Cathy Austin

Book Bites     May 2022

By Cathy Austin

What will you be reading this spring? Me, I’ll be reading more of the fabulous faves on the 2021 best seller list:

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon, both of which I have on my shelf. Haig’s book got a lot of buzz last year so I am anxious to get into it. Gabaldon’s is a long awaited big novel in the ongoing and much beloved Outlander series. This is one I will be reading in the spring because, you know, bees!

Lucky by Marissa Stapley sounds quirky and is a book that I truly must get. Back on the list is Station Eleven by Emily St. John; published years ago but again immensely popular because there’s a series and it involves a virus, so it’s of interest. I have read it and would read it again, it rocks. Both of these authors are Canadians.

St. John has a new book, The Sea of Tranquility that I must read and it’s available now. It connects with Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, so a trio of gems.

The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield is a book I began this year with and one that topped many lists last year. It is truly amazing, a great thriller set in space, and if an author would know the place it would be our own astronaut, Hadfield! More great Canadian reads: Five Little Indians by Michelle Good and The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny as well as All the Devils Are Here. I have read and reviewed these but would read both again, especially Good’s book.

Two more Canadian authors round out this group, Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson and Letters Across the Sea by Genevieve Graham, both excellent novels about bravery in World War II. I have read both and enjoyed them very much. Another book that hit number one on the original fiction list set in wartime is The Rose Code by Kate Quinn, a book I’ve read and highly recommend.

One book I am eager to read is a mystery, The Mirror Man by Lars Keppler, an author I’ve just read for the first time, and The Sandman, which is exceptionally creepy Scandi noir. 

Read this winter, The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage, published in 1967. It was recently made into a film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor I love for his fluidity and intensity. I think the trailers sold me on reading the book, which is dark, intense, and very, very good. 

What about kids, let’s not forget them! You cannot go wrong with a Dav Pilkey book. He’s a hoot! Check out Dog Man: Mothering Heights or Cat Kid Comic Club.

A book I’ll treat myself to reading on rainy days is Debbie Travis new book, Joy, that chronicles her new life with husband and family on an estate in Tuscany. The title sold me because if there’s something we all need a little bit more of during these pandemic times is joy!

Happy reading everybody!


Plant Parents Take Note     May 2022

By Cathy Austin

Plants have never been more popular. In March 2020, the pandemic had us taking cover inside our homes. Sweats and books became our dearest friends. Zoom connected us. Groceries became one of the many companies that now offers contact-free delivery. Pets were adopted. Then there were the hobbies: knitting, crocheting, painting, gardening and more.

But plants, houseplants, regular old greenery, took the world by storm. People needed something to nurture in their confined space between working remotely and moving from one room to another. Plants filled that void. In lieu of family we couldn’t see in person, friends we texted or facetimed, plants became that thing we could watch grow, shine, and make us feel good. They were immediately satisfying, and so a big new trend became mainstream: plant parenting!

Plant retailers selling pots and green plants, sustainable products, workshops, accessories and so much more have found new niche customers all across Canada. I happened upon a number of interesting shops online like Conifer Shop in Truro, Plant Plant in Calgary, and Alpenglow Projects in Vancouver. Owned and operated by young designers and entrepeneurs, their products are fresh, creative, and breathe new life into bringing plants and the like into your life.

One of my favourite retailers for all things green and gadget-y is Lee Valley. I’ve used several of their products, but the one I use the most is the Tabletop Tarp. It snaps to form a box shape at the four corners so you can pot up your rooted cuttings, transplant, and make a mess with easy cleanup. It’s great for small places like kitchen countertops, just wipe and fold after using!

Lee Valley also carries the newest in plant accessories, and one that caught my eye in a recent email is the Elho windowsill Herb Pot. It comes with a small pair of scissors on the side. Brilliant! No need to search for snips when you need a sprig of basil or rosemary. Of course, a plethora of gardening books awaits you online. Whatever your plant needs, they’ve got it.

It’s been a while since my husband and I were florists, but I still get asked about plants and their care by friends new to being plant parents and old friends who need a refresher. I love that greenery is being embraced by so many people and is enjoying a resurgence.

Visit your local grocer when you can and check out the little pots on sale. You’re certain to bring home a new ‘baby’ to brighten up your home!