Posted in grandkids,

Channeling my Inner Martha Stewart

For the past few days I have been channeling my inner Martha Stewart.

My seven year old granddaughter decided to make Christmas cards for the residents of the Memory Care home her mom works at. I am in charge of making snowflakes and stapling one into each card.

The idea came to her after I stuck all the ones she and her cousin made last week on my windows…

channeling my inner Martha Stewart

I think even Martha Stewart would approve of these. Each one is a surprise as I unfold the paper to reveal what pattern the tiny cuts have made.

She is designing each one of these Christmas cards individually, so each one has her unique stamp of creativity, just like the snowflakes. Each time she gets a break from her online classes, she is at the kitchen table colouring and designing furiously.

I love the fact that she came up with this awesome idea. I saw similar stories on the news recently. In this pandemic gripped holiday season, it is heartwarming to see our children thinking of making others happy.

That’s it for my break, I’ve got to get back to work….four down, lots to go!

Posted in gardens, grandkids, health & wellness,

The Simple Things in Life

We have all heard the saying “it’s the simple things in life that are important.” Do you believe it? Has your opinion changed as the pandemic continues to rule our lives? Does the Christmas season impact your feelings on this?

Several events have conspired to make the simple things most important to me. All year round, pre-pandemic, but especially during the pandemic. I realize I have already posted on this subject, but the fact that I recognize the repetition makes it alright, right? That was in the summer also, so the simple things I appreciated then are different than the simple things I am enjoying these days.

Career Choices

It is coming up on nine years since I retired from work in a local hospital as a medical laboratory technologist. I loved my career in healthcare, but it was becoming increasingly stressful. My advancing age, increased workload with less staff due to budget constraints, and several health issues were stacked against me.

I gave up hospital work with mixed emotions; I met lots of wonderful people and have lots of great memories from my thirty years there. Of course a healthy pension and a severance package made the decision easier. These financial aids also made it possible and relatively simple to switch gears into a new career. The day after I left the hospital, Gardens4u, my gardening business, was born.

As you can probably imagine, working in gardens all day, as my own boss, at my own pace, is stress-free and so much healthier. Appreciating the beauty of nature, exposure to fresh air and sunshine, as well as increased physical activity (exercise) built in to my work day are the simple things I chose.

The Joy of Grandkids

It is no secret that I am the proud Grandma to five beautiful, very active, adorable grandchildren. Ranging in age (currently) from (almost) eight months to seven years old, these sweethearts have simply stolen my heart.

The Simple Things in Life

The more time I spend with them, (I have been fortunate to be able to spend time with them during the pandemic) experiencing life through their eyes, the more I realize how important and basic the simple things in life are. Christmas time only heightens that awareness as many experiences are “firsts” for them, or at least that they remember. After all, last Christmas was a long time ago, relatively speaking.

I have always been the primary decorator in our home, but over the years as my sons have grown up and moved out, decorating had become less of an adventure and more of a chore. Grandchildren change that. This year my three oldest have brought the magic back as they helped me decorate.

Enjoying the decorations through their eyes, brings back memories of when their dads were young. Most of our decorations are (still) inexpensive, handmade treasures. We never did graduate to purchasing expensive, more intricate decorations, preferring to stick with the simple, cherished ones affiliated with the memories of yesteryear.

These hard plastic stars are a favourite with the kids, hung over individual bulbs on the tree, they reflect the light, creating sparkles. They also make a great tool for teaching counting, sorting and colour matching, although the kids don’t have to know that.

the simple things in life


Exercise has always been simple to me, if I make it too difficult I don’t do it. Whether bending, squatting, digging or raking in my gardens, walking around our neighbourhood with hubby, swimming or just puttering at the cottage, or cavorting with the grandkids, simple forms of exercise work best. When I can’t do any of the above, planks are still a favourite.

On a recent trip to a local park, on a rainy day, my almost three year old granddaughter found the last patch of quickly-melting snow in the park and decided to create a slide. A simple find that created lots of fun. And a muddy jacket and rain suit, but nothing a quick wash couldn’t fix.

Another park visit, on a much colder day, had this granddaughter and her almost four year old cousin “racing” Grandma across the fields. Her baby brother watched from the sidelines with his momma. Delicious, candy cane flavoured hot chocolate and timbits from Tim Hortons warmed our cold hands and tummies between the racing and the play structure fun.


I have always been a nature lover, just one of the simple things in life I appreciate. My backyard is an oasis of sorts to wildlife. Squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, a variety of bird species, and racoons frequent my gardens, trees and pond. Recently we added another bird feeder, filled with spicy seed to deter the squirrels from raiding it. It is entertaining to watch the squirrels try to outsmart the feeder though.

A pair of cardinals visits our yard often. The male is vibrant red while the female is browner with a red beak. Their red colouring really shows up well in the bleak dormant trees, and especially well in snowy weather. The puffed up male looks really cold! The large cardinal, bottom right, is a whimsical decoration I leave on my deck all year round. The real cardinals seem to like him!

