Second Quarter Book Reviews One Month Early

I’m writing the second quarter book reviews a month early because I’m going to be in Vermont for half of June and half of July, and instead of writing book reviews I intend to spend my vacation sprawled on my parents lawn in a gin soaked stupor, so there you have it.

Now, where did we leave off?

(P.S.  Confidential to NGS:  Please assume that any book I loved, I am recommending you do not read, and any book I hated, I assume you will love.)

49.  An Exact Replica of A Figment of My Imagination.  This was wonderful.  Sad and wonderful.  Although to be honest it is rare that I do not love a memoir.

50.  It Sucked and Then I Cried.  I read this a hundred years after everyone else in one night at Maggie’s house.  It was ok.  Not as terrible as I thought it would be, but nothing to like, lose your mind over.  I felt like she did that thing she does on her blog, where she tries to use a WACKY metaphor, and it just didn’t work that well in this book.  It was all “and then I told him sure, JUST BITE MY HAND OFF AND COVER IT WITH PEANUT BUTTER AND FEED IT TO A LIVE BUT ALSO HALF DEAD DEMONIC SEA CUCUMBER ALIEN PORCUPINE ON MARS” or whatever and it was just unfunny.

51.  Recovery Road.  So Blake Nelson wrote Girl, which is one of my favorite books of all time, and because of that I keep checking out his new books and I never really like them that much.  This one was much better than Paranoid Park, but still didn’t compare to Girl, at least not for me.

52.  Just Kids.  I don’t know.  Maybe you had to live it?  I guess it was interesting but it seemed very long and not all that noteworthy.

53.  Exposed.  I found the plot twist in this book to be very very…questionable.  It made me dislike everyone involved.

54.  Nothing.  HOLY CRAP NO. Dear god.  This is one of the most screwed up weird bizarre and obnoxious things I have read in a long long time.  I suppose I am just not ready for Danish existentialist young adult fiction, but JESUS.

55.  Skippy Dies.  Oh, this was SO LONG.  Just so so so long.  And I enjoyed the first nine million pages, I thought it had some funny and interesting things to say about catholic education, but then it started down a road that was just not for me, and (spoiler alert) yes, that road was related to a priest abusing teenage boys and I’m sorry, but I just don’t want to read about that.  No thanks.

56.  Revolver.  This was a Printz honor book?! Eeeeech.

57.  Catcher, Caught.  I really liked this book, but it had a plot point that did not ring true for me and it threw off my enjoyment of the book.

58.  Where She Went.  The funny thing is that I almost didn’t read this book, because I didn’t care for If I Stay at all.  (This book is the sequel.)  And oh, I LOVED this book.  I want to read it again, and again, and again.  I LOVED IT.  Funny and romantic and sad and wonderful and magical and I LOVED IT.  Best YAF romantic type book I have read in a long time.

59.  Let’s Take the Long Way Home.  There was just way way way waaaaaay too much about dogs in this book for me.

60.  Between Shades of Gray.  This was no Endless Steppe, but it was a good read, for historical fiction, and I especially found the historical information at the end of the book interesting.

61.  The Finkler Question.  This won the Man Booker Prize.  It was incredibly incredibly boring.

62.  Stolen.  Oh, this was very odd.  Very very odd.  I couldn’t get into it.

63.  Torment.  This book started off with the following sentence:  “Behind him, the bleat of sea lions flopping in heaps along the south shore of Angel Island sounded the way he felt, jaggedly lonely, with no one around to hear.”  UM NO.   First of all, there IS someone around to hear, obviously, and secondly, the BLEAT OF SEA LIONS SOUNDS THE WAY YOU FEEL?  JAGGEDLY LONELY?  THAT’S WHAT THE BLEAT OF SEA LIONS FEELS LIKE?   JAGGED LONELINESS?  HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.  Seriously?  SOMEONE EDIT THIS SHIT!

