Archive for October, 2008

Longwood Garden in PA

The last time I was in Pennsylvania was about 10 years ago. Back then, I had very little interest in gardening or landscape design. So I never heard of Longwood Gardens. If I am to ever travel there again, I will definitely make a stop in Kennett Square, PA. Also known as the “Mushroom Capital” of the world.

I have come to realize how important it is to be surrounded by beautiful and healthy plants. Beautiful plants really do add to your over all health. Studies have shown that people recover faster in hospitals where they have a window view of plants and flowers. I figure that could be even more helpful if you have a garden view in you own home too. Or at least try to visit a botanical garden in your area to boost your health.

Mission Statement:

Longwood Gardens is dedicated to preserving the spirit and beauty of the early 20th century gardens of Pierre S. du Pont. Longwood is a display garden promoting the art and enjoyment of horticulture for the public, while providing opportunities for research and learning. We are committed to excellence, good management, and fiscal responsibility.

I love this picture from their website. The cute little bird has made a home in one of the dried hallow gourd. Longwood Gardens is open every day of the year. Longwood Gardens is located on US Route 1, about 3 miles northeast of Kennett Square, PA. Longwood is an easy drive and offers free parking! Read the rest of this entry »


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Pineapple Guavas

It is end of October and time for fall fruit harvest. We harvested about 10 pounds of pineapple guava from our friend’s yard. Most people would consider turning them into jams and have it with toast. But I just cut them in half and scoop out the soft middle part. The skin is not so sweet, more tannic and astringent tasting. But the inside is really good. It’s sweet and taste like a cross between strawberry, kiwi, pineapple, and of course guava. I love that they don’t just taste great, but they smell great too. The pink petals are also edible and used in tossed salads. But I have yet to try the petals. That would be an interesting thing to experiment with next spring.

The common names for this fruit is Feijoa, Pineapple Guava, and Guavasteen. They are native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Basically most of south America. It can tolerate partial shade and slight exposure to salt spray. They prefer cool winters and moderate summers, so northern California bay area weather is perfect.

If I had more garden space, I would really consider planting one of these shrubs. They would make nice privacy hedges. They also don’t require much watering too. The best part, is no need for pesticide as the pineapple guava is pest and disease-resistant. The best place to grow them is to choose a plant site away from hot, reflected sun.You can read more about cultivating it at FEIJOA Fruit Facts.

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Handmade Tamarind & Aloe Vera Soap

Another new addition to my handmade soap collection is the tamarind & aloe vera bar. Besides it’s popularity in the (Asian) kitchen, tamarind fruit extract has also been shown to be very helpful in lightening those freckles on your face. So that is why I decided to make my first handmade facial soap with tamarind. I also added fresh aloe vera gel too. The aloe vera is soothing and moisturizing to the skin. And finally I finished it off with a little bit of food grade coconut milk powder too. Milk powder provides skin softening benefits.

The tamarind I used is in powder form, while the aloe vera is fresh aloe gel. I added all the powders and gel at trace, which is during the end of my mixing. This way it can still retain it’s useful skin benefits. And instead of water, I subsituted it with licorice tea.

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California Academy of Science

California Academy of Science had a huge re-opening on September 27th, 2008. So there was a big crowd that day. I’m actaully thinking of going when there is less of a crowd. Gives me a better chance to really absorb the place and I really don’t like going to museums when it’s too crowded. But of course, people watching is also the fun part too.

So if anyone is interested in visiting soon, here are the details:

55 Music Concourse Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 379-8000

Photo credit: California Academy of Science (Opening Day) via flickr. Notice the green roof, it’s suppose to have plants that are native to the area and helps with the green design of the building. Very cool!

General Admission
Adult $24.95
Senior (ages 65 and over) $19.99
Youth (ages12-17) $19.95
Child (ages 7-11) $14.95
Ages 6 and under FREE

Visit Free of Charge

There are numerous opportunities to visit the Academy free of charge, including:

  • Wachovia Wednesdays: Third Wednesday of every month.
  • Neighborhood Free Days: Open weekends for SF residents in each zip code.

And I can’t really say or describe it any better, so here is some highligths of CAS from their website:

“The California Academy of Sciences is a multifaceted scientific institution committed to leading-edge research, to educational outreach, and to finding new and innovative ways to engage and inspire the public.

The new Academy will not only be a museum for the 21st century and an icon for green building technology but a leading voice in the global effort to preserve natural habitats, prevent the loss of species and protect essential natural resources.

Eighty skylights in the roof, supplemented with metal halide lights, enable the growth of lush, tropical plants found in various rainforests around the world.

Living plants include numerous trees – such as the Brazilian beautyleaf and West Indies mahogany, dozens of shrubs – including Theobrama cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made, and hundreds of flowering plants – from begonias and philodendrons to orchids and bromeliads.”

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Save the Honeybees

My mom has a small garden in her backyard. She grows vegetables and flowers. She also has a pomegranate and peach tree too. But this year, the peaches were not as sweet and the pomegranate did not bear as much fruits either. Her zucchini plant was just leaves, unlike previous summers where we had endless supply of zucchinis. But the garden was not a total failure, the eggplants, tomatoes and flowers did pretty well.

