It’s Been Awhile…

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It’s Been Awhile…

Hello everyone! I hope everyone is safe and well during this surreal time. It has been quite awhile since I have written or posted anything. My heart has been there, though my mind and time haven’t. I’m opening up and being honest. The last thing I want is for this post to be doom and gloom, as there is enough of that in the world going on right now. I’ve debated back and forth whether or not I should even post this. I’m not sure what even set anything off, but I had another emotional night tonight.

Let’s start off with a few positives! My birthday this past year, turned out to be a really nice and special day! (Besides turning another year older) Weddings will be all around this year and next year as I’m in my cousin’s wedding in July and both my brother and other cousin got engaged over Valentine’s weekend this year! My other cousin is graduating from Penn State! So there are many celebrations coming up in the near future!

Creating this blog about 4 years ago, was one thing that I’ve always been proud of! I often get upset with myself for not keeping up with it more. (It’s far from some of the top notch bloggers out there, I know, but it’s mine, and I still love it!) I’ve tried to keep the blog updated through quotes and short posts on Instagram over the last year, as sometimes, that is the easiest and fastest way to stay in touch. Life is always, and has always been busy. I love my job, but working close to 12 hours a day from start to finish all week long, sleeping about a total of 4 hours a night, trying to meet requirements and deadlines (which I’m still working towards), life and its surprises, ups & downs, and myself-being my biggest critic, I pretty much have been wearing myself out. I’ve felt exhausted and burnt out, mentally and physically. I started to sit and write the other night and then just stopped because I wasn’t sure how to express any of what I was feeling.

The last four months especially, have personally, been an emotional roller coaster for me. Now, we are all up in the air with our lives due to the coronavirus. Overall, if you know me, for the most part, I’m a very private person. Let me apologize if I have seemed off, more on edge, or some days just more quiet. I want to personally thank my family, work family, and friends that have been here during some very difficult months and days. Without faith, prayers, friends and family, I don’t know how I would have gotten through many of the days that I did. I’m not going to go into full detail other than as many of you already know, my dad has had some health issues that we found out about in November. There have also been some unexpected things along the way through all of it. For months, I have not been myself. Nothing really mattered other than getting my dad well again. These have been some of the hardest, most difficult and emotional days that I’ve ever experienced. Some days, there weren’t even words. It’s almost like I had no voice and couldn’t even talk. I’ve had times where I experienced straight up anger, shock, hurt, and tears (both happy and sad), many, many tears. I would try my hardest to be happy and tell myself, there are good things in life going on. Nothing mattered other than having my dad well and getting him home. No one will ever be doing a good enough job for that person you love. Believe me, my dad has had amazing and wonderful doctors along the way. There’s always those few times where no one is doing enough for your loved one at that time. I’ve never felt so helpless. All my family and I could do was pray, have faith, and be there. I try to wake up and live life normally, but many days, more so than not, I feel like I’m struggling with emotions and falling apart. I try really hard to be positive, strong, and repeat to myself, “It’s going to be okay. You are keeping it all together and are doing the best that you can.”

I am very close to my dad. I always have been. It’s a father/daughter bond that is unbreakable. I strive to make him proud daily. I try to live up to his work ethic. He has the biggest heart and would do anything for his family. He is strong, and a fighter. He’s my hero, even though sometimes (in my heart), I think I bring out the light in his eyes. When I started finding out about everything, I just remember years ago, him always saying how important time and health are. I’m getting older, and I want my dad to walk me down the aisle one day, I want him to meet his grandchild if I ever would become pregnant. Life is moving too fast! As important as these things are to me, there’s nothing more important currently, than having my dad here, home, and well. I can’t even imagine everything he’s gone through, and still is going through. I can’t really explain a lot of what I’ve felt daily for the last four months. I know a few weeks ago, it felt like I was completely alone in the entire world. My brain empty, not quite sure how I drove and got myself to the hospital, I just needed to get to my dad, see him, and be with him. Some days, I often wonder if life will ever be close to being what it was. I know that I can talk to the people that I’m close to. Some I know have been in similar situations and understand and make feel like I’m not crazy.

