sara kendrick landscaping book

Book Review: Big Impact Landscaping

sara kendrick landscaping book

My home is small, but my backyard is huge (by LA standards). We live in a 7,500 sq ft property with a dwelling of 900 sq ft, so you do the math… because it is 5 am in the morning and I am not about to add or subtract anything but the amount of coffee in my mug.

I haven’t shown many photos of my outdoor space because it is not up to blog standards (here is the only post I have done, in case you want to take a look), but I want that to change! The problem is, as it always is: $$$$.

The only affordable solution to improve my garden is doing some of the projects myself. How? you might ask. Well, I found the perfect book to help me along: Big Impact Landscaping, from Sara Bendrick.

The thing about life, people (as an older and wiser woman, I can tell you), is that seemingly hard projects are often easier to make than anticipated. The thought of building a fire pit, for example,  can seem insurmountable for humans that have never built anything before, because they don’t know where to begin or what it entails, but, trust me when I tell you, making a fire pit is easier than you think. That is what Sara Bendrick (and my husband) tell me, and I believe them.

My husband was beyond impressed with Sara’s skills and the projects she created for this book, although, I have to admit, he is easily impressed with any woman holding and rightly using a hammer, this is because her wife (aka, me) is utterly useless… but at least I am cute and sweet… kind of.

The reason why I liked this book so much is that it has projects that range from simple to complex. Sara gives you simple instructions that are easy to understand for everybody, no matter your skill set.  She provides you with a lot of ideas with detailed instructions on how to improve your garden and outdoor area. Some projects are hard core and others are simple, but Sara is good at explaining and showing beautiful photos of the process, so they are all easy to follow.

Some of the projects that I want to try in my backyard are:

landscaping ideas

Look at this beautiful tabletop! Perfect for storing all my gardening tools, which I never use…, but do own! and would look very cute in here anyway. landscaping diyI need a garden wall in my outdoor area. Look how beautiful this one is!!! I think this will be the first project I will tackle. 

We host a lot of parties, and a firepit would be a welcome replacement to the ugly firepit we have right now. What do you think?how to landscaping

landscaping sara kendrickAnd here is Sara, making it all look so simple and easy with that huge and happy smile. landscaping hammer

Ok. I am ready, folks. I have a hammer attached to my face as my mustache, I have my DIY surprise face that shows I can do any project I want, and I have an excellent book to guide all my steps… the only thing I am missing is my husband to cheer me up along the way because he is in Canada with my children and left me all alone to cry in my solitude…

Have a wonderful day, gorgeous readers.

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An Interview With Chiara Arroyo, Co-Owner Of LA Libreria

Happy Friday, you all! We are ready for the weekend around here, aren’t you? Good news is that I have a really good post for you today!

You might already know that I am from Chile and that George and I are raising bilingual kids. Children’s books have been an important part of our lives since the kids were born so I am always on the lookout for books in Spanish, that is how I stumbled upon LA Librería, a magical Spanish bookstore (and distributor) in Los Angeles. They import original literature from Spanish-speaking countries plus great translations of English literature.

The first time I went to this beautiful store I met one of the owners Chiara. She was warm and sweet. I liked her immediately. Her daughter, Matilde, was with her that day. We talked about the difficulties of juggling business and family – one of my biggest life concerns. She told me about her business partner and friend, Celene, and how they both deal with the pressures of motherhood and work.

After meeting her I was curious to hear more about how this successful and wonderful business came about. I was also interested in hearing about the relationship between these two very strong and smart women. Starting a business with a friend sounds like a beautiful idea, don’t you think? So I wanted to learn more about how they make it work.

Celene on the left. Chiara on the right.

1) Could you tell us a little bit about you?

My name is Chiara Arroyo. I am a 40-year-old proud mother of three children: Nico 12, Leo 10 and Matilde 7. I am half Italian, half Spanish, married to a Mexican. We moved to LA six years ago from Mexico City. In 2012, I co-founded LA Librería, a bookstore and book distributer specialized in children’s literature in Spanish.La libreria

2) How did you decided to start LA Librería?

Celene (my business partner) and I love books. As mothers, we wanted our children to be bilingual and book lovers. In order to do so, we needed books, but we could not find the Spanish books we wanted in the US, so every time we traveled to our countries we would bring back a suitcase filled with Spanish books. Our kids go to a bilingual school, and we soon realized that other parents were also looking for good children’s literature in Spanish. This is why we decided to take our hobby a step further and start curating a collection of authentic literature in Spanish, beautifully illustrated and culturally diverse.

La libreria

3) Tell us the story of your relationship with Celene. Why did you decide to start this business together?

I met Celene at my childrens’ school: a public Spanish Immersion Elementary. Her daughter and my son Leo were classmates. We were both first time parents of a Kindergartener so we wanted to meet new families and support the school. We both signed up to volunteer at the school’s book fair. Disappointed by the low quality and small number of books in Spanish, we decided to help the school to find a better selection of books in Spanish. We called a few publishers and convinced them to give us some books we could sell ourselves. We set up two tables with books at the fair and sold out everything. Everybody in the school was very excited. Soon the word was out and we started receiving calls to participate in other school fairs. At that point, we realized that there was a big need for these kind of books and that this need had to be fulfilled by a professional service, not volunteers. We started this service and here we are, five years later…

La libreria

4) What are the best and worst aspects of owning a business with a friend?

There are many positive aspects of owning a business with a friend. The best part is the tranquility of working with someone you trust and respect. I also like the capacity of sharing the whole experience with your partner and friend, especially if you complement one another. I feel very fortunate.

The most difficult part is to be able to separate the professional from the personal life.

La libreria

5) What have been the biggest accomplishments of LA Librería so far?

The biggest accomplishment is to see that a bookstore – an already endangered species of Spanish children’s literature, a banned and discriminated language – is thriving thanks to a big community of families that want their children to be bilingual while reading good books. On a personal level, I feel very proud to see how a simple idea has become a reality and how much fun we have had in the process. We have learned so many things we did not know about Los Angeles, like the nuances of the American and Latino culture; we have also met a lot of nice people and communities.

6) And the biggest setbacks?

The biggest setback it is to overcome the feeling that whatever we do is not enough. There is always more to do. No matter how much you work, how fast you do it, how productive you try to be, you always end up feeling you should do more… With time we have realized that this is a marathon, not a sprint, so we need to prioritize.
La libreria

7) Have you ever felt like giving up? If yes, what kept you going?

I have felt exhausted and overwhelmed by work, by being a mother, a wife, a sister… I have felt I am doing things in halves, not in their entirety. What kept me going was the energy and excitement of Celene and the enthusiasms and expectations of the children and families that follow and support us.

8) What are the most important lessons you have learned since starting this business?

I have learned how important it is to communicate, accept your limitations, and exercise. (Men sana in corpore sano).

La libreria

9) You are a family person. Do you feel like you are able to juggle your personal and professional life?

I am able to but it is not easy. It is actually my biggest concern. My children are still young and they need their mum, but LA libreria is also a young business and it is very demanding.

10) How is your husband involved? And, do you feel having a business has changed your relationship with him?

Pablo, my husband, has been very supportive. He is my biggest fan and a very enthusiastic promoter of LA Libreria. He has helped a lot with the children. He understands because he is an entrepreneur himself. I share with him all the details and challenges of starting and running this company. I can say that our relationship has become stronger, but it hasn’t been easy, especially because we have three children in a city with no relatives and with jobs that often require travel.

11) What are your recommendations for other women that want to open their own business?

I would recommend them to enjoy the process as much as the goal. To be creative especially when solving problems; to follow their instinct and do not forget we need to make time for ourselves.

12) How do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself happy, enjoying family and friends. Traveling, learning and reading. I hope LA libreria can give me all of that.

Thanks, Chiara! I really enjoyed reading your answers!

LA Librería

4732 1/2 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016

You can buy books online, too!


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2 Amazing Books For Flower Enthusiasts


Raise your hand if you are a flower enthusiast! If not, raise your hand if you know someone who is a flower enthusiast! I would bet my soul that  99% of readers have raised their hands in their imagination, because if you are here is because you like beautiful things and, if you like beautiful things, you like flowers. That is a F-A-C-T. 100% guaranteed.

For the other 1% of the Jest Cafe population, if you don’t know a flower enthusiast, now you do, because I AM ONE and you have met me through the cyber world of blogging!!! – that crowded world where people post things that they like in the hope of attracting readers and maybe an income some day.

Ok, let’s cut to the chase, flowers are perfect and some books about flowers are too, for example, the ones I found at a flower store the other day: Styling Nature by Lewis Miller and In Bloom by Ngoc Minh Ngo.

2-amazing-flower-books-10Girls and boys! These two books are gorgeous in every possible way imaginable and would make an amazing Holiday gift. They are beautiful coffee table books filled with great images and content. Let’s take a closer look.

Styling Nature: A Masterful Approach to Floral Arrangements by Lewis Miller – $28.46

This one is my favorite one of the two. It is a big book with incredible flower arrangements. Miller makes eye candy with the fantastic images this book has (photos by Don Freeman) while giving us tips on how to get the look. He is a real pro but, even if I can only dream of achieving his expertise, I find a lot of delight in savoring this world of possibilities. They serve as  inspiration for my smaller and incompetent arrangements created with my very limited skill set.

This book is a visual festival:


The second book is:

In Bloom: Creating and Living With Flowers by Ngoc Minh Ngo – $32.80

This one focuses on the beauty of flowers and how it inspires people and their line of work. From flower sculptures to pottery, this reading has pretty images from artists around the world who find inspiration in blooms (hence the book name. Wink. Wink).

Each chapter focuses on an important artist that incorporates floral designs into their interiors and art. A beautiful read, indeed, but more than anything else, a beautiful trip through wonderful photography.
2-amazing-flower-books-3 2-amazing-flower-books-4 2-amazing-flower-books-5 2-amazing-flower-books-6 2-amazing-flower-books-112-amazing-flower-books

Hope you liked them!

Also, a post about a fantastic flower arrangement book, a flower workshop, and the Flower Market in Downtown LA.

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A Love Affair With Nora Ephron’s talk about Nora Ephron because she is the best thing that has happened to me this summer.

I knew who she was before but I truly discovered her in the last couple of months. Read 5 of her books, watched 3 of her movies (again), and dreamed of being as charming and witty as her.

There is power and wisdom in the ability of transforming tragedy into humor. Nora has that talent. I really admire that. She also has the talent of making you feel she is talking to you directly. If she were alive, I would ask her to be my best friend and I am sure she would say yes, because it was all meant to be.

It all started with Heartburn, you see. I read that first page about the story of a 7-month pregnant woman that finds out her husband is cheating on her. I knew immediately that I was into something. Or, more to the point, into someone. The book is an autobiographical story where she laughs at her husband, herself, and her tragic situation. If that is not power, what is it? Putting a stamp into your narrative. Telling it the way you want people to remember. What a wonderful way of grabbing a hold of the situation and getting a mild revenge, don’t you think? Laughing is healing. This book proves that.

My other favorite books are “I Feel Bad About My Neck” (no surprise there), and “I Remember Nothing” (beautiful and tragic stories about aging). If you haven’t read them and want to learn about women’s experiences through humor, I highly recommend them. Nora Ephron was a strong and smart woman. An older person I can look up to. A mentor from the afterlife.

Have you read a book from her? If yes, what did you think? And, is there anything funny and smart you have read lately that you could recommend? I would love to

Images via Yahoo & Vanity Fair

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2016 Summer Book List Is Here!

There are a lot of good books to read this summer. Here is a list of recommendations in case you are looking for some suggestions. Janna, my friend that reads 3 books a week and has full knowledge of pop culture, helped me to assemble it. Thanks, Janna!


What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

This book has 9 shorts stories that are imaginative and powerful. The stories are about personal connections that touch into the unreal and mystery. This British writer from Nigerian decent has two earlier novels Mr. Fox and Boy, Snow, Bird. “What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side.”

