Lessons from Mt. Airy Baseball

While Mt. Airy is known for its racial diversity, 13 years of living there produced very few cross-race friendships. Tribes hang together and like attracts like. Except in Mt. Airy baseball, which is the most racially integrated experiences we’ve had in our neighborhood. Teams transcend race, economics and zip codes. This is the deepest diversity I have ever experienced, something I have valued enough to drive back to now that we are no longer living in Mt. Airy.

The first year was a no-brainer. Robin was in his second year on his T-ball team, which was coached by a friend of ours and included a number of Robin’s buddies.

But his past year was a harder decision. You see, we live in a new neighborhood with a strong sports culture, lots of athletic and highly engaged dads, and a robust little league of its own. New friends and neighbors are involved and coaching, the same dads who pitch to my son in the street. Naturally they would like him to join the league and play with his neighborhood friends.

I would too. I relish the idea of bonding with the neighborhood moms on the bleachers and cranking hot dogs with them in the concession stand. Everyone is so nice. There’s only one problem. This neighborhood is homogenous and so like its community, the little league is almost completely white and middle class.

It’s no one’s fault, and most people would never notice this all, much less think it a problem. But we’ve seen another way and come to value it! Our time in T ball was enlightening, even as conversations with other parents were sometimes shallow.

When I asked our coach about snacks he confided that not everyone on the team could afford to take a turn buying snacks for everyone. That and other moments were eye opening for me and extremely valuable. They forged a deep loyalty in me to the league, the equality of the baseball diamond, and the rich and diverse experiences these kids bring to the team.

So we signed on for little league again. And this year the more intensive schedule brought use more deeply into the various worlds of the players’ families. What a rich, rich experience, sharing perspectives on schools with a single mom from Germantown. Or hearing about the congregation where our coach was a preacher. Or meeting older siblings who helped coach.

We also got more involved, with Randy assistant coaching and me scoring and helping staff the dugout. There I became a “dugout mama” with Jen, another mom I knew from Robin’s former school. We juggled her son’s needs with other dramas of the batting order. I got to know the kids’ names and their backstories. We heard of family dramas and respected that throughout these ups and downs, the kids made it to practice and games. Baseball was the constant.

We also laughed at one dad and his vivid and creative commentary. we later found out he was a writer for a Netflix series. “Put some mustard on it!” We would laugh and laugh at his expressions. Meanwhile all the practice was turning our team from on of the worst I t he league to one of the better ones. With effort, the kids turned it around.

And some funny notes about race. I realized that the African Americans struggled to tell us white people apart. Robin was mistaken for another white kid ont he team around on, even though they had different hair color. And Jen and I were mistaken for each other, though really calling any white woman my age Jen is a good bet. Half the time you will be right.

And on the flip side, I had my own struggles distinguishing kids. But after long conversations with their moms, I could see traces of them if their kids’ faces. I came to know and recognize them. This exposure and intimacy is rare and so needed in our world.

As we get more entrenched in our new neighborhood and life outside of Mt. Airy, our decision next year will be all the harder. But this type of diversity is so real, organic, and valuable. It is impossible for me to imagine giving it up.


Planet Mrs.


There are as many differences between urban and suburban culture as there are varieties of each. Endless ways to experience city living, and many varieties of suburban culture, each with its own norms.

Around here, that norm includes calling adults Mr. and Mrs. I tell outsiders I live on Planet Mrs. I try to conform, to ask Robin to show his respect to adults by addressing them as they wish to be addressed. But for over a year now I have been thinking one thing. Wishing to yell it in all caps like a Mo Willems character:

It makes every cell in my body contract when I hear it. It makes me feel less like me.

1. My name is not Kester.

I am only Andrea Kester in Facebook, where I use this false name to hide from creepy old boyfriends and curious clients. This anonymity allows me to post political viewpoints with impunity and dodge potential employers’ searches. But I do realize it is genuinely confusing, especially for new friends and acquaintances.

When I hear Mrs. Kester, the first thing I think of is my mother-in-law, and I cringe. Not because my mother-in-law is disagreeable. To the contrary, she is a delightful woman so unmalicious, my sarcasm genuinely confuses. Rather, it reminds me of the days when I called her Mrs. Kester instead of Barb, when I was too bashful to ask if I could be less formal and she was too embarrassed to invite me to be.

