Friday, April 27, 2012


Logan Airport is advising there is a chance of frost for most of Massachusetts today. Proving that even though the weather has been in the 70's and 80's this week sneeze and it can change. The last frost date was April 21st. A common mistake gardeners often make is planting early. It is much better to plant a week or two after the suspected frost date.
In areas where a late spring frost or even an early hard frost threaten garden plant, being prepared is your best defense. I just have to pop the top back onto the winter sown seeds. I can throw a blanket over the roses and a few other not quite cold hardy plants. I find the plants most vulnerable to frost are soft woods, blooming , and potted plants. I happen to have all three. The bloomers will have to stick it out as they are already past prime and covering is useless at this point. Frost usually occurs overnight and I can drag everything in and covering everything but I will probably forget and make it worse off. Common signs of frost damage are black leaves, mushy leaves and buds.
Many people mistakenly use plastic to protect plants from frost and while this can be effective, it is a practice that some expert gardeners warn against. Plastic doesn't breathe, but rather trap moisture inside. If the temperature drops low enough, the increase in moisture presents a greater threat to the plants if it should freeze. Since I winter-sowed using plastic covers  that are well ventilated I am popping them back on. You can also make cloches by cutting a soda bottle in half and putting it over your tender plants and it's o.k. to leave them on if you forget. Just make sure that you remove them before the real heat sets in.

A fabric covering will allow moisture to escape, but will still protect plants from frost by preventing the freezing air from coming into direct contact with the moisture. Bed sheets an old duvet or thin blanket are ideal for covering large plants and shrubs as well as tender sprouts.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book's month 4

On Agate Hill by Lee Smith 

 I  didn't care for this book at all. I picked it up at building 19 for a few bucks so I'm not out much but don't suggest you read it. It get's great review on amazon so maybe it's just me. Lee Smith's latest novel, ON AGATE HILL, covers 50 years or so-- 1872 to 1920 of the life of  Molly Petree. She is orphaned as a teen and is taken in by relatives on a run-down plantation in North Carolina. She goes away to school for young girls called Gatewood Academy, teaches in a one-room school in the North Carolina mountains and ultimately marries a wild banjo picker. I found the story disjointed and strange. I had trouble feeling anything for the characters and felt the intrusion of the present day to be distracting and not at all adding to the story. 

I love Historical fiction as you may know by now and something about this book compelled me to buy it. I have read several civil war books as well.  I kept reading on and on but it never grabbed me to the point where I couldn't put in down, and the author never made me feel anything for Molly. I feel bad because the author said writing this book saved her life when her son died. I hope it was cathartic for her. Does it make me want to read it though? No. I would think someone who has undergone such a tragedy could write with more raw emotion and feeling. Not one dimensional characters and disjointed feelings. 


The Stillest Day: A Novel: This novel is written with such brilliance and intellect that few writers can achieve such a feat. I found myself engrossed in the darkness and  strangeness. The love and despair. The first half of this novel tells the story of Bethesda Barnet, an unmarried artist and teacher living a life of routines. She is the care taker or her invalid mother, paints and is a teacher. Once she lay's her eyes on Mathew Pearson that her life begins and ends. She becomes obsessed. Bethesda obsessively paints Mathew in mirrors. Ms. Hart weaves the reflections life and art have on the soul. After a bloody savage and perhaps courageous event, her life changes. Often times, it seems like Ms. Hart becomes overly dramatic in her story-telling; yet, when one considers Gothic pieces of literature, Ms. Hart seems justified. The novel uses sparse language steeped with complexities. One must read in-between the lines to understand Ms. Hart's writing. And though I did not understand this novel entirely, I can appreciate the brilliance. One will always look at a major traumatic event in one's life as "The Stillest Day." This is a difficult novel to read both due to subject matter and form of prose. 

 The Air We Breathe

On the cusp of war and height of tuberculosis.  I quite liked this book. I read it quite slowly, it isn't a page turner. What it lacks in excitement it makes up for by developing rich characters and story line. While I could take it or leave it, I am glad I read it.