64.  To Then End of the Land.  I just don’t read books without any quotation marks to indicate dialogue.  Might be the best book in the world (although I doubt it), but not for me.  Get over yourself, because seriously?  YOU’RE NOT TOO GOOD FOR PUNCTUATION.  USE SOME.

65.  I’d Know You Anywhere.  I am probably a bad sheltered person, but I just don’t want to read books about creepy abusers creepily abusing people.  No thanks.

66.  Tell Us We’re Home. Meh. I thought this was formulaic.  Although it was fine.  Nowhere near as bad as some of the stuff I read.  No one’s feelings were described in terms of bleating sea creatures, for example.

67.  Stay.  Meh.

68.  Home to Woefield.  A few paragraphs into this book, the main character referred to HIS MOTHER’S LADY AREA AS HER “NO NO HOLE”.  And no thank you to that.

69.  Annexed.  I just really think it’s uncool to try to rewrite The Diary of Anne Frank.  Some things should just be alone.

70.  Crossing the Tracks.  I really liked this.  You should read it.

71.  Dirt Road Home.  I have literally no memory of this book.

72.  Welcome to Utopia.  About life in a very small town.  The first chapter was super boring, and after that it got better, but it wasn’t especially interesting or mind blowing.

73.  Somebody Everybody Listens To.  At first I thought this was sort of boring and formulaic but then it became one of those books I couldn’t get out of my head.  Interesting and different.

74.  Three Black Swans.  I love Caroline Cooney but this book was nothing special.

75.  It’s Not You, It’s Me.  Oh no.  No.

76.  Homecoming.  Quite frequently I complain that no “my mother left me” YAF compares to Homecoming, but I haven’t read it in years, so I thought maybe I should re read the series to make sure I wasn’t wrong.  I wasn’t wrong.  This book sets the bar, and it’s wonderful, and there is something so spare and detailed and perfect in the telling of this tale.  Dicey is one of my favorite fictional people of all time.

77.  The Piper’s Son.  I really loved Jellicoe Road so much, and I also loved Finnikin of the Rock, and this is the latest from Melina Marchetta, so I read it.  It was ok.  I liked the story and the characters, but it lacked something for me, and it seemed quite long, for no apparent reason.  It improved with time, but it was not as good as some of her other books.

78.  Bumped.  Oh god.  I loved Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings more than is really healthy, probably, but this book was such a stinker.  Weird post apocalyptic plot line designed to cash in on the Hunger Games popularity?  Check.  Dippy futuristic made up slang?  Check.  Annoying main character who completely buys into the party line for the first 1/3 of the book?  Check.  Blargh.

79.  Across the Universe.  Oh haaaaaaaaaaaa.  No.

80.  Amy Butler’s Stitches for Little Ones.  I had this book on hold FOREVER so I did have high expectations but there was literally nothing I wanted to make in this book.

81.  Greyhound.  This was unreadable.  One of the most badly written things I have read in a long time.  I hate to be a book snob, but because I have worked in the book industry I have a certain perspective and a very short time into this book I thought “Someone PUBLISHED this?” and turned to the fly leaf to discover that it was some random publisher I had never heard of and let me just say that I was not surprised by this fact.

82.  Room.  Hmmmm.  I wanted to like this, because I feel like maybe it’s really snobby of me not to like it?  In the end, I didn’t hate it, but it just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t really get the hype.  I think most of the reason I didn’t love it it because I would MUCH rather have read the book from the point of view of the mother, rather than the five year old.  I know that’s the “thing” or whatever about this book, but I found the voice of the child a bit much, especially toward the end.

