Tag Archive for: azplantlady family

hidden garden in Encanto district in downtown Phoenix

Exploring the Charm of a Hidden Garden

Unearthing Beauty in the Encanto District

Have you ever discovered a hidden garden in a surprising place?

A few years ago, I found myself driving through the historic neighborhoods of the Encanto district in downtown Phoenix. I had finished up a landscape consultation in the area and decided to drive through the nearby neighborhoods in the historic district.  

A Blooming Hidden Garden Oasis Amidst Urban Skyscrapers

My initial goal was to see if I could find the home my grandparents owned in the 1940’s. While I didn’t find the home, I did find a house that stopped me in my tracks.

hell strip planting

What first drew my eye was this parking strip (also known as a ‘hell strip’) between the sidewalk and street, filled with a bounty of flowering annuals and perennials.

A Kaleidoscope of Colors

The dazzling hues of California poppies, red flax, and plains coreopsis captivated my senses. Against the backdrop of the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, I marveled at the unexpected beauty thriving in the heart of downtown Phoenix.

And so, I whipped out my phone and started to take pictures. The bright colors of California poppies, red flax, and plains coreopsis caught my eye, while in the background I noticed the old, Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum where the Arizona State Fair is held every fall.

Thundercloud' sage and red yucca. Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

As I made my way up the planting bed, I saw more colorful, annual flowers. They are intermixed with globe mallow, ‘Thundercloud’ sage and red yucca.

hell strip plantings in the Middle of Phoenix

One flower that I did not expect to see in the desert garden, not to mention downtown Phoenix, was larkspur with its deep purple spikes.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

Multi-colored bachelor’s button flowers grew among scarlet flax and plains coreopsis.

A Backyard Hidden Garden Wonderland

Intrigued by the front garden, I met James, the homeowner’s son, who shared the garden’s transformation story. He sowed wildflower seeds in the parking strip, watched them flourish, and then graciously revealed the backyard’s hidden wonders.

Last fall, James took three packs of wildflower seeds (multiple varieties) and threw them on the bare parking strip. Afterward he added some compost on the top and watered well. Over the months, he has watched them come up and was thrilled at how the hell strip had been transformed.

He then offered to show me what he had done to the backyard – a real hidden garden. I could hardly wait to see it after seeing what he has done on the outside.

(A few of the photos are a bit blurry. I’m not sure what went wrong with my phone’s camera. You can still get a sense of the beauty in the backyard.)

Back yard garden in the Middle of Phoenix

Hollyhocks and Timeless Charm

The backyard features a divided lawn with enchanting hollyhocks that self-seed and bloom every spring. An old-fashioned patio set adds a touch of nostalgia. While a concrete pathway, artfully adorned with Bermuda grass, leads to the garage.

Hollyhocks in a southwest garden

I love hollyhocks and have grown them in the past. They self-seed and flower for me every spring.  All I give them is a little water – that’s all they need.

Hollyhocks in a southwest garden area

Floral Edges and Green Delights in this Hidden Garden

The patio’s edge bursts with the colors of blanket flowers, bachelor’s buttons, and yellow daisies. A 20-year-old crown-of-thorns plant defies its small container, flourishing under James’ care. Two Chinese elm trees provide dappled shade on sunny days, creating a tranquil oasis.

The small patio in the back of the house is filled with an old-fashioned table and chairs. They fit the age of the home perfectly!

The pathway separates the two lawn areas and leads to the garage in the back. It was created using concrete molded into geometric shapes.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

Bermuda grass is allowed to grow into the cracks for an interesting look.

blanket flower, bachelor's button, and yellow daisy (Euryops pectinatus) from hidden garden

The patio is edged with flowering annuals such as blanket flower, bachelor’s button, and yellow daisy (Euryops pectinatus).

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

In this blurry photo, a large crown-of-thorns plant was thriving in a tiny container. Believe it or not, it is 20 years old and thriving in a very small pot. According to James, he waters it twice a week in summer and weekly throughout the rest of the year.

Two Chinese elm trees Hidden Garden

Two Chinese elm trees provide dappled shade on a beautiful spring day.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

A small potting bench stands in front of the wooden fence painted a greenish-chartreuse color. This blends well with the garden.

