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?

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.

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!

If ya can’t stand the heat…

After numerous days over 105 degrees, we needed to ‘get out of the kitchen’.

So we threw Tilly in the car and headed to Lake Tahoe. It was still warm outside there, but about 20 degrees cooler and that felt a little like heaven.

Of course – these views didn’t hurt either.

Just a little bit of snow left on the Sierra Nevada mountains. Enough to imagine how nice it would be to make a snow angel in this July California heat.

The smell of pine overtakes you. It’s a scent that just can’t be replicated. (sorry, car freshener trees.)

This was our third daytrip with Tilly. The first two trips she got sick with all the twists and turns. This time we didn’t feed her breakfast and gave her some motion sickness medicine and she ROCKED IT! From what we’ve read, a puppy’s inner ears aren’t fully developed until about a year old, so we are hoping she grows beyond the car sickness because we love to travel and want her to be a part of those journeys. Today gave us hope.

We drove to Truckee – which is the cutest town with so many shops and restaurants. Truckee is the northern part of Lake Tahoe. Then we drove over the northern tip (which is my favorite view of the lake) then down the Nevada side of the lake. At the southern end we stopped and ate at this cute burger joint. I could have skipped it all and just had their amazing handmade shake. Oh my word…..so good!

The vastness of this area is overwhelming when you pay attention. The enormity of everything. The immenseness of pine trees. The age-rounded boulders.

What an amazing part of the country and just a few hours from our front door. We feel immensely blessed to be living here and experiencing this part of America.

Tilly had a big day. She came nose to nose with another dog. She has not been that close to another animal except our cat, Haddie. We met a dog trainer who was walking some of her dobermans. Tilly has no concept of her size. She is very subservient to other dogs. (Which is the part I regret about her pandemic birth timing.) We talked to the breeder about how difficult it has been for all of us to find dog training classes that are open. Since we all keep our distance while walking, she doesn’t come into close contact with other humans or animals.

(if only you could see the side-eye she was giving this curious dog!)

Our current problem with Tilly is that it appears she is a…(google title)…subservient urinator. UGH! She ‘shows her deference’ to others by immediately peeing. It’s a definite problem! She’s so curious about other people. She isn’t aggressive and doesn’t cower. But as soon as someone pets her, she lets it all go. Unfortunately, I’ve read this isn’t something they necessarily grow out of. We have some serious socializing to do with this one!

What a beautiful day. It was a thrill to not burn up in the intense heat but rather enjoy the gorgeous colors of a stunningly beautiful part of the country.

Happy Hydrangea

Last week I bought my first hydrangea (Nikko Blue).

This week I bought all new sheets and rearranged a bedroom just because of the amazing blooms.

I’m doomed. Let the hydrangea addiction begin!

I even hung one to experiment with drying them…

There are worse addictions, right??? (Famous last words!) 

Do you grow hydrangea? If so, what kind and what zone are you located in? I need to learn!

Tilly’s First Tide

Vacationing without vacationing seems to be our rallying cry this summer. Keeping things local, daytrips, and ‘cheap entertainment’. Like so many of you, COVID has left its mark on many. We continue to be grateful, however. For health and the health of our extended family as well.

And, of course, for Tilly and all of her unadulterated joy. It is her one and only goal in life: to play.

We thought it was time to venture out and introduce her to the Pacific Ocean for her four month birthday. She’s 16 weeks old and we have had her for exactly half of those weeks. She’s changed and grown in a million ways! (And literally grown. When we got her she was 6.3 lbs and is now 26.8 lbs!)

The beaches were full, but nothing like what you see on tv. People were broadly spaced and many wore masks. Bodega Bay is a more liberally-minded area of Northern California so it was nice to step into their heightened concern for public well-being and not feel like the odd man out like we do sometimes in the Sacramento suburbs.

It felt so good to hear the waves and smell the salty water. Driving through the mighty pine trees was also filled with the undeniable scent of fresh pine in the air.

