I bought a thing. I did a thing.

As a plant seller on FB Marketplace, I have not been much of a buyer until recently. I have picked up a couple of cool things during Quarantine. Inexpensive items but nice additions for our home. The added bonus: thrifting is better for the environment!

I saw this cute round table for $25. Low investment = low risk. I feel freer to experiment with stuff when I haven’t invested a lot of money into them.

The original color of the table was gray, I believe. But the bottom had been painted black (which was still in pretty good shape) then the top was spray painted white.

When I picked it up she mentioned there was also a leaf to expand it so that was a nice little surprise bonus.

We have a small kitchen nook area that I enjoy reading in because the natural light is so fantastic. I’ve recently painted the room (…which I’m not sure I ever blogged the results.) I wanted a round table where I could sit and read, journal, etc. I also decided I wanted to do a ‘tone-on-tone’ by painting the top of the table the same color as the walls. Since the room is small, I didn’t want to feel like the table was cluttering the space. Painting it the same color as the walls gave it continuity for the eye.

After a few coats of paint I then topped it with a glossy polyurethane finish.

It’s the perfect size. I’m so happy with it. A cup of chai and the London Book Review magazine and I am in complete relaxation mode.

A room of blue-ish silver-ish plants, walls and now tabletop. A pretty good $25 investment.

Sidenote: the table leaf storage is kind of ingenious. Maybe you have a table like this but I’ve never seen a fold-in leaf. So I made a dorky video for you to see…

What great finds have you fallen into lately?

Hoya, Queen

Someone told me once that you can tell the difference between a Hoya Krimson Queen (left) and a Hoya Krimson Princess (right) because the Queen wears her crown on her head (white on the outside of the green) and the Princess wears a white gown (white on the inside of the leaf) down the middle.

⁣Hoyas have been fun to collect and watch. Their new leaves are pinkish, which turn to white, which then add some green and then the final leaf of green with white markings.

⁣These queens and princesses are celebrating the notorious one today. I am saddened by the news of Justice Ginsberg’s passing but I am also inspired by her life. All women should be proud and encouraged and challenged to be ever learning and evolving while holding tightly to compassion and empathy for all.

THE GREEN WITCH by Arin Murphy Hiscock

To be honest, I’ve put off posting about this book wanting to make sure it wasn’t going to be too offensive to anyone – or to myself. I wanted to get far enough into the book to see if it was just too ‘woo-woo’.

⁣Thankfully, it is what I hoped it would be – a celebration of living in partnership with our environment.

There is a craving – similar to pregnancy cravings – that will strike me and I’ll say to Scott, ‘I’ve got to get out in nature.’ When I have been isolated too much, or too busy trying to meet deadlines or too ANYTHING, my therapy is to place myself into nature. Tree bathing. Grounding. Whatever you want to call it, there is a recalibration that happens when I can breath in clean air and notice the magnitude of the natural world around me.

Of course, that’s not always an option, so I try to work with scents and homegrown elements for natural healing and mood enhancement and many many many times, for antioxidants and anti-inflammatory treatments. Whether it’s the sourced food we eat or the natural cleaner made with rosemary from our backyard, I truly believe the further we get from nature, the further we are from the environment in which we were created to live.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I am neither vegan nor a purist, but we can all attempt to make changes in some areas of our lives.

THE GREEN WITCH includes ways in which we can use the natural things around us whether it be wood for cabinetry or gardenias for tranquility. There are recipes for Digestive Tea or a homemade balm for colds and headaches. It even includes celebrations you can have for each of the season changes. (Happy Autumnal Equinox on the 22nd!)

As far out there as it seems, it is all really quite logical and simple. I love combining things together for scrubs or oils or to clean my kitchen counters. It makes me feel part gypsy (don’t we all want that??) and part Native American – working with the seasons and the fruit of the land. Farmers determined our school year based on harvest time. Many churches follow the liturgical cycles that correspond with the seasons. There are ways that you participate in these cycles without even realizing it.