A Symphony of Water and Shade

A fountain graces the grassy expanse, infusing the air with the soothing sound of flowing water. Imagine the relaxation of enjoying this outdoor haven, even in the height of summer.

How relaxing would it be to enjoy this outdoor space? Even in the middle of summer with all of its shade?

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

A Final Flourish of Wildflowers

Before bidding farewell to this hidden gem, James revealed the wildflowers he’d planted near the detached garage. Bright pinks and vibrant oranges reminiscent of the ’70s adorned the scene. This is a testament to the beauty that emerges from even old seeds.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix
Bright pink and vibrant orange flowers from hidden garden

Bright pink and vibrant orange – doesn’t that remind you of the 70’s?

Tall poppies from hidden garden

These tall poppies were planted from 3-year-old seed that James was going to throw out. I’m certainly glad that he decided to plant them instead.

While old seed won’t germinate as well as young seed, you’ll often still get some seeds to sprout – just not as many.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

Discovering Life’s Unexpected Treasures

Life is full of delightful surprises, and this hidden garden is a testament to that. Though modest in size, it’s a testament to the power of careful tending. This garden has unexpected beauty that can spring forth from a seed, even in the most unlikely of places.

Keeping America (and Phoenix) Beautiful

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

Family Olympic Celebration

Are you one of those people who obsessively watches the Olympics?

I am.  Every two years, I find myself rearranging my schedule and converting our kitchen island into my makeshift office so that I can watch the Olympics.

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

You would think that my love affair with the Olympics would mean that I am somewhat athletic myself.  Well, other than playing on a softball team when I was 12-years-old, my athletic prowess is rather lackluster.

But, that hasn’t stopped my armchair athleticism from coming out whenever the Olympics comes around.  My passion for the Olympics comes from my mom, who would have my siblings and I watch it when we were kids.  Today, she has made sure that we celebrate it as adults by holding our version of the games.

Summer Olympics 2012

Summer Olympics 2012

For our last Summer Olympics, we were each assigned to one of four teams: China, France, Great Britain, and the USA.  

This year, we went with the same teams, mostly because we had all the stuff left over from the last time.  

Instead of team shirts this year, people looked for other ways to show their team affiliation.    



French team captain

French team captain

Team China (note the Top Ramen noodles and chopsticks in the hair)

Team China (note the Top Ramen noodles and chopsticks in the hair).

My sister decided that she would try ‘cupping’ like Michael Phelps to help her muscles recover faster after each event (not really).

My daughter, Gracie, decided to wear her medal that she won in the Special Olympics earlier this year.

Team Great Britain

Team Great Britain

As you can see, there was no shortage of fun ways to display our assigned country’s pride.

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

Last time, I was on Team China.  But this year, I was asked to be an Olympic official, judge, and scorekeeper while my mother ran each event.

My grandson, Eric, was our sole official Olympic observer, because, what’s an Olympics without people to watch?


We began with the Parade of Nations and then gathered for a group photo.

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

So why were we all gathered today on this hot, summer’s day?

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

For a chance to win one of these medals.

Let the games begin!

Team Captain's Challenge

The first event was the ‘Team Captain’s Challenge’, which involved walking as fast as you could holding a mandarin orange on a spoon in your mouth.

I’m telling you; we are very serious about the complexity of our games – ha!

High Jump
High Jump

Next, it was time for the ‘High Jump’, which was a kid only event and tested who could jump the farthest off of a step ladder.

Finger Flingers

Back outside and it was time for ‘Finger Flingers’, which were rubber chickens that you shot off your finger – I think that was the kid’s favorite game.

neighborhood police officer

While competing, we attracted the attention of our friendly, neighborhood police officer.

balls into water buckets
balls into water buckets

The ‘Diving’ event involved throwing foam balls into water buckets.

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

For some parents, it was a particularly anxious time as they watched their children compete, much like a famous U.S. gymnast’s parents?


Indoors again and it was time for the last event, ‘Shooting’.

Using Nerf guns

Using Nerf guns, you had to hit one of three targets.

Using Nerf guns

As many found out, it was easier said than done.

official Olympic observer

Being an ‘official Olympic observer’ builds up your appetite!

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

After tabulating the scores, it was time to award the medals.  All were wondering who would win the most medals.

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

As you might expect, it was so exciting to see the culmination of years and years (hours) of hard work.

