Silent Sunday: Remembering the Florida Keys

Silent Sunday: Remembering the Florida Keys

© Pier at Hawk’s Cay Resort, Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
Resort Grounds, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
Sun Shadow Phenomenon, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
Lagoon Rest, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
Sea Grass and Sea Oats, Sombero Beach, Florida Keys, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011.
©  Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys, Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
© Carol Labuzzetta, Sunset at Hawk’s Cay Lagoon, 2011
Water Bird, Florida Keys, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
 Water Rest, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
Hawk’s Cay Sun Shadow, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
Sombero Beach, Florida Keys, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
A Street in the Keys, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
Resort Signage, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
 Sunset over the Lagoon © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
Dusk at the Lagoon, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
Keys Kitsch, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2011
A Door is Just a Door, or Is It Just Our Door?

A Door is Just a Door, or Is It Just Our Door?

We have been residing our house, or rather, my husband has been residing our house. I have not done anything with the exception of questioning a few things, which got me in trouble, of course.  It is nearly done and looks fabulous!  There really isn’t a home improvement project my hubby cannot tackle.  He has done a great job and is in what most would call the “home stretch”. A few pieces of the new siding need to be placed on the peak of our north side and the job is almost complete. Unfortunately, for me, what I would consider one of the most important features of the job will be the last to be done. It is our front door alcove.  It is also still awaiting siding as well as a new front door.

We have come full circle with the door options. I saw one I liked, in stock, at one of our local home improvement stores.  It went with our new “craftsman” like facade.   But, then my husband asked me to look at the building supply store (where contractors go) catalog of doors since we had a credit from them on our “tab”.  Reluctantly, I looked. Mostly, this was because the books were delivered to me by my husband to peruse. I flipped blindly through the book and landed on a page with a door I liked. Looking further, I noted that the price for this door was not available in the catalog, nor were the prices of any other door they pictured.  This meant trouble. No price means expensive price. Sure enough,  when my husband had to return to the supply store, he inquired about the chosen door just out of curiosity, even though I had not said I wanted it (which I truly did not).  I was prepared for an outrageous price. And, when my husband came home, he delivered the news. The price was outrageous! Thousands of dollars for a door!  This was exactly what my initial reluctance was about concerning the “looking” at what the building supply store had to offer.

You see, considering an item’s price, for me (us) is part of the decision-making process. Without open access to prices, I knew we were not going to even consider what they had to offer. Back to the home improvement store and online shopping for a door, I returned.  We were not looking to make a statement with our door. We just felt that since we were replacing the siding with a color/style that reflected us and not the previous owners, we should also replace the front door.  I do want a nice door. I want a door to match the style and color of our new siding and exterior lights. But, are we making a statement with our door?

I honestly hope not. I want our door to do what any other door does. A door opens so one can walk through. A door protects those inside from the elements that exist outside. It keeps family and friends in and malevolent strangers out. It should be attractive but not ostentatious, and certainly not thousands and thousands of dollars. A door is just a door, right? Or is it a statement?

We still have not purchased the door. Upon further inspection, our current “old” door has a less than popular wider “jam”.  So, now that has to be considered as well.  There has been so much consideration about this new door, I am starting to feel like it will never live up to all we want and need it to be.  It needs to have some windows for light and visibility. It needs to match the new colors of the siding.  I want it to come pre-finished, just come home be ready to be hung. It needs to have the wider jam. It needs to be affordable. I need to like it.

What door meets those requirements? The door I first chose. We will go back and get that door. It might not be a statement but it will be the finishing touch on the siding job. And, it will be affordable but lovely.  It will be our door. So, I guess a door is not just a door, but much more, because it is our door.


What is a MGV? Why do we matter?

What is a MGV? Why do we matter?

It is that time of year again. Master Gardener Volunteer (MVG) hours are due. Since 2004, I have spent the last couple weeks in September recording my continuing education and volunteer hours to maintain my Master Gardener Volunteer Certification. Collecting enough volunteer hours has never been a problem with my history of running a community garden club for elementary students based at one of our schools. Hundreds of hours were spent each year preparing lessons, initiating and maintaining communication with teachers and parents, creating handouts, putting up bulletin boards, and finally teaching the lessons and activities.  I gave all that up in June. You might be wondering where I will get my hours from now.

Fortunately, I am finding that it will not be difficult to meet the minimum number of volunteer hours to maintain my Master Gardener Volunteer certification in good standing.  Slowly, over the last few years, really starting in 2014, I have been able to grow my network. This has included applying for conference presenter positions, being invited to be a conference speaker, being an invited classroom speaker – in our district and others, and being an invited community speaker for special occasions like environmental day or a pollinator festival.

