Sunday Lowdown #174


Sunday we finished the annual Grandma Road Trip weekend during which Biscuit brings my brother’s four kids, now ages 13, 12, 6, and 4 to visit. This year highlighted how challenging it can be to have two “big girls” and two “little guys.” As I tried to visit with “the Biggies,” as they are called, “the Littles” kept doing distracting little kid things! We’re thinking next year maybe doing two Grandma Road Trips so we can focus on each pair better with more age-appropriate activities. I’m looking forward to that.

Monday, which is Memorial Day in the U.S., is typically the marker for getting your plants. My birthday was May 5th, and Biscuit and Dad gifted me four shepherd’s hooks and some gloves, a branch cutter, a little shovel, etc. Nick’s gift was flowers for those hooks, but we didn’t want to get them until Memorial Day due to concerns about frost. I found some lovely, huge plants on sale and eagerly await the 100-foot garden hose I ordered online. Before we got to the flower place, we shared a 10-piece nug and large fries from Wendy’s. I sneakily ordered food to share on purpose; it was our 13th anniversary. Nick forgot, and typically I forget, and I’m happy about that. I love and value this person every single day, so doing something together on our anniversary kind of feels like everyday stuff to me.

Gardening has become a spooky endeavor. It may be because I’ve been so anxious lately, but at one point I got a twig from the lilac bush stuck in my hair, and it started bapping me on the neck. I swore it was a bat and freaked out. Then, as I was pulling up more of those devilish thistles, a fat toad moved right next to me, and I let out a scream like Leslie Ann Warren in Clue. I’m not even afraid of toads.

Last note: though I am not formally participating in 20 Books of Summer, I’ve started thinking about which books I’d like to get to before school begins. Do any of these interest you that you’d like me to get to sooner?


Thanks to Sue @ Whispering Gums, I was introduced to Elizabeth von Arnim — specifically, the novela Vera, which is based on one of the author’s marriages. How strange that a book about a controlling narcissist is marketed as funny, but perhaps von Arnim found her own ex so ridiculous. I felt like I was reading a sort of domestic thriller in which we’re all wondering, “Is this abusive?”


If there Internet has told me anything in the past few weeks, it’s that the world is appalled by our gun violence in the United States. Perhaps you’re surprised to know we don’t even report on all of it. Next Wednesday, I’ll post my thoughts on the state of affairs and the memoir A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold.


Owned Books on TBR at Beginning of Year: 202
Owned Books on TBR Last Week: 180
Owned Books on TBR Today: 178


  1. If I didn’t wish you happy birthday in May, then Happy Birthday! I wondered why you wanted shepherds’ hooks but the flowers look great.
    You said you could get Carmen Dog from your college library but then I forgot all about it. You’ll enjoy it for sure. I

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t say anything about my birthday because if I do, then all the comments on that Sunday Lowdown would be lovely birthday wishes, which I appreciate, but I didn’t want the focus to by my birthday. So, I put the birthday and anniversary together on a less “full” Sunday Lowdown.

      I actually found Carmen Dog on Hoopla, so I don’t even have to drive all the way to the college! Biscuit has it at her library, too, so we’re going to read it together.


  2. What Bill said! Happy birthday, and I had no idea what hooks had to do with flowers so I am glad you included the pics. Loved the pics and your captions.

    I know almost none of the books so here is my chance to judge books by their covers. The covers that appeal most are The hole, Carmen dog, Uncle Tom’s children, Boring …..

    And, I enjoyed our discussion of Vera. You are right about our disbelief about the gun violence but we just look on in despair. I look forward to your post (though this coming week is looking busy because we are off to Melbourne at the end of it.

    Oh, and happy anniversary. I’m glad you celebrated. No matter how happy you are, a celebration never goes astray! It was our anniversary in late May – 44 years. How can I be that old!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • If someone says “shepherd’s hooks” in the U.S., we’re all picturing the thing you hang flowers on. Are they called something else in Australia? I can see now how you might picture an actual shepherd’s hook for animals!

      Carmen Dog is a great cover and reminds me of artist Keith Haring from the 1980s. The Hole is a South Korean book, and I love their culture, so that one is exciting.

      Discussing Vera with you made me think even more about the novel and how people might approach it. I’m glad I read it and added another von Arnim book title to my TBR this week. It sounds like she writes a lot of sweet fluffy stuff (based on the descriptions), and I was surprised!

      44 years is so wonderful! I hope they were 44 mainly happy years. I’ve always aspired to be married for so long that people say, “WOW!” when they hear how long, but in the last few years I’ve added the caveat that they should also be happy years, not stuck-together years.


      • I’m not really a good person to ask this – re shepherd’s hooks – because I don’t really do flowers in pots, but I’m not sure that style of hanging flowers is big in Australia, they are either in pots on the ground or hung by being suspended from overhead (from a hook in beams etc). I have seen what you describe but I don’t think it’s common. I can’t remember when I last saw something like that. I’ll be on the lookout now, more, though!

        Beware “sweet fluffy stuff”! Seriously though, Vera was surprisingly dark for me, and for readers at the time. But she’s witty, so her other novels, while more “fun”, are not ”fluffy”. That is, there’s usually commentary going on, mostly about relations between men and women, and the position of women.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, good! I’ve seen others describe them as fluffy, and I was hesitant but happily willing to give another book a try. I’m glad to hear the description from some readers is off. I do see that happen (incorrect labeling) happen quite often on Goodreads.


