Spotlight on Long QT for Rare Diseases Day

Hi there! Welcome to my blog. Maybe you know already, but for those who don’t, today is Rare Diseases Day. Our family knows all about one rare disease in particular: Long QT syndrome. Long QT (LQT) has to do with the electrics of the heart.

Now, the fact that we know all about LQT is both good and bad. It is unfortunate that this genetic condition runs in my family. Honestly, I wish it didn’t. But it is also quite a good thing that we now know about this condition and how to treat it. Knowledge is power, and I feel it is so much better to know about and manage our condition so that we can live our lives fully.

What does QT stand for? The ‘Q’ and ‘T’ are waves from an ECG reading. The distance between the start of the Q wave and the end of the T wave (Q-T interval) corresponds to the time it takes for the heart to contract and refill with blood, before beginning the next contraction. A prolonged QT interval means that the length of time is beyond the normal amount of time. Although usually caused by a genetic factor, LQT may be acquired by certain medications or medical conditions.

LQT arrhythmias can result in syncope (loss of consciousness), seizures, and potentially, cardiac arrest. There are many medications that prolong the QT interval, and those should be avoided by LQT patients. There is a fantastic resource for us which easily helps to determine if a drug is safe to take or not. It is called Credible Meds and is free, easy to register for, and is an app you can have on your phone.

The great news is that Long QT is treatable.

I think there are a lot of things to be grateful for over this past year of the pandemic. One thing that I am thankful for is the SADS Foundation weekly Facebook live sessions with Dr. Michael Ackerman. Dr. Ackerman is an established and respected expert in the field, and every Friday night (7:20 PM Irish time, 2:20 PM EST) for 40 minutes he talks about genetic heart conditions like Long QT. He is often joined by other world class experts, talking about our conditions, covid, genetics, and generally answering our many questions. Having such easy access to so much relevant information from the most respected in the field is simply priceless. The main takeaway, which is quite positive, is that we can all manage our conditions and live full lives. That will certainly look differently for different people, but it is possible for everyone. Knowledge is key, as is treatment.

We found it immensely helpful to be involved with support groups, especially in the beginning when we were first diagnosed. The Irish Heart Foundation had a wonderful program for families at that time, which brought them together in the fun atmosphere of Barretstown (a camp set up specifically for kids with illnesses). We were able to forget those initial worries and all of the unknowns and be with other families who were going through similar experiences as well as families who’d already been through this stage and had practical advice to share with us.

My purpose of this post today is to spread the word about Long QT syndrome. Not enough people know about it, or know what to do when they see someone ‘faint’ (a typical symptom) or worse still, go into cardiac arrest. Have you taken a CPR course lately? Maybe it’s time for a refresh or to take it for the first time. You never know, you just might save a life. If you feel so inclined, it would be a great time to reach out and help your local heart organizations. They help to get people trained in CPR, which ultimately helps all of us. I just learned of a wonderful program in the US where they teach age appropriate CPR to elementary school aged children. They repeat the program every year, so that by the time the kids leave elementary school, they know CPR without even thinking. What a great way to keep the community safe!

It has truly been quite a journey, and we are still learning, but I’m hopeful for our future.

Stay safe and well!

In Peace,
Dana

This beautiful picture hangs in the kitchen for parents of patients in the cardiology ward at Crumlin Children’s hospital, in Dublin. I know this from the times we’ve been there for our Long QT. The Irish says ‘In my heart forever’.

A collage of pictures from the fun the kids had at the Barretstown weekend with other families with hereditary heart conditions.

The grounds are lovely at Barretstown, with a sweet park to stroll. This tree, fairy door and sign were my favorite.

A happy moment in time, captured with the snap of a picture. Barretstown weekend.

Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

Seizing the moment this Valentine’s weekend

Hi there! Welcome to my blog. Life is still pretty crazy, and the news isn’t really getting much better, but something wonderful happened this weekend. I just let every worry go and went outside and had some silly fun with my girls! It was freezing, it was wet, it was snowy, but most of all it was just what I needed.

