Living in Harmony with Nature
Bird Baths: The Gift of Water
Warmer weather brings sunshine, spring flowers, and beautiful bird sightings at La Piccola Villa for my clients to enjoy up close. The birdbath located in the front garden attracts all kinds of birds. Robins, mockingbirds, cardinals, Carolina wren, house finch, just to name a few. Eastern bluebirds, like these two females shown in the photo, may top the favorite list.
Birds need fresh, clean water – and you can provide it! I'd like to encourage you to offer a source of water in your own yard to help our feathered friends. Bird baths or other backyard water can be perfect for two reasons: drinking and preening. Or you can keep a bowl on your balcony or terrace. During warmer weather, water helps a bird's body stay cool both from the inside and outside. Keep the bath clean and filled with fresh, clean water. Refill as often as necessary after birds splash, or evaporation lowers the water level, otherwise small birds will not be able to drink. Offering water will attract more birds than just food sources, since birds that would not normally visit feeders can still be tempted by water features.
Help keep birds comfortable and safe!
The World of Nature
Perhaps walking to the entrance of La Piccola Villa for your facial appointment, you've been serenaded by the captivating musical calls from the gray tree frogs that make my property's wildlife habitat their home. Their sounds resemble the notes made by a plucked banjo string. Sometimes these little creatures are difficult to spot among the landscape. While their name implies that they are gray, the small amphibians vary in color depending on the background in which they are presently located. Their toes are equipped with special suction-cup ends that allow these miniature vertebrates to effectively attach themselves to the surface of rough-textured tree bark.
Since ancient times, the frog has symbolized good luck, potential, prosperity, transformation, upliftment of others, and purity. With such a familiar sign of positivity, imagine my glee when I found this school of sleek, shiny tadpoles swimming in one of my water garden containers!
Frogs and salamanders are also considered “indicator species" by scientists to gauge the health of a local ecosystem. Keep an eye on your own home’s garden. If you provide an abundant habitat for amphibians and have a healthy population of them in and around your yard, that is a good indicator that you have a healthy environment. Whatever affects amphibians also may affect people. Stay away from synthetic pesticides, lawn chemical and mosquito sprays. Using natural alternatives gives fauna and flora in your environment a life free of toxic and harmful chemicals.
I've created my Vibrant-Glow Studio as a Nature Spa Sanctuary to express my heartfelt celebration of the natural world. Let me inspire you to become mindful of making healthier choices and starting on a pathway to toxic-free living in all aspects of your life. Nature and Nurture work together. I invite you to come experience the Nature Spa Sanctuary and relax into your natural skin's beauty with my rejuvenating holistic facial treatments.
Leave The Leaves
Autumn at La Piccola Villa has always been my favorite time of the year. The weather is not too hot but not too cold. This moment is all about new beginnings as well as natural endings. In tandem with spring, autumn is part of a beautiful cycle of loss, regeneration and regrowth. As the native woodlands around my property undergo seasonal change, the landscape transforms into a palette of gorgeous fall colors.
So, what causes this magical process? During the summer, there is so much green-tinted chlorophyll in the leaves we simply cannot see the other pigments. With less sunlight, the trees prepare for winter. Their leaves stop producing chlorophyll which has allowed them to capture sunlight and make energy throughout their entire growing season. Once this happens, the green color starts to fade and the more subtle pigments of reds, oranges and yellows now become visible.
Nature is fantastic at recycling. When leaves fall to the ground, they begin to break down and eventually create a rich humus for our yards that absorbs dew and rainfall. This nutrient-rich “sponge “acts as a continual source of organic matter and water for trees and plants, helping to promote life and plant health in the next spring season.
