The Flowers and Birds of Hawaii

These islands are filled with flowers and flapping with fowl!

Wherever I go, I tend to pay close attention to the flowers and birds in the area. The differences from one climate to another fascinate me. I also believe that these things are the canaries in the coal mine of planetary health. If you go somewhere devoid of birds and flowers, you may want to leave that place yourself, and quickly. Just sayin’.

Recently, Dear Husband and I had the opportunity to visit Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii. As one might predict, these islands are filled with flowers and flapping with fowl. I was therefore sad to hear that, according to Wikipedia, “Hawaiʻi has more endangered species and has lost a higher percentage of its endemic species than any other U.S. state.”

I can only imagine what Hawaii was like before that distressing information became a fact. Still, what I saw during my visit looked so lush and vibrant that I was reveling in the life all around me. Everything, to me, looked so healthy and clean and right.

Even while on vacation, you are never far from my thoughts, dear readers. So I tried to take pictures of every flower and bird I saw during my visit. (Okay, I snuck in some bromiliads and crotons, too. So sue me.) I hope you enjoy the photos below!

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Celebrate Spring!

Join us as we wander amongst the cherry blossoms.

Many cultures, countries, and communities have traditions and/or festivals to celebrate Spring. This makes perfect sense because it can be hard to survive Winter, the harshest season of them all. If you do, that’s reason to celebrate.

Granted, winters are no longer a life and death proposition for most of us, as they were for many of our rural farming forefathers, but I think it’s in our very genes to get restless and excited when the world starts to feel warmer and less dreary. Whether you bother to call it Spring Fever or not, there’s just this feeling of change that is hard to ignore. Flowers are blooming and many of our animal neighbors are reproducing. Yay!

The 40 years I lived in Florida, I dearly missed Spring and Autumn. They don’t really exist there, and it felt to me as if something were missing. You get a very different sense of the passage of time when you don’t have seasons. The years can seem like an endless plod through unrelenting heat in Florida, whereas in more seasonal climes, the years are broken up into bite-sized pieces, and therefore seem to go by much more quickly.

I have a theory that the harsher your Winter, the more you welcome Spring. I know that Seattle Winters are relatively mild, if you compare them to Fargo, North Dakota for example, but they still come as a bit of a shock to me. Yes, we usually only get a few days of snow, but the amount of daylight is reduced by a startling degree, and even when it’s broad daylight, we can go weeks on end being socked in by grey clouds and cold weather. Meh.

So when that vernal equinox rolls around, I’m ready to get out there and welcome Spring in all its glory. This year, Dear Husband and I observed an annual tradition that we came up with 4 years ago. We visited the Quad of the University of Washington here in Seattle, to wander amongst the cherry blossoms and bask in their beauty.

Even in years when the weather has been kind of crappy, we still observed this tradition because there’s just some strange level of peace and contentment that seems to settle upon us when we commune with those gorgeous trees. There’s nothing quite like it. If you could distill Spring and then pour it out of a bottle at will, it would immediately reconstitute itself in the form of these cherry trees, no doubt about it.

We are rarely alone on the Quad during blossom season. In fact, it’s often quite crowded. If the weather is nice, people bring picnic baskets. They also bring their dogs. This year one young lady even brought her pet rabbit on a leash. Despite the crowds, people are usually talking in hushed tones, and even the dogs know not to bark (usually). The pervading feeling is awe. There’s a certain humility that settles over my soul when I contemplate the fact that nature can create so much beauty and I could never even come close to doing something this majestic myself. What a gift.

So I’ll leave you with some of the pictures we took a few days ago. And if you can’t visit the campus yourself, you can at least check out the live Quad and Cherry Blossom Cam. Enjoy!

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

Lake Wilderness Arboretum

This arboretum is lovingly cared for and well worth a visit!

Recently I wrote a post called Story Walk, about a fun feature in the Lake Wilderness Arboretum here in Washington that lets you read a story while walking in the woods. I was so delighted about this idea that I had to post it first. But the Arboretum itself is so amazing that I decided it also needed a post all its own.

This arboretum was a civic dream in the 1960’s, and after King County donated land that used to belong to a resort, it came into being in the 1970’s. It now belongs to the city of Maple Valley. It’s free to the public daily, from dawn to dusk.

Its 40 acres is divided up into a Rock Garden, a Children’s Discovery Forest, a Legacy Garden, a Perennial Garden, the Smith-Mossman Garden, The Tribal Life Trail, the Woodland Garden, and a Nursery.

Naturally, it is full of amazing flowers and plants, but as you explore, you’ll come across many other features. There’s the Story Walk, of course, but also you’ll find two little free libraries, which thrilled me, as well as a pergola, a pond, a gazebo, a flagstone patio, a play house, and two totem poles.

This isn’t the largest arboretum I’ve ever visited by any stretch of the imagination, but it is quite obviously lovingly cared for. And it’s easy to wander right off the arboretum and into many forested paths to the north, a lovely park to the east and south which includes a lodge and borders a large lake suitable for swimming, a baseball field and tennis court to the south, and a disc golf course to the west.