Tilly loved the water. No surprise. But what she was mostly interested in were the other dogs and people! She is a quarantine puppy so she’s been severely people-limited. I’m not sure how socialization will go in the future, but she seems to be endlessly curious about all these potential playmates!

She ran Scott up and down the incoming waves!

She was a mess when it was done, though! Her curly hair was not quite curled right since it was naturally blow-dried in the ocean breeze.

We ate in town – crab and fish. This town is known for their crabbing and oysters. Someday Scott plans on doing some crab catching at the cove – hopefully with a fish-loving dog in tow.

We also ran across this crazy flower. I don’t know what kind of flower or plant it is. Seems like it would be on a cactus but I don’t think that’s what it was. The bloom was as big as a dinner plate.

What a day! Admittedly, it was a lot more stressful than if it had just been the two of us, but we were excited to introduce Tilly to the ocean and were thrilled that she loved it!

Here are a number of videos of her first time experience…

 

It was slated to be a hot day in Sacramento (dry heat or not, 107 is HOT!), so we did the only logical thing and headed to the shore. The sun was high but it was 66 degrees of pure heaven.

Patio, Pups and Projects

Our neighbor had an intrusive tree removed last year that made a lot of sense for her. Cleared up her backyard nicely. But this spring I’m noticing how MUCH more sun we are getting on our back patio (and we got a lot to begin with.) The hardest adjustment to California from the Midwest has been the unbelievable LEVEL of sun rays. It gets very hot very quickly when in the sun. 

So, we decided to rearrange a few things and get a table umbrella to shield a little bit of the intensity.

I seem to prefer neutrals and nature colors on the inside, so it feels like I’ve gone off the rails on color in the backyard this year. -ha. And it all started with a rug.

I love our ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ sun we lovingly bought a few years ago in honor of Charles Osgood’s retirement. (Has it been as good since he left?) I also have enjoyed the ombre growth of this ivy up our fence (old as it is.) We tried to direct the ivy up the fence last summer and some of it has decided to cooperate. Hopefully more of the ivy on the ground will take notice and decide to do a little scaling themselves this year.

I very much like the color blue. However, I rarely use it. I’m not sure why but I’ve never gravitated toward it in my own home – while appreciating it in others’ homes. Something crazy struck me, however, and I fell instantly for this outdoor rug. Everything else grew from that.

Last year we severely trimmed back the oleander bushes. The back of our yard still has plenty (and are currently heavily sagging because the pink blooms are getting ready to break open.) The white bushes on the side of the patio have a sturdy ‘trunk’ so we trimmed them to look more like trees than bushes. And they are blooming beautifully.

Salmon, navy, teal and touches of purple are in the rug so the plants and pillows followed suit. 

(Please tell the person who jimmy-rigged this ‘hanging’ pot to cut off the janky strings and try to make it more presentable.) (aka: it was me.)

I think this sassy parrot is my favorite part of the backyard update. How can you not feel energized by her while sipping your morning chai?

By the way, reader, we are firmly ignoring the nasturiums that I repotted and now they’re acting dead. They’ll come back – they just can’t help themselves.

Is the parrot pillow my favorite thing or is this stunning variegated Japanese aralia? It’s a close call.

Two important ‘life discoveries’ I’ve made (…or recently admitted to…) this spring have been

  • I have done it, lived it, studied it, and now – I’m done with succulents. They are too temperamental. Every time you touch one to deadhead it, the other leaves get knocked off so planting them is a huge pain (think: the delicate Operation game of our youth.) Even though I still have a ton – we will eventually part ways. Melanie – I wish you were here to give them all to. They need youth and patience and I’m sorely lacking on both accounts.
  • And secondly, I am not a flower person either. I have been spoiled by houseplants. They’re strong and sturdy and I at least know how to read them better than flowers in the California sun. Many lessons learned.

It’s all about self-actualization, people. Growth and improvements, right?

Tilly and her old man eyebrows and soul patch. As long as she has a leaf or a dead plant, she’s in high heaven!

