Magical Fall

When I was a young girl, I had come to the conclusion that the magical changing of the leaf colors in autumn was due to the work of an elusive woodland elf. In my mind, his name was Henry. He, of course, was one of Jack Frost’s many cousins. Instead of waving his magic wand and transforming our world into a Winter Wonderland with frost and delicate icicles, Henry merrily splattered fiery hues of orange, red, yellow and brown on most of the leaves for his own amusement.

burning bush2

Somewhere on the way to adulthood, I realized that a paintbrush wielding elf named Henry was highly unlikely. I have to confess that if the glorious colors of fall couldn’t be a result of magic, then it didn’t matter to me. If I did think about it, I was vaguely aware that it had something to do with the weather getting cold and making the leaves die. Oh, and it was pretty to look at. Recently, I learned that fall color actually can be explained by a certain kind of magic. It’s a progression called senescence, or the process of aging and death. It’s all explained by science.

It turns out that fall color actually starts long before fall. All summer long, leaves bask in the long hot days, soaking up the sunshine and converting it into sugars using chlorophyll in the process of photosynthesis. Each leaf makes more than it needs, so it passes glucose and minerals such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium into the xylem of the tree in a process called translocation. They are then stored in the roots and stems of the tree. In return, water is passed back to the leaf so that it can continue its food making efforts.  

Towards the end of summer, the tree “notices” that the daylight hours are getting shorter. This is a signal that it’s time to stop food production and start shutting down for the winter. The leaves are no longer needed as there isn’t enough light or water available in the winter for them to produce food.

A layer of cells called the “abscission” or separation layer that is located between the tree stem and the petiole or stalk of the leaf starts to thicken, limiting the flow of resources between the tree and the leaf. When the flow between the leaf and tree begins to be cut off, there is still glucose trapped in the leaf. This is when the color magic happens.

The chlorophyll that is used in food production, and makes the leaf appear green begins to break down and isn’t replaced, as it is all summer. As the green coloring fades, the other pigments that are always present in the leaf, but masked by the overpowering chlorophyll begin to shine. The yellow pigments are called xanthophylls and the orange ones are carotenoids. Brown colorings come from tannin, a waste product.

Some trees, have more pigments called anthocyanin that, when exposed to abundant sunshine, “cook” the trapped glucose and develop into bright reds, purples and bronzes. Cool night temperatures, paired with sunny days create the best color as it encourages the formation of the anthocyanins. Researchers are not quite clear why a leaf would expend the extra energy to develop these colorings when the leaf will soon fall off. One theory is that it serves as an anti-freeze allowing the leaves to last longer. Other thoughts are that the reds may serve as a warning for pests not to lay eggs or as a sunscreen or even to limi water loss.

burning bush

Interestingly, color displays are different in various areas of the world. The amount of sunshine, temperature changes and soil moisture as well as plant genetics all play a huge part in the array of fall color. It’s fascinating to think that the same exact cultivar of tree can look stunning in one area, and just look average or even boring in another area of the world.

All too soon the abscission layer becomes completely blocked and the leaf tears off, gently floating to the ground. If left there, the warm blanket of leaves will help insulate the tree and eventually start to break down, thus even after it has fallen, supply the tree with its remaining nutrients.

Somehow, I think this process is even more exciting and magical than a woodland elf with a bucket of paint. I’d like to think that my old friend Henry would agree.

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The Plants and I

I suppose I should admit that I wasn’t always interested in plants. In fact, I did my very best to be somewhere, anywhere, else all those weekend mornings that my dad held reveille at the crack of dawn. Dad had grown up on a farm and thought it would be a great character-building experience to head out to work the fields…er…the smallish garden in our back yard every weekend. I always thought there had to be better ways to build character.

When I got old enough to move into my first apartment, I was given a small plant as a housewarming gift. To my amazement, my little green friend grew and flourished with just the smallest bit of attention. Charmed, I set about finding him a whole set of adoptive siblings. We all lived quite happily together until my cat had kittens. It turns out that kittens think the dangling leaves of plants are delightful to play with. They also considered the soil the plants lived in to be far superior to traditional kitty litter. By the time the kittens were old enough to go to new homes, my plants had moved on to that garden in the sky. I realized then, that I must not a Plant Person.

