Read in Color

Little Free Library

I am a Little Free Library Steward* and took the pledge to Read in Color. Read in Color is an initiative to bring diverse books to Little Free Libraries. Everyone deserves to see themselves in the pages of a book, or better yet, as the hero of the story! Thanks to the excellent recommendations of @asianlitforkids and @ihaveabook4that, I have new books to add to my library. 

If you are interested in supporting Read in Color, you can donate here. You can also support the LFL Impact Library Program. This program provides no-cost Little Free Library book exchanges to communities where books are scarce. And you can become an LFL steward by purchasing a ready-made library or by building/creating your own.

*Little Free Libraries are free book exchanges hosted by individuals, schools, and companies. Here’s a map to Little Free Library locations around the world. Once you start seeing them, you will see them everywhere. There are three in my rural neighborhood! 

Love the one you’re with

Hellebores are a new favorite in my garden.

Gardening in your environment

My biggest takeaway from the Master Gardening program that I completed many years ago is that you need to adopt a beginner’s mind when moving to a new area. You have to learn the rhythm of the seasons, the microclimate in your yard, the native plants. Sometimes this means letting go of some of your old favorites. But I can assure you: you will be dazzled by new choices. In my Pacific Northwest Maritime garden, that new-ish favorite is Lenten Rose or Hellebore. A plant that looks good all year and blooms in winter: how can you not fall in love with a plant like that? Hellebore was the first plant that I bought here, and I’ve bought many since – I even discovered a few volunteers in my yard.

The other thing that will save you a lot of frustration: work with your climate. If you have a short growing season like I do, focus on growing things that work where you live. Growing for your zone often means that you need to unlearn what you know from another climate. If you live in Arizona, you have two growing seasons, neither of which is in the summer (northern hemisphere summer, that is). If you live in a place that gets a lot of rain, choose varieties that love wet feet.

Not sure where to start? 

In the U.S., Find your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. Check out the resources from your state and county cooperative extension. Cooperative Extensions are part of Land-Grant Colleges and Universities in the United States. Land-grants have a mission to provide science- and research-based agricultural information at the county level; this includes home horticulture and the Master Gardener Program. Your local cooperative extension will offer many free resources like this one Home Vegetable Gardening in Washington State

Check out seed distributors in your area and look for local varieties. For me, in Western Washington, that’s Uprising Seeds, Adaptive Seeds, and Deep Harvest Farm

How do you decide what to grow? It helps to think about your climate and pick appropriate varieties, but it’s also helpful to think about what is better to grow versus buy. Check out this list of High-value home crops. Tomatoes are universally on lists of varieties to grow yourself. 

Tip for Arizona gardeners who want tomatoes: go for small, short-season types. I love this list of vegetables for short seasons by Northern Homestead:  Annual Vegetable Varieties for a Short Growing Season.

Bobbin Buster Quilt

Bobbin Buster Quilt #1

I have a limited number of bobbins for my sewing machine, so often, when I want to change thread color, there is no empty bobbin in sight. I try to use up the thread on an almost empty bobbin by sewing strips together. This time, I decided to do a small quilt. I love how it turned out, and it did its job. It emptied the bobbin. And I have a new quilt! So much better than unwinding a bobbin and dumping the thread. <3

Plants everywhere

Lots of plants

This year I tried my hand at making my own seed starting mix. Last year’s mix of peat and vermiculite seemed too lean to me, so I went with my gut and added clean potting soil out of the bag. I am happy to report success. 

Here are proportions that I used:

  • ⅓ potting soil
  • ⅓ vermiculite
  • ⅓ coconut coir*

I clean my seed starting pots with soap and water before reusing them to be on the safe side. (I use Dawn dish soap.)

This year, I used reusable 2-inch pots instead of small paper cups. There are pros and cons to both methods. Being able to peel away the paper cup is a significant advantage, but the reusable pots don’t disintegrate, so I’m on the fence about which is the better option. I also purchased some new 10×20 trays. I like the extra strength trays from Bootstrap Farmer – nothing else compares. 

I was wildly successful with some seeds — others, not so much. It might have been me or my set-up–might have been the seeds. I say this as encouragement to not give up even if things don’t go as planned. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else. Experiment! Failure is part of the learning process. Would you expect to be able to play Stairway to Heaven the first time you picked up a guitar?** Probably not. 

*Because of the environmental concerns about peat moss, I recently switched to coconut coir.

** Playing guitar is probably not in the cards for me, but maybe the Kalimba version is a possibility.

What I’ve Been Reading

Woman holding fairy lights by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

This will come as a surprise to those of you who know me IRL: I’ve been reading fiction. I recently finished Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer and Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson. My better half read Midnight Sun out loud to us at night. I love vampire stories as much as I love being read to. Being read to is something I never grew out of, or maybe more accurately, I grew back into as an adult. Currently, the Chez Haiku read-aloud selection is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (also recommended). If you have other book suggestions with midnight in the title, let me know. Why not collect them all?

I’ve also been reading books about darning. I am interested in fixing things in general, and I learned about visible mending as an art form last year. 

Mending Life has a beautiful piece about socks that made me re-think my “hole-equals-throw-it-away” mentality. I’ll keep you posted on my darning adventure! If you aren’t ready to commit to darning, consider recycling your old socks with Smart Wool

Mask Chains

Mask up in style with a beaded mask chain.

I made a few mask chains recently. These are basically a 30-inch necklace with a large-ish lobster claw clasp on both ends to attach to your mask’s ear loops. Easy to make and a stylish way to manage your mask.

Mask up in style with a beaded mask chain.

