Monthly Archives: December 2015

Weekly Puzzler Answer #91

fern-7833Did you know the fern from last week’s puzzler? It is a Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides! Know why it is called that? For two reasons: 1. It stays green all year, like a Christmas tree and 2. Each little fern frond looks like a tiny stocking.

The Christmas fern can be found throughout the eastern United States in a variety of locations, especially on shady hillsides and wooded stream banks. It provides great erosion control.

Have you seen this fern while you were out on a walk in the woods?

xmas fern-6533

Can you see the mini stockings along the main stem?

xmas fern-6532

Here is a closer look

xmas fern-6529

This photo was taken yesterday–it is one of the few green plants in the forest right now.

xmas fern-0483

Are YOU ready for Christmas and the holidays? I am not! And as you may know from previous posts, my husband and I are fostering 3 puppies right now which seems to take up all of my time… so I am going to take a few days off from my Blog…no puzzler for this week but I will be back again soon.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Quote of the Week #48

dogs-6338Have you ever been around puppies? Ever watched them as they explored the world–tentative yet curious?

My husband and I are fostering 3 adorable collie/smooth retriever puppies (all named after Peanuts characters) whose mom was killed by a car when her puppies were just 4 weeks old.  The Asheville Humane Society was seeking foster homes for them since they were too young to put up for adoption. (If you are interested in adopting these cuties, call the Humane Society!  or  contact me!)

dogs2-6351It is my first time to ever be around puppies and though it is a lot of work, it is also a lot of fun. They are loving, forgiving and always interested in cuddling up and being close. They are also afraid of many, many things, especially anything that is not part of their routine.



When we first got them they were only 4 weeks old and cried all the time, constantly seeking reassurance that we were still present and that we would not leave them. Especially when we went outside, they seemed unsure of themselves and the world around them. Now, having been with us two weeks, they have been able to overcome some of their fears and are now much more adventurous, able to be less anxious and more willing to roam a little farther from our sides when we venture outside. Now they are not so clingy–they roll in the leaves, wrestle with each other, chew on sticks, hide behind tree trunks and find leaves or other things that they hide away from their inquisitive siblings.

Hobbes checks out the new puppy--Shroeder

Hobbes checks out the new puppy–Shroeder

They make me think about fears and how important it is for them–and us– to get over our fears. Otherwise life would be incredibly lacking. Imagine how small it would be if they–or us–never took steps out of their comfort zones. Think of all the things they–or we– would miss! It is a great reminder of the importance of facing one’s fears so that we can grow and have meaningful experiences.

So that is this week’s theme for the quote:



“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”                                                                                                                                 –Nelson Mandela

Weekly Puzzler Answer #90

puzzle-6134Have you seen this forest ground cover? Did you identify it as a type of fan clubmoss? It has many common names, many of those that are regionally specific. These include running cedar, ground cedar, southern running pine, ground pine, creeping cedar, Christmas green, running pine, creeping jenny, and crowsfoot. The latin name of this clubmoss is Diphasiastrum digitatum. 

This plant is not a kind of cedar, nor it is a kind of moss, making both names not very accurate. It is more closely related to ferns, which like clubmosses reproduce through spores, not seeds.

cedar-Running cedar spreads through underground rhizomes (subterranean stems)  and in some places can create dense monocultures. Like evergreen trees, it stays green all year, and was once a popular Christmas decoration to be used in greenery.  It is a slow growing plant and extremely difficult to transplant, which is why in some areas it has become rare.

It grows up to 4 inches tall and in the summer, sends up tall reproductive structures called strobill. These bear spores for reproducing.

Clubmosses are among the most ancient of all land plants, having been around for 400 million years! 400 million! Can you imagine? They were on Earth even BEFORE the dinosaurs! These days they can be found in coniferous to mixed deciduous forests.

Have you seen it in a forest near you?


Check out the next puzzler HERE.

Weekly Puzzler #91

Since last week’s puzzler was about an ancient plant called a clubmoss, I thought I would continue the theme by choosing another ancient plant–a fern. Do you know what kind of fern this is–it is one of the most common fern in the southern Appalachians where I live. Check back next weekend to learn the answer.


Until then, have a FABULOUS weekend! Take a break from your shopping for holiday presents and get out and enjoy the lovely weather we’ve been having. It is truly magnificent and surely will soon be replaced with more seasonable weather.


5 Meaningful Gifts that Won’t Break the Bank

I wrote a post about this some time ago–how so often we are faced with finding a gift for someone who seems to have everything. What should we give him/her? Most people–especially older and wiser people who have learned the meaning of time-well-spent–would love nothing more than TIME WITH LOVED ONES. They know that experiences are almost always better than possessions.