Here are some of the photos we took on the day. Both of the forest ones were taken north of the arboretum. We hadn’t realized we had gotten lost at the time. But it was still beautiful. Enjoy!

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A Tsunami of Color: The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

A great way to herald the coming of spring!

I love it when I have a day off in April and can make it up north for the Skagit Valley Tulip Fest. Considering how bleak and grey the winters are here in the Pacific Northwest, this festival is a great way to herald the coming of spring. It’s not just a splash of color, it’s a veritable tsunami that goes on for miles and miles.

If you can gaze upon the hundreds of varieties of flowers, not just the tulips and daffodils, and not smile, you are the love child of the easter bunny and the grinch. Such a treat for the eyes is rare and precious and not to be dismissed.

If you are ever in the Western Washington area during the month of April, pack your sunscreen, hat and water, and make the effort to check it out. If you’re not, I’m giving you plenty of advance notice for future years. It’s worth the trip. Even the valley without flowers would be stunning, thanks to the gorgeous views of the mountains.

Having said that, I’ll leave you with photos that my husband and I took on this glorious visit. Enjoy!

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Mason Bee Rentals

What a nifty idea!

A friend of mine crowed on Facebook that she just received her mason bees in the mail. Naturally, I had to learn more. It turns out that you can rent them from They come to you in early spring with a bee house, a nesting block, 50-60 mason bee cocoons and a box with return postage for when you send them back in the fall. What a nifty idea!

Why mason bees? They pollinate your garden for you. They aren’t aggressive. (You really have to mess with a mason bee a lot to get stung because they’re naturally gentle creatures.) They’re super low maintenance, since you’re not dealing with honey. Just hang the box and let them do their thing. They’re also a great learning experience, and a great way to help the planet.

Why rent them? Well, each mason bee does the work of 100 honeybees. And at the end of the season, 50 mason bees can produce 500 eggs. When you send them back free of charge, the company will clean each cocoon and sterilize each nesting block to free them of predators and then safely keep them in hibernation under just the right conditions. The next season, they send these healthy bees to farmers, who need 1000 bees per acre to pollinate their crops, which, in turn, feed all of us.

What’s not to love about this program? If you’re interested, you better hurry, though, because they ship the last mason bees of the season on April 26th. So get your bee on!

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Who Needs Hearts and Flowers?

I have something much more substantial.

Another Valentine’s Day come and gone. I used to view this day as a painful reminder that everyone seemed to have love in their lives except me. Flowers everywhere. Chocolates. Cards. All the things. Ouch.

Now that I’m happily married, oddly enough I don’t feel the need for the hearts and flowers. I get flowers at random surprise times throughout the year, and I love that. And I really need to avoid the chocolate anyway.

No. My husband shows love in more profound ways. For example, on Valentine’s morning, a Sunday, no less, he got up at 5 am with me. He didn’t have to. But we were in the throes of a wicked snowstorm and he wanted to check the highway cameras to see if it was safe enough for this Florida girl to drive to work. We decided that it was, but if we hadn’t, he would have driven me the 25 miles to work at that ungodly hour, and he then would have come to pick me up at the end of my shift. No question about it.

Now that is love.

He also keeps us in firewood and actually enjoys mowing the lawn. He puts up with my cranky dachshund and they’re even good friends when Quagmire’s not bite-y. He does a lot more cooking than I do. He knows my shoe size. He built me my little free library. He goes to the YMCA with me to exercise 4 times a week. He reads my blog every single day. He goes with me to my optometrist’s appointments because he knows having stuff close to my eyeballs freaks me out. He sprays Benadryl on my back when it itches. He opens stubborn jars for me.

I could go on and on and on, but you get the picture.

The bottom line is that you can have your hearts and flowers. I’ve got something much more substantial and long lasting. He’s a keeper. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

Soos Creek Botanical Gardens, Auburn, Washington

I can imagine visiting this place again and again, and always seeing something new.

I’ve been passing by Soos Creek Botanical Gardens for a few years now. I’ve always longed to visit, but they are only open Wednesday through Saturday, and I’m too busy opening drawbridges for a living on every one of those days. But recently I had a Saturday off and decided to take advantage of the opportunity. I’m so glad I did. It’s even more spectacular than I had anticipated.

This is a long, narrow plot of land, so the front entrance always gave me the impression that this would be a small place, when in fact it covers 22 acres. And this was a fantastic time to visit, because the garden was a riot of color. The first flower that drew my attention was this one.


If anyone can please tell me what this flower is, I’d appreciate it, because I’d dearly love to add some to my garden. Its stunning, vibrant red just naturally makes me smile. There were very reasonably priced plants for sale near the parking lot, and I definitely looked for this flower, but no luck.

This garden has several different themes to it, including a rain garden and alder grove, a garden with over 100 rare perennials, a heritage flower garden, a raised bed fruit and vegetable garden that was planted to help the food bank, a pond surrounded by and filled with water loving plants, a long stretch of grass bordered by gorgeous blooms that I think would make for a perfect wedding venue, a cedar grove, a ravine garden, a wildflower prairie meadow, and a native woodland.