83.  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  Favorite book of the season, so far.  I LOVED THIS BOOK.  Although I do think that the title and the cover and all that business might be a bit unfortunate because it presents itself as foodie chick lit, sort of, and this book ain’t that.  It’s so sad and weird and fantastical and beautiful and so real it felt autobiographical at the same as it was one of the strangest and unreal things I’ve read in a long time and I LOVED it.  This is the first book I’ve copied sentences out of in a long long time. Here’s one for you:  It can feel so lonely, to see strangers out in the day, shopping, on a day that is not a good one.  On this one:  the day I returned from the emergency room after having a fit about wanting to remove my mouth.  Not an easy day to look at people in their vivid clothes, in their shining hair, pointing and smiling at colorful woven sweaters.

I mean, I don’t know about you, but I have had that day. I have had that moment, and I have never heard it described so truly, so cleanly, and so perfectly, something I’ve felt just like that, as I do in that paragraph.

Also, please note that this book did not have quotation marks, and I didn’t even notice until 3/4’s of the way through.  Seriously.  This book is why I read books.  To find something of yourself, plus more, in the pages and words of someone else is something so profound and it makes you feel like there’s hope for the future and you and your life and it’s all going to be ok and even it isn’t at least there are these beautiful words out there, telling the world how it feels to be you.

84.  Kapitoil.  Urgh.  No.

85.  The Fitzosbornes in Exile.  Ok, so the first book was sort of dull.  Why I decided to check out the sequel I will never know.  Shockingly, it was quite dull.

86.  Take Me There.  This seemed very young and was pretty unremarkable.

87.  More Than Just Race.  I felt like I was reading this for a class.

88.  Death Match.  Ok, so when you read a sort of thriller mystery, and there’s a giant set up for the first 100 or so pages where a scenario is set up in which there are NO ANSWERS and no! can! figure! out! what’s! going! on!, there are two giant plot cop outs which I simply do not accept.  The first one is cloning. OH MY GOD, WE ARE CLONES!  Um, no. Unacceptable.  This book doesn’t, thank god, go with the cloning cop out, but it goes with the other unacceptable cop out and I am not having it, no I am not.

89.  Pull.  So, I was going along giving this book the benefit of the doubt when about a third of the way in, the main character agreed to let his sister tell everyone at their school that he was her boyfriend, and I am sorry, but no.  Just no.   Also, ick.

90.  The Pull of Gravity.  Meh.

91.  The Adults.  So there are these books?  They are very well written and they are interesting on paper and they are even funny sometimes but there’s just nothing there.  They seem like a collection of random words because something essential, some connection, some magic, is missing.  That  happened with this book.

92.  Dicey’s Song.  Not as strong for me as Homecoming, but still wonderful.

93.  Ok For Now.  The sort of sequel to The Wednesday Wars, and also tremendously fabulous.  This book makes me believe in children’s literature.  Truly.

94.  Savages.  Totally totally super dirrrrrrrrrrrrrrty.  Also, wicked violent.  Also, I loved it. Top five book of the quarter, most definitely.

95.  Caleb & Kate.  Oh, Caleb and Kate are trying to work it out with Jesus.  Uh, no.

So let’s see, I have seven months left to read 85 books.  As long as one of them isn’t the sequel to The Passage, it should be totally doable.

 

 

If It Makes You Happy

Sometimes it sneaks up on me, and sometimes it follows me around like a cloud for weeks, but I always think about my father too much at this time of year.

Just when I think  am over the dismal reality of the whole thing, of our failed relationship, somehow it always comes up again, and I’m right back there, ticking off all of the rotten stuff he’s done over the years, counting on my fingers as I list off the reasons he is not in my life.

To be honest, even though I always trot out the same atrocities, it is not those things that keep me awake at night.  I do think it ‘s terrible that he had my sister sterilized knowing full well that she was signing away her rights without the ability to know what she was doing, but I also know that it was from the best of intentions.  He had no right to do such a thing, and it was an incredible violation, but it is not the thing that makes my toes curl in horror when I recount it.