When I mention ‘my girls’, I’m usually referring to my chickens, but this time I actually mean my daughters. They are 16 and 20 and they are really a delight. This lock down can’t be easy for any of us, and they are holding up so well. I’m glad we had the opportunity to get out and have a bit of fun.

Our area is not really known for snow. Admittedly, we’ve had a few dustings this winter, and it has definitely been colder than usual. But for whatever reason, the snow this weekend had all three of us going outside and having a bit of fun. We were out long enough to make a snowman and take some pictures, which was the perfect amount of time! Our snowman was the laying down variety, since the snow was too heavy for us to lift the body (it was really, really wet!). By the time we rolled the three parts, most of the snow had been rolled up!

I’m so glad we did it. I was tempted to stay inside and just watch them from the window (I don’t like the cold!). It was so worth being with them and a part of their silliness. I probably need to do that a little more often!

I hope you’ve had the chance to be silly, too! I think it is good for all of us.

Take care!

In Peace,
Dana

Mom in the garden and her daughters playing in the snow

I’m so glad the girls aren’t ‘too old’ for having fun in the snow! (You can see the grass showing after we rolled the snowman!) Everything was green again the next day – washed away with the rain.

Playhouse in snow February

We’ve had more snowfall this year than usual. We’ve had a long stretch of rainy, cold, or snowy weather!

collage anemone, hellebores, snowdrops

The sun managed to visit us just today! It was lovely to get some pictures of the flowers currently blooming! (clockwise from top left: Hellebore (unknown variety), anemone, snowdrops, Winter Sunshine hellebore)

Hellebore Winter Sunshine February 14 closeup
hellebore Winter Sunshine

The Winter Sunshine hellebore is really starting to come into full bloom. There are so many flowers! It never disappoints.

Hellebore dark pink
Hellebore full plant dark pink

This dark pink hellebore plant is also starting to come along. I have hellebores at different stages, and this one is not as far along as the Winter Sunshine. You can actually see the Winter Sunshine hellebore in the top right hand corner of the above picture.

Snowdrops February 14 full sun and open
snowdrops collage

These snowdrops have never looked as ‘happy’ as they do this year! I especially like the green markings. They are so dainty, and when they are fully open they look like miniature lampshades. These were a gift from a friend’s garden, years ago, and have been divided at least once. But this group here is the showiest.

Anemone purple February 14

Last but not least, we have this anemone, which isn’t a Mr. Fokker, like the rest in my garden. So I’m unsure what it is. I found the color to be quite pretty, though.

blue sky snow fall playhouse

We did have one blue sky day this week, and it was just beautiful. I’m so thankful for days like this, which really lift my spirits!

chocolate heart cookie

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Valentine’s weekend, and have been made to feel special! Thank you for visiting, and do take care! 🙂

Mindful busyness

Hi there! Welcome to my blog. I last spoke about how times are feeling tough, so now I want to share what I’ve been doing to lift my spirits. SEED SHOPPING! Yes, that’s right, I’ve been seed shopping. It has been wonderful to plan what will go in the garden when the weather warms up again. The weather has been horrible (read: very, very wet) which has directly influenced the huge quantity of seed packets I have ordered!

I have decided to switch things up a bit this year. I am a geranium girl. I think I have always had geraniums in planters on the back deck. I almost always have pink geraniums, with the odd year where I might go red. But this year I’m not going to have geraniums and I’m going to try lots of different flowers in lots of different colors. Well, at least the plan is to grow them from seed and if that works then I’ll have flowers. We’ll see!

The first batch of seeds have arrived already. They came from Irish Plants Direct. I confess that I am most excited for the Coleus Rainbow Mix. Our next door neighbors back in Manlius, New York, were very special to us and Betty always had Coleus in her summer planters. I think of Betty whenever I see them (as I’d never really noticed Coleus before seeing her planters.). Sadly, Betty passed away in 2019 and I still miss her dearly. So I’ll be planting them in her honor.

