Edible plants to grow in South Florida…

It’s spring time. The weather is getting warmer, I’m seeing unusual birds and bugs in my backyard, and there is new growth everywhere. What a perfect time to concentrate on gardening!

Living in South Florida, I have many advantages when it comes to backyard gardening. Perhaps the biggest advantage, is that Floridians are able to grow an abundance of fruit sand vegetables all year round. Now, just because we can grow all year round, does not mean that our gardens sustain themselves. Many edibles can attract a variety of destructive bugs and diseases. For example, I recently planted Brussels sprouts and, within weeks, they were covered in aphids. I also tried my hand at planting lettuce and kale which were promptly taken over by cabbage worms. These issues do have solutions but, for a notice gardener like myself, there are many easier edible plants to grow.

Luckily, I have spent the last few weeks researching hardy plants as part of my work at school. So much of what I do at work translates to my home life. That is the best feeling…when work inspires your home life and when your home life inspires your work. Anyway, back to the research, there are plenty of edible plants you can grow at home with little or no inconvenience to yourself. I’ve put together a little list of the plants that I’ve been able to grow in my small backyard as both a way to share what I’ve learned with others and also to remind myself of what has worked in my garden in the past.

Bell Peppers – I’ve been growing bell peppers in my garden with no problem. I’ve seen a few bugs on my pepper plants but they’ve never been overrun with bugs and they always look happy and healthy. I’ve transplanted them twice and, while they look a little frazzled each time I do it, they recover quickly and effortlessly. I’ve picked and eaten several peppers and they do taste delicious.

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Swiss Chard – Swiss chard was so easy to grow and looked so beautiful as it grew. I didn’t encounter any bugs and the plants always looked great. My only problem with swiss chard is the bitter taste. Next time I grow this one I plan to try to figure out a recipe where I can eat a lot of this vitamin-rich plant while not tasting the bitter flavor.

Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, Sage, and Mint – These are so easy to grow! They just need sunlight and water. I water them daily and they look great. The dill and cilantro I have growing in the same bed, on the other hand, seem a bit more temperamental but they are alive.

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Everglades Tomato – These are a little more exotic but I found them at Galloway Nursery. They are supposed to be a famously easy to grow plant but I’ve had some trouble growing them at home. I think it may be because I planted them in a shady spot. They seem to prefer full sun. At school, however, these little plants are thriving. I don’t know if it’s the sunny space they are growing in or the devotion of the students but they are growing really well and producing tons of delicious marble-sized tomatoes.

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Mulberry Tree – I had never encountered a mulberry tree until I started with the school I am a part of. This tree can produce a lot of mulberries and is a highly adaptable plant. I have a young one in my garden that is constantly making mulberries, but not as fast as my son and daughter can eat them. I have seen some scales on my mulberry tree but only very few and the tree hasn’t been impacted by the scales. I just pick them off when I see them.

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Banana Tree – Banana trees are pretty easy to grow. They just need a lot of water but, to me, that’s not a big deal.

Carrie Mango Tree – I really love mangoes. They are so tender, sweet, and delicious. It’s no wonder why the mango tree is the first I purchased when I moved into my home. I picked a more mature one from my local nursery which cost me about $150. Now, 8 months later, I have over 25 mangoes hanging off my tree!

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Simmons Avocado Tree – One of my favorite things to eat is white rice, sliced avocado, soy sauce, and sesame seeds on top. It’s kind of like a very easy sushi roll. With that in mind, I had to have an avocado tree. I purchased my tree for about $100. I picked my tree in particular because it already had 2 avocados on it. Now, 8 months later, there are another 2 avocados growing on this tree. They are very small and very cool to look at.

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Those are the plants I have growing in my garden right now (or have grown successfully in the past). I have just planted three young Roma tomato plants, 3 cherry tomato plants, several sweet potato slips, as well as spinach, green beans, purple tomatillo, green onions, and yellow onions from seeds. In a few months, I’ll write another post on how those plants faired. Wish me luck!

 

Artistry in everything…

Ever since I could remember, I have always endeavored to create. Busy hands, a calm mind, and profound focus is meditative to me. When you constantly have a rush of thoughts going on in your head you seek out something to take you away from that. Some form of expression where your mind suddenly becomes clear, even if only for a few moments, and where you forget yourself. Clay has always done that for me…taken me to a different place, a quiet place where nothing else matters.

Working with clay has always been part of how I defined myself. Clay, with it’s unlimited potential and tactile quality, has been my preferred outlet since I was in high school. I have spent countless hours locked away in my studio, working on some special sculpture. Sometimes, I would enter the studio without an idea of what to create but, as I manipulated the clay, something suddenly appeared. I would feel immense joy in that type of surprise. That has always been a magical process for me.