When I speak to groups, I let them know that part of the mission as a Master Gardener is to share horticultural knowledge with our communities, and that is what brings me to them – my ability to share information on topics in a passionate, engaging way.  Master gardeners are an important part of our communities in Wisconsin, and other states, as well.  The annual report put out by the Wisconsin Master Gardener organization compiles the important contributions, including financial, for each county.  I encourage you to take  a look at the report. I was thrilled to find my former group listed on page 48.  You might be surprised at all the contributions being made around the state. I can personally account for the youth education hours for the most part, but many other contributions were made as well. Did you know that the current monetary valuation for volunteer time in Wisconsin is $22.48 per hour, according to the above report? Wow! That adds up! Each MGV is expected to perform 24 volunteer hours and obtain 10 hours of approved continuing education hours each year. Even if the minimum number of hours are performed, at the above rate, that is $2,248.00 being contributed to the community in time and expertise, per individual volunteer! This is, in part, why I keep beating the drum about thanking people in the community for what they do! It is important we/they feel valued. It cannot be overstated.

And, although our group has received less and less state funding, along with more and more positions cut, this dedicated association of gardeners keeps plowing ahead, without pay, with their mission to educate, enrich, and enhance our lives with the selfless giving of time, energy, and information. On a state level, in Wisconsin, it is estimated that Master Gardener service to their communities is estimated at a total of 4.5 million dollars!  I am proud to be part of such a group.

So, while I do not really care for tabulating my hours each year, I do it. I do it because I want to continue to make a difference by being part of this group. I do it so I can continue to be asked, or to be able to offer, to speak on a subject that I care about because I truly believe in the mission.   My motivation for this year is that I will be part of the Spring Into Gardening conference in our city, next March.  After presenting at the State Master Gardener Conference in 2015 and the International Master Gardener Conference later the same year, I did not hesitate to jump at the opportunity to speak with a more local group of interested community members.

Master gardeners matter because we work hard to enrich our communities. We work alone, as part of groups, as your neighbor, as your friend, as an educator, and as your partner in learning how to live sustainably by returning to nature, getting our hands dirty, and sharing our bounty – whether that be words of knowledge, inspiration or baskets of vegetables and plant divisions.  Master gardeners are volunteers in the best sense of the word, always giving, and taking very little back in return. So, if you know a Master Gardener Volunteer, thank them for their contribution, for it is far greater than you think.



WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting

waiting on the chrysalis 82617
Waiting for Eclosure, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017.

Inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Puff the Magic Dragon and the Land of Honali? Honahli? Hanalei? Honahlee?

Puff the Magic Dragon and the Land of Honali? Honahli? Hanalei? Honahlee?

Who remembers the old Peter Paul and Mary song, Puff the Magic Dragon? I do! It was one of my favorite tunes when I was a little girl, not because of the story it tells because it is rather sad, but more so because it was easy to sing along with and conjured up images of friendliness in an otherwise large, scary creature. I mean, what child would not love to have a friendly dragon with whom to play?

If you need to refresh you memory of the song’s lyrics, you can listen to Peter Paul and Mary sing the song on this You Tube recording.

The song rose to the surface in my memory this past weekend when I was deciding what to post for my Silent Sunday photograph only blog.  When we visited the Hawaiian island Kauai in 2013, we drove through a town called Hanalei. A very quaint mission church sat on the main road. We had to stop to photograph this church at my insistence.  Immediately, upon our exit from this quaint town, the lyrics of Puff the Magic Dragon sprang to mind and I started to sing the tune (much to my family’s dismay because I am almost always off pitch). But, I enjoyed the memory none-the-less.  The memory of the song was connected to the name of this town, Hanalei. Or, at least, so I thought!

I was proved wrong on Sunday. While I looked up how to spell Hanalei, I  realized the spelling of the place in the song lyric was very different from that of the Hawaiian town. Hanalei is the town on the island of Kauai. Honahlee is the word featured as the mystical place Puff and Jackie Paper frolicked during the child’s young days. Now, I believe the pronunciation of the two words are slightly different, as well. Come to find out, Peter Paul and Mary were not referencing the town on Kauai at all. Legend has it that the Honahlee of the song was invented as a place word to rhythm with the word sea.  See for yourself with the lyrics, here, on the MetroLyrics website.

pixabay ocean-731326_1280

Regardless, the place featured in the song could very well be the town Hanalei on Kauai. It is by the sea, can by “misty”, has caves, lagoons, would be pirate ships, and ships with billowed sails. Of course, there are always young boys, as well.  You see the connection I made, do you not?  Hanalei Bay is definitely a place you can imagine a friendly, giant, green scaled Puff rising out of the incredibly blue water to meet up with his friend Jackie.  And that, I guess, is what it is all about – imagination! Imagination of the songwriters’, of little boy’s dreams, of invented playmates, and of towns so quaint you can almost see a friendly dragon rising out of the mist. No matter how Hanalei – Honahlee is spelled it will be forever be a place where a friendly dragon and a great song come to life – real or not.


Tending My Own Garden

Tending My Own Garden

By 6:50 a.m. this morning, they were gone. My two students were off to the high school for another year. One was excited, and one was reluctant but glad it was the beginning of the end of high school for him.  He is ready for something more.

