August 31, 2016

End of August: Winding Down

  Hello! If you're new here, I garden in Eastern Washington, USA, zone 5b.

After a month of heat, we've been cooling down lately.
We're probably still at least a month from frost, but nights are getting back down in the low 50's/high 40's F.

My gardens are in a lull right now--except for the vegetable garden.

Let's start out front this time:

Terraced beds, right side.

Terraced beds, left side.

'William Shakespeare' rose is providing a welcome spot of color out front.

Right here by the driveway, the purple salvia are blooming for a second time, and the pink mums on the end are putting on a show.

Moving around to the East-side terrace:

You can see my neighbor's pumpkin patch there on the left--it's doing great! :)
Up in my terrace, daisies are done.

On the end of this terrace, the butterfly bushes have never looked better!
(Yes, they were just planted in the spring, but still...)

I think they may be getting watered when my neighbors water their pumpkins.
Gotta love that!
Especially since I have been neglecting them rather shamefully since mid-summer.

Beautiful purple blooms.
On non-windy days, these are usually covered with butterflies and bees.

 Heading to the back, now, we come to the vegetable garden: 

The right-hand side looks pretty empty these days.
The potatoes planted in the upper right terrace have all died back. I'm going to give them another few weeks before harvesting them.

The middle right terrace is where my kids' garden plots are, and they are also about done.

My daughter's garden.
A few flowers, and a row of carrots are about all that are left here.

My sons' plots.
Both have a few carrots still growing, but that's about it.

Top vegetable terrace.
We're still getting cucumbers!

Bottom vegetable terrace, from above.
As you can see, the cosmos are doing great!
Tomatoes are also ripening up daily.

I am loving these sunset-colored snapdragons on the bottom vegetable terrace.
I can't remember if I planted them or if they're volunteers from last year.
Either way, they're pretty!
That's my oregano patch in flower behind them.

Shed bed.

Shed bed, a different angle so you can see the flowers.
Still going!

Here's my back flowerbed.
Sedums almost ready to bloom, but other than that pretty dull.

I need to see what you've got blooming now so I can take some notes!
My flowerbeds look great in spring and early summer, but by this point they're pretty much dormant.

August 30, 2016

This Week's Harvest

We've gotten all kinds of veggies from the garden this past week!

I've been harvesting carrots as I need them this year, instead of pulling them all up at once and processing them, like I have in other years.

Garden carrots are the best! They are so sweet.

Pretty much everything from the garden is so much better tasting than store-bought.
It's amazing.

This was quite the haul of cucumbers!
[Sorry about the shadowy picture.]

We've been eating 2-3 per day.
I think if I ever want to can pickles I'll have to plant 2 or 3x the number of cucumbers, because we love eating them fresh!

Check out the huge carrot on the left!
My youngest decided that was the daddy carrot.
He peeled them for me, and arranged them all by height order. :)

I'm excited for all these tomatoes!
We have been putting them on pizza, chopping them up for tacos, and just eating them fresh with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Yum.

I may have enough now to make a batch of my favorite Roasted Garden Tomato Sauce, from Our Best Bites. I will probably add some squash to the sauce, too. It's the only vegetable I've been struggling to use and keep up with! This recipe has great flavor, and you don't have to skin the tomatoes! Also, it's a smaller batch, so you can do one cookie sheet at a time, as the tomatoes get ripe.
(Canned tomato sauce takes 40 lbs of tomatoes to make 14 pints of sauce, or something crazy like that. I have never made home-canned tomato sauce for that very reason.)

What have you harvested lately?  

August 26, 2016

Sunsets and Pretty Clouds

You thought my obsession with clouds had faded away, didn't you? Ha!
Actually, it has faded somewhat, but I still stop in my tracks and reach for a camera when I see a gorgeous sky.

I have saved up cloud pictures for the past few months.
Mostly because I figure photos of clouds might not be as interesting to everyone else as they are to me.
You're welcome.

Let's start with the sunsets, shall we?

The first 4 fall into the category: "Probably prettier in person."
(How's that for some alliteration?)

Okay, you ready for this awesomeness?

Wow. I hadn't seen a sunset like that in a long time!
[Happy sigh.]

We'll end with a few of the regular variety:

I hope your weekend includes lots of beautiful skies!

August 25, 2016

Featured Author: Julianne Donaldson

Lately, I mentioned that I have hard time finding romances that I really love. That reminded me that there's one author whose books are an exception to that: Julianne Donaldson.  Her novels are clean (always much appreciated), and the relationships are teasing and tender by turns.

