mollyringle: (Default)
I am finally reading The Secret Garden, one of my all-time childhood favorites, to my own kids. I've been almost reluctant to do so, since I wasn't sure they'd like it, but I'm pleased to find they do so far, and that the writing has held up wonderfully over time. It's crisp and wry and intriguing, and a delight to read aloud.



It's no wonder I love it, since as many people have noted, it's essentially Jane Eyre for children--lonely girl arriving at big house on the moors with a lot of shut-up rooms and mysterious goings-on, and ultimately finding love there, though in a familial and friendship way here rather than romantic. And of course it adds in the redemptive powers of gardening and fresh air, which anyone ought to be able to get behind.

A few years ago I did finally read A Little Princess by the same author, and liked that too, but not quite to the same level of love that I hold for The Secret Garden. I think that's not only because of the Gothic-lite appeal of the setting in the latter, but because of protagonist relatability: much as I wish I were like the saintly Sara Crewe (of A Little Princess), I am undeniably far more a Mistress Mary Quite Contrary. I feel ya, Mary Lennox.
mollyringle: (fruit)
My mom called me the other day to tell me about this Underworld-ish place she suddenly remembered: the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno, California.

A Sicilian immigrant almost a century ago hand-carved rooms and passageways in the hardpan beneath the thin farmland soil, and used it as a living space, a cool refuge from the hot California summer sun. Down there he also planted several fruit trees that could receive sunlight through skylight-type openings above. Fruit trees underground, people! It's my Underworld! It's even designed after the ancient Roman catacombs, so, properly Mediterranean.


Amusing addendum: my mom lived in Fresno in her teen years, and found out about this place when she was out with some friends one night. The guys said to the girls, "We're going to show you this cool place, but you have to tell NO ONE." At the time, the Underground Gardens were just fenced-off territory with "no trespassing" signs around it, so they had to sneak in with flashlights. Apparently most people in the city had no idea it was out there; you can't see much from ground level.

So my mom was late getting home after exploring the place, and her parents demanded to know where she'd been and why she hadn't called. (This was the 1950s, well before cell phones.) She finally broke down and told them about it, begging them not to get anyone in trouble. Her dad (my grandfather) declared, "Daughter, I sell real estate insurance. I know every square foot of this area, and I know there is no such place. Where were you REALLY?"

And that forever remained his final word on it. He never believed her. (He died more than 20 years ago.) But now you can tour the gardens, which really do exist! :)

http://www.undergroundgardens.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forestiere_Underground_Gardens
mollyringle: (couple w/ umbrella on street)
Edible plant spotlight: Like fresh spinach, but don't like how it bolts and gives up in hot weather? Plant Malabar spinach instead. It likes to climb or form vines, loves sun and warmth, and tastes similar to fresh spinach. Grows robust shiny leaves, not limp like regular spinach leaves. I planted some from seed here in Seattle, and it didn't even sprout until the heat got going later in summer--which is exactly when most salad greens give up for the season. It's been quite happy since then, and is a welcome addition to our salads.

Gross.

Sep. 11th, 2012 05:22 pm
mollyringle: (parfumerie)
Grossest smell of entire week: I hosed out the yard waste cart today. Here in Seattle we get to throw food scraps into the yard waste as well, and we haven't cleaned our bin all summer, so you can imagine the grossness. There was this *sludge* formed at the bottom, which gave off noxious gases as I hosed it out and dumped it on the garden. The cart and the whole yard smelled like the stinkiest of garbage trucks.

So--scent therapy. After burying the sludge in dirt, I threw handfuls of fragrant plants into the yard waste cart: rosemary, lavender, thyme, sweet woodruff. Put my clothes in the wash and had a shower with lemon, bergamot, and grapefruit essential oils sprinkled in the tub, and peppermint soap to wash up with. May have to follow up with a spritz of something clean like L'Eau de L'Artisan.

So. Yes. May your day not involve anything as gross.
mollyringle: (Hermione)
Upon noting with friends how both botany and Harry-Potter-verse utilize a fair amount of faux Latin, I thought it might be fun to make up a quiz similar to that "IKEA product or Lord of the Rings character?" one that was going around a while back. We can call this one...

Houseplant or Hogwarts spell?

