Hot Off the Press

Be Careful What You Wish For- You Just Might Get It

“Free mulch! Delivered.” 

Bright and shiny, this Facebook advertisement caught my eye. All I had to do was sign up to be on a list and a friendly arborist would drop a neat pile of mulch in my driveway. The form warned that there might be some leaves in the batch. Not a big deal. What were a couple of leaves when you could mulch your beds for free? I clicked “submit” and sat back, waiting for a pick-up truck of mulch to appear in my drive. 

See that lovely little pile of mulch in the picture? That would look lovely in my flowerbeds. Last spring, it took several trips to and from Ace Hardware with my van packed full of bagged mulch to get the job done. Not only would this drop-off service save me trips, but it would also save me money. Win, win!  Weeks passed.

In the busy rush of life and raising children, I forgot about mulch and trucks and replenishing my flower beds.
Until one night, there was a knock on the door.

A thin man stood before us, face dirtied from hard work and deeply tanned…

NE Florida's Secret Garden: Live Oak, Roses, and George Washington's Relatives?

Did you know that George Washington's descendents lived in NE Florida not so terribly long ago?

The kids and I took advantage of a respite in the rainy weather to hike a new trail. Hiking with kids is an amazing way to build an appreciation for nature. Not to mention we were all stir-crazy mad and in need of exercise after so much rain.  We packed a picnic basket full of lunch, some trail snacks, sunscreen, water, a map, and lots of bug spray and hit the road for a new-to-us trail about an hour south.

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Intercoastal Waterway in Palm Coast, Florida, south of St. Augustine. I've seen friends posting incredible pictures from this part recently and had to check it out.

What we found was so much more than just another nature trail. Driving by on the highway, one has no idea such an intricate garden even exists and its essence is nearly  as fascinating as its storied past. The highest point in the garden, th…

Mamas, Let's Be Intentional This Summer

It is so easy to get caught up in the moment.

Parenting is hard. It's nitty gritty. It's exhausting.

Even once we exit the trenches of baby-and-toddlerdom, it's still rough. The challenges change, but there are hurdles to surmount nonetheless.

It's so easy to get caught up in the moment.

Adulting is hard. Work, marriage, running a household, paying bills on time, meeting expectations and deadlines... it's enough to make one wish they were a bear and it was winter and hibernation were in order.

But seriously.

Life is hard.

Sometimes, we trudge through life the best we can.

Sometimes we use autopilot. We feed our kids, clean our homes (perhaps), and manage to not strangle our spouse.

Yet life was not meant to be merely survived.

We were made to thrive.

When we are intentional about parenting, for example, we pour ourselves into raising our kids. We set goals. What specific things do you want to accomplish with your children this summer? Do you want to read the Chron…

Eating Around the World-- Adventures in Foraging and Wild Edibles in NE Florida

If you were to become lost in the woods, would you know enough about the local flora to live off the land until you were found?

Do you know which plants are edible and which are poisonous where you live?

Do you have what it takes to survive?

While I have no plans to forage for survival any time soon, the back-to-the-earth food movement fascinates me and I was excited to learn more about foraging and Florida's wild edibles with St. Johns County Naturalist AyoLane Halusky.  The kids and I started our school day with an introductory wild edibles class at Alpine Groves Park along the St. Johns River in NE Florida.

One doesn't have to trek far into the mountains to forage for food. There are wild edibles all around us.  One must consider pesticides and pollutants before popping a leaf into their mouth though. Our friendly naturalist guide recommended being extremely cautious: "When I find a plant, I look it up in a book, then locate it in another book. Then, ask a naturalist.…

Try New Things: Adventures in Mushroom Gardening

Mushrooms are rather terrifying. I love them in my salad. Grilled, sauteed, fresh, they're nutritious and delicious. They are also fairly interesting to spot and try to identify in the wilderness. Yet eating the wrong mushroom can kill you and there are so many lookalikes in the mushroom kingdom that it it can be frightfully difficult to distinguish between a safe fungi and its poisonous or hallucinogenic counterpart.

Yet I've also read a lot lately about farmers successfully growing and harvesting their own mushrooms. There's a whole world out there I know little about: mycology.  Interesting blogs and Twitter feeds led to books and fascinating groups. There are entire associations devoted to mushrooms. Some people live and breathe mushrooms. I'm on the other end of the spectrum: I have a tiny knowledge  of mushrooms and a spark of curiosity. This led me to want to know more.

An interesting Facebook event populated my newsfeed. One of my favorite local farms, Eat Your…

Review: The Kind of Parent You Are-- Becoming Your Best Person So Your Children Can Become Their Best Adults

"Knowing who you are and backing it up with behaviors allows you to approach things with purpose. It lets you put more into life. And it allow you to get more out of life-- more enrichment, more satisfaction, and more fulfillment," writes Brian Vondruska in his new parenting guide, The Kind of Parent You Are-- Becoming Your Best Person So Your Children Can Become Their Best Adults. Coming out in late June 2018 from Aurora Park Publishing, this parenting guide has a lot to offer hopeful, expectant, new, and veteran parents alike.

I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this ebook from City Book Review and thoroughly enjoyed swiping through the pages. My official review will publish in the July 2018 issue of San Francisco Book Review.  Here, I'll give a basic overview of the book and share in detail what I loved.

The Kind of Parent You Are is unique from other parenting guides on the market because it focuses on the intentional improvement of both the parent and the chi…

Nature Makes Me a Better Parent-- Discovering the Art and Science of Forest Bathing

It's 8 am and the kids have already been bickering for an hour.

Tears have been shed.

Threats have been made.

Sound familiar? Surely mine is not the only household in which its youngest citizens insist on turning the institution into a circus on a daily basis?

Some days it's hard to keep my cool.

Nature provides the perfect opportunity to escape and compose myself.

I bring the kids. It doesn't have to be far from home. In fact, the closer and easier the better some days. There's a sweet trail along the river not far from our house. When WWIII is about to break loose or I feel my last threat of patience about to snap, I load the kids and dogs into our mini van and head to a trail. With some comfortable shoes, sun screen, bug spray, and water bottles, we're ready for an adventure.

It's not always peaceful. The fighting continues sometimes. I've been known to tell the kids (frequently) that I want to hear the sounds of nature, not their voices.

Some exercise …