What scares me to my very core is when I think that once upon a time, one day very long ago, my father and my mother were just the same as us, as Erik and me.  They were young and in love and living in a tiny house, taking too many pictures and pasting the graph of my mother’s contractions in my baby book.  Sometimes I feel like I watch my life, half removed, and it takes my breath away when I think of how my mother and father once sat up late at night talking about their babies and how today, they haven’t spoken in decades, how that baby book they pasted those pictures in has long since been discarded.  Life can be one way one minute and an entirely different way thirty years later, and that?

That is what keeps me up at night.  To be honest with you.

The First One

I know preschool graduation is ridiculous, trust me, I know.  Especially when he’ll go back to preschool this summer and again next year.

But he cried every day he went for the first four weeks, and today he did a solo in front of a hundred people, and he has a best friend, and he plays with other kids on the playground, and as stupid as it is, well dammit, I’m proud of that kid.  I really really am.

Katie Dubs, 11 Months

On Living In A Small House

I live in a 960 square foot house with my husband, my two kids, and a cat and a dog.

And most of the time, it’s not that bad.

Actually, let me clarify that.  I really love my house.  And I don’t mind that it’s so small.  Most of the time, I kind of like it.  I think it’s actually sort of cool that we’re making do with such a small space, but there are certainly trade offs and considerations.

First of all, this was an intentional decision.  We could have lived in a much larger house in a subdivision farther out.  However, we wanted to live in an old house.  We wanted to live in a neighborhood, not a subdivision. And this is the size of house that we could afford where we wanted to live.

We got LOTS of advice when we bought this house, but the advice I am most glad I listened to was that of my step father, who just intoned “location, location, location” every time I talked to him.  And I LOVE the location of my house.  Which is lucky, because obviously it’s the one thing I can never change.  I can add on to the attic or put in a new kitchen or hell, I can park a trailer out front, but I can’t move the house.  And if we can never ever sell it, I will be fine with that.  Really, I will.  We have the best neighbors in the world and we are two blocks from a park, a cafe, Target, a gas station, the doctor’s office, the library, a pool, preschool, a grocery store, sushi, and a barbecue stand.  I really love it here.

I  do think that making a small house work is really dependent on layout.  We have a real dining room, and a real living room.  If we didn’t have a dining room I don’t think we could make it work in this house.  We eat dinner in the dining room every night.  We have very small bedrooms, but we have a kitchen that two people can easily fit in.  (Not much more than two people, but it’s not a struggle for two people to cook at the same time.)  The kitchen has enough counter space so that I can have my Kitchenaid out all the time, and so that we don’t have to pull lots of things out of high cabinets or out of drawers all the time.  I can’t be dealing with dragging a mixer in and out of a cabinet every time I want to use it.  That thing is heavy.

We also have a garage and an attic.  The attic is a bitch to get to, but it’s full of baby clothes and baby things that we don’t need very often.  We don’t park our car in the garage, just in the driveway on the side of the house, so we use the garage for strollers and tools and bike trailers and boats and the treadmill.  I keep a lot of craft stuff in there as well.

We also have a fenced backyard, and we live in California, so we’re out there A LOT.  I think elsewhere you’d need a basement, because our backyard is pretty much the key to making our lives manageable.  I have a pack and play and a sandbox out there and we all hang out in the backyard as much as we can as soon as it gets warm.  This year I think the pool in our neighborhood is closed thanks to budget cuts and so we might put a big trashy above ground pool back there as well.

We also don’t have a lot of stuff.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  We have a lot of stuff, but not more than we can fit in this house.  We have one tv.  We have one computer.  We have lots of books, and probably too many clothes, but it all fits in our closets so I am not complaining about that.

The toys mostly live in a little alcove in the living room, although we also have a toy kitchen and an easel in the dining room.  We have a big 4 x 4 Expedit, and what doesn’t fit in that thing, I get rid of.  Speaking of which, I get rid of a lot of stuff.  We have garage sales and I drop stuff off at Goodwill about every two weeks.  Or else I just throw it out.  I throw out so much stuff, you guys. I really do.  I have no idea where it even all comes from, but regardless of how well intentioned some of this stuff is, I just don’t have room for it in this tiny house, so if we don’t use and don’t have room for it, out it goes.

