Sutherland’s Sunday Summary (except on a Tuesday)

Spring in Northern California…wow. From February to the end of May is northern California’s show-off time. It’s a gorgeously long season of magnificent blooms and growth. After a few months of rain, everything catapults to life.

This was just a walk around the block…

Clearly this house has mastered the art of rose bushes. The whole front yard is lined in various roses. As delicate as a rose bouquet is, a rose bush loves the heat and drought and sandy soil of California!

Isn’t the above tree so cool? I’d love to know its story.

The tree below is a crepe myrtle. The bark is SO smooth. I love these trees even when they’re not blooming.

And hey… why not grow artichokes in your front yard! Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

It’s hard to give an update on our lives without (endlessly) talking about our garden. After a few seasons of trial and error, we’ve hit on some successes.

As a lifelong Midwesterner, I am used to the growing season being, basically, June to September. But here, you need to plant things MUCH earlier. We (…and by we I mean Scott…) had everything planted by March. The young plants and seeds grew for a couple of months to get good and established and now we’ve covered the raised garden beds with a breezy black shade tarp to protect them from the brutal afternoon sun.

We are at the take-the-peas-and-collard-greens-to-work stage. We’re taking stuff to neighbors because we can’t keep up.

And now our first tomato has appeared. Scott ROCKED tomato-growing last year so I’m curious to see how they do in a different spot. So far they are TALL and filling up with blooms. Salsa is just around the corner. We…again, Scott… blanched a bunch last year and froze it for sauces.

How much stir fry is too much stir fry?? We haven’t reached our limit yet. Pork one night, chicken another. So yummy! And such a sense of pride that it was grown right in our backyard.

There isn’t much healthier food than collard greens. So many nutrients! (Which are only slightly hindered by the bacon and broth mixture.) I read an important statement about cooking collard greens: ‘There is no such thing as cooking collard greens too long.’ They simmer on our stove all day and are a home-run every time.

I’ve been so happy with my lavender experiment this year. Seeing all the bees buzzing around makes me doubly delighted. Tilly tries to catch the bees while they’re working. She’s going to get a muzzle full someday.

Our independent, graying old six-year-old cat, Haddie, is a real trooper with overly playful Tilly. But sometimes, a girl just has to take a break. Her favorite spot is against this graying old fence.

Tilly firmly believes she is a toy poodle lapdog. I wonder if toy poodle lapdogs have to keep their back legs on the ground for stability??

Random things:

One of our neighbors gave out May Day baskets, which was just so cute. I haven’t met them yet but I have to wonder if they’ve seen me working in the yard and made the decision to get a large print word search. -ha! (Speaking of old and graying!)

The news about Bill and Melinda Gates was upsetting. They’ve appeared to be such a successful couple who work together and feed off each others’ ideas. I read Melinda’s memoir last year which always makes me feel invested in the author’s life. They’ve done so much good in the world, I hope that can continue.

Speaking of doing good, I am still enjoying everything put out by The Bitter Southerner. They highlight the new south. The progressive stories happening in our beautiful southern states. Better South | Better World

Scott gave me a beautiful flower arrangement and card for Mother’s Day. I particularly liked his character explanations.

A long zoom call with my daughter, Hannah…

…a long phone call with my son, Baird (we never quite get them under 3 hours) -ha! He even had the good sense to marry the world’s greatest daughter-in-law (who managed to be the first to send me a Mother’s Day text.)

They made motherhood easy for me. Their continued support and love is invaluable to me. They’re good people.

I’ve already had to start manipulating the shades… open in the morning for the plants and then closed in the afternoon to ward off the blazing sun. We are taking a trip to Kansas City in early June. It will be nice to be back in temperate heat for a little while.

I grew this ruffled philodendron selloum from a single leaf cutting a couple of years ago. We brought it to California with us and, well, she likes the weather! She’s huge!

Speaking of temperature (and then I promise I’ll close this long post), I am crocheting a Temperature Blanket. I’m not sure why I decided a king-sized pattern was the right way to go, but here we are.

While the colors aren’t usually my thing, I am enjoying the challenge of it. Each row represents the high temperature that day. These colors (starting on January 1, 2021) represent the 50s, 60s and 70s. I’m very ready to move on to the next group of colors (80s, 90s and above 100) but I’m not ready to experience them in real life. There’s nothing like a king size blanket of yarn to work on in 99-degree temperature!

My head needs to be checked…

Okay. I promise these weekly summaries won’t be this long. But it’s been a bit so I thought I’d catch up on all the (very) random things going on.

Maybe the biggest news is that the fitting rooms in area stores have opened up again. Woohoo!! It’s been a long year of buying stuff, taking it home to try on, then returning what doesn’t work. God bless the customer service industry.

Be safe! And welcome to a slightly less-restrictive summer.

HORSE CRAZY by Sarah Maslin Nir

I smiled when I received this gifted book from Simon & Schuster. My daughter loved horses so very much when she was growing up. She even volunteered at a local stable before she was old enough to officially work. I can’t wait to read this memoir. Seems a perfect escape from the extreme peopleness of people right now. An equestrian escape might be just what the therapist ordered.