The thing about oleander flowers is that they bloom all summer long. Well into fall, actually. They last a long time when you cut them and bring them indoors and their foliage is a staple for flower arrangements. You literally have to throw them away before they die. -ha. 

I love wonky pottery. I found this one years ago at an antique mall and it called to me. This little blue vase (that needs more water, I see) houses our once and done gardenia flowers. What a powerful scent! I love them so much!!

Haddie. Always around. Always on-point and watching all the activity but wanting to play it cool like she doesn’t care. She teases Tilly and loves the attention Tilly gives her. But admitting love is just not in her character. 

If you follow me on Facebook you know we tried to create an area of the sideyard for Tilly to go to the bathroom. But after training her to go outside ANYWHERE, it’s been difficult to condense her to just one spot now. So we are going to try a fence with a gate – cordoning off the patio area as separate from her play and go area. California backyards are small and we were lucky to get a little spot of yard in the back and now we don’t want to give it all over to a new puppy. 

Concessions and compromises! 

On the other side of the fence is our cactus garden. I am AAAAMAAAAAZED at how quickly the cacti have grown over the winter. We started with nothing and they have practically taken over the back of our house. I love the desert vibe they give out and have loved watching a completely new kind of plant grow.

Scott’s BBQ grill is kept going year-round. As much as possible we cook out there!

Dad gave me some castor bean seeds last year that have grown ominously on the corner of our house. They’re about ready to take over our blue agave (Agave Maria)!

I once read that California was never meant to have inhabitants because there are so many natural elements to overcome. It’s interesting how wildlife and humans have adapted to the unique environment of the Pacific coast.

Just like a kid, we do our best to wear her down every evening. She looks happy and satisfied, don’t you think??

What I would normally consider Spring in the Midwest is ending here in northern CA. We are staring summer in the face next week – many 100 degree days scheduled. But this week has been mild and enjoyable. I am learning that California doesn’t believe in easing anyone into a new situation – it just drops it hot and smoldering in your lap. 

We’ll be very happy with our new umbrella shade. 

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!!!

REFORESTING FAITH by Matthew Sleeth, MD

A friend on Instagram mentioned this book recently and it seemed to speak to many of my core beliefs. We were created to live within our natural surroundings but as a result of societal advancements, we have walled ourselves away from our native home.

REFORESTING FAITH speaks about the importance of trees within the Christian faith. On the first page of Genesis a tree is mentioned. Also in the first Psalm, on the first page of the New Testament as well as the last page of Revelation – and many places along the way. Every major biblical or theological event has a tree marking the spot.

We were given an important responsibility: to care for God’s creation. And we haven’t been doing a very good job at it. This book walks the reader through the Bible, highlighting the significant places where God mentions or includes trees in His teachings and miracles.

Because we were created to be in communion with nature, we are more able to clear our minds and feel more connected with ourselves and others when we’ve spent time breathing in the oxygen the trees so generously supply for us.

Too often we have a short-term mindset. Our 70 years of existence is nothing compared to the 5,000 years of an ancient tree.

Proverbs tells us that a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.

Christians are instructed to make this earth look more like heaven.
Plant trees, care for trees, and preserve old forests.

REVIEW:

I enjoyed the way Sleeth highlights the areas where God used trees to tell stories and to mark significant occasions. It will always stand out to me now when I read about a tree in the Bible. My initial response to the book, however, was that Sleeth seemed to ‘dummy down’ his explanations about the bible as well as the environment. Then again, I don’t know who he intended his target audience to be. Perhaps he was being sensitive to people who don’t believe in the Bible but want to live a better life in connection with the environment and its preservation.

Many years ago I read the theory that Christians are so concentrated on the next life that they don’t see the need to care for this ‘temporary home’ – Earth. This shames me as a Christian. We were given a beautiful, magnificent gift from our Creator and we’re trashing it like teenagers throwing a raucous party while their parents are out of town. REFORESTING FAITH reminded me of that theory. Have Christians resisted being actively involved in environmental issues for fear of appearing too pagan? This is at such odds with what God weaved together for our enjoyment.