It also helps that I am kind of crazy about keeping the toys isolated to the corner of the living room.  (It’s a biggish corner).  That means that my living room doesn’t feel like a play room and it’s easier to keep clean.  We did have a train table, but it was too big for the room and it didn’t really hold that many train tracks, so I sold it a garage sale.  Eventually I will get rid of the crib in the kids room, and then I will move the toys in there, and the corner where they are now will become my reading area.

The other key to living in a tiny house is furniture.   I have to be very thoughtful in my furniture buying decisions.  Everything has to hold something or store something.  Our bed is elevated and I store craft supplies and suitcases under it.  Eventually I think I also might buy the trundle that goes under it.  We also have a trundle bed in the kids room, which means when Katie outgrows the crib I won’t have to fit another bed in there.  I bought a giant low dresser that covers almost one whole wall in their room and we also use it as a changing table, and above it we have three shelves full of bins for stuff like blankets and socks and hats.  In our bedroom we have a storage chest instead of a bench and it holds extra blankets and clothes.  I have bins of train tracks shoved under the couch and under chairs.  My extra dining room chairs are stackable, so they sit together in the corner.  I have a pot rack in the kitchen and another one hanging flush against the back hallway wall.  Hooks and shelves are my best friend.  All our shoes fit on the three shelves we put up in the closet, although only Mr. E can reach the top row of shoes, so he keeps his way up high.

Eventually I’d like to get a sleeper sofa, and if we also get a trundle bed for our room?  I’ll be able to sleep seven people in this tiny ass house.

It also bears mentioning, since we’re talking about sleeping, that when we were looking at houses we had to purge “is this house big enough for house guests” from our minds.  We simply did not have the budget to buy a house for other people to stay in.  True, we could have a bought a “not us” bigger house, but I just didn’t think it was worth it to live somewhere I didn’t like in a house I didn’t like so that no one would ever have to stay in a hotel or sleep on the couch when they came to visit.   For an extra 100K I could have gotten a house with a sweet mother in law unit, but no one showed with a check for a hundred grand, so there you go.

This house is really easy to clean, which is nice.  I can clean the bathroom in thirty seconds with four wet wipes.  (Gross, but true.)  I can vacuum the entire house from the same outlet.  However, I think it also gets dirty faster.  And honestly if I knew that we’d be living in such a small house, I don’t think I would have gotten two pets.  We’d have a smaller dog (more like the 40 pound range) and we wouldn’t have a cat.  Two pets is too many for such a small house.   But I am also not a pet person, so maybe it’s just me. I don’t know, they produce a lot of pet hair, and I’m over it.

My kids do share a room, and it’s gone remarkably well.  Maureen is my “two kids in a room” mentor and she talked me through how to do it, and now?  It’s insane, but they can’t sleep if they aren’t both in there together.  And someday? I  might just cram another kid in that room.  Look out world!

I would say the one major downside to this house is that Mr. E is not as quite as much on board as I am.  Sometimes it feels like I forced him into this, and that if I had said “we need three bedrooms, let’s go live in a subdivision in Agrestic” that he would have said “Ok!”.  And so when he complains about the size of the house, I feel guilty/responsible/stressed out and it makes me really defensive.  So that’s not my favorite thing in the world, as you can imagine.  I am sure I am internalizing a lot of this, and it’s not his intention, but I can’t help it, I take it personally.  Then I start doing things like ripping up all the laminate and sending him emails with the subject line “fine if you want to move so bad we have to sell this house get ready to install a new floor this weekend it won’t be that much work why don’t you get off your ass if you hate living in a tiny house so much” and as you can imagine he really loves those emails.

Feel free to commiserate in the comments if you are also cramming six creatures into a space smaller than Donald Trump’s bathroom.

