Indoor Plant Splurge


I really start to miss gardening in January. The holiday distraction is over; I’m indoors more than half the day; and I realize there are three long, cold months before the start of the gardening season begins in April.

This will not stand! So for my birthday last week, my husband took me to Hicks Nursery (100 Jericho Turnpike, Westbury, NY 11590) to check out the sales on their large selection of indoor plants, which are timed to coincide with the mid-winter horticultural doldrums.

I’ve been visiting the Long Island plant mecca for as long as I can remember. We’d see Otto The Ghost and pick pumpkins in October. During Christmas time, my family would visit to admire their decoration displays and get hot chocolate. And in the spring, I’d tag along with my father, as he bought plants and veggies for his garden.

Another reason I’ve been wanting to plant shop and expand on my indoor collection is a new obsession of mine – this Youtube channel, “Plant One On Me”, hosted by Summer Rayne Oakes Ugh! Yes, that is her real name.  According to Summer’s nicely designed website,, she graduated from Cornell University cum laude with degrees in Environmental Science and Entomology. Oh and she’s also an environmental activist, writer, entrepreneur, eco-model, and she’s four years younger than me. What might annoy me the most though, is she’s verified on twitter. Little known fact: I’m a very jealous person.

Having said that, I can’t deny that her Youtube series is amazing. The 3-5 minute videos focus solely on one houseplant at a time. The short clips are rich with information and it’s put forth in an easy-to-understand way. And she does seem… nice. Other videos are special houseplant tours, or visits to excotic nurseries. Another that caught my attention was a video about “expectations of houseplants”. It explained to examine your living space before going to the garden store and buying plants. Make sure you buy plants that are suitable for your light conditions and overall environment. Another great tip she shares, if you travel a lot, consider cactus and/or succulents.

As I headed to Hicks planning on spending a lot of money, I had Summer’s plant shopping tips in the back of my mind. I was overwhelmed with 8 rows of all different species and cultivars to choose from. Matt was patient with me as I went down the isles (twice), reading the plant description and inspecting for imperfections and pests. It was difficult to choose, but I picked up six new plants – asparagus fern (Asparagus aethiopicus), a gorgeous hanging Brazil philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum), the very trendy money plant (Pilea peperomioides), a unique silver stone (Calocephalus brownii), a variegated triostar prayer plant (Triostar sanguinea) and last but not least, a delicate glauca (Pilea glauca).

I’ll elaborate on these lovely plants in the upcoming weeks. In the meantime, if you’re a plant person, I’ll swallow my pride and suggest you check out Summer Rayne Oakes youtube channel here.

Caption 1
I bought this shell over two months ago at a thrift shop with the intention of turning it into planter. The asparagus fern is the perfect fit.

Caption 2
The delicate, organic, small vines of the glauca are ideal for an indoor hanging basket display, in a room with filtered light.

tagged in garden, plant care, plants

Church, Chick Peas and the Holy Johnny Cash

My plan for this week was to write about a tasty, healthy chickpea salad recipe, but two notable experiences happened last Sunday at St. Francis De Sales (129-16 Rockaway Beach Blvd, Belle Harbor) as my church-hopping journey continues. So here’s both!

I almost didn’t make it to Saint Francis last week. I got the time wrong. I had the thought,  “Well, I tried.” but I did end up back in the car 45 minutes later. And I’m glad I did because I was reminded by a flyer in the back of the church about their Holy Happy Hour fundraiser, this Saturday January 11th at the Bell Harbor Yacht Club (533 Beach 126th St, Belle Harbor). “Come thirsty, leave spiritually fulfilled!” Fr. Bill and Fr. Jim will be guest bartenders and all tips are donated to St. Francis Parish. I feel this was a sign from God, I have to go! 


Focused on happy hour, my mind wandered in Mass, “What do you wear to an event like this? Nothing too tight, or low-cut, no leopard print… Keep it simple fashion-wise.” Then, the next obvious question, “I wonder if I can get the priests to bless my wine?!” I feel like they’ve got years of experience at it, no? Different context, but all the same.

As I was meditating on this important question, a small child a few pews up from me came into view. He was wearing some kind of Power Rangers outfit. He was adorable! “Does he wear his costume to church every week,” I questioned. Or was it one of these situations – Mom: CHANGE FOR CHURCH NOW!”, Son: “NOOOOO!!!!” A total meltdown occurs and his frustrated mother brings him to church, costume and all! I had posted a blurry picture of him on Instagram and I was corrected, he was in fact Buzz Lightyear. When did Toy Story come out? In the 90s? I feel so out of touch.

Other observations of Mass at St. Francis: there were so many tall Irish congregants. I must remember to sit closer to the front next time. The acoustics are great and the music sounded lovely. Our Digital Editor here at The Wave, Allison Kase, commented on my Instagram post, mentioning that their folk choir at 5:30pm on Sunday is not to be missed. Matt used to play this Mass with Don Renda, whom he says is the greatest church singer of all time*. He’s been called “the holy Johnny Cash” by locals. 

Finally my mind came into focus and I paid attention to the rest of the Mass, thank God.

After church I made my go-to chickpea salad. It’s quick and easy. It’s healthy and hearty too. Sometimes I switch up the recipe based on the vegetables I have in the fridge but primary it’s the same base.