After bashing my leg a few days ago (in a super dumb way), tonight is all about grilled salmon with ginger and spinach – natural ways to reduce swelling. Lemon verbena, lavender and grapefruit are my favorite essential oil combinations to slow my mind and my breath. And of course, caring for houseplants and learning from their rhythm and cycles.

Our environment (of which I believe was created for us by God as a gift) is worth preserving. Living within. And voting for.

Finding Calm

These are a few books that have meant a lot to me personally during this pandemic season. I find reliance on the liturgy comforting when you don’t feel like praying. Leaning into ancient traditions (even rote memorization) gets you through at times when your heart just isn’t in it.

I especially recommend the book, Flee. Be Silent. Pray. by Ed Cyzewski. I’ve found a great deal of comfort (and shame release, to be honest) reading this book. It’s no accident I bought it right before the pandemic.

“Find a space for walking with God”, Cyzewski writes. Thomas Merton wrote about the moment he walked into his monastery to stay for the first time: ‘Brother Matthew locked the gate behind me and I was enclosed in the four walls of my new freedom.’”

Has Quarantine 2020 been our own monastery? Has it forced us to slow down, to engage more authentically with each other, to pay closer attention to the blatant injustices that have been hiding in plain sight? I keep using the phrase ‘Quarantine as monastery.’ That’s what it’s felt like to me. I’ve been stir crazy at times, yes. But I also have come face to face with Greta in a way I haven’t taken the time to do before my regular routines were broken apart. I’ve learned some ugly traits and I’ve seen talents I have stepped around too often before. I am processing my own prejudices and I’ve embraced a forced contentment with less. I’ve found, through this pandemic of all things, the newly available space to walk intentionally each day with God. I want to go to movie theaters and hug people and travel, but I don’t want my ‘quarantine monastery’ to disappear too quickly. Or to be forgotten too easily. My mind and my heart still has so much work to do. In time. No hurry. Let’s have just one more chai together as I continue to try to memorize this nightly prayer:

‘Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Attend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest for the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love sake. Amen.’

Cebu Blue

Please don’t tell the others, but this Cebu Blue ((might be my favorite houseplant.)) I try to keep it low key, but I think the others know. The leaves on a Cebu are so magically blueish silveryish. I just love it!

I bought this one from a local seller as a little rooted baby and she’s grown so much this summer.

Put it on your plant wish list: Cebu Blue Pothos. You won’t be sorry!

THE STUFF OF LIFE by Hilary Robertson

The past few days have been spent in between the pages of this beautiful book from called The Stuff of Life: Arranging Things Ordinary and Extraordinary. I can hardly make it through two pages without jumping up and rearranging something or another around my house. Tweaks here and there. I’m a bit too picky about home interiors books. But I had a feeling about this one and I have NOT been disappointed!

Londoners capture mood like no one else in the world.

Dried but not hung.

I’m finishing up my first season as a hydrangea grower. They have been so much fun to nurture and learn about and watch their rhythms. I can’t wait to see what grows from their stalks next year! I’ve tried to amend the soil to be more acidic (coffee grounds and fertilizer) for the blue blooms.

⁣But for now, I’m enjoying the warmth their dried flowers bring as our home transitions into more autumnal scenes.

HORSE CRAZY by Sarah Maslin Nir

I smiled when I received this gifted book from Simon & Schuster. My daughter loved horses so very much when she was growing up. She even volunteered at a local stable before she was old enough to officially work. I can’t wait to read this memoir. Seems a perfect escape from the extreme peopleness of people right now. An equestrian escape might be just what the therapist ordered.

The official PR description says it best: ‘Acclaimed journalist and avid equestrian Sarah Maslin Nir began riding horses when she was just two years old and hasn’t stopped since. Horse Crazy is a fascinating, funny, and moving love letter to these graceful animals and the people who—like her—are obsessed with them. It is also a coming-of-age story of Nir growing up an outsider within the world’s most elite inner circles, and finding her true north in horses.’

Sounds like a perfect book to settle down with on a cool, September afternoon.