Winners of the 'Captain's Challenge.'

Winners of the ‘Captain’s Challenge.’

Winners of the 'Long Jump.'

Winners of the ‘Long Jump.’

'Finger Flinger's Winners

‘Finger Flinger’s Winners

The 'Diving' event victors

The ‘Diving’ event victors

vFinally, the winners of the 'Shooting' competition

Finally, the winners of the ‘Shooting’ competition

So, who won the most medals?

5-year-old nephew, Danny

My 5-year-old nephew, Danny, who could scarcely believe that it was him!


In the last Olympics, he wasn’t old enough to compete.  He has certainly come far in just four years.

We had so much fun that we have decided to hold a Winter Olympic event in two years.  We might expand the number of countries represented and come up with some new winter-themed games.

Do you watch the Olympics?  Have you ever held an Olympics event or party?  

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Summer Fun

“What did you do over the summer?”  It is a frequently asked question as kids get ready to head back to school.  

For some of you, this may be a bit early to ask this question, but my kids started school a couple of weeks ago, so I am in a sort of retrospective mood, looking back at our summer fun.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Much of our summer vacation was spent in Michigan.

Now, if you had told me a year ago that I would be headed to Michigan, the next summer, I’d ask you “Why?”

However, that was before my daughter, and her family moved from Arizona to Michigan, which I wrote about in an earlier post.

So, my husband and I found ourselves on an airplane along with our three youngest kids headed to Petoskey, Michigan, which is located “on the tip of the mitt” as Michiganders like to say.

This was to be our kids first trip to Michigan, and they were understandably excited.

Enjoying a tea party.

Enjoying a tea party.

Our trip was split into two parts: the first in my daughter’s rental house and the second part, in their new home.

'Welcome Summer' festival with the local high school's steel drum band

‘Welcome Summer’ festival with the local high school’s steel drum band.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip
Victorian homes line the streets in my daughter's neighborhood.

Victorian homes line the streets in my daughter’s neighborhood.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

While waiting for escrow to close on their new home, we spent time playing games, walking down to the historic downtown area, enjoying local festivals and of course, eating ice-cream at the local parlor.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip
Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

This is the type of small town, where life moves at a slower pace, and we enjoyed escaping the demands of our busy lives at home.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

I kept busy with my daughter’s lone basil plant, moving it into the sun and out of the shade throughout the days, as their rental house was shaded by a lot of trees.  The basil was to be planted in the new home’s garden.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Petoskey is located on Little Traverse Bay, which opens out into Lake Michigan.  It is a popular tourist destination throughout the summer months, and we had fun exploring our daughter’s new town.  

Because they lived on the shore, a few of our days were spent on the beach wading in the water and searching for ‘Petoskey’ stones.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

‘Petoskey stones,’ are found along the beaches in this area.  You’ll find them in gift shops throughout all of Michigan.  The stones contain the fossilized remains of ancient coral, who lived over 350 million years ago.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

So, we went on our own search for Petoskey stones.  

My son-in-law is the geology professor at the local college in the area and gave me some pointers on how to identify these unique stones from the others.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

You see, the fossilized coral isn’t obvious in unpolished rocks until they get wet.  So, we would look for some likely stones and then dip them into the lake to see what we had.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was to search for rocks and I even found a few small Petoskey stones of my own.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Along the shore of the lake were large lilac shrubs and their intoxicating fragrance perfumed the air.  

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

My daughter had some in her rental house, so we picked some and used them to decorate the dinner table.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Finally, moving day arrived, and not a moment too soon as a new baby was set to arrive five weeks later.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

While my daughter and I spent time checking out the inside of their new home, we were equally as excited to look at the outside.  

Bearded iris, peonies, and daisies were the primary plants in the landscape.

Bearded iris, peonies, and daisies were the primary plants in the landscape.

More daisies, bearded iris along with hydrangea and purple coneflower.

More daisies, bearded iris along with hydrangea and purple coneflower.

Part of the front yard.

Part of the front yard.

A weed-filled raised bed - home of the future vegetable garden.

A weed-filled raised bed – home of the future vegetable garden.