Chickepea Salad with Avocado

Paula’s Chickpea Salad with Avocado

(Serves two hungry people)
1 – 8 oz can of chickpeas, drained
1  avocado (sometimes instead of avocado I use feta cheese, both options are delicious)
1 – 2 red peppers
¼ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup romano cheese (omit if you’re using feta)
2 tablespoons shaved red onion
Salt / Pepper / Garlic Powder / Oregano to taste
Colavita olive oil
Red Vinegar

Directions: Shave the onions thinly. Dice the peppers and carrots. Often I’ll buy pre-chopped carrots, it’s a time-saver. Add those ingredients into a large bowl with the chickpeas. Mix in the spices and romano cheese. Add the oil and vinegar liberally. Let the mixture sit for a half hour before serving. Then add in the Avocado. For best freshness, If you’re making this in advance, wait to include the avocado until right before you serve. 

* Here’s a recording Don Renda and The Forms (Matt Walsh and Alex Tween) did around 2001, including Don’s original Christmas song “Child Of Peace” :

For more musings visit and follow Paula on instagram for the day to day – @theglorifiedtomato

tagged in church, happy hour, recipe


I remember being in church at midnight mass on Christmas Eve as a kid. I was probably around 12 years old. Old enough to get the message from the homily—something to the effect of “We have a lot of ‘visitors.’” The priest went on to discuss how so many of us only come to church on holidays and when it’s convenient for our schedules. I recall thinking proudly, “Oh that’s not me!”

Here I am almost 30 years later, and I’m so that person now. After mass at St. Rose this Christmas I decided I want to try to attend mass regularly.

But I’m a drifter. In church I find myself thinking about random things: Did I leave the stove on? I have to feed the cats. Ooh, I just got a notification —better check Instagram. And other stuff like that. I know going to church every Sunday is going to be a challenge for me. Then I had the idea to “church-hop.” I’ve done this before. You visit a different church every Sunday to keep it interesting, and in the process, you learn about other faiths and religious communities. I think God will be cool with this. He’s probably thinking “My child, I’m just glad you’re not hungover on Sunday morning.”

Illustration of the oldest House of Worship in Rockaway

My first church-hop was last Sunday. I attended a service at the First Congregational Church Of Rockaway Beach (320 Beach 94th Street). Interestingly, this is the oldest church in Rockaway. Their website states:

“Founded in 1886, we are the oldest house of worship on the Rockaway peninsula. The origins of the church began in the living room of Fanny Holland where she taught Sunday School classes. Our roots are in the tradition of the Pilgrims giving us independence and authority to run our own affairs.”

A few years back I saw an LGBTQ flag flying from the church and I thought that was cool. Also there’s a sign outside the church that reads “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” I like these ideas of inclusiveness.

Inside the churchThe service was warm and intimate. When it was time for announcements, anyone could stand up and speak. And the same for the prayers. Individuals just called out a name or a group they wanted to pray for and then we prayed. It was a loose structure, interactive, keeping people engaged. The music was upbeat and almost everyone was singing along.

I’ll definitely visit again, a great church vibe and very nice people. If you’re interested in attending service at the First Congregational Church Of Rockaway Beach, it’s held at 11 a.m. every Sunday. Visit the website for more information or their Facebook page.

tagged in church

Christmas This and That

It’s true. I started decorating for Christmas inside the house a week before Thanksgiving. Don’t judge! I like to take my time and enjoy the experience. But alas, Christmas traditions never fail and I traditionally have terrible luck with Christmas lights. This year, my indoor tree lights broke. Only half the string would light up. What made this so frustrating was that I bought two new sets only last year. I thought I’d be all good. How do these things break so easily?!

The Grinch in me set in.

I watched a very annoying 20 minute Youtube tutorial on how to fix the broken section but I needed The Light Keeper Pro, apparently.  I tried to find it at CVS but they didn’t have it, and on Amazon couldn’t be delivered until Wednesday. I didn’t want to wait that long. The guy in the video went way too far, reviewing the basics on electrical wiring with detailed diagrams. It all seemed so confusing, even if I had the tool. Frustrated and wanting a quick fix, I begrudgingly made a second trip to CVS to buy more tree lights. I bought shorter, 75 bulb strings thinking that maybe less can go wrong! I also got a bottle of red across the street at Ship To Shore Wines. That would no doubt make the process more easy-going and rewire my brain to get into “happy Christmasy mode”.

With wine in hand and the new lights working, my inner Grinch softened. I was back on track for a fun day of holiday cheer, so to speak.

My father taught me how to decorate the Christmas tree. He’s always had a knack for it.  On his tree, the lights are always evenly dispersed and the ornaments perfectly placed. As I began decorating my tree I could hear his guidance – put the large ornaments on the bottom and the smaller ones towards the top. Make sure to put some on the inter branches for depth. The ugly ones go in the back!

My father also had a Lionel  train set from his childhood. We’d set that up under the tree. It was a lot of work but once complete, it felt like a magical village. I liked playing with the ice skaters. We set them up on a round glass mirror (the ice rink).  The figures were made of hand-painted metal. Around all the little houses, the church and fire station we’d put cotton balls making the scene a winter wonderland.

My cherished Christmas ornaments from my grandparents

My father gave the train set to my nephew but I’ve been gifted many vintage ornaments. So much detail in those compared to the ones I see on the shelves. I have a wooden soldier on a candy cane stick which is hand-painted. The face it sort of scary looking but that’s what makes it so interesting. He has white hair and a goatee that poofs out from under his green and gold hat. He’s adorned with red ribbons and jingle bells. Another favorite of mine is a stuffed handsewn angel playing a lyre. It’s trimmed in sparkly gold with gold wings. Her dress has poinsettia embroidered on. You can tell it was made with so much care. These among others go front and center on my tree.

There’s more decorating to be done so there may be more columns about Christmas until the big day! I love this time of year!

For more plant talk follow Paula on Instagram @theglorifiedtomato
Previously published in The Wave

tagged in christmas, holiday