Books I Read in September 2021

Bag full of magic. Library books!

Once again I have not read as many books as I had hoped because life got in the way. This month it was providing support to my husband as he works on our house. This project is part of the roof structure, soffits, and fascia on the west side of the house. I did get up on the scaffolding a few times to hold things, but believe me, my husband did the brunt of the work. There is also some gable work to be done. In fact I was called away from this post for paint chip clean up.

Oh, and I have also spent quite a bit of time and extra work transitioning our new kitten into the house! See the photo at the end of this post for a glimpse of Jasper. More on him in a future post. He fits right in with our pack because he was a foundling, of course!

And so, on to my slim list of readings for the month of September.

  1. The Kew Garden Girls-Posy Lovell

During World War I, a group of women takes on the challenge of keeping the Royal Botanic Gardens in good upkeep. The book also takes on a number of social issues of the day. After having never heard of the White Feather Campaign before, this is the second book I have read this summer that addresses it. Also discussed are the Suffrage Movement, women’s rights, and domestic violence. The characters in the book become family to each other. A good read.

2. At Lighthouse Point-Suzanne Woods Fisher

This is the third book in a series. I have enjoyed them all and become attached to the family as they go about getting their lives in order. The setting is a Maine island near Bar Harbor, so of course I would be a fan. The youngest daughter Blaine has always been impulsive. Returning from two years in Paris, she sets about figuring out the course of her life, even if it doesn’t go as planned. All the sisters are featured in this latest installment.

3. Pup Fiction-Laurien Berenson

Another gem from the Berenson dog show circuit mysteries. Melanie’s friend mysteriously becomes the owner of three show quality Dalmatians. Shortly thereafter, her friend’s ex-husband shows up, murdered nearby. How could two unlikely events be related? You’ll have to read it to find out the answer.

4. The Shell Collector-Nancy Naigle

Widow Amanda Whittier and her two children are surviving the loss of their husband and father the best they can. Amanda moves them to the beach town where she met her husband, and they start a new life. The friendships they make, and the one they renew, help them to heal as well as help those around them. Amanda makes friends like the ones we all want to have. This book was so good, it had me in tears near the end. Definitely worth the read.

Magazines:  Eating Well, Ohio Magazine, Oprah Magazine, the Cottage Journal, Cottages and Bungalows, Writer’s Digest

New kitten, Jasper!

The Ingenuity of Mother Nature

CosmosCosmos

Walking around the yard this afternoon, I realized there are a number of plants growing that I didn’t plant. Just added blessings or gifts of nature, if you will. The cosmos all self-seeded from plants that my daughter gave us last year. My favorite is the dark pink orange hat grew up in the crack between two sandstones. You can see its bare roots, but it is growing tall, nonetheless.

Morning glories

Morning glories

The morning glories reseed themselves prolifically every year and have done so since I first moved into this house. Several times I have tried to transplant the seedlings when they emerge in the spring. They never take off. Apparently, morning glories decide where they are happy.

Cosmos

Cosmos

This cosmos is also reseeded from plants my daughter gave me last year. This particular one is five feet tall!

Cleome

Cleome

I last planted cleomes at least five years ago. They sprout up in various beds around the patio. One year I weeded most of them out because they were taking over my rose bed. We still have some come up each year. It is always interesting to see where they will emerge. It’s usually in a good spot. Sometimes I move them to a more convenient location.

Moon flower

Moon flower

The moon flowers have been reseeding themselves for many years. Only one or two plants make it to maturity each year, but still that is enough to keep them going.

These types of plants provide a little mystery and their own creativity to the garden landscape.

The Extent of My Abilities

Curtain
New curtains for door.

This afternoon, I took a pair of floor length curtains and made them into curtains that fit the window on our side door. This is the extent of my sewing abilities. I can do this, hem pants, and sew on buttons. That’s about it.

All my sewing is done by hand. My mother tried to teach me how to sew with a machine. She didn’t have much luck because I was left handed and she said I did everything backwards. She soon gave up. Her attempts to teach me how to crochet and knit didn’t fare any better.

I did have a bit of success at embroidery. Except for the time I embroidered my project to the blanket on my lap.

I did well at cross stitch and needle point. They are repetitive, so the concept is simple. Sometimes I like the repetitive nature. It is soothing to work on while watching television.

And there is an added bonus to the curtain project I did today. I can use the remaining fabric to make curtains for the bathroom window! I’ll save that for another day.

Cupolas Installed!

Cupola installation completed!

And suddenly there were cupolas on top of the workshop, where no cupolas had been before. Ok, so it wasn’t all that sudden, but I am very happy with them.