The official PR description says it best: ‘Acclaimed journalist and avid equestrian Sarah Maslin Nir began riding horses when she was just two years old and hasn’t stopped since. Horse Crazy is a fascinating, funny, and moving love letter to these graceful animals and the people who—like her—are obsessed with them. It is also a coming-of-age story of Nir growing up an outsider within the world’s most elite inner circles, and finding her true north in horses.’

Sounds like a perfect book to settle down with on a cool, September afternoon.

A FINE ROMANCE by Candice Bergen

This has been one of my favorite memoirs to read.

The original Murphy Brown TV show came out when I was in the throws of motherhood. I loved watching her show (from a VCR!) The writing was funny and her character helped me feel more secure in my own evolution as a woman. All things seemed possible.

My mistake, however, was subconsciously assuming the character Murphy Brown was, in fact, Candice Bergen. Bergen historically plays strong, independent, female roles. I have also loved her roles in the tv show, Boston Legal, Sweet Home Alabama, Sex and the City, Book Club, etc. All unflappable characters.

Reading her memoir, A Fine Romance, changed many of my misconceptions of her and broadened my respect for Candice Bergen as Candice Bergen.

Candice walks her readers through her early career, her marriage to French director, Louis Malle and their daughter, Chloe. We caught a glimpse of Candice Bergen as a mother and wife which was a complete thrill. She is warm and gracious and her love for their daughter was – to be honest – somewhat convicting. She was a truly incredible and nurturing mother.

Bergen spends time on the Murphy Brown years – which I particularly enjoyed. She spoke of her relationship with the other cast members – and humor, always humor. She talks of her current husband, Marshall Rose. I related to the struggle she went through after her divorce and before remarrying again many years later and her adjustment to another person being in her life. She was honest and transparent about her two marriages.

The biggest thing I enjoyed was her openness about aging. It is tough, this getting older business. I laughed often and appreciatively.

Thank God for my friends. Mothers in their 50’s – running to beefy now, the traditional thickening through the middle. We clumpt together in our middle-age camouflage – black pants, long sleeves, more make-up than in years past – compensating with wit, attention, intelligence, experience. Bringing to bear, not the extra 15, 20 pounds we all seemed to be packing, but our confidence in who we were. The sizeable weight and force of our personalities.

I was initially interested to read this memoir about a woman who shaped many of my generation’s views on feminism. I was pleasantly surprised to find a woman who is all I expected – independent and strong – but also so many other layers of depth were revealed. She is a wonderfully loving woman who seems to have the gift of giving small tokens of love to those she holds dear. She was always, always, always gracious to the subjects about which she wrote.

Unflappable, yes. But moreso – cultured, loyal, well-traveled and fluent in French. An affectionate mother and friend. She seems to possess that powerful concoction of femininity + strength. An ever-evolving and relevant woman even now.

THE YEAR of MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion⠀ ⠀

It would appear to be a morbid book to read, yet this memoir about the year following Joan Didion’s husband’s death, was a systematic, matter-of-fact approach to try to make sense of the common process of grief. I mostly found it fascinating that our mind tries to make sense of something our heart cannot easily process. ⠀

Didion’s husband (John) had a sudden heart attack and died at home one evening. Didion recalls simple things like going to the hospital with the paramedics and her husband’s body to take care of the paperwork…’the regularization of death’. At the NYC hospital she recalls looking at the time and realizing that John had not died yet on LA time. Didion wondered, for a brief moment, if she could somehow stop him from dying before that California time arrived.⠀

The Year of Magical Thinking would be particularly fascinating to anyone who has grieved the loss of a loved one as they would surely find similarities in the way Didion processed her husband’s death. ⠀

As is common, she spoke of wanting to tell John something important, only to realize she could not. “It was as if I put the arrow in the bow, pulled back and just before shooting it realized he was not here to listen to my story, and I would release the arrow and set the bow back down.”⠀

Didion recalled the many times in their marriage that after having a dream she would tell John about it in the morning when they woke up “…not to dwell on the dream but to let it go.” As a reader I wondered how therapeutic this memoir must have been. To write about her process of grief. Not to dwell on death, but to let it go.⠀

After a year of grieving and looking back on what was happening the previous year between she and John, she realized that while his death occurred on December 30, December 31 would be the first day in which John was not a part of the previous year. That is when she began to move forward and her way of thinking shifted. “I began to allow him to simply be the photograph on the piano.”⠀

This was a fascinating book about the process of grief – universally experienced but very uniquely felt.⠀

A highly recommended book.

LET’S JUST SAY IT WASN’T PRETTY by Diane Keaton⠀ ⠀

I listened to this book on Audible and now I can’t imagine reading it in its physical form. Diane Keaton’s narration made it all the more wonderful.⠀

Let’s Just Say…, Keaton candidly discusses non-conventional beauty, aging gracefully (and not-so-gracefully at times) and embracing the person you truly are. She offers encouragement and support for women who want to push back against the normative definitions of beauty.⠀

Diane also dishes about her complicated relationships with men like Jack Nicholson (hint: he’s still a very dear friend), Warren Beatty and Al Pacino to name a few.⠀

With wry wit and self-deprecating humor, Keaton reminds us that the best beauty tip we can embrace is to enjoy a life well-lived.⠀ I highly recommend this book for all of us that have a wonky sense of style, desperately desire to wear amazing wide-brimmed hats and have settled into a comfortable place of beauty as defined by our own standards. This will be a book I return to often for encouragement and gutsiness.