Flashing forward multiple years, I found myself teaching a few preschool classes at our local Parks and Rec department. The director decided for reasons that are still unclear to me, that I should develop and teach a parent-child gardening class. It didn’t matter that I claimed to have no knowledge of gardening and had even brandished my Brown Thumb at her. She was adamant that I was the one to teach this class.

I had a couple weeks to frantically research gardening and plants in general. My challenge was to design a program simple enough for a three year old to understand, yet compelling enough to hold the interest of an adult. The more I studied, the more fascinated I became with the flora around me. When the first day of class arrived, I was ready. The parents treated me as though I were an expert in the field. They had zillions of questions to ask about the gardens surrounding our outdoor classroom, and to my astonishment, I knew most of the answers. Somehow, I was hooked on plants again.


Since then, I’ve spend more time and money visiting nurseries than I should probably admit. For the last few years, my friends and I have been coming to the plant sale held at one of our local colleges. My friends always looked around in awe at the lovely plants. I, on the other hand, in addition to admiring the plants, have enviously observed the students that had grown all those beautiful plants.

This last year, I became an empty nester. With no kids in the house and just a part-time job, I decided that the time was finally right for me to join those students and go back to school to learn about the plants that I enjoy so much.

It was a scary decision. School was a long time ago, and a lot of things have changed. To be honest, I was filled with self-doubt. Fortunately, I have the full support of my family and friends. As was mentioned by both of my instructors on the first day of school, this is the start of a wonderful new adventure.

I’m so glad I decided to take that first step.

Posted in Gardening, Horticulture, It's all about me! | 3 Comments

Sheer Joy

My fingers have been itching.

They want to write again. I look at them and remind them that there’s no time to sit and simply write for the sheer joy of writing. Then I pause a moment, and wonder at what I’m thinking. No time for joy? When did that happen? I’ve always been a firm believer in making time for the things that make my heart happy. When I think about it, the urge to write has been creeping up on me and silently sneaking in.

I first noticed a few months ago when I realized that keeping a day planner was becoming one of the newest Things. Going Old School by keeping track of daily life by writing everything down on paper appealed to the Luddite in me. Decorating it with stickers, stamps, paint whatever (Just do a quick search on Pinterest to see what I’m talking about) was just the frosting on the cake. It wasn’t too long before I was the proud owner of a planner. (Ok, technically, I was the proud owner of three…I had a hard time deciding which I wanted. My plan was to stare at them for a while and return the extras.)

I had a wonderful time making my pages colorful and loud. Then jotting down all my appointments, to do’s and other lists. I made a point to reserve a small square in which to scrawl a reminiscence from each day, just as I have been doing for the last few years in a small monthly calendar. Without realizing it, I had started to write more and more until there were no more lists or appointments in my planner. Instead, I seemed to be writing a journal.

Then last month, it was time to renew the blog or let it go. It didn’t seem to matter that I’ve barely thought about my blog, I couldn’t seem to close it down. “Write,” it whispered to me, “Just write.”

And so, I will shake off the rusty feelings of inadequacy and scratch those itchy fingers by letting them write. In the process, I hope I rediscover my joy of simply writing. I hope you stick around to join me.

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Cookie Logic

I’d been trying my best to eat healthier for the past few months. In the summer, with the easy outdoor living and abundance of fresh fruit and veggies everywhere you looked, it was fairly simple. As the seasons changed, I yearned for the comforts of fall. Cozy sweaters, a cheery fire and warm, spicy whiffs of goodness wafting from the oven.

I knew that it was certain folly for me to bake an entire batch of yummy treats. I simply didn’t have the self-control required to indulge in moderation. So I did the next best thing. I decided to experiment with a cookie recipe for the parent/child cooking class that I teach. To my amusement, the tantalizing aroma of the baking cinnamon, sugar and vanilla drew my family out of the spaces they had been squirreled away in like starving rats. Eager faces turned to disappointment as they saw the single portion serving I had made. There wasn’t even much to lick off of the spoon.

“Make some more!” they insisted, “And put chocolate in it this time!” With a sigh, I explained to my family that I didn’t think that my sweet tooth could handle the temptation of baked goods in the house. Of course they swore that they would eat it all so I didn’t have to worry about it. I had to explain to my sweet children that it wasn’t healthy for them to eat that much sugar either.

“You know,” said Shaun, “I could always take the extra in for my team at work.”

“Oh, that’s not a bad Idea. So, you need a couple dozen?” I asked thinking that should more than enough for his team of about six or eight, most of whom were young men.