As for the rest of the planters, I have some cockscomb, zinnia, and Helichrysum strawflower Tom Thumb to try out. They all should provide lots of color!

I have grown sunflowers the past number of years because I think they are just fabulous. Although I still have some seeds from last year, I decided to add a few different varieties to the mix. There will be some shorter ones (Waooh) and some darker (a wine-red color) ones (Claret) as well as the standard version.

Sweet peas are another staple in my garden, mainly for their scent! I’ll try a different organic mix this year, called old spice.

I’ll also grow nasturtium and Bells of Ireland. The last item, Gourd seeds, was a ‘Ah sure, let’s give it a try’ kinda purchase. I’m hoping they will be fun to grow and harvest!

The real influence to go all out with seeds this year was the government recommending that we plan for ‘staycations’ again this year. If we’re going to be home all year, I want to have as many flowers as possible!

Those are a good start to my garden planning!

What have you been doing to stay mindfully busy during these times? I hope you are staying mentally well and healthy. 🙂

In Peace,
Dana

Snowdrops Feb 4 sunshine

Although we have seen quite a lot of rain, there were a few times when the sun came out (ever so briefly). These snowdrops are covered in raindrops but are looking lovely!

Frilly Isabelle hellebore full plant

My Frilly Isabelle hellebore is much slower to bloom this year, although it is starting to slowly look itself again.

Helleborus SP Frilly Isabelle

A lovely closeup of the flowers, which usually hang down. Here you can see their frilliness!

Hellebore Winter Sunshine February 4

Quite a different looking hellebore is this Winter Sunshine one. I’ve cut the leaves completely back as they were covered in black spot (typical for this plant at this time of year). Last year, after cutting the leaves at the start of the season, they remained healthy throughout the entire year, which was a real treat!

Growing garlic in winter

Here’s a look at the garlic. It is ever so slowly growing! I can almost see all of the rows. (We planted some of them a tiny bit too deep, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do!)

foggy and rainy view of country road

This is how things were for a very long time – rainy and foggy!

Kitty hanging off of my desk

This is Kitty. She isn’t usually allowed in my ‘office’ because she’ll try to be close to me in the most awkward way possible. Here she is hanging off of the table/desk directly in front of my keyboard…

Irish Plants Direct seeds

And here is the first batch of seeds to arrive! Thank you Irish Plants Direct!

Stormy sky Feb 4

The weather has been so changeable! We had blue skies for a couple of hours on this day, and then the sky turned dark again. At least we managed to see the sun for a tiny bit!

Thank you again for visiting! Stay safe! 🙂

A moment to acknowledge that ‘this’ is tough

Hi there! You are very welcome to my blog. I did not intend to skip a few weeks. I thought I was doing well and handling O.K., the news that Covid-19 was still in full control of our lives. But I guess that wasn’t truly the case, and I needed time to re-adjust. I have found ‘this’, the whole situation around Covid-19, to be tough. I have tried to not beat myself up about being a bit down and not getting everything on my ‘to do’ list done. I am actually getting through everything on the list, just at a much, much slower pace. Even with this post, I thought it better to talk about what is really on my mind than force a gardening topic.

So, have you hit a bit of a wall like me? Are you having a hard time with these long term restrictions? Please don’t get me wrong; I understand why we have the restrictions and I have no intention of breaking those restrictions. But it is much harder, mentally, to adjust to continue on this way well into 2021. Mainly, it is the fact that I can’t travel to visit my family in the States. That’s very frustrating. I am still quite thankful that my family here are all together and everyone is doing well. I think everyone is looking forward to real live people contact again, whenever that will take place.

Thankfully, my book club is meeting again, albeit on Zoom, and the timing could not have been better. Our meeting fell just as we were realizing that this latest set of restrictions were going to last much longer than first anticipated. Our get together was just what we needed in these tumultuous times! We are all so different and it is simply wonderful to chat and get everyone’s perspective and of course to enjoy that feeling of community. Despite living within three miles of each other, we haven’t seen each other for ages! (Where the crawdads sing, by Delia Owens, which I loved, was the book we read this month.) That Zoom call really helped to lift my spirits.

