Favorite Gardening Reads {so far…}

I’ve been reading up on gardening in the southwest lately and I have found that I actually really enjoy reading these books. I could seriously delve into a horticulture book and not come up for air until it was finished. I never though I could read these kinds of books and be sad when they were finished and I had extracted every ounce of gardening knowledge from their pages. But now I’m sad. Must. Buy. More. Gardening. Books.

Favorite Gardening Books

1. Extreme Gardening: How to grow organic in the hostile deserts by Dave Owens

This book is a must-have for gardeners in the Arizona desert. According to the author, there is a whole other set of rules that come along with gardening in this part of the US, and he covers them pretty well! So well, in fact, that I have a beautiful, thriving flower garden full of dianthus, geraniums, alyssum, begonia, stock, bottle brush, trailing rosemary, and blue plumbago! I couldn’t have done it properly without this book. I would have had no idea what this (nearly lifeless) soil needed without his book (which was just a healthy dose of soft rock phosphorus and compost).

This book has full chapters dedicated to vegetables, herbs, flowers (including roses and sunflowers), fruits & nut trees, and lawn care.  He covers how to choose each variety for this part of the country, how to plant it, how to care for it, and even how to enjoy and protect it! Of course he also covers organic pest control, and Arizona gardening basics. I take this book to the nursery with me and I feel no shame whatsoever whipping it out when a pretty flower catches my eye (or nose).

2. Talking Dirt: The dirt diva’s down-to-earth guide to organic gardening by Annie Spiegelman

If you don’t think you’d enjoy reading a book about gardening, this might be the book for you. The writer has a wonderful sense of humor that I can totally relate to with chapter titles like Going Compostal!, Butterflies in the ‘Hood, and Return of the Killer Tomatoes.  She discusses the seemingly mystical botanical naming system, covers the anatomy of a plant, provides a list of all the tools you need and why, and so much more, all while providing a few really good laughs (that is, if you have a sense of humor).  At the end of each chapter she provides a plant recommendation complete with care instructions, origin, hardiness zone, and growing requirements.  She also provides a “whaaa-whaaa rating” from 1 to 10 depending on the difficulty of care just to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself in front of your neighbors.  This was the first gardening book that I ever read, and may be the reason I can enjoy reading them so much, so I’d start with this one if I were you!

3. Grow Organic by DK Publishing 

This is a pretty generic organic gardening book that covers all of the basics…along with beautiful photos.  It has a pretty good section on composting, and a pretty large section on growing organic vegetables.  If you need/love photos, then this is a great book.  I reference it when I feel like I might not be doing something right (like tamping?).

4. Desert Gardening: Fruits & Vegetables by George Brookbank

This is another great book written for gardeners in the desert southwest.  It’s pretty dry if you don’t already enjoy reading gardening books and requires a lot of imagination when looking at the photos. See for yourself:

Desert Gardening by George Brookbank


But come on, people! This is, by far, the only complaint anyone has about this book. It is packed full of information about desert gardening and has taught me so much that I wouldn’t have known had I not been able to look past the terrible photos (gosh, that sounds shallow and superficial).  Like grapes! I had no idea that grapes could survive and thrive here! But they can, and George tells me how! He has a whole chapter dedicated to peppers. And my favorite thing? The Desert Gardener’s Calendar.  You all know me. I love to plan. I love calendars. Something about little squares with numbers in them indicating the day of the year just motivates me to write stuff in them…then forget about the stuff that I write…then feel guilty when I go back a few pages and see that I forgot. Darn. Anyway, he gets super specific in his tables, even including the elevation, which really changes up the calendar for some vegetables.  If you are serious about gardening in the desert (Arizona, California, New Mexico) I definitely recommend this book. The photos will make you cry, but the information and knowledge George Brookbank provides makes up for the tears you will shed.

I am hoping to add a few more books to my library this Christmas (**Christmas hint-Christmas hint** My husband told me to yell that really loud before I mention something I might want for Christmas):

1. Month-by-Month Gardening in the Deserts of Arizona by Mary Irish

2. The Garden Guy: A seasonal guide to organic gardening in the desert southwest by Dave Owens

3. Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: A practical guide to small-scale, integrative farming and gardening by Sepp Holzer. 

