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Archive for the ‘Environment and Ecology’ Category

September 11, 2015Butterfly bushes hang limp in the breeze. Dead grass crunches when walked upon. It’s obvious that the drought conditions in California have wreaked havoc in my yard. The only things flourishing in it right now are the spiders. In lieu of masses of pretty white flowers, I now have a generous sprinkling of white spider webs. With its areas of tight gossamer weave and its immense size, this spider web is a masterpiece – a different type of gift from Mother Nature.

#1 – Bioinspiration
Strongest Natural Material Spider webs have long been considered to be the strongest organic material, but now a challenger has arrived on the scene – limpet teeth. Researchers from the University of Portsmouth have found that the material in tiny limpet teeth “contain a hard mineral known as goethite, which forms in the limpet as it grows.” Engineers will try to mimic the structure and find practical applications for it. The article Scientists Find Strongest Natural Material describes bioinspiration as “Finding out about effective designs in nature and then making structures based on these designs.”

#2 – Glamorous Decorations
20 Glam Halloween Ideas If you don’t have fancy spider webs like mine, you can make your own decorative ones in time for Halloween. Check out these 20 Ideas for Glam Halloween decorations.

#3 – Words of Wisdom
Words of Wisdom from Author Kurt Vonnegut Eight years ago, some students in a high school class wrote letters to their favorite authors. Only one author replied. To see which author took the time to respond to them and to read the inspirational words he shared, click on the photo to enlarge it.

#4 – Tips for Life and for Traveling
99 Travel and Life Tips Having traveled around the world for the last nine years, Sherry of Otts World offers a plethora of great life and travel tips in her blog post 99 Best Life and Travel Tips.

#5 – Bound Together
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” Chief Seattle

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September 4, 2015 EditionSucculents don’t suck. They just suffer from a lack of appreciation. However, all that is changing. With drought conditions existing in the United States, versatile succulents are rising in popularity. Sporting a wide range of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes, succulents add striking beauty to gardens. In an effort to cut back on water usage, I replaced almost all of my potted plants with succulents and I am so happy that I did. Succulents also produce spectacular flowers, like the trumpet-shaped one above that graces my front porch.

#1 – Crayon Initiative
Saving Crayons: Crayon Initiative While celebrating his birthday at a restaurant, Brian Ware learned that the crayons given to his children to occupy themselves were discarded after use. This led to the formation of the Crayon Initiative. Mr. Ware collects used crayons from schools and restaurants, melts them down, remolds them, and distributes them to hospitals throughout California for young patients to use. Says Mr. Ware, “If these crayons give them an escape from that hospital room for ten minutes, we did our job.”

#2 – Where Magic Happens
Visiting Illustrators' Studios A while back, when I chaired Author Day programs for my children’s schools, my family had the privilege of visiting the studio of Ruth Heller, children’s book author and illustrator. That is where magic happened, where her books came to life. Photographer Jake Green visited the studios of well-known illustrators of children’s books. Here’s a peek at some of his notes and photos from his visits in Where Magic Happens: Children’s Illustrators Open Up Their Studios.

#3 – Who’s the Cutest?
Who's the Cutest? Zoologists and animal experts from around the world took to Twitter to compete in a “cute-off” to determine which animals are scientifically the cutest. To see photos of some of the entrants, check out Scientists On Twitter Agree: These Are The Cutest Animals That Exist .

#4 – Propagating Succulents
Propagating Succulents Whether you plant succulents in the ground or in pots, you will need to keep them in shape. Many varieties can get “leggy” and need to be pruned back. Almost every part of a succulent can be used in propagation, so why not propagate while pruning? Needles + Leaves has an great tutorial on Propagating Succulents. You’ll be amazed at how easy the process is and how many plants you can get from one “mother” plant.

#5 – To Plant a Garden
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”
Audrey Hepburn

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August 7, 2015 Edition It had to be “UKE;” it had to be “UKE.”
I wandered around and finally found the somebody who
Could make me be true, could make be blue,
And even be glad, just to be sad, thinking of you . . .

Because two colorful ukuleles arrived the day of my 38th wedding anniversary, I took a little liberty with the lyrics from the song “It Had to Be You.” For my husband and me, the thrill of being married hasn’t worn off, nor has the fun of playing ukuleles. Despite being novice ukulele players, we enjoy the time we spend together strumming and singing, so much that we recently purchased a pair of waterproof soprano-sized ones. Beach, lake, swimming pool, rainforest, or shower – there’s no stopping us now! My kids should be scared.