I was Szyper for the first 30 years of my life and never considered changing it when I married. And to hyphenate a name like Szyper would be ridiculous, we can all agree on that. At our wedding I told my father-in-law that though I did not take the name, I was proud to be in his family. He smiled and told me he completely understood. Meanwhile his son liked to tell people “Andea is keeping her name and I am keeping mine.”


2. I am Ms. not Mrs.

I claim the right to separate my marital status from my identity, as men have been doing since the start of such things. He can be Mr. and I can be Ms. As you get to know us, our status will be revealed to you at our own discretion. Ms. is indeed more than a euphemism for Miss after all.

But at the same time, please do not feel threatened or judged. Understand that I completely respect and honor your wish to be called Mrs. just as I accept your choice to take your husband’s last name as your own. It is a fantastic choice, and I am so excited to live in a world where we have options as women, and where we can follow the path that feels right and natural for each of us.

We need to spend less energy feeling threatened and more energy supporting each other and honoring these choices. There are endless ways to be a woman today, and each deserves respect, even when it isn’t the way we would choose for ourselves. More than anything, we womenfolk have got to stick together and hold each other up.

3. I hate formality.

I bristle at the formality of titles in general. I know this makes us somewhat unique in all sorts of circles. I used to insist Robin call his preschool teachers Ms. Lorna and Ms. Drew. But parents in our old neighborhood went by Heather and Allen and Cheryl. (Still do!)

The Quakers are intrinsically anti-hierarchical, so it should come as no surprise that at Friends school students called their teachers by their first name only. Robin’s teachers included Kathie, Azizah, Lois, and Cornelia.

I never expected this to carry over to a mainstream public school. In that setting, the titles make sense. But what surprises me is when adults identify themselves to me as a Mrs. It creates confusion when Mrs. Smith calls from the school office and she is not Miss/Ms. Smith, Robin’s classroom teacher. Can’t we go by first names, at least among adults?

Poor Robin is confused. When we hang out with closer friends, grown ups are called by first names, but at the bus stop he must jump to the formal. And when I tell Robin’s neighborhood friends to call me Andrea, they say that their parents wouldn’t want them to. I insist Robin call their parents Mr. and Mrs. as they prefer, to show them respect. I get it.

But can I choose too?
How about calling me Ms. Andrea?

(If only I had the guts to just politely ask…)

City living, Family, Food, Travel, Winter

Entertaining Parents

“When are the first customers arriving?!” Robin’s question came right on time, at noon.

“Honey, they’re guests, not customers. And no one shows up at the beginning. People are shy about being the first ones here.”

And so began the litany of questions. An avalanche of chicken nuggets slid from the oven. A dozen people descended at once, and our house turned into a happy, chaotic hive of convivial conversation.

Even at 78 guests, there were people who couldn’t come or came stag. When we set a guest list these days, we count by fours and fives, so numbers add up quickly.

What a wonderful mix! The living room buzzed with talk of city politics travel while new neighbors and old friends mixed in the family room. Travel, Trump, and the ham were all hot topics.

Kids were everywhere.

A neighbor texted to say she would come with their 5 but stay only briefly to leave room for the “out of towners.”

I told her to stay as long as she could stand. “We wanted a bigger house because our old place couldn’t hold all of our friends. I never imagined we would double our circle when we moved. It’s a blessing, not a problem!”

“Talk to me again after you’ve had 30 kids tearing around your house for 2 hours.”

Though it was too cold to be outside, the kids stayed busy upstairs and down.

Our friendships have multiplied mostly because of Robin and the high quality adults who come with his playmates. As the kids scatter for school and lose touch, I want to keep their parents around!

Five pounds of chicken tenders, three bandaids, and a little insanity is a small price to pay.

So we survived our big party and enjoyed the chaos of wrestling and coloring, snacks and wine. We cleared a few juice boxes from the guest room and a tater tot from Robin’s nightstand. Two kids lost teeth.

Here’s the lost and found below. (One front tooth still at large, possibly swallowed! )



6 Words I Despise

2016, you’re only half over, yet your verbiage is already making me weary. So well ahead of the year-end glut of vocabulary lists and before Webster crowns its Word of the Year, I’ll submit my own list.

