April Read: “The Lost Continent” Review

In 1989 Bill Bryson drove throughout the United States on a quest to find the quintessential American city. He referred to it as “Amalgam, USA” and the quest became his book “The Lost Continent.” He did find many beautiful spots in the U.S. but sure doesn’t hold back when he is disappointed.  Heads up- this is not a children’s book, too many four letter words (well placed, too, I stoop to crass humor…).

I enjoyed this read, but I offer a couple cautions-

  • If you are an American, read only if you have a healthy sense of humor and can take a joke about your country.
  • If you are not an American, Read this book if you want to read an ex-pat’s biting description of the USA, but please take most of it with a grain of salt. Please?
  • He’s a timid traveller here after living abroad, but uses his wit in his defense. Two quotes (of many examples) to illustrate: “A sign beside the highway said ‘Welcome to Mississippi. We Shoot to Kill.’ It didn’t really. Just made that up.” On New York City’s Times Square- “New York frightened me… I felt a personal gratitude to everyone who left me alone. I wanted to hand out cards that said, ‘Thank you for not killing me.’
Travel books and Bryson's commentary on his travels
Travel books and Bryson’s commentary on his travels

Reading this book kind of makes you want to tour the States- not because his descriptions of beautiful scenery and fascinating people draw you in, but instead because you want to defend them! It would be satisfying to visit the New England states he hated and send him a postcard detailing the fine sights that you were able to view, in contrast his perspectives of a New England with never ending strip malls, a slow witted South, a monotonous Midwest… etc. Remember- he’s a comedian, and if you are going to laugh at one region he details, you have to be able to take it when he sticks it to your region.

Bill Bryson’s “The Lost Continent” is funny. I liked it, but definitely not for everyone.

Two by Bryson... on the only uncluttered flat surface in my home right now.
Two by Bryson… on the only uncluttered flat surface in my home right now.

APRIL Project Part Five- Sidewalk Prettifying and Yard Beautification… because the neighbors deserve it.

Almost finished… I’m just waiting for the Arctotis to be delivered from the nursery. Poop. I wanted this to be a finished project, but we will just have to use our imagination on this.

IMG_6401
Plot #1 before
IMG_6419
Plot #1 after

We have two small spots in our yard that are difficult to keep nice. Here’s the before and after of my Sidewalk Beauty Pagent, Contestant #1:

And Contestant #2, mid weeding, old mulch raked off, waiting to be planted and remulched. Some nice, big rocks would look right at home there, too:

Plot #2
Plot #2 before
IMG_6424
Plot #2 after

Here is the same type of plant I ordered, a red arctotis. I’ve seen this plant at one house in our neighborhood for about two years now. Arctotis blooms year round with these big red flowers that look like gerbera daisies. Low water needs, long lasting color- I’ll take two, please! I snapped this second pic in Balboa Park showing the rocks that I want to place next to the arctotis plants… got to wait to place the rocks, also. Need my muscle riding shotgun, so the rocks will have to wait until the weekend when I can conscript The Husband!

Red Arctotis
Red Arctotis
Balboa Park
Balboa Park Gerberas

APRIL Yard Clean-Up Part Four: Orange Blossom Special… and Limes- think of the Gimlets!

Have you ever smelled a fresh orange? I mean really fresh- right off of the tree. It smells like California, the fresh outdoors, even the remnants of the orange blossom. If you want to taste something that comes close to how an orange blossom smells, find a jasmine tea (one of the green teas) and brew a cup. I had a small orange tree in a pot as a houseplant when I lived in Seattle. One whiff of that tree in bloom and in my mind I was back at my parents’ home, which was surrounded by citrus groves back in the day.

So pretty!
18 months ago. So pretty!
I should be stopped. Rally.
Today :o(

Now, with my struggling trees in my own yard, when the onshore breeze blows just right, I recognize not only my parents’ but grandparents’ home, too. For most of my youth they lived in either Ventura or Saticoy, California, with grove after grove of the most fragrant trees.

Voilà- future Gimlet
Voilà- future Gimlet
A few holes...
A few holes…
pot, soil, drill and tree- check
pot, soil, drill and tree- check

Today I planted a small lime tree- Costco is selling citrus trees and pots at great prices. After buying citrus/palm/cactus potting soil the grand total was under $45 and with a few holes in the pot, I had a new patio gem to join my potted Meyer Lemon… the only way I am keeping citrus alive, ugh. Usually, The Husband will do my potting and planting for me, especially if digging holes is involved, but I did all of this myself. Not a grand feat, except for lugging the 50b bag of citrus soil.

I’m about ready to rip out the last ornamental vegetation around my home and replant nothing but edibles- with citrus in pots, strictly. Maybe throw in some avocado and banana trees?

APRIL- Project of the Month, Yard Clean-Up Prickly Part 3

Today I planted  some starts for Prickly Pear Cactus. If you like any Mexican dishes made with Nopales, this is the cactus that it comes from. Oops… did you not know that you were eating cactus? Well, now you do.

I’ve always wanted to grow one of my own, and The Brother-In-Law had paddles falling off his big ol’ cactus in his back yard that were already starting to set down roots. The last time we came up to visit family he went out and shoved at least ten starts into a paper bag for me to tackle eventually… three weeks later I am finally setting them in the ground. I think I transplanted some of the ants from his back yard, too.