MUSICAL CHAIRS by Amy Poeppel

“To drink coffee on my stoop each morning and gin on the roof at night…” – Will, commenting on what he loves about living in New York City

MUSICAL CHAIRS was an enjoyably quick and entertaining read and my first Amy Poeppel book. It has been sitting on my shelf for a few months now, and honestly – I was a little thrown off by the cute cover. My brain (…feeble as it is…) registered this as a YA book. I was wrong. 

As a musician nerd in high school and college, I enjoyed the perfect music-snobbishness in this book. Musical arts can be so high brow, each of us thinking we’ve rediscovered the most subtle art of listening to and participating in the creation of music. But the arts in New York City? Welllll, you’ve just raised the stakes even higher. Poeppel captured this tone with humor and accuracy.

Bridget and Will are the best of friends. They are two members of a classical musical trio in NYC. Will plays the piano, Bridget the cello and the position of violinist is an oft-revolving seat for newcomers. Taking some time off during the summer, Bridget heads to her family’s country home in Connecticut with hopes of romance and reading and quiet, lazy summer days. Through various happenstances, her two grown children end up moving home to find themselves and her anticipated summer love ends up breaking her heart and never arriving. While Bridget nurses her own dismay, her children bring their love woes to the table, topped off by home repairs and questions of her musical future just as her elderly father (a renowned pianist/composer) announces he’s getting married.  How will the summer play out??

The stories each evolve and intertwine with humor and accident and forgiveness. Secrets revealed. Grace offered. Relationships sway and strengthen.

small spoiler ahead…

As Bridget’s father, Edward, gives the toast at his wedding I resonated with it completely. My father (…also named Edward and a pianist – go figure) remarried after my mother died 11 years ago. He chose another interesting and fascinating woman (lucky him to strike gold twice). They have traveled the world and continue to explore and live interesting and fulfilling lives. 

Edward’s toast included these words:

Bertrand Russell said, “Man needs, for his happiness, not only the enjoyment of this or that, but hope, and enterprise, and change.” Edward discusses the musical score he wrote decades ago called Synchronicity and compared it to the Victorian dances of generations past. “Life is a perfect combination of chance and choreography. Imagine a group of people come together and delight in the act of re-arranging themselves into new configurations. One person turns, leaving a space, upsetting the arrangement, but the other dancers follow suit and they all align themselves anew. For a moment they are all in motion, shifting and crossing over, until a new constellation forms giving way to a moment of equilibrium… before it all begins again.” 

This was such a beautiful example of the totality of our lives. There is balance, then upset, then a new equilibrium settles in. A grand dance. We are in constant movements of reinvention. This can be very reassuring when we are in the middle of the rearrangement parts of our life. It will fall into place again soon once the right people turn and sway into new alignment.

Lord Tennyson reflects: “Death closes all. But something near the end, some work of noble note, may yet be done.”

Certainly an admirable goal in life: A work of noble note.

 

* Thank you, Atria Books, for this advanced reader copy.

 

THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett

I was glad to finally be able to sit down with this Book of the Month feature and all-around popular Bookstagram book, The Vanishing Half.

The concept intrigued me. Stella and Desiree are twins and both born light-skinned Black. Both of them wanting to escape the confines of their small town and to live a fuller life experience, they run away to New Orleans. But one twin, Stella, after easily passing as White, decides to leave her twin and join a race that was not quite her own, but one in which she had fewer limitations. Even Stella’s husband is unaware of her true racial identity.

Negroes always love our home towns even though we’re always from the worst places. Only White folks got the freedom to hate home.

From the 1950s to the 1990s, this interwoven, generational story captured my imagination with thoughts of ‘what if it were me‘ as well as ‘how could she do that?!‘ indignations. Just what the author, Brit Bennett, was aiming for, I’m predicting. What decisions lead us to live lives filled with secrets? Are they our decisions that determine that trajectory or are they the decisions made long before we are born? What masks do we each carry daily?

THE VANISHING HALF was an engaging story that explored racism, abuse, wealth and poverty as well as familial relationships and the ongoing dichotomy of mother-daughter relationships. How do we determine and define ‘family’? While provocative and a page-turner, VANISHING seemed to wrap up quickly and ended fairly abruptly and open-ended.

Perhaps I always think this, however, about characters I’ve invested in…