Saturday, July 24, 2010

Step Five: Consider the Source

Part of the Going Lightly One Step at a Time Series:

It's so easy just to flip on lights, fans, the tap, and all conveniences of our 21st century lifestyle.  It has also, sadly, become a hobby, rather than a necessity, to make our own clothes.  The knitting that I love and the sewing that I dabble in are not necessary to keep myself or my family protected and warm and others seem particularly incredulous that I might want to spend my time knitting a dishcloth or a sock when Wal-Mart has them on sale for under a dollar a piece.  Everything is so readily available, virtually at our fingertips, and we don't have to pay very much for it either!

But, starting with electricity, before you walk out of the room, leaving the ceiling fan running, consider the source.  Some of the more recent mining accidents in West Virginia have reminded me how many people pay with their lives so that we can power our homes.  There is the environmental impact of coal, of course.  But I also think about the miners.  That is one job I don't think I could ever do: terrifying, mundane, cheerless, back-breaking work.  So, now I say to my kids when a light is left on, "There's some coal burning in your room!"  And I say it to myself too.

 It's too easy not to think about the true cost of our living.  Annie Leonard calls it "externalizing the costs."  That simply means that while something may be cheap for us, it does have to be paid for along the way somehow.  Often it is paid for with cheap labor or lack of benefits for workers or child labor or unsafe labor or environmental degredation (which may make living on the land impossible and therefore moves indigenous people off their land into cities looking for work - any work - and provides more cheap labor), or filthy conditions or a combination of any of the above.

So, consider the source when the lights go on and ask yourself if you really need them on at that moment.  If you do, just be sure to turn them off when your'e done.  Consider the source too, when the water is running.  Florida used to have a lot of water in natural aquifers below us.  We still do, but they are being depleted so much more rapidly with the growing population and industrial needs... and waste.  Sprinklers running during a rain shower?  Yep, I've seen it only too often.

Oil is the same.  It used to be bubbling up easily in parts of the U.S.  The U.S. quickly drained that resource, though, peaking out in 1971.  Now we have to dig deeper and use more and more resources just to get the oil in the first place.  We also have to protect our access to it in the one place left on the planet that still supposedly hasn't peaked yet and that is in, of course, the Middle East.  All of this is having disasterous effects: Deepwater Horizon and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are just two examples.  The least we can do in response to this is to combine our errands, carpool, take public transportaion if it is available, walk or bike when you can.  A longer term plan is to join or start or at least educate yourself and your family about the energy changes that will be a part of all of our futures.  You can start at the Transition Network website by watching their film and/or reading their book.  I'll have more ways you can educate yourselves on this issue in an upcoming post.

We need to think twice about nearly all our purchases from

 our food: How far has it traveled? What kinds of chemicals are on or in it? How were the workers who grew and harvested our food treated? Is your favorite coffee or chocolate  (the major brands in the grocery stores don't look so good to me anymore) tainted with child slavery (you can choose Fair Trade products instead)?

to our clothing: Where does it come from?  Who made it?  Is it made of sustainable material?  Does it have to be new or can you find it used?

I know there are so many questions and perspectives to think about.  It really can make your head swim.  But denying that these factors exist is not the answer either.  Being aware that every purchase we make is the cliched "vote" with our dollars, it  may cause us to rethink our purchases and begin - just begin - to steadily make wiser ones.  We can practice remembering all those affected along that production line into the product or service we are about to use.  We can practice remembering externalized costs.  Maybe we'll still use the product or service, but more sparingly, more wisely and with more respect.  Or maybe we'll seek out a new, greener, or fairer source for our purchase.  Or maybe we'll just choose to go without - that is a choice too, you know.  A lot of things can change for the better if we just consider the source.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Step Four: Collect Water

Part of the Going Lightly One Step at a Time Series.

