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Toddlers and Tantrums

Yesterday, my daughter had one of her legendary tantrums, and it was all because I didn’t listen to what she said. After that, everything I did was wrong. Every little thing was a mistake. I moved her doll a fraction of a centimeter, and she screamed. “That’s mine!” I went to the room, and she screamed. “No!” Whatever I did was incorrect, and I was fast becoming impatient. These things sometimes happen once a month (Thank God!). But when such incidents occur, all I can do is leave her be. Time out? How? It will just make everything crazy. She’ll just go red in the face screaming like a banshee. She doesn’t listen or she just refuses to hear me during such episodes. All I do is let her get it all out until she calms down. When she does, she’s the one who approaches me and says sorry. “I’m sorry, Mama. I’m really sorry.” After that, I sit her down and we talk about what happened. By then, she’ll be willing to listen. I tell her that she hurt Mama’s heart, to which she responds with a sweet apology together with big fat tears. She then promises to be a good girl, which lasts for about a few minutes. But I think that she and all other kids are innately good. It’s just that she’s exploring her independence and she’s incredibly curious about her surroundings. There are just times that I feel so frustrated, and I just want to scream with her. Well, I do sometimes – in a pillow. Who said parenting was easy, right?

Parenting is definitely not a walk in the park. Sometimes, it makes me wonder why I wanted a child. But when my daughter comes up to me and hugs me and tells me that she loves me, it makes everything much clearer, and I feel my heart just bursting with love and joy. But when she’s having her melt downs, I just look at her and wonder, “Wow. She has powerful lungs.” I try to ignore her during her tantrums until these subside. It’s hard, especially if she’s running around and shrilly screaming.


IMG_4242I try to discipline my child the best way I know how. I praise her when she does something good, like pick up her toys or throw litter in the bin. I also make chores more fun to encourage her to participate and do things on her own. We do many things together – telling stories, doing watercolors, playing catch, and we’ve even begun to teach her about saving money. She has a puppy (not piggy) bank that she is filling with coins so that she can buy one of those Play Dough sets that she saw on Nick Jr. I am proud of my daughter. For a two-year-old, she’s responsive, understanding to a point, and quite patient. I guess there are just “melt down” days, and many things could trigger these events. I was thinking that maybe she was becoming bored as we’ve been stuck at home for about a week now. Anyway, she now wants her bath, which means bye for now.


If you like plants with purple blooms, then you’ll surely fall in love with the King’s Mantle, also known as Thumbergia erecta. I still remember the first time I saw this plant. We were on our way to a friend’s house when I caught sight of this small shrub with intense purple flowers. I wanted to stop because I thought maybe I could ask the owner where he bought it. In case he or she was feeling magnanimous, I was thinking of asking for a cutting too. (I really like plants, and wherever I go, my eyes are usually alert for growing things that I like.) Anyway, we were in a hurry, so we weren’t able to stop. But I kept thinking about those royal violet flowers for a very long time.

IMG_5467The King’s Mantle plant was hard to come by. I went to the local nursery, and I couldn’t find it. The vendors kept offering me purple orchids, but these weren’t what I was looking for. Maybe I just wasn’t able to convey to them what sort of plant I was searching for. Until just a year ago, my husband, daughter and I decided to take a short walk. There was a private nursery/garden just a few houses from our place. We decided to check it out. And guess what greeted me when we came up the gate? Yes, there were pots of Thumbergia erecta. At last, I can have a pot of my own.

King’s Mantle (Thumbergia erecta)
There are so many things that I love about this plant.
– For one, it has the most beautiful deep violet flowers with cream/yellow centers.

– Second, it is a resilient plant. I placed it in an area where it can get some sun and some shade. And it just grew and bloomed, and bloomed, all year. I also noticed that it had more flowers after I water it with diluted urine. You won’t notice the buds because they are quite hidden in the foliage. But once they blossom, you can’t miss them.

– Third, it was easy to propagate. How did I discover this? Well, the pot I bought had a few branches already. After a while, one of its branches grew straight up. It grew to about 6 feet, and I didn’t have the heart to cut it because I wasn’t sure if the plant grew from cuttings. Then, a storm did that for me. After a windy night, that long stem got bent and broken. So, I got a pair of scissors and cleanly cut it. I put the cutting in a pot filled with rich soil. I left it in a shady part where it can get some sun. I wasn’t sure if the cutting would grow because the part that broke off was a younger stem. It was still a bit green compared with the darker and tougher skin of more mature stems. The cutting wilted. It shed a couple of leaves, and I thought it would die. But I left it in the pot and hoped that it would root and grow. A month or so later, the plant started to stand up again. Then, it grew bigger leaves, and after a few more weeks, it gave me flowers. So now, I have two healthy pots of King’s Mantle.

