Terrapin Tea

Nicolas T., a Horticulture student at my work, came up with the idea for an herbal tea product during an entrepreneurship class. Over the past 12 months our department has watched his idea rapidly develop, culminating in a product launch at the campus food co-op last week.

Taking off on his initial product idea, Nicolas grew Tulsi, Skullcap, and other ingredients for his tea blend in the UMD Community Learning Garden. He then navigated the bureaucracy of both the University AND state food safety laws to create a market-ready product: Terrapin Tea. If you have ever worked for a state-run organization, then you understand what a significant feat of tenacity and perseverance this is.

In addition to his pursuit of product viability, Nicolas harvested tea seven days a week, worked full-time at an off-site internship, dehydrated and packaged tea leaves at the Maryland Food Co-op, and still made the Dean’s List.

In exchange for some of said product, Nicolas asked me to design his Terrapin Tea logo. When his product launched at the Maryland Food Co-op on campus last week, I jumped at the opportunity to take some photos.

My co-worker, Heather, wrote a very engaging article about the entire process. I highly encourage a read! The rest of the photos I took are available on Flickr.




Healing Through Art

Yesterday I finished this watercolor painting in memory of my pet Uromastyx, Liz Lemon. Liz passed away on January 20, 2018. She was one cool reptile and an excellent roommate; I miss her dearly. My apartment is not the same without Big Liz in her desert habitat, lounging under a heat lamp and gazing through the window at other, less spectacular animals. Painting this portrait helped me get through the doldrums of the past week or so without her.


“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.”
– Leo Tolstoy

In Memory of My Liz


Last Saturday, January 20, my beloved Uromastyx lizard passed away. Liz Lemon was one of my favorite subjects to photograph, and the original mascot of this blog. I named her after one of my favorite Tina Fey characters.

A photo of Liz in her younger days. Over time, she outgrew that cave!

Just a few of the many things about Liz that I will dearly miss:

  • harvesting lettuces, carrots, and marigolds for her from the UMD Community Learning Garden
  • making videos of her scarfing down lettuce, while playing the Jurassic Park theme in the background
  • watching her chill on her reptile ramp, or hang her big belly between two hollowed-out log tunnels
  • her self-published novella, Not Without My Lettuce
  • the way she would eat matchstick carrots dipped in vitamin goo out of my hand
  • her happy lizard smize (smile with lips + eyes = smizing)
  • when she was too heavy for her original reptile hammock and accidentally pulled it down, and her subsequent refusal to trust the newer, more durable hammock
  • the way she would hang out at the end of her habitat closest to me when I would work from home
  • her hobby of chasing moths and Swiffer dusters which dared to venture too close
  • how she loved to bask by the window and watch the happenings in the yard

I was not her original owner, but I place her age at around 10 years (maybe more). I inherited Liz in 2010 from a fellow student at Salisbury University. Since that time, every time I got a new job or a raise I would build up Liz’s habitat. She was part of the reason that I became a gardener; Liz was a vegetarian and I enjoyed growing food for her. I called her my “big girl” because of that Uromastyx pot belly!

Fortunately, my sister Kelly was visiting for the weekend and provided Liz with a presidential motorcade in her black Lincoln sedan back to my parents’ house. There Liz received a proper burial in a beautiful red cookie tin that came from one of my favorite students at work. To me, this was preferable to burying Liz in the yard of my current apartment. I feared that her sensitive reptilian soul would be stuck hearing my upstairs landlord abuse people over the phone for the rest of eternity.

There isn’t much this week that can diminish my sadness over losing Liz. She was my buddy and a delightfully silent roommate for almost eight years. I had hoped that we would have several more years together and maybe I would buy a house for myself that she could live in rent-free.

Liz saw nearly all of my 20s and witnessed my various victories and setbacks. Her empty tank is a tear-inducing sight. But if I can someday provide another Uromastyx with a loving home, I will be happy to do it in her memory.


Paint Your Own Mixed Media Mandala


At Numi Yoga on November 3, I am leading a mixed-media mandala workshop. To prepare for this workshop, I have painted several mandalas and observed the history of these hypnotic images. Altogether this has been a new experience for me, and now I can’t stop drawing these! No two are alike.


The Sanskrit word “mandala” is loosely translated to mean “circle.” Hindus were one of the first people to use the mandala spiritually, but the mandalas that most individuals find familiar are ones made by Buddhists. In many cultures, the circle represents infinity, but a mandala represents more than simple geometry. Mandalas represent the infinite universe, and wholeness within one’s self.

The owner of Numi Yoga, Kelsey, and I brainstormed together for a painting party image that would reflect the restorative qualities of yoga. Not only is the mandala tranquil, but relatively easy as an art project. I want people to relax during this art experience!

The creation of a mandala can have significant meaning for any individual, especially those who enjoy meditation. For me, any type of painting or drawing activity is meditative. The purpose of our mandala-making at Numi Yoga will be relaxation paired with the fulfillment of learning a new skill. It will be an experience not to miss.

I hope to see you at Numi Yoga on November 3!

Click here to purchase tickets through the Numi Yoga Workshops page.


Alumni Spotlight: Buddy Hipp

Recently I had the opportunity to tag along with my co-worker, Ken Ingram, and his Landscape Design and Implementation students as they went on a field trip to The Hotel at the University of Maryland (UMD). It had been a very long time since I went on a field trip; in my opinion, it was a blast.

The Hotel at UMD is in the final stages of development, and one of Ken’s former students, Buddy Hipp, oversaw the planning and installation of native landscaping on the property. Because The Hotel is conveniently located just across the street from campus, Buddy contacted Ken to offer current students the opportunity to walk over from Jull Hall for a landscaping tour.

Our experience exploring the new building, admiring the recently-installed trees and shrubs, and hearing about Buddy’s experience as the landscaping project lead was very informative. It is obvious that he enjoys his work as a project manager for Ashton Manor Environmental, a company with a focus on sustainable landscaping. To me, it sounds like an ideal job.

I took numerous photos and Buddy graciously agreed to be interviewed for a quick Alumni Spotlight video (see below). If you would like to learn more, here is a news item that I wrote for our website at work.