She is a BYU alumna, just like me (woo hoo!) (Go Cougars!) Also, she has 5 kids! I have all kinds of respect for her carving out writing time with 5 kiddos to mother. That's awesome! I don't have too much more to add about her personally, except that she seems like someone I would enjoy being friends with.

If you want a few tidbits more she does have a blog, which includes a bio:

Unfortunately for me, she's only had 2 books and a novella published so far, but another is in the works! Yes!


4 stars: See comments, below.

Kate--not Kitty--wants nothing more than to escape her shameful family and go to India with her Aunt Charlotte. However, her scheming mother is determined to see Kate married--even if she has to throw morals to the wind to do it. The other thing vying for Kate's desires at this point is a trip to Blackmoore, the ancestral home of her best friends, Sylvia and Henry. She has always wanted to go, but has had to stay home instead.

So rather desperately, she makes a bargain with the devil--i.e., her mother--that if she refuses three proposals of marriage she can go to India. Otherwise, she must stay home and do what her mother wants, no complaining or fighting against it. That means, however, that Kate has to find 3 men who will propose to her....or does it? Perhaps she can talk someone into proposing to her 3 times in a row.
That someone would be Henry, of course. If he will do it.

* * * * *

I have read this one 3 or 4 times. The last time I read it, in March of 2015, I gave it 3 stars. Here's my review from back then:
     "I stayed up way too late last night re-reading this one. The romance was sweet with glimmers of humour, and the setting was vivid. I didn't relate to Kate as well--she seems given to passionate outbursts--but it was a fun light read...again!"

I actually liked it better this time around--I would raise it to 4 stars--and I don't think it's just familiarity making me sentimental. :)  Kate is a passionate girl who feels completely trapped in her current circumstances--stuck, with no way out. Then she is offered a way out, and she feels she must take it, even if it will hurt someone very dear to her. Henry's care for her is so tender. I think that's what got me this time. He sees her turmoil and willingly sacrifices for her happiness.

Content: Clean.

(Finished reading [again!] June 19.)


5 stars: My favorite regency romance novel! In fact, maybe I should go read it again...right now! :)

Marianne is on her way to spend the summer with some friends of the family, when she and her maid are accosted by a highwayman. They manage to get their wounded driver to the nearest inn (not very near) and while there she meets an infuriating and arrogant man. He helps more than Marianne even wants him to, after she gives him a bit of a comeuppance.

When he later turns up at the estate of her friends--um, he lives there--she is mortified. Also, more than a little intrigued. He refused to say who he was, the night before, and now here he is. It doesn't help that he seems to continually catch her in embarrassing situations.

However, as the days go by, she looks forward to spending time with him more than she might want to admit. They might even be...courting--if the idea wasn't so absurd. Really, they're just good friends. Really good friends. Though that may all change when her twin sister shows up.

* * * * * *
The first time I read this I kept breaking out in laughter all the way through it. I read it all in one delicious gulp and it left me with a huge smile on my face. After basking in the glow for a few minutes, what I really wanted to do was read it again! I may have skimmed over my most favorite parts a second time...which means that I basically did reread it a second time.

Since then I have read it several more times. The banter between Marianne and Philip is so witty and wry, I still get a kick out of it. In case you were wondering, it is just as funny, charming, and heartwarming the fourth or fifth time around as it was the first!

Content: Clean.

Heir to Edenbrooke

4 stars: A glimpse into the life of Marianne's hero: Philip Wyndham.

This is the Edenbrooke story from Philip's perspective. A prequel, but a very short one--it is just 53 pages long. A teaser, really, but just as delightful.

I think this would be hard to pull off successfully without boring readers to tears, but Donaldson managed it beautifully. Some of our favorite scenes are retold from his POV, but we have learned enough new information about Philip that the scenes gain more depth.

Having read this sort of feels like being in an exclusive club, with bragging rights (said in a condescending tone, to those suggesting some ridiculous interpretation of our favorite moment): "Well dear, we know what he was thinking in that scene." The royal We. Of course.

Or not. Anyway...

Content: Clean.

* * * * * * * * *

Have you read any of these? Are you as excited as I am about her new book coming out?

August 24, 2016

Cutting Garden Update : The Great Cosmos Takeover

When speaking about the flower type of cosmos (ahem) is it ever singular, as in "cosmo?"
I had typed that first, but it just looked weird.
On the other hand, now my title has entered the realm of science fiction. Ha!