We all know that water is a precious resource.  It is challenging to remember it , though, when we in North America can turn on the tap and it just flows out.  I heard Annie Leonard talking about this very thing in the recent Green Living Ideas, Green Talk Radio podcast where she was interviewed regarding her new book, The Story of Stuff.  Many of you know Annie's work through her fantastic talk made into a film that is available free online.  She has just released a book that details the information she gives in the film.  I can't wait to get it!  But I digress...

Annie was saying that it was hard for her, as a California resident, to recall that California is in their 10th year of drought when water is so readily available.  Our country rarely feels the effects of water shortage, but it is a growing problem that only becomes more precarious over time and certainly other countries have seen direct effects already.

So, of course, there are the gray water systems (not legal everywhere as of yet) and there are rain barrels.  We have one that is not yet in operation; we're still getting the few remaining pieces we need for it.  And I do think that, like a compost bin, everyone should really try having a rain barrel.  They're pretty low on the labor-intensive end of conservation.

But if you don't have a yard or space or time or whatever... you can still save water. Try not to think about it in terms of actually how much water you are saving, but the principle and motivation behind it.  If you have children, it is especially important that they see you participating in all ways - big and small - to conserve what is so important to all of us.

We have a pitcher under the sink for half-drunk water glasses left by kids or other guests.  I regularly use that on my two plants by the front door.  When the dry season is here, I also keep a watering can in the shower.  I have it sitting where the water is pointed so that when the water is running while warming up, it's not going down the drain.  You can do the same thing with the kitchen sink with that aforementioned pitcher.

Some people actually collect enough water in their showers that they can turn off the water leading to their toilet tanks and fill the tanks with the water collected passively around the house!  I think that's a great idea - especially if you work out of the home or practice limiting your flushing.

Our outdoor water spouts and hose connections are weird.  I can't explain  why they leak like they do (despite some changes we have made to them), but they do. So, we have a bucket that sits under the main one used to catch water too.  That water can fill the birdbath or the water the geranium in the pot out back.  I've also heard of folks who have put parsely or other plants under or around an outdoor faucet.  They get watered naturally whenever the hose is turned on.  I'll admit to trying the parsley, but my spot back there is too shady and that experiment was not successful.

So, nothing technical here (obviously!), but just a reminder to be on the lookout for little ways that you can save a little bit more here and there. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Step Three: Compost

Part of the Going Lightly One Step at a Time Series.

This one is so very easy it hardly bears repeating and yet, there are fewer people in my life that do it than I'd expect. 

Composting is not complex.  In fact, it can be as simple as having a pile - contained or not - in your yard onto which you throw all vegetable matter.  You can get more complicated if you want your compost to decompose faster, of course.  There are many sites online that will show you how to layer your compost to increase the temperature of it and increase breakdown.  They will show you how to layer the high-carbon materials with the high-nitrogen materials.  It really is a fascinating science, but it is not necessary and I will candidly admit, not one I presently have time for.

What we have time for is a large, black, thick, plastic sheet with holes in it that was given to us free by simple request from our county extension service.  In fact, my mother-in-law, being far from green, happily went along with us to pick up "hers" which she also happily gave to us.  Anyway,  this sheet is rolled into a tube and the circumference can be very narrow to very wide depending on your needs. 

We used to have ours next to the house, out of the public eye, but it got too much shade.  We moved it recently over to right beside the garden.  Genius!  It just makes sense there. And it is not really an eyesore; it just looks like it goes with the garden.  As I'm weeding or pulling out spent plants, they easily get tossed right in.

The only things you don't want to throw in your compost are any animal products (except for egg shells) or oils.  Those only serve to invite vermin.  And from experience, years ago, when I unknowingly put cheese in there, the stink was uproarious.  That smell won't happen if you "keep it clean."  Vegetable scraps, lawn clippings, leaves, paper, coffee grounds and tea bags are all things that can go into your compost.

For our family, our goal with composting is to be able to ammend our soil, but primarily it reduces waste.  Being a veg family, too, we don't even deal with animal products.