I was encouraged to recommit to being aware and vigilant of the way that I live and how it elevates or depletes the gift of Creation. It also reinforced my desire to stand barefoot in the grass and walk leisurely through a canopy of trees. Not only do these two activities help calm and center my emotional well-being, but there is a positive and physical reaction as well as I, the created, am connected with my Creator.

TREE PICTURES photographed on trips to:
Big Trees State Park, California
University of California Berkeley
Lake Tahoe, California
Yosemite National Park, California

Big Monstera Tip/Advice

Basically, do this before it gets too late and you end up like me.

(Sounds ominous, doesn’t it??)

A quick backstory…

Our monstera deliciosa was large when we lived in Kansas City. When we moved to California, we knew it couldn’t make the trip in our car so I cut a number of stems from it and placed them in water to root. (And gave the mother plant away.)

About a month and a half later they were rooted enough to add to dirt.

It’s grown quite a bit over the past year and accumulated many aerial roots. Aerial roots are funky looking but serve an important purpose in the tropical forest where the monstera originates. Monstera plants climb up trees like a vine so they naturally seek a ‘dark structure’ to attach themselves to with their aerial roots.

In a home environment, however, the roots merely hang down, searching for something to climb.

My biggest advice to new or upcoming monstera owners, plant your monstera with a pole in the middle from the beginning. I kept ‘meaning to get around to it’ – as the plant continued growing and growing.

As a result, the plant has become very “unruly” looking with leaves falling all over the place and no structure.

Another issue with waiting too long is that the plant was now growing up from the middle, leaving no room for inserting a climbing pole.

It was time to take (belated) action before the spring and summer leaves start growing.

Scott used a cedar piece of wood and affixed chicken wire around it with a staple gun and ordered some sphagnum moss online.

The moss comes in a compact brick.

Once it’s placed in water, it begins to expand and unravel.

We inserted the wet moss into the chicken wire then wrapped the whole pole and moss with fishing wire.

The added benefit to a moss pole is that it will raise the humidity level around the plant. Spraying or watering the moss keeps a’tropical’ humidity around the plant.

Taking the monstera outside, we took the plant and root ball out of the pot and thoroughly rinsed as much dirt off as we could.

Relative to the height of the plant, the roots aren’t that deep.

We carefully removed each section of the plant and laid them out to be re-potted later.

This is NOT the easiest way to grow a monstera! I should have started with a moss pole from the very beginning. Heed my warning! Save yourselves!!!

After assembling the pole, we re-planted the pieces of monstera and carefully wrapped any long aerial roots around the moss pole for them to eventually take hold.

It will take a few weeks for it to fully straighten up. But since the growing season is coming up, it will stretch upwards instead out sprawling out. I’ll do an update to this post in a few months.

Lesson? Give your new monstera a pole to start climbing from the beginning and/or when they’re small. It will grow into a better shape and be in an atmosphere more closely related to its origins.

(And it’s a lot less back breaking!)

Crossing my fingers this will help to refresh this plant. New dirt filled with yummy nutrients and a ‘tree’ for its aerial roots to climb.

Ready for growing season!

Build Me a Valentine (or three!)

Last year, Scott made us a trashcan box since our kitchen trash has to sit out in the open. We have put it through the workouts since then and it’s held up fabulously. Sooooo (…of course…) I wanted more!

I wanted something similar to the trashcan for our laundry hamper. (By the way, I don’t know why I hate the word ‘hamper’ so much, but I really really do. -ha! No getting around it, though, it’s the best way to describe it for this post. Just know I would never use it in real life.)

We recently rearranged a big closet in our spare bedroom so I wanted to locate the hamper somewhere else. We have a hall area in between our bedrooms but I didn’t want an open hamper out there. Oh what to do, what to do?! (#firstworldproblems) So a trashcan revision was made into a hamper box. (For the record – both the trashcan and the hamper have open backs for plenty of ventilation.)