So I wonder what happened to the other sad plants? But then I remember hearing about the disappearance of honeybees in California. I thought this could be one of the reasons behind them. Since bees are important in the pollination of our fruit and vegetables.

The disappearance of bees have been reported in other states such as Florida, Oklahoma and Texas too. Beekeepers noticed the disappearing bees back in 2006. It seem that healthy bees were just abandoning their hives to never return. Research is still being done at Penn State University and U.C. Davis. They have named this phenomenon, “Colony Collapse Disorder”. They have found some patterns, but no strong conclusion as to what is the cause of the bees disappearence.

At Burt’s Bees (the maker of a natural skincare company), they believed it is the forces like habitat destruction, misuse of pesticides, invasive species and global warming create risks to honeybees. Burts’ Bees also mention that the bee disappearance is so widespread that it is blamed for losses of up to 70% of the managed bee colonies in U.S. beekeeping operations. So what can we do about it? Burt’s Bees suggest we support local organic farmers and also plant bee friendly flowers. These wildflowers include Calendula, Shasta Daisy, Lance-Leaved Coreopsis, Plains Coreopsis, Purple Coneflower and Sweet William Catchfly.

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I love Miele Solaris

I have never really heard about Miele vacuum cleaners or anything until I had the chance to use one recently. I love it so much, I have to say “thank you” to the makers of these great machines. They have turned my least favorite household chore and made it so much fun.

The only time I’ve seen or heard of Mieles is at the coffee shop, or the maker of the espresso machines. I would never think Italian espresso maker equates to German vacuum cleaners. I am very surprise to find out they also make dishwashers and laundry machines too.

I might have known more about Miele if there were more advertisement for Miele in the U.S. market. But if you go to Youtube, you will find some really neat Miele commercials from Europe.

My first experience with the Miele Solaris canister vacuum began last month. I usually enjoy doing household chores, such as laundry or dishes. But my least favorite is to vacuum since the machine I had was so noisy, hard to move around with, and could not reach difficult corners or underneath the kitchen table. Not only that, but my eyes and throat would itch and burn after each use (allergy flare-ups).

Then S let me use his old Miele canister vacumn and I was hooked on the spot. I was surprise at how much fun and nice it is to vacumn now. Not only are they fun to use, but nice to look at too. I would never thought I would consider how “cute” this vacumn cleaner looks. The size is convenient for those that live in smaller homes.

The Meile Solaris is compact, light, quiet, and moves wonderfully in tiny corners and hallway. My eyes and throat did not burn or itch after using it. The Miele is described to come standard with the Active HEPA filter captures allergens like dust mite feces and pollen and conforms to the stringent European EN1822 filtration standard, trapping 99.99% of all particles as tiny as 0.3 microns.This filter lasts as long as 5 dustbags. It is definitley a great choice for those with asthma problems.

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Gotu Kola and it’s many names

Gotu Kola has long been a magic herb from Asia, but not many people are aware of this neat little herb. Lucky magazine said it’s popping up in many cosmetics too. I can see why, since it has many good benefits for the skin. But Lucky magazine call it “tiger grass”. I think they should just stick with the name Gotu Kola or centella. Those folks at Lucky are always trying to come up with something catchy.

In our area, many Asian markets sell it as a drink (in a can) or flash frozen from Vietnam. But it’s labeled as “Pennywort.” And I always thought that was such a strange name. Wort is define as a plant of any kind. I suppose the leaves must look like pennies? Anyhow, the drink is good. But I don’t usually buy them now as the sugar content is at least 25 grams, so that defeats the purpose for me.

We do have a small batch growing in our yard. I usually eat them raw and love the taste, it’s crisp and cool, like a cucumber made into a leaf. It’s also great in salads. I just eat mine fresh with a tiny bit of cane sugar or dry them up and drink it as a herbal tea.


The botanical name is Hydrocotyle asiatica. It is very common in Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal medicine. The active ingredients of this plant include asiaticoside, madecassoside and madasiatic acid. These compounds have been shown to inhibit the production of collagen, especially in conjunction with scar tissue. Other studies have shown that gotu kola can help treat burns and wounds, and that it may be helpful in preventing and treating keloid scars. This sounds a lot like aloe vera to me.

According to Ellen and herbal wisdom, “Gotu Kola is a wonderful tonic for convalescence, for nervous exhaustion, stress and neurotic disturbances. These qualities make Gotu kola a helpful herb for children with A.D.D. because of its stimulating effect on the brain which helps to increase one’s ability to focus while having a soothing effect on an overactive nervous system.” Wow, I think R could use some of this as he is always active and looking for something to calm him down more.

Ellen is a family & marriage therapist as well as herbalist. She makes wonderful salves and balms with the many herbs in her garden. I like to have a garden like that someday too. Thinking back I had a wealth of plants and special herbs growing at my parent’s backyard and never truly appreciated it until now.

*Ellen’s herb site can be found at

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