To be fair, these are not words that have emerged this year. They have been around, growing slowly, like a cancer. It’s only this year that they’ve hit the tipping point to full-blown annoying.

Pivot – I used to like this one, but let’s give it a rest. Or switch / rotate / move / shift to some other word.

Disruption / disruptor – Some new language for entrepreneurs and the peer economy, please? Anyone? Makes me want to bring the word “maverick” back.

Hack / hacker – I just saw a job listing for a Growth Hacker. Translation? Marketing Director. Middle-aged people need not apply.

Space (as in field, segment, marketplace or sector) – “We’re disruptors in this space.” Too vague and knowing.

Mic drop – I hope this one is as short-lived as “Talk to the hand.”

Impactful – As if the overuse of “impact” wasn’t bad enough. Is this even a word? I can google a definition, but spell check says no.

In the so-glad-they’re-dying category, words:
Epic, orientate, awesome, ninja (especially in job titles),
psycho(verb) – psychocheck, psychocall

And phrases:
____ is the new ____, beef up

Words I overuse to the point of annoying myself:
Leverage, traction, win-win, actually, crap

And then there is a whole new crop of words and phrases emerging in our politics, but that’s for another post.

In the meantime, what are your least favorite words and phrases?

City living, Family

Summer Camp for Grownups

Barnes Foundation

Grand Camp is the best kept secret of parenting, if you have engaged and bodily able parents like I do. A remote location like Pittsburgh helps. Robin is at sleep-away camp this week, spending 12 days with my parents, bouncing between their households and visiting the driving range, baseball games, amusement parks and the pool. Want to see some pictures?

Randy at Gran Caffe L'Aqila

Here’s us on an epic date night. Happy hour at Caffe L’Aquila to start…  And an art opening at the Barnes. We took illegal selfies in the permanent collection, which was eerily empty. We swayed to reggae in the crowded main hall, and even got to talk to the artist, Nari Ward, who is brilliant and down-to-earth. And no one interrupted our conversation to announce he had to poop! No one called it boooooooooring.


I get to work 9 or 10-hour days like a normal person. This was a treat. For real. I’m super glad to be able to do it, finishing projects completely and getting serious traction after 5:30pm. And then stopping off at Saks Off 5th or Marshall’s on my way home. And dining after 7. And only washing myself before bed. Only brushing one set of teeth.

There have also been bars, like Mermaid Inn and Bar Hygge. And Tired Hands. Refreshingly, it’s a clever name, not a state that accompanies sore feet and weary body. I will work though. I’ll spackle and paint. Clean the house. Harvest radishes from my garden. I won’t even need caffeine to do it as I slept until almost 8 this morning. I will wash three loads of laundry and get it all folded in a single day. Then blog about it. I feel downright superhuman!

We’re hosting friends for dinner and watching R-rated movies. On weeknights.


Of course I do miss my guy, more than I had imagined. I enjoy the text messages and photos my parents send. He’s taking in all of Pittsburgh’s pleasures with the only people on this planet who come close to loving him as much as Randy and I do.

And while I savor the freedom of spending a whole morning writing and reading entire articles in the newspaper, I feel a small wave of sadness. Life before my Robin was fun and free. But I can’t imagine a life without his love and raw energy. I miss the warmth of his little busy body and the chaos he leaves in his wake.


I am painfully aware that these days are fleeting. The years are stacking up. Our time together is short and beautiful, if hectic and tiring. In his week away he will probably lose that single front tooth, his precious hockey player smile transitioning to something else.


European Union Nations Consider Requiring a Visa for US Visitors

At a recent European Union meeting, high level representatives from member nations advanced a proposal that would require US tourists secure a visa to travel to EU nations. If approved, the measure could take effect as early as 2017.

Citing increasing political polarization and instability in the US, leaders discussed concerns over a spike in the number of Americans looking to relocate permanently to Europe. A visa program would allow authorities to better monitor the departures as well as the arrivals of visitors.

While no one would say it specifically, many leaders made off-the-record reference to the increasing possibility of Donald J. Trump winning the US presidential election in November.

“Couple the volatile presidential campaign with the rancor in the US senate and upheaval around the Supreme Court, and you can see why Americans are feeling uncertain about their future,” says Peter Blumbach, an advisor to Angela Merkel

“We understand their concerns and frustrations, but we are not equipped to offer them asylum.”