As the pandemic continues to restrict our actions and interactions, I hope you are taking the time (who doesn’t have time these days?) to enjoy some simple things in life too, especially during the Christmas season. You don’t have to look very hard to find them.

Posted in gardens, grandkids,

Amaryllis bulbs, plant them now!

Plant your amaryllis bulbs indoors this week for Christmas-time blooms. They take six or seven weeks to grow into gorgeous flowers. I have seen them in red, red and white, white and pale pink; all are beautiful!

Most grocery and department stores or nurseries carry them in kits with everything you need included. Each box contains a bulb, soil and a pot with instructions on how to grow your amaryllis. Once potted up, leave it in a (indirect) sunny spot and watch it grow. Turn the pot regularly to keep the stem growing straight.

I purchased such a kit at a local grocery store recently for my granddaughter to plant between her online school sessions and one for her younger cousin to plant on her next visit here. Both granddaughters are turning into garden and plant enthusiasts.

In recent years I have planted lots of variations. One thing I have learned is that they are extremely top-heavy when full grown. For that reason, be sure to add a stick to support them in their pot, attaching the growing stem to the stick with a loose tie.

Take your pick, but do it soon if you want them to bloom in time for Christmas.

Posted in family,

Reverse Advent Calendar, Lesson for Children

This idea of a reverse advent calendar is wonderful and a great way to teach your children to think of the less fortunate instead of themselves. Skip the routine chocolate/candy advent calendar and try this instead.

reverse advent calendar

When my sons were young we helped deliver Christmas food baskets that their schools had filled.  I will always remember the proud moment when one of my sons (I cannot remember which one or which event) commented “I like how it makes me feel inside when I do something nice for someone else.”

Our family also used to participate in Operation Christmas Child sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse.  For this project we filled empty shoeboxes with small toys, school and art supplies or other things kids would love.  Convenient drop off locations made it very simple to donate to a great cause.  We even received pictures (after Christmas) of children around the world opening the boxes.

reverse advent calendar

Of course we should donate all year around and not just at Christmas time, but these ideas are powerful learning tools for our kids and grandkids.  Kindness and compassion for others never gets old!


Posted in family,, parenting

The ghost of Christmas past

Every year I try to simplify things and reduce the commercialism in our family Christmas.  That’s because every year it seems to get worse.  The stores are crowded, people spend money because they feel they have to, everyone seems anxious and stressed, and then it’s over.  Until next year.

Christmas, when I was young, was about visiting family and friends, delicious baked goods and candy, homes full of cheer and love and excitement.

With grandchildren part of my family now, I really wanted to bring the special back to the holiday season.  I started off with good intentions and actually made (with my own hands!) some presents this year, but am still running around buying things as the big day gets closer.

So why do we do it?  The commercialized, overcomplicated part I mean.  I’m sure my parents, with six children, spent money buying us each something special to go under the tree.  And, I’m sure they felt the pinch financially in January.  But it seemed worth it then, and not just because I was not paying the bills.  The excitement built for months beforehand and lasted for months afterward.

Then there is the whole politically correct thing.  Not saying “Merry Christmas” because it might offend someone.  Have you ever heard of anyone actually being offended when strangers wish each other Merry Christmas?  No one is forcing anyone to celebrate Christmas by wishing them a Merry Christmas.  The greeting is simply to spread the joy and spirit of what Christmas is supposed to mean.  To me having  Christmas spirit means being kind(er) and (more) tolerant and generous towards others.  It does (should) not matter what God you believe in or pray to, what color your skin is, where in the world you live, or how much money you have (spend).

If the Grinch can get it, why can’t we humans?

Posted in family,

Christmas miracle born twenty-eight years ago today

My own personal miracle was born twenty-eight years ago today and was undeniably the best Christmas present ever.  Of course, the subsequent births of his two brothers were equally miraculous.  Many of my previous posts have described the ordeal my husband and I went through to achieve the family of three sons we have today.  You can read them here…

My three sons are all happy, healthy adults today.  The Christmas miracle I speak of is currently expecting a miracle (baby) of his own to cherish.


new family addition


What more can a mother ask for?

Posted in houseplants,

What to do with your amaryllis when it stops blooming

If you have ever purchased or been given an amaryllis plant, you know how beautiful they are.  Amaryllis make spectacular houseplants, especially at Christmas time.  I like to plant several each year to give as Christmas and hostess gifts.  After they finish blooming, you can save the bulbs for a similar display next year.  Just follow the simple steps below…

Once the blooms have all faded, cut off the flower stem just above where it comes out of the bulb. You might notice that the bulb is slightly softer or smaller than when you first planted (or received) it.  That’s because it has used up a lot of the material inside the bulb to make the flowers and stems you’ve just witnessed.  To bloom again, it must begin the process of restoring that material and fattening the bulb to its former state.