#1 – Make It and Play It
DIY Musical Instruments Whenever I take my ukulele out of its case, my baby granddaughter becomes very excited. Although, I look forward to making some of these musical instruments with her, I question why kids are the only ones allowed to be silly and wildly creative? Last week some of my friends and I discussed the idea of letting loose and holding adult creative play-days. Check out 42 Splendidly Creative Homemade Musical Instruments and feel your inner child come to the surface.

#2 – Tree Houses
Houses Built Around Trees This series of photographs depicts ways in which buildings were designed around existing trees. How I would love to relax and strum in some of these homes!

#3 – Proverbs
Inspiring African Proverbs Wise proverbs and bold graphics make these 11 Inspiring African Proverbs standout.

#4 – 100 Ways to Get to 100
100 Wonderful Ways to Live to 100 Whether you’re on the younger or older side of life, there is no time like the present to start incorporating some of the 100 Wonderful Ways to Live to 100 into your life. Most likely, you can already check off many of them, but there is always the possibility to do more. By the way, ukulele playing falls under number 86 – “Find the healthy hobbies that make you light up.”

#5 – The Food of Love
“If music be the food of love, play on.”
William Shakespeare

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July 17, 2015 Edition Under silhouettes of tree canopies and a summer sky sprinkled with shooting stars, I swim laps in the dark tranquil water of my pool. My strokes, while unrefined, transport me back and forth, during what I call my hour of peace. House lights, patio lights, and even pool lights are flicked off. Only the stars, the moon, and surrounding ambient light illuminate my way. But for the faint strains of favorite music playing in the background, the quiet rippling of water soothes the tension of busy days. Every night while I float serenely on my back and admire the view above, I thank my lucky stars for having lived another day.

#1 – Stargazing
Star Gazing Calendar Decades ago, when I moved into my current home and when ambient light from auto malls, shopping centers, and the like did not exist, my husband, my children, and I would take advantage of our steep driveway and place sleeping bags on it to stargaze. Our driveway became our amphitheater to the sky. If you enjoy stargazing, don’t miss out on exciting upcoming celestial events. Here are 3 sites that will keep you informed.¬†For a quick preview, click on the photo above to learn about events in July and August:

Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events
Skywatching in 2015: 9 Must-See Stargazing Events
Weekly Stargazing Tips

#2 – Wet Workouts
Although swimming under the stars is one of my favorite things to do, I also use my swimming pool to get additional exercise. Below are two great videos that show a variety of exercises you can do in a pool.
Calorie-Burning Pool Moves:

Tighten Your Abs in the Pool:

#3 – Playing With Food
Carl Warner's Incredible Foodscapes What if the water in your swimming pool were really blue jello and the trees providing you that lovely little bit of shade were made of parsley and ginger root? Carl Warner, a London-based photographer creates incredible landscapes using food. In his world, loaves of bread create mountains, celery stalks form a verdant forest, and romanesco becomes undersea coral. The ingredients in these detailed “foodscapes” don’t go to waste either. He or his crew take the food home and eat it or they donate it to a homeless shelter.

#4 – Naturally-Flavored Water
10 Natural Flavored Waters Why drink plain water when you can sip refreshing naturally-flavored water? Check out the tantalizing combinations in 10 Natural Flavored Water Recipes.

#5 – Lose to Find
Swimming Inspiration

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July 3, 2015 Edition Baby Charlotte is going swimming. Fun in the sun and water involves planning and responsibility. Gone are the days when we could just grab a towel and go. Experience provides us with the “why and when” and technology provides us with the “what and how.” Swimsuit? Check. Hat? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Rash guard? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Reusable swim diaper? Absolutely! Enjoy cooling off at the pool, lake, river, or ocean, but be responsible for yourself and the Earth.

#1 – How Long Until It’s Gone?
How Long Until It's Gone The pollution of our precious water goes on and on. Take a look at the infographic (click on the image above to enlarge it to a readable size) and see how long it takes certain objects to decompose in water. The lifespan of some of the items may shock you. The next time you take a cruise or relax at a beach or on a boat, please think twice about leaving garbage in the water.

#2 – Water Wall
DIY Water Wall During the drought here in California, it’s hard to condone any of the usual ways that kids play with water to cool off in the summer. Building a water wall is a clever way that allows children to play with water, while recycling it.

#3 – Plastic Free July
Plastic Free July I have a friend who reuses plastic takeout boxes. She carries them in her car for when the need arises. When she dines out, she just carries one in a bag into the restaurant. What a brilliant way to cut down on plastic garbage and help planet Earth. It’s the collective impact of all the little things we do that counts. On that note, can you rise to the challenge of refusing to use a single-use plastic item during the month of July? The website for the movement Plastic Free July states that its goal is “to raise awareness of the amount of single-use disposable plastic in our lives and challenges people to do something about it. You can sign up for a day, a week or the whole month and try to refuse ALL single-use plastic or try the TOP 4: plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws.”

