Nicholas has been waiting for this moment for three years.
Above is a picture of Mikey in the 1st grade during spirit week. Every year the school has a week of lunacy where the kids have crazy hair, wear their clothes backwards, dress to represent their heritage, show up in pajamas, represent their favorite sport or team–the themes change slightly every year, but crazy hair day is a given. For three years Nico has watched Mikey leave the house with crazy hair and for three years he has wanted in on the action.
Here is Mikey this year, two short years later. He didn’t look like a Dr. Seuss character this year. He looked like a werewolf or a vampire according to a few of his friends, which thrilled him. This is also the first year he had a specific look in mind. He wanted slicked back super-blonde hair with a red streak down the middle. The blonde hair paint was too close to his natural light brown so it didn’t show up as well as we hoped and his hair is too short to slick back dry (it has to be dry for the paint), but overall he was pleased.
As for Nicholas? Well.
He wanted a rainbow of colors, but I had him limit it to three. You know, keep it subtle. We went blonde all over with blue tips and a red rim all around the base. The red rim was his idea. He didn’t look in the mirror until there was a finished product.
His response: OOOOOOOOOOOHH, DUDE!! I LOOK FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!
These two had me walking the aisles of Rite Aid searching for hair paint and waking up at the crack of dawn to style their crazy hair so it looked just so. I foresee a future of strange haircuts, tattoos, and piercings. That’s fine with me as long as they stay clean/sober, are upstanding citizens, and graduate with honors from a top tier school. If they get academic scholarships, I’ll pay for the darn tattoos myself.
I wrote and scheduled this post before the events in Oklahoma. What a nightmare. My prayers are with the victims and their families.
Don’t believe the stories you have heard about me. I have never killed anyone, and I have never stolen another woman’s husband. Oh, if I find one lying around unattended, I might climb on, but I never took one that didn’t want taking. And I never meant to go to Africa. I blame it on the weather. It was a wretched day in Paris, grey and gloomy and spitting with rain, when I was summoned to my mother’s suite at the Hotel de Crillon. I had dressed carefully for the occasion, not because Mossy would care–my mother is curiously unfussy about such things. But I knew wearing something chic would make me feel a little better about the ordeal to come. So I put on a divine little Molyneux dress in scarlet silk with a matching cloche, topped it with a clever chinchilla stole and left my suite, boarded the lift and rode up two floors to her rooms.
So begins A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn, a book described to me as a cross between Out of Africa and The Great Gatsby. That description hinges on the book’s setting: Africa, 1923. In reality, it’s closer to Rules of Civility and Out of Africa the movie, although even that is a poor comparison.
Delilah Drummond is a free-spirited American cotton heiress who spends her time living and loving abroad, most recently in Paris, France. She is never without a man or a drink, and as such often finds herself in regrettable circumstances. Following her latest in flagrante delicto, she agrees it would be best if she waited for the publicity to die down at her stepfather’s estate in Africa. (Kenya, to be specific, but more on that in a minute.) Because she is a loose cannon, and because this is 1923, her 29 year-old virgin cousin, Dodo, chaperones her extended stay.
Almost immediately upon arriving in Africa, Delilah meets a pulsing sack of testosterone named J. Ryder White. I have made my position on character names pretty clear, so you can imagine what I thought of the name “J. Ryder (with a y) White” in a book set in British Colonial Africa. He goes by the name Ryder (with a y), so we don’t know what the J. stands for, although I assume it is John or James or Joseph or some similar name that people actually used in 1923.
I have never heard of Deanna Raybourn before this book, but I hear she is the author of a popular Victorian romantic mystery series called Lady Julia Gray. Like the Lady Julia Gray series, A Spear of Summer Grass is historical fiction with strong romantic elements rather than a true romance novel. Raybourn’s Lady Julia Gray fans are a passionate bunch, and many of them do not feel this book can compare to her Victorian series. I’ve gone through a couple of their most common complaints below.
Writing a book set in British Colonial Africa is tricky. And let me start with that, the geography. It’s actually Kenya. The book is set in Kenya, though it’s only mentioned in passing. Africa is a huge continent, and while the characters go on and on about falling in love with Africa, no one other than Ryder has traveled beyond the borders of Kenya.
