What I’ve been reading

Woman reading on a couch

I have mostly read to this month: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and The Diplomat’s Wife by Pam Jenoff. If you have someone to read to or someone to read to, hug them tight. It’s such a gift. 

I have been reading Play Anything by Ian Bogost. So far, I have to say that it’s not what I expected. It does make me think about the seriousness with which we attempt to control our lives and environments and what might change for the better when we stop trying to do that.


Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

I don’t know who needs this

Trio of e.l.f. products: Holy Hydation face cream and Flawless Satin Coverage Foundation in Light Ivory and Sand

I am always in between shades when it comes to foundation. Light makeup is a little too light, and the next color is a little too dark. After buying a new product that was too dark and then one that was too light, I decided to take a painterly approach and mix the colors. Ah … perfection. And now I mix in sunscreen or lotion, too. 

I use e.l.f. products–they are vegan and cruelty-free. I like elf Hello Hydration! Skin Cream with Hyaluronic Acid, elf Flawless Finish Foundation, and elf BB Cream Foundation with SPF 20 

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.