Now here may be the best tip I have for those of you who are already composting and have found nothing new with what I've shared.  I know that they sell fancy crocks for storing your vegetable scraps indoors and some of them even have carbon filters.  But what has worked for us for years is to simply use a large, old plastic container (the current one had store-bought cookies in it that someone brought to a function I attended three years ago) and keep it in your freezer.  A square or rectangular container is preferable to a round one to conserve space, but any old shape will do.  Keeping the container in the freezer will kill any bacteria that would otherwise form that creates the rotting vegetable smell and attracts fruitflies.  No fancy container needed.  No carbon filters.  When it's full, set it on the counter for a few minutes to thaw slightly so it slips out easier, and then take a leisurely stroll out to your compost and dump the frozen block.  You wanted to get outside and get a little fresh air today, anyway, didn't you?  We kept our compost bin even in the deep cold of Minnesota winters. 

So, there's really no excuse not to have a compost bin and it's just as easy as dumping your scraps into your trash bin.  Your only real effort will come when you turn your pile and that is to add oxygen to facilitate decompostion.  But you can do this as often or as little as you like, really.  We only add our compost to our family garden about once a year, so you won't find me outside with a pitchfork very often. 

There are fancy compost bins that screen the compost of the larger bits for you, but we don't have something like that either. I am not picky about not totally decomposed bits of banana peel or whatever else that make their way to my garden beds.  I happily work around the random peanut shell or peach pit. We're about as basic as it gets, but again, our goals are not primarily garden related, but waste and reuse related.  As my children get older, though, and I slowly devote less time to their schooling at home as they become more and more self-directed, I am able to spend more time cultivating food and I can see that I might get back into having a system that is more aimed at my garden than simply waste reduction.

Whatever your goals are, though, composting will fit in.  You'll reduce your waste and even if you don't have a garden, you can dig to the bottom of your pile every once in a while and pull out some "black gold" and sprinkle it on house plants, your lawn, or even donate it to that gardening neighbor of yours.  They'll love you for it!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Just a quick update on a few of the efforts I am making - following my own advice, so to speak.

The two steps forward are these:

I finished sewing all my produce bags and am preparing drawstrings in all of them today.  Then I'm just going to throw them in with my other shopping bags.  I had to stop at the market today and, at least on this visit, I am finding it not quite as daunting avoiding the plastic.  I am looking for the alternatives and am managing pretty well.  I am practicing waiting, when I can, to find non-plastic alternatives elsewhere. I couldn't find cauliflower, for example, that wasn't wrapped, so I'll try the health food store a few doors down from my health club for that and for finding some tea in bulk.

My regular market, Sweetbay, does a good job of offering its produce primarily in bulk.  They offer packaged alternatives for some things, but at least I have more options than the Publix store that only offers its kale, for example, in pre-packaged, sealed plastic bags, or zucchini on a styrofoam tray wrapped in shrink wrap. 

Keep in mind, our farmers' markets are all closed down for the season here in sweltering Florida.  They'll open again round about late September or October, so I have to do what I can with what I've got.  I am looking for things grown in the U.S. only, which is easier right now, since it is summertime and that means produce production for most of the rest of the country.  That is one good thing about Florida and that is a good variety of in-season produce pretty much year round, whether we are growing it ourselves or the northern states are growing things in the summer.  Ideally, I would have taken more time putting food by from our growing season for this one, but I really ran out of energy on that front.  I think if I make that project more of a community event - inviting friends in to help - that task would not seem as daunting. Something to think about for the future.

