month I’m going to—what, you thought I was going to jump right on that this week? HA! I do not plant things in July. Not ever. Anymore. I have learned my lesson good and hard on that point. Do I seem like the kind of gardener that will baby something through a hot spell? Anything I planted this month would likely need to be watered a couple of times a day, even to survive. No thank you. Not doing that. I know myself well enough to know that it would not happen. So, like I was saying—mid to late August, early September. Target dates for planting a few more things. On it.

* * * * *

Now a break for Thoughts While Weeding:

I pulled up 2 goathead thorn plants in my vegetable garden today. I actually pulled up a couple of them yesterday, too. If I didn’t know what they were, boy would I have been fooled! They were not at the thorn-making stage yet, just a pretty little plant with tiny yellow flowers. There is no indication, at this stage, that the thorns these things produce will puncture bicycle tires, go straight through leather gloves and stick in the soles of your shoes, only to come off in the carpet later and cause serious damage.

Recognizing them for what they were, I immediately pounced on them and tore them out. They may not have gotten as high a priority if I didn’t know their true nature.

Is there something else in your life that is like that?

I’m going to just let you ponder on that for a moment.

Deep thoughts from the thick of the weed patch.

* * * * *

My son sold polished rocks, there on the left. I sold fork bugs, mixed bouquets, and a few vase arrangements.

Hmm..what else should I tell you? Oh, I did my first Farmer’s Market here in town last Saturday. It was a lot of fun! I sold a few things, got to hang out with my oldest son for a few hours, and met some nice people—some of them my neighbors! I even got 16 people to sign up for my email list. I had decided the day would be a success no matter how much I sold if I could get 10 signed up. Success! Now to get them added in to the computer. In fact, that may be the next thing on my list tonight.

Also, I met with my niece to walk about Wedding Flowers! So excited! She wants mostly silk flowers, except for her bouquet and groom’s bout, the table centerpieces, and the cake flowers. Since I haven’t done as much with fake flowers, it took some time to sit down and price things out. I did that, and got her estimate sent off, so whew! Even put in a preliminary order for some of the stuff I know I’ll need. The wedding is next month, so there’s not much time to lose! Her colors are going to be pink, blush, peach, and pops of coral and gold. It’s going to be so pretty!

p.s. I couldn’t bring myself to pay for fake carnations. The cheapest ones I could find, by the time I added on shipping, were still more expensive than real! My new plan is just to add in real carnations to the bridesmaids bouquets. I’m not sure how that will look, but it’s what I’m thinking.

So, how was your week?

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

Gardening with Kids, Part 3: Celebrating Backyard Wildlife

Today I want to talk about a surefire way to get your kids interested in the garden: finding all the neat wildlife out there!

By the way, this post is part of a series I’m doing, on gardening with kids. In case you missed the first 2, here are some handy links:

Gardening with Kids, Part 1

Gardening with Kids, Part 2: The 5 Senses

Ok, back to the topic at hand: the wildlife in your backyard. It is delightful to find small creatures in your yard. Less delightful if they’re eating up your plants or otherwise causing damage, but your kids will probably still like them!

Unless you are already good at identifying them, I would buy or check out some books from the library to help. It’s especially fun to notice an animal, bird, or bug, then find it in the guide book. After that you can remind each other what it is whenever you see it, until you just know.

Of course, the baby animals are absolutely the cutest.

Here’s a list of the wildlife we saw in our Eastern Washington backyard:

Birds: sparrows, crows, magpies, owls, pheasant, quail; many other common birds

I haven’t seen any bunnies here in Utah. Then again, we’re more rural and there are plenty of hawks, eagles, and other predators around.




Insects: praying mantis, shield bugs, carpenter ants, bees & wasps, roly-polies

Garter Snakes


Baby quail.

Raise a Caterpillar in a Jar

I have fond memories of finding monarch caterpillars, as a kid, and putting them in a jar with leaves to eat. We would watch them form a chrysalis, which eventually turned black, then almost clear, and a beautiful butterfly emerged. We would carry them on our fingers outside and gently flap them up and down. We thought we were teaching them how to fly. :) Of course, after the butterfly was ready it would fly off on its own. We always thought the ones we saw in the garden were “our” butterflies, too. It was magical!

You can re-create this experience with your kiddos—whether or not you have milkweed and monarchs around. In fact, one year in Washington the kids and I raised some cabbage white butterflies in a jar. Normally I don’t recommend raising pest caterpillars, but against my better judgement, we did. One survived of the two. I was done with the broccoli that year anyway.

Okay, so here’s what you need to do:

Prepare a clean mason jar by punching holes in the metal lid. Make sure the holes are smaller than your caterpillar can crawl through!

Find a caterpillar, and pick it up, along with some of the leaves it was eating when you found it. It would probably be good to identify it first. You know—make sure it isn’t toxic or a really bad pest.

Put the caterpillar and leaves in the jar.

You can clean out frass (caterpillar poop) as frequently as you like. Replace the leaves with fresh ones every day or two. Watch and be amazed as it forms a chrysalis and later emerges! Release it outside.

Some other fun things to do:

Put up a birdfeeder or a bird bath.