Growing up, I grew up in a traditional family home and family has always been everything. Still to this day, morals and traditions are still strong within me. Many days, I feel far from the norm of the world. We live in quite a different world today then when I was growing up. So much has changed, things I never thought could or would happen. I’ve always been an emotional person, even as a child. These last few months, it has really hit me hard how fast life can change. How it can test you. I’ve felt things I’ve never felt before…

I will say with all the craziness, social distancing, staying safe…Right now all we can do it take it day by day. Try to live as normal as possible. Do what you can, the best you can at the moment. I’m not sleeping much more or better, but I’m home longer to catch up on laundry, work on webinars for hours/credits, started seedlings which is therapeutic and rewarding (aka quick fix of calmness), and I’ve been trying to read for enjoyment.

This slow down makes everyone realize not to take anything for granted. Although normally, the hours and weeks are long, I miss my job. I miss my work family, I miss my students-their giggles, their stories, watching them grow day by day, their families…As silly as it may sound, I miss taking my time, strolling and taking my long walks through Target, haha…Tonight, I needed a break so I wrote…I feel guilty many days for feeling so down. I know life could always be worse. I keep telling myself that better days are ahead and I will be smiling and laughing a lot more. I’m trying to be positive and patient and let time work it’s magic.

As for now, stay safe and healthy and take care! I’d love to hear how you are all coping with staying in, so feel free to share how you are handling life these days!

XoXo,

Melissa

Mother Earth News Fair Review (Seven Springs, PA 2017)

Mother Earth News Fair Review

(Seven Springs, PA)

2017

mother earth news fair

I can’t believe it was already a week ago (last weekend) that I worked in a vendor booth at the Mother Earth News Fair for the 2nd year. This has become one of my favorite events to work! The first year at the event, I met some wonderful people including the women from Pittsburgh’s “Farm to Table of Western, PA.” Last year, I was amazed at how many vendors participate in this fair.

On a side a note, I’ll explain why I loved this event even more this year!  We all know that life isn’t always pleasant and peachy by any means, it also doesn’t always go as imagined or planned. (This has been especially true for me probably for about the past two years.) Sometimes we get to a point, before we hit a breaking point where we finally have to figure out what brings us any type of happiness… I was outside thinking one day when I thought, what is simple that makes me smile that makes me proud of myself?  Gardening…it’s such a small part of my life, but it was something that I knew that I enjoyed and wanted to learn more about. It all started with me planting small things from time to time, year to year. Nothing crazy, just mosty container gardening. Last year, I started to add a few perennials around the yard. This year, I decided early this summer that I wanted to take a basic gardening class. I was interested in creating a good soil. (Money is always tight, and always seems to be an issue and holds me back from many things. I researched and found a reasonably priced class and decided to register for it.) It was probably one of the best decisions and investments that I have made in a long time! I was so excited to attend! (I was the student that got there early and sat in the front row! A little nerdy, I know, but that’s okay in my book, haha!) This class was wonderful and I looked forward to attending it each week! Sure, you can read, watch YouTube videos, and learn online, but it felt really great and did me a world of good to take an hour for myself a week, with no interruptions, and educate myself in a roomful of individuals with the same interest as me. 

This experience gave me the confidence to expand and fill my backyard with new and old favorites of plant, flower, and vegetable varieties.  I felt that it wasn’t a waste of money because I at least had a little bit more confidence and knowledge now that I could take of care of these plants.  It’s the best feeling waking up, looking out your window and admiring the shapes, colors, and beauty these creations of nature provides us.  Also, there is fun in picking and cooking with your own herbs and vegetables!  It’s a hobby that I love and continue to learn more about!

Now, back to the Mother Earth News Fair Review! (Sorry for the long explanation and venting!) So knowing what I did from attending the event last year, I was kinda in (nerd mode) again and researched the fair weeks in advance. I looked at their website, printed out maps, calendars, and schedules for workshops. I also researched some of the speakers and got my highlighter ready for what I was interested in!

Unfortunately, I did not have time to participate in any of the workshops while working, but the research still paid off because as I took a break on Sunday, I was able to make a beeline and gather information from the booths that I knew I wanted to visit. One thing that I appreciated that Mother Earth Fair did was keep vendors in a similar set up from the year before. That way if you do have limited time, you can make sure that you hit up your favorite booths if you remembered where they were set up from the year before.

