Category Archives: Gardening / Outdoors

Oregon Gardens

A deep breath infuses my body with the rich perfumes of pine, fir, lush soil, cut grass, and blossoming plants.  Every time, it nearly knocks me over with its power.  The abundance of nature in all its glory is here in Oregon.  I love being here with my mom at her beautiful house just off the hustle and bustle of the University of Oregon campus.

Over the last few months we have been chatting over the phone (me – from the desert terrain of Gallup, NM) about re-creating her small patch of garden on the south side of her house that gets full sun, and therefore has the great potential to be a vegetable garden.  When I arrived a couple of weeks ago we started plotting in earnest.  After a rather painless trip to Jerry’s (a local version of a Home Depot) we returned home with a plan and lots of supplies.

First, we weeded the over-grown area and laid out what I like to call “weed destroyer” – black landscape material that blocks light.  Then we mulched and started hauling in the concrete blocks.  A few six foot, 12″x 2″ cedar boards, soil and voila; raised beds and a tidy little garden. Super fun and quite easy.  Here are the before and after shots:

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The next day I took a trip up to Portland to visit some friends and one was my dear friend Patty Cassidy.  She is an amazing gardener and such an inspiration.  She is a grand master gardener and has turned her expertise to helping seniors continue to garden and explore the wonders of plants in all shapes, colors, smells and forms.  She has written a wonderful gardening book, aptly titled “Gardening for Seniors” that I was happy to learn has been translated into four different languages.  She is also the president of the Portland Memory Garden which has been “especially designed for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems: the site is relatively flat and is away from other park activity and significant traffic noise. The garden was dedicated in May 2002 and is one of eight memory gardens in the U.S., and one of only two built on public land. The garden is a national demonstration garden project, created as part of the 100 Parks, 100 Years centennial celebration of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).”   If you are looking for wonderful advice about your garden – Patty should be your go-to gal.

It was a gorgeous Oregon afternoon of filtered sun.  I had such fun chatting in Patty’s beautiful back yard with her husband Gary, who, like me, is diving into the world of children’s literature.  No worries – I’ll be shamelessly promoting his book when it comes out too.

In three short weeks I’ll be moving to Sacramento, California.  I am really looking forward to a little space of my own to dig into some earth and help cultivate a bit of life.  Moving to Sacramento not only means I can garden again, but as the winter season is so mild – I’ll get to garden all year round!  I can’t wait.  And I have so many wonderful gardening experts in my life to help me.  Such fun.

I’ll write again from California.  Have a great end of your June!

~ Gretchen

 

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Filed under DIY, Education, Gardening / Outdoors, Writing

Coconut Oil Addiction

I have become an addict.  I admit it, but I won’t be engaging in any 12 step programs.  I love my addiction and I keep learning more and more about how great it is.  As you know, I normally do not re-post articles on this blog, but today I came across this great run-down of what this seemingly wondrous oil can do on the Greatist website and I just had to share.  Its kind of a ridiculously long list (76 suggestions!) but, for me, the more ideas the better.  Here’s to your health!

76 Genius Coconut Oil Uses For Everyday Life

We’re going a little nuts for coconuts—or its oil, at least. But can you blame us? It turns out that this miracle oil is the solution to many of life’s little (or big!) problems. Whether it’s dry skin, lackluster hair, digestive problems, or athlete’s foot, this smooth, slick, tropical-smelling elixir will help get you and your body back on track to healthy town. And it’s all thanks to its stellar all-natural makeup. Coconut oil’s main fat is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid that positively impacts cholesterol levels. It also contains vitamins E and K, and iron, and has both antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

What really takes the (coconut) cake is that it’s super affordable—a 14-ounce jar can cost as little as $7, making it the most wallet-friendly all-in-one product yet. Seriously, it’s a beauty product, household cleaner, and more. Check out these 76 ways to use coconut oil in your day-to-day life.

1. Care for our cuticles.

Treat dry, flaky cuticles by rubbing coconut oil into your nail beds. Use your fingers to massage some oil into the area—it’ll moisturize your hands in the process!

