The Wonders of Lavender

June 5, 2017 – I never had much desire to visit France — I’m more of a fan of the Mediterranean countries, at least when I vacation in my mind — but these gorgeous photos of the country’s lavender fields make me want to pack my bags and go. With lavender’s ability to sooth nervous tension, relieve pain and help insomnia, the people in this region must be the happiest and most well-rested people on earth.

In my region of the world, June is lavender harvest season, and there are two close lavender farms in Bucks County, Pa. Peace Valley Lavender Farm and Carousel Lavender Farm are both located near the town of New Hope. Here are a few photos of each farm — although they don’t come close to those taken in France since they were taken after harvest.

peace valley sign

Lavender was used 2500 years ago in the mummification process in Ancient Egypt. It is also said that Cleopatra used a perfume infused with lavender to seduced Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

It is said that Cleopatra used a perfume infused with lavender to seduce Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

Queen Victoria used to require that her furniture be polished with a lavender-based solution, and she also sipped tea infused with lavender to settle her stomach and ease her headaches.

Queen Victoria used to require that her furniture be polished with a lavender-based solution, and she also sipped tea infused with lavender to settle her stomach.

peace valley shop 2

Lavender has the following properties: antibacterial, antidepressant, analgesic, and antiseptic. During London’s great plague, people would tie bunches of lavender to their wrists to fight infection and bacteria.

carosel sign

The lavender bud is covered in tiny hairs that contain the essential oils.

The lavender bud is covered in tiny hairs that contain the essential oils.

Back in the Elizabethan times, when baths weren’t common practice, lavender was used to perfume clothes and bed linen.

Back in the Elizabethan times, when baths weren’t common practice, lavender was used to perfume clothes and bed linen.

In French classrooms teachers used to crush lavender to calm disruptive and nervous students.

In French classrooms teachers used to crush lavender to calm disruptive and nervous students.

The Best Cities for Young Professionals

May 1, 2017 — A friend of mine is contemplating a move to California sometime this summer to test his computer science skills in the Silicon Valley.

Good thing that the number one city for young professionals is San Francisco, according to ranker.com.

San Francisco also tops the best city for young professionals on Forbes.com and ranks #3 on Niche.com . IT also ranks as #1 in the Best Cities for Young Tech professionals, according to Time Magazine, so it looks like it is the best place for him.

I enjoyed San Francisco when I traveled there for business years ago. I always said I wanted to back and now it looks like I may have my chance.

 

 

Enjoy a Free Visit to a U.S. National Park in April

05 Mar 2006, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA — Image by © Buddy Mays/Corbis

April 10, 2017 – Just in time for spring break, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation are joining together for National Park Week, from April 15 to 23. And if you visit a National Park on the weekend (either April 15-16 or 22-23), you’ll be admitted free to the parks that normally charge a fee.

There are 417 National Parks across the United States, so chances are there is one in your area.

I’m planning a trip to Gettysburg National Park, a famous Civil War battleground about two hours from my home over the weekend of April 22-23, and the spring blossoms promises lots of photo opportunities. Although I’ve been to several National Parks in the Northwest and Southwest, I tend to miss the local sites in my own backyard.

It’s the perfect way to spend time with the kids, since many schools are closed for spring break that week. However, if you can’t make it this month, the parks will also offer free admittance on August 25 to celebrate the National Park Service’s birthday.

It’s a Weird World After All

PMWWWEC_MainImageAugust 26, 2016 – Are you the ultimate theme park connoisseur?

If you’ve been to Disney World more than 10 times you probably think you are. You may also want to seek help for your addiction and admit it’s time to broaden your horizons before you plan your next theme park excursion.

In honor of Labor Day approaching faster than the Rock and Roll Roller Coaster, here are 10 Bizarre Theme Parks from Around the World courtesy of listverse.com, the people who love compiling lists as much as I love reading them. Between the 10 stages of hell, a Japanese prison, the crucifixion and war mongering, there is something for the entire family.

Wonder Woman

2nd-day---Towards-Serthi3April 27, 2015 — Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to interview a colleague for a feature story in our company newsletter. Her name is Aparna Choudhury, and she worked at the office in Pune, India. She has since left the company, but I believe she’d be happy to know I decided to share her story with a wider audience.

Aparna trains as a long distance marathon runner, and is one of the few women in all of India, and the world, who has tackled this challenge. She’s also been the subject of a documentary film, which she discusses in the interview below:

Aparna’s story is special because she’s strong and inspirational, but also because shares her story with women across her country to empower them. She does this, she explained during the interview, because even though women have equal rights and have held high offices including president and prime minister, there can be challenges for women in India. Here is part of my conversation with Aparna:

2nd-day---Towards-Serthi2Aparna, you hold a special record for female runners in India. Can you tell me about that?

I have two records currently: the first Indian woman to do a 100-mile run (Bhatti Lakes, Faridabad, India, October 2011) and a 135-mile run (Uttarkashi, India, September 2012).

