Blooming Orchids

We currently have five orchids in our house — in part to ensure that something is perpetually in bloom. (All of them are phalaenopsis orchids, which are among the easiest to grow; all I do is immerse their roots in water once a week and leave them in a semi-sunny windowsill to do their thing.)

Each orchid has gone through at least two bloom cycles since I’ve owned them over the past two years. Every time they bloom, I always get the idea to record a time lapse video of the petals opening — but never got around to it because I was too busy and didn’t care enough.

Now that I am on maternity leave, I’ve found some extra time here and there to pursue small projects: reading, arts and crafts, and learning more about my new camera — including how to make time lapse videos. Exciting!

Here are two time lapse videos I made showing two of our blooming orchids:


  • Camera: Nikon D7100
  • Lens: Nikkor 35mm/1.8 prime lens
  • Settings: Aperture priority mode set to f/10; interval shooting timer set to one photo every ten minutes for 500 shots (see #5 for more info on how to do it)
  • Editing: Photoshop (tutorial)
  • Location: Orchids were set up in an empty storage room with a table lamp with color & light corrected in Photoshop

They’re not perfect but the videos were fun to shoot and put together. Looking forward to seeing what else I can do with this camera beyond what I am already used to doing.



“Expecting” Great Things in 2016


Below is the article I recently submitted for my organization’s winter newsletter, looking back on the old year and peeking ahead at the new.

Quick — name something that flies!

The first thing that comes to mind might be birds — and naturally so, since is is a newsletter is from Detroit Audubon, and a love for birds and their kin is something we all share. You’d also be correct in saying that bugs, bats, butterflies, flying fish, flying squirrels, airplanes and balloons all fly — but nothing flies like the thing I am about to mention.

What incredibly fast and furious flyer am I talking about? … Time, of course!

Time has flown by (faster than a Peregrine Falcon doing a 240 mile-per-hour dive bomb) during the past few months I’ve spent as Program Coordinator. While it sometimes still feels like I just started, I also can’t believe how much I was able to help us accomplish in 2015 — coordinating a number of programs and events, building up partnerships, and reaffirming our place in the regional bird conservation network. We expect even greater things for 2016.

On a more personal note, more programs and partnerships are not the only things we are “expecting” in 2016. I am both happy  to announce that my husband and I are expecting our first child in January — which is why I will be officially stepping down from the Program Coordinator position in mid-December. Because I believe in our mission and want to continue helping Detroit Audubon grow, I look forward to re-joining Detroit Audubon as the Education Committee Co-chair sometime early next year.

It was a pleasure to spend the past few months working for such a wonderful organization, and consider it a real gift to have helped advance its mission during this special time in my life.

Below are some of the programs I was proud to have been involved with during Fall 2015. (For Summer 2015 programs I was involved with, see the Summer 2015 Flyway.)

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Who Inspires the Inspirers?


What inspires people who inspire others?

Here is an instance where one great mind took the time to answer that question.

In an excerpt from his book recently published here, India’s late past president and renowned missile scientist Abdul Kalam lists three of the most influential books in his life, which included:

∙ “Lights from Many Lamps” (by Lillian Eichler Watson)
∙ Thirukural (by Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar)
∙ Man the Unknown (by Nobel laureate and doctor-philosopher Alexis Carrel)

Mr. Kalam appeared to be influenced by a variety of sources, from all different places, times and cultures — and lived an exemplary life, not only as a scientist and politician but as a human being (e.g., thanking a guard for having to stand because of him).

While it is easy and tempting to limit your sources of inspiration to one person, one book, one culture, one religion, one what-have-you, great thinkers like Mr. Kalam serve to remind us of the importance of having many sources of inspiration and influence — discovering commonalities between them while cultivating a mind that is full of ideas that are all together diverse, complementary, and competing. A mind that is all at once broad, deep, fast, and high-thinking is an asset for for leaders in today’s world, which is in a stable state of constant change.

They say this about nature — the more diverse and complex an ecosystem is, the more resilient it becomes. Perhaps that is also true of the mind; and each of us should strive to be well-read, or at least knowledgable and seeking learning experiences from all sources.  Thank you for that insight, Mr. Kalam!

Books were always my friends
Last more than fifty years
Books gave me dreams
Dreams resulted in missions
Books helped me confidently take up the missions
Books gave me courage at the time of failures
Good books were for me angels
Touched my heart gently at the time
Hence I ask young friends to have books as friends
Books are your good friends.

– A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

May his soul rest in peace!

Adventures in South Indian Cooking

It’s been a while since I posted about food. And boy… do I have a lot to update about. Since I last posted about food, my cooking skills have really gone South… and by South, I mean South India!🙂

Thanks to my Indian in-laws, as well as the motley crew of South Indian friends who have practically adopted me as one of their own, I have learned to cook (with lots of guidance and trial and error) the following dishes:

These are just a few of the things that have been “on rotation” here in the house.

Among these dishes, the pesarattu dosa has got to be my favorite. I admit, these dosas are not a blow-your-mind good, but they are tasty, highly nutritious, and easy-to-make.

Tasty: It’s like a thin, crispy pancake fried on a hot griddle.

Nutritious: The primary ingredient in pessarattu dosa are mung beans, which contain 49 grams of protein per cup.

Easy-to-make: Soak the beans in water overnight. Next morning, blend them with salt, chopped green chili, and ginger.  Voila, dosa batter!  Spread that batter on a hot tawa, and you have a dosa.