#4 – Earth, the Water Planet
Watching this brief video will make you feel gratitude and respect for the gift of water on our beautiful planet.

#5 – Without Love and Water
“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”
W. H. Auden

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June 19, 2015 Edition The journey my dad took as a young boy from China to the United States amazes me every time I think about it. Consider his story of leaving his mother and walking barefoot to a neighboring village to catch a junk, of sailing down a pirate-infested river, of staying alone in Hong Kong while waiting to catch a steamer ship that would take him one step closer to his father, and of enduring the prison-like internment at Angel Island. I often wonder if I would have had the courage to do what he did. The experiences of leaving his mother and of the traumatic journey are forever etched in his soul. They influence him everyday of his life. They molded him into a determined, hard-working man of integrity and, more importantly, a loving husband, father, brother, and loyal friend. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

#1 – Sacrifices
I cried while watching this video, because I could relate to the sacrifices identified. They are similar, if not identical, to the ones my parents and my grandparents made in order for their children’s lives to be better than their own. We should remember and be grateful everyday for all the sacrifices made for us, and not just on Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Veteran’s Day, or Memorial Day.

#2 – Camping Out In Style
Amazing Camping Trailer Because my parents worked just about everyday of the week, camping didn’t fit into our family’s schedule. That’s not to say we didn’t own camping supplies or enjoy the great outdoors. If we had a camper like the one in When Their Trailer Transforms Into a House . . . , camping out might have been more of a priority!

#3 – Two Kinds of People
Clever Illustrations Reveal the Two Kinds of People There Are in the World I laughed when I viewed the article, Clever Illustrations Reveal the Two Kinds of People There Are in the World, because it reminded me of some of the differences between me and my husband. He sets multiple annoying alarms on his digital watch and he bends back pages in books to mark his place. I, on the other hand, rarely set an alarm (because his alarms wake me up), wear a traditional dial watch, and would never dream of defacing a book. What kind of person are you?

#4 – Ways to Repurpose Bottles!
23 Ways to Repurpose Plastic Bottles I grew up in my parents’ grocery store. Literally. My sister and I played hide and seek in the warehouse, scaling tall stacks of cardboard boxes. We also helped sort coupons and soda pop bottles, while our parents worked. Back in the day, soda pop bottles were made of glass. These days, as we all know, most are made of plastic, a substance with which the world has a love-hate relationship. In an effort to find ways to repurpose plastic bottles, here are 23 Insanely Creative Ways to Recycle Plastic Bottles Into DIY Projects.

#5 – Five for Fathers
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”
Jim Valvano

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
Clarence Budington Kelland

“I decided in my life that I would do nothing that did not reflect positively on my father’s life.”
Sidney Poitier

“In our house, Mother’s Day is every day. Father’s Day, too. In our house, parents count. They do important work and that work matters. One day just doesn’t cut for us.”
Margaret Heffernan

“Son, brother, father, lover, friend. There is room in the heart for all the affections, as there is room in heaven for all the stars.”
Victor Hugo

Happy Father’s Day to all the deserving fathers out there!

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May 22, 2015 EditionEven though she can’t walk yet, my granddaughter Charlotte loves to play fetch with me. You know the game – baby throws objects from the high chair and you fetch them. After bending over for the umpteenth time, I looked up to see Charlotte grinning at me with a bit of cracker stuck between her eyes. In that moment, as I watched her search her tray for the missing piece of cracker, I realized more than ever that I want to live to be a ripe old age. Then Charlotte and I can share as many silly moments together as possible.

#1 – If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again
Whether you’re raising young children now or have grown-up children, you might relate to the sentiment expressed in this poem by Diana Loomans: "If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again"

#2 – Child’s Play For Adults
33 Ways to Be Childlike Today Why should kids have all the fun? Read 33 Ways to Be Childlike Today and select a few things from the list to do. Reread one of your favorite childhood books, jump rope, be creative, sit cross-legged, or make a spontaneous playdate with friends. Sound like fun?

#3 – New Life For Toys
Upcycling Toys The author of 21 Ideas for Upcycling Kid’s Toys places the blame for massive toy accumulation on grandparents. Hardly a true statement, but toy accumulation can be a problem in many households. The article presents clever ways to transform toys into objects with new uses. If upcycling doesn’t appeal to you, check out Eco-Friendly Disposal of Kids’ Toys and Electronics for helpful suggestions.

#4 – Kids’ Play Around the Globe
30 Amazing Photos of Kids Playing Around the World The magic of child’s play is captured in the collection of 30 Amazing Photos of Kids Playing Around the Globe.

#5 – Connecting the Dots
“Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation.”
Lois Wyse

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