Do you have a favorite gardening book or resource? Share! Share!!

5 favorite (fictional) reads

say that I prefer non-fiction over fiction, but if you take a look at my goodreads “read” list, you’ll see that I’m a liar. Well, I’m not lying about preferring non-fiction reads over fiction, but I have read a bit more fictional books. Now, I am not like my sister. She will read a book that she loves over, and over, and over, and over…..I can’t do that. I read a book once, either love it or hate it and never pick it up again. I remember the story, always, but I don’t need to remember every paragraph of the book! Anyway, here are a few of my favorites (and I won’t include the Twilight Saga or the Hunger Games trilogy even though those are definitely some of my favorites):

1) Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. First of all, I love historical fiction, and more than that, I can always appreciate a book about the Holocaust.  Sarah’s Key is incredibly heartbreaking. It’s about the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup that took place in Paris. About 13,000 French Jews were rounded up that day, taken to a stadium, held at an internment camp, and ultimately shipped off to Auschwitz.  Sarah is a little girl at the time, who locks her brother in a cupboard when she realizes her and her family are being taken away, since she believes they will return home shortly.  Sixty years later, a journalist discovers Sarah’s story. I can’t remember all of the details, but I do know that I cried, a lot, and that it’s one, out of many books, that has stayed with me.

2) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It’s been even longer since I’ve read this book, like back in 2007. This is another heartbreaker.  Amir and Hassan are best friends, but Hassan is the son of Amir’s father’s servant.  One day, during a kite-fighting tournament, Amir watches as something horrific happens to his best friend, and both of their lives are affected by those events from that day on. Definitely read this book!

3) The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I just realized that all of these books, so far, have been made into movies since I’ve read them. Anyway, this is a book that made me feel really lonely, sad, and scared, but for some reason, I guess Cormac McCarthy’s amazing story-telling skills, I could not put this book down. It’s about a father and son who are basically alone in a post-apocalyptic America, trying to make it to the coast alive. They are not sure what awaits them at the coast, but they are determined to get there. Throughout their journey, they must hide from other humans (normally in big groups) who will kill them for food. There are no animals and no plants. Everything has been destroyed by fire. It’s a very dark and scary book, but it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.

4) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Another historical fiction book, and another book by Khaled Hosseini. This book sheds some light on the brutal treatment of Afghan women.  It’s about an unlikely friendship between two women, and actually has a pretty happy ending. But it will still make you cry your eyes out. I think I listened to this book over the course of a week on my way too and from work, so I got a lot of strange looks from people in other cars when they looked over and saw me sobbing, uncontrollably.  Haha.

5) Nightlight: A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon. Hilarious. If you are a Twilight fan, or even if you aren’t but have read the books, and you enjoy a good parody, read this. Don’t pay attention to the reviews. Some people are just too proud to laugh at simple things.

New Year thoughts

Welcome, 2013! It’s hard to believe that 2012 is over. I don’t remember the years passing this quickly when I was a little girl. I was telling my husband the other day that I now see the truth in the old adage, “The days are long, but the years fly by”.  So what’s been going on?

Well, first and foremost, my amazing little boy turns 1 year old this Friday.  As I watch him make the transition from infant-hood to toddlerhood each day, I find that I am overwhelmed by all the thoughts and feelings running through my mind. At least once a day I find myself awestruck by the simple fact that I have a child. I look his face over and see both mine and Sam’s features and I can’t believe that he’s here…that he exists. Everything he does amazes me, even the simple act of pointing to an object!  He’s healthy, smart, beautiful, and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what I have done to deserve such an amazing little boy.

Another feeling that I struggle with daily is fear. Is the baby gate up? Was that piece of chicken too big? Is the monitor on the right channel? Did I buckle him into his carseat? How will he react to Sam when he comes home from his deployment? What if Sam doesn’t come home from his deployment? How do I raise him to love and respect everyone in such a hateful world? How do I keep from letting him down?  There are many things that I’m afraid of when it comes to Miles. I think the thing that scares me the most is the thought of losing him.  The thought of a world without him is inconceivable. But he’s so little and everything in the world is so dangerous and accidents happen all the time and I obviously know that I can’t ruminate over these thoughts my whole life, but the fear is still there.  It’s really always in the back of my mind. I know part of those thoughts and feelings are what keeps him safe. They remind me to put the cover on the doggie door, and shut the lid to the toilet.