To do this, you should treat your amaryllis bulb like a houseplant. If it is in a pot without drainage holes (many of my Christmas planters use inexpensive pots without drainage) transplant it to one with holes.  As it grows more leaves, water it sparingly, only when the soil looks very dry. Once a month, add fertilizer to the water to keep the supply of nutrients available.  Give it as much bright light as you can during the winter months.  In summer, take it outside, and put it in bright or filtered, but not direct sunlight.

By the end of the summer, the bulb should feel much plumper and fuller.  At the end of September let the amaryllis bulb go dormant.  Bring it inside, and stop watering it. Once the soil has dried out, the leaves will begin to die. When they have all turned yellow and then brown, the bulb is dormant. You can cut off all the leaves just above the neck and pull the whole bulb and root ball out of the pot. Shake off the soil and trim the roots back to about two inches. The bulb will look just like it was when you first got it.

Leave the bulb somewhere cool and dry until the beginning of November (if you want blooms for Christmas), when you can plant it in a pot of fresh soil and start the flowering process all over again. Plant the bulb so the top third of the bulb is exposed.  Mine take about seven weeks after they are planted to bloom.  November 6th is my plant day for a Christmas bloom time, you can adjust accordingly.  Add a stake to attach to the growing plant in your container since many of the stalks get top heavy.  If you’re careful, you can keep this flowering-and-replenishing cycle going for years. The bulb will grow larger each year and gradually start producing second and sometimes even third flower stalks.

If you try this method, please be sure to let me know how it works for you!


Please be sure to visit my other blogs:

Laugh out loud (LOL) with me at YOUR DAILY CHUCKLE


be inspired and motivated by famous words of wisdom at WoW

Posted in business, gardening, Ottawa

Give the gift of time this Christmas with GARDENS4U gift certificates

christmas gift certificate 2015-16


GARDENS4U is offering gift certificates again this Christmas season.  Perfect for garden lovers with limited time or physical strength, these certificates can be custom made to suit your needs and budget.

Of course, I only work in the west end of Ottawa.  If you, or someone you know, can benefit from my services, please contact me to create a gift certificate for you.

Posted in

The December birthday dilemma

Many people with December birthdays hate the fact that their birthday falls in the same month as Christmas.  In fact, there are so many of you that feel this way, this picture gets posted on Facebook every year…

I can understand how December birthdays can be annoying or frustrating for some people.  If your birthday comes just before Christmas, your birthday may get lumped in with Christmas. If the birthday falls closely after Christmas, it may get forgotten altogether.   A friend whose birthday was this week just told me that she used to get half of a gift for her birthday and the other half for Christmas.  For example, one year she received one ice skate on the 7th of December for her birthday and the matching skate on the 25th for Christmas.  Now that seems a little extreme!

I can also understand how a December birthday can create a dilemma for some families.  My dilemma was (I admit I should have gotten over it long ago) that my eldest son was born on December 12th, fairly close to Christmas.  When he was young, I would not start decorating or preparing for Christmas until the 13th when his birthday was over.  I told myself this practice was for his sake so he would not confuse his birthday with Christmas.  Since he has moved out he seems to be quite content with starting his Christmas shopping and decorating earlier than the 13th.  So, I guess that proves the dilemma is of my own creation, and could easily be fixed.

Today, December 11th, I started my Christmas shopping, but first I dropped off my son’s birthday present at his new home…

You will notice two identical birthday presents here.  One is for my son and the other for his girlfriend whose birthday is also in December. As they will be on vacation on her actual birthday, she is getting hers early. That’s the excuse I am using, because the two gifts are a set, for both of them, and to give half the present on his birthday and half on hers two weeks later seems much too similar to the story I told above.

I haven’t mentioned yet, her birthday is after Christmas, on the 31st of December!  A New Year’s Eve baby; now that’s a whole new dilemma!

Posted in current events,, parenting

Decorating the Christmas tree always makes me nostalgic

Decorating the Christmas tree always makes me nostalgic, bringing back memories of past Christmases and the loved ones we shared them with. Especially poignant are the decorations made or cherished by loved ones that are no longer with us.

Due to my husband’s allergies, I had to settle for an artificial tree years ago when we first began celebrating Christmas together.  As a compromise, we purchased the most beautiful, real looking tree we could find.  It is a six foot, realistic looking, blue spruce version, still going strong 26 years later.

The lights have been changed/updated a few times, but the decorations we have collected over the years are irreplaceable….

handmade by the kids:


handmade by friends & family:


cherished by my parents:

(the only time you will see me advertise for the Toronto Maple Leafs is in reference to my father)


unbreakable, kid-proof favourites:


gifted from a dear friend:

the three angels (far right) came after the birth of my third son


light reflectors:


and to top off the tree, a white dove to reflect my wish for peace on earth, so significant with all the unease in the world today:




Merry Christmas; wishing you all peace, health and happiness in 2016 and always!