Side yard where the cactus will go...
Side yard where the cactus will go…
Bag o' Cactus Starts
Bag o’ Cactus Starts

All I did to prepare the ground was to dig out a few invasive ice plants and loosen the dirt where the paddles would sit. They break off the main plant, fall to the ground and take root all on their own, so this is a pretty easy project, really. My Fine Cactus Benefactor said to just keep the ground watered until they take root, and I will water them every few days for about a week.

Prickly Pear Starts
Prickly Pear Starts
...another patch of starts...
…another patch of starts…
...and the third patch of starts.
…and the third patch of starts.

Half an hour later I had three patches of cactus! I wonder how long it will take before I’m slicing off my own new paddles, cursing the spines I missed, and preparing my own Nopales Con Chile Colorado? Nopales, when simply cooked, taste like a mild green vegetable- I’ve always thought of it as a cross between asparagus and a green bean. They are quite mucilaginous, like okra, and I was taught to parboil them once or twice to get rid of this sliminess. Works like a charm. They can also be frozen after this parboiling. Remember the Mom-In-Law and her recipe for Enchiladas from an earlier post? Well, she also taught me how to make Nopales with Chile Colorado, and I’ll share that recipe… eventually. Maybe when I pick my own!

Part Two- My Yard “Cleans Up Good” more of APRIL Project of the Month

Out with the old, in with the new.

Went back to Walter Anderson nursery today, found Leslie and she helped me pick out more semi-drought tolerant container loving plants. These should last longer and hold up to our dry weather better than the ubiquitous annuals that I have planted in the past.

We found…

Salvia (taller)
Salvia (taller)
Salvia (medium-ish)
Salvia (medium-ish)
Celosia
Celosia
Portulaca
Yellow Portulaca
White portulaca
White portulaca

Into the pots they went. The portulaca is nifty- I’d never noticed it before and hope that this succulent-ish flower really can take the heat. The salvia should bloom for quite a while when it gets going, but I have no clue how the celosia will do- it sure is a bright red and it looked really nice with the white portulaca. White with red and blue with yellow kind of pops, so that’s how these got planted.

After!
After!
Before...
Before…

I still have three or four more yard projects to tackle that involve trying something different or doing the job on my own for the first time… “NEXT!” she yells out to no one in particular.

APRIL Project- Do You Clean Up Good? Part One…

My yard “cleans up good.”

I hd never heard that phrase until my early 20s when a neighbor paid me the compliment. I may not recall what special event The Boyfriend/Husband was taking me out for that evening, but the “You clean up good, kid!” I remember like it was yesterday.

Yeah, I'm hanging my head.
Yeah, I’m hanging my head.

This is the sorry state of affairs that I am working with. Just this very day I am learning that this desiccated disaster is not entirely my fault. It seems that The Husband had turned of the water… for the last three weeks! Now, April has been a rotten month for me so far, but usually my entryway doesn’t fall apart to this extent. I’m glad to know that I had help in this mess.

Leslie knows her stuff.
Leslie knows her stuff.

To help prettify my window boxes, the dead alyssum, pansies and geraniums are headed to the compost pile and being replaced with less thirsty flowers.They aren’t natives or succulents, but with help from Leslie at Walter Anderson Nursery I learned that succulents wouldn’t take the heat and the local plants that would, get way too big. Trust your Garden Center Gurus. They know all.

Here are the replacements (you can click on the small photos to see their detail and names):

Nasturtium
Nasturtium
IMG_6211
Asteriscus
IMG_6210
Mecardonia
IMG_6209
Euphorbia
IMG_6208
Portulaca

And here is the lovely finished project. Sorry kitty lovers, but both cats had jumped down from the window by the time I took this photo:

IMG_6235

If I remember, I’ll post an update in a month or so when these little guys fill in more. In the meantime, this is what gets replaced tomorrow: IMG_6199

New Things Daily. Really. Or At Least Attempted…

On Monday, I had intended to give an update on the Book of the Month. Even though the plan derailed, my train of thought is powered by a compulsive desire to see those little calendar dates all filled in, each and every day.

Look at that empty spot... just taunting me.
Look at that empty spot… just taunting me.

Monday was Migraine day. Sometimes after a migraine ceases you feel physically lighter, floating or at least as if a weight has literally been lifted off of your head. Sometimes you feel as though pressure has been released… or that the vacuum chamber that you are stuck in has finally unlocked and your entire being is returning to normal.

Weird, I know. It feels cathartic to just explain what the pain feels like to me. I wonder if by being able to put words to the extreme discomfort that I am conquering it in a way? Psychologists, doctors, med students, and Psychiatrists, feel free to chime in. Seriously.

So, Monday I didn’t even lift my book. I didn’t even lift my body off of the couch most of the day.

But- here is the book update about my new read this month:

Need a good laugh? Go get this book. Bill Bryson’s “The Lost Continent.” Warning: you have to have thick skin to read this book, because he busts on just about everyone across the country. Overall I am loving this book, lots of laugh-out-loud moments!

And, later today I will move this post on over to Monday. Where it belongs. Out, damned blank spot! Out, I say!

…I wonder if Lady Macbeth had migraines?