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Women of Sunbelt: Maureen Gilmer

Maureen Gilmer is a second generation Californian with over thirty years experience in arid climate gardening, landscape architecture and the environment. She’s published over a dozen books and countless magazine features on plants, design and wildfire in the west. For a decade she’s been writing a national Yardsmart column that runs every week with color photography. Maureen also writes a weekly color column for the Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs.

Maureen has appeared on The View, The Early Show, Good Morning America, and was host and project designer for four seasons of Weekend Gardening, on the DIY Channel.

She maintains a website,, that is filled with numerous free articles about gardening, many aimed towards beginners. Certainly a great resource for anyone interested in in taking up a new hobby!

Sunbelt published Maureen’s book Palm Springs-Style Gardening, a gorgeous guide that provides tips not just for those living in Palm Springs, but anyone landscaping in a desert. The book provides not just gardening advice and plant profiles, but an exploration of Palm Springs architecture.

Order Palm Springs Style Gardening here

Women of Sunbelt: Michelle Howard & Michelle Renaud

The laminated card set, Wild Edible Salad Guide, was the brainchild of two women named Michelle! This friendly resource allows you to explore the outdoors in a new way as you make your own Wild Salad. It will help you identify edible plants such as Common Mallow, Sweet Fennel, and Miner’s Lettuce, and also help you avoid dangerous look-alikes such as poisonous Castor Bean and Common Poison Hemlock. Each plant has its own card which you can easily remove from the secure metal ring while you’re out foraging.

A sailor and backpacker, Michelle Howard is thankful to bring her love of the outdoors to work. The Development Director for Wilderness Youth Project in Santa Barbara, CA since 2005, she previously spent seven years as an executive in the software industry and ten years in grassroots fundraising, organizing, and writing. Michelle believes all people need nature connection and is inspired to create access to nature for students and families from across different demographic, social, and economic backgrounds. She spends her free time exploring the wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest and the Santa Barbara Channel with her family.

Michelle Renaud has lived her life in southern California, spending equal time in both Santa Barbara and San Diego. While working as a commercial real estate manager she became involved with the San Diego Sierra Club’s Wilderness Basics Course as a volunteer and Chapter Outings Leader. This experience re-kindled a desire to teach as well as to spend more time in nature, so a career change was in order. Michelle Renaud is now a multiple subject elementary teacher, hiker/backpacker, and paddle-boarder in the San Diego area and enjoys working with adults, children, and families in the outdoors whenever possible.

Order the Wild Edible Salad Guide here!

Women of Sunbelt: Cory Cooper Hansen

Cory Cooper Hansen is a Professor Emerita with Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Calgary, in her home town of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is a proud graduate of ASU’s graduate schools earning a master’s degree in elementary education and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction.

Prior to entering higher education, Cory taught kindergarten for 10 years in Phoenix, Arizona. She received an award for excellence in teaching at ASU’s West campus in 2006 and has been recognized outstanding work in early childhood literacy education. Below, you can find a clip from our Sunbelt Spotlight with Cory, where she shares how reading to her children lead to her career in education.

Order Cory’s book Coyote Claus here

Women of Sunbelt: Ruth Todd Evans

Ruth Todd Evans has had a life-long love of plants, gardening and nature. Following her career as a physician specializing in internal medicine and geriatrics, she has been pursuing other life-long interests in art and literature. Although her medium is usually oil, she used pen and watercolors to create a child’s version of Chinese brush painting for her book The Panda Who Would Not Eat. The boy holding the balloon was based on her grandson who loved to visit the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Botanic Garden (formerly Quail Botanical Gardens.)

Order The Panda Who Would Not Eat here.

Women of Sunbelt: Jenny Holt

As a native to Tucson, Arizona, Jenny Holt has always loved the desert landscape and its unique wildlife. She obtained her pharmacy doctorate from the University of Arizona and still lives in the desert with her husband, three children, dog, bearded dragon, and a small heard of desert tortoises.

Author Jenny Holt
Author Jenny Holt

Order Jenny’s books here.

Women of Sunbelt: Linda Gallo Hawley

Former classroom teacher and college adjunct professor of 28 years, Linda Gallo Hawley completed trail guide training at Mission Trails Regional Park in 2004, to learn and teach others about San Diego’s flora, fauna and Kumeyaay life before 1769. After 14 years as a volunteer trail guide and teacher of her “wildly popular” NATURE ADVENTURES! classes at MTRP, she now offers presentations in other San Diego parks, schools, libraries, and senior centers. Ms. Hawley has authored Nature Adventures!, a guidebook of nature facts, illustrations, her own songs, and information about the Kumeyaay people.

Order Nature Adventures! Here

Linda Gallo Hawley, author of Nature Adventures!
Hawley signs books during an event at Cuyamaca College

Sunbelt Spotlight: The Other Side with Judy Goldstein Botello

In this this intimate talk, Judy Goldstein Botello shares the lessons she’s learned from the people and land of Baja California and how it can bring out one’s inner “other side.”

