Sunday, December 15, 2013

GBBD: Winter Whites

It's time once again for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, the day each month when we feature what is currently blooming in our gardens.  This time of year is always challenging for those of us living in colder areas, where nothing is usually blooming outdoors.  It's even more challenging for someone like me who doesn't "do" houseplants either.

The only true bloom I have right now is my Christmas cactus, which I realized on looking back through older posts, is the same bloom I've featured the past few years for December Bloom Day.  Actually, this is a small one I bought last year, and I'm happy to see it blooming again.  The older Christmas cactus isn't showing any sign of blooms, evidence of my brown thumb when it comes to houseplants.

The real story, though, is outside, where we finally received our first measurable snowfall.   Winter storm Cleon went south of us a week ago, missing us except for a light dusting of snow.  But nearly a foot of the soft, fluffy kind fell on us overnight yesterday, creating a true winter wonderland.

For a few hours at least, the snow clung to branches everywhere.  All this tree needs is some Christmas lights--and a helper with a 40-foot ladder to hang them:)

Hydrangeas bowed down under the weight of the snow.  Not to worry, though, they soon recovered.

The clematis and its trellis provided a base for some interesting ice sculptures.

'Limelight,' probably my favorite hydrangea, looks good even in the winter.

Russian Sage, Knockout Roses, and Purple Coneflowers all sport white "blooms."

No one will be sitting on the arbor bench for a while, I suspect.  I thought it was funny that the green tape showed up so bright in this photo.  I tied up the many canes of the climbing rose that were going every which way--pruning this plant is one of the first projects to tackle come spring.

I always leave the coneflowers standing for the finches, but by October they look pretty ratty.  They look so much better sporting their winter hats.

I intended to put more Christmas decorations outside, but the weather turned bitterly cold last week, and I've decided it's not worth the trouble anymore. I wasn't quite satisfied with the pine and berries I put in this pot, but the snow added just the right finishing touch.

Not your usual blooms for Bloom Day, but I'm enjoying Mother Nature's added touch to the garden; I hope it stays white for Christmas!  To see what's blooming all over the world, do visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens for this monthly celebration of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Favorite Books of 2013

Christmas is three weeks from today--do I have my tree up? No!  Have I started writing out Christmas cards? No, I haven't even bought them yet!  How about Christmas shopping?  Barely started.  So what am I doing sitting at the computer writing a blog post??  The answer to that--besides my procrastination on Christmas--is that today is the last meeting of the Book Review Club this year, and I wanted to recommend two of my favorite books of 2013.  I read both of them much earlier this year, so I'll keep these very brief, particularly since my memory of character names and details is pretty fuzzy on both.

 And The Mountains Echoed is the latest novel by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, both critically acclaimed novels and two of my favorites from past years. Hosseini has often been described as a master storyteller, and I can think of no better way to describe him. Mountains contains many more characters than his previous novels with many storylines that intersect, often in surprising ways.  Once again, the main setting is Afghanistan, although most of the characters travel far from their homeland, giving us not only a glimpse into the rich but tragic culture of this war-torn land, but also how their background affects the characters in different settings and for many years.

This novel will not disappoint fans of his earlier works. While it is often sad, it is not as depressing as the life of Mariam in A Thousand Splendid Suns, and even offers some hope in its themes of love and loyalty.  Put this one on your must-read list!

A novel about Monarch butterflies and the ramifications of climate change? Not my usual cup of tea.  Fortunately, however, something intrigued me about the summaries I read of this book, and I picked it up from the library.  Yes, it is about the Monarchs, and Kingsolver's scientific background gives credibility to the plight of this particular group of Monarchs and what could very well happen if climate change continues.  But the story is also about young Dellarobia Turnbow,  whose discovery of the Monarchs wintering near her home turns her small Appalachian community upside down.  Trapped in an unhappy marriage and an unfulfilling life, Della is captivated by the butterflies who help her to find her own "wings."  Kingsolver's prose is beautiful, and the images she creates of the butterflies are magnificent and haunting.

 For my blogging friends who prefer gardening books to novels, Flight Behavior is the book that just might change your mind about fiction!

Whether you are looking for a gift idea for a book-loving friend (note: Flight Behavior actually was published in 2012, so the paperback is now available) or just looking for something worthwhile to read during the long winter nights ahead, And The Mountains Echoed and Flight Behavior deserve to be at the top of your list.

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: No compensation of any kind was received for this review. As always, I review only books I enjoy and think others would enjoy reading too.  I purchased my own copy of Mountains and checked out Flight Behavior from the library (though now that I've become a fan of Kingsolver, I will  probably  purchase her books in the future.)