So I live in a constant state of anxiety and extreme happiness. I guess this is parenthood.

Back to Milo’s upcoming 1st birthday.  Do all the years pass this fast? It seems like just yesterday I was enjoying a week’s stay in the extravagant Lester Naval Hospital with my tiny baby who could barely fit into a newborn size diaper.  He was so tiny and quiet and had this serious look on his face all of the time.  Before I knew it, he was growling. That scared me. Why is my 3 month old growling like a dog? Then a few weeks later he was laughing. I remember crying the first time I heard him laugh. I thought it was the sweetest sound I had ever heard, and it’s still my favorite.  Soon after that he was sitting up, then dragging himself across the floor, then crawling, then babbling, then pointing, then a week or so ago, he tried (successfully) to walk! He is depending on real food now, and has stopped taking formula.

I just cannot believe how fast this first year has gone by.  It blows my mind.

Moving on to other current events…Sam and I have taken the first real step in our home buying process by getting preapproved for our first home loan! I am so excited about this part of our lives. We will finally have our very own place.  We will only be there for a few years, but it will be ours.  I got so excited the other day and decided to buy some adorable plates from Anthropologie for my future tea/book club meetings with all of my future awesome, interesting friends.

Photo from Anthropologie.com

Photo from Anthropologie.com

Aren’t they adorable? I’m very excited about this home buying thing! I can’t wait to decorate Milo’s room.

Since I’m on winter break from school, I have been able to knock some books off of my “to-read” list on goodreads! I finished Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.  I think that book is a must-read for everyone.  I am on to The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients by Dr. Irvin D. Yalom.  I really like his take on therapy and his advice that a therapist should not rely on one theory alone, but contour the therapy approach based on the patient.  There are tons more tidbits of advice that he offers in this book and I have a feeling I will be referencing this book throughout my counseling career.

Anyway, dinner is almost ready and I must feed my monster-baby. Happy New Year to all!

Realizations, Worries, & Book Lists

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I had an epiphany the other day as I was cleaning poop off of Miles’ diapers and it goes a little something like this:

I am a senior in college…A SENIOR! That means next year I will actually be working with people, I mean, not in the full capacity that I one day will be, but still.  Holy crap! I need to learn more about people..about psychology, marriage, families, counseling!  What have I been doing for the past 4…err 6, okay, 7 years? I need to read every book on psychology and marriage counseling I can get my hands on. I’m going to be a marriage and family counselor…YES! I’m going to help couples not get divorced and find happiness…YES! I’m going to be good at it…YES!!…and I’m still going to be cleaning poop off of diapers…yep.

The sudden realization that graduation is coming soon has me super motivated and excited to learn as much as I possibly can about what I am going to be doing. The problem is that I should’ve been motivated and excited about it way before now. I have taken psychology class after psychology class, and counseling and Bible class, one after the other, and I’ve done great in them (4.0..whoo hoo!) but I don’t remember much off the top of my head. Does this happen a lot? I’m a little worried that I’m slightly under prepared to be a people-helper.  Should I even be telling everyone this?

Well, now that I put all of that out there, I guess I should say that I AM doing something about it.  I have decided that from now on, my “fun reading” will be filled with books that will help me in my career, which is not a bad deal since those types of books are still “fun” to me.  I started Attachments: Why you love, feel, and act the way you do by Dr. Tim Clinton. I read a lot of his books in my classes, so I figured this would be a good one, too. I already have a few more lined up, as well:

How Christian is Christian Counseling?: The dangerous secular influences that keep us from caring for souls by Gary L. Almy

Curing the Heart: A model for Biblical counseling by Howard Eyrich

A Theology of Christian Counseling by Jay Edward Adams

Totally Sufficient by Ed Hindson

Basic Counseling Techniques: A Beginning Therapist’s Tool Kit by C. Wayne Perry

I’ll stick with those 5 for now, but this list will definitely be growing! Oo, I can’t wait until I have a library in my house. I’m also going to be adding a few “must-have-on-hand-always” books for reference:

The Popular Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling: An Indispensable Tool for Helping People with Their Problems by Tim Clinton

Christian Counseling 3rd Edition: Revised and Updated by Gary R. Collins

Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling by Mark R. McMinn

Modern Psychotherapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal by S. Jones & R. Butman

Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: A Case Approach by Nancy L. Murdock

I will also be adding more to that list. Sorry if this is totally boring, but I really need to make a list that I won’t lose, and since I’ve never lost my blog, I thought this would be the best place for it. Plus, it would be nice to hear from counselors, therapists, pastors, or any other person who has experience in the field, what books they might recommend. Alright, back to learning stuff! This is so exciting! Happy Wednesday, everyone!