From Amazon:  In the fall of 1916, America prepares for war—but in the community of Tamarack Lake, the focus is on the sick. Wealthy tubercular patients live in private cure cottages; charity patients, mainly immigrants, fill the large public sanatorium. Prisoners of routine, they take solace in gossip, rumor, and—sometimes—secret attachments. But when the well-meaning efforts of one enterprising patient lead to a tragic accident and a terrible betrayal, the war comes home, bringing with it a surge of anti-immigrant prejudice and vigilante sentiment. 

Dream When You're Feeling Blue

While I found the history well researched, I found this book depressing. The ending left me feeling blue. 

From amazon:  She sets her latest in Chicago during World War II, featuring three Irish Catholic sisters--Kitty, Louise, and Tish Heaney. The novel opens as Kitty and Louise say good-bye to their boyfriends at Union Station as they head off to war. Over the next three years, the sisters--amid the usual sibling squabbles over borrowed clothes and makeup--learn what it means to sacrifice during wartime. Kitty takes on an exhausting job at Douglas Aircraft; Louise, deeply in love with her boyfriend, keeps her worries to herself while writing him upbeat letters full of the news of home; and Trish spends her weekends at USO dances, promising to write to every soldier she meets. Berg makes the most of her Chicago setting, working in references to iconic institutions such as the old Marshall Field's department store and the Palmer House hotel. She also deftly mixes up the tone, moving easily between the wry dialogue of the long-married Heaney parents and the sad and affecting letters from the soldiers at the front. Although a final plot twist may not be fully credible, it does little to detract from this affectionate tribute to the patriotic 1940s and the women of the Greatest Generation. Joanne Wilkinson


Bette (Women of Ivy Manor Series #2)

While I didn't read the first in the series, I found this book a pleasant read. Bette undergoes a huge transformation while trying to do what's right. From daughter, to wife, to spy and mother. 

From amazon: The novel begins in the year 1936, after the Great Depression and before World War II, this second book focuses on Elizabeth "Bette" Leigh and her struggles with school, family and growing up when she befriends a German-Jewish girl and becomes a victim of neighborhood Klansmen. At the same time, she meets and falls in love with Curtis Sinclair, whom she marries. But when WWII begins and he is sent off to fight overseas and Bette begins to work to help with an anti-Nazi espionage, her struggles aren't easy after Curtis leaves her for a Frenchwoman and she has no choice but to work alone for her sake and that of her unborn child. The problems she encounters are quite difficult, but she proves that she is able to survive on her own. Will she want Curtis back in her life when he comes back wanting a reconciliation? There are many twists throughout the novel. Bette, like Chloe, is set against the backdrop of several historical references -- the post-Depression, the Holocaust, and a war, this one being World War II. This novel is just as rich in historical details and accuracy as the first one and I felt as though I had been transported to that time period. Even though I liked Chloe best because the turn of the twentieth century had so many more interesting breakthroughs than the 1930s and 1940s, Bette isn't far behind as far as wonderful descriptions of fashion changes and other interesting tidbits from that time frame. Bette is a great heroine. She is far stronger than her mother Chloe -- is more of a fighter and, despite her hopelessness at times, is able to adapt and handle every situation that is thrown at her. And that is what makes this novel, story wise, more appealing than its predecessor. The Women of Ivy Manor is a wonderful inspirational series that you cannot miss. I look forward to reading Leigh, which I have no doubt will be set against the backdrop of the Vietnam war. In the meantime, I suggest you give Chloe and Bette a whirl.



I loved this book! I have loaned it to friends and will continue to do so. It is funny, dirty and clever. It's silly frivolous and great for a day at the beach. If your looking for intellect, this ain't it. Based on a real life blog of a Washington staffer. The reviews are mixed. Most however lead toward poor, trashy and cheap. But isn't that what beach reads are all about? It felt like it is the female version of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max.