This seems like something silly to take issue with, but perhaps the cast of jaded and privileged ex-patriots spouting declarations of love is what pushed it from annoyance to grievance. This brings me to the original point. It seems almost impossible to write a book set in British Colonial Africa from a white perspective without glamorizing colonization to some degree. This is the issue most detractors had with this book, and I agree. Raybourn’s treatment of the tribes, the Masai in particular, ran too close to stereotypical with the gentle warrior, the mystical grandfather, and the mute with a limp whose actions spoke louder than words.
The second issue Raybourn fans was with the amorality of Delilah Drummond. She was sexually aggressive, unapologetic about her hedonistic lifestyle, and shallow.
It was scarcely a fortnight later but all the arrangements had been made. Clothes had been ordered, trunks had been packed, papers procured. It sounds simple enough, but there had been endless trips to couturiers and outfitters and bookshops and stuffy offices for tickets and forms and permissions.
On this issue I didn’t agree. I didn’t find her any more amoral than the male characters in other books, or in this one. Funny, no one complained about Ryder sleeping around with most of Africa (remember, he actually left Kenya), but he did. In Delilah’s case, she used her sexuality as a sword and shield following the death of her 1st husband during WWI, a war in which she served as a nurse–hardly the act of someone shallow and selfish. Ryder wagers he will be the first man to bed Delilah in Africa (there’s a pool) and jokingly threatens to “violate” her in the bush (ha! ha! he’s so funny) but barely a peep about amorality from the peanut gallery because (1) he is a virile man and (2) his first wife broke his heart. Boo-hoo.
“I’m sorry you lost your bet,” I told him. “But let that be a lesson to you, Ryder. I’m no man’s foregone conclusion.”
I find it telling that we seek to comfort and tame the men who act out sexually but spurn the women who do the same. I don’t condone promiscuity or adultery, but neither do I condone double standards.
The uniform came back–or at least pieces of it did. Germans blew him to bits during the Battle of the Marne, and I don’t remember much of what happened after that. A black curtain has fallen over that time, and I don’t ever pull it back to look behind. It’s a place I don’t visit in my memories, and it was a long while before I came out of it. When I emerged, I chopped off my hair and hemmed up my skirts and set out to see what I’d been missing in the world. It had been an interesting ride, no doubt about it, but things had gotten a little out of hand to land me with banishment to Africa. I had handled my affairs with style and even a little discretion from time to time. But the world could be a hard place on a girl who was just out for a little fun, and I felt mightily put upon as the train churned into the station at Marseilles.
Men sow wild oats while women are hoes. I don’t buy it, and I applaud Raybourn for allowing Delilah to give as good as she got, for all the good it did her.
Since this post is also a giveaway, I can’t go into as deep a review as I do usually without giving a way major spoilers. Speaking in generalities, I enjoyed the first half better than the second, which had a conflict and mystery the came and left. Delilah’s voice was a scene stealer for me, excellent, really, but obviously not for those mentioned above so it’s a matter of preference. I’m a sucker for women with sharp, witty minds and am in the “try not to judge until you have suffered an unspeakable tragedy” camp. In response to her prudish cousin getting groped in a nightclub:
“Don’t bother,” I told the devil. “She’s English. You won’t find anything but bony disapproval there.”
I have two copies to giveaway to US and Canadian residents 18 years of age and older. In order to win, please leave a comment on this post. I will pick a winner in one week.
[image source: they are all stills from the movie Out of Africa, of course. It has nothing really to do with the book, and the character have little resemblance to those in A Spear of Summer Grass, but all I can say is Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. If you think I'm going to pass up an opportunity to even tangentially include pictures like this in a post, you must be new here. Hello and welcome.]
Body, Mind, Spirit
Drought tolerant plants photographed this week, top to bottom, are as follows:
- Salvia (aka Mexican sage, which is actually in the mint family)
- Alpine daisy
- Bottle brush
- Night blooming iris
This week I decided to focus on drought tolerant plants, partly to protect myself against photo-failure in the event of another heat wave (good move, we had triple digits), and partly to showcase the variety and color you can still achieve for your garden with drought tolerant, hardy plants.
All of these plants require full sun and little water with the exception of the night blooming iris, which is only drought tolerant once it’s established. If you are a completely negligent gardener, then the agapanthus is for you. The Mister and I pulled a huge clump out out of the front yard when we were first married and because it was a long day and agapanthus are dirt cheap here, we tossed them on the backyard patio with the intent to plant them the next day. It never happened until the following weekend, and by that point they looked like wilted green onions. I’m not sure why we planted them anyway, but we did, and those things came back strong within 24 hours and without extra care! We couldn’t believe it. You can’t kill those things. I love the white ones–so rare around here–en masse. They’re hydrangeas for the sunshine state.
