Friday, January 31, 2014

Victory Book Club: The Yonahlossee Riding Club by Anton DiSclafani, 2013

I won’t lie; I picked this novel up at the library because of the cover. I know, don’t judge a book by its cover, right? How could I pass up a book when the first words I see in the flap are “It is 1930” with a photo of a girl in riding boots smoking a cigarette?
Theodora Atwell is 15 and being sent away to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Previously, Thea had lived a secluded life in central Florida with her mother, father and twin brother Sam. Their secluded life kept them away from feeling the struggles of the depression unless they were in town shopping or enjoying the occasional visit from her aunt, uncle and Cousin Georgie.
Assigned to Augusta House, for the first time Thea is living in close quarters with 5 roommates from different parts of the country and walks of life. In their all white uniforms, the girls at the riding camp are generally from wealthy families with the exception of the occasional girl on scholarship. Aside from Mr. Holmes, the headmaster, and a few other men working the camp, the girls rarely see boys except for their yearly dance.
Thea’s adjustment to camp life is told alongside the story of her past that led her to be sent away to the equestrian boarding school. Thea’s story is more complex than a simple coming of age story who loves riding horses. She holds a secret that is slowly revealed along with her own character flaws. Whatever her parents may have tried to shelter her from in their secluded home managed to reach their daughter, transforming her from girl to woman.
This book is unexpectedly sexy, which caught me a bit off guard, especially since I did not read the entire dust jacket. Be prepared to dislike many of the characters; this is not a heartfelt coming of age story. I’m not sure if there is even a moral learned at the end. While I did enjoy reading it, I had trouble connecting with any of the characters. I found myself thinking something was wrong with many of them, but this might just be part of the darkness that comes along with the story.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Place I Live: OC Harvest Club

 I don’t want to spend too much time rehashing the past, but one of the ways I spent my time while on my blogging hiatus was volunteering. Awhile ago I had signed up for The Harvest Club of Orange County’s email list and every time they had a volunteer opportunity in my area it was either full or on a day that I had something going on. I finally had the chance to attend my first harvest just under the wire for the last harvests of 2013 and it was pretty awesome.

So what’s this Harvest Club you ask? It’s pretty simple. A group of harvesters show up at a location (usually residential) and pick fruit or veggies to their hearts content. The boxes of harvested food are delivered to a food bank and used to feed the needy. How great is that?
Along with 5 other volunteers and our harvest captain we gleaned beautiful yellow lemons from one of the biggest lemon trees I have ever seen. There were large lemons, weirdly shaped lemons and tons that were still green and would be ready for picking in a month or so. Neighbors stopped by to see what was going on and to see if they might not walk away with a handful of lemons for themselves. We filled up 5 boxes, or approximately 200 pounds of lemons, that were delivered to a local church to help feed over 500 people.

If you are wondering why the lemons didn’t end up at a food bank, I’ll tell you. A majority of Orange County citrus is under quarantine because of citrus diseases. Because of this, citrus should be contained to the area it is grown in to not contaminate other trees. I’ll be honest and say that I like that the quarantine forces the food to be used where it was grown and harvested. The fruits of my labor are going to help feed people that live near me – that contribution feels extra good.

Not convinced yet that you should volunteer as a harvester? After 120 harvests in 2013 over 50,000 pounds of fruit was donated to help feed the community. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, the Harvest Club recruits scouts and ambassadors that reach out to neighbors with fruiting trees to donate their harvest. If you have a tree bursting with fruit or tons of veggies be sure to sign up as a grower. Come on, are you really going to eat all those oranges on your tree? Share a little.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Please Excuse the Dust

Now that the dust has settled my brain is a lot less fuzzy. I haven’t been writing much because I have been at odds with how I want to continue The Sunshine Grove blog. I have all of these ideas and didn’t think they fit in with what The Sunshine Grove had become. Then I remembered, The Sunshine Grove is my creation and can be whatever I want it to be. And so it will be.
I don’t want to write following SEO guideline to get more hits, join a bunch of linky parties to network with other bloggers or feel pressed to comment all over the blog-o-sphere for more followers. Readers are important. Without them what would be the grand point of blogging? I want people to come read The Sunshine Grove because they want to read what I have to share. I felt like I was writing posts for the type of readers I thought I wanted. With this revamp I may very well lose some readers, but I might gain some new ones too and that’s fine with me.
While I was at it I cleaned house. I stopped following blogs that made me feel bad about my blog. You know the ones that had better photos than me, that posted a similar DIY project before I got around to do it or blogs that make doing it all look so easy. I was wasting so much time online looking at what I wanted to be like instead of being what I wanted to be. Blogging just wasn’t fun anymore!
Truth be told I haven’t read a blog post from blogs I follow since way back in September of last year. Is admitting that deadly for blogs I follow that follow me back? I hope not, because I follow some really awesome blogs. I just needed a break, ok?
From blogging that is. I did plenty with the end of 2013. I started a new job, was part of the Anaheim Halloween Parade committee, worked on a stop motion animation commercial, read a ton of books, canned for the holidays, supported my small local businesses and survived the holidays. Clearly I was busy.
But not too busy to start thinking of how The Sunshine Grove was going to grow with me. I’ve been changing the way I live my life. Do you remember last March when I visited the Natural Products Expo West and talked about the parallels between vintage and natural living? That’s a bit of what’s been going on here at the Grove. Maybe this makes me a vintage granola? Hopefully I’m still crunchy.
So what’s going to be new?
There will more about vintage living but in a different light. I’m not talking about vintage outfits or how to comb victory rolls. It’s about the nitty-gritty of vintage life, a simpler life. Victory gardens, preserving food, using natural products and trying to really reconnect with that old fashion school of thought that less is more.
What’s staying?
A Place I Live is just going to grow out of control. Anaheim is going through such an amazing revitalization and I’m very excited to share all of these changes. The best part is that the city is embracing its history and incorporating it into its transformation.
I had wonderful responses to my history posts about places and vintage things I’ve found that I will continue to share what I find. For those who have a similar love of Ranch homes I have some great treasures to share including 1950s and 1960s paint swatches and d├ęcor ideas for The Ranch onOrange.
Since my nose is always in a book expect more book reviews from Victory Book Club. Suggestions are always welcome as long as I can find it at the library.
Thanks for hanging in there during the transition. I love your comments and feedback so keep them coming with the new posts! And Happy New Year!