Spring is right around the corner and I am so excited! I really loved the record-breaking snowfall Philadelphia experienced this winter, but a couple weeks ago I swear if I saw one more snowflake fall from the sky, I would scream.

For the past two summers, neighbors have shared a nice garden space in the backyard. It's yielded a bounty of squash, tomatoes, herbs, pumpkins and other veggies in that time. To prepare for this season, I will be attending the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Spring Garden Tenders Basic Training - a free(!), eight-part course for groups interested in community gardening. Since I've only been involved with gardening at a hobby level, I'm excited to learn more skills and tips for gardening and for sharing the space with community members.

Growing your own food can be such a rewarding experience. It involves careful planning, labor, care and finally, enjoying the delicious produce. When I think of veggie gardens and summertime, I remember summer evenings at my grandparents' house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As we prepared dinner, my grandma would send me to the backyard to pick the ripe tomatoes and peppers for our salad. Nothing tastes quite as good as when it comes just steps from your door and has grown as a result of your own hard work. You control the quality and types of produce, and can choose to grow them in an environmentally safe way.

This training course has seven sessions once a week through the end of April, each of them three-hours long. An eighth session will be a workday. Be sure to check back as I update about the progress of the workshop and the garden. Once the training workshop has been completed, be sure to visit the Reviews page to read about my experience.
 
Hi friends! After seeing my review of the Berry Green SuperFood, the awesome folks at Amazing Grass have offered a coupon code for 15% off products ordered through their site! Be sure to use coupon code healthy123 when you check out to get your discount. Thanks so much to the Amazing Grass team for allowing me to share this discount with my readers.
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Mambo Sprouts, the "one stop resource for healthy and organic living" has a great giveaway for the month of March when you pledge to do your part for the planet! Sign the Mambo Sprouts bag pledge stating whether you will give up 1, 5 or 10+ plastic bags per week, or that you're already plastic-free and you'll be entered to win one of 3 starter kits or 2 chill bags from Blue Avocado:
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Entries must be received by March 22, with winner emailed on or around March 23. In addition to filling out the pledge online, here are even more ways you can enter:

1. Spread the word about this giveaway on Twitter and include #mambopledge in your message

2. Blog about this giveaway and let Mambo Sprouts know by emailing the URL to your blog post to mambosprouts@gmail.com

3. Become a Mambo Sprouts fan on Facebook and post your pledge on their Facebook fan page
 
The alarm buzzes, just like it does at the beginning of every other workday, signaling that time for sleep is over and your feet better hit the floor and get this day going. But there's something different about today. In fact, it's not day at all - it's 10:45 p.m. and, headlamp partially covered, you're quietly sifting through your things to find black pants and a long-sleeve black shirt. After pulling them on, you tip toe past the other rooms of the bunk house to the darkened night, alive with chirps of bugs, crashing waves and the occasional howl of a nearby monkey.

It is there in the yard that you greet your co-workers - a few others dressed like night time ninjas, all with backpacks and headlamps, double checking to be sure all necessary supplies are in tow. You are the turtle protectors, and the "work day" you're about to begin is four hours of patrolling several kilometers of beach where nesting leatherback sea turtles will soon swim ashore to drop their clutches of eggs.

You arrived at this moment in your life in a bit of an extraordinary fashion. Deep inside, you had the desire to do more, be more, give more. Back in the office in the city from which you came, you filled out your vacation request months in advance and sent the papers off to the next in line for a signature of "OK." Setting up your out of office reply and packing your bags, you were ready for a working vacation.

The idea of a working vacation is starting early in the lives of many young people involved in church youth groups, community service organizations or clubs in high school or college. Students may take an alternative spring break - one that sends them not to the must-visit party location of the year, but to a place that desperately needs the help of outsiders to stay afloat and carry on.

It is in giving to others that we receive. It is in the opportunities that we may find ourselves. If only for a week, you live the life of another, or experience your dream job in a distant locale. While your vacation from work may not exemplify the most understood definition of detach and relax, you will likely still return refreshed, eyes open, ready to tackle the next obstacle in your way.

Have you ever participated in an alternative spring break program or taken a working vacation? Leave a comment about your experiences. If the organization you made your trip through has a website, be sure to leave the link so others may check it out as well. Pura vida, friends!
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Photo: Anne-Marie D'Onofrio excavating a leatherback nest at Pacuare Reserve in Costa Rica.