A fire pit, perfect for roasting s'mores

A fire pit, perfect for roasting s’mores.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

The view, off to the side of the backyard, looks out onto a farm and its planted fields.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Enormous maple trees mark the end of their property.  How big were they? That tiny spot of pink is my 4-year-old granddaughter.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Stepping into the woods, surrounding their backyard, you can see their white shed.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Lovely forget-me-nots are growing underneath the trees, all part of their property.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

It was so fun exploring their new surroundings.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Before moving day, we spent some time in the garden, pulling out unwanted plants and adding new ones, such as this lavender.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

The kids all helped.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

The one plant that my son-in-law wanted was an apple tree.  So, in went a ‘Red Delicious’ apple tree.  The kids all had a great time helping while learning about how to plant a tree.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip
Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

The soil around their house was extremely rocky.  A good-sized Petoskey stone was found on their property.  You can see the how different they look when wet.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

After a few days of hard work, moving my daughter and her family into their new house, we all decided to take a well-deserved day off and visit Mackinac Island, which is only a short distance away.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

I had visited this lovely place two years ago, but it was the first time for everyone else.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip
Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

I had told the kids that there are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island (except for a couple of emergency vehicles), but I don’t think it sunk in until we were greeted by views like these.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip
Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Exploring the history and beauty of the island took much of the day.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Smelling the lilacs.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

We just happened to arrive during the Lilac Festival and the lilacs lining the streets were in full bloom.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip
Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

A fairy garden in an old wagon.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

A pair of unique planters for succulents.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

The gardens in Mackinac Island are truly stunning.

Summer Fun: A New Garden, Hunting for Stones, and an Island Trip

Posing for a picture on the island with the Mackinac Bridge, connecting the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan.

Summer Fun: My son-in-law, the geologist, looking at rocks along the shore of the island.

Summer Fun: My son-in-law, the geologist, looking at rocks along the shore of the island.

Summer Fun: Mission Point Lighthouse

I love visiting this island, and it was so nice sharing it with my family.

As our trip to Michigan was drawing to a close, we visited Mission Point Lighthouse, just outside of Traverse City.

Summer Fun: stormy day

It was a brisk, stormy day, which simply made it more fun.

Summer Fun: climb to the top of the lighthouse

The kids climbed were able to climb to the top of the lighthouse, before heading to the beach.

As the last day of our vacation arrived, we asked the kids to choose what they wanted to do.

Summer Fun: beach and swim

It was unanimous – go to the beach and swim!

We had a fun-filled vacation, exploring a new area while spending time doing activities together as a family.  

**What did you do for summer fun this year?  

Do you have an easy time saying “goodbye” to a loved one?  Probably not.

As I sit and write this post this evening, I must confess that my mother’s heart hurts.  

We said “goodbye” this morning to our daughter, Rachele and her little baby, Eric.

back to California

back to California

Her car was all packed up and ready for her journey back to California.

We said our goodbyes just before we left for church. The day was cloudy with rain on the way. The dreary weather matched my mood.

back to California

Just 48 hours ago, Rachele and I (along with Eric) were enjoying a talent show put on by the kids in our church’s youth group.

It was a fundraiser for a future mission trip. The kids served a spaghetti dinner and entertained us all with their talent.

Gracie, played piano

My daughter, Gracie, played piano and did great, even though she was a little nervous.

My son, Kai, and daughter Ruthie

My son, Kai, and daughter Ruthie (hidden behind Kai), displayed their comedic talents. Or should I say, Kai showed how much ice cream he could eat. Ruthie while hidden behind Kai, served as his ‘hands’ as she prepared an ice cream sundae and then proceeded to feed him. Needless to say, not much ice cream made it into his mouth.

The silent auction afterward was fun and I even won a couple – Starbucks and a Diamondbacks baseball game.


24 hours ago, I was sitting with Eric, enjoying some of our last moments together.

He is almost 6 weeks old and I have been with him for everyday of his short life.

back to California.

From holding him minutes after his birth and changing his first diaper…

back to California.

To taking care of both him and my daughter during their 6 day hospital stay.

Rachele came home to stay with us while she recovered from her c-section and we enjoyed her company and holding Eric a lot.

'milk drunk'

I will miss feeding Eric and seeing him becoming ‘milk drunk’ and I will even miss his crying (a little).

back to California.

back to California

This morning, I took one last picture of Eric before it was time for them to go. It will be hard to think that we will miss the next few milestones like his first smile.