When I had my children, it became more difficult to set aside that time for myself. Between caring for them, tending to the house, and working, there didn’t seem to be much time for that. When I tried to make that time for myself, I just felt guilty and rushed and so nothing really meaningful came from it. I was increasingly becoming frustrated with what I felt was the loss of my creativity.

Recently, I asked an artist friend of mine if she had gone through the same issue when she had her children. She answered with a resounding yes. She advised me to keep my hands busy and my creativity alive with whatever I could achieve while with my children (clay is not so simple, you need hours alone with the medium to achieve anything worth while) and that, as they got older, the time would return. That really resonated with me. My yearning to create takes shape in many forms and whether I realize it or not, I am always creating. There is artistry in everything that is done well. So, with that inspiration, I decided to fully commit myself to something beautiful that I have been creating alongside my children and husband for months: our garden.

Over the past several months, we have been slowly building our outdoor space. When we moved into our new home, the backyard consisted of an empty canvas…just a space with manicured grass and a cobblestone deck. I drew up a plan for this space. Since then, we have been putting the pieces together, sometimes changing bits and pieces here and there, but mostly sticking to the plan. Lately, this space is starting to come to life. There is intention in nearly every corner and there is wonder everywhere. We have seen so many animals in our garden, all types of birds, butterflies, and garden creatures…a true indicator that we are doing something right. There is still a lot to do to fulfill our vision of the garden but it’s starting to take shape. The photos that I’ll post serve as a time marker for us…the beginning of our vision for this space. In a few months, there will be more of the lush green foliage that we all love so much.

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This garden brings us closer together. We are always outside, tending to our plants, playing together, having our family meals, and enjoying the beauty of this space. And, all while exploring our creativity.

 

 

Back after a long absence…

It’s been nearly a year since my last post. Since last May, a lot has changed. My children are a bit older, I’ve had some incredible moments, I’ve faced some challenges, and I’ve felt myself grow as a wife, mother, and artist. With that being said, I’ve given the blog a new name and, I think, a new identity. Glowing Goodness. That is my blog’s new name. I chose that name because it means so many things to me. The Glowing Goodness of a close family and dear friends, of meaningful work, of creative expression, of growing gardens, of delicious food, and the list goes on.

I’ve been thinking about what I want this blog to become lately. Once I had someone ask me what my angle for the blog was. Is this a mommy blog? Is it a how-to blog? Is it a networking blog? I was taken aback by that question. Why do I have to define this blog? I’m not blogging as a business. I’m blogging as a creative outlet. I’m blogging as a way to track my life while sharing some stories and tips along the way. If I have to define my blog, I would say this is my diary. This is as personal as it gets for me. This is where, after finding solitude in the early hours of the morning (or in some hidden space in my house) I sit quietly and listen to the thoughts going on in my head. I look for direction and arrange these thoughts. Then, I create the post, press publish, and feel so accomplished…just like when I create a sculpture, sketch, or painting. This blog is like little pieces of my art coming together in the form of a diary.

Now, with my little blog nicely defined in a way that suits me, I look forward to getting back into the swing of things. I’ve missed this blog, both as a creative outlet and as a way to share my thoughts and interests with others. I’ve got so many plans for this upcoming year and, this time, I plan on capturing these special moments for this special blog ❤

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Miami Beach in May

One of the things I love most about my city is the amazing beaches we share. Miami Beach, Crandon Park, and Hollywood Beach are our favorites but, if we want to make the drive, we always have Pompano Beach, West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale Beach and more. We are so lucky.  Last Sunday we spent the day at Miami Beach. I just loved soaking up the sun, enjoying the cool ocean water, and snorkeling in search of sea treasures. On that day, the water was absolutely beautiful. There were so many shades of blue in the ocean. From lightest aqua to turquoise to navy blue, it was an amazing sight. I immediately took Stella for a swim and within just a few moments, we found a small conch. I have never seen what a conch creature actually looks like until that day.

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Stella is an ocean girl, she loves to jump in the water, scoop up the sand, and try to mouth everything in sight.

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Dylan loves the to play in the sand, explore sea treasures, and enjoy the very shallow shore but, for some reason, he is not too keen on going in the water…maybe he’s afraid of sharks or maybe swimming lessons will make him more confident.

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I think the ocean has grown on Shaun over the years. Once upon a time he pretended to enjoy going to the beach for me. Then, he got comfortable and shared his secret of hating the sand and the heat. Now, after understanding how happy his family gets when at the beach, I think he is beginning to enjoy himself more.