We have gotten into the habit of cooking pesarattu dosas for breakfast on the weekends (which we usually eat with an easy-to-make chutney or upma). Despite having made them a few times now, mine still aren’t perfect — they’re always a little limp and not as crispy as I’d like them to be, but I feel like perfection is just a few more tries away.  (Any tips on achieving that would be most welcome.)

It’s been great — learning to cook by trial and error, troubleshooting, and sometimes succeeding. Trying new dishes made by friends, and having them over to help me cook mine. I love how most of the dishes are vegetarian and  full of protein. That’s great for people like me, who are either vegetarian or seeking to be more vegetarian. (I am all veg except for the occasional fish now.)

I like to think that this is only the beginning of a beautiful, delicious, nutritious, and spicy journey.🙂

Goals for the future: I would love to learn to make biriyani that actually looks like biriyani:

I would also learn to love to make perfect idli/vadas:

This post wouldn’t be complete without a picture of me in one of my sister-in-law’s beautiful sarees:

Probably one of the most feminine garments I’ve ever worn.

Hope you are all having great adventures of your own, whether it is in the kitchen close to home, or elsewhere in the world!

Wild Geese


“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

– Mary Oliver

The Quality of Cranes

Another beautiful line from Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac:

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins as in art with the pretty. It expands through successive stages – to the beautiful, to the valuable, to that yet uncaptured by language. The quality of cranes lies, I think, in this higher gamut, as yet beyond the reach of words.”

– Aldo Leopold, Marshland Elegy, Sand County Almanac (1937)

What is the most important question facing environmental education in light of climate change?

This week’s question from the EECapacity Climate Change Education Course:

What is the most important question facing environmental education in light of climate change?

Some responses from participants:

Here’s one question I wonder about: How can we (environmental educators) advocate for climate change action at different scales while maintaining credibility and trust among varied audiences? How much should funding (or risk of losing funding) determine what actions we do or do not advocate for? — Sara Cole

I’m taking a second stab at what’s the key question facing environmental educators in light of climate change: Who do we most need to influence, and who are we most capable of influencing? If we try to teach everyone everything they need to know to mitigate and adapt to climate change, we’re bound to fail. We need to focus, and focus especially on the people who can and will do something now to make a difference. This could be partly an environmental justice issue–we need to be taking the case to the perpetrators, such as the CEOs of companies involved in deforestation, more than raising awareness of deforestation in impoverished schools which need to focus on their local issues. It could have ethical ramifications too in the common EE focus on school children–is it ethical for educators to raise fears of, say, global famine, among children too young to participate in solutions? Given the limited resources of EE, focusing on the “gatekeepers” of change seems more likely to be a fair and justified approach, and more likely to succeed in rapid change (if only we can figure out how to do it!). This new tool from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications may be helpful to get started, because it helps identify current attitudes and beliefs at a very local level. — Julie Dunlap

From my point of view I think it is not only ONE the important question that the EE is facing regarding climate change. Because results of scientific studies indicate that the current state of pollution because of emissions of greenhouse gases already have inevitable consequences in the mid-term, environmental education programs must simultaneously target the mitigation of impacts and adaptation processes for purposes of global warming.
Given this conditions, EE should target the diverse audiences in the country (from political levels to rural and urban communities).

For example, schools should not have “Environmental Education” as a separate subject from mathematics or sports. Contrary, curriculum should be “different” from the traditional approach by disciplines and have “integrated” curricula, enhancing students to be more analytical in the resolution of complex problems while leading to structured explanations to issues such as climate change.

In rural areas, EE should not focus its programs in showing the consequences of inadequate agricultural practices but instead come up with new and effective techniques that improve crop development in a sustainable way with the environment. This would contribute further, to minimize the emigration to cities for lack of opportunities in the rural area.

In urban where an unsustainable consumption model is marked and pronounced, EE programs need to be addressed differently.

Not less important, and being aware of our disappointment about politics and policies, advocacy and civic engagement is a huge challenge for EE. (Rocio Gutierrez)

Regarding the most important question facing Environmental Educators in light of climate change, my first answer would be that it’s impossible to narrow down to one question. Environmental Education can be an important route for increasing climate change awareness and concern but of course it’s not the only means. It’s important, I think, to keep in mind that it’s such a complex and trans-disciplinary issue that crosses so many sectors. While I may have come into climate change concern via environmental education, others may be more motivated by seeing it through lenses such as physics, economics, social-justice, religion, or public health. It’s our challenge as educators to know how we can frame it most effectively for our audience -and to collaborate effectively across sectors. The other struggle we have is how to communicate the importance and urgency of this “wicked problem” without scaring, alienating or numbing those who might be willing to listen. Oh and of course, leading by example (i.e. walking the talk ourselves) -not always easy given current structures and boundaries. — Beverly Helen

I can honestly say that the question: “What is the most important question facing environmental education in light of climate change?” overwhelmed me. There were so many important factors listed in our readings for this week. However, I have to say that the most important factor to me is the political climate. Conservatives have the power to cut funding and control government rules and regulations. For example, Senator James Inhofe is the author of The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. He has also stated that the Bible refutes climate change. Unfortunately, Inhofe is the chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Therefore, he has a lot of power to limit climate change legislation. The budget of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has cut environmental education as well as other environmental functions. The officials of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have been ordered to not use the terms “climate change” or “global warming.” — Lenore Hitchler

To me the most important question facing environmental education in light of climate change is to ask why there are not more active citizens around the globe who value the environment and are speaking up about climate change and changing their own behaviour, AND recognizing that, how can EE help to foster that in the next generation? — Chelsie Amy

More soon!