Friday, January 30, 2015


'Dad' Lewis, a respected but somewhat gruff member of his small community of Holt, Colorado, has just been given the news that he is dying, and that this will be his last summer.  With the help of his wife Mary and daughter Lorraine, he prepares himself and his family and friends for his death, making amends with the few people he feels he has wronged,  and making sure his family knows he loves them.  His biggest regret is the failed relationship with his gay son, whom he simply could not understand, and from whom he is now estranged. Set in the same town as Haruf's earlier novels, Plainsong and Eventide,  we get a glimpse of this small community, the place Dad held in the town, and the people who have touched his life.  Other stories parallel Dad's-- a young girl who moves in next door with her grandmother, a young preacher who brings controversy and conflict to the town, the loyal employees of Dad's hardware store--all reminders that life goes on.  While the book is structured around Dad, women are an important part of the story--their strength, their friendship, the bond between mothers and daughters. A nice story, beautiful, simple writing, I enjoyed the book very much.

One of my favorite passages in the book is when the young preacher takes a night-time walk through the town and is stopped by a policeman:

Is there something wrong with you? What are you doing out here?
I'm just walking. Having a look around town.
Your family knows where you are?
They know I'm taking a walk.
It doesn't bother you to look in other people's houses? You think that's all right.
I don't think I'm doing any harm. I didn't mean to.
Well, these people don't like it. This man called you in.
What did he say?
That you were looking in his house.
Did he say what he was doing in his house?
Why would he say that?
People in their houses at night. These ordinary lives. Passing without their knowing. I'd hoped to recapture something.
The officer stared at him.
The precious ordinary.
I don't know what you're talking about, but you'd better keep moving.
I thought I'd see people being hurtful. Cruel. A man hitting his wife. But I haven't seen that. Maybe all that's behind the curtains. If you're going to hit somebody maybe you pull the curtain first.
Not necessarily.
What I've seen is the sweet kindness of one person to another. Just time passing on a summer's night. This ordinary life.

The precious ordinary. How true.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Interlude, by Linda Pastan

We are waiting for snow
the way we might wait for a train
to arrive with its cold cargo-
it is late already, but surely
it will come.

We are waiting for snow
the way we might wait
for permission
to breathe again.

For only the snow
will release us, only the snow
will be a letting go, a blind falling
towards the body of earth
and towards each other.

And while we wait at this window
whose sheer transparency
is clouded already
with our mutual breath,

it is as if our whole lives depended
on the freezing color
of the sky, on the white
soon to be fractured
gaze of winter.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Books On My Nightstand

  • We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas. I really liked this book about a family in post WWII New York,  but it's kind of sad.
  • Some Luck, by Jane Smiley. I loved Jane Smiley back in the day and am anxious to read her latest.
  • The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown. Haven't read this yet, but have heard only good reviews.
  • Benediction, by Kent Haruf. Just finished this latest book by the author of Plainsong and Eventide. Thought it was great. 
  • Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Making of a Garden,  by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven. Can't wait to dig into this book I got for Christmas.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Fleurs: Primroses and Paperwhites

Favorite things about January: blooming bulbs...primroses...soup on the stove...snowy days. Hoping for some snow this weekend!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

MLK Day Walk Along the C&O Canal

Yesterday was a pretty day, sunny and not too cold, so we decided to take a walk on the C&O Canal. We started at Lock 6 and walked about three miles.  There weren't too many people out, some walkers, some cyclists, and a couple of kids playing on the somewhat frozen surface of the canal, which made us nervous. It felt good to see the blue skies and to be out in the fresh air for awhile. Every time we walk on the canal we think about what it would have been like to live in one of these lock houses in the 1800s.  You can get an idea by staying in one of these historic lock houses, six of which have been renovated and furnished and are available for overnight stays.  Of the original 57 lock houses, 26 remain today.

Lock House 6

Monday, January 19, 2015


I spotted this pretty pink amaryllis in Old Town Alexandria recently. I thought it was so pretty in these windows.  My fancy amaryllis I ordered from White Flower Farm is still growing--sooo slowly, it's driving me nuts.  I check it every day and it's growing by millimeters.  I keep waiting for it to start shooting up and it's just not happening. And then when putting Christmas decorations away in the basement, I found another old amaryllis that I had put there last fall--hmm, don't know if that will grow either. I'm not having much luck with amaryllis this year,  but I do love them.  Here's a photo from last year's amaryllis, it was a winner, 'Tres Chic.'

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winter: Tonight: Sunset

Winter: Tonight: Sunset
by David Budbill

Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first

through the woods, then out into the open fields
past a couple trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop

and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.