And so this holiday, I offer to you a few ideas for gifts  for the Nature Lovers in your life that cost little or nothing but that mean a whole lot.

The bottom line is Give people EXPERIENCES rather than possessions.


Do you know research has been done on gift-giving and and that overwhelmingly studies show that people get more happiness from EXPERIENCES rather than possessions which makes sense if you think about it–the experience allows you to anticipate the event, get excited about it, then participate in it, and then afterwards, enjoy the memories of the event. Studies show that even when things go wrong, people often look back on the minor mishaps with humor and overall, the edges get softened so that the moments seem even sweeter than they actually were. Giving experiences is really the gift that KEEPS ON GIVING!

The average child in the developed world owns over 200 toys but only plays with 12 of them on average per day!

Even crazier? Only 3% of the world’s children live in the US, but they own 40+% of the world’s toys!

According to The United States has upward of 50,000 storage facilities, more than five times the number of Starbucks. The New York Times states that 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades.

So how to avoid giving possessions? Think outside of the box!

Here are a few ideas:

  • Membership to their local Arboretum, Botanical garden or Nature Center or park
  • If they live close to a National Park, you could give a year Park Pass.
  • Museum or Science center memberships
  • Local attraction season passes
  • Inspire new hobbies such as camping or hiking with equipment necessary for those activities. Or how about a guide book telling where to go hiking, or fishing or canoeing.

For those that live in the same town as you or nearby, think about shared experiences, GIVE YOUR TIME, which honestly is the best gift you can ever offer:

1a2-TAKE someone on your list on a

  • hike
  • or a picnic
  • fishing if that’s your passion
  • or swimming in the secret spot only you know about
  • drive a new road to a new park
  • or offer to go camping for a weekend
  • host a campfire


But are you thinking, “How can I GIVE that? How do you wrap an experience?” Be creative! Make a coupon. Create a mini book with pictures or information. How about making a dvd about this future experience? Or wrap something in a box that is a hint or a necessary piece of equipment, like a headlamp for a camping trip or a picnic blanket for a picnic.

This will get them excited for it and then you can choose a date together and MAKE IT HAPPEN. 

Here’s a LINK to a website with 46 experiences you can give.

Let me know what you think or what ideas you have. Maybe you’ve already thought of the perfect experience to give….why not share it with others?


Quote of the Week #47

Do you find yourself in a rut, always going through your days doing the same things? How often do you try new things, go new places or meet new people?

I’ll be the first to admit it is easy to fall into a routine and then just continue with it day in and day out. But then one day you might stop and reflect on this thinking, “Wow, this is boring!”

I was thinking of this because I met a woman at the gym today who said her workout is boring and that it is hard for her to do even 15 minutes on the track/treadmill/bike.  She voiced that she admires me for my focus and my ability to motivate myself, saying that she is always seeing me try something new and that she wishes she could do that too. I do a high intensity interval (jumping rope, sprinting, stair-climbing etc) between my sets on the machines, trying to avoid  the same thing two days in a row. I also try to add new intervals regularly.

I only do things this way because for me it is boring doing the same “routine” every day, as many people seem to do. It is important to me to be totally present for my workouts, rather than go through the motions in a fog. I take it one challenge at a time, actually enjoying when I learn about a new interval I can add. I like mixing it up because that makes it fun and if it’s fun, I will continue to do it.

This idea of course isn’t and shouldn’t be limited to workouts at the gym–it can apply to every other faucet of our lives. There is always a way to give ourselves new experiences if we consider it a priority.

That brings me to this week’s quote:


Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.  

–Frank Herbert

Speaking of new experiences, have you considered giving them to the people on your holiday list? Click HERE for some ideas.


Weekly Puzzler Answer #89

Who or what made these marks on the trees?

Who or what made these marks on the trees?

If you live in the northeast or Canada, you’ve probably seen these marks on trees and maybe even the animals who make them–ELK. Only second in size (in the deer family) to the Moose, elk are pretty hard to miss.

Why do they do this? Elk, like all members of the deer family are herbivores. They feed on native grasses, forbs and tree sprouts and in winter–tree bark.

Old elk bites on aspen trees

Old elk bites on aspen trees

Finding an aspen grove with old scars shows where the elk have con grated during winter months when snow was deep. Since they lack upper incisors, they work the bark with their bottom front teeth, gouging the bark in an upward motion.

Do you know much about these giant mammals? For instance, how much food do they eat daily or how much can a large male weigh? Do you know what sound they make, where they live or what’s special about their stomachs? They will be the animal featured this coming week so check back to read more about these magnificent animals.


Until then, have a wonderful weekend. CLICK HERE for  the next puzzler.