2. Treat your tresses to some TLC.

Store-bought hair conditioning treatments can get pretty pricy and are often made with some sketchy toxic ingredients. Enter: coconut oil. Beauty experts say the fatty acids in coconut oil will soften your strands. One way to use it: Whip up an at-home hair mask, like this coconut oil and honey concoction, coat your hair, throw it up into a bun, let it sit for up to 40 minutes, and then rinse it out in the shower.

Bonus: You can also use coconut oil on its own to prevent the ends of your hair from drying out. Just rub some onto the tips of your hair, and then shampoo as you regularly would to keep your strands shiny, healthy, and hydrated.

3. Use it as a frizz-fighter and flyaway-tamer.

Spread a tiny bit (apply sparingly—unless, of course, you dig greasy-looking hair) of coconut oil into trouble areas. The natural oils actually repel moisture, which is the culprit behind misbehaving hair.

4. Go for the glow.

To brighten up lackluster skin, combine coconut oil with baking soda, which is a superstar exfoliant. Just mix a little bit of the two together, gently rub into your skin in circular motions, and then rinse.

5. Whip up an at-home face mask.

Another combo for a better complexion? Coconut oil and honey. Mix the two for a hydrating, antibacterial face mask. Leave it on for about 15 minutes, and then rinse.

6. Nourish your lips.

Thanks to extreme weather, our lips sometimes need a little extra TLC to keep them soft and smooth. Slough off any dry, flaky skin with a DIY coconut-oil-and-brown-sugar lip scrub. Plus, who needs Chapstick when you’ve got coconut oil on hand? Just smooth some on your lips for instant hydration. It’ll look a little glossy, so let it sink in for a few minutes if you want a more matte look.

7. Buff your skin.

Speaking of scrubs, coconut oil is a fantastic ingredient for DIY body scrub. Just mix it up with brown sugar or salt, and add a drop or two of the essential oil of your choice for a gentle but effective exfoliating scrub.

8. Make bath time better.

Add a generous scoop of coconut oil to a bath to (literally) soak in its moisturizing benefits. Make bath time even better by throwing in some Epsom salts (they help soothe muscles and beat bloating) and your favorite essential oils.

9. Tint your lips.

Anyone who’s ever used lipstick is familiar with how frustrating it is when you’re down to that last, hard-to-access bit of lip color left in the applicator. Instead of tossing the tube, scoop out the remaining product and melt it together with coconut oil for a homemade tinted lip balm.

10. Remove your makeup.

One beauty editor’s secret: Use coconut oil to remove heavy makeup. Just rub a scoop of the stuff into your skin, leave it on for a few minutes, and wipe it all off with a warm cloth. Plus, this trick works on even the most stubborn eye makeup (we’re looking at you, waterproof mascara). Just apply some coconut oil to a cotton makeup pad and gently wipe off any product.

11. Moisturize your skin.

To keep your skin soft and supple, swap out your regular moisturizer for coconut oil. Don’t worry—it sinks in pretty quickly and will leave your skin feeling baby-soft.

12. Swap out your shaving cream.

Coconut oil is actually a great way to get a close shave and hydrate your skin in the process. Plus, it’s especially good for people with sensitive skin. If you’re in a DIY mood, you can even make your own shaving cream with it.

13. Clean your makeup brushes.

Just about every beauty and skincare expert stresses how important it is to keep your makeup brushes as bacteria-free as possible—for the ones you use daily, that means cleaning them once a week. Mix antibacterial dish soap with coconut oil (which also has antibacterial properties and will help condition the bristles) and give your brushes a good cleaning. Check out this guide for the step-by-step.

14. Improve your acne.

Real talk: Breakouts are always a bummer. To help minimize acne-related inflammation, experts recommend using coconut oil, which will also combat redness and irritation. Cleanse your face as you regularly would, and then apply a thin layer of oil (which will also moisturize your skin—see No. 11) to your skin. (Protip: If you’re doing this before bed, let it sink in so that excess oil doesn’t mess with your bedding.)