Let's go! What are the following--plants or spells? Get out your wands and try casting them:

1. Alohomora!
2. Ficus Elastica!
3. Gloriosa Superba!
4. Protego Horribilis!
5. Wingardium Leviosa!
6. Hedera Helix!
7. Salvio Hexia!
8. Furnunculus!
9. Dieffenbachia!
10. Dracaena Marginata!

Answers below the cut )
mollyringle: (passiflora - cara_chapel)
Some writers are unable to write a story without including a recipe. Others can't resist reciting song lyrics. Others always insert a dog or a cat or an exotic animal. For me, my random habit appears to be plants--flowers and trees in particular. It isn't intentional, but it's an accurate reflection of my gardening hobby. Here's a quick review of flowers appearing in my novels (we'll do trees some other day):

The Ghost Downstairs
Lots of mentions; the Seattle mansion has a lovely garden, and tending it is among Ren's duties. This may be my favorite flower moment:
"She walked to a clump of daffodils growing at the base of a tree, picked one, and brought it back to the grave. She kissed its petals before dropping it."


Summer Term
Hey, it's summer. Lots of stuff's in bloom:
"But he did say we'd go out into Woodbine Park and eat in the rose garden. That sounds kind of romantic, doesn't it?"
"It sounds suspiciously romantic."


What Scotland Taught Me
Eva is interested in botany and horticulture, and notices violets sprouting in Edinburgh at one point. She also notes regarding one of her crushes:
"...he smelled like that alluring bed of carnations, with a dose of boy pheromones sprinkled on top."


Of Ghosts and Geeks
Paul is Gwen's gardener, so naturally flowers and other green growing things abound. Their first scene together is a skirmish over the little daisies in the lawn:
"They're in the grass. You wanted the grass cut, right?"
"Yes, but not the daisies. They make this gorgeous spangled carpet of--" She stopped before she started comparing her lawn flora to some scene from a fantasy movie. "Don't cut those!" she repeated.


Relatively Honest
This one probably has the fewest number of flower mentions, because my narrator is an 18-year-old urban male who doesn't think about stuff like that. Still, Daniel does think briefly of making out with his girl-crush "under lilac trees" come April. And when sidling up close to her, he notes:
"Her hair smelled delicious, like apples and the star-shaped white flowers that grew all round a French hotel I had once been to."
(Daniel has no idea that was jasmine, but it was, of course.)


In my novel in progress, a Hades/Persephone story, flowers and other plants play a huge role. After all, in the original myth, what was Persephone doing when Hades kidnapped her? Yep: picking flowers.

Plant!

Mar. 8th, 2009 05:51 pm
mollyringle: (Rain - leaves)
Congratulations to [livejournal.com profile] 3secondfish for winning the wee sample of Shalimar! I'll offer up another scent for a lucky recipient next week.

---

Today we got a new plant. Here it is:



The one tied to the stake, guess what it is! Go on, guess! You'll never guess.

It's a... )
mollyringle: (passiflora - cara_chapel)
Try what I'm doing: growing flowers indoors from seed!



They're still teeny, as you see, but considering I only planted them twelve days ago, they're doing great! (The alyssums started sprouting after just four days.)

I deliberately chose seed packets that said "easy to grow" or "sturdy" or something similar, and leaned toward flowers that will smell good. My chosen plants are nasturtium, alyssum, and dwarf carnation. It's an easy project, and it gives you something to look forward to each day: have they sprouted? How big are they getting? Any flowerbuds yet?

All you need is little pots of some kind, the seeds (very cheap; check a garden center or nursery), room in a relatively sunny window (south-facing is best in winter), and potting soil. And in the case of nasturtiums, they flower best in "poor soil," so you don't even need the latter. Whatever you have in the yard should work.

Try it! Improve your mood and your indoor air quality, just that little smidgen.
mollyringle: (Buffy - drive like a spaz)
This morning I glanced at one of the jade plants growing in our garden window, and immediately did a double-take, because there was something huge and puffy and yellow between the plant pot and the metal bowl it sits in. I looked closer, and holy crap it's two gigantic bright yellow mushrooms! Seriously, the cap of each one was probably five inches across, and they had sprung up overnight.

"Cut them up and put them on salad," my husband said. Ha ha.