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I can’t stop thinking about last Sunday at the beach…

Wandering through the Wilderness

I spent Spring Break in Morganton, Georgia, a remote town with a population of about 300. We were invited by my mom and stepdad to stay in a beautiful cabin in the mountains. My mom and I spent many afternoons swaying on a wooden swing that rested behind our cabin, looking up at the beautiful oak and pine trees, laughing together, and having meaningful conversations. One late afternoon, as we sat together, I remember looking up at the sky and then behind me at the vast wilderness and thinking that the beauty of a place like this is that you feel like the world belongs to you. You feel as if you are the only souls alive in that patch of land and so the land is yours.

There were so many beautiful experiences on that trip.

Encountering new and beautiful places…

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Hiking through the mountains, wondering if we would encounter a bear…

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Exploring the beauty near our cabin…

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Exploring Helen, Georgia and marveling at how this little town is so influenced by Germany.

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Wishing on the many dandelions we came across..

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And visiting a local goat farm…

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But there were also a few awakening experiences. Until that trip, I always saw myself living in the mountains, surrounded my the beauty of nature. But after seeing so many confederate flags and even one KKK flag, and after visiting a few ghost towns that were rather depressing, I quickly realized that maybe my wishful thinking about the country life was just that, wishful thinking. And so, I came home filled with beautiful memories and also thirsty to give myself to my city. To explore Miami with a grateful heart. For this is the place where I’ve spent my entire life, where the ocean gives me energy, where I explore with my family, and where I know I belong…at least for now.

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The Beauty of Butterflies

Recently, I worked with the first/second grade class at my school on butterfly cards. This class has been studying butterflies for the past two years. They are very knowledgable and enthusiastic when it comes to butterflies. Working with them really inspired me.

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A few weeks ago, I began a butterfly garden of my own. I purchased several tropical milkweed plants, one beautiful balloon milkweed tree, a few porter weed plants, and a few pentas. Then, Shaun and I spent the weekend gardening. I’ve always loved working in the garden but often found it difficult to remember to water the plants daily. With the addition of several hungry caterpillars munching on my milkweed as well as constant visiting butterflies, I am now excited to water my plants, check on my caterpillars, and watch for butterflies. I also noticed that Dylan and Stella are just as excited so I purchased a hatchery and brought several caterpillars inside to observe. Each day, we check on our hatchery. Has one of the caterpillars spun their button of silk? Can we spot one pupating? Emerging from their chrysalis? The process of metamorphosis is enchanting. It is a magical process that is a thrill to watch.

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Ode to Our City: Deering Estate

This morning we decided to go to Deering Estate. It was a last minute decision based on our mission to make the most of every weekend. I immediately wondered if we would see manatees there. I had seen manatees swimming through the bay once or twice before and, since my son is studying the migration of manatees in his class, I hoped we would see them. We raced to the bay to find out. Right away, we spotted several large silhouettes in the water. It turned out to be a group of manatees! We sat for quite a while as we watched them swim around. It felt like such a special experience.

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After that spectacular experience, we spent the rest of the time joyfully experiencing the estate. These types of adventures, where I am immersed in natural beauty and profound wonder, make me feel inspired. Today I felt infinitely happy and a bit nostalgic because I realized that, before we had children, Shaun and I used to spend all our free time walking through trails, kayaking, and exploring our beaches. This is our new mission, to spend as much time as we can experiencing the natural wonders of our city, with our children by our side…sharing these special experiences with them ❤

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The Redland Heritage Festival

Yesterday, we enjoyed the Redland Heritage Festival at the Fruit and Spice Park. The festival consisted of many local and unique small businesses setting up booths to sell their wares. It was like a craft fair but with an emphasis on the environment. There were sellers of local honey, or native/butterfly attracting plants, of artisan soaps, and more.

We were pleasantly surprised to see the Bubbleman there. If you don’t know who the Bubbleman is, he is a really sweet older man who really loves bubbles. He loves them so much that he invented a special bubble wand that he sells at a really great price. Dylan was so excited to see him and learn how to create the biggest, most beautiful bubbles.

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After walking the festival, we explored the park independently. Part of the allure of this park is that you can eat any fruit that has fallen off the tree. They have so many different types of fruit trees so it felt like treasure hunting to us.

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Shaun was happy to find mamey, I introduced him to mamey ice-cream and smoothies a few months ago and he loved them. This was his first time trying the raw fruit.

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Dylan was really excited to find a large coconut that reminded him of Moana.

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Meanwhile, Stella was in her stroller munching away on a pumpkin/banana bar as is evident by the crumbs on her face.

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Then, we encountered a grove of jackfruit trees. I don’t think Dylan had ever seen a jackfruit before.

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We also saw the longest banana tree inflorescence ever!

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It was a beautiful day!