15. Smooth your skin.

Creams that boast anti-aging properties usually come with a pretty shocking price tag. Luckily, coconut oil can minimize the appearance of wrinkles. This totally works for the delicate skin around your eyes, too. Feel free to gently pat some coconut oil onto the area with your ring finger.

16. Improve scalp health.

Massage coconut oil into your scalp to fight dandruff. Get ready to bid adieu to those pesky flakes!

17. Soothe sunburns.

If you’ve spent too much time in the sun (and have the lobster-like appearance to prove it), use coconut oil for burn relief. It’ll calm your skin and moisturize it to help minimize peeling.

18. Quiet down eczema flare-ups.

Because it’s both a moisturizer and an anti-inflammatory, coconut oil can help calm itchy and irritated skin related to eczema.

19. Make your own massage oil.

It’s no secret that massages in the spa feel awesome. The ambience, the pampering, and the oils, oh my! Though it might be hard to set up the same Zen-like atmosphere at home, you can definitely get in on the massage oils, no appointment necessary. Just warm up some coconut oil (and maybe add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil) and get massaging.

20. Banish B.O.

Smooth some coconut oil on your armpits. The lauric acid can help kill the bacteria that causes stinky sweat. But be warned: Some experts believe it may not be powerful enough to be your sole method for deodorizing your pits.

21. Polish your pearly whites.

If you’re looking for a natural alternative to regular toothpaste, try going the DIY route. Your plan: Mix coconut oil with baking soda until it’s pasty enough to spread on a toothbrush.

22. Soften and deodorize your feet.

Between working out and running around, our feet get a beating on a day-to-day basis. Before bed, soften cracked, rough skin and calluses by exfoliating your feet and then applying a generous layer of coconut oil. Since it has natural antibacterial properties, it’ll deodorize as it softens. Then slip on some socks to wake up with much smoother, better smelling soles.

Bonus: To enhance its benefits, add a drop or two of tea tree oil to the mix and apply both before bed and throughout the day. Treating your feet to this combo not only keeps stinky smells at bay, but may also help treat athlete’s foot.

23. Enhance your eyelashes.

Similar to the way it can help strengthen your head of hair, coconut oil can also help strengthen lashes—and that’s especially good news considering it’s all too easy to damage those short hairs. Just apply some oil to a cotton swab and spread it onto your lashes before going to bed.

24. Wax on, wax off!

If your hair removal routine involves at-home waxing, use coconut oil to remove excess wax from your skin—or from any surfaces in your waxing workspace. Just smooth some of the oil onto any area that’s still sticky, and then wipe it off with a warm washcloth.

25. Make patent leather shine.

By definition, patent leather should be shiny and sleek. The next time yours is lacking in the gloss department, wipe some coconut oil onto its surface to return it to its high-shine finish.

26. Get rid of gum residue.

Chewed gum any place besides inside a mouth is generally a good cause for despair—until now. Use coconut oil to remove any tacky gum residue from the surface in question. It even works on hair and carpet!

27. Keep your shower squeaky clean.

To avoid using harsh chemicals to clean your tub, douse a rag with coconut oil and watch the shower scum wipe away.

28. Condition wooden flatware and furniture.

Keep your wooden spoons, cutting boards, and any other wooden utensils in top shape by conditioning them with coconut oil. To keep wooden furniture looking good, it’s important to clean and treat the wood. Enter coconut oil. Just like you would with your wooden utensils, apply generously and letting it seep into the furniture. Consider buying in bulk if you’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

29. Clean metal items.

Metal that’s gotten lackluster is just another material that can benefit from a layer of coconut oil—it’ll clean bronze and help deepen its color, and remove rust from steel.

30. Fix squeaky hinges.

Is anything more annoying (or potentially creepy, depending on the time of night) than a squeaky hinge? To silence the squeak, use coconut oil to lubricate the hinge in question.

31. Care for your guitar.

For the more musically-talented among us, consider using coconut oil to condition and lubricate guitar strings.

