May 22, 2017

Lesson 235: Mark's Garden 2017

If you had told the four-plant gardening novices of 2012 that just five years later, we'd be planting year-round crops, we would have laughed in your face.

But friends, that's what this hobby has progressed to. Edible plants. All year.

Now I'll try not to exaggerate too much about the winter's yieldings, seeing as our lettuce and spinach were enjoyed predominantly by the neighborhood squirrel population. And perhaps the baby broccoli's full-grown size isn't exactly what Mark had envisioned.

But our greens mix did produce a variety of greens (none of which we could initially identify) and on one very exciting afternoon, our children discovered turnips in the bed. (Turns out that no, we don't like turnips.)

All in all, not a complete disaster. Plants grew, and then they were eaten.

Each gardening year we've grown a little: in size, ambition / determination, and well, skill.

And so, though the first attempt of seasonal vegetables did not keep me from having to grocery shop, we're satisfied enough to try again next fall. Maybe squash and cabbage, beets, and next time, the correct species of broccoli.

The spring seeds and bulbs went in sometime around March, so we've been eating fresh lettuce for over a month now, which makes me happy! Everyday. Every salad.

And by the end of June, we'll picks carrots and harvest enough onions for the rest of summer.

Finally, Mark has (yet again) rearranged his raised beds and put the summer plants in the ground. Zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, corn, peppers, and oh so many tomatoes! He's also attempted to animal proof the corn (since those darn furry friends ate every kernel last summer!)

As a family, we've adopted the pleasant pastime of chasing the bunnies across the yard with a rake, yelling wildly, and telling them to "get out of our garden!"

Y'all, Mr. McGregor gets a bad rap, having to deal with all those greedy, unhelpful bunnies. We Ashbaughs empathize.

A few pics for perusers and progeny.

Also, Mark's passion has rubbed off a bit on me, and I've taken to it as well, with flower gardens. Maybe another post ...  
Lesson Learned: Everything really does taste better fresh.

January 02, 2017

Lesson 234: 2016 Book List

In genereal, 2016 was a disappointing reading year. As I look back over the list, a few titles generate small excitement, but most were just time fillers. (Makes you want to keep reading, doesn't it?)

One theme that emerged in the fiction category is that authors wrote from unusual vantage points or attempted to connect strange threads, I felt, unsuccessfully. At the Water's Edge followed wealthy New Yorkers on a search for the Loch Ness Monster during WWII. It was intriguing in some ways, but mostly just left me feeling like, what was that? Same with Beautiful Ruins. A local sop meets a movie star on an island, and then we're years later with this loser movie writer in California. What? I felt like the story was trying too hard. In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume. Beautiful language, but also a strange setting, time, storyline.

When I'm done with books like these, I throw them on the ground and groan, and Mark asks, "Why did you bother finishing it?" And I say, "I don't know," and then I go and scoop out a big bowl of ice cream. So, there's that.

The big titles of the year fell flat for me also, maybe because of expectations and hype. Orphan Train. The Nightengale. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Hillbilly Elegy. All fine, nothing to talk about. Actually, Elegy is probably worth your time. I didn't love it, but read it anyway.

A few highlights as I look over the list.

This is Awkward by Sammy Rhoads is the kind of book that should be read once, and then kept around for reference. Each chapter is more uncomfortable than the next as Sammy tells personal stories about divorce, weight issues, struggles with pornography, and so on, and then, directly applies Gospel truth and hope to the situation. But, it's not cheesy. It's painful and good. I think most people will connect deeply with at least one "topic" and come away with fresh thoughts personally, but, will also benefit from reading the other chapters. His writing style encourages growth in empathy towards friends and family who struggle in ways I don't. It's helpful.

The Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaffer is the most refreshing parenting book I've ever read. She begins with the simple question, What is art? A parenting book, asking about art?! It's the best. Then, in a very pre-internet way, she gives ideas for how a mother can express individual creativity in day to day tasks, through music, flower arranging, hospitality, decorating, food. It's not stressful though, I think partially because it is illustrated with drawings, not perfectly staged photos. Rather than showing exactly how things should be done, she gives suggestions that encourage personal reflection and drawing of conclusions. I loved it!

I'll Drink to That was fun. It's the memoirs of a woman living and working in the fashion industry during a very glamorous time in Chicago and New York. House Thinking interested me, as it explained the ways sociology and economy affected each room of the house. A Severe Mercy is always great, though this was a repeat read for me.

Y'all know it was a bad year when I'm mentioning repeats.

Here's to 2017, and hopefully better selections.


* In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

* The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

* For the Love by Jen Hatmaker


* A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

* Styled by Emily Henderson

* The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story by Julia Reed

* The Stories We Tell by Patti Callahan Henry


* Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

* This is Awkward by Sammy Rhoads

* The Race to Paris: A Novel by Meg Waite Clayton

* At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen


* I'll Drink To That by Betty Halbreich and Rebecca Paley

* Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline

* House Thinking: A Room - By - Room Look at How We Live by Winifred Gallagher


* 7 by Jen Hatmaker

* The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

* The Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaffer

* Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear


* A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

* The Madwoman Upstairs: A Novel by Catherine Lowell


* The Nightengale by Kristin Hannah

* Harry Potter and the Sorcorer's Stone by J. K. Rowling


* Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling


* The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati


* Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

* Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

* The Summer Before the War: A Novel by Helen Simonson

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