This is How Every Project Goes At Our House. Our Old Old House.

When we were house hunting, I had four very specific requirements.  1.  a dining room 2.  an entryway.  3.  no garage in the front and 4.  a house you stepped UP to, with a front porch.  This house had all four of those things and so I bought it.

Anyway.  I have had big plans for the front porch, right from the beginning.  Tile the cement with terra cotta tiles.  Add a fancy light and an olive tree in a pot.  Wrap the skinny posts in nice wide wood cladding.   And buy a new exterior front door with lots of glass in it, add an old fashioned door knob to it, and paint it red.  And then get a new screen door.

Unfortunately our house is suffering from years of neglect and we pretty much do projects on a “this just fell off oh my god” basis.  I am not even sure I can remember everything we’ve done, but a quick list goes something like: painted all the rooms including the ceilings, restored the fireplace including a new mantel, ripped the water heater out of the kitchen and hung a new one on the back of the house, removed three trees and graded and landscaped the side yard, replaced the garage roof, new gate in the backyard, entire new backyard (we didn’t do all of that ourselves), new light fixtures in every room but one, new medicine cabinet, new back porch, painted the kitchen cabinets, new landscaping in the front yard and the other side of the house, replaced and resurfaced the plaster in the hallway, added a dishwasher, and misc. plumbing and electrical disasters.

This doesn’t include replacing all the appliances and buying a houseful of new furniture, so we’ve been busy.  And poor.

Also, I would just like to add that whenever I see a real estate walking through a house with a couple and saying over and over “Oh, paint is easy and cheap!” I just laugh.  Because painting nine rooms including the ceilings (which sucks) when you have two kids and don’t own any painting supplies and have to repair plaster and fix cracks is a lot of things, but it’s not really that cheap or that easy.  Just saying.

Anyway, I’ve been slooooowly working on the front porch, not that you’d know it.  We bought a mail box. I scraped all the chipping white paint off the ceiling and the roof (this SUCKED) and patched it and repainted it.  We put new house numbers on, and when Smith & Hawken went out of business I hustled over there to buy their cast iron doormat and spray painted it black.  I am ashamed to admit that I also jumped the gun spectactularly, and one of the first things I bought when we moved in here was a gallon of red paint for the front door I was going to buy someday.  And then I bought an old doorknob on Ebay.  And then this stuff sat in my garage for three years.

Do you have any idea how hard it is find a real wood front door that’s not a thousand dollars? It is difficult.  I am sure I could find an OLD front door, at ReStore or something, but I honestly do not think that Mr. E and I possess the skills required to get anything other than a prehung door on this wonky ass old ass house.  Which means a $50 door at ReStore is going to cost me $1000 in labor anyway, because I’m going to have to pay someone to work some serious mojo on it to get it in the space.

So then I decided that I’d just make the best of things, because shit, I have the paint. I have the doorknob.  I can’t find a new door I like anyway.  So I would just paint the front door I have red, and that might be better in the long run anyway, because even though it doesn’t have a window in it, I am not sure I’ll ever be able to fit another door in this space (seriously, you should see how much they had to cut down the top of this door to get it in), and again,  I can’t find a wood door.  I just needed a deadbolt lock, because the door knob that is on the door now is one of those cheap interior locks (I know) and there’s no dead bolt.  There’s a dead bolt on the horrible iron screen door, but I wanted to take that off, obviously.  The new door knob doesn’t have a lock, so I needed to add one to the door.

No problem. I take everything off the door and buy a lock.

Then I leave the bag with the door lock in it, which I have paid for, at the check out at Home Depot.

I go back to Home Depot.

I bribe Eli, who REALLY doesn’t want to go back to Home Depot, with Jamba Juice.

I get back home and carry Katie and a cup of Jamba Juice and a lock and my purse and my keys up to the front door, and she pries the lid off the cup and flings Orange Dream Machine all over the porch, and all over me.  It is in my hair, all over my shirt, all over my skirt, all over my shoes, all over Katie.  It is my TOES, and I am wearing sneakers.