From Amazon: Cutler, the lowly Senate staffer who rocked the Capital last year with her salacious online diary, rehashes her ride into infamy in a tart, shallow tell-all that begs off as fiction. Smart but spoiled Jacqueline heads for the Hill after a broken engagement in New York. Soon this party girl is cavorting through the Capitol, where shameless flirting and sex appeal take her a long way. In Jacqueline's opinion, government is "Hollywood for the Ugly," and she coasts on her looks to score a fluffy job in a senator's office and effortlessly entice politicos on the prowl. She mines her dizzying array of casual sexploits, dished in callous, raunchy detail, for a blog to keep her friends in the loop ("I was a bitchy slut and so were all of my friends. Why not put it out there?"). Jacqueline winds up on D.C. gossip site Blogette—prompting her abrupt dismissal, an underdeveloped bit of soul-searching and lots of media attention. The flimsy garb of fiction makes for one coy striptease: just how much of Jessica emerges in Jacqueline? Who are the real-life counterparts to her paramours? For those who can conjure last summer's scandal, the reprise will liven up this year's beach batch. Agents, Michael Carlisle and Pilar Queen. (June)

Eleanor the Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine:

Yes another historical fiction novel. My obsession with all things Tudors bring me here, at the beginning. Born in the 12th century Eleanor of Aquitaine was probably the most influential woman in Europe. She married French King Louis VII and aided him in a failed Crusade in the Holy Land. They had two daughters together, females were not considered worth much, this hindered her plans. She could never fully get past his male advisers and rule together. Fifteen years after they married, they divorced. Back in Aquitaine, she meets a teenager Henry Plantagenet. Although he is 12 years younger they marry and he soon becomes England's King Henry II. They had many children and seemed a perfect couple until she discovers his infidelity with Rosamonde. Her furor leads to a family schism.  One son and her Husband on one side. Her other son and her on the other. As a result she in imprisoned for nearly 18 years.

This is a quick and lively biographical fiction tale. It stars a strong medieval woman who was queen to two powerful kings in two countries. Eleanor comes across somewhat as a modern female. Smart, strong and a worthy adversary. This attracted powerful men to her, yet ironically also led to her troubles with them. Twelfth century France and England are vividly described.

Book Challenge 42-7= 35 more to go!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What to put here?

The front by the steps. It has a few tulips. when they are done I'm debating what next.

CameraZOOM-20120417135916802I was thinking of Lord Baltimore hibiscus?

My reasons are....
* Large, tropical flowers
* Virtually maintenance free
* Highly adaptable to various soils
* Showy for up front
This hardy hibiscus looks like it came from the tropics, but is cold hardy. Produces deep red blooms. They are huge and reach sizes up to 10 inches across.  It will add a tropical feel to the front landscape, without having to replant every year. Lord Baltimore hibiscus is low maintenance requiring almost no care. Drought and frost are no match for this hardy shrub. It produces a spectacular show year after year.
Demonstrates extreme tolerance to almost any soil condition.

Will not crowd out or kill the already established plants. 
       Perhaps some rock roses?

 The Rock Rose grows in full sun. As you can see from the previous photo the spot get's sun most of the day but not full sun. The reason I think rock roses may be a better choice it that it is tolerant of dry, stony soils that lack organic matter. This spot is neglected and hard for me to get to on the third floor. Rock Roses look good and showy even in hot dry areas.That will help when I can't get down to water it often in august. The Cistus aka rock rose  is one of those plants you can use in a drought tolerant garden that can make a landscape look lush and colorful. Rock Roses need excellent drainage and are tough enough to withstand desert sun and hot temperatures.They can also withstand salt. This is important for a plant next to the driveway. The hot asphalt won't kill it. I can group them in a hedge. A little more carefree than my already carefree lord Baltimore. The problems I have with this plant is that it isn't very cold hardy. I will have to plant again next year. With apartment living it doesn't much matter though as I may not even be here next year.
What are your garden plans?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Drumlin farm

I took the kids to Drumlin farm today. They had so much fun looking at all the animals and learning about how a farm works. Most of the kids are from the city and other states so it was exciting to see them interested in agriculture
CameraZOOM-20120408155801779. CameraZOOM-20120408160213546 

 It was a nice change of pace. Drumlin farm is a real working farm and a wildlife sanctuary. There is so much to do at Drumlin Farm. The kids loved visiting the animals on the farmyard, trying on their green thumbs in the learning garden, and riding the hay wagon. The sanctuary provided a good learning experience for all the children. Plus learning how to milk a cow was cool for everyone and iodine will forever be the stuff on the cows udders.
It was cool to see the owls from the:Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole 
in real life. The kids could learn all about real owls and relate it back to the movie. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Metal Tub Has Blooms!

So Pretty! I'm glad at the amount and placement of my bulbs. Today was super hot so they are a bit floppy. I will have to take a picture in the morning when everyone is happy. I love the red tulip and the triple daffodils. A few more are coming up now and will bloom later this month.