Seven Springs was a great location! It was gorgeous up there! The weather cooperated and we had chilly mornings and beautiful days! I would take that drive in the morning any day.  Such a burst of refreshing air, with leaves starting to change colors…Beautiful!!!  The venue was packed with people who varied from locals to visitors from various states. The pictures from the workshops were also filled. If you love gardening and sustainable living, this is one event that I highly suggest you go visit!

There are Mother Earth News Fairs held in Kansas, Texas, North Carolina, and PA. Some of my favorite booths that I visited this year were: Funky Fresh Family Farms, Farm to Table Western, PA, The Gardener’s Workshop, Sow True Seed, Mockingbird Meadows Farm, Metalledwith, The Bookstore, Fruition Seeds, Mother Earth’s Natural Organic Root Cider, (I’m not sure if it was this or the Fire Cider that I had from the Herb Angel, but I noticed a huge improvement in my sinuses over the next few days without having to take anything for them.) I’m anxious to plant my Marshmallow seeds that I purchased from Herb Angel. Sacred Plant Traditions was another booth that I enjoyed. The lady working the Harris Seeds booth was so friendly and she hooked me up with free purple carrot seeds! I’m also looking forward to learn more about the PA Women’s Agricultural Network and see what they have to offer and how I can educate myself in the future through their workshops.

The 2017 Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs was a success for the booth that I worked for, as well as a whole for the entire fair. I could’ve definitely spent 3 days learning new and different things each day, as well as attending workshops or taking it day by day to spend time at vendor booths and have time to talk to them and generate connections and network. Thanks, Mother Earth News for a great fair at Seven Springs! I’m already looking forward to attending next year!

Here are some pictures of me before arriving to the fair and our vendor booth at the fair.

National Pollinator Week

National Pollinator Week

If I’m not working, reading, or writing, then you can most likely find me outside. I’ll be pruning and dead heading plants or flowers, pulling weeds or tilling soil, planting new plants and flowers, or feeding and watering the ones that I have.

How have I never heard of National Pollinator Week? It is an International celebration! As I researched to learn more, I found out that it started in 2006 by the US State Senate to bring awareness and recognition of how important pollinators are to our world and how valuable they are to our ecosystem. This year it was celebrated June 19-25, 2017.

You may be thinking to yourself, “What are pollinators?” Birds, butterflies, beetles, bats, and bees are all pollinators. These pollinators sustain our ecosystems, help plants reproduce, and help with our food supply. Did you know that our landscapes could collapse if it wasn’t for these pollinators? They are very important for us and our environment. The website pollinator.org has tons of information and promotes “National Pollinator Week.”

We need pollinators and pollinators need us! Many pollinator populations are declining due to loss of nesting habitats and feeding. We can help pollinators by providing them with proper plants. Planting and placing plants in home gardens, schools, farms, and near highways will help supply pollinators. Other ways to help them would be to buy locally, shop at farmer’s markets, spread the word and create awareness.

There are Eco-regional planting guides available online and there is even an app for your phone to help you determine and decide what plants will attract pollinators.

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of people talking about the importance of native and heirloom plants. It is a good idea to incorporate these types of plants into your gardens. Bees have been, and still are on a decline, and now I’m beginning to hear that monarch butterflies are on a decline as well. Monarchs love milkweed. This plant in your yard will provide monarch butterflies with food.

If you are asking yourself how to create an environment for pollinators, you can plant a variety of flowers that bloom throughout the seasons of spring through fall. Also, limit the use of pesticides. Make sure to provide shelter and water for pollinators. Just as we need water, water is important for wildlife and nature as well.

It can be quite enjoyable watching pollinators connect with nature. You can watch them by going for a walk, or just sitting outside and paying attention to your surroundings. Look at the plants, flowers, animals, and pollinators around you. Take it all in, and in no time at all, you will be connecting yourself back to nature as well!

The website pollinator.org suggests some great ways to create awareness to others by providing ways to show the importance of pollinators. Some of their suggestions were using a symbol or pictures of pollinators next to the foods that they pollinate. Another idea was hosting a cooking class or creating a menu that showcases the food we eat to bring awareness to people as they sample and taste foods that we enjoy. Pollinators are important in that they help produce what we need to be able to have foods, spices, beverages, and even some medicines. This makes the situation more realistic knowing that if pollinators keep declining, we will have less of these foods, spices, and medicines in our daily lives.