“Well, I was thinking more about a hundred, hundred-fifty. I’d have to bring them in for the entire team, it’s only fair.” He answered.


One hundred cookies? Was that man completely insane? Why on earth did he think it was a good idea to go from supplying a few extras, to asking me to spend hours in the kitchen for a bunch of people I didn’t even know?

“I’m sorry” I said. “I can’t do that, it would take me forever. Do you even know how many dozen cookies that is? I can make it for the smaller team, maybe you can rotate who gets them. This simply isn’t possible for me.

My husband, of course, skipped past my ranting and focused on the one little question I hadn’t even realized I had thrown out there. “I don’t know…how many are in a dozen.”

“Twelve” I answered in disbelief at his response to my outburst.

“Just over eight and a half” he said.

At my confused look, he slowly said that 100 cookies is about eight and a half dozen. In my mind, that changed everything. Nine dozen cookies was a completely different story. I would be happy to bake those. And more importantly, get them out of the house. It’s a win-win.

Shaun knows me well. He just has to use the right Cookie Logic on me.

 choc chip cookies

Did I mention that he takes them to work on his bike?

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It’s June

This past week or so has been glorious. As in bright, sunny, wonderfully warm, this must be-the-middle-of-summer, take-the-top-off-your-Jeep because it’s sooo glorious. Then this morning when I let the dogs out, I couldn’t help but notice that the skies were back to the lovely Seattle grey that we are so accustomed to.

“It’s ok,” I told myself staring up toward the heavens, “Today is the first day of June…this is merely June Gloom, the sun will be shining again before you know it.” Then the first drop of rain fell in my eye.


I never did see the sun today.

In all honesty, that’s okay. Well, mostly okay. You see, Seattle is not supposed to be sunny in June. In fact, local lore insists that summer doesn’t start until July 5th. Amazingly, this is pretty accurate. I can’t tell you how many 4th of July BBQs have been held on gloomy days. The firework displays are nearly always bursting on an overcast background. Then the next day? Poof! It’s summer.

In the meantime, my fledgling garden will enjoy the sunshine we do get and all my wonderful weeds (and a few intentional plants) will thrive with the rain.

Happy June!

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I Worry

For the most part, I’m a go-with-the-flow type of person. I realize that worrying doesn’t help anything, and usually gets folks upset about nothing. Yet, sometimes I realize that my shoulders are clenched and aching. That’s when I know that I have too many things bothering me and I need to let some of them go.

I worry about suddenly blogging so much. Despite my declaration that I’m writing for myself, I dread boring people to tears. I worry that those that have chosen to have emails containing blog posts sent to them are feeling spammed. I hate spam.

I worry about the hole in the front of my house.  After the initial boarding up, insurance seems to be moving at a snail’s pace.  I’d like to have windows again.  And my landscaping fixed.  

I worry about Mimi being on a cruise ship so far away from me. The ship has already had to have repairs from hitting a sandbar. And everyone knows about nasty viruses spreading like wildfire on board ship. I’m sure she’s having a wonderful time…but still…I worry.

I worry about what my crazy grandpuppy has done while I’m away from home. Today I came home to a partially chewed pair of shoes. It’s like having a small child…with teeth.

I worry about KT getting ready to leave for vet school. I’ve gotten used to having her around and seeing her at least once a week or so. Once again, I’m sure she will be fine…but still, a mother worries.

Mostly, I worry about my parents right now. My dad is currently in the hospital after having what should have been a simple procedure done. There were complications and now they are keeping him for a few nights. I worry about my mom, sitting alone in the hospital room with him. I’m sure she’s worried too.

Like having a good cry, expressing my worries seems to have loosened the tension in my shoulders. I feel a little better now.  A nice glass of red will help even more.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Thank you for reading A Slice of My Life. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you liked this post, why not consider “liking” my Facebook Page, subscribing by mail (at the upper right) or signing up in a reader. I’d be thrilled and you would never miss a post. Oh…and I love comments!

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Old Red

I looked up at the grey skies and sighed. The rain is supposed to come back tonight. After being spoiled by sunshine and beautiful blue skies, it’s a little hard to accept our usual sodden gloom. I looked outside at my lawn and sighed again.

“You really need to cut it.” I told myself.


“I can’t mow the lawn now” I replied, “It’s only the second week of March.”