Navy journey

I remember how sad I was when Rachele first left for the Navy and how I rejoiced when we saw her again when she graduated from basic training.

You can read more about her Navy journey, here.

Then there was sadness as she was gone to Missouri and later Mississippi for further training.

back to California.

back to California

It’s hard to believe that my little girl is all grown up.  You would think that when your child is an adult, that saying “goodbye” would be fairly easy.

Well, it’s not true. I wish it was.

Now it is harder because I also miss my grandson. I realize that I was given a special gift of being able to spend so much time with them both.

While the house seems rather empty with them gone, there are some perks:

–  My son, who graciously gave up his room for them to stay in, now gets to vacate the living room couch and move back into his room.

– The Xbox, which was moved temporarily into our bedroom, is now back in his room.

– The kitchen counter is free from bottles, nipples and formula.

– The trash can will be ‘diaper-free’.

– There is more room in the family room with the absence of the baby swing, infant seat and changing pad.

– Nights will be somewhat quieter with no midnight feedings.

While the house is quieter and cleaner, I would trade it all back if I could.

But, the good news is that Rachele lives one state away, 7 hours by car and 1 hour by plane.  We already have plans to visit in April, June and September for starters.

I wonder if I can figure find a gardening conference coming up soon that is near her house?

Thank you for letting me share my mother’s heart with you today.

**For those of you with older kids, do they live nearby or far away? How often do you get to see them?

Have you ever experienced your past intersecting with your present in unexpected ways?

I have. The birth of my grandson a couple of weeks ago, led to some connections from my past that brought back memories.

But before I talk about the past, let’s talk about the the present and the birth of baby Eric and how it did not go as well as planned.

A few days ago, I shared about how the labor process was not particularly smooth – 40+ hours of labor and then pushing led us all to the OR and a c-section.  You can read more about the process to this point here.

Baby Watch: Intersecting Paths

So, I was waiting outside the door where my daughter was having her c-section and I was straining my ears for a baby’s cries.

Well, it turns out that I didn’t need to strain my ears at all – I could hear the baby’s cries loud and clear when he finally emerged at 3:17 pm – about 42 hours after we first entered the hospital.

My husband came out with the baby and gave me a ‘thumbs up’ sign and then I went with the nurse and baby to the nursery.

 baby crying is a welcome sound

When we arrived in the nursery, Eric was still crying, which was a good thing. It’s funny how that is the only time that a baby crying is a welcome sound, isn’t it?

I stood right next to him while the nurse was checking him out and he was absolutely beautiful. Eric Marshall Johnson was 7 lbs. and 20 1/2 inches. Definitely not the small baby that the doctors had anticipated.

stopped crying

After a few minutes, he stuck his fingers in his mouth and stopped crying for a little while. It was funny to see him do that since he often did the same thing during his ultrasounds.

Not surprisingly, there were signs of the rough time he had being born. He was so stuck in the birth canal, that the doctor had to really struggle to get him out.  He had a bruised ear, which you can see above, along with a bruise on his hand, his ‘manly’ parts, foot and on his head…

sweet little boy

But let’s be honest – I was just focused on this sweet little boy who was melting my heart from where I stood.


My oldest daughter and husband watched on through the v as I got the privelege of putting on the first diaper…

diaper on a newborn

I had forgotten how hard it was to put a diaper on a newborn.

It was at this time that I found out from my husband that my daughter hadn’t seen her baby yet. Due to the spinal that they had given her, she was very dizzy and felt like she was having trouble breathing because the spinal left her without the sensation of her chest rising and falling with breathing – she was breathing and had plenty of oxygen, but wouldn’t you feel a little worried if you couldn’t feel yourself breathing?

Anyhow, I felt so sad that she hadn’t seen her precious little baby yet. While waiting for her to be brought to recovery, the nurse asked if I wanted to hold him…

beauty of California


I took him in my arms and told him how excited we all were that he was finally here and that he had the best mom who loved him and couldn’t wait to see him and hold him.

About an hour after his birth, Eric was ready to meet his mom for the first time.  

beauty of California

No matter how often you see it, there is something so miraculous when you see the bond between a new mother and her baby.