Make a toad house. For instructions, get a copy of “Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars” by Sharon Lovejoy.

Do a scavenger hunt to see how many animals or different types of bugs you can find.

Go on a sound scavenger hunt. Record as many different bird calls as you can from your backyard.

Take pictures and identify what you find.

Start a Wildlife Journal. Draw pictures of the species in your yard, or take photos. Observe their habitat and behaviors and make notes.

Make a bug hotel, or put up a set of nesting tubes for bees.

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. Just...do 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!

July 11, 2019

Plant Files: Moluccella Laevis (Bells of Ireland)

It's time to spotlight another favorite plant!
This is only the 2nd year I've grown this one, but it's a winner.

Scientific Name: Moluccella laevis (it took me 3 tries to spell it!)
Common Names: Bells of Ireland, shell flower
I have taken to just calling it Bells...because I'm cool like that.

June 29, 2019

Cold Hardiness: Annual, but it reseeds!
Sprinkle it on the ground in the fall, or let the ripe seedpods fall to the ground and by early spring you'll have baby Bells! 

It can grow to be 18" wide and 2-3' tall under good conditions.
The plants can handle poor soil and drought.
They take full sun, but don't mind part shade, especially morning shade.

Wildlife: Bees love it! 

Floral Design: This is why I grew it in the first place.
It's super useful in floral design. It can be used as filler, as a spike or line element, or even in a stand-alone arrangement. The bright green color blends with anything.
It has amazing vase life, lasting 3-4 weeks.

The scent is interesting. It's sort of a mix between green apple and mint. At least, that's what I smell. Some people say it's straight-up cat pee. In any case, it's a light scent that won't overpower other flowers in the arrangement.

I also love it because you can cut it at just about any stage. If you cut the main shoot out of the middle, the side shoots will continue to develop; so each plant provides several useful stems.

It dries to a beautiful ivory color--though the bells become quite fragile at that point.

A note of caution: Each set of bells has a matching set of spines directly underneath it.
This time of year--earlier in the season--they are soft.
By the end of the summer, they stiffen up and can give break off under your skin. At the very least, they give a painful poke. Last summer I had a couple that hurt for weeks. No joke.
So come August, I'll be wearing gloves to harvest and prep these beauties. 

Just Bells.

July 6, 2019

A Few Notes About Event Work

So, I got a taste of event work this past week, when my brother asked me to make some centerpieces for an Open House they were putting on. I was happy to do it for them. They needed 9, on the small side, and they were fine with me choosing what to put in them. The ones they had been looking at from Costco had 15 stems per arrangement, so I told them I would do that.

I learned a few things that I don’t want to forget!

Centerpieces in progress.

  1. Buy matching containers!

I enjoy finding unique and interesting containers at the thrift store, but for event work, it is helpful to have several that match, or at least coordinate. I ended up using pint jars for this one, which was fine with them, but on my next thrift store run I need to peruse the glassware aisles in search of at least a dozen vessels that go well together. I will also search more for some to coordinate with what I have already. For example, I have 3 beautiful small crystal pitchers, which would have been fun to use, but there were only 3.

  1. Grow more fillers and foliage.

I have yet to successfully grow an abundance of these, despite my attempts the past 2 years. I will keep working on it! It would feel like such a luxury to be able to go out and cut as much as I needed or wanted. You generally need a lot more fillers than focal flowers, too, so maybe it would save me some money.

For this job I used water sprout suckers from the base of my fruit trees and from the ornamental plum out front as my leafy filler. It worked okay, but I had to cut a lot to get enough useable stems. Many of the leaves had bug holes or other undesirable problems.

I have to say, though, my Bells of Ireland patch really came through for me this time! I cut a whole bucket full of Bells and it hardly even made a dent in the patch. For the win! There was enough for 4 stems per arrangement, plus extras for my other 2 regular business subscription bouquets, and even one for myself. They were perfect for filling out amongst the leaves and adding another element of interest, while blending in to my color scheme.

  1. Use a flower recipe

I had this one on my “to-do” list, but didn’t ever sit down and write one out. It’s helpful to at least have an idea in mind for cutting or ordering the flowers, as well as for the designing. Less fiddling around with each one. The roses weren’t all the same color, nor were the buttons, so there was some variation within that, but they all looked like they belonged together.

Here’s what I ending up using:

4 stems leafy greens

4 stems Bells

4 stems bachelor’s buttons

1 stem blue allium

2 stems roses

2-3 stems pincushion flowers

  1. A cooler would be very helpful.

With larger orders, it would be nice to have more leeway with how far in advance I could make them and still have them last. I cut flowers Thursday morning, conditioned them all day, and arranged them that night for delivery Friday morning. It worked, but yeah. A cooler would make a big difference.


  1. Figure out a reliable way to transport finished arrangements.

This time I had a couple of small boxes on hand and plenty of packing paper, so I made it work, and got them all securely packed for the car. (We each drove about 40 minutes to meet halfway for the delivery.) I struggle with this one on a weekly basis, though, despite having crates in a couple of sizes. Need to work on this one some more so that it’s not a time drain or such a hassle every time! Also, figure out something to use when I don’t expect to get the containers back. The boxes were good for that, but I don’t always have boxes on hand.