Got the jab

Covid-19 Vaccine photo illustration by Ivan Diaz

I received my first dose of the Covid-10 vaccine (Moderna). Vaccines and flu shots are troubling to some people, but it’s always been a straightforward risk assessment to me–is going without it a bigger risk? If the answer is yes, I do it. Covid-19 has devastated communities all over the world. We’ve collectively lost too many loved ones. For me, protecting each other means doing what I can to support public health: hand washing, face coverings, social distancing, and getting the vaccine. 

I’ve also had the flu so bad that I thought I was going to die. After that, I willingly accept any and all shortcomings of the flu shot and vaccines. Any protection is better than none. Also, I’m willing to bet that anyone who uses the phrase “just the flu” has not actually had influenza.

If you have been vaccinated, yay! If you choose not to be vaccinated, I hope you will take the necessary precautions to stay healthy. I want you around for a long time. 

Plants everywhere

Lots of plants

This year I tried my hand at making my own seed starting mix. Last year’s mix of peat and vermiculite seemed too lean to me, so I went with my gut and added clean potting soil out of the bag. I am happy to report success. 

Here are proportions that I used:

 ⅓ potting soil, ⅓ vermiculite, and ⅓ coconut coir*

I clean my seed starting pots with soap and water before reusing them to be on the safe side. (I use Dawn dish soap.)

This year, I used reusable 2-inch pots instead of small paper cups. There are pros and cons to both methods. Being able to peel away the paper cup is a significant advantage, but the reusable pots don’t disintegrate, so I’m on the fence about which is the better option. I also purchased some new 10×20 trays. I like the extra strength trays from Bootstrap Farmer – nothing else compares. 

I was wildly successful with some seeds — others, not so much. It might have been me or my set-up–might have been the seeds. I say this as encouragement to not give up even if things don’t go as planned. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else. Experiment! Failure is part of the learning process. Would you expect to be able to play Stairway to Heaven the first time you picked up a guitar?** Probably not. 

*Because of the environmental concerns about peat moss, I recently switched to coconut coir.

** Playing guitar is probably not in the cards for me, but maybe the Kalimba version is a possibility.

From the Game Room –The Builders: Middle Ages

The Builders: Middle Ages

The Builders: Middle Ages is a clever little card game for 2-4 people of all ages that can be played in about 30 minutes, or asynchronously. The theme is literally what it says on the tin (the game comes in a small “tin” box.) It’s a game about constructing buildings in the European Middle Ages. Players take on the role of a general contractor, recruiting workers of various skill levels to send out to work on small to large construction projects, providing coins and victory points that vary according to the type of building. The game rewards good decisions in the choices players make among the available buildings and workers, finding efficiencies and synergies between the cards, or doing the best one can with sub-optimal card combinations. 

Dad vs. Daughter – The Builders: Middle Ages how to play video

The front of a building card depicts a building under construction and shows the number and type of resources (stone, wood, knowledge, and tile) needed to complete the building, as well as the victory points and number of coins you will gain by completing it. The back of a building card depicts the completed building and its victory points. 

The worker cards depict apprentices, laborers, craftsmen, and masters, each of which provides a different combination of resources to be applied to buildings. Apprentices, the cheapest type of worker, cost two coins to send to a construction site and supply two resources. At the other end of the scale, master workers cost five coins to put to work and supply five resources. 

How to play

Each turn, a player can take up to three free actions to do any combination of the following: start construction by selecting a building from a line of five available building cards, recruit a worker from a line of five available worker cards, send a worker to work on a building they have previously selected, or take coins (one coin for one action, three coins for two actions, and six coins for three actions). After taking three free actions, players can pay five coins for each additional action they’d like to take during that same turn.

A few of the building cards depict machines that you can build just like any other building, but which offer the player ongoing resources after they are constructed. For example, a tile oven that provides tile resources, or a crane that provides stone. A player won’t earn any coins when completing the construction of a machine but completed machines can be sent to a construction site for no cost in coins. So, there’s a tradeoff. 

Game design

The design of the cards is very pleasing, as the building cards show the necessary resources on the right side, while the worker cards show the provided resources on the left side, so that they line up when laid side-by-side. And the art on the cards is done in a light-hearted aesthetic. The only downside is that all the workers appear to be white males. For a game published just a few years ago, one would expect more diversity here. The worker cards are two-sided, so having each card have the same image on both sides of the card seems like a wasted opportunity. 

A lot in a small package

For a small game (only 42 building cards and 42 worker cards), The Builders has more variety and depth of strategy than you might expect. Do you go for several small buildings that you can quickly build for 2-3 victory points and a modest number of coins each, or one large building that will take several turns (and more coins) to build but earns you 6-8 victory points and more coins? Do you pay five extra coins to take an extra action this turn or wait until the next turn to take that action? Do you build a machine, which will cost you coins now but save you coins later? Since the game is so short and so replayable, you can try out different strategies each time you play.

What I’ve been reading

Bookshelves with Red, orange, yellow and green books

My reading lately has taken me deeper into the problems of the climate crisis and capitalism and also currency, creativity, and coaching. All the Cs have a home. 

Coach the Person Not the Problem by Marcia Reynolds
The best book on coaching that I have read so far. 

Having and Being Had by Eula Biss
I tried not to read this book. But I was sucked in and I’m glad that I was. 

Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing by Jacob Goldstein
A seriously fascinating read. Money has no real value. That’s a mind-bender for you. 

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson
We have to face climate change. It’s difficult and deep but also more urgent than most people realize.

The Creative Cure: How Finding and Freeing Your Inner Artist Can Heal Your Life by Jacob Nordby
I’m a fan of Jacob’s book Blessed are the Weird and equally at home with his latest book. Humans are creative. All of us. Without exception.


Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash