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Refreshing Yourself For Not Just You But For Your Family

When it comes to being a mother and working a full-time job, I can’t say I have a lot of time alone. By the time I get off work, get home, cook dinner and help with homework, I’m ready to collapse. Weekends aren’t much better either because they’re chock full of soccer tournaments (three hours away) and gymnastics meets. Despite my husband’s best efforts to help with the responsibility, his work is even more strenuous than mine. The extra time we do get, that doesn’t involve the kids, is often spent together.

It was a beautiful spring Saturday and things just suddenly seemed to line up. Both my son and daughter were staying at a friend’s house, my husband was out of town and I was off work. For the first time in a long time, the house was quiet with only the laughing track on a TV sitcom to accompany me.

During the morning, I pondered what I was going to do with my alone time. Although sitting inside and binge-watching some TV did sound appealing, the weather outside was beautiful and it felt wasteful not to enjoy it. However, I didn’t have to ponder long. It only took one look at my barren flower beds to realize I’d neglected something else other than having my own personal time.

empty flower bed

I have to admit, I’m not much of a gardener. I’ve always wanted to be, but managing a large garden on top of other household responsibilities was tough. Months ago, my husband made and mulched a few flower beds along the side of the house for me to plant things in. I’d never gotten around to it, but that was about to change. Today was about doing all the things I wish I had done but never had, and planting flowers definitely made the list.

After driving down to the little greenhouse a few miles down the road, I decided on a few different types: Irises and Calla Lilly flowers. Against the noon sun, the freshly planted white and purple bulbs seemed to shine and I felt accomplished and proud of what I’d done.

I didn’t have to think about what I was going to do next. I’d been chatting with the man at the greenhouse, an elderly gentleman who was eager to share about his own recent relaxing weekend that he spent kayaking on the ocean with his wife. He suggested I do the same, and although my first thought was that it would be a hassle, I began to change my mind on the way home. I’d kayaked before while I was in college, and I still remembered what it entailed. Besides, being on the ocean would certainly not be a bad way to spend the rest of my day.

la jolla kayaking

Getting the kayak to take out on the water was easier than I thought. The kayak rental San Diego was easy to deal with and got me in and out in a flash. Before I knew it, I was on the ocean, oar clutched in my hands and the lapping of the water against the kayak soothing me.

I hardly even realized it, but I spent hours out there, just paddling away. I had a lot of time to decompress and think about things without the stress of hearing things like “When do I need to be home?” or “Do I need to pick someone up?” or “Do I need to make dinner?”. It was absolutely therapeutic.

The next day, things began to get back to normal. I picked my kids up from their friend’s place, my husband returned that night and I made dinner. The difference, however, was that this time, I wasn’t exhausted or worried. My day kayaking and planting the flowers had worked magic. Instead, I merely looked at my family as we sat down to dinner with a contented smile on my face.

Playing With Nature This Spring

This spring has been so beautiful in California!  I am privileged and lucky enough to travel up and down the coast 3-4 times a year on average.  I try to do a long weekend up in Napa Valley: how relaxing it is to taste and sip on wine and to stay in nice spas.

Truly, everyone should experience such extravagances in life:

Hopefully, you also got to read about the super bloom that occured in the Anza-Borrego Park this year. What a sight to behold, as hordes of people were visiting this deliciously, earthly experience. (Hang in there with me, I’ve had two glasses of wine…, so the sentiments come pouring out).

Last weekend, I visited a friend in San Diego who lives near Cowles Mountain. We went hiking three days in a row, at 7:00 am.  The hike would take us about an hour up and about thirty minutes back down.  This was another activity that I have recently rediscovered that relieves me from my daily stresses.  Not only that, but I could feel my body transforming.  I ate better on those days, felt lighter, of course, missed my gardening that I indulge in at least twice a week.  However, it was really amazing to view the whole city from the top of the mountain.  From the bottom, the top would seem so far away.  Yet when I would finally reach the top, I would feel like a million bucks!

The third day, my friend treated us to something I haven’t indulged in for a couple of years!  After a full on lunch (after hiking), she looked up day spa La Jolla, and next thing I know, we are pulling to the more posh area of San Diego.  We went into a very clean, posh day spa where we were greeted with a cheery, beautiful beautician.  At first, I thought we were just there for my friend but when I was told that I had an appointment as well, I could not have been more excited!