32. Unstick a stuck zipper.

Whether a broken zipper is holding you hostage inside your own jacket or preventing you from opening a bag, coconut oil can save the day. Restore stubborn zippers to working order by coating them in coconut oil.

33. Treat leather.

If you’re rocking a leather coat or some sweet leather pants, give leather apparel new life by rubbing them down with coconut oil to clean and condition and restore lost sheen.

34. Start a campfire—safely.

If there’s one item on this list that deserves a merit badge, this is it. Instead of depending on lighter fluid, soak cotton balls in coconut oil and use them to start your campfire. To get a good fire going, add them to the kindling you’ve assembled and give the mixture a light.

35. Keep motors in working order.

If any of your electronics or kitchen appliances have motors, they could benefit from coconut oil. Use it as a lubricant to keep the motors running and humming at peak performance.

36. Season cast iron cookware.

Because cast iron pots, pans, and skillets don’t have a nonstick surface, they require a prep step before you can actually use them. Though you can season them with vegetable oil and shortening, you can also coat them in coconut oil. Take a look at this step-by-step on how to season your cast iron pans.

37. Cut down on hairballs.

Coconut oil is good for our furry friends, too! To help keep your cat from hacking up hairballs, coat your kitty’s paws with a bit of the oil.

38. Condition your pet’s fur.

Just like you would condition your own human hair with coconut oil, rubbing some through your cat’s or dog’s coat will keep it healthy and shiny.

39. Supplement your pet’s diet and health.

Introducing a little bit of coconut oil to your dog or cat’s diet may boost their overall health—just be sure to check with your vet before you make any changes. Doing so may help with everything from weight management, to protection against arthritis and ligament problems, and can even help eliminate bag doggie breath.

40. Relieve your pet’s itchiness.

If you notice your pooch scratching a specific spot more than usual, rub some coconut oil into the area to help relieve any itchiness or irritation. This one’s another remedy to run by your vet before you test it on your pet.

41. Add it to coffee or tea.

The next time you’re readying your morning drink, ditch the sugar and honey, and flavor your beverage with a drizzle of coconut oil instead.

42. Make your own nut butter.

Who needs store-bought nut butters when you’ve got fresh nuts, coconut oil, a food processor, and some key flavoring ingredients? That’s seriously all you need to whip up the nut butter of your choice.

43. Cook up a storm.

If a recipe calls for cooking at high heat—like a stir fry, for example—consider using coconut oil. It’s got a high smoke point, meaning it won’t emit harmful free radicals as readily as other oils.

Coconut oil is also an awesome option when you’re roasting vegetables—especially winter veggies like sweet potatoes (it can pump up the flavor). Throw in some herbs and a splash of lemon juice, and you’ve got a scrumptious side dish.

And whether you enjoy them sunny side up, scrambled, or over easy, eggs are yet another food that are perfect candidates to be cooked in coconut oil. The options in the kitchen are really endless!

44. Dress your salads.

Olive oil is a gold standard in many salad dressings. To give your salads a different kind of flavor, try using coconut oil as the base of the dressing. Try this simple recipe with a subtle flavor.

45. Make your own granola.

Okay, homemade anything is generally better than store-bought, but there’s something about making your granola at home that makes it particularly special and tasty. Use coconut oil to whip up an oaty, nutty mixture.

46. Top your toast.

Swap out butter for coconut oil the next time you make toast. You might also want to add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top—delicious!

47. Eat it up.

Scoop up a spoonful and eat it as is for a bunch of healthy fats—seriously. Ingesting coconut oil is linked to a slew of health benefits, so feel free to swallow it.

48. Upgrade your smoothie.

Oil may not seem like a natural choice for a smoothie ingredient, but a tablespoon of the stuff can give you an energy boost—the body uses its medium-chain fatty acids as an energy source instead of storing it away.

49. Change up your baking game.

The next time you’re channeling Betty Crocker, add some coconut oil to the mix. If you’re whipping up a pie (mmm, pie!) or biscuits, consider using coconut oil instead of shortening or butter for a light consistency. The same goes for baked goods that call for a good amount of vegetable oil. In most cases, you can substitute it one-for-one.