My husband built and installed these cupolas. I am truly amazed at what he is able to do with some wood, screen, and a sheet of aluminum. Not only that but the act of getting onto the rooftop and installing them was monumental in my eyes. And they look nice too.

I learned a lot about cupolas that I never knew before. I thought they were ornamental but that is not so. Or rather, they are ornamental, but that was not their original purpose. Cupolas, are structures added on top of a building, and they are often domed. They are intended to provide light and/or ventilation. The purpose of cupolas in barns is to assist in the drying of stored hay. The purpose of our cupola is to provide ventilation. We needed a way to release moisture and heat, and we weren’t happen with what ridge vents would offer in this situation.

For some reason the cupolas remind me of Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby. Their cupolas are much larger, but there’s no accounting for my mental associations.

Close-up of cupola.

Our cupolas have screens behind all the louvers to keep out bats and other critters. We do have bats around here because of all the dead trees and woods in the surrounding area. While I like bats, I don’t want them in my building, especially when I hope to have an upstairs office there one day. I am perfectly content to have them living nearby though, where they can swoop through the air and eat mosquitos to their heart’s content.

So, there is more than you probably ever wanted to know about cupolas. Enjoy!

My Favorite Part of Retirement

Hanging out with the kitten
Spending time with the kitten.

One of my favorite things about retirement is the end of the day. I used to put off bedtime as long as I reasonably could when I was working. Bedtime meant that my evening was over. Once I went to sleep, it seemed like no time had passed and then it was time to go back to work.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked my job as an environmental scientist. It just got in the way of my life and what I wanted to be doing at home. Now, at the end of the evening when I am tired, I just happily go to bed, knowing that when I wake up I can pick up where I left off. Or do something else of my choosing. I don’t have to put in 8+ hours at work before I can come home again. It’s like endless summer vacation!

I have talked to a few other retirees about this and they feel the same way. Time freedom is a grand thing!

There are many other wonderful aspects of retirement that I touched on in a previous post. You can read about them here. Retirement: Run by Dogs! If you would like to share in finding out more, don’t forget to like my blog and follow along.

Books I Read in August 2021

  1. London’s Number One Dog Walking Agency-Kate MacDougall (Non-fiction)

Tales from the owner of London’s Number One Dog-Walking Agency from start-up through move to the country. You will enjoy meeting the dogs and the people too.

2. The White Garden-Stephanie Barron

This book takes place at Sissinghurst Castle during two periods of time. The castle was the home of garden designer Vita Sackville-West and her husband. The plot focuses on determining what actually happened to writer Virginia Woolf during her last days. Was it suicide or foul play? This is a work of fiction and takes liberties with what history records. A fun book, especially for gardeners.

3. Camino Winds-John Grisham

Bruce Cable, wealthy owner of bookstore Bay Books, tries to solve another murder on Camino Island, Florida. A hurricane hits the island causing death and destruction. Bruce finds that his friend was murdered during the storm. He encounters unexpected situations while trying to solve the crime.

4. The Sea Glass Cottage-RaeAnne Thayne

Olivia Harper goes home to help her mother recuperate from an accident and help out with her 15-year-old niece and the family business. She plans to return to her life in Seattle. Many untold secrets surface about Olivia’s family. The truth puts many issues to rest, and plans change.

5. The Pepper Thai Cookbook-Pepper Teigen (Non-fiction)

It turns out that Pepper is the nickname of the author. This is obviously a book of Thai recipes. Many of them look good and it provides handy tips. I will not make many of the recipes because many of them involve fish/oyster sauce and I am the only one here who likes it. I do plan to make the Pad Thai Brussels Sprouts because, hello, how can you go wrong with those two things?!

6. The Book of Hidden Things-Francesco Dimitri

Four friends have a pact to meet each year on the same day in Italy. The leader doesn’t show up this year. I gave it 30 pages and wasn’t into it, so gave up. I have a whole bag of new library books waiting or I might have kept going.

7. Everyone is Italian on Sunday-Rachel Ray (Non-fiction)

Delightful, as are all the Rachel Ray cookbooks I’ve seen. Most of the recipes in this book are ones I want to make when it’s cooler out.

8. Once Upon a Puppy-Lizzie Shane

Unpredictable Deenie Mitchell is always on the move. She stays in Pine Hollow for a while to be with her aging aunt and to help with new programs at the dog shelter. She encounters Connor who has a plan for everything. Both their worlds begin to change and who knows where it will end? This is the second book in the Pine Hollow series, and I have enjoyed them both.