I was treated to have an hour long facial and all I know is, I had a great conversation, received a great service, and came out feeling oh-so-refreshed. Me and Kim have always been great friends but she knows that I have been going through a rough patch the last 8 months or so.  For her to do something this amazing for me (and with me) – what a cherished memory!  It will last forever and has cemented our friendship furthermore.

By this weekend, I would like to plant some tomatoes.  I have to confess: for all the wildflowers I can grow, I have killed tomatoes twice in the last couple of years.  It is a project that has haunted me in the back of my mind and after such a fun year, why not celebrate with something as delicious as tomatoes in my very own small backyard?

That’s a lot about me; how about you?  How is your year going?  I love receiving emails full of questions.  Feel free to contact me regarding gardening questions… or just say hi!

 

Super Bloom In California

In a desert in California, there is a “super bloom” of flowers that have been dormant for 20 years! To the northeast of San Diego lies Anza-Borrego Park, which has been plagued by drought for some time, but is now seeing these flowers which are attracting big crowds. Almost 150,000 people have visited in the last month alone. The police were even brought in to handle the traffic jams! The whole scene has been comically called “Flowergeddon”.

super bloom

It’s not the only place where these flowers are blooming. Some orange poppies are coming up northeast of Los Angeles in Antelope Valley. But most of this action is being seen in Anza-Borrego State Park, which is 1,000 square miles of mostly desert. These super blooms only happen once per decade, but it’s been happening less because of the lack of rain. But with recent rain in the past year, flowers are being seen in Death Valley as well.

There are different flowers, depending on which are you are in in the park, including blazing stars and desert lilies. Tourists from as far away as Japan have flown to California to see these beautiful wildflowers. Many pictures are being taken, with people posing in different ways with the flowers. The blooms attract sphinx moth caterpillars, which in turn attracts Swainson hawks that are migrating from Argentina.

sphinx moth caterpillar

Rain is not the only cause of these blooms. There have been volunteers and female prisoners helping to remove an invasive plant species called the Sahara Mustard plant, which they believe was brought to the state in the 1920’s. Both humans and rain have come together to make this possible, and although they’ve been removing the invasive plants in 2010, it’s proving to be very stubborn.

sahara mustard plant

The desert does not come without its dangers, so people wanting to visit to see these wildflowers should be very cautious, especially with children. There are also cactuses around that have painful needles that are hard to remove if you get stuck with them. It’s a good idea to wear proper shoes and long sleeved clothing to protect your skin from anything that may get onto it. Careful attention should be paid to the ground, as there might also be deadly snakes.

snake

The town nearby has seen an extraordinary amount of extra business from all the tourists, who not only come from overseas, but from across the country as well. The Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce had visitor log sign ins from Chicago and Canada. Lodging places were filled up in no time as well. It was 92 degrees recently and the desert can get pretty hot, so that’s another thing to consider for visitors.

Officials are urging people to bring a medical kit, plenty of water, food, and be prepared to wait for hours in traffic, especially on the weekends. They are asking people to visit during the week to avoid this particular problem. The Anza-Borrego State Park shouldn’t only be visited during this bloom, as it’s a great camping spot where you can roast marshmallows under the stars and/or race dirt bikes during the day. And also, nearby is the Salton Sea, which is directly on the San Andreas Fault and contains more salt than the Pacific Ocean!

salton sea

Dealing With Allergies While Gardening

If you are passionate about gardening and have severe enough allergies, as much as you look forward to spring, you also hate when the pollen count kicks up.  With that comes coughing and irritated lungs as well as asthma attacks.  God forbid you love being inside; sometimes just staying inside is bad enough.
Here are some tips for you to take in to fight those allergies and keep your body calm on those tough spring days:

Love My Backyard Birds

On Saturday mornings I like to sleep in, but today was different because my girlfriend had finally heard enough excuses and it was time for me to mow the lawn finally. I had to do the job in the morning to avoid heat stress on the grass and myself. The first thing I did was to clear debris from the yard. I also ensured that my pets were safely out of the way before I started. After plugging in my black & decker electric mower, I started the job just as the sun was beginning to rise.

sunrise

My job was easy because I have a great lawn mower. It allows me to bag, mulch, or discharge while cutting the grass. The mowing deck won’t dent, rust or corrode and the machine is expected to give me a lifetime of service. The engine runs on electric, so there’s no smelly fumes to deal with and it doesn’t require a choke to start. I can also adjust the cutting position seven different mowing heights using a convenient lever. I’m really glad I read all the reviews at mowlikeachamp.com that helped me choose the best mower for my yard.