– Finally, another great thing about this flowering plant is that it doesn’t seem to get infected by aphids or other pests. My garden is teeming with red fire ants. Some of my plants have aphids in them and others have died because of the black soot that is caused by the honeydew produced by the aphids. But even though it is surrounded by all these pests, it is healthy and blooming. No sign of aphids on its stems, flowers or leaves. No sign of black ants on its flowers too.

For now, I am encouraging the plant to grow lush and vibrant. I am planning to transfer this in the yard once the fence is done. I know it will be beautiful there and it will provide cover too.


I bought 2 pots of ground orchids almost three years ago. One had purple flowers and the other white. I liked them because I thought growing ground orchids would be easier than cultivating hanging orchids. I haven’t had luck with hanging orchids even if they seemed to grow just about anywhere here. Even my dancing-lady orchids haven’t bloomed, and it’s already been a year when they were given to me. These kinds of orchids just seem too delicate, and they really need your time and attention. Plus, they are pretty expensive, and they could die if you don’t take care of them properly. So, I opted for ground orchids, which were hardier.

Spathoglottis Plicata
Terrestrial orchids, which are also known as Spathoglottis plicata (commonly known as “Philippine Ground Orchid), look delicate but they are very tough and easy to propagate. Even with my inexperienced gardening skills, my ground orchids still offered me their gorgeous blooms every few months or so. I just watered them regularly, twice a day during very hot summers.

After a while, however, I noticed that the plants have become too overcrowded in their pots. I thought, “Maybe I should repot them to allow their roots to breathe.” So, I set a Saturday for that.

What I Did Wrong
I told an acquaintance that I was going to repot my ground orchids. She was pretty helpful in giving me instructions on how I needed to go about that task. I absorbed what she said because I thought she knew what she was talking about. She said, “You should cut off some of the roots to allow more to grow.” Okay. I know this seems stupid, but I took that seriously. So, even though it was a bit painful for me to snip those delicate roots away, I did. She was supposed to be the expert; and I was the green gardener. She even came over to show me how.

The Result of My Folly
My plants didn’t die. (Thank goodness!) But I guess it took awhile for them to recover from my cutting spree because they didn’t blossom for more than a year after my foolhardy job. My plants were just sitting there, day in and day out, not blooming. It just seemed to me that they were a bit cross with me for hurting their life source.

Anyway, after awhile, I decided that they needed another bout of TLC. So, about 2 to 3 months ago, we repotted the ground orchids in rich soil. We placed some in pots and we also planted some directly in the ground.


Here are a few tips to planting ground orchids:
– If you want to propagate them, divide the tubers or bulbs. You can plant each of them in separate pots. I tried this and it worked. Before, I only had 1 pot each of both the purple and white ground orchids. Now, I have lots. I even gave some away to my neighbor yesterday.

– In case you want them to really grow big, try directly planting them in the ground. In my experience, the ones I planted in the ground grew bigger leaves and they had thicker stalks where the flowers are.

– Are you thinking of using fertilizer? Well, you can. For me, I used urine. Sometimes (usually when I notice that my flowering plants aren’t blooming), I collect my daughter’s early morning urine. (She’s 2, so she doesn’t mind.) Then, I mix this with a bucket of water. I use this in all my flowering plants, and it actually works. Do not use concentrated or undiluted urine because this can harm plants.

The Result
I am really happy that my ground orchids are blooming again. The whites are more abundant than the purples. My first purple bloomed a month ago, but it wasn’t able to fully blossom as its buds were infested with black ants. Thankfully, it bloomed again, and there’s even a bigger one waiting to open.

my first terrarium

my first terrarium

I’ve always wanted to create a miniature garden ever since I saw a terrarium in a huge green jar when I was in elementary school. But the plan took a backseat. There were just too many school activities, and then there was college, work and family. Now, my interest surged again. Maybe it had something to do with the availability of beautiful plants in our garden or maybe it’s because I just wanted to make use of all these empty glass bottles sitting unused in my yard. So, I got the idea of making a terrarium.

What’s a Terrarium?
Simply put, a terrarium is a small, enclosed space where you grow plants. Glass bottles or containers of all shapes and sizes can be used in creating a lovely miniature landscape. Even fish bowls and light bulbs can be made into terrariums. Some people also add little turtles or lizards in their creations.

Materials Needed
I am sort of a use-what’s-available kind of gal. I didn’t have access to tweezers or terrarium scissors. I used chopsticks instead. You can create a terrarium even if you don’t have proper tools. Just be creative and use what’s on hand. But if you want to turn terrarium-making into a serious hobby, you can purchase suitable tools for planting and cleaning. For my project, I used the following items in creating my simple terrarium.
1. chopsticks
2. wine bottle
3. gravel
4. rich soil mixture
5. terrarium plants
6. spritzer or atomizer
7. small spoon or funnel
8. activated charcoal

Creating a Terrarium
1. Clean the bottle thoroughly. Make sure that there is no soap residue. Allow the inside of the bottle to dry completely. Why? Well, if the interior surface is wet, dirt will stick to the sides and it will be a bit difficult to clean.