“The lawn is overgrown, it really needs it. Besides, most of the neighbors have started mowing theirs already. It’s not too early.” I sighed once again, this time in resignation. “And” I added, “You grilled last night. It’s time.”

So I hauled Old Red, my trusty mower, out from her resting spot in the garage. I unfolded her handle and filled her tank with gas. I pushed around the garbage cans and down the cobbled path to the back yard. Tugging open the gate, I pushed her through and positioned her on the back walkway where I always start mowing. I have no idea why, but I quickly pushed the little black rubber button on the side of the motor as I was originally instructed when I got Red. Then reached down to yank the gas pull…I nearly pulled my arm off.

The pull refused to budge. I tried to gently coax it to loosen up by spraying it with lubricant and pulling it back and forth. I may have sworn at it a bit before hunting down a screwdriver to open her up and peer inside to see if I could figure out the problem.

I took me a while, but I finally figured out the difficulty. Old Red knew that it was only the second week of March and simply wasn’t ready to get to work yet.

“Wake me up when it’s spring” I imagined her grumbling at me.

“Fine Red” I said, “we can wait another week or so. I don’t have a problem with that.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Thank you for reading A Slice of My Life. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you liked this post, why not consider “liking” my Facebook Page, subscribing by mail (at the upper right) or signing up in a reader. I’d be thrilled and you would never miss a post. Oh…and I love comments!

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Is It Summer Yet?

“Are you sure you guys don’t want to grill tonight?” texted my oldest daughter Kaitie.

“Um…were we thinking about that?” I replied.

“I was!”

She was right, we have been having a glorious winter here in the Pacific Northwest. Today seemed to be one of the nicest yet, featuring sunny blue skies and the temperature pushing into the low 60’s. It only made sense to grill.

KT even agreed to do all the work if I would stop and get what we needed on my way home from work. It sounded like a great deal to me!

WP_20140523_19_03_59_Pro__highres      Photo from last summer because we ate everything before I took a picture!

So tonight we feasted on a wonderful grilled meal…that I didn’t have to make.






~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Thank you for reading A Slice of My Life. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you liked this post, why not consider “liking” my Facebook Page, subscribing by mail (at the upper right) or signing up in a reader. I’d be thrilled and you would never miss a post. Oh…and I love comments!

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Rise and Shine

This morning I heard my oldest daughter KT get up and ask the dogs if they wanted to go outside. I smiled at the thought of being able to sleep in for a little while longer without having to get up to let them out. I had just drifted off again when I felt the gentle thump of little feet jumping up on my bed. This was immediately followed by a larger plop and the chattering of my child. I have no idea what she was talking about, I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the dogs as my husband stretched his arms out and started chatting back.

I gave a huge sigh and gave a very obvious tug of the blanket, before pulling it over my head. There was a brief moment of silence before the loud conversation began again. I had begun to get the feeling that sleeping in was going to be futile. I was sure of it when they started noisily playing with the dogs.

When all my subtle (and some not-so-subtle) hints didn’t work, I screeched for them to go away calmly asked them to find somewhere else to talk.  They left after a bit of mumbling about how grumpy some people were in the morning. 

Of course, by that point, I was completely awake and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I decided to make the most of it and just rise and shine.  Well…at least rise.  Shining seemed to be asking a bit much after my rude awakening!


Thank you for reading A Slice of My Life. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you liked this post, why not consider “liking” my Facebook Page, subscribing by mail (at the upper right) or signing up in a reader. I’d be thrilled and you would never miss a post. Oh…and I love comments!

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Be Careful What You Wish For

Yesterday I was wondering what to write about.  I set about really paying attention to my day in order to have something interesting to say.  I came up with a couple good ideas…enough to last me a day or two if I needed them.

I was headed home after a long day and found this.

'Our neighbor's beautiful classic car decided to roll down the hill and visit our house this evening. Our home is fixable, but I feel so badly for his car. He had spent two years restoring it and was going to a car show tomorrow morning.'

A neighbor’s classic car had rolled down the hill straight into my house! Now that’s something you don’t come across every day.  Right now I’m tuckered out so I’ll write in more detail tomorrow. 

It will be quite some time before I wish I’d had a more interesting day!


Thank you for reading A Slice of My Life. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you liked this post, why not consider “liking” my Facebook Page, subscribing by mail (at the upper right) or signing up in a reader. I’d be thrilled and you would never miss a post. Oh…and I love comments!

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