I heard from a few people that lantana grows in several parts of the US (and abroad), and it’s always interesting to hear how plants tolerate different zones. I hear on the East Coast lantana is an annual, and that in Australia it’s a noxious weed. In my part of southern California it’s a shrub that stays green all year and flowers nonstop during the summer. It’s made for our environment. The hotter it gets, the brighter and more voluminous the blooms.
I only took pictures of plants I could easily name, so there were plenty of other drought tolerant plants I recognized but didn’t photograph. Not knowing the name and not being able to research it and confirm that it was drought tolerant would drive me bonkers. I should buy a pocket plant identifier book. I’m sure something like that exists.
Our climate in the Inland Empire allows us to grow a wide variety of plants, but there are a few plants you don’t see around around here except for in the refrigerated section of a florist or Trader Joes. Peonies, for example, are a no-go. We could make them bloom, maybe, but it’d be a poor showing. I’ve never seen a garden with lilacs. The closest I have ever come to moss is in craft stores and after years of searching, I’ve let go of the dream of owning a bird’s nest fern. I’ve never seen one around here, not even as a houseplant.
Note that I said Inland Empire in the above paragraph. California is such a big state, and with such a variety of climates, that what works for me wouldn’t work for someone living an hour from me–and for entirely different reasons depending on whether they live an hour east, west, north and south.
The world is so small these days. How do these drought tolerant (cheap, water friendly) plants compare to what’s inexpensive and plentiful in your neck of the woods?
Song of the Week
It is What it It — Kacey Musgraves
This is the best video I could find since there isn’t an official video out.
I don’t know about this week! Yesterday I was on the phone with a man in the fraud division of my bank because someone in Georgia was having the time of their life in a Dollar Tree on my dime, and when he asked me how my day was going I said, “Absolutely lousy, but thank you for asking!” He laughed and told me the money hadn’t left my account but to keep an eye on it. I asked him to double check because my bank balance was considerably lower than it was the day before. So he taptaptaps on his computer and asks me if the charges to the Ford dealership were mine and I said, “Oh, that’s right. How could I forget? My car DIED as I was crossing a lane of traffic during rush hour on one of my city’s busiest intersections after boo-boo fixing one of my children at school.”
So then he laughs even harder and says, “Okay…so…the vet charges. Is your dog dying?”
And I said, “No, that was just dog food.”
I made him laugh a few times and even though it was a result of my craptacular week, it did make me happy. My favorite thing to do is to make people laugh.
I walked 2 miles in triple digit weather and felt great about it. Strike that. I felt downright humble-brag, post a sweaty picture of myself on pinterest-smug about it. So there.
I went on another long walk and saw this guy. ZOMG WHAT. I want to meet these people. I guarantee they wear matching wolf sweatshirts–and not because they’re ironic hipsters.* I need to know how they reached the conclusion to place a life-size Native American doll in Western wear on a plastic patio chair. (And why they don’t fix the right foot!) I can speculate that it happened after a marathon of Curb Appeal and one too many neighborhood cats, but you can never be too sure. I had a friend in college whose parents had a life-size grandma doll that wore curlers and held a broom. They had her positioned so she appeared to be looking into the front yard from behind a kitchen curtain. You know, like she heard something suspicious and she was checking it out. I’m dead serious. She even wore housecoats–several, it varied according to season–and she had a name that I can’t recall. They said she was a great alarm system, but I don’t think it’s for the reasons they assumed.
* Ironic hipsters, just stop. Honestly.
Mikey christened the leather Chucks my brother and sister-in-law gave him for Easter. We buy our kids shoes, preferably cool shoes we may not spend the money on ourselves. It’s awesome, and even the kids like it because my brother has great taste in shoes.
Larissa came over and taught me how to hand-tie the quilts! It’s only a matter of time before they are on the bed and I can call the boys’ room done for now. I can’t wait.
Today will be a day without insults, broken down cars, injured children, fraud, and scales that lie. Also, I was promoted at Wayfair to regular writer aka Homemaker! I’ve made the cut. Here is my first post, though I’m still listed as a guest here.
I’m so far behind in my reading, it’s not even funny. Let’s discuss The Shoemaker’s Wife on Tuesday, May 28. That leaves Daring Greatly, which we’ll have to bump a week or two. I swear, I’ll get back into the swing of things. At least that gives some of you with long wait times at the library time to get the books. (?)