I prime the door, and start painting it red.  It’s the weirdest looking paint in the world, it goes on  hot pink, and it’s over white primer, so it looks AWFUL, and it’s apparent I will have to put 7,000 coats of this paint on this door, but whatever.  Project Red Door is a go!

Katherine vomits all over me and the couch.  Then while I am cleaning that up,  she poops all over me.

I have a big fight with Mr. E about the front door,  because this project involves work, which he is allergic to.

I realize that the old doorknob I bought on Ebay is just the knob, literally, and has no tongue or innards, and won’t fit with the workings of the doorknob I removed, and I have to order a special part to make it work.

I open the package for the lock, and realize I need a hole saw.  Mr. E and I have another fight about how much money this project is costing.

I go back to Home Depot.

Mr. E reads the lock directions, and starts to figure out where to put the lock.  I hear a lot of mysterious tapping and banging and then some yelling.  Then more yelling.  Perhaps a bad word or two as well.

We realize that the FRONT EXTERIOR DOOR of our house is actually AN INTERIOR HOLLOW CORE DOOR.

Because of this, I cannot add a lock, since the door is hollow and there’s nothing to drill into.  So glad I bought that hole saw!  I cannot use my pretty new (old) door knob, because it doesn’t have a lock in it, it’s just a door knob.  I can’t take off the UNBELIEVABLY UGLY iron security door, because a HOLLOW CORE INTERIOR DOOR  (!) isn’t secure as a front door.   ARGHHHHHHHHHH.

Oh for god’s sake.  Sometimes I want to write the previous owners of this house a really long letter.  In this letter I would use I use ALL the bad words.  A great many times.

Whatever. I’m still painting the stupid door red.  Sparkling garnet, if those kinds of things are the kinds of things you need to know.

Garden Plan

I have a garden plan!

I googled around and thought about my options and decided that I needed some kind of perennial border so I can look for these plants over time and stick them in there when they present themselves.  I copied and pasted all these plants from several premade garden plans I found, I have no idea when to really plant them but I am going with May unless it’s hot as blazes because now is May so it works out.

Sorry for the bad art, but here’s a general mock up and plant ideas.  I seem to have mined Home Depot and our local nurseries for most of what I could find already, so I might order some of this stuff online, or see if it turns up locally later in the summer.  Most of it is perennials, and hopefully it will be something that comes together nicely and adds color to the backyard, which is what we are really missing.

I tried for three years, unsuccessfully, to grow dahlias in our front border, and they were always brown and awful looking and driving up to our house just stressed me out.  So last year I gave up and pulled them out, and we planted five (?) miniature citrus trees in the border.  They look great even in the winter, they are super low maintenance, and I actually like them way more than I thought they would.  They aren’t show stoppers, but they also do not look terrible, and I do not have to spend hours on them only to have them look sort of meh anyway.  And it freed me up to plant whatever I want in the window boxes, rather than trying to figure out what would look good with giant half dead dahlias.

This is just a long way of saying that I am way more comfortable with experimenting with flowers and borders and crazy plants in the backyard, where most of the time no one sees it.  If I don’t get to the weeding or the watering or the pruning then it’s not the end of the world, and it’s a lot easier to spend a lot of time in our fenced back yard without worrying that my kids are going to wander off.  We can all putter around back there happily for hours.  So I think a backyard perennial border is a good solution.  (Can you tell I am trying to talk myself out of thinking it’s going to look weird and awkwardly placed against that stucco patio wall?)

I am slowly taking out all the boring brown stuff that was put in and putting in things that I think are more fun and that have more color and that are more suited to the blazing hot yard.  This probably makes it way less generic and therefore less saleable, but at some point you can’t live in your own house as if it’s always about to be sold.  Especially because in this market, we’ll probably be here forever anyway.