I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite book from this selection. All were good but none really stood out to me. If forced to choice, I would go with The Sea Glass Cottage. Books about relationships and family dynamics always intrigue me.

Magazines: Writer’s Digest, Bird Watcher’s Digest, The Cottage Journal, Everyday Storage, Better Homes & Gardens Secrets of Getting Organized

Making Plum Preserves

Strainer
Straining the plum preserves.

We hard a large harvest from one of our plum bushes this year! We purchased them from our County Extension Office as pencil sized twigs several years ago. The largest is now about seven feet tall. They are covered with sweet smelling white blossoms in the spring. I recently read that the type we have are called wild plums or sand cherries, among a few other names. They start to bloom after three years and produce fruit after four to six years. So we may have even more fruit next year if our other bushes kick in.

I made our first batch of plum preserves last week. I followed a recipe I found on-line which called for lime zest and juice to be added. I strained the final product through a colander which was a bit of work and had some waste. The result was tasty, if a little tart.

Just after that we went to our neighbor’s barn sale. She will be moving soon and was clearing out a lot of things. We will miss Shirley. She has been a good neighbor. And Zekie has certainly enjoyed chasing the geese off her pond. https://sanctuary-acres.com/2021/03/22/a-working-dog/ My husband and I had found a few items and were ready to leave the barn sale when we saw one last item we had to have. It was the colander type strainer with wooden pestle seen above. Our neighbor said she had used it for making applesauce. We knew that it would be perfect for making plum preserves!

I had four more pounds of plums from this week’s picking, so I made more plum jam this afternoon. This time I made plum cinnamon for one batch and the other was plum ginger with freshly grated ginger root. Both are delicious. I used the new strainer set up to remove the plum skins and it worked beautifully.

Preserves
Two flavors of plum preserves.

I also made a peach custard pie this morning with peaches I purchased at a local farm stand. It was a productive day and I am happy we were able to take advantage of local produce.

Peach custard pie
Peach custard pie.

Retirement: Run by Dogs!

Claire, Zekie, and Mommy

There are many good things about retirement, if you couldn’t tell by my happy face! I knew one of the best things would be that I could spend more time with my dogs every day. That was a given.

Another thing that I knew I would appreciate, is not having to worry about planning my life around my work week. I had no idea just how great this would be though. I no longer deal with the dread of Sunday evening being the end of my weekend and making sure that I pack my lunch and my work bag for the next day. I don’t worry about wrapping up family get togethers early enough to go home and rest up and prepare for work the next day.

Even on week days I would be sure to wrap up my evening and have all in order to leave the house by 6:00 a.m. the next morning. And there is always the wondering if you need to stop for gas, or will I have to get up early enough to defrost the car or allow time for snowy roadways. Or, was there a need to make a stop at the grocery store on the way, so as not to make an extra trip back to town?

No more. When it’s time to go to bed, I just go! When I’m rested, I get up. (Often this is pre-empted by a dog announcing that it is time to get up, but still, it is usually way later than I got to sleep when working.) When I need to go to the store I go. Snowy roads? I get there when I get there.

My life is my own again. I haven’t felt this kind of freedom since summer vacation as a kid! Ok, ok, we all know my life is run by dogs, but at least I’m happy this way.

A Vision of Beauty

Gladioli
Gladioli

This is the time of year that I’m happy I dig up 80 gladioli bulbs each fall, give or take a few. In our Zone 5, if you don’t dig them up, they may survive the winter or they may not. It depends on how cold it gets each year. I don’t want to take a chance on losing that many bulbs.

I started out with only about 20 bulbs that I purchased from a local discount store, some years ago. They have multiplied to the amount I have now and seem to stay around 80 for the past few years. Maybe I am just too lazy to dig up the small ones when I have so many others already.

The pink and white ones with the dark pink throats shown above, are my favorite. Note that my favorite glad changes, depending on which one is currently blooming.

Some gladioli photos from previous years showed up on my Facebook memories today. I wonder where I planted the dark burgundy and the deep scarlet ones. I haven’t seen them yet this year. They will bloom one day soon and it will be a nice surprise to see an old friend again.

It seems that the yellow glads are the first to bloom, then the pink ones, followed by the darker ones. I have no idea why, but this seems to always be the case.

Gladioli
Glads in multiple colors.

The gladioli are a bit of work but the rewards are worth it. Not only are they a vision of beauty, the butterflies and hummingbirds love them too. I sat in the garden and watched a hummingbird flit from flower to flower just tonight.

Butterflies
Monarch and swallowtail, shown here on butterfly bush.

One of my favorite parts of August is the butterflies!