This week took me by surprise. It was stressful, sad, and worrisome. I wasn’t able to tackle any new projects because of this, but at least one bump in the week–Mikey getting hurt during recess bad enough for the school to call me–gave me an idea for a project free post for today.
I’ve been meaning to go over the projects I’ve worked on the last almost 2 years to review what has worked and what hasn’t. Today provided inspiration to do that following a call from the school.
When the front office called me, I assumed it was about Nicholas. Just the day before, his PE teacher told me as I pulled into school that he hurt himself again during class, but this time there wasn’t blood. The poor child really is a klutz, so when the caller ID on my phone lit up, I bypassed regular greetings and got right to it.
“Well, this can’t be good.”
“Actually, Mrs. Kendall, today it’s Mikey.”
She bypassed the regular greetings, too. We’ve established a comfortable rapport, what with me being there almost weekly.
Mikey fell during recess and scraped his arm and knee. My first thought was…and? I know it sounds callous, but Nico has effectively trained me react somewhat calmly when faced with unknown injuries.
She went on and said there was a lot of blood and that if I had the time, she would like for me to come and look at it and apply antibiotic ointment. They can only dispense band-aids, and she would feel better if he got some ointment on the scrapes. I told her I was on my way.
I slipped on my shoes, walked into the kitchen, and grabbed my First Aid box from the medicine cabinet, and drove to school. Once there, I irrigated Mikey’s scrapes, put on some ointment, and wrapped him up in some sterile gauze. (I’m telling you, Nico has me trained. I’m like a war nurse.)
As I was packing up, Mikey looked at me with admiration and said, “Mom, you’re, like, a clinic or something.”
A medicine cabinet organized the way we have it (kids, adults, first aid) has been a project that worked. When the kids are sick, I grab the entire box and leave it in their room while they’re sick. (There is a great comment in the comment section about the potential safety issues by doing this–proceed with caution!) When they’re better, it goes back to the cabinet. I don’t worry about accidentally giving them our medication because ours is in a separate box. I never have to dig around the back of the cabinet looking for little bottles. Everything is contained. I would love for the boxes to be made of metal, and I saw some great ones at IKEA, but size is an issue for me. My cabinets are narrow.
My Mama’s Toolbox. I no longer have to go into the garage (unattached) and hunt around for tools. I have everything I need in one box that I carry with me around the house. The only problem is that now everyone uses the Mama’s Toolbox and let me tell you, you haven’t seen angry until you’ve seen me go for a tool in my box only to discover that someone “borrowed” it last week and forgot to put it back.
The Quakehold didn’t withstand the moisture of a bathroom without proper ventilation–and I didn’t think it would–but my organized hair accessories is still another favorite project. I have plans to velcro the boxes to the door, but for now they sit on the bottom shelf. I couldn’t be happier to have my bobby-pins and hair ties organized and separated. It really has made a difference getting ready.
The fitness drawer? Brilliant. It makes getting ready easy and it makes putting away laundry easy. Plus, don’t ask me why this is, but having everything there down to the socks is key. Honestly, I think it’s the socks box that makes the difference.
We should have redone the laundry room years ago. The only problem I have with it is that the Mister likes to store all the paper products on the top shelf. I’m 5’4″ when I have my back up about something. The rest of the time…I’m not 5’4″. Getting items from that top shelf is a real pain. The clean room is worth it, so I can’t complain.
The family room was years in the making and discussed in countless posts as we slowly got things done. The wall of books is a favorite and is a good use of space. I love my white ektorp sectional from IKEA and could write a whole post about the pros and cons. Short answer: I would recommend it in in a heartbeat, with caveats.
There are many other projects that have worked out well, but the only other one that stands out right now is the binder method for storing pictures. It makes it easy to store new pictures as they come in.
Next week I’m going to discuss the projects that haven’t worked, or haven’t worked as well as I hoped. There have been plenty.
Now it’s your turn! Feel free to share how you have lived according to the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Made a plan? Cleaned a drawer? Bought a sofa? Tell us about it with a link or comment. A few guidelines:
- Please link to a specific post, not a general blog address.
- Your post must relate to your efforts to create an intentional home. I have a delete button, and I’m not afraid to use it.
- No links to giveaways, please.
- Let’s use this weekly link up as an opportunity to gather inspiration and motivation. Click links. Discover new people. Say hi and good job and all that stuff.