Thursday, June 14, 2012

Garden on June 13, 2012

I am freaking out, people. Freaking. Out. My yard is starting to show signs that it will be feeding me this year, and I am, as usual, inordinately ecstatic about it.

Remember that scraggly orange tree that had never produced fruit when we bought our house? It must have heard our "produce something or you're done" threat and is now covered in green fruits:

And my tomato plants are finally starting to set fruit, after I worried and fretted that the pollination was insufficient:

My cranberry beans are doing great. I mean, they look practically ready to eat already (but are not):

And my fava beans are still going like mad. This generation of fava beans are going to be my seeds for a fall planting. They fix nitrogen in the soil, enriching the soil for the plants that follow.

And may I just suggest a few wonderful plants, if you are interested in gardening yourself?

This penstemon is tough, drought tolerant and simply stunning:

Planting borage was the best thing I could have done to attract pollinators to my garden. Bees can't get enough of the bright blue, dainty flowers. I learned this is because they refill with pollen every 2 minutes - that is fast!

Finally, how about this Black and Blue Sage? I spied a hummingbird drinking from it yesterday morning!  The white flowers on the left are actually leeks that are blooming. They're gorgeous... but still smell like onions, in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Reading List 2012

June means school is out and it’s time for summer reading again. Last summer’s reading list got truncated quite a bit by a little something called “moving into a house that needs a lot of work”. While I still have lots of house projects to work on, this summer feels more stable and I feel more capable of finishing a few of the books that I didn’t get around to reading last year.

Also exciting, by way of book news, is a new development in my life: a book club! Last month I did something I have wanted to do for many years, but always been afraid to try. I hosted a book club, complete with a Paris-themed party and lively discussion of The Paris Wife. After a great turn out and a positive response, I am planning my next book club party already. This time we will be reading The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom and doing a Southern theme. (See plot description below!)

Here are some of the books that I plan to read this summer, all written by female authors (unintentional), with plenty of history to stimulate the mind, rich settings to satisfy the most hardcore escapists, and a sprinkling of magic for the dreamer inside of us all. What is summer for, if not for a bit of much-needed indulgence?

Blackbird House/ Alice Hoffman: An evocative work that traces the lives of the various occupants of an old Massachusetts house over a span of two hundred years. I am reading this at the moment and completely immersed in the gorgeous prose, magical realism and vivid sense of place. Summer on Cape Cod? Sounds lovely, thanks!

The Kitchen House/ Kathleen Grissom: Set on a Southern plantation in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia in the early 1800's, the story is told from the perspective of a white Irish orphan, Lavinia. While working as an indentured servant in the kitchen house of a plantation, Lavinia discovers the dark secrets of the white family members and slaves alike. She finds herself torn between two worlds: one of the white plantation owner and his family, with whom she shares a racial identity; and the Negroes with whom she works, associates and shares a vocational identity.

The Kitchen God’s Wife/ Amy Tan. Like The Joy Luck Club, this novel focuses on a dysfunctional relationship between a Chinese-American mother and daughter. Dying matriarch Winnie shares with her daughter the story of her upbringing in China in the 1920-1940s, and traces the happy and desperate events that led to her immigration to America. No doubt family secrets will be revealed and new understanding will be built between the two, but it's the journey that makes it all interesting.

Daughter of Fortune / Isabelle Allende. Historical fiction relating the story of a pregnant Chilean woman who follows her beloved to the rough streets of San Francisco, California in the the Gold Rush era of the 1850's. Can you believe it used to be a hard-knock collection of greedy bachelors, prostitutes and East Coast outcasts? Perfect prerequisite reading for a day trip to my favorite foggy coastal city!

The Giant’s House: A Romance / Elizabeth McCracken. In 1950, a small-town librarian meets a 11-year-old giant and the two loners eventually find their lives intertwined in ways that neither one could have predicted. Also set in Cape Cod with magical realist elements, this quirky read has received a lot of praise from other readers and made me curious enough to pick it up myself (finally, since I didn't get to it last year).