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You know how you get something in your head and it quickly becomes a random obsession? (Oh come on – that can’t just be me…) I now want to fill this glass canister jar with beautifully wrapped soaps. (World Market – I’m looking at you! They have the BEST soaps that are gorgeously wrapped.)

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Okay…back to the hamper sitch.

The trashcan box opens at an angle. The actual trashcan inside the box sits on a hinged platform that opens outward. It’s easier to dump trash and makes for an easy emptying of the trashcan too.

But the hamper has a simple door that opens with plenty of headroom for tossing clothes inside. It closes with a magnetic attachment at the door and inside face of the hamper.

I am so happy with it! As with most households, it’s also a nice landing spot for the things that need to be taken to other parts of the house. (Temporary landing spot. – wink, wink)

Hamper box: SUCCESS!

During Scott’s week off last week he finished up the hamper project than started working on a raised garden for my cut flowers.

Last spring he made some raised garden boxes that I used for a pretty display of flowers – similar to a window box. We eventually moved it to the side of the house and this past fall grew vegetables in it. This year, however, I wanted to grow cut flowers as if growing vegetables. In rows – nothing fancy – only used for cutting and bringing inside (or gifting to neighbors!) So I wanted it pretty simple, rustic even. The main thing is that it’s at my height which makes pruning and cutting so much easier. (I’m game for that!)

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Using cedar fencing posts he constructed a box, lined it with weed barrier liner, then ran a sprinkler system to it.

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This particular spot at the back of the house is BRUTAL in the summertime. It gets some pretty harsh southern exposure. But if last year is any guide, the flowers did well in it until the end of May. (We started in February last year too.) My plan is to make this a year-round raised garden, replacing the spring flowers with summertime plants and eventually a fall harvest.

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Time for one more project: a potting bench!

We mulled this one over numerous times. It took on various different forms until we finally combined two plans into one.

For the past 3 years we have slowly added to our outdoor furniture from IKEA. It’s all from the same line: APPLARO. (IKEA and their Swedish-named products -ha!)

The below picture shows two ‘wall units’ that you can add shelves to or a fold-out table, etc. It’s a very useful, modular patio system.

We decided to use two of the panels as a backdrop to a potting bench. I use whatever surface I can get to when I repot plants, propagate plants for sale, and general yard gardening. So I was VERY excited about this project! (Not that I wasn’t excited about the others too!)

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Scott found some workbench plans online that he liked as a guide but then he tweaked them to fit our specific wants.

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(Don’t judge the messy garage. Or please…DO shame us into getting this ‘secret’ part of our house FINALLY organized and cleared out!! A definite spring project!) Meanwhile, the potting bench project was coming along nicely.

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The next decision was staining. (WHYYYYYYY do I make things SO complicated by over-thinking such small decisions.) Basically, I want it to look like I found an old, abandoned warehouse where this decades old potting bench was covered with a huge dust cloth and VOILA’!, I find a perfectly useable, vintage potting bench.

But alas…… instead, I have to let nature do its dirty work on freshly made furniture. (Impatience is a noose around my neck! -ha!)

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After a few trial spots with different stains: gray, light brown, should-I-just-paint-it-white, etc., we decided to go with a dark stain to seal in the wood from the elements but that would (hopefully) get a little beat up over time until it’s the perfect “old” looking potting bench I envision.

Meanwhile – look how fantastically it turned out! I’m so happy with it!! Scott did an excellent job.

Let me assure you, however…

…even though I zhuzhed it up…

…that’s only for the picture. I plan on using this thing AS a potting bench – not a photoshoot opportunity!

But for now…I mean…I had to do a little bit of prop useage.