On any given day, the border between Baja California and San Diego seethes with travelers in both directions: Americans pushing south into Mexico and Mexicans pushing north into the U.S. What are we all seeking? What draws us to explore “the other side”?

Judy Goldstein Botello explores these questions in her book, “The Other Side: Journeys in Baja California.” During her years of wandering through the Baja peninsula, the author discovered her own “other side,” falling in love, in the process, with Mexico in general and with Baja California in particular.

Judy Goldstein Botello is a retired pediatrician and the author of three books published by Sunbelt: “The Other Side: Journeys in Baja California”, “Adventures with Kids in San Diego”, and “More Adventures with Kids in San Diego” which Judy wrote with her adult daughter. Her articles have appeared in a variety of magazines, and her short stories have been included in several anthologies. The literary magazine “The Southern Review of Literature” published Judy’s poetry and one of her literary translations.

Judy’s love affair with Mexico began more than forty years ago, and she and her husband continue to explore Baja and the Mexican mainland—journeys of discovery that have no end. Over the last dozen years, they have become involved with a local non-profit organization providing medical and dental services to remote communities in the mountains of southern Baja California. This new adventure has allowed Judy to combine her role as a doctor and as a Baja explorer.

Women of Sunbelt: Ann Hazard & Chopped Mexican Medley Salad Recipe

Ann Hazard, travel writer, chef, and author, is passionate about all things Mexican. A third generation Baja Aficionada, Ann has followed her father and grandfather’s footsteps up and down the New World’s longest peninsula since she was nine. Ann is the author of Cooking With Baja Magic Dos and Agave Sunsets.

We hope you enjoy this easy to assemble, but delicious recipe from Cooking With Baja Magic Dos.

Chopped Mexican Medley Salad

This tangy, crunchy salad is “to die for.” Its combination of northern and southern Baja flavors makes it perfect with spring and summer meals. It’s a one-of-a-kind subtropical treat, no doubt about it! Where did it come from? Me! I made it up one creative afternoon in my La Buf house when I was wondering how to use up the overabundance of fresh produce Nina and I had alternately purchased at Calimax! We had a big fiesta that night and everyone there swore it was a true Baja-lovers delight! Serves eight.


1 1/2 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped

1 1/2 pounds of jicama, pd and finely diced

6 seedless oranges, peeled and chopped into squares

2 red onions, finely diced

1 medium bunch of cilantro, stems removed and finely diced

4 stalks celery, finely diced

1 large bell pepper, finely diced


1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup juice from limónes (Mexican limes) or key limes

3 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 tbsp orange marmalade

1/4 cup salsa verde

1 tsp garlic powder

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Chill in refrigerator up to four hours. Right before serving, add salad dressing ingredients, one at a time to the salad. Toss lightly and serve.

Women of Sunbelt: Wendy Esterly

Sunbelt has been fortunate to publish another female birder and photographer. Wendy Esterly’s stunning images of birds and other wildlife have been used in publications and exhibits. They are the basis for the coloring pages in Coloring Southern California Birds. She is a dedicated volunteer instructor for the SDNHM Canyoneers and a Mission Trails Regional Park trail guide.

Little Jewel’s Remarkable Journey

Have you ever watched a baby hummingbird grow up? Now you can through stunning photographs of an adorable baby hummingbird and her loving mom. The heartwarming story will delight children as they follow Little Jewel from the day she hatches out of a tiny egg (Day 1) to the day she flies out of the nest (Day 24). With her mom’s great care and protection, Little Jewel grows into a beautiful fledgling ready to explore the world. This engaging book also includes a day-by-day growth chart of Little Jewel, facts about hummingbirds, and tips to attract hummingbirds to gardens.

Author Susanne Strauss is an award-winning nature photographer and educator. She had the wonderful opportunity to observe and photograph hummingbirds that had nested and raised their young in her garden. Her photographs inspired the story of Little Jewel. Susanne displays her hummingbird photographs at the local library and gives presentations on baby hummingbirds at schools and nature stores. She enjoys traveling to national parks, photographing wildlife, and backyard birding.

Fun Facts about Little Jewel and Hummingbirds

  • Little Jewel is an Allen’s hummingbird. Allen’s hummingbirds nest primarily in California and southern Oregon.
  • It is currently breeding season. Breeding season can begin in January and last until July.
  • The female builds the nest, incubates the eggs, and raises the young on her own. The female usually lays two eggs. Little Jewel’s mom laid two eggs; however, the second egg did not hatch. It stayed in the nest while Little Jewel grew up.
  • The nest is about 1.5 inches in diameter and stretches as the baby hummingbird grows. The inside of the nest is soft. The outside of the nest is covered with tiny twigs, leaves, and plant material and is held together with spider silk. Little Jewel’s mom also decorated the nest with paint chips from the garden fence.
  • The courtship behavior of a male hummingbird consists of first flying back and forth like a pendulum and then flying high into the sky, diving down, and making a unique sound as he nears back to the female. He’ll climb again and soar down a couple more times.

Watch a video of Little Jewel being fed by her mother below!