The second step forward is that I am revisiting the no shampoo (commonly known online as "no poo"), baking soda alternative to washing my hair and the vinegar rinse for conditioning.  I'd tried it once in the past and, as my hair was longer and pretty damaged to begin with, I think the baking soda dried it out even some more.  Also, I was using straight baking soda on my scalp, which was messier and probably too harsh.  I have a bottle of 2 c water to 2 T baking soda pre-blended in my shower.  I also made up a similar dilution with the apple cider vinegar and water. To that, upon recommendation of another person who does this, I added chamomile tea and some rosemary for fragrance (that I honestly don't really notice, but the ACV scent doesn't bother me either and it's aroma dissipates as your hair dries).  Anyway, using this mixture today, I was super happy with the results!  My hair is not greasy at all (though my hair is naturally drier to begin with) and just feels light and nice.  So, I'm going to stick with this for a while instead of trying the shampoo bar.  This is even less expensive than the shampoo bar and uses things I already have around the house.  I'll report back on how things are going.

My step back, really isn't a step back, but more of a disappointment.  I did a carbon footprint check of our family's impact using the calculator provided by the Global Footprint Network and despite that long list in my sidebar of everything we do, we would still need 4 and nearly 1/2 planets (40%) if everyone lived the way we do. :(  There is not too much we can do about this right now, because where our downfall comes in is that 1) My husband commutes about 50 miles to work (one way) every day - the only work in his field available in this area right now and 2) there is no public transportation nearby where I live.  So, while this doesn't make me feel like all is useless... how does one score, after all, if you are not doing all these things?... I am, like I said, disappointed.  It makes me glad that I am involved in our local Transition movement.  I am hopeful that we will be working as a group to pressure our local area to make efforts toward more public transportation offerings as well as safer routes for alternative transportation, such as wider bike paths off of busy roads.

Overall, I know I'm still moving in the right direction.  I continue to seek out alternatives and make changes every day.  It's an ongoing effort.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Step Two: Wet Yourself!

Going Lightly One Step at a Time Series
That's right.  For my North American friends, the temperature is soaring and it is a good time to just wet yourself.  Now, of course, I don't mean to simply go swimming (because I'm sure that's what you thought I meant, right?).  ;)  No, I'm talking about your time in the shower.

My mom's partner, Jerry, calls them "navy showers," because he learned to shower this way when he was in the navy.  Just as you've probably heard and teach your children to not let the water run while you are brushing your teeth, the same could be said of showering.  Now, I'll admit that as a cold-natured person, I like to keep that warm water on me in the wintertime.  But, certainly in warmer temperatures, there is no good reason not to simply wet yourself, turn off the water, soap up, and then rinse off.  It seems counterintuitive, doesn't it, to be trying to soap up one's body while simultaneously standing under or trying to avoid a constant stream of running water?  It only takes a moment to shut off that water, but it will literally save gallons and I don't think I have to tell you what a precious, limited resource water has become.  (If that is new information to you, do a search online or talk to your local park ranger or county extension office and you will find oodles of information that ought to convince you.)

And, like brushing your teeth, don't forget about turning off that water while washing your hands or even your produce.  Again, wet those hands, turn off the water to soap up, and then rinse. Quick and easy, doesn't cost you a thing, may save you some money, and will definitely be kinder to our planet.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Step One: Eliminate/Reduce Packaging

This is part of my "Going Lightly One Step at a Time" series.

So, this is step one just because it's something I'm currently working on in a more concentrated manner.  Recently I have been making attempts at reducing the amount of plastic I bring into the house.  A lot of it comes in the form of packaging. 

One of the things that I love about the challenge of living with less impact is that it causes you to really think and rethink just about everything.  Is there a better way to do something?  Often, it seems, there is.

So, we've all been encouraged to bring our own shopping bags to the grocery store.  I am so thrilled at the number of people I see doing this.  I have to say, though, that most folks are coming into the store with one or two bags at the most.  I wonder if they are lucky enough to have such a small grocery purchase or is that the total amount of bags that they own?