The Girls by Emma Cline

This novel is THE book of the summer. Everyone is recommending it and I it seems like everybody has it in their to-read book list. This is the debut novel of Emma Cline. How cool to have such a successful first novel! The book is a thriller that revolves around a teenager girl that gets involved with a Charles Manson like cult.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

I read this book in one afternoon. Why? Because I am a Pride and Prejudice fan and this is a modern tale of my favorite Jane Austen’s book.  I have seen the BBC series and the movie 50 times, and read Austen’s book another 10, so I had to get Eligible as soon as it came out. I didn’t love the book. Character development is lacking and the story can’t reproduce my Pride and Prejudice favorite moments. For example, the Lydia “dishonest” action that prompts Mr. Darcy to become the hero of the story is very hard to replicate in a modern world where people don’t loose their honor by having unmarried sex – thank goodness! This reading still entertained me a whole afternoon though, so it might entertain you too.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

This is the debut novel of Sweeney. It is a funny book about a dysfunctional family. In my life, I am yet to meet a functional family, but I am interested to read about these four adult siblings who are waiting to receive their inheritance to be able to move on with their lives. When the youngest of the four turns 40, they will have free access to their big estate, so you can imagine how this future event has troubled and  altered their lives.

Before The Fall by  Noah Hawley

This is a thriller that tells the story of a plane accident and its aftermath. 9 people died in the crash and two survived. Those who died were wealthy and powerful, creating a lot of speculation around what cause of the accident and giving birth to different conspiracy theories. The relationship between the two survivors: a painter and a four year old, who is the sole heir of this fortune, is at the heart of this book. Hawley is the creator of the TV show Fargo.

Homegoing  by Yaa Gyasi

I am almost done reading this book and I have enjoyed it. This is the story of two half-sisters and their families. It follows generation after generation of their descendants and their lives in this world. One line in America, as slaves and participants of the Great Migration, coal mining, jazz music to the very present. The other line shows the lives of those that stayed in Africa. The warfare regarding slave trade and British colonization. The book deals with historic events in a way that is personal and entertaining. I am really liking it.

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

Jessi Klein is hilarious. If you don’t know who she is, you might want to listen to some of her stories at The Moth. She is the head writer and executive producer of Inside Amy Schumer, so she clearly has a sense of humor. This book is a series of autobiographical essays about her life and career. I enjoy reading about the life of career successful woman so I am excited about reading this one.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, Han Kang is a South Korean writer. The Vegetarian tells the story of a woman’s decision to become vegetarian and the consequences it has in her life. Of course, being a vegetarian is an allegorism of other struggles that the protagonist has in her life. This book is dark and complex. The kind of reading that requires you to reach deep and take things more seriously.

Kanye West Owes Me $300: And Other True Stories from a White Rapper Who Almost Made It Big by Jensen Karp

Judging by the title and reviews, this book is hilarious. It is the memoir of a white Jewish kid that was at the verge of becoming a successful rapper in the ‘00s. Karp had a million dollar record deal with Interscope that felt apart. I am curious to know the details of what happened, aren’t you? This must be an easy and fun summer reading.

The Summer Before The War by Helen Simonson

This is the story of a Latin teacher who moves to Sussex at the beginning of last century, in the summer before the First World War started. Her arrival in the middle of the beautiful summer of 2014 is eventually shattered by war.

I Am No One by Patrick Flannery

The story of Jeremy O’Keefe, a man that returns to New York after a decade in England to be closer to his daughter.  “Jeremy’s life begins taking strange turns: boxes containing records of his online activity are delivered to his apartment, a young man seems to be following him, and his elderly mother receives anonymous phone calls slandering her son. Why, he wonders, would anyone want to watch him so closely, and, even more upsetting, why would they alert him to the fact that he was being watched?” This is the Flannery’s third novel.


If you have any book recommendations, please, let me know. Anything you have read recently that you would like to share? I am in the lookout for more books.

In case you want to read more, here is a post about conceptual photography, a trip to Austin, and, the Los Angeles Times Festival Of Books.

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