Another ‘lockdown’ activity that I recently started participating in is an ‘Instagram live’ gardening program with two Irish gardening experts. It is called Garden Conversations with Diarmuid Gavin and Paul T Smyth. Their current ‘course’ started last week and runs Monday through Friday at 7 PM for an hour every week and it really is a bit of ‘craic’ – as the Irish say (it is a bit of fun). They started doing it way back in March, but I’ve only learned of it recently. It is a wonderful distraction! They talk about different gardening topics and answer questions from us. They’ve covered soil composition, trees, pruning, aspect, and they’ve talked about garden design. It is great to pick up bits and pieces of interesting information in a fun atmosphere – there is a lot of banter between them. This is definitely not a classroom setting type of course! It is a great service that they are providing to the gardening community. 🙂

One thing I learned on Diarmuid and Paul’s program is that when the ground is as wet as it is now – and boy have we had lots of rain (if it squishes when you walk on it – and the mud sticks to your boots when you walk in it), it is best to not work in the garden as you’ll do more harm than good. There is always plenty of planning to do for the garden, anyway. This is a great time for me to focus on garden design!

I hope you have been taking care of yourself, too. It’s gonna be a long haul. Good thing we’re in it together!

Stay healthy and safe.

In Peace,
Dana

Sunny Frosty DAY view of playhouse

We’ve had plenty of hard frosts so far this winter (more than usual). It turns the grass white – and produces a substantial ‘crunch’ sound when walked on it!

Snowdrops mid January

Life continues on in the garden! The Snowdrops have pushed through the soil and are blooming!

Frilly Isabelle hellebore January

Not all of my hellebore plants are blooming just yet. But this Frilly Isabelle is. I have to say that this plant had more flowers on it at this stage last year. We have had a very wet time of late, though, which I am going to blame!

ornamental grass frosty morning blue sky

I do like ornamental grass, no matter what the color! Better still when the backdrop is a beautiful blue sky.

Primroses

I have used some floral therapy recently. Small purchases of flowers which always brighten my spirits! Aren’t these primroses lovely?

Primroses in snow

And they don’t mind the snow!

birch trees sunny frosty Jan morning

I am so delighted with my new birch trees! This sunlight is mid morning as it comes around the back of the house.

Afternoon sunlight on playhouse January

Like so many people, I’m working from home. So I make sure to go outside a couple of times a day, even if for just a few minutes. I especially like taking pictures when the sky is blue! This is late afternoon.

fluffy chicken bums in snow

This is what my girls show me when I ask to take their picture… They sure have fluffy bums!

chickens-in-snow-1

The girls are fine in the cold. The snow usually melts before the end of the day. I give them more pellets to eat now, too. The rain is more of a hassle than the cold!

open field with blue sky

I try and go for a short walk in the afternoons. It is terrible how sedentary I’ve become since working from home! I am now much more aware and make an effort to get up and move every day! This picture of one of the fields I pass just reminds me of the ‘pick me up’ I got from my blue sky walk!

Lidl roses on desk

Here is another example of my floral therapy! For just eight euros I bought these two dozen roses from Lidl! They are sitting right in front of me on my desk and without a doubt they make me happy! I possibly could have gotten away with just getting 12 for four euro (but I’m so glad I went for 24!).

Winter scene of playhouse blue sky mid January

My favorite scene to photograph right now is our playhouse! This was still early morning sunshine, as there is still frost on the playhouse roof. I’m so thankful for the days that have the sun and blue sky combination!

It really is the little things that bring us joy.

Thank you for visiting. Please feel free to say hello! I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Take care!

Enjoying Ashford Castle in all its decadent splendor

Hello there, and Happy New Year! The garden is not showing a lot of color at the moment, so I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about our stay at Ashford Castle. Ashford Castel is more than 800 years old. While having been updated and restored through the years, the most recent refurbishment took place when the Red Carnation Hotels took over in 2013. We were very lucky with the timing of our trip in the fall, as there were no national travel restrictions and we were allowed to travel the two and a half hour drive across the country to Cong, County Mayo. My husband had organized everything as a special birthday treat to me, which had me feeling like a well loved princess!