50. Pop it like it’s hot.

We’re big fans of popcorn, particularly the homemade kind. The next time you reach for the kernels, opt for cooking them in coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. You’ll get a hint of sweetness with every bite.

51. Switch up your topping.

You’ve popped your corn, now top it off! Coconut oil is a great substitute for a buttery topping, especially when topped off with a sprinkle of salt. A little sweet, a little salty…what more could you want in a snack?

52. Grease cookware and bakeware.

Use coconut oil to grease pans and trays while you’re baking. Just scoop some out and smooth it onto the sides and bottoms of your pan to keep food from sticking to it.

53. Level up your oral hygiene.

Oil pulling is an Ayurveda practice that’s all the rage at the moment, is believed to help your wellbeing in tons of different ways: it whitens your teeth, improves your skin, gets rid of toxins, and more. To give it a go with coconut oil, swish about two tablespoons of it around your mouth for three to 10 minutes a day (though some recommend pulling for up to 20 minutes). Think of it as a sweeter, (slimier?) mouthwash.

54. Fight colds and the flu.

Eating coconut oil can help boost your immune system (by improving your white blood cell count). (White blood cells are the little guys that fight viruses and bacteria in your bloodstream. The more white blood cells, the more infection-fighting power is streaming through your system!)

55. Prevent chafing.

Not only can coconut oil stop chafing from actually happening, it can also treat an area that’s already been rubbed raw (just mix with calendula for a soothing ointment). Bonus for anyone who has a little bundle of joy: Coconut oil can help your baby, too. If your little one is suffering from diaper rash, try mixing up a diaper cream to soothe irritated skin.

56. Say goodbye to scratchy throats.

Forget cough drops the next time your throat’s killing you! Soothe a sore throat by swallowing a bit of coconut oil on its own or adding it to your tea.

57. Lube up.

Proof positive that coconut oil has endless possible uses? It can make its way into your sex life. Though there hasn’t been research that focuses on the safety of coconut oil as a lubricant, it seems to work just fine, according to some experts. One caveat: Coconut oil can weaken latex condoms, so if you do want to use coconut oil between the sheets, opt for a polyurethane condom instead.

58. Relax.

It’s hard not to envision a tropical beach on a sunny day when you get a whiff of coconut—and what’s more relaxing than that? With that in mind, use coconut oil as aromatherapy. Try massaging some into your scalp and temples to relieve stress.

59. Get rid of lice.

Some believe that coconut oil is an all-natural remedy for lice. Test it out by using coconut oil as part of a two-step process. To start, rinse your hair in apple cider vinegar, let it dry, and then smooth coconut oil through your strands. You’ll have to let it sink in for up to 24 hours (sleep with a shower cap on to avoid ruining your bedding). Comb it out in the morning and then rinse your hair.

60. Treat cold sores.

The second you start to feel the telltale tingle of a cold sore on or around your lips, rub some coconut oil on the spot—the oil’s antiviral properties may help treat unsightly fever blisters.

61. Protect scrapes and scratches.

To help keep superficial cuts and scrapes clean (this isn’t for deep wounds!), apply a thin layer of coconut oil—it’ll work as a barrier, keeping out dust and harmful bacteria.

62. Heal bug bites.

Bzzz, bzzz… you’ve been bitten by a bug! Apply a drop or two of coconut oil to the area to relieve itching.

63. Calm bruises.

While it’s unclear as to whether or not coconut oil actually heals bruises, some suggest applying it to your black-and-blues can help calm the area.

64. Treat yeast infections.

Now, this is definitely one to take to your doctor before you testing it out, but some have found that coconut oil may help treat yeast infections when ingested and applied topically.

65. Improve your cholesterol.

Coconut oil’s star component, lauric acid, can boost your levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good kind) to help keep your heart healthy.