I can imagine visiting this place again and again, and always seeing something new. I also hope to have the opportunity to visit during different times of the year as well as during healthier times, because currently the indoor features were closed due to the pandemic. In particular, I’d love to visit the Soos Creek Heritage Center to learn about the history of this area, and about the settlers who established the farming community in the 70 square mile Soos Creek Plateau. They’ve also had to cancel their regular educational programs and other activities that are usually held in the red barn, And the Elizabeth Fenzl Garden room looks like it would be a beautiful place to sit and contemplate the beauty of this place.

Aside from the size of this whole facility, another thing that took me by surprise was the artwork scattered here and there. It added a hint of whimsy to the place. And the front gate looks like woven tree limbs, but is actually made of metal. And I wasn’t expecting the animals. The aviary was full of doves, cockatiels, parakeets and peacocks. And there were horses and cows grazing contentedly on pastures to the side. These creatures added another dimension to this beautiful pace. So, yeah, I’ll definitely be back.

Here are some of the many pictures that we took on our visit. Enjoy!

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Skagit Valley Tulip Festival 3.0

This year, I’ll have had the distinct pleasure of experiencing Pacific Northwest springs for 4 years in a row. After the dreariness of winter, it’s such a delightful gift. To celebrate it, I’ve gone to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival for 3 out of the 4 springs. Each experience was unique.

The first year I blogged about the area in detail. I went alone. Because of that it was bittersweet, but it gave me the chance to really focus in on the surroundings. I still had a lovely time.

On year two, I went with a dear friend, and had even more fun. She is an amazing photographer, so the experience was even more of a visual treat. And we had a great lunch afterward.

This year, I went with my boyfriend, and we visited Tulip Town. It was absolutely stunning and romantic and a pure delight. I can’t imagine a better way to revel in the pure joy of spring!

Each festival experience was different. Each was wonderful. I’ll be going back again and again, without a doubt.

Without further ado, here are some of the pictures that we took on that glorious sunny day this time around. Enjoy!

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Please Don’t Flaunt Your Flowers

So, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Hurray for love! I hope you appreciate it every day of the year. Love really is all that matters in this world, and the romantic kind is beyond compare.

Having said that, I hope you will be a bit sensitive to those of us who don’t have it in our lives. Some of us look to Valentine’s Day with a certain level of dread and resignation. It’s particularly painful for those of us who have lost loved ones. And it can be downright depressing for those of us who have given up all hope of finding someone to love. (I know you’ll be tempted to say, “You’ll find someone!” in the comments section. But the odds are equally good that I won’t. Please allow me to reside in the real world.)

For those of us in the lonely hearts’ club, your big bouquet of flowers, delivered to the office with a great deal of fanfare, is disheartening. Your chocolate makes us lose our appetite. We are happy for you, yes, but it would be nice to be able to be happy for ourselves.

And please understand that for the lovelorn, the day after Valentines is viewed simply as a great opportunity to buy chocolate on sale. We don’t rush to work in eager anticipation of hearing about your romantic dinner at the fancy restaurant, or your bed strewn with rose petals. We’re just happy to have survived the day once again.

So please, enjoy your flowers. But could you take them home now? Thanks.


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There Goes the Neighborhood

I’ve been house hunting, and I can tell, almost immediately, if I’d be a good fit for a neighborhood. If there are wide expanses of manicured lawns, I definitely will not fit in. And I would chafe under rules that dictated what color I paint my mailbox. I’m not a “keep up appearances” kind of person, if I can possibly avoid it. I prefer a yard that’s pretty much au naturel, and my tastes can be unorthodox.

I love dandelions, because the bees love them. I don’t know why people object to moss or dollar weed. I mean, it’s green and it’s flat, right? What’s the big deal? Lawns were a French affectation that unfortunately caught on, and have been a nightmare for the environment ever since. I will not, absolutely will NOT fertilize my lawn. That crap gets into the watershed, and it’s one of the reasons that the river in Jacksonville gets choked with green slime every summer.

I like to plant flowers that will attract butterflies and bees and hummingbirds. I love to grow heirloom tomatoes, although I’m not great at it. I dream of having a bat house in my back yard. I think squirrels have as much right to food as any other creature. Possums keep the tick population under control. And if I feel like paining my house hot pink, I’ll do so (although it’s unlikely).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to leave junk cars up on cinder blocks in the yard, or moldy couches that fill with mice and stink after a good rain. I’m not going to plant flowers in an abandoned toilet or cook meth (I hate to cook). But if you can’t handle a neighbor’s yard that suffers from benign neglect, or a neighbor who has an interesting concept of art, then we’re going to have issues.

Having said that, I am quiet, I don’t cause trouble, and the police have never been called to my door. I want to steal an idea from a friend and call my next home “Tranquility Base”. I’ll even hold onto your mail while you’re on vacation if you ask, call 911 if I see someone peeping in your windows, and help you look for your dog if he runs away. So I’d like to think I’m a good neighbor to have. I am house hunting in the Seattle area, so if you are looking to sell, please, please contact me first. More details here.

Urchfont Manor
Urchfont Manor. It’s safe to say I do not live here.

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