The first record happened by accident. I was supposed to crew for another runner who failed to call back until the last moment, so I got tired of waiting and decided to participate myself. There were seven participants and I was one of the four finishers. For the 135-mile run, we were three participants at the start line, and two finished including me. (Pictured above: Aparna taking a break during one of her marathons.)

Those long distances would take several hours by car. How long does it take to complete a 135-mile marathon by foot?

It takes forever. Actually, it took 45 hours and 27 minutes to finish. Breaks are few, but the clock still ticks during rest periods. It began raining during my event and for reasons that are still not clear, I crawled under a Jeep to nap. The water started running under the car though, so I got up. Even eating is done while walking so as not to use up time. Once the miles start adding up, the number of breaks increase as the body starts looking for the smallest of excuses to sit down. Sometimes the mind knows that you’re just wasting time, but the body refuses to get up.

e2b161d3e3466b4eafd622a32b7420b7_largeYou’ve also been featured in a documentary about female long distance runners. How did that come about?

I ran in a 222km run (approximately 138 miles) in Leh, Ladakh (India), which was at an altitude of 11000-17700 feet. The race is by invitation only, and I was the first Indian to be invited. The field consisted of seven participants, including two women. I met Rebecca Byerly, a journalist and runner, and the other woman during this race. She explained she was filming a documentary and the idea was to capture two essential ingredients: Women and Mountains, and display the stories to high school students in the U.S. (Pictured above: Aparna with Rebecca Byerly).

Rebecca and I were disqualified from the race because of not clearing the cut-off set for first 48kms, as we took six minutes extra to reach the checkpoint. I decided to carry on and finish the race on my own as it didn’t make sense for me to go all the way to Leh and  not finish. I knew I was capable of doing the full 222kms at that height. In the end, it added another flavor to the documentary, as it now also displays how to keep on going despite all odds.

15The documentary, ‘Women of the Mountain’ is a feature-length film told through six women: three who run the world’s longest ultra-marathons through the world’s highest mountain ranges, and three who live in those rugged terrains. From the Himalayas to the Alps to the Sierra Nevada, it tells the stories of resilient women from around the world, and shows how they rise above the challenges of age, culture, gender or any parameters society sets for them.

What motivates a person to be a long distance runner?

A curiosity to go that extra mile to see if it’s doable, to explore new places and to keep fit.

What was the longest marathon you’ve ever participated in?

It was a single stage event, the La Ultra 2013, a multi-day run spread across six days. The 330kms (approximately 205 miles) from Dandi to Sabarmati, Gujarat, India traced Gandhi’s footsteps in his ‘Salt March’, where he had walked in a non-violent protest against the British rule.

Describe the process of training for a marathon?

I tend to run regularly, and cover 40-45 miles per week when not training for an ultra. During my training months, I increase the weekly mileage to at least 80% of the race distance. What I have observed is ultras are more mental than physical, so I try to prepare myself in that aspect more. I run continuous loops of 5kms to prepare myself mentally for the long hours and monotony. (Pictured above: cooling off during the run).

What do you think about when you run?

Mostly its random thoughts, funny conversations or scenes from movies. Sometimes I start day dreaming and build hypothetical situations where I’m always the hero. In the beginning, I think about the distance and keep on calculating the pace in my mind. Towards the middle, I think I won’t ever do another long distance race again and towards the end, I think of the food and bed that awaits me.

Athletes are typically superstitious. Do you have any rituals that you follow?

No rituals, but I have a green long-sleeved t-shirt that I carry with me on all my ultra runs.

Who is your role model and how does he or she inspire you?

Bruce Lee. I have also trained in Taekwondo and have achieved the red belt with black stripe, which is one short of the black belt. Bruce Lee inspires me the most for various reasons, the most important being he followed a philosophy of lifelong learning and not putting limits on anything. I try to emulate him.

Philly ranks #3 on best places to visit list

phillyJanuary 12, 2015 – Philadelphia is a great city.

I know it, and maybe you know it too, but my home city gets a bad rap when it comes to reputation.

True Philadelphians, however, know the real deal; We’re not that dangerous, as Philly ranks #60 out of 100 on the most dangerous cities in the U.S., which is not great, but not that bad ether for a big east coast city. Hey, 59 other cities are far more dangerous.

When it comes to sports, don’t even get me started on what they say about the City of Brotherly Love. We know it’s ridiculous, and that the #1 story the media states time and time again is nearly 50 years old and blown way out of proportion. Still, some of us appreciate that reputation because we want our competition to be afraid to play in our fair city.

Now, the New York Times, the newspaper published in the city that probably gives us the most grief, has named their 52 places to visit in 2015, and Philly ranks #3, after Milan, Italy and Cuba. The newspaper states that Dilworth Park, the Delaware waterfront, and the Spruce Street Harbor Park are some of the main reasons, but let’s not forget the city’s fascinating history.

Congratulations, Philly! You deserve it.