On the first of this month, I wrote about my wishes for this school year.  The post is filled with reflections, observations, hopes, and desires for the year that starts today.  The first week of September is always jam-packed for my family. Not only is school always scheduled to begin, we also have two birthdays to celebrate, back to back. One today and one tomorrow.  Luckily, we were able to do some celebrating over the weekend, so I feel good about taking care of that.

Now, it is my turn. I need to tend my own garden. I mean this metaphorically as well as literally. Over the last few weeks, I realized that I did not have to run over to school to weed the butterfly garden in an attempt to have it presentable for our students and their families on the first day of school.  I have not missed going, however much I will miss the students. It was a task that always made me resentful, for many reasons. This summer I relieved myself of this self-imposed duty for the first time in 13 years. It actually feels good!

Today, I can tend my own flower garden, not because I have to, but because I want to. Over the weekend I planted mums. Today, I will weed the front perennial bed. Later this week, I will have monarchs to release. And soon, there will be milkweed pods to collect.

Today, I will tend my mental garden. A new round of graduate classes start for me, one of which includes a research study which I am designing and need to prepare to implement by the holidays.  My time is freed up to attend to my own needs as a student, life-long learner, and community educator.

Today, there is much to be done. I have given myself time to do it. Today, while the house is quiet and my students are starting their own year, full of new classes, friends, and activities, I have time to tend my own garden. I am grateful for that.

Via TwoWritingTeachers Blog and Slice of Life Tuesdays

A Year Later: Still Pining for The Hague, Netherlands, and Maybe a Tulip or Two.

A Year Later: Still Pining for The Hague, Netherlands, and Maybe a Tulip or Two.

Last September, I was fortunate enough to visit The Netherlands, specifically the city of The Hague with my oldest son. He presented at an international scientific conference as a college student on some research he had conducted over the previous two years. I was able to go with him on my first trip to Europe!  It was a fast trip, but one that left me wanting more. I would like to return to Holland, as well as take more trips with my son.

We found the city of Den Haag easy to get around, clean, filled with busy yet polite people, and beautiful to look at. Here are some shots of the streets of Den Haag (The Hague). There are many types of architecture which meant that there was always something interesting to look at during our daily adventures.




We did a lot of walking, riding the buses and trams, and sightseeing in between his conference obligations. All presenters also had to volunteer time at this conference. Having been both a conference presenter and volunteer myself, I know what an obligation this can be. So, the first morning there, I made my way to one of the many museums in The Hague to occupy my time while my son was busy volunteering. I felt comfortable walking from our hotel – a quaint room in an old mansion – now a Best Western affiliate in a residential section of the city, to this particular museum.




Given it was our first day, I was not all that sure of using the public transportation by myself.  As we found out later, the public trams and buses were safe, reliable, clean, and easy to use since we had purchased passes that allowed unlimited rides to anywhere in the area we were staying and even to Delft, a mere 30 minutes away, and the beach, Scheveningen – on the North Sea, which was even closer.

Delft, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2016
Scheveningen, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2016

The beach was deserted the day we visited, but you could imagine how popular it would be on a hot summer day! We got to see this seagull trying to eat a tennis ball! He did get it in his mouth, too! I wonder if it smelled like fish?





Some of our the most memorable places include those off the beaten track, such as the trek we took a year ago tomorrow to visit three windmills in the Dutch countryside. It was an adventure well worth it!



Trips to the conference venue continued intermittently throughout the week, with us being able to explore different routes around the city. We walked where and when we could, somewhat afraid to ride a bike in this face paced, yet professional appearing city. There were advantages to walking in that we could take in all the new surroundings have to offer and easily return to a place, if desired, later in the trip. In a few short days we found a two restaurants we liked enough to return to twice, tried two grocery stores, bought some fancy dutch chocolate – although I think the STAM chocolatiers (also, Dutch) in Ames, Iowa are just as good and much less pretentious, stuck our toes in the North Sea, travelled the trams like we were pros – except for the one time we got on going the wrong way,  gawked at artwork by some of the most famous Dutch Masters, wandered into the countryside armed only with a map and an accurate inner compass that my young companion has always had, felt reverent in some ancient kerks (churches), and luckily were not run over by any bicyclists!


Yes, there was a lot to like about Den Haag. I am drawn to go back in the future. It is a place that is both old and new, with a glistening city centre bordered by centuries old parliament buildings and churches. There are museums for art lovers, bistros and music for those to love the culture of food, as well as a sense of a history of sustainable living with the bicyclists, solar panels, windmills, canals systems, and dikes. I guess I am just attracted to a place that functions to uphold peace and justice on an international level. The architecture draws me in as well, since old seems revered and appreciated, while the need for new is recognized. Somehow, it all worked together!  Until the future arrives, Den Haag, I bid you adieu but will continue to admire you from afar.



This is my third post on Den Haag. You can visit my other posts  here and here.