In regard to shopping bags:

*Keep your bags in your car or hanging right beside the door, so that you won't forget them.
*Don't just use your bags for groceries.  Anytime you shop - big box store, local boutique, or otherwise, bring your bags.
*Have a bag of bags that you take with you.  I think I have collected more than a dozen bags of various sizes that I bring with me every time I shop.  I just keep them all in the largest bag in the back of my super sexy minivan!  If I just need a couple of items, I can bring in just one or two bags, but for a big grocery shop, I'm set and am only carrying one in my hand. 
*Find more bags on Freecycle, from friends, and at thrift stores.  I just bought another nice canvas bag (apparently a "Martha Stewart Living" free giveaway bag with subscription) for .25 at a church thrift store the other day.
*This one is important and often overlooked: produce does not often need a bag.  Plastic bag after plastic bag is used to bring home the lettuce or the tomatoes or apples or whatever that could easily just sit in your cart without them.  For the smaller items, like fresh green beans or brussels sprouts or bulk items such as oatmeal, rice, etc., just use an old bread bag that you bring along in your bag of bags.  If you are attempting to eliminate plastic like I am, make yourself some reusable drawstring bags.  I've recently cut up some tea towels and some old pillowcases I got at that same thrift store and am doing just that.  I plan to use it at our CSA this upcoming season (for us, Nov. - May), at farmer's markets, and at the grocery.

Pillowcases below.  They were .25 a piece.  Out of the two kingsized cases, I got 6 bags.

There are also tutorials on YouTube on how to make bags out of old T-shirts.  Do a search; it's so easy!

In regard to other items:

*Buy in bulk
*Choose paper/cardboard wrapping over plastic
*Choose package-free over packaged whenever possible

This last suggestion is the one that really gets you thinking.  I'm experimenting with handmade soaps for washing my face in an attempt to rid myself of the plastic bottled cleanser I've used for a few years now.  I've switched to bar soap for my hands, but I have sensitive skin on my face and it will break out with too many perfumes - even natural essential oils.  So, I'm experimenting; I have to be careful.

From this:

To this:

Next, when my shampoo runs out, I'm goint to try a shampoo bar again.  I've tried a couple in the past, but I haven't like them.  I may try a Lush bar or something from Etsy next.  I'm not sure what I'll do about conditioner for my dry hair, but it's something to research. Does anyone have a recommendation?

A few posts back, I abandoned my dishwashing soap for a bar and a homemade scrub.  That still seems to be working fine, even though it has taken some getting used to.  But it's a teeny sacrifice to make in the face of the degredation occuring.  Certainly, I will survive!

I'm also practicing avoiding purchasing frozen veggies.  I don't buy canned to begin with, but frozen are often convenient.  Pineapple, peaches, nectarines and grenn peppers were on sale this week, so I bought extra fresh one and cut and froze the extras myself.  I do the same when there is an abundance with our CSA in season.  Yes, it takes some time.  But it means I don't have to buy more plastic.  I'm willing to try to make this a habit.

Remember that buying used or handmade goods often reduces or eliminated packaging altogether too.

These are just a couple of ideas in the great, grand sea of products we must or choose to bring into our homes.  Take a little time on you next shopping outing to see if there are other alternatives available to the ones that contain packaging.  If there aren't, do you need them?  Can you find another way to get them rather than the one way that is offered to you right now?

If anything, our shopping trips can become quite mundane.  A new challenge like this will have you shopping with fresh eyes.  Try it with your kids.  You might actually even have a bit of fun! :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Series: Going Lightly One Step at a Time

Are you still thinking about the oil that is presently gushing into our precious Gulf of Mexico?  I know I am.  As a gulf coast resident, it hits closer to home for sure.  While our beaches in Manatee and Sarasota Counties have been spared thus far from visible tar ball damage (the last I heard it that the oil is presently estimated to be 100 miles to the west of our shoreline), every night on the local news (which I really don't watch, but see at the fitness club), there is coverage of actions being taken. 