I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening

a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Books of 2014

2014 was a good year for reading. Here are all the books I read in 2014~~some great books, lots of mediocre books, easy beach reads, some non-fiction, book club books. I found a few new (to me) authors that I really like (Louise Penney, JoJo Moyes, Maggie Shipstead, Sarah Waters), and some old favorites (Ian McEwan, Anne Lamott). I sadly read the final book in the Wallander series. I discovered a few new Scandinavian authors. Unfortunately, one of my favorite authors, Anne Rivers Siddons, really disappointed me this year with her new book The Girls of August. She is one of my all time favorites, but this one I could barely finish.  My favorites for 2014 are highlighted in bold.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, by Marta McDowell
We Are Water, by Wally Lamb
O Pioneers, by Willa Cather
Survival Lessons, by Alice Hoffman
The Gods of Guilt, by Michael Connelly
A Troubled Man, by Henning Mankell
Still Life, by Louise Penny
The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri
My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight
How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
A Colder Kind of Day, by Gail Bowen
The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith
Sweet Tooth, by Ian McEwan
Me Before You, by JoJo Moyes
The Girls, by Lori Lansen
Island Girls, by Nancy Thayer
A Fatal Grace, by Louise Penny

Hypothermia, by Arnaldur Indridason
The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro
The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty
All Fall Down, by Jennifer Weiner
The Arsonist, by Sue Miller
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith
The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Virginia Woolf's Garden, by Caroline Zoob
One Plus One, by JoJo Moyes

The Headmaster’s Wife, by Thomas Green
The Girls of August, by Anne Rivers Siddons
Always Watching, by Chevy Stevens
The Last First Day, by Carrie Brown
The Silver Star, by Jeannette Walls
The Ice Princess, by Camilla Lackberg
The Vacationers, by Emma Straub
And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini
Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead
The Divorce Papers, by Susan Rieger
Astonish Me, by Maggie Shipstead

Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding, by Lynn Darling
Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
The Children Act, by Ian McEwan
Off Course, by Michelle Hunevern
The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny
Dear Life, by Alice Munro
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, by Anne Lamott
Gray Mountain, by John Grisham

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

You Should Have Known

Grace is a marriage therapist who has just written a book about relationships, and about the red flags that people should pay attention to when choosing their partners. Grace lives a pretty nice life on the upper East Side of NYC with her pediatric oncologist husband, and their 12 year old son, Henry.  Grace's book, You Should Have Known,  is about to come out, and she is busy promoting her book on talk shows and in magazine interviews.  At the same time she is trying to find her place among the gossipy moms at her son's private school.  And then,  the mother of a 'scholarship' child at her son's school is murdered.  Grace’s  husband is out of town and not answering his phone. What happens next turns Grace's life upside down. Everything she believed about relationships, her husband, her marriage, her life, is pretty much wrong. While not a great book, it kept my interest and I wanted to keep reading to see what happened.  The book is pretty much all about Grace—you really don’t get to know her husband, or her son and how this all affects him. The ending is fairly predictable, a little too neat perhaps, but I enjoyed the book.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Christmas at the U.S. Botanic Gardens

I know it's the New Year and Christmas is over, but of course I have to share photos from the U.S. Botanic Gardens. It's one of our favorite traditions at Christmas to visit the Botanic Gardens downtown and see their holiday display. We never get tired of seeing (and taking pictures of) the replicas of all the DC monuments, made entirely of natural plant materials. The details on the buildings are amazing.

The poinsettias this year were especially beautiful. Many were a smaller variety,  Euphorbia 'Princettia Hot Pink.'  They are more compact than the usual poinsettia, with smaller bracts, and I loved the bright colors.  I am definitely looking for this variety next year. The conservatory at the Botanic Gardens is one of my favorite places to wander about, especially welcome on a cold winter day. The holiday exhibit is an extra bonus.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 ~ In the Garden

January~Amaryllis 'Très Chic'

I like to look through all the photos of my garden at the end of every year and pick out my favorites. I also like to see the evolution of my garden and flowers throughout the seasons. Here are my favs for 2014, and they (with the exception of the March tulips)  are all photos of my own garden and my own fleurs.  I'm hoping to be more adventurous with my photo-taking this year, and maybe even start a photo-a-day project. We'll see.

Here's to many more beautiful moments in the garden in 2015.

February~ Phalaenopsis orchid


April~Bleeding Hearts

May~Tree Peony

June~Roses, Larkspur

July~Phlox, Echinacea

August~Annual pots


October~Late afternoon garden

November~Golden hosta

December~A favorite ornament