The Mister was gone all this week–he gets back late Friday night–and I survived! I’m glad school is over in a few weeks. I’ll have the summer to get used to this new schedule. One thing I’ve realized the last three weeks of flying mostly solo is that having some freezer meals/crockpot meals ready is key. It’s too tempting when it’s just me and the boys to eat light or get take out. That’s fine when he was traveling a few times a quarter, but several times per month is a different story. Any tips?
On Monday I spent hours working on my book review post and it felt so good to finally get it done! I didn’t add the pictures I researched because sourcing them took more time than I was willing to commit. You can see them here in a pinterest board I created. I like to create pinterest boards for books that inspire me to fall down a rabbit hole of information. It works better for some books than others. Yes, I’m doing one for The Shoemaker’s Wife. You can see that one here. I’m just getting started and have barely touched locations, so don’t be expecting to find pictures of a strapping blonde Italian…yet.
Jacaranda season is in force around here. When it’s overcast around here, which is admittedly not often in May, even the air has a purpley hue. Everything is so pretty, which might surprise some people. A few months ago I mentioned on twitter that the Inland Empire is really pretty in the early spring because of all the flowers, plants, whatever. So this person replies something along the lines of, “Yeah, I bet that’s the only time you could ever say that.”
Guess what? Not the only time I got to say it. Here I am, end of May, and it’s still pretty. Sure, I get hit on the head constantly by falling jacaranda petals while I’m walking and it turns out bees love the petals all over the ground so there are days when I am quietly and calmly walking through bees, but it’s a pretty dangerous!
Nicholas is allergic to penicillin. GUESS HOW I FOUND OUT! I was in the emergency room with the boys–remember, husband out of town–at around 7am and as they are checking out Nico, Mikey says, “So, am I going to be late for school? Because I really don’t want to be late for school.”
After I was sure Nico was, you know, going to survive, I texted 4 parents from the school who were close to the hospital. They all responded almost immediately, but it was Jen, Emma’s mom, who got there within minutes to take His Royal Highness to school. Of course I’m happy Nico was fine, but I was also happy to know I am part of such a wonderful community of parents.
Mikey had his end of season baseball party, and the coach called him The Little Professor. This made me laugh because the teachers at school call him Professor (they also call him little old man) and so do a few of his friends. And, of course, he will always be my Professor Wentworth.
The Mister comes home for a few days (yay!) and I get to take Jen out for her birthday lunch. Then we’re going shopping at a local Catholic store. If we have any time left after that, we’ll probably hit some strip bars and place some bets at the track.
I’m finishing up The Shoemaker’s Wife and, if all goes as planned, conducting a thorough research of the back of my eyelids.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Not too many of my projects have been complete failures, thank goodness. I can’t recall if I’ve had to scrap any of them, but with many of them almost 18 months old they need to be revisited. Possessions need to be reevaluated, items need to be culled and reorganized, and everything needs a general spring cleaning. It’s one of the universal truths of The William Morris Project: Only the dead are done.
Real, living, breathing people make messes and collect clutter and keep pens that don’t write well. They put things in drawers when they don’t have the time or energy to think about where it belongs. They are human; they are not perfect. Sometimes, but not always, they make decisions in hopes of pleasing others and not themselves.
Case in point!
Let me tell you about organizing instruction manuals. I saw this idea on pinterest and thought it was brilliant. I’ve always had this idea of a shelf of home binders where everything home related would be there at the ready. Contracts, warranties, important documents, emergency plans, whatever. It’s what most organizational-type people recommend you do, and I thought I would start with our manuals. Great. No problem. Perfect, in theory.
I went to Staples and grabbed a gigantic black binder because that’s my personality. A gigantic black binder is a solid choice. The largest size would grow with me. Black doesn’t get and dingy over the years and is a color that would always be available. I wouldn’t have to worry about matching colors later down the road when I bought more binders. But nooooooo. Did I listen to my usual pragmatic self? I walked back to the end of the store because I needed something, maybe a label–can’t remember–and I stumbled upon the Martha Stewart section of the store.
At the time I was reading a few other home organization blogs and fell into the trap of comparing projects. Everything they did was really pretty. Their bins were all from The Container Store and labeled with modge-podged scrapbook paper in happy colors they cut out with their Cricut. I’m normally great about admiring without second guessing myself but for some reason I felt vulnerable that week. I didn’t want to be pragmatic and practical. I wanted to be pretty and twee! I put back the black binder and bought the (much smaller and more expensive) Martha Stewart binder in aqua, a color I don’t even like. Since then, I’ve bought a few more items that came with instruction manuals but I haven’t put them in the binder for two reasons. One: there isn’t room in that very pretty and twee aqua binder for another piece of paper, let alone a manual. Two: every time I look at it I get ticked off thinking about my moment of vanity.
This is another universal truth of The William Morris Project: Projects built on vanity crumble.
I couldn’t return the album (I plan to give it to my sister-in-law for my niece, Gabby), but I did stop reading the home organization blogs. There is nothing wrong with pretty and twee. There is nothing wrong with taking the time to make colorful labels or shopping at The Container Store. But, since I don’t do those things, there is little value in me following blogs that focus on home organization products. Honestly, I’m not into home organization. I’m into that William Morris quote and, by consequence, raising happy, productive boys in a peaceful environment without a lot of extraneous nonsense.
Unrelated, but something to think about: even hoarders can be neat-freaks. People just don’t see them as hoarders because everything is so well organized.
The second project that didn’t work as intended is actually a series of projects I affectionately call anything Nico and the Mister might possibly touch.
If Nico touches it, assume it will be in tatters by the time he’s done. He knows where I keep my stamps and some craft supplies, so all hope is lost there. I’ve lost track how many times I’ve organized their closet. His side of the dresser looks like an explosion went off. You can’t even close the drawers because when he looks for a shirt he half pulls out every single shirt in the drawer. If he’s missing a shoe, he takes out shoes from the shoe drawer until he finds the shoe he wants and then leaves, usually in a hurry because he is always in a hurry.
Sometimes he pulls everything out of the bathroom cabinet just to see how high he can stack it. Math, puzzles, building–he excels at anything that requires spatial acuity or reasoning. I can only hope he uses the gifts God gave him to invent a machine that will put his dirty socks in the hamper.
The Mister, on the other hand, is fairly tidy but only when it comes to projects he feels are important. His closet is not important. The way I organized the dog medication is not important. The coat closet is not as important as the hook right next to it. The way I organized the master bathroom is important. The medicine boxes are important.
You can see where this is going. When you do projects for someone else, you have to expect that they won’t always appreciate your efforts, especially since you really are trying to foist your methodology on them. The only way something or someone will truly stay organized is if they do it themselves, but in the case of children, that’s not always likely. So, for Nicholas I know he needs ample space to make a mess. If I want his dresser to remain tidy I can’t keep it stuffed with clothes. I have to be on top of purging so he has room to paw through his shirts like a dog digging for a bone. Same with the toys in his closet. I have to take those to Goodwill or it will forever be a giant game of Jenga in there.
Treating Nico and the Mister like me and Mikey hasn’t worked.
Last but not least, the homework drawers. This project I loved and continue to love. Every parent needs a homework drawer or two. But! I should have put it into my calendar (hahahahaha! I DON’T HAVE A CALENDAR!) to have them clean it out every month, just like they clean out their desks at school. They are a mess now, and once again it’s a battle to find a single pencil. The school year is almost over, but next year we will put into place a clean out day for the drawers. [See universal truth #1]
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.
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.