I could see in Rachele’s face that it was all so worth it and she would do it again in a second for her son.

beauty of California

He is one cute baby, despite his swollen nose and upper lip. Now that he was with his mom, he was happy.

meet his aunt Brittney.

Rachele was moved to her room and then Eric got to meet his aunt Brittney.

beauty of California

Can you tell how tired and happy we all were?

While we had planned on being there for Eric’s birth and then taking him and Rachele home with us to Arizona to recuperate, we hadn’t planned on how long it would be.

The morning after his birth, my oldest daughter and husband left for home and I stayed with Rachele until she would be released to go home with me.

While there was the initial anxiousness that accompanies having to reschedule appointments and getting things into order, I must admit that I was happy to have to disconnect from home and work and just focus on Rachele and my new grandson.  

beauty of California

Over the days we spent at the hospital, this came to be my favorite view. It looks out on the city of Ventura, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands.

This is where the paths of my past and present intersected. You see, I grew up just a 1/2 hour south from Ventura.  I also went to college an hour  north where I met my husband. We married over 28 years ago in Ventura and my mother served as a pastor at a church there back in the 80’s and 90’s.

What makes this interesting is that we haven’t had any recent connection with this city for over 20 years. We’ve all moved away to Arizona and never came back to this town until my daughter just happened to be stationed at the Navy base nearby.

While staying with my daughter, I was fortunate to be able to stay at her little townhouse on the Navy base. To do that however, I had to get a special pass for a week so I could get through the guards and gate without being accompanied by a military person, so Rachele’s friend kindly went with me so I could get a pass.

Every morning, I would wake up and drive to the hospital and enjoy the beauty of California. Except for one day, it was beautiful and clear. We did have a day or two of Santa Ana winds, which brought back memories of struggling to walk to school when the wind felt like it would lift you off of your feet – I really don’t miss the wind.

hearing test

Back at the hospital, Eric’s first full day involved a hearing test, which he passed with flying colors.

While Eric was doing fine, Rachele was fighting a fever.  At night, she would get a fever that would spike to 102 degrees. So, they put her on antibiotics and watched closely.

During the day, her fever would leave, only to return at night. So, her stay was extended so that they could keep a close eye on her.

During that time, I decided to help ‘feather Rachele’s nest’. Her kitchen had only the bare essentials and her living room consisted of a couch, a coffee table and a TV.

I told my mother about my ‘secret’ plan and she was so excited about it that she offered to help too.  So, after bidding goodbye to Rachele at the end of one day, I went to the nearest Marshall’s store and bought 2 end tables and much needed kitchen supplies (cheese grater, colander, measuring cups, oven mitts and dish towels). I then stopped by Walmart and bought her a new area rug and door mat for the front door.

beauty of California

Meanwhile, Rachele’s fevers continued at night and now there was a complication with Eric. While changing his diaper one day with the nurse present, we noticed some strange jerky movements on his right side that were unusual.

The doctor was consulted and we were told to observe him closely. That evening, he did it again in front of the night nurse, so an EEG was ordered.    

performed an EEG

The tech came in and performed an EEG.  Eric slept through the whole thing. We were hopeful that it wasn’t anything serious and anxiously waited to hear the neurologist’s findings.

Unfortunately, it was the weekend and we had to wait until Monday for the results. Rachele handled the whole process very well considering how it hard it must be to contemplate something being wrong with your baby.

Sunday morning arrived we got great news – Rachele’s fever had left and she was able to go home with Eric!

beauty of California

I don’t think anyone was so happy about being home than Rachele after her planned 2 day stay had extended to 6.

While Rachele was allowed to leave the hospital, she wasn’t allowed to go to Arizona until the baby’s EEG results came back. Monday morning, we took Eric to the pediatrician so she could check him out again and give us the results of the EEG.

I drove Rachele to the doctor’s office and had to parallel park in a small space in the front.  Now, if you have visited California, than you know that parallel parking is a vital skill.  The problem was that I was out of practice, but with my backup camera and Rachele’s guidance, I did a pretty good job, if I do say so…

how well I parked

Okay, I admit that it is a little unusual to take a picture of your own parked car, but I wanted to show my husband how well I parked ๐Ÿ™‚

While seeing the doctor, we discovered that Eric had gained an ounce since birth and more importantly, that his EEG was normal. The doctors attributed his unusual movements as one of the many newborn quirks that they display. He hasn’t done it since the first two times.