I must say that from the moment we entered the grounds, there was a feeling of wonderment and awe. The grounds are beautiful. The castle is beautiful. The experience was beautiful. It was, simply stated, absolutely fabulous.

O.K., so what made it fabulous in my eyes? The grounds. We were able to roam the spacious grounds, admiring the gardens as well as walking the trails along the lake for hours. Luck was definitely on our side, as the weather was dry for most of our visit, so we were able to truly enjoy the outdoors.

What else did I love? I loved the grandeur of the castle. Every room felt special, and yet inviting. The staff played their part in making us feel welcome and at home, too. We decided to have a look around the area, too, and left the grounds to go hiking. It wasn’t too far from the castle: ‘Sean Bóthar’ (the old road) between Clonbur and Corr na Móna, Co. Galway. It was lovely to get out and stretch our legs. And what better way to follow up a hike than with a spa treatment back at the castle! Due to Covid-19 restrictions, my husband and I were the only ones allowed to use the recovery room and the pool after our spa treatments, which was quite peaceful. The atmosphere was so relaxing. It was simply perfect to just enjoy being present in the moment. I also found the decorative wall at the pool to have stunning ceramic work. 🙂

Every moment was enjoyable, honestly. We loved the food, the wine, the desserts. It was all delicious! Our two night stay went much too quickly. But before we left, my husband insisted that I watch The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. It was filmed in the area in 1952 and essentially ‘put Ireland on the map’, as they say. The hotel has it on demand on tv, so sure enough, we watched it! Still not my favorite movie, but at least now I can say I’ve seen it!

Celebrating our birthdays has become such a treat. Having lost my sister years ago when she was just 35, I make sure to always celebrate our birthdays, because it is such a privilege to do so. Especially given the year we’ve had with the pandemic and not being able to travel as usual, it was wonderful to get away to such a beautiful part of the country and enjoy such a time at such a regal castle.

I very much look forward to when we will return again!

I hope you enjoy the pictures!