 

 

 

Our Magical New Year’s Weekend

A few weeks ago I made the decision to seek out fun things to do in advance so that my family can make the most out of every weekend. I made this decision after several of those do nothing weekends that drive me crazy. They usually consist of Shaun and I trying to figure out something to do last minute and then just giving up and doing little things here and there…more like a weekend of running errands. I want to be more intentional with my free time and, more importantly, with my family time. One of the first commitments we signed on to was to spend New Year’s in Pompano Beach. We booked an ocean front hotel about a month in advance and anticipated the great time we’d have but we didn’t expect it to be as magical as it turned out to be.

We arrived at the hotel, checked in, and made our way to our room which we were thinking would just be a little room with an ocean view. It was not. It was a beautiful room with a great kitchen, spacious living room featuring a pull out couch, and a cozy bedroom. What was even more amazing was that it was on the first floor with a beautiful ocean view and it was just a few steps to get to the ocean.

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The view from our room.

We immediately went out to see the ocean which was overwhelmingly beautiful on that Saturday night. When you haven’t been to see the ocean in a few months and you visit it on a windy, wavy day it is breathtaking. The sound of the waves breaking, the wind in your face, and the smell of the ocean are enough to awaken your senses and form a vivid memory in your mind.

The next morning I woke at 5am. It was like my internal clock set itself so that Shaun and I could watch the sun rise. I quickly woke him up and somehow Stella woke as well so the three of us went out together. It was too cloudy to watch the sun rise but it was still a beautiful experience to feel the sun rise instead.

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Later, we all walked about a mile to the picturesque light house. We took our camera with us to document our little journey 🙂

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We invited my sister, her husband, and their two children to join us. They were able to spend the day with us so we enjoyed the beach, bowling, and just being together. My sister is an amazing photographer who always has her camera handy. She captured so many beautiful pictures while she was with us…

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We were so excited with this mini vacation that we immediately booked it again for the summer. It felt nice to plan something in advance and have it turn out to be so memorable.

The Power of Project Work: Researching Sharks With Middle School Students

I feel so grateful to spend my days engaged in meaningful work with children. It really gives me a sense of purpose.  I constantly feel this profound happiness in knowing that I am part of a school that really values children and encourages them to find their unique strengths, whatever they may be. The school that I am a part of sees learning as a collaborative endeavor. Learning is a lifelong process of discovery, reflection, and rediscovery. What an inspiring way to spend your days as a student. I am equally as inspired. Every day I wake up anticipating what new things I might discover. What I might discover about the unique learning process of each child, what I might discover about myself, and what I might discover about life. This is a school I dreamed I could be a part of as a child. This is a school I am elated to have my children be a part of. I am so grateful to my boss (and close friend) for envisioning this school. She is at the heart of real change. Those of us helping to bring her vision to life are like activists for a special cause. In my opinion, we are helping to make the world a better, more authentic, more beautiful place.

Last Thursday, I spent the entire day engaged in the type work that makes me excited to get up each morning. It was more than a field trip…my co-worker (and good friend) called it an expedition and that’s just what it seemed like. It was definitely one of those memorable experiences that birthed so many new learning opportunities. I found this experience (as well as the context that led to it) so powerful that I thought I’d share about it.

As part of our school-wide research of migration, the middle school students at my school are researching the migration of sharks. A few months ago, they connected with a local scientist who was kind enough to mentor them. She sent them a relevant article to dissect, they wrote her essays detailing their thoughts on the article, and they engaged in a productive Skype session with her where they asked her many meaningful questions relevant to their research.

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She then connected them with a team of scientists who regularly go out to sea to tag sharks. The scientists were eager to help the children research further. They offered the children a great rate (only covering the cost of the boat) but it was still more than we’d ever collected for a field trip. We were worried that we might not come up with the funds in time. Through constant collaboration with our school family and a lot of hard work, the children fundraised over $700 to offset the cost of this special research expedition.

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Last week, we set off with the team of local scientists to study sharks. I spent much of the trip in awe of this opportunity. I watched as the children engaged in meaningful conversations with community members. I watched as the children worked together (and worked really hard) to bait and set out lines tied to 50 pound weights. I watched them anticipate the sharks they might encounter. I watched as they pulled in what seemed like about 20 lines. Many of the times they pulled in empty hooks but they did not falter. I mean, an empty hook is just as important to their research as pulling in a shark.  So many empty hooks signify how difficult it is to pull in a shark. It means that scientists must be resilient, determined, and optimistic. Throughout the course of the day they did pull in three sharks. The joy in their faces proved that hard work pays off. Eagerly, the children worked with the scientists to measure, tag, and collect samples of each shark. Data that is invaluable as it will help shape what we understand about sharks in the future. We all knew that this was a very special day. It was an authentic day filled with joy and discovery. A day we will never forget.

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