As leaves fall down, life rises up! Let’s help Mother Nature in our neighborhoods by becoming wildlife gardeners. Besides providing the right plants and protecting our gardens from pesticides, one of the next most valuable things we can do to support pollinators and other invertebrates is to provide them with the cover they need. So many creatures evolved for millions of years to live among autumn’s fallen leaves. If you can, let your leaves remain where they have fallen naturally. Or, gently rake whole leaves into your yard’s “Wild Area” or another way that works for you—perhaps around all your trees and shrubs, lawn edges or piled in some unseen corner. When you create a habitat of fallen leaves, you’re developing an essential bit of nature where animals can safely live all year. An array of birds, small mammals and other creatures look for food and shelter in the “Wild Area” on my property at La Piccola Villa. I especially enjoy watching the brown thrashers sift through leaf litter to glean seeds, bugs and other tiny critters. There are so many animals that I discover living in the leaves—spiders, snails, worms, beetles, millipedes, mites and more—that support the chipmunks, turtles, birds and amphibians that rely on insects for food. It’s easy to see how important leaves are to sustaining the natural web of life!
While it may feel like a time of decline and natural endings, we can see that autumn is also a time of refreshment, renewal, and ultimately, optimism. Just like nature, our skin changes with the rhythms of the season. Come celebrate autumn by experiencing my Vibrant-Glow Seasonal Facial. You will enjoy a nourishing 90-minute treatment that includes skin analysis, cleansing, mineral mist, exfoliation, mask, replenishment and a massage of the head/shoulder and hand/arm areas.
It's Meyer Lemon Season!
As many of you who have come to my spa location at La Piccola Villa for your facial treatments know, I am a fan of edible plants. The freshest foods are undeniably the healthiest. One of my favorite fruits to brighten up these dark months of winter are Meyer lemons. Years ago, while living in Northern California, I was introduced to Meyer lemons by the well-known “Mother of the Farm-to-Table Revolution,” Chef Alice Waters from Chez Panisse Restaurant, who stoked the flame of the Meyer lemon craze and helped make this special lemon very popular. The desire for these sweet, low-acid lemons with a distinctive floral fragrance have made them a must-have in the kitchen. Meyer lemons aren’t “true” lemons, but a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange. Fruit is borne throughout the year, with heaviest production occurring in winter. Their skin is dark orange-yellow when ripe and they contain much more juice than traditional lemons. Because the flesh and juice are sweeter than a regular lemon, they can be used raw or cooked. I even use sections of fruit in my salad. And they are so good for your health!
You can find Meyer lemons in some specialty grocery stores and organic markets primarily from December through May. Each morning I start my day with a lemon squeezed into a quart of coconut water or filtered water for hydration and as an energizing choice to get me going. I encourage you to follow suit. Not only are the benefits of drinking lemon water endless, it’s one of the most substantial—yet one of the simplest—changes you can make to strengthen a whole host of bodily functions. Lemons are among the highest rated alkaline foods. Though acidic outside the body, they leave an alkaline ash inside the body that improves your pH balance dramatically. Lemon juice also detoxifies your blood, keeps blemishes at bay and helps to maintain your skin’s radiance. The high vitamin C content of lemons (45 mg/one lemon) assists in the production of collagen that’s essential in smoothing out lines in the face and in working to prevent wrinkles from forming. One cup of fresh lemon juice provides 187 percent of your daily recommended serving of vitamin C, and the antioxidants in lemon water fight damage caused by free radicals, helping to keep your skin looking fresh. The aroma and the skins are just as good for you! They contain natural terpenes called D-limonene that uplift mood, act as an antioxidant, and reduce inflammation. The peels are a concentrated source of this compound—a good reason to eat the peels in the form of lemon zest and pith.
Meyer lemon plants, like other types of dwarf citrus, make nice container plants and need to be brought inside during winter in colder climates. Borrowing from Italian tradition, my glass greenhouse serves as a "limonaia" or citrus house to shelter a collection of dwarf Meyer lemons and key lime plants, as well as miniature tropical fruit trees and other non-hardy plants that need protection in a sub-tropical environment during the cold winter months. Since northern Italy's colder climate isn't citrus-friendly, Franciscan monks started building citrus houses in the 14th century to shelter the trees during winter. And, just like gardeners used to do hundreds of years ago, my care of the citrus plants, such as pruning, and fertilizing is done according to completely natural methods. Each spring, the plants of the limonaia are moved from my greenhouse and placed outdoors around the garden. Perhaps you too would like to grow the attractive and low-maintenance Meyer lemon plant and enjoy the bounty of its sweet, delicious fruit!