66. Keep your stomach happy.

Stomach issues—whether the occasional ailment or a more chronic condition—can really hinder your lifestyle. Ingesting coconut oil may help soothe your stomach and is even thought to ease symptoms from serious disorders like Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Another healthy-stomach benefit: Adding coconut oil to your diet—even just one tablespoon per day—can help treat ulcers. That said, stomach problems can be pretty serious, so it’s best to consult a doc before you self-diagnose with coconut oil.

67. Clear up congestion.

One of the worst parts about having a cold (and one of the hardest side effects to kick) is congestion. To help clear things out, try mixing up a homemade vapor rub. All it takes is coconut oil, tea tree oil, and rosemary oil. Rub this trio of ingredients on your chest and underneath your nose to breathe easier.

68. Repel insects.

Not only can it help soothe itchiness from insect bites, coconut oil can also be used in a DIY insect repellent. The ingredients you’ll need: coconut oil and essential oils like peppermint, catnip, rosemary, or tea tree.

69. Treat the aches and pains of an ear infection.

After checking with your doctor to make sure this remedy’s for you, mix up a solution that can be applied behind your ear.

70. Prevent nosebleeds.

One of the biggest culprits behind nosebleeds is dry, irritated nostrils. To keep them from drying out, dip your finger in coconut oil and gently apply it to the inside of your nose to coat as much of each interior as you can.

71. Breastfeed more comfortably.

Another tip for new moms: Keep coconut oil handy to prevent your nipples from becoming cracked or painful due to breastfeeding.

72. Boost your metabolism.

While adding oil to your diet may sound counterintuitive, the fats in coconut oil—medium-chain saturated fats—are easy to digest, can be used directly by the liver for energy, and encourage fat burning.

73. Clean your dental accessories.

If you use a mouth guard or retainer (hey, you have to keep those pearly whites in place!), use coconut oil to sanitize them during the day.

74. Clean your ears.

Dip a cotton swab into coconut oil (but just for a second—you don’t want it to be soaked), and gently clean earwax out of your ears.

75. Boost your bone health.

Not only is coconut oil a stellar ingredient in its own right, but it also helps calcium and magnesium absorption in your body, which can make for healthy bones and teeth.

76. Tip the scale in your favor.

Eating coconut oil may also keep your weight in check. Research suggests that consuming the slick stuff may help reduce waist circumference and abdominal obesity . Plus, coconut oil has fewer calories than other dietary fats—a serious bonus when it comes to weight management.

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Zuma Rock and So Much More

Another great two weeks here in Abuja, Nigeria.  I continue to be so happy here.  The people, the students, my new colleagues… all just wonderful.

Last weekend a few of us ventured out to the infamous Zuma Rock – a monolith protruding from the earth that is 2,400 feet high.  Stunning in its awesomeness.

From different angles it has completely different feels, energy, faces… on one side it looked like the mountain Richard Dreyfruss from Close Encounters of the Third Kind created in his backyard.

Zuma Rock 3As we walked slowly around its base – took us about an hour to make it all the way around – we encountered a few villagers here and there.  The area around it was primarily small farms of yams and papaya trees.

Women Tubers Zuma Rock

Harvesting Yams

Zuma Rock Boy

Young papaya farmer

Zuma Rock Boys Swimming

Boys having a fun swim

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Really hard to capture in a photo how steep and large it was. This sloping area was only on one side. Most sides just went straight up from the earth.

Zuma Rock People

Yam farmers

Fun rocks and caves

Fun rocks and caves

As we made our way home, we drove through a village teeming with life.

Zuma Rock Donkey on Truck

Donkey (he is alive – I saw him move!) being transported atop a lorry

Zuma Rock Goat Market

Goat market

Zuma Rock Hawker

Roadside hawker

I also went on another great HASH last weekend.  On our way to the site we went through a very poor village but with tons of happy faces – I snuck some photos from the car:

IMG_1948 IMG_1949 This time I joined the running group.  Wow!  Super hard.  I think we went uphill in 100 degree weather with no shade for well over an hour.  Crazy hard.  Everyone was dying. But I took some shots (again these are with my iPhone) whenever I could of what was around me as I ran (trotted, crawled, walked…).IMG_1956IMG_1958

Such great satisfaction when we reached the top.  The view was amazing.