Actually, I have a book I could tell you about that--just kidding.
I can not think of a single science fiction novel that features flowers. Can you?
I think that's more of a fantasy thing. ANYWAY.

So, my cutting garden this year. Yes.
Such high hopes, like every year.
I planted my wildflower mix, plus other random seeds that were getting old, like scarlet flax and bunny tail grass, and zinnias. I did a few poppies as well, from new seed.
Well, I had all these volunteer cosmos popping up all over the place.
I must have pulled out 500 baby cosmo seedlings, from all over my garden.
Not kidding. Not even exaggerating--much.
Then I allowed a few to live within a very small space (2' x 3'), on the very end of my official cutting garden.

This is what I got:

It's lovely--and I do appreciate cosmos, too, it's just--wow.
They have taken over!

At some point, I just stopped pulling them up, especially when it seemed like none of my other seeds were sprouting. The other day, I went searching within the Cosmo Jungle.

I found a few brave souls, trying to peek up:

Bachelor's buttons in 2 different colors.
Single stems.

A little Queen Anne's lace.
Emphasis on the "little."

Oh look! A large Queen Anne's lace.
At least, I think that's what it is.
I could be totally making that up.
Anyhow, it's not officially in the cutting garden right there, it's in my youngest son's patch, but hey--I'm not going to be picky at this point!

The poppies I planted bloomed early summer, so that was fun.
For the week that it lasted.

I mean, it's not like I don't cut flowers from other parts of my garden.
This little cutting garden was just supposed to have a lot more variety.
Maybe next year, I guess.

So in the meantime, I have all the cosmos for cutting that I could ever want.

Sometimes, simple is good too.

August 23, 2016

8 Picture Books for a WINDY Day

The area where I live has breezy days, then WINDY days. The type of wind where things not attached securely get blown away, including plastic deck chairs and shingles. Our gate on the side was torn off its hinges more than once (until we took it off completely), and even our garbage bin was blown completely over and across the driveway one night. 

In fact, after one of our last very windy days, I went out to find most of our apples blown off the apple tree. Out of almost 20 that were ripening, there were 6 left. Windfall, indeed. I was sorely disappointed.

All of that to say, I wasn't surprised to find most of the stories featuring wind were folkloric in nature. The wind is one of those driving forces that lends itself particularly well to being personified. I found some good ones that we'll be coming back to again. Enjoy! 

The Big Storm: A Very Soggy Counting Book, by Nancy Tafuri

The wind starts to blow and the leaves start to swirl. A big storm is coming! Luckily there's a cave to hide in. Count the animals as they find cover in the hill hollow. Once the storm passes, though, there's they notice something else is in the cave with them! Count back down from 10 as they all scurry away again!

* * * * *
There's always room for another counting book! This one is a delight. The counting speeds up in some places, as more than one animal comes in or out of the cave. The title page will give your preschooler a clue as to what's going to happen, which adds to the fun considerably.

Flora's Very Windy Day, by Jeanne Birdsall
Illustrated by Matt Phelan

Flora is painting when her little brother Crispin spills the paints and ruins her pictures. Her mother sends them outside. It is a VERY windy day, but luckily Flora has her super-special heavy-duty red boots to keep her anchored to the ground. Crispin, on the other hand, just has regular purple boots. Before long he is lifted into the air and blown away.

Before he can get too far, Flora kicks off her boots and sails up after him. She grabs his hand and they go for a ride on the wind. As they float along, Flora gets many offers to give Crispin away, but she insists on bringing him back home again.

* * * * * *
This adventure is just-right sized for a picture book! They went flying away, but came home safe and sound in the end, to chocolate chip cookies, no less. I liked the way Flora took care of her pesky little brother--even though she was mad at him.

How the Ladies Stopped the Wind, by Bruce McMillan
Illustrated with paintings by Gunnella

It is so windy in Iceland that it is hard to take a walk! Well, one day some ladies in one of the villages decide to do something about that wind. They buy and plant trees. Though they tend to the trees regularly, they can't stop the sheep from eating them. So they have to keep returning to square one, until finally they figure out a solution.

* * * * *
Offbeat, with some humor added in the illustrations--sheep all leaning sideways, for instance. The ladies were sure determined! Also, they really liked to sing. Thanks to those chickens (for the fertilizer) and no thanks to the sheep, they were able to take a walk in their village eventually, without getting blown away!