The Happiness Project…so far.

I have been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and I must say it has inspired me in many different ways.  In her book, the first chapter is dedicated to her commandments, her rules of life, and some truths she has discovered throughout life, then she goes from there. Each month is dedicated to improving or changing some area of her life like her marriage, parenthood, organization, etc.  I am only halfway through, but so far she has motivated me to tackle my mess of a closet, and to make some much needed purchases of file boxes that I have been putting off for months. I just keep all of our important documents safely jammed in one of the 3 drawers in our desk, along with old coupons that I will never use because I am not a couponer, old newspapers, old magazines, and some more junk that I really need to get rid of. This is not like me at all. My main job in the Air Force was to maintain a file system for our unit and I did a pretty good job of that, so I have no idea why I have not implemented parts of that system at my own home. That is changing! I am starting small since being 25-year old newly weds with a brand new baby does not constitute that much paperwork.  I was poking around the Container Store’s online shop and found these two file boxes that will be perfect…if only I could decide which one I want:


I’m pretty sure I’ll end up with the bamboo box.  Mrs. Rubin has also inspired me to work on my friendships.  I don’t think I spend enough time maintaining this part of my life because it has always taken care of itself, or that is how it feels. It feels like the older I get, the more work I have to put into these relationships to make them full and worthwhile.  Too bad it can’t be like it was in elementary school when you saw a girl wearing the same shoes as you and all-of-the-sudden you two were BFF’s for life.  Life was easy then.  Anyway, I am going to get back to the book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who feels bored with life and is ready to make some changes. She will inspire you to do just that!

Have a good day!

Normal books vs E-books

I am so torn.

I love my little Kindle and the convenience of being able to connect the wifi and have any book in the whole ebook world at my disposal. It makes me excited knowing I can have any book, anytime. I know that goes for anybody with the internet and a program with the ability to open up an ebook, not just Kindle users. I have automatic book marks and if I get bored with one book, I can just hit the little button with a house on it and start on a different one! Flying with the Kindle is extremely convenient. I don’t have to lug around 4 books, so I have more room for twinkies, yarn, and whatever else I want to stuff in my carry-on! Ah, ebooks.

However, there is nothing like a real book. With real pages. Pages that I can dog-ear, and make notes on, and smell. Oh, how I love the sweet smell of the pages of a book. I love having a collection of books. I don’t know why, but I feel like it adds character to a home when there are books everywhere, on the walls, on the coffee table, on random chairs…I love real books. And bookstores, don’t even get me started on those…

Too late.

There is nothing that makes me happier than walking through the doors of a giant bookstore and being smacked in the face by the smell of paper and coffee. The hours I have spent in book stores probably add up to more than the hours I have spent sleeping and showering, combined. Sam and I used to go on Saturday mornings, get our coffee, and separate for hours, then find each other when it was time to eat. I love that the book stores provide couches so you can just sit down and read a whole book without even having to spend the normal $16.00 on it! I mean, I normally just sat up against a book shelf on the floor, but the couches are nice for people with back problems, I guess. I always hope there is a long line to the cash register so I can play with all the neat gadgets they have. Cool pens. Unique paper weights. And Moleskins. I have to get a new Moleskin, or get Sam a new one, every time I go to a book store. I just can’t resist those plain colored notebooks. They are just begging me to write all over their pages, and that is exactly what I do with them. Sam has a few blank ones in his drawer, and I just cannot make sense of it. How can he resist? I might go steal his since I have yet to find them here on Okinawa.

Anyway, just thought I’d share my thoughts on ebooks vs real books. Good night!