“We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis,” explained a French official who asked not to be named. “While we are doing our best to help settle Syrian refugees, we cannot accommodate an influx of Americans. Our priority is to help those with the most acute needs.”

Google statistics show a surge in American searches for “move to Canada” over the past 4 months. But the number of searches for European countries is increasing rapidly. Among the most popular “move to” searches are Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland.

American consulates and embassies in these and other European nations reported an unusually high number of inquiries about residency requirements in the days immediately following the Super Tuesday US presidential primary.

While European leaders acknowledge their concerns about a Trump presidency are many, their biggest concern is the possible influx of Americans, and their long term cultural, religious, and economic impact on local communities.

In countries currently most affected by immigration, public sentiment is strong. Activists in Greece have taken to social media, tweeting their growing concerns using hashtags like #NoTrumpMigration and #AprilFools!

City living, Family

A Note About the Block We’re Leaving


Here is a little something I wrote up ahead of the open house we’re holding this weekend to sell our home. We love you all, neighbors. And we will miss seeing each of you on a daily or weekly basis. Thank you for being such good neighbors and becoming such dear friends. 

This is a special block. In our many years in this house, a house we have loved, I have always felt that our neighbors were the best feature of our home. This block has taught me so much about community and friendship.

I have picked tomatoes from my neighbors’ gardens. I’ve shared growlers on front porches for Mother’s Day. I’ve enjoyed fire pits in side yards and soccer matches in the alley with the kids. We’ve swapped hostas and ferns, provided vacation care for cats, and relaxed in my neighbor’s hammock. I’ve enjoyed back alley cinema here, potluck brunches, and block parties.

We share updates and info on our block’s Facebook group. We shovel snow for neighbors and can always find someone to help move a piece of furniture when needed. We actually borrow a stick of butter or cup of sugar from neighbors here! More importantly, we talk about more than the weather. And we listen.

Beyond the helpful circulation of hand-me-downs, I have really benefited from this community as a mom. I’ve learned to parent on this block and watched my child grow up among friends and neighbors who all look out for each other. Community is a beautiful thing, and I cannot imagine a more lovely one than this one.

As we have outgrown our home here, it has been very hard to say goodbye. If you love kids and animals and fire pits and gardens and interesting conversation, this is the place for you.


 Notes from the Sausage Factory


“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”
      – Otto von Bismark

(Sausages = Families)

My dad has almost never stayed for more than a night or two, and rarely comes to visit on his own. My stepmom Robie still works, so their visits are brief. She grew up here, so she has her own list of VIPs to see on their long weekends. We normally get them as a matched set, for 24 – 48 hours.

I was shocked when Dad accepted my invite to come for the week while Robie was gone in Italy!

My delight turned to dread as the visit approached. We live in half the square footage they do, and our home is extremely modest by comparison.

While we don’t aim to impress, we do clean house and make beds and dinners for their visits.

They arrive on Christmas mornings just in time for coffee, quiche and mirth. The tableau they find includes a blissful grandson in matching PJ top and bottom, sitting in a nest of wrapping paper quietly playing. Mimosas are passed. The plate with cookie crumbs and half drunk milk rests on the hearth, just so.

This is the closest we come to Rockwell.

“You’re in for full Szyper-Kester immersion,” I warned my dad in a call just before he came. Unmade beds. Unkempt house. Processed food…

My dad has such a strong tendency to not want to intrude or be a burden, I sometimes mistake it for indifference.

But he was game for the challenge and I invited him in. He learned the way to Robin’s school and picked him up at 3 for the week. They bonded over Popsicles and a shared appreciation of Odd Squad. He heard about our work days and helped us forage the fridge for nightly meals.

And more than anything, he understood. Understood our daily grind and exhaustion. Our willingness to let bad behavior pass sometimes out of sheer weariness. Even the mysteriously long time it takes us to deposit checks he sends for birthday gifts. We’re just swamped.

We hit the skids one night in the middle of his stay. Our family meltdown was something about Robin’s bad behavior, Randy’s slack response, my nagging him about parenting and then a reverse domino that sent the vitriol back around again.

Lots of tears and yelling and guilt. Having my father as a witness only intensified my shame.

“See, dad? We’re all freaks! You probably want to go home now,” I sobbed. “I don’t blame you.”