Tuesday arrived and it was time to hit the road for Arizona with both Rachele and Eric.

beauty of California
beauty of California

But, not before stopping by the farm shack and buying strawberries straight from the fields.

We had a smooth trip home and Eric loves the car – he slept most of the way home where he was greeted by his aunts and uncle.

so much fun having a baby in the house
so much fun having a baby in the house
so much fun having a baby in the house

It is so much fun having a baby in the house and having my big girl back home for a few weeks.

After a week home, I am almost caught up on work, but I will cherish the time I spent in California taking care of Rachele and Eric.

**Thank you all so much for your kind words and comments during Rachele’s baby journey – I appreciate them so much!

Keeping America (and Phoenix) Beautiful

Have you ever come upon an unexpected discovery?

I did.

Last week, my husband and I flew to Southern California for a visit with our second-oldest daughter, Rachele, who is stationed at a Navy base there.

The purpose of our trip was to be there when she got her 20-week ultrasound to see what sex her baby was (more about that later).

Southern California

Of course, a trip to California wasn’t complete without visiting some of the places I grew up in.  We decided to take a trip up north to the small beach town of Carpinteria, which has a fun and funky downtown area.  

Southern California

My family and I used to camp there every fall next to the beach and it was and still is one of my favorite places to visit.

Southern California

Every time we visit Carpinteria, we have to stop by our favorite cupcake place – CrushCakes.

Can you tell that my husband is excited about our new grand baby?

Vividly Vanilla

My favorite cupcake is Vividly Vanilla and I have it every time we visit.  I should branch out and try the other flavors, but I have never gotten past this one ๐Ÿ˜‰

After we had eaten our cupcakes, we ventured out and past not one but two plant nurseries.  Talk about good fortune!

I am always on the lookout for new plants, unique gardening ideas as well as photographs to share with you and also in articles I write.

While I didn’t have my regular camera, I did have my phone and was eager to discover what the first nursery had to see.

Butterflies were flying from flower to flower and the nursery was awash in beautifully blooming plants.

Southern California

While walking through the nursery, my attention was caught by a lovely flowering perennials including Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan) and Echinacea (purple coneflower).



Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea  

For those of you familiar with both of these plants – what do you think a ‘baby’ from these two plants would look like?

Well, wonder no more.  Let me introduce a new perennial that is garnering a lot of attention – ‘Echibeckia’



What do you think?

Aren’t they gorgeous?

perennial garden

As you can see, they have golden yellow petals with orange centers.  Once the flowers begin to age, the petals turn to a darker orange.

The flowers last 2 – 3 months and make great cut flowers.  Echibeckia is hardy to zones 6 and up and would make a great addition for any perennial garden.  

Echibeckia along with its parents

Echibeckia along with its parents. 

I have purple coneflower and black-eyed Susan growing in my desert vegetable garden where they enjoy the fertile soil and regular water.  I may need to try Echibeckia too!

I toured through the rest of the nursery and took lots of great photos and then stopped at the nursery next door, which was very unique.  I’ll share more of my nursery visits next time.

But, back to the real purpose of my visit to California.  

New Perennial Discovery and a Baby

We came to visit our daughter and to be there when she found out whether she was having a little boy or girl.

The ultrasound technician was showing us the baby’s heart, head and spine, which all looked great.  But, when he started to concentrate on the legs and arms – I was frankly, dying for him to get to the big question we all had – boy or girl???

New Perennial Discovery and a Baby

I was expecting him to build up to the announcement or at least say, “Do you want to know what it is?”  But no – there was no build-up to his announcement.  In the middle of talking about the arms and how much the baby was moving he casually said, “By the way it’s a boy.”

I was looking at my daughter at that moment and she was so happy to finally know what she was having.  None of us had a preference besides a healthy baby, but it is so nice to be able to know the sex.

After the ultrasound, we drove to the nearest Target store and I helped her with deciding what items to add to her baby registry.

It never ceases to amaze me how interesting things like bottles, cribs, high chairs, mobiles and strollers suddenly become once you are expecting.

Our grandson is due in January and we couldn’t be happier.  Now our granddaughter, will have a little cousin to play with ๐Ÿ™‚