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Water/Beer truck at the top!

 

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Me, John (from Tanzania), Tamara (US), Teri (Canada)

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Abuja

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Then on our descent back to our cars, I again tried to go with the runners, but the decline was too much for my knees, so I ended up walking – caught all alone between the runners and the walkers.  And it was magical.  Our route back took us through that same village.  All alone, this crazy, sweaty, white chick wandering through a small town in the middle of Nigeria. You might think – scary, but NO!  I was greeted with the biggest smiles, the warmest energy, children running circles around me giggling.  I finally felt like I was truly in Africa.  I was so filled up with such happiness.  I didn’t take any photos as I didn’t want to spoil the wonderfulness.  But I did capture some when I got back to the cars – just before the huge storm hit.

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Sunburst as seen through my sunglasses in front of my iPhone lens

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This last week at school was a crazy one.  It was the 20th anniversary of the school so there were lots of festivities.  We had a flag parade:

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Flag parade finale – 40 nations represented by our students.

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PTA and Ms. Amy, Head of School, at time capsule ceremony

On Friday the students were released early and we had a party with local food and Nigerian music.  The parents were boogyin’ more than anyone.  The booty’s were shakin’ like I’ve never seen before.  It was fantastic.  We danced in the hallways for a couple hours.  Really fun.

Only 6 weeks left of my fun time here.  I’ll write again soon.

Have a great week.  Gretchen

 

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Filed under Adventure, Education, Gardening / Outdoors, Nigeria, Photography, Travel

Spring Is Really Here

A happy poem to welcome in Spring!
It is also entered in
Susanna Leonard Hill’s “In Just Spring” children’s story writing contest.

I hope you enjoy.

Sealing a kiss with pollinated bliss!

Sealing their love with pollinated bliss!

Spring Love

All photos and the story
by Gretchen Fogelstrom

A bee buzzed by a flower one day,

A sunny afternoon in the month of May.

The flower winked once to catch his eye,

So the bee circled round in the cloudless sky.

He thought how friendly is this flowers’ tone,

As he buzzed back by with a wink of his own.

She couldn’t contain her blossoming smile,

As he did loop-d-loops in the sky for awhile.

Then suddenly he flew in to say ‘hi,’

But once so close, his ‘hi’ became a sigh.

So she leaned forward and planted a kiss,

Sealing their love with pollinated bliss.

The birds in the trees sang out with great cheer

As now they knew glorious Spring was really here.

Sunflower-Bud

Sunflower Bud

Poppy Emerging

Poppy Emerging

Rose Bud

Rose Bud

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Antsy for Spring

Wherever you are in the world – is it Spring yet?  Here in Oregon, USA we just had three glorious days of gorgeous sunshine with yesterday hitting 60 degrees F.  We have heavy, thick clouds today, so thought I would reflect back on the happiness that was the last 3 days.

I went for a walk yesterday and found that winter had turned to spring it seemed in just a day.

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Blue-Sky

The sky was blue, so blue, that I craned my neck over and over again with unbelieving eyes.

As I walked to the park, practically skipping with joy, I found smiling people everywhere.  The fountain in the rose garden was bursting with expectation.  The trees were swaying in the gentle breeze and all things stretched with heads held high.

Lamp PostUpon my return, I couldn’t resist but to tidy the garden and then plant a few veggies.  I know, it’s only early March, but I planted beets, kale, spinach and snap peas, all perfect to get started in Oregon while the soil is still a bit chilly.

Small, but mine.  Tidied up and ready for Spring!

Small, but mine. Tidied up and ready for Spring!

Hard to see - but newly planted - 30 days before the first Snap Peas - can't wait.

Hard to see – but newly planted – 30 days before the first Snap Peas – can’t wait.

Tomatoes will come in May and soon the flowers will start to flourish – just like last year…

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s to Spring, which lays upon us that hopeful ray of sun and brings a huge smile to my face.  How about you – seen any sun lately?  Spring Fever hit you yet?

Enjoy!