“Bu-bu-but, I I I don’t really want you to go. But if you want to I understand. I’m s-s-sorry. This just happens sometimes.”

My dad was unmoved, but in the good way. Like a rock. I cried. I talked. He listened. Without judgement.

“You’re in the sausage factory now,” I told him, when I was able to laugh again. “You like the end result, but it’s any ugly process.”

This to a man who read me The Velveteen Rabbit regularly in childhood. This is Real.

At the end of a long workday, we look nothing like our Christmas card photo.

Dad and I laugh about it now. It was a pivotal night in our relationship. Sausage Factory has become code for human, vulnerable, honest. I feel brave for letting him in. And I think, strangely, we both feel lucky.

On a date night at the end of the week I found myself relating a version of the meltdown story to some friends at a cocktail party.

One of them mistook the meaning of sausage factory for an overabundance of men in the house. We laughed as he explained that in college if he and his friends walked into a bar without enough women, they’d say “Dude, this place is a sausage factory. Let’s go.”

I blushed as another guy agreed he had understood the same thing.

“I pity my wife,” our host told me, “because she lives in a sausage factory” (with him and their three sons).

When I told my father about the confusion he was quick to dismiss these guys. The allusion to the famous quote about government was over their heads, he said.

“No, no,” I told my dad. “They’re really bright guys. One of them is a urologist!”

When I said the words aloud we fell into fits of laughter. We howled until we cried about misunderstandings, sausage, and our sausage factory. Our dear, dear sausage factory.

I’ll fly the freak flag proudly on his next visit.

Family, Language, Travel

10 Reasons Ireland Rules for Family Vacations

Ireland is a wonderland for family travel. The warmth of the Irish people and the county’s well established tourist infrastructure make it an inviting and accessible place even for novice travelers. The left-side driving is the only challenging part, but the freedom and spontaneity a rental car allows make it essential. Off-road Ireland is where the adventures begin!

My son Robin will remember this vacation for the rest of his life. Here are 10 reasons you should consider taking a family vacation in Ireland.

1. Happy dining

Bangers and Mash …and peas, and bacon. Bread and butter. Chips. Crisps. Baked beans. There are simple pleasures on kids’ menus throughout this fair green land. And the omni-present Early Bird dinner means mom and dad can dine in some of the cities’ best restaurants before 7 pm and enjoy two course for under 25 euro. Dinner is served from 5pm onward, and many places remain open serving food between lunch and dinner. We found kids’ menus in some of Dublin’s most sophisticated restaurants.

2. Family pricing   

All the major sites we visited in 5 different counties had family discounts. For a couple euro more than the cost of 2 adults, a family of four can enter, whether at the Rock of Cashel or the cathedrals of Dublin and Kilkenny. Under 6 is usually free. And the major museums of Dublin are free, so you can duck in for short visits and leave as soon as the kids start whining. And in terms of airfare, flights to Dublin and Shannon are among Europe’s lowest in cost, especially if you can plan for very early June.

3. Endless green

Parks, fields, and open greens — for kicking a soccer (foot) ball or tossing a foot (rugby) ball. Or hurling, I suppose …if you’re into that kinda thing.  (I wouldn’t trust my son with a large stick, and those pro players make our hockey players look like wusses.) Whether it is in a Dublin park, on a castle green like the lush acreage of Kilkenny Castle, or in the wilderness of Country Kerry, there’s open space that invites you to run around and be free. Hiking trails through moss-covered thickets. Rolling hills to roll down. (Robin rolled down the high slopes of the Rock of Cashel for almost an hour; we’ll visit the Hill of Tara next trip to do the same.)

4. Kid-friendly pubs
IMG_1437 IMG_1435

Drink with yours kids. The locals don’t mind and won’t judge you. In fact, they will likely hand you a kids’ menu. Pubs are family friendly before 8 or 9 at night. Guidelines vary a little based on place or season, but pubs are a multi-generational affair. So grab a pint, and a half pint of milk. Did I mention the bar games? Go off peak for extended play time at the ring toss (above).