Awash in paranoid thoughts about inhaling spores and contracting deadly lung disorders, I took the plant outside, dumped the soil (which, except for the top, was coated with yellow spots all over), bleached and washed the pot, and repotted the jade with fresh soil. I also vowed to myself not to water the plant so often. Fungi like it moist, and the jade, being a succulent, probably can handle dry soil.

Then later today I Googled "yellow mushroom houseplant". And...oops. No need to freak. Apparently the shrooms are harmless, cute, lovable, and probably even healthy for the soil. Sorry, mushrooms. I overreacted. Next time I'll let you stay.

This message paid for by the Fungi Special Interest Groups of America.
mollyringle: (Rain - leaves)
The other month we tried some Oreo knockoffs from a brand called Back to Nature. The name spawned many jokes: ah yes, nature, where chocolate sandwich cookies grow on trees. Monkeys flinging them at each other, squirrels carrying them off to their nests. A real bitch when you park your car underneath one, though; the filling smears all over the windshield.

Anyway, that brings up the question of whether "natural" is always better for you. In the case of cookies with some heart-healthy fat instead of Crisco, then yes, I suppose it is.

But when I want to know why we need to clear all the dead leaves away from the garden, justifying my laziness by pointing out that forest floors are covered with dead leaves and are quite fertile and happy, the "nature" argument doesn't quite hold up. Yes, forest floors are covered with dead leaves, and as a consequence they are also crawling with bugs, many of which would love to eat more plants, or hey, move into our house. Since that is not acceptable, I become willing to clear the dead leaves. Thus the difference between a garden and the wilderness.

Similarly, I find myself thinking things like: "It's silly that we shouldn't walk around barefoot for fear of putting too much strain on our feet. We were designed to walk barefoot! Our primitive ancestors must have done it all the time!" To which Anthro brain has to answer: "Yes, and look how long they lived. Why, a good 32, 33 years." Ditto for worrying about how the sun, or tooth decay, or sleeping on uncomfortable surfaces, might hurt us. Since I hope to live a good three times what our hominid ancestors did, I will be trusting in science and technology to help.

Luckily science and technology help bring us cookies. Which, in the case of Back to Nature, are really good. Better than actual Oreos, if you can believe it. You win THIS round, nature...
mollyringle: (Takeshi-trauma-by pear_icons)
My younger sister Peggy reports the following from Portland, Oregon:

They have a chestnut tree along the street outside their house. Every year about this time, Asian families (and only Asians) come by with plastic bags to collect the chestnuts. She sees them out there as early as 7:30 a.m., when she's leaving for work. The other day, from the house, she could see over their high fence that their yellow recycle bins, which were out on the parking strip, were being flung in the air repeatedly against the tree, causing chestnuts to rain down. Many giggles accompanied this activity. And this morning, at rush hour, a tiny Asian man (she estimates 5'1" and 110 lbs) with a bucket and gloves was darting into the busy street to pick up nuts, waiting on the center line while cars zoomed by, and darting back across the lanes to get the chestnuts, over and over.

Now that is some commitment to stir-fry.

P.S. Check my userinfo and sign the brick wall, dudes.

P.P.S. Edited to add: Peggy also informs me, just now, that when you do a Google image search on "pretty goth" (not in quotes, just the separate words), the fifth picture that comes up is...me. In slightly Goth makeup for Halloween once. Uh...whoa. Hehe.
mollyringle: (Rain - leaves)
Thank you to those who helped expand my reading list last entry. I will be following up on your suggestions enjoyably, and maybe even commenting if time allows.

If you want to continue to be helpful, let's play Name That Plant. What is this, which hath sprouted in my garden? Flower thing )

Keep in mind I'm in Seattle, therefore it's probably not tropical. For ID help: the flower has no scent that I can detect, nor do the leaves. I wish it weren't pink, but since it's so low-maintenance, it's welcome to stay. Why are so many flowers pink? Oh well.

Want your kitchen to smell good? Buy a small amount of garam masala spice mix from the bulk spice bins at your grocery store. Leave it in a plastic bag on your counter. Voila--whole kitchen permeated with aroma of coriander, cumin, cinnamon, clove, pepper, and whatever else goes into garam masala. At least, that's how it has happened for me.

P.S. I had to delete a Shakespearean greeting using the name "Coriander" just now.

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