Let’s Talk Food: First day of spring

Today is the first day of spring, marking the vernal equinox. The sun crosses the celestial equator going south to north. The Northern and Southern Hemispheres receive roughly equal amounts of sunlight; neither hemisphere is tilted more toward or away from the sun than the other.

An American who has helped clear 815,000 bombs from Vietnam

DONG HA, Vietnam — On a visit to the former battlefield of Khe Sanh, the scene of one of the bloodiest standoffs of the Vietnam War, the only people Chuck Searcy encountered on the broad, barren field were two young boys who led him to an unexploded rocket lying by a ditch.

Tropical Gardening: Vireya rhododendrons and azaleas bloom in Hawaii

Tropical Asia is well known for its spectacular rainforests loaded with many species of palms and carnivorous Nepenthes pitcher plants but it is easy to miss the tropical Vireya Rhododendrons growing as epiphytes high in the tops of gigantic trees. Most folks spend their time looking at terrestrial plants, or avoiding leeches, snakes and other jungle critters.

Tropical Gardening: Native epiphytes and lithophytes not well represented in Hawaii

If you were to visit the humid tropics of Asia, Central and South America you would be amazed at all the plants that grow on the branches of trees and even on rocks with no soil. We do have lichens, mosses and even ferns that have evolved here to festoon rainforest and cloud forest trees, but there are few compared to the rest of the tropical world.

The fine and the dandies meet in Florence

FLORENCE, Italy — The small, tan taxi hurtled down a Florentine side street too narrow for baton twirling. My driver sliced over the Arno River on one of the city’s short stone bridges, arriving quickly below the Fortezza da Basso — a 14th century fortress spliced into the former city walls and now looming over the opposite bank like a hibernating bear blocking the road.

Escapes that take your breath away: Indulge with your sweetheart in a Valentine’s vacation

When it comes to sharing Valentine’s Day with your one true love, don’t think diamonds and hearts and fancy gourmet restaurants. Instead, think getaway, as in it’s the one time of the year to get away from it all and indulge (read: splurge) in one or two or all of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Instead of a dozen roses, here are a dozen romantic escapes scattered from one corner of the world to the other to treat your sweetie.

Tropical Gardening: Winter storms can wreak havoc on homes and gardens

We often find ourselves worried about storm damage as hurricane season approaches in June. Hurricanes can cause tremendous damage on the rare occasion that one comes our way, but they are few and far between. The facts show that on an annual basis, we have more cumulative damage due to high winds and rains from storms from February through March. This means now is the time to do the pruning required to keep our trees healthy.