5. Irish music

Whether you are tutoring your child on the importance of early U2 or taking in an early evening trad (traditional music) session in a pub, music is everywhere. Stomp your feet. Clap your hands. Use your bodhran, a traditional drum used in folk music. You can pick up a decent one for 13 euro, and any local who sees your child holding one will warm to you immediately and may even offer a lesson. It seems the school kids here learn to play them, at least in the southwest of Ireland. The little drum is great and travels well. But under no circumstances should you buy your child a tin whistle. Seriously. They should tuck a set of earplugs into the box it comes in, wrapped in the sheet music for “Oh Danny Boy.”

6. Irish television

Turn on the tellie and make new friends. Peppa the Pig (though we think she’s British) is a favorite of ours. Better yet, listen in as your old buddy Dora is dubbed into Gaelic. Seriously. Dinosaur Train airs in Gaelic too! It’s just exotic enough to stretch a young mind.

7. Farm life 

I’m talking sheep. On the road. Cows up close. Goats sneaking up to the fence behind you, their MAAAAAAAAW so loud it makes you jump. Free range happy cows and hay baling. Tractors everywhere and farm pastures as far as the eye can see. In County Kerry there are places like Kissane Sheep Farm, Molly Gallivan’s, and the historic farmstead at Muckross House where kids can see it all up close. Explore the farmers’ markets and sample cheeses. Better yet, stay on a farm like we did. This is where food comes from, kids!

8. Everyone speaks English

It is so easy to get what you want and need, and the people here are generally so warm and accommodating. Your children can easily befriend the local kids at the playground and you can chat up their parents. The Gaelic signs keep it interesting, but it is really nice to be able to talk to everyone you meet, ask questions and make friends. Talking to the locals is one of the best ways to understand Ireland and discover its hidden gems, and it can get you out of a pickle quickly. Don’t be shy!

9. Fairies
IMG_1624 (1) IMG_2291

Yes, they are real. See this proof? Ireland has a sizable community of fairies and leprechauns. Evidence of their existence is everywhere, if you open your eyes and look. We recommend starting your search in the mossiest part of the forest, where the ferns grow tall. If you don’t succeed, have your child ask an elderly person. They are eager to tell your kids all about them and just as eager to hear reports of your sightings. They must remember a time when the fairies roamed free.

10. Each day ends like this… 

A creamy stout poured from a nitro can. And yes, those are wool slippers that are 76% more comfortable than the Uggs in your closet. Cozy cozy. The sun sets much later this far north, so days are longer and you can grab a little R & R outdoors after bedtime in summer. In cooler months you can just chill by the fire. This is me on a rainy June evening, when outdoor temps dipped and the sun didn’t set until 10pm, leaving us a nice long and quiet evening to enjoy while Robin slept upstairs.


Aging, Family

A List for All Seasons in Life

I never understood those kidless 20-somethings who went to Disney World for vacation. I mean, if you thought you might procreate later, why not save it for then and go to Prague instead?

To everything, turn, turn, turn…photo (10)

Pixar movies
The zoo
Harry Potter
Tree identification by bark and leaf
Bible stories
An all-inclusive resort vacation
U-Pick produce
The constellations
Little House on the Prairie
A pet

This is a list of things I’ve always been curious about, but things that I chose to put off for my parenting years, so I would have something to look toward to. Seriously. I was mindful of this, as if I were budgeting the new and interesting.

The thing is, there have always been so many things that interest me. It seemed prudent to explore things like theater of the absurd and day drinking first. I couldn’t imagine any child of mine waiting for Godot.

Live jazz
Wine tastings
The Fringe Festival
A regular yoga practice
Art galleries
Spicy ethnic food in funky restaurants in not-quite gentrified neighborhoods
Spicy ethnic food with expensive ingredients and protracted preparations at home
Subtitled films
Creative sex
International travel

All of these things were better experienced in the pre-parenting years. The DINK years. The years of wine and roses. And creative sex.

Maybe I should think ahead to the empty nest years, track where I have burgeoning curiosities. What might be better with the gifts of age and time and quiet, conditions that seem unimaginable to me now?

I’ve told Randy that when we retire, I will cultivate orchids and he can tend bonsai trees. Of course retirement age will likely be so late, his hands will be too weak to hold those cool looking scissors.

What else might be good to save for later? Maybe some interests I have had for decades but never quite gotten to. Or a few deferred treats to soften the blow of aging…

Tropical fish
Long baths
The New York Times crossword puzzle
Minimalist decor
Sewing and/or quilting
River cruises
High maintenance plants and gardens