Scratch Book #2 Off The List

I have finally finished The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner! It was a great book, despite the month that it took me to finish it. That was simply laziness on my part. My appetite for adventure has been enlivened! I guess I sort of let it rest with all of the traveling that I’ve had to do since September, but it’s awake now. I remember how much that I want to visit Bali, Thailand, and Ireland. I have added a few places, since reading this book, to my list: Switzerland, Iceland, India, and Bhutan. I will visit Great Britain this summer, though I don’t think I will be visiting Slough. Also, I don’t believe that I will ever be visiting Moldova for any reason. Not that I ever wanted to, but after reading the chapter about Moldova, fresh produce is not really a good enough reason to visit that sad place.

Eric came to some interesting conclusions about happiness throughout his travels. He pretty much sums it up like this:

“Money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude.”

I think that he is right, for the most part, and this book was a great reminder of what really matters, what really makes a group of people happy. Trust and gratitude are definitely essentials when it comes to being happy. I think kindness should be thrown into the mix too.

One of my favorite things that I learned from this book was mai pen lai. It’s this idea that is used in Thailand and it means “never-mind”. Like, oh well, can’t do anything about so let’s all, happily, get on with our lives! I need to work on having more of a mai pen lai attitude when I get hung up on things that I cannot change.

Anyway, this book is definitely a great read. Eric Weiner has a great sense of humor and made me laugh out loud several times. One particular instance was when he was talking about the Bhutanese and their obsessions with, ahem, the male appendage.

So, I am on to my next book on the reading list. As I mentioned before, I am not going in the order they are listed. I think I will re-start the Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. That is it for today. Have a great Friday!

On To Book #2

I finally finished Why We Can’t Wait by MLK, Jr.  It was such a great book and I highly recommend that every American..heck, everyone read this amazing history book.  I already held Martin Luther King, Jr. in high regard, and this book just reaffirmed why I respect him so much. Here is a bit of the review that I posted to my Goodreads:

I think that every American should read this book. MLK, Jr. was an amazing man who was in love with God and who had a heart for people. He had an amazing understanding of what Jesus Christ would do and, I believe, was a great example of what a Christian should be. As I re-read “Letters From a Birmingham Jail”, I was reminded how loving and forgiving of a man he was, even to the people who despised him the most. He had a vision of a world where everyone was treated equally, no matter what the color of their skin, and nonviolence was how he was going to reach that goal. The last words of the book, “Nonviolence, the answer to the Negroes’ need, may become the answer to the most desperate need of all humanity.”, made me realize just how big his vision was. In the second chapter, he refers to nonviolence as “The Sword that Heals”. I think this is a great allusion to the nonviolent actions that were used to heal years of segregation and the awful things that took place in the South against black people. This is a great history book and should be read in every high school!

I know The Republic is supposed to be my next book, but I decided to skip around. I just don’t feel like my brain is up to the task yet. So I have decided to start on number 15 of my 2011 Reading List, The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner. I must say that so far this book is very humorous. Chapter one made me laugh out loud about 5 times already.

You know what I have been forgetting lately? My Japanese words! Today’s words are abiru (ah-bee-ru) which means to take a bath or shower, or to bask in sunlight, (Note that the Japanese “R” is pronounced differently then the English “R”. )and the other word of the day is the Japanese word for abhor, which is nikumu (nee-koo-moo).

2011 Reading List

Here is to actually starting AND finishing all of the books on this list. “To ancient times and distant music!” Cheers! *as I lift my imaginary full wine glass up in the air to tink other imaginary full wine glasses of my imaginary friends while my husband stares at me like I grew and elephant trunk from my shoulder*

1. Why We Can’t Wait by MLK Jr.

2. The Republic by Plato

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

4. Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein

5. The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century by Alex Ross

6. Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner

7. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

8. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

9. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (this one has been sitting on my night stand for about 7 months)

10. The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain

11. Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

12. 1776 by David McCullough

13. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

14. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

15. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

16. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (I vow to finally finish this book this year)

17. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

18. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

19. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

20. On Writing by Stephen King

21. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (Read this in high school and had to write my own kind of Canterbury Tales, so much fun)

22. The Works of Anne Bradstreet by Anne Bradstreet

23. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

24. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

25. The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

26. La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian by Dianne Hales

Okay, I think 25 is good to start off with for this year…I’m going to go get started now with Why We Can’t Wait. =)