Apart from having a great mower, my job is more enjoyable as I get to watch birds in my garden. There’s a large tree there that plays host to many different birds. One of those birds is the robin, with its bright orange breast and singing a happy song. This robin was busy tugging earthworms out of the ground, and I decided to stop my mower and allow it to have some breakfast without being disturbed. After the bird had had its fill and flew off, I restarted the mower and continued with the task at hand.

robin

When I reached the large tree in the garden, I looked up to see a nuthatch. It is characterized by a large head, short tail, and powerful bill and feet. We had placed a bird feeder under one of the branches, and the bird was feasting on sunflower seeds and suet. It was also industriously carrying seeds away to hide. The nuthatch has a quiet call but what I like most about this bird is that it shows little fear of humans, and there are times when it comes very close to us when we’re sitting under the tree.

nuthatch

As I continue mowing the lawn, I see another familiar friend. It’s a jay bird, and this colorful bird from the crow family is noisy as usual. It’s also a beautiful bird with a black and white flecked crown, black mustache, and white throat. It’s also a hoarder and spends its days hiding hazelnuts, acorns and other seeds in the garden. This jay had also made its home in our mature oak tree, and it was busy burying seeds in one of our flowerbeds. My reverie is broken when I feel someone hug me from behind. It’s my girlfriend, beautiful as usual and happy to see that I had finally gotten around to mowing the lawn after a week of procrastination.

How Gardening Can Relieve Stress

Gardening has played an important part in my life: it has allowed me moments of relaxation, zen and has allowed me to get rid of anxiety in some questionable times in my life.  As we get older, we value activities that help center us.  Of course, this includes friends as well.

Bear with me: while this video sounds “robotic” (you will see in a moment), it shows us why gardening is great for our health and our brains and how it keeps us sharp!  Give it a chance and let me know what you think.  By the way, if you want to start gardening, start nice and easy.  Literally, anyone can grow flowers, even if you live in an apartment.

Anyway, let’s explore how gardening can relieve our stress:

Let Flowers Heal You!

Today, I found the most wonderful, most relaxing video. It is perfect: it is a flower time lapse video with relaxing music in the background. Remember the hummingbird video? If you haven’t watched that one, make sure to do so! You will be pleasantly surprised.

If you are feeling fatigued or wound up, this is a two hour, time lapse video showcasing beautiful flowers. It’s perfect if you blast the music and do your daily chores or you can choose to meditate to it for just 10 minutes. The details are yours to explore!

The Corpse Flower

The Corpse Flower is another name for the Titan Arum, a weird looking plant that can grow to 10 ft high or more. It is called the corpse flower because of its horrible smell, which has been described by some to smell like roadkill or rotting fish, among other things. Its scientific name is Amorphophallus Titanium, meaning ‘misshapen giant penis’, named so at a time when people named plants after body parts.

corpse flower

The leaves on the corpse flower can grow up to 20 ft high and 16 ft across, which makes it one of the biggest flowering plants on earth. It usually weighs 110 pounds, but the record weight is 305 pounds, grown by a doctor in New Hampshire in 2010. You would think that since it’s so big, it might be carnivorous, but all it needs to survive is water, air, and the soil it’s grown in.

flower exhibit

The Titan Arum originates from and grows only in Sumatra, an island in Indonesia, in a rain forest. It takes the plant 7-10 years to bloom for the first time, and after that it varies from 2-3 years. However, some plants will still take another 10 years for the next bloom. The male and female parts are all together, so the female flower blooms first, hours ahead of the male, to prevent self pollination. Other pollinators of this plant are carnivorous insects, attracted to it by the rotten smell and deep burgundy color that looks like a dead animal.

corpse

If the corpse flower only grew in the wild, it would become endangered due to habitat destruction. Many conservatories, gardens, zoos, and private owners around the world have ensured that it will survive into the future for generations to come. It’s such a unique looking, AND smelling plant that everyone should experience seeing one.