2. You also need to wash and dry the gravel. Apart from gravel, you can also use beach pebbles, smooth stones, or maybe huge glass beads. Gravel permits that water to drain because if you allow the soil to be soaking wet all the time, the roots of your terrarium plants will rot.

3. Mix the gravel and charcoal. Why use charcoal? Charcoal helps in reducing odors. It sort of acts like a filter and it absorbs some of the wetness too. A terrarium does not have drainage, which is why it’s advisable to use activated charcoal. Another way to do this will be to put the gravel in the bottle first, followed by charcoal. This way, the bottom of the terrarium will have a more layered look.

4. Once the bottle is completely dry, carefully put in gravel (or the gravel and charcoal mixture), which should be about an inch or 1½ inches thick. Don’t use too many because if the gravel is too thick, you might find your plants almost touching the bottle’s opening. (Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.) All in all, use your intuition. If you’re using a larger bottle or bowl, you might have to use more; and use less if you’re working with a shallow container.

5. Carefully use a small spoon to slowly pour the soil inside the bottle. (Make life easier by using a funnel.) The soil should be about 2 to 3 inches thick.

6. Then, use the pointed end of the chopstick to make holes for your plants. Add the plants carefully. Use the chopstick to manipulate the soil. Be sure to cover the roots adequately and pat it down gently using the wider end of the chopstick. You can be as creative as you want in terms of plant placement.

*The plants I used were ferns and a single stalk of impatiens repens, which is a succulent plant.

7. Now that you have finished planting your miniature garden, water it. A sprayer or atomizer will allow you to control the amount of water that you’re going to use. I used a sprayer with an adjustable nozzle. It’s very convenient because the nozzle allows me to spray water in a straight line or spritz the water in a more fan-like pattern. I use the latter option because it’s gentler on terrarium plants. Spray until the soil is damp, not wet.

I’m still experimenting with what plants will do well in terrariums. I’ve read that ferns and succulents grow well in terrariums. Cacti (cactuses) and moss are also good and safe options. But I’m planning on trying out other kinds of plants. I’ll keep a record about what plants thrive in terrariums and what types don’t do too well so that I can share such details with you. Till my next post!

Citronella oil is derived from a plant that is closely related to lemongrass, which most of us are probably very familiar with since it is often used in cooking. But unlike lemongrass, citronella is not often used in food preparation. Instead, it is usually an ingredient in many beauty products, such as massage oils, lotions and perfumes. Since it is widely known as an insect repellent, citronella oil is also typically incorporated in candles, bug sprays, potpourri, lotions, and other concoctions designed to ward off all sorts of flying bugs.

One of the most dreaded insects around is the mosquito. Once the weather becomes warmer, they begin to swarm. In tropical countries (like where we are), mosquitoes are a year-long problem. Their numbers seem to surge and diminish with the occurrence of rain. The more frequent rains become, the more mosquitoes appear.

We don’t like mosquitoes because they carry very dangerous diseases. In our country, dengue hemorrhagic fever and malaria are huge problems. Thousands of people die each year of dengue alone. When mosquitoes bite to suck blood from a host, they also transfer disease-causing viruses. Come to think of it, it’s hard to imagine that such a small bite, a sting even, can be more life-threatening than a huge wound.

The Role of Citronella
Citronella has a scent that mosquitoes do not like. The citrusy odor also confuses mosquitoes which are flying about in a chemical soup, trying to locate a likely victim. So, lighting up citronella-scented candles, putting small bowls of citronella-based potpourri, or using lotions and sprays that contain citronella can help in stopping mosquitoes from biting you.

Though the idea of waging a war against mosquitoes using citronella is ideal, especially because the scent is quite pleasing (unlike other repellents that have strong odors), the effectiveness of citronella is questionable. Based on experience, citronella is actually not that successful in keeping away mosquitoes. I used citronella essential oil, which I bought from a dermatologist, as suggested by my pediatrician so that I can use this to keep mosquitoes away from my baby. Small drops of oil should be placed on the clothes; and never on the skin because it is irritating especially to babies’ sensitive skin. After application, the scent was strong. But it dissipated in just a few minutes, which was when the mosquitoes began to hover near my child again. It seemed like the bugs were just waiting for the scent to disappear before attacking again. So, I needed to reapply the oil from time to time.

Using Citronella
In case you are interested in using citronella to ward of mosquitoes, do so – but be sure to reapply every 30 minutes or so. If you or your kids are going to be spending a lot of time outdoors, better opt for a mosquito repellent lotion, like Off!, which offers longer protection. It’s also not a good idea to have your children wear citronella-based anklets or bracelets because, as I mentioned earlier, the oil can be pretty irritating on the skin.

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