Spring is Coming…Eventually…and a Correction

First, I must correct some information I gave out last week about the Hattie Davish mystery series by Anna Loan-Wilsey. You all read how much I enjoyed Anything But Civil, the second book in the series. The third book is actually called A Sense of Entitlement and it was released last June. The fourth book in the series is A Deceptive Homecoming.  I’m so sorry to have caused any confusion about this! I’m looking forward to reading the other three books in the series!

Here in New Jersey we’re expecting another snowstorm to blow in by Tuesday morning. No surprise there. What would surprise me is if we actually got some snow. It’s been way too cold, but really that’s nothing compared to the temperatures they’re experiencing in northern and central New York, where I know many of you, dear readers, live and wait anxiously for spring.

Spring–that’s where my thoughts are headed this week. It’s only a little over a month away, you know, at least by the calendar. Sometimes I think Mother Nature gets the memo a bit late, but we know it’ll be here eventually.

I thought I’d share with you some of the ideas I have for my yard and flower beds. I am always afraid of running afoul of the copyright laws, so I only post pictures on this blog that I take myself or that my family members take; therefore, I don’t have pictures of the things I want to plant this year, but I will provide links for you to look at them if you’d like.

As anyone who has ever been to my house will tell you, the front of my house needs some landscaping work, to say the least (it sports a look now that I like to call “haunted”). Currently there are two beds full of scraggly azaleas that do not thrive in full sun (they bloom for one day, get sunburned, and die), poison ivy, those wild onions (are they ramps? I have no idea), one wayward cedar tree that we swear we’re going to transplant one of these days (it’s about 8 feet tall now and we’ve been saying that since it was knee-high), two obnoxious holly bushes, and a euonymous that is completely out of control.

My dream is to have two raised beds full of things that like full sun and don’t require much fuss. Sure, poison ivy fits the bill, but that’s not really what I have in mind. I’m thinking seagrass, the kind that looks like Fraggle hair. Google “Fraggles” if you’re too young to remember what they are. But not just seagrass- I’d also like some flowers, and I almost always go with perennials because I don’t have the time or the patience to deal with annuals (well, that’s not completely true. I do hang four baskets filled with annuals on my porch, and I have a bunch of containers that I use for annuals on the patio out back…almost everything is dead by August). I might try Shasta daisies and Stella de Oro daylilies. I think I’d like some Russian Sage, too. See http://www.hgtvgardens.com/perennials/15-perennials-you-cant-kill and http://www.bhg.com/gardening/flowers/perennials/top-perennials-for-your-garden/#page=20 for some photos of the plants I’ve mentioned.

Under our trees, I plant almost exclusively hostas. They literally require no care. I do have a spot in the backyard that is perfect for a couple shade-loving plants. I hear that Lily-of-the-Valley is impossible to kill, but I have done it. Maybe I’ll try it again (planting it, not killing it). HGTV recommends the unfortunately-named Toadlily as a plant that will withstand shade, but I think I’ll plant something else with my Lilies-of-the-Valley.

Do you have any ideas for me? My criteria are as follows: easy, Zone 7. I’m looking for things mainly to plant in the sunny spots.

Until next week, stay warm!

Amy

A Review: Anything But Civil

Last week I finished Anna Loan-Wilsey’s Anything But Civil. It is the second in a mystery series featuring traveling secretary Hattie Davish. I won a copy of the book at a Facebook “tea party.” The author mailed it to me and was kind enough to inscribe the front of the book with a lovely message.

Anything But Civil cover 2   Anything But Civil note

 

Here’s a quick synopsis: Ms. Davish is secretary to Sir Arthur Windom-Greene, an Englishman with a love of American history. He is working on a biography of General Cornelius Starrett, a war hero from Galena, Illinois.