Backyard redone

                                                         My Backyard Before
                    and this
The amount of garbage I pulled out surprised me as I already had cleaned up a ton. Now for the after:

Looking a little sad before a trim and some water. I'm going to make the raised bed using tarp and staple gun on the frame. The day lilies should fill in front nicely and I have kept a path to go through. I'm also going to put some climbers such as morning glories to crawl up the chain link fence in the back. I'm looking to put a few sunflowers somewhere as well. 


Friday, April 6, 2012

Ditch Lilies!!

Ditch lilies!  They are often called a weed and do spread. Well I for one love them. I love the deep orange color. They are edible, I found a wonderful recipe that calls to stuff it with cheese yummy.  My back yard is barren and weedy.I hope they push out the crappy bamboo some genius planted and I have been pulling up and fighting all spring. I can really use some hardy and fast blooming plants. I plan to surround my raised bed with them adding color when in bloom and foliage when not. I have about 20 right now. These flowers are resistant to everything. They grow in all conditions seriously anything above zone 4 and your golden. Since our back yard is only weeds and debris you can see the value of planting them and why I am putting them near the raised bed but not in it. They will quickly overpower any nearby weeds and leave a pretty yard instead of crap dirty weed yard. They are spread with underground runners. I plan to dig down and protect the raised bed from being over run but know that I may lose that battle but not before I move. I want them to take over. This place needs some beauty. One can often find them planted along old buildings and vacant lot's where homes once stood. They are a good plant to give as gifts in large pots as they are plentiful and impossible to kill, giving even the blackest thumb some joy. So plant snobs I have come out of the closet. While not the most distinguished of flowers it will be finding a place in my garden. I am hoping the butterfly's and my neighbors agree.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Boxer puppy!

CameraZOOM-20120322232006760 by lissa2343
The boxer puppy I want to get for my dad.
My grandmother passed away last week and that is why I haven't posed much the last few weeks.
I'm really hoping to save up enough to buy him for him. I have been working both jobs, but it never seems like enough. I'm hoping after a few weeks I can get caught up and buy my dad this beautiful puppy. I know it won't make up for my grandmothers loss. But he loves boxers and already has a beautiful one.

Books this week  The Forever Queen  
It started off great and then kind of dragged and I love historical fiction.  I wouldn't re-read it but it was and interesting story. The story of queen Emma of England. She was queen twice in a row due to marriage.
From the amazon description:
What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?
Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom-and her crown-are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England's shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.
Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.

I also read: Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson
 From the Amazon website: Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it.

For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.

Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded, and the world seemed colder. Wouldn't you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger?

Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man's life. Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final “class”: lessons in how to live.

Tuesdays with Morrie is a magical chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie's lasting gift with the world.

It’s been ten years since Mitch Albom first shared the wisdom of Morrie Schwartz with the world. Now–twelve million copies later–in a new afterword, Mitch Albom reflects again on the meaning of Morrie’s life lessons and the gentle, irrevocable impact of their Tuesday sessions all those years ago. 
  This was an amazing book and I recommend everyone read it. I live and work in the area so it was nice to know all the places first hand that he spoke of in the book. We all can learn a little from Morrie.What books are you reading?

Closed tulip

CameraZOOM-20120402165203640the tulip yesterday before it opened.

another view of my tulip

CameraZOOM-20120404130500605 by lissa2343
The leaves are a little ragged due to certain kitty's I know. But it bloomed very pretty. I like the muted outside and bright inside.


CameraZOOM-20120404130537866 by lissa2343
My first one bloomed! Shorter stem because I planted it late and didn't have time to set down deep enough roots. Lesson learned. I really love the soft white. I can't wait to see what other colors bloom. I also make the mistake of touching it and have been itchy all day oops.


CameraZOOM-20120404130513000 by lissa2343
My first tulip blooms!! I must say I am impressed by the photos I can take with my phone.
I'm glad it takes such wonderful photos. I don't have to buy a separate camera for my garden adventures.
I love the red and yellow and black together. It is so pretty.
Since I planted so many in so many random places every one is a surprise and I like it that way. Sure purple, yellow and red look silly together but I wouldn't have it any other way! What are your spring surprises?