One, for example, is that sea turtles are hatching on our shores and volunteers are very gently removing the eggs and transporting them to the east coast of FL for hatching and release there. No one knows if this will be effective in saving these turtles.  No one knows if the survivors, years from now, will return to the east coast to lay their own eggs, or make an attempt at the gulf shores.  There are so many things we do not know.  There have been oil spills before, but nothing of this magnitude.  Nothing that has continued to "bleed" into our waters.  It is unprecedented.

In situations such as this, my hope comes from the idea that maybe... perhaps this time... the catastrophe is big enough that real change will begin to take place.  That we will begin to prioritize addressing the changes that are absolutly necessary above our own comfort.

We don't always see the effects of what we are doing, but they are there.  They are real.  There really are people who are already suffering from the rising waters caused by climate change. And there are people who are already suffering from the toxins of our over-consumption.  Of course, the animals are suffering from the oil, the sea of plastic, and diminishing habitats. 

We don't often see these things, because at present, we are the fortunate ones.  At present we, who can afford to have computers and blog and read blogs and online news, are the wealthiest people in the world.  And it is the poor and those, including the animals, who are oppressed who suffer first.  But that doesn't make what we are doing and continuing to do right.  And just because we have the luxury of denial doesn't mean that we should do nothing.

There are those who believe that individual action is a waste, that it does not actually create enough change.  But for the majority of us who are women and men and the everyday citizens working in our own cities and towns and raising families or teaching children or caring for our parents or doing the myriad of things that we are doing just to keep all the proverbial plates spinning, it has to be small and doable.  At least in the beginning.  More importantly - and this, I believe, will make real change - it has to be sustained.

We can't simply award Al Gore an Academy Award and congratulate him and somehow, ourselves, on a job well done.  We can't change a few lightbulbs and think it ends there.  Yes, small changes.  But many, many small changes.  And many new habits and new conversations, and new ways of living must take place.  They can be small at first, but they must grow to encompass a life and then a neighborhood and then a town and on and on. 

There did, for example, used to be life without, say... margarine.  And there used to be life without margarine in plastic tubs.  And there used to be life without yogurt in little, plastic containers and plastic tubes and all the other ways that yogurt is marketed today.  But then the changes were made and soon it becomes hard to remember what life was like without said margarine and yogurt containers.  Pretty soon people are amazed that they can actually make yogurt at home!  Or pasta or granola or burger buns or cosmetics or cleaning products or sanitary napkins.  And some are even afraid of what might happen if you try.  Is it sanitary?  Will it harm me or my children? 

Is it therefore possible that we might be able to reclaim some of these unlearned skills?  That we might be able to change our patterns, our habits, the things that we now take for granted as "normal"?  Might our efforts grow and spread so that we, in our twilight years, could look back and recall, with incredulity, "Remember how we used to use that precious oil for things like tubs of margarine?!"?

I am a wife and mother in a suburban home.  I homeschool my two children during the school year, volunteer at an animal sancturary once-a-week, visit my mother and my mother-in-law once-a-week on different days, attend church weekly, work at running a small business teaching classes, and just do all the stuff that makes up a life.  I am not in a positon of power.  I do not run a multi-national corporation.  I do not hold a political office.  But I also don't believe that I don't count.  Of course I count.  I count in the negative in that my portion of impact is affecting the planet negatively.  I therefore continue to belive that my small actions can also affect the planet positively.

I have listed many of the efforts in the sidebar of this blog that my family makes at "going lightly" on the planet.  But I feel an urgency of late to do more and say more.  One of the things I am doing is getting involved in my local Transition group.  I am so very thankful that the movement has made its way nearby to me. 

But, of course, there are so many other things each of us can do.  I'd like to share with you some of the things we do in our home in greater detail over the coming weeks.  My hope is to inspire you to experiment with your own lives. Challenge yourself to live according to a new standard, a new paradigm.  My intention is not to judge, but challenge - myself and others - to begin or continue on a more caring path of living. 