      • Oops, yes mostly happy! You don’t make 44 years I think without challenges, but we are still here because we care about and complement each other, and we enjoy doing things together. There’s a favourite line of mine that I have in a “quote” book I created when I was a teen. It’s this “Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person.” I feel very safe, not in a taking for granted way, but in the way that I know he has my back when things are tough.


  3. Happy belated birthday! And happy anniversary to you and Nick! I laughed hard over you screaming about the toad. I have found a toad in my garden for the last two years and I only ever see them once or twice during the season and every single time the toad scares the heck out of me! It’s always when I am weeding, I’m close to the ground with my head deep in the plants and something suddenly moves! I sit up and squeal and then see little toad quickly hopping to a new location because my weeding disturbed them. So don’t feel bad 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Exactly that! Since you laughed, I am hoping that means you are a fan of Clue and know the exact scene that I mean: the one in which they are in the kitchen and find the cook dead!

      I have rescued this goofy toad twice now. I’ll share pictures in my next Sunday Lowdown, but suffice to say, it’s got a death wish and I’m trying to intervene.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmmm, if I was going to pick for you, I would say The Witches are Coming. Mostly because it’s on my TBR list too lol. I would be interested in the hiking book as well. I’m trying to get a lot more hiking in this summer. Rob and I found two new-to-us state parks yesterday but he wasn’t feeling well enough to hike it so we just went for a short walk at the waterfowl preserve.
    Your flowers are beautiful! I put together a small greenhouse today to move my veggies into. It was a pain. It was Moth’s that she wasn’t using anymore but the directions to put it together were long gone lol.
    I’m still laughing about the toad making you scream. 😀


    • Seriously, you can go wrong with Lindy West. I would absolutely recommend her AUDIObook Shit, Actually to you. It’s small chapters in which she discusses movies from our generation, and it’s so funny. It would be perfect for your commute.

      The hiking book I found after watching a Crowdcast with the author. She even talks about having disabilities or mobility issues and hiking. Like, take a small foldable stool to sit down on when needed. We don’t do stuff like that because we feel bad or lazy if we need to rest. I bought the book to support her work. Maybe I’ll read that one sooner because people will start hiking soon and it could be a resource.

      Okay, that toad was scarier than The Boy II.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The toad is now your spirit animal. 😛

        Something with small chapters would be a good place to try out audiobooks.

        No one should feel bad about needing to take a break when hiking, disability or not. Some of those trails get tough! Plus, sit down and enjoy the view for a while. It’s good for the brain.


  5. I’d like to hear about Fat Girls Hiking because I always want to read about inclusivity in sports. Nice flowers there, well done – a toad would make anyone jump! Carmen Dog looks really familiar but according to my blog and reading journal archive I’ve not reviewed it … maybe I read it decades ago.


    • So far, everyone is commenting on the hiking book and Carmen Dog, so I’m going to get to those sooner than later!

      I’m so excited about my flowers. I’ll have to give a peony and zucchini update next Sunday.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad you had a fun visit with your nieces and nephew! I can imagine how the disparate age groups would make it tricky to find activities for all of them to enjoy.

    Love that you shared nuggets for your 13th anniversary! I like celebrating but I agree that it’s mostly nice to just be with the person you love and chose and what a gift that is to have every day!


    • Now that I’m thinking about it, I just realized that it seems like you sometimes do different activities with your girls because they are at different developmental ages, so yeah, that 6 year age gap with my nieces and nephew is quite large.

      For some reason, Nick and I feel like doing a formal celebration feels forced. It’s just not us, I suppose. Because there is just the two of us, we are constantly working on and listening to each other’s needs in the relationship, so we’re rather romantic/squishy on each other a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a little bit the different ages and a bit different ages, mixed in with trying to give them each one-on-one time with mom and dad! But a 6 year gap is pretty large.

        We are not much for formal celebrations either though Peter and I do always try and mark our anniversary. Mostly we try to prioritize time for just the two of us and so the past couple of years we have done a small trip away for our anniversary.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’d also like to hear what you think of Fat Girls Hiking, since I love hiking and will be doing some this summer!

    I also found a toad in my allotment recently! It made me jump but I welcome it because I’m pretty sure it eats slugs and other pests.


    • I want more toads so they can eat mosquitoes. I watched an entire series on the world’s deadliest animals, and the mosquito is the #1 killer across the globe. Get ’em toad!

      Alrighty, that settles it. I’m getting to Carmen Dog and Fat Girls Hiking first thing.


  8. Your flowers look beuatiful, and your story about ordering Wendy’s MELTS MY HEART. The Witches are Coming by Lindy West looks intriguing – I’ve never read anything by her before. What’s she known for?


    • She a fat, funny feminist. I think you would totally love her audiobook of Shit, Actually. It is her rating movies that are from our generation, and the entire thing is hilarious, like Samantha Irby’s stuff. The audiobook is read by her, which is why I recommend it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Douglas Ridloff is doing good work in the world. When I had to do an assignment about a famous Deaf person, I thought about choosing him, but the only sources I could find were basically his website and stuff on YouTube, and I wasn’t so sure that would make for enough material.

      I did not know his children are Deaf, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Happy Anniversary! We’re not big on celebrating anniversaries either but this year it’s our 15th and we want to celebrate going through some very hard times and coming out stronger on the other side, so we’re going to take a little road trip just the two of us, which we never do since our kiddo came along.

    Your peonies look lovely! Mine just had one bloom (I just have the one plant.) I think a late frost got it. Maybe? In years past it had more blooms.

    The Witches are Coming and The Cherry Robbers! Also Fat, Pretty, And Soon to Be Old looks interesting.


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