Spring = Flowers, but City = What?

In just a few weeks, crocuses will start to push up from the hardened winter earth. Tulips and irises will soon follow, creating a gorgeous yard bouquet.

But all of this will happen in my mother’s yard in America.

Besides my family and friends, one of the things that I miss the most in this gigantic city in China is the earthy feel of nature. Sure, there are plants everywhere here; bushes and trees and flowers abound. (In fact, every once-in-awhile, I will spot another full-grown tree being transplanted to “nature-ify” a new neighborhood–its roots all chopped off except for a select few. How these transplants survive is a wonder to me…) But transplanted and groomed plants are not quite the same as a natural environment with birds and worms and bugs and dirt. However, when you live in the city, I suppose you make due with what you have.

This is why I love “The Flower Workshop.” In its pages, simple, understated flowers find themselves in gorgeous bouquets that look natural and elegant at the same time. Learning the art of flower arranging has long been a goal of mine, and this book puts me one step closer.

I recommend this book as a how-to guide for the aspiring home florist and–if nothing else–as a gorgeous coffe table book to bring a breath of fresh air to a city apartment. 🙂

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.


A Bit of Green in the Concrete Jungle

I live in a city. A big city.

And by that I mean a city of over 16 million people.

In China.

Which, by world standards, is highly air polluted.

But my city loves greenery. We love gardens–even on the rooftops.

And it is these gardens that add that much more humanity to life amidst the concrete jungle, that much more “ahhhhhh” to a home.

A few months ago when I arrived in China, two of my coworkers showed me their top-floor apartment. By far, the crowning glory of that apartment was the garden (or, rather, jungle) greenhouse on the second floor. Seeing the zucchini and other vegetables growing there was like a taste of home, for my family has raised our own little green crop every year for longer than I have been alive.

Living in the city and gardening are not quite synonymous. But maybe they can be.

In her book “The Rooftop Growing Guide,” Annie Novak details how the average city slicker can develop a green thumb. Drawing from the input of citizens of cities all over U.S., she makes it clear that–given the proper care–green things can flourish anywhere.

If you grew up on a farm and now call the city your home or if you want to be a little more “green” and fresh in your food choices, I recommend this book for you. I don’t think you will be disappointed by the possibilities.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Rice? Lucky?

Rice? Lucky? Putting those two words together seems somewhat novel. But in Asia, where rice is a staple food, the two don’t seem that alien to one another.

In China, where I currently live, rice has the power to bring people together. Just last night, I spent a wonderful hour around a bowl of rice with some of my best friends, chatting, licking our lips, and laughing. True, we were almost falling asleep after our busy week, but the food and fellowship added something very special to the final night of the work week.

In almost every meal that I have eaten here, rice—while not the centerpiece of the meal—has been the understated staple food. A comparable repast in the West might be bread—that good-for-any-meal food that makes its way into sandwiches, spaghetti suppers, casserole toppers, and more.

In Asia, rice is everywhere. And it brings people together.

That’s why rice is lucky, I guess.

And that’s why Danielle Chang can rightly title her bestselling cookbook Lucky Rice. Her stories and recipes feature the wonderful art of bringing people together around a meal. From recipes for Asian street foods to formulas for soups and broths and rice dishes, I don’t think that any cook will be disappointed.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.