All packed up and ready to deliver!

I’m glad I got to do this for my brother and sister-in-law. They are wonderful and I was happy to be able to do something for them. It was fun to see what I could come up with. I was extra glad I had enough flowers to cut from my own farm and yard that I didn’t have to purchase any to supplement. I felt good about that!

Always more to learn, but I know what direction I should be headed in—I think! 

Carnegie's Maid, by Marie Benedict

This would be a good one for book club!

Carnegie's Maid, by Marie Benedict

3.5 stars: Upstairs, downstairs, and a bunch of secrets to hide.

Clara Kelley is the oldest daughter in a family of tenant farmers in Ireland. Though they had big enough acreage to survive the Potato Famine, their family lands are slowly getting chipped away by the landholder, who disagrees with her father's political views. So she is sent off to America to earn money to send back to them.

As she finally gets off the boat and is beginning to make plans to find a second cousin, she hears a man calling her name. She ignores him at first--it is a fairly common name, after all--but after some time passes and no-one has responded to his calls, she decides that this could be a Chance. He is obviously wealthy (she is obviously not), but the other Clara must have not made it through the voyage if she hasn't answered yet.

So Clara takes on a new identity, with the same name. She is now from Dublin, Protestant (NOT Catholic), and slated to be a lady's maid to a Mrs. Carnegie. She manages to bluff her way into the position using her wits, brash courage, and determination. Then she has to figure out how to make herself indispensable and keep her secrets buried deep.

Meeting the older son of her lady, a Mr. Andrew Carnegie, may be the undoing of everything--if she lets her guard down.

* * * * *
This one was touted as great for fans of Downtown Abbey. Actually, I have never seen that, but I did still like this book. Clara was a survivor and as such, she did what she felt she had to in order to provide for herself and her family back home. That included taking this other girl's identity and running with it. She would never have succeeded (where many other, better qualified girls had failed) if it hadn't been for her quick mind and ability to figure out what her employer needed.

Was it right for her to do that? No, probably not. I could see where she was coming from, though. I think this would be a great one for a book club discussion, so you could really get into the ethics of it. Her family probably would not have survived without the money she made from this job and sent to them. Living a lie vs. saving her family....read it and tell me what you think!

The romantic side of it was interesting. Probably realistic in most respects. I appreciated that she kept it clean. The portrayal of Carnegie himself made me want to find a nonfiction biography to dive into for another perspective. He is always courteous and a gentleman to Clara, but it does show some of the uglier sides of his personality in his business dealings. Which was the true man?

Anyway, I liked it.

Content: Clean, despite an insinuation in the beginning that had me wondering.


July 3, 2019

On Aging Well

It seems there are 2 different school of thought on aging--go gracefully or fight it. 
Is that right? Is there another option?
Maybe let it overtake you when your back is turned? Ha!

In any case, I feel like I'm going to be one who tries to grow old gracefully.
NOT that I'm old, mind you.
I'm only 40, sheesh!
(My kids think I'm old.)

I just saw an ad the other day for a product supposedly proven to remove laugh lines.
Why would you want to?! 
Why would you erase the physical evidence of smiles and laughing, even if you could?
Would you truly rather present yourself as a blank slate? 
If you are the "fight it" person, tell me your point of view! I think I must be missing something.

In any case, flowers seem to have 2 categories as well: those that just drop, brown, and fizzle, and those that fade beautifully--or at least retain interest after flowering with pretty seedpods, interesting branches or bark, or beautiful foliage. 

Let me show you! (Flowers, not people.)

This first group is flowers that retain their beauty as they fade--many of them even changing colors!

#1: Lily-flowering Tulip 'Mariette'

Start off bright lipstick pink (above) and fade to a lovely white and pale pink (below.)

#2: Peony 'Coral Charm'

This one amazed me this spring, because I didn't expect it!
Beautiful coral pink to begin with (above), fading to this lemon yellow gem below!

#3: Peony 'Do Tell'

Striking pale pink with deeper pink stamens in the middle (above), fading to white with whisper pink stamens--almost looking like a daffodil by the end (below). Love it!

#4: Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

Start off a rusty orange-red (above), then over time fade to a beautiful dusty pink (below).

There are other examples, but I'll stop there for now. 

For the next round, I'll just show you a couple--flowers that have wonderful seed pods.

#1: Grape hyacinths

Here they are in flower, and the pale green item in the arrangement below is the stem with seed pods on it. I love it!

#2: Poppies

These Shirley poppies are gorgeous, but only last a day or two, even when left on the plant.
However, their whimsical little seed pods will make great additions to bouquets.

Here are some poppy seed pods dried--I like that look as well.
For fresh cut flower arrangements, though, I prefer the green ones.

Since I struggled a bit getting my poppies to grow from seed this year, my plan is to let them blossom, produce their seed pods, and reseed themselves. I may help out a bit, to get as many as possible in the same row where I planted them! 
I will probably not be able to resist cutting a few of the seedpods, however.

* * * * *
What flowers do you know of that age well?