Mirandy and Brother Wind, by Patricia McKissak
Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
(Caldecott Honor 1989)

The cakewalk is coming up, and Mirandy is determined to win it! But first she needs a dancing partner who will do her proud. Surely NOT her friend Ezekiel, who is as clumsy as the day is long. No sir! She's gonna catch Brother Wind himself. Maybe. Everybody keeps giving her lots of good advice about how to do it, but so far nothing has worked!

* * * * *
A wonderful little folk tale, with such beautiful illustrations. I was not surprised to find it won a Caldecott Honor. I especially liked how loyalty and friendship came center stage at the end.

Like many of McKissak's, this one was a longer story, so keep that in mind. Older preschool kids, or even early elementary school ages would most enjoy listening to this one. Not that there are any tough subjects or anything in it, though, so if your littler one has the attention span--go for it!

When the Wind Blew, by Alison Jackson
Illustrated by Doris Barrette

The woman who lives in the shoe rescues the rock-a-bye baby, whose cradle falls from the wind blowing, and sets out with her children to return him. Along the way, they find all sorts of things that need returning to various nursery rhyme characters.

* * * * * *
Lively illustrations and rhyming text. A fun romp through nursery rhyme land. Plus that pink shoe was just fabulous!

When the Wind Blows, by Linda Booth Sweeney
Illustrated by Jana Christy

What happens when the wind blows? All kinds of things!

When the wind blows...
Twigs drop.
Clouds race.
Seeds scatter.
We chase!

* * * * * *
Short 2-word rhyming sentences describe the wonders of a windy day. The illustrations have a dreamy quality, with bright colors but few hard lines, and the colors seeping into each other. Another good one for younger listeners, or beginning readers.

Willa and the Wind, retold by Janice M. Del Negro
Illustrated by Heather Solomon

Willa lives with her sister, and as long as the wind blows and the rain falls, they have enough. One summer, though, the wind takes a vacation from working--but he still loves to cause mischief. So when Willa goes to fetch some cornmeal from the barn, the wind blows it out of her bowl. Oh, is she ever mad! So she marches right up to his door and bests him in a shouting match, demanding her cornmeal returned. Instead, he gives her a magic handkerchief that produces food when a rhyme is said.

As Willa returns home, she stops overnight at an inn. The unscrupulous innkeeper sees her using the magic handkerchief and steals it out of her pocket while she sleeps, replacing it with an ordinary one. When Willa gets home to show her sister, of course nothing happens. So she marches right back to old Mr. Wind's house, who gives her something else to take home.

* * * * *
This was a fun story. Willa was a feisty character to root for! You might be happy to know that the thieving innkeeper got his comeuppance in the end, too. The illustrations were full of life, and interesting from an artistic point of view. They had a mix of mediums going on; very well done. The wind looked almost translucent, while Willa had flaming red hair and a bright orangey-red dress that really popped against the greens and grays of the background.

Based on a Norwegian folktale.

The Wind That Wanted to Rest, by Sheldon Oberman
Illustrated by Neil Waldman

An old winter wind is very tired and wants a place to rest. He keeps trying to find a good spot, but he keeps being driven away. Finally, he gets very angry, and becomes a huge raging storm. At the height of the storm, a little girl has the courage to ask him what is wrong. It just so happens that she knows of a place he can rest. He is finally able to have a nice long sleep, and before he goes in the spring, he leaves a surprise behind for her.

* * * * *
This definitely had the feel of a folktale, with both kind and unkind actions bringing big consequences. The watercolor illustrations were lovely, mostly done in hues of blue and purple. I especially liked the sharp-nosed mountain and the compassionate little girl who saved the day.

August 22, 2016

Garden Harvest, past 2 weeks

The best thing about August is all the vegetables that start pumping out the produce!

So far, we've just been eating the tomatoes fresh or on sandwiches.
The squash has been a side dish a couple of times now.

Yes, those are blackberries in the bowl at the top.
We have a wild blackberry vine at the very tippy-top of our slope.
We have talked a little bit about how skinny is too skinny to pick cucumbers. :)

I'm excited for all these cucumbers and beans!
I dropped the ball on the beans and didn't get any planted in the empty spaces this year, so we probably will just get enough to eat fresh. That's okay. We'll enjoy them while we have them!

Good thing we really like cucumbers!
We've been eating 1-2 per day. It's awesome.

 * * * * *
What are you harvesting from your garden lately?