Sir Arthur and Hattie travel to Galena to meet General Starrett and to interview him, as well as to visit other places in Galena of interest to Civil War scholars, including the home of Ulysses S. Grant. While in Galena, Sir Arthur and Hattie have the dubious honor of meeting General Starrett’s son, Captain Henry Starrett, a blustering hothead with a grudge against a member of the community who was branded a traitor during the Civil War by some citizens of the town.

It’s not long before Hattie finds herself dragged into a murder mystery involving old wounds that reach back in time to the War. Convinced that Captain Starrett has something to do with strange and violent events that occur in town, Hattie must walk a delicate line between investigating the mystery, staying focused on her work for Sir Arthur, and not getting herself hurt or killed in the process.

Oh, and Sir Arthur is a suspect in the murder. And it’s Christmastime. And Hattie also has to decorate Sir Arthur’s house, plan menus for the holiday, and buy and wrap gifts from herself and Sir Arthur. She has a lot on her plate, to say the least.

My verdict: I loved the book.

Anna Loan-Wilsey does a great job of intertwining the story lines and the characters, and the amount of research (on not only the Civil War, but also on the town of Galena, the clothing of that period in history, the holiday customs of that era, and the rules of social interactions during that time) that obviously went into this historical cozy is staggering. I was very impressed. I did guess the identity of the killer, but not until the very end, about a paragraph before the answer was revealed. Just like Hattie, I kept running lists of the possible suspects and red herrings. The book was a fun read, and I recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction or historical cozies.

I haven’t yet read the first book in the Hattie Davish mystery series, A Lack of Temperance, but you can be sure I’m going to. Anything But Civil, though it’s the second book in the series, can be easily understood without reading the first book, but I’d love to learn more about Hattie’s background.

Incidentally, the third book in the series is called A Deceptive Homecoming, but it hasn’t been released yet. I’m looking forward to it!

Until next week,

Amy

 

Snow Day!

It’s Snowmageddon here in New Jersey, which means we may be getting at least six inches of the fluffy white stuff tonight. Schools have already been cancelled for tomorrow, so we’re all going to sleep in. In fact, anyone getting up early will do so over my dead body.

I grew up in northern New York, where they laugh at schools that close for a mere six inches of snow. Where I live now, kids are not allowed to go outside for recess if it’s too cold. FYI, “too cold” is in the eye of the beholder, and people from New Jersey tend to believe that “too cold” is a temperature much higher than what upstate New Yorkers consider “too cold.” When I was little, we used to put on our snowpants and mittens and scarves to go outdoors at recess. Not so for my kids.

Winter used to be my favorite season. Just ask my husband–he reminds me (ad nauseam) that I used to say I loved cold and snow and winter. But times have changed and I don’t love it quite as much anymore. I still love watching the snow fall, and I even like to take my dog for a walk when it’s snowing. But I also like to be warm. When I go outside in the snow, I’m covered up so that only my eyes show. I used to hate wearing a coat outside in the wintertime. Funny, my kids are like that now. They flatly refuse to wear winter coats to school. They wear sweatshirts because all of them say that their lockers aren’t big enough to hold parkas. I let them get away with it because I was the same way.

So just what are we doing with our snow day? Well, the kids all have a little bit of homework, so they’ll do that. I’ll work on my book–it’s coming along well. It’s actually set in Hawaii, so even if it’s cold and windy and snowy in New Jersey, I get to spend some time on the Big Island, at least on paper. When we’ve all done our work, we’re going to make chocolate chip cookies. And there are a few games we got for Christmas that we haven’t played yet, so maybe we’ll take those out and give them a try.

I’d like to get some reading done, too. Right now I’m reading Anything But Civil by Anna Loan-Wilsey. It’s the second in her Hattie Davish mystery series, and I’m enjoying it very much so far. Look for a review of the book on my blog in the coming weeks.

What do you think of winter weather, or do you live in a place that is temperate all year? What do you do on snow days?

first snowfall 2015 (7) first snowfall 2015 (8)

Until next week,

 

Amy