My ideas certainly won't be new news to everyone and there are plenty of other fantastic websites and blogs out there dedicated to delving so much more deeply than I will here (some are found in my sidebar).  But this is just me participating, folks.  It's just me trying to do my part, trying to not let the conversation die, trying to keep these issues in the forefront of our minds so that we do not rest in the luxury of denial.

So far, I have a list of 55 actions of change that one could make in their everyday lives.  I don't plan that this series will be the exclusive content of this personal blog while I work on it. And my posts will not be in any particular order - of importance or otherwise -, but just in a way that makes the most sense to me at the time, I guess.

I hope to intersperse my postings with other current important things in my life.  But this feels important for me to do.  It feels important for me to do for myself, for my children to see that their mother did not remain silent in the face of an uncertain future, and for the animals who do not have a voice.  It is a small request for forgiveness.

Deerfield Beach Getaway 2010: Part 3

So, although I have many more pictures (a visit to a divine, little raw/vegan restaurant/yoga studio) to share, I am ready to move on from my getaway onto a new blog project I am going to be sharing.  But, I did promise some bonsai and a beautiful dress.

The Morikami had some gorgeous bonsai and if I didn't already have half a gajillion hobbies, I might give this a try too. 

There are many large trees like the one above in Florida.  I honestly don't know the name of the tree that creates those supports like that, but I always think they look so cool.

I love this one's twisy trunk:

And this one looks like a magical, little forest.  It is, I believe, a Florida red maple:

And although I liked my dress that I was wearing that day (I thought it had an Asian appeal)...

...THIS is the dress that Maia found at the antique store. Though not an antique and even though it is of Chinese origin rather than Japanese, she was quick to note that one of her favorite Manga artists often draws her characters in Chinese dress.  Plus it fit her beautifully and she wore it to dinner that night.  Here she is modeling it for us in our hotel room.  She is holding up a box of "Pocky," which is a favorite Japanese snack.  They are kind of like thin pretzle sticks - without the salt - dipped partway in a chocolate or strawberry or other flavored frosting.

She was SO excited to find the dress and at only $25, it's something special that she can be glad to have found: a good babysitting money investment! :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Deerfield Beach Getaway 2010: Part 2

Our sightseeing continued on Saturday with a trip to the Morikami  Museum and Japanese Gardens.  We had heard great things about this place from online reviews, but you just never know.  Before we got there, Maia kept whispering, "Oh I hope it's not lame!"  It was not!  It did not disappoint and exceded our expectations.  I really have too many photos to post all in one post.  I'm hope to share with you only the ones that illustrate the quality of and the really cool, educational aspects of this place.

One of the lovely and impressive things the designers of this garden did was to use Florida plants, but showcase them in a Japanese style.  So, there were not plants from Japan, per se, but instead, beautifully manicured Florida plants that we recognized (some that we have in our own yard) that were creating this Japanese garden.  It was so great to see that these plants which often are trimmed into squared-off hedges in the U.S. could be trained to wander overhead, creating a tunnel of shade, or trimmed into a more tree-like shape with many different levels.  So creative!
Above: Looking across to the main museum that houses the restaurant, the library, the gift shop, a ceremonial tea room and various exhibits.

Above: Tri-colored Heron spied in a tree.  Below: The original museum, designed as a traditional Japanese home, that now houses the children's exhibits (our favorites!) and the outdoor bonsai collection.

Below: High school uniforms and various posters (fun info about school lunches).

Above: I took a picture of this map, because it struck me as so interesting.  I realized just how nieve I was in looking at it.  Notice that Japan is in the middle of the map where the Americas are "supposed" to be!  But, of course, they aren't supposed to be there; it's just what I, as an American citizen, have always seen.  But, no, we are not the center of the universe!!! lol! :) 

Below: The Japanese language is read from right to left. Notice the grades on the chart move sequentially that way too.

Next up: Bonsai and a Beautiful Dress!
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