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Animal Symbolism

As I was sick in bed all last week, I had to post-pone the Vision-Action Board (and dancing) get together last night until next Saturday.

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Henry, my sweet boy.

But when I wasn’t sleeping last week  I continued to read a variety of books, one of which is The Happiness Project that I mentioned in the last post.    In one short section the author writes about symoblism and animal totems.  And that got me thinking about what animals I am drawn to.  Besides my wonderful cats and my recently passed dog, what types of animals draw my attention more than others and why.

Although as a child when asked what animal you’d like to be I would always say either a Cheetah or a Falcon.  But reflecting on their qualities and passions, they didn’t seem to fit me today.  Both of those animals are a bit more solitary than I like to be.

So I googled some keywords and found a few sites that offer quizzes indicating your animal totem.  The animal that I had the most likeness to is the Wolf.  It is a social, caring, protective animal that according to Native American Legends is considered to be loyal, has perseverance, is successful, has intuition and spirit.

wolf-color-photo

Photo Credit: http://wolfweb.com/

That sounds nice.  Although I love furry creatures and wolves are majestic, proud and strong, I don’t feel a strong connection to them.

So then I started thinking about animals that I have seen in the wild that draw my attention more than others, which ones give me a thrill every time I see them, and those that I seek out.

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Me feeding baby Cha’im, infant Howler Monkey, Guatemala

After going through the exotic animals, monkeys in particular, as I have had some lovely experiences with them in the wild, I looked closer to home, to the exotic (at least to me) in my area of the world.

And I have to say, as I did so my animal flashed before my eyes.  In my mind, but it was there hovering quietly and I could see it as clear as day.  It was thrilling.

Every time I see them I get a tingling, a jolt of happiness, a must-stop-and-stare moment of pure pleasure.  I just knew this had to be my animal.  So I immediately got back online and looked up Hummingbirds.

And to my happy surprise they hold wonderful meanings – depending on which site and which culture you read through – but the general, over-arching belief is that they bring, offer, exude the following:

Joy

Happiness

Timelessness

Energy

Vitality

Playfulness

Sincerity

Their wings beat in a figure 8 motion – or the symbol for eternity.  They are very social, strong minded, independent, work hard… and they build the cutest little nests that they camouflage with lichen or moss.

Hummingbird-Nest1

Photo Credit: birdsandbloomsblog.com
Hum Nest 3

Photo Credit: http://www.komar.org

So I feel good about my totem.  The symbolism surrounding Hummingbirds resonates with me.  So with that I decided that I would start to bring hummingbird images into my life.  Slowly, choosing only the ones that I simply can’t resist.  I’m not into clutter, so a collection over a long period of time, that adds rather than fills up.

It just so happens that my first piece came to me yesterday.  I was out, feeling a tiny bit more energy for the first time, and was early to meet a friend for a movie so decided to wander through some shops.  I am attracted to beautiful, rich colors ( I really should live in Mexico) and was looking through some fun dishes and couldn’t believe it, but I found this:

Hummingbird PlateSo my collection and devotion has begun.

Every thought about what animal is your symbol, your totem, your guide?  I would love to hear.  Write a comment and let me know.

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Filed under Animals, Gardening / Outdoors, Introspection, Uncategorized

Garden Art

Today I checked out the local Yard, Garden and Patio show.  It’s always fun to see what the local creatives are doing for our outdoor spaces.  Check out some of these unique creations.  Photos were taken with my iPhone so a bit blurry.

Have any fun art in your yard?  I would love to know -and see a photo if you care to share!

Culvert Chair

This hanging chair is made out of a piece of culvert pipe.  It swings!

The back of this chair was a wall of sedums - succulent plants. Very fun!

The back of this chair was a wall of sedums – succulent plants. Very fun!

This is one piece of what I think is a root, carved into a face. Each piece of "hair" is also finely carved.  It was exquisite up close.

This is one piece of what I think is a root, carved into a face. Each piece of “hair” is also finely carved. It was exquisite up close.

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Filed under DIY, Gardening / Outdoors

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