It is important to bring awareness not only one week out of the year, but throughout the year. We need to educate not only adults, but children as well, because they are our future!

What are some of your ideas to bring awareness to others about the decline and importance of pollinators to others? How do you celebrate National Pollinator Week?

April Showers, Bring May Flowers…

April Showers, Bring May Flowers…

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful and enjoyable weekend! Although it was a rainy Saturday, Sunday was absolutely gorgeous out, and I hope that you did something that made you feel happy and put a smile on your face!

After debating back and forth about attending the Penn State Master Gardeners, Garden Marketplace at the ice rink at Shady Side Academy, located in Fox Chapel, I decided to go by myself and check it out. Let me tell you, that I am so glad that I went! Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies. I, by no means, am a professional gardener, but I get so much enjoyment while I’m outside planting things and watching them grow! I was completely overwhelmed not only by all of the gorgeous plants, flowers, and herbs, but by the friendliness, kindness, and knowledgeable gardeners and vendors that were there. There were native plants, unique varieties, perennials, annuals, and herbs galore! I was so excited walking down each aisle, imagining how I could landscape these beauties of nature into my own secret garden one day.

When I first walked into the Marketplace, I noticed the local daffodil society’s annual show and competition. I never realized how many different types of daffodils existed. There were some really pretty varieties that I have never seen before.

After walking through the aisles two times, I went back around and made a few purchases. I loved the idea of them having a plant check, (similar to a wine check, only instead of wine, it is for your purchased plants.) This was such a great idea, because it isn’t always easy carrying around a bunch of plants of different shapes and sizes. This Marketplace, really put me in a wonderful mood!  (All that beauty and the wonderful smells!)

On Sunday, I woke up knowing that I needed to plant what I purchased on Saturday. That required adding additional dirt/soil in my flower beds so that I could begin planting. Instead of making things easy on myself and just buying an already prepared soil mix, I tried to make a more organic mix on my own. I mixed organic topsoil, mushroom compost, and organic gardening soil. I will say this process took a lot longer than anticipated, but hopefully in the end, it will be worth it, and my perennials will grow back year after year. Knowing that May is here, I wanted to hang up my hummingbird feeder. I made my homemade hummingbird food and hung up the feeder.  Now, the waiting begins in hopes that the two hummingbirds from last year return again soon! I’ve always wanted a space that I could create with flowers that would attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Today, I planted a butterfly bush, bee balm, bearded tongue penstemon, two types of salvia, english daisies, and blonde platinum lavender. Also, pineapple sage, mint julep mint, pesto basil, and rosemary to start off my herb garden. After the outdoor gardening, I spent some more time planting several seeds that I had from packets. I’ll be anxious to see what grows, since I tried planting many things that I’ve never tried before. You can never have too many plants or flowers, and I can’t wait to add more beauty to my garden throughout summer! Have a great 1st day of May everyone! 

Here is just the initial start of my garden…

My Secret Garden

As summer comes to an end, one thing that I was quite passionate about was my garden and my flowers.  This is a place where I would not think, but just take in the beauty of each delicate plant.  I found a sense of peace and pride watching the beautifully colored blooms, vegetables, and herbs grow throughout the summer.  Their vibrant colors could brighten any dull day.  The gentle breeze brushing through the air brought a sense of calmness, and watching the bees pollinate the flowers provided me with happiness and left me with a smile.

Throughout the summer, I had two loyal hummingbirds that would make an appearance daily.  Seeing them fluttering around the feeder was an added bonus to the day!  I will share my hummingbird sugar water recipe with you that I used in my hummingbird feeder to attract them.

In addition to the beauty of my plants, hanging birdfeeders and windchimes were the perfect accents to create some fun to my backyard environment.  The animals can be quite entertaining.  We were fortunate here in PA to have a beautiful summer, but I am more than ready to move on to my favorite season fall!

Sugar Water Recipe for Hummingbirds

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. In a pot, add 4 cups of water.
  2. Heat the water to a slight boil.
  3. Take the pot off of the burner and add the 1 cup of sugar.
  4. Stir the sugar and let the sugar water cool before pouring it into the hummingbird feeder.

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(Look very closely to see the hummingbird!)