WHAT A WEEK!! Lots of projects envisioned, executed and finished! Scott has a lot of fun with the building part of the creative process (and he gets VERY creative with it. He usually takes plans several steps further to make sure things are SUPER safe and will withstand heavy usage. And many times he makes up the plans himself.) And I certainly love the dreaming up part of the process. But I think the BEST fun of all is sitting down together beforehand and hashing out all the details. There is a lot of “…like this?” and “no…that won’t work” and the occasional “just MAKE it work!“comments. Of course all of these items can be purchased somewhere. But making it fit exactly what we want is so much more fun for us at this point in our lives. There is plenty of frustration to be sure, but the fun of it is beyond measure. Each project is a true joint effort. And that, I believe, is what Scott and I do best.

THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes

Books celebrating books. Authors paying homage to readers. This enticing concoction of book-celebrating is an intoxicating elixir when it occurs in a storyline and The Giver of Stars is no exception.

This book is based on a true story in American history.

Historical reference: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Works Progress Administration created librarians – primarily made up of women – to ride horses into rural areas and high in the mountains, bringing books to those who otherwise would have no access to books at all. The purpose of this New Deal program was to expand the minds of those that knew very little of a world outside their own immediate family.

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These women were often referred to as ‘book ladies’ or ‘packsaddle librarians’. Riding through snow, rain, and very difficult terrain, these traveling librarians dropped off books (and picked up returning books) to the outskirts of society. It is estimated that 63% of the state of Kentucky were without access to public libraries and around 30% of rural Kentuckians were illiterate. Roosevelt understood that education was the foundation of change and a path out of poverty and that the education gained from borrowing donated books could have a lasting effect.

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This program also created jobs for women during the Great Depression. ‘Book ladies’ made around $28 a month (the equivalent of about $500 a month today), delivering books to homes and schoolhouses between 1935 and 1943. In 1943 the service lost its funding leaving many Appalachian communities without books for decades until bookmobiles were introduced in the late 1950’s.

The Giver of Stars is a harrowing story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond, to bring books to those who had no access.

Alice Wright, born and raised in England, marries wealthy businessman, Bennett Van Cleave, an American from Kentucky. After settling into their new home in rural Appalachia, Alice soon discovers small-town living in Baileyville, Kentucky can feel very claustrophobic. When she learns of the packhorse book project, she eagerly signs up. ‘She covered her own anxiety with activity.’ The five heroic women who eventually form the book distribution team, soon learn to rely on each other as a means of support against familial and community outrage. Many townsmen (led by Alice’s wealthy father-in-law) were indignant that a woman would be capable of such a daunting task.

In any other town, such misdemeanors might eventually be forgotten, but in Baileyville a grudge could last a century and still nurture a head of steam. The people of Baileyville were descended from Celts, from Scots and Irish families, who could hold on to resentment until it was dried out like beef jerky, and bearing no resemblance to its original self.

Alice begins to gain confidence and independence through the difficult work of the packhorse library, traveling hours by herself in the beauty of Kentucky mountains and wide open skies, meeting the warm-hearted people of the rural country, while learning to trust and lean on her fellow librarians.

She had built a new Alice over the frame of one with whom she had never felt entirely comfortable.

I highly recommend this beautifully written book. At times it seems certain they cannot recover from many of their adventures and Moyes leaves you hanging until the last minute. Loss and love and renewal and commitment weave themselves through each adventure. Getting to know each of these remarkable women was a literary privilege for me as well as delving deeper into the historical facts surrounding this amazing chapter in American history.

HARRY’S TREES by Jon Cohen

What a fantastic book. It hooked me quickly and kept me on the line the whole way through. What a beautiful celebration of books and nature and great love. ⠀

⠀”To every story we bring the story of ourselves.”⠀

This book celebrated the freedom of forgiveness. The adventure of reading. The beauty of nature. The cost of holding on to self-perpetuated ‘truths’. The ripples of redemption. And as with every good story, it contained an enchanting touch of magic.⠀

“Get a book. Reading solves most things or at least assuages the heart.”⠀

I would highly recommend Harry’s Trees.