In Peace,
Dana

Ashford Castle full view
Ashford Castle – (view of Tollman garden) what I noted here was the beautiful repeat of plantings throughout the gardens
view of Ashford Castle grounds from bedroom
View of the Tollman Garden, from our bedroom. This, and the other gardens, were laid out by the Guinness family in the nineteenth century, are said to be among the finest of the many beautiful country house gardens to be found in Ireland. The circular pond, which measures eleven meters, was added in 1996.
my husband and me in front of Ashford Castle
It was a perfect sunny day when we arrived!
view of the lake
The forecast was for rain, so we were delighted to enjoy an afternoon of sun!
garden art (bird)
Eagle with fish. Good time to mention their falconry school which is the oldest in the country!
Ashford Castle gardens
Since 2013, when the castle was bought by Red Carnation Hotels, it has undergone major refurbishment
formal gardens
I enjoy the peacefulness of gardens
a fountain
The fountain was a surprise and a delight to see
Ashford Castle green pathway
A lovely enclosed living pathway
kitchen garden at Ashford castle
more gardens at Ashford castle
Garden art - a rabbit at Ashford Castle
More garden art – this time a rabbit in the kitchen garden!
garden view at Ashford castle
Even at the end of September, the garden was still lovely
path in the garden at Ashford Castle
I enjoyed seeing the plantings
rudbeckias
I never pass on the opportunity to capture Rudbeckias
garden bench
There were plenty of seats in the garden!
garden bench
Here’s another place to rest and enjoy the moment.
view of Lough Corrib
Beautiful view of Lough Corrib
mom in the garden's husband
My husband was a good sport about having his picture taken!
view of Lough Corrib behind mom in the garden and husband
Lovely view of the lake behind us!
row of rounded box plants
But did I get enough pictures of the garden?
collage of the gardens
The tremendous, old trees were stunning.
Vase of roses at Ashford castle
O.K., confession time: I walked up and touched these roses. Yes I did. They were too perfect to be real, right? Wrong. They were 100% real.
roses in main entrance
I might have taken several pictures of said roses…
view of suit of armor
I suppose when the castle is 800 years old, you’re bound to see a suit of armour?
artwork at Ashford castle
Unfortunately, there was very little ‘hanging about’ due to Covid-19.
We were happy enough meandering around the castle, though!
artwork at Ashford castle
I love old artwork. And archways. And walls. Did I mention that all of the walls were covered in fabric? Each wall was more lovely than the next.
chandelier at Ashford castle
This chandelier was my favorite. It is made of Murano glass.
bedroom at Ashford castle
A very comfortable room with a beautiful view of the garden and lake.
bathroom at Ashford Castle
Yes, this is how I spent a lot of the time!
This was on our hike: ‘Sean Bóthar’ (the old road) between Clonbur and Corr na Móna, Co. Galway
hike near Ashford Castle long wall
There were a lot of winding hills and rock walls on our hike.
I could really say this about any part of Ireland, but this part of the country is beautiful! The difference it makes when the sun peeks through even for a few minutes!
two donkeys
I seem to have a connection with animals 🙂 Nah, they were hopeful for apples!
two donkeys
gorse
It is very common to see gorse while hiking. But don’t get too close as it is quite thorny!
the pool
The ornate ceramic wall at the pool was beautiful.
Perfect timing for pampering after our hike!
Cullen's at the Cottage, a traditional thatched cottage
Cullen’s at the Cottage, is a restaurant in a traditional thatched cottage on the ground of Ashford castle. The food here is delicious, too!
This is the beautiful garden at the front of Cullen’s at the Cottage (the traditional thatched cottage) which is just a stone’s throw from the castle
front entrance of Ashford castle
Just a photo at the front entrance of the castle 🙂
There was even a bit of a surprise when the staff sang ‘Happy Birthday’! (I think we had the restaurant to ourselves at this stage!)
I did indeed screen shot the movie! Proof that I watched The Quiet Man 🙂
Statue in honor of The Quiet Man

We certainly had a lovely time. The sun didn’t hang around as much as we would have preferred, but at least it was dry for most of our visit.

The main entrance
Leaving the castle behind us…

I hope you have enjoyed the tour. Please do stop by again! As always, keep well and stay safe. 🙂

The good, the bad and the ugly: 2020

Hi there! I think there is just enough time to squeeze in one last blog post in 2020. I want to keep this short and sweet – it is New Year’s Eve, already. 🙂 No one needs reminding that 2020 was pretty tough for most folks. My heart breaks for the loneliness and despair caused by isolation from stay at home requirements. That doesn’t even touch on the tragedy of how many people have passed away due to Covid-19, or the financial hardships felt by so many. But I do think that due to the situation around Covid-19, many people began to focus on the art of gratitude. We all learned how to appreciate the little things that we’d probably taken for granted prior to this year. It also became abundantly clear that what we all crave is to be with our friends and family. People are the most important aspect of our lives, and they always have been.

I hope that we will all be able to safely be with friends and family in 2021. I hope that everyone across the world has access to the vaccine. I hope that when we do ‘return to normal’ that we do so as people who are more kind to one another and more understanding than before.

The extra time I had with my family this year is what I appreciate the most. Schedules were flipped on their heads, but everyone managed and it truly was a bonus that we were all together this year due to the pandemic, when we would not have been otherwise. We also started a weekly menu which made all of our lives so much easier! It was a huge help, too, that everyone took their turn with cooking. With no outside activities, we were able to have relaxed family dinners just about every single night. We had never been able to do that before, due to activities and our work schedules. So while we did miss our activities, we certainly appreciated the time we had together.

Gardening also helped to keep me in a positive frame of mind. I was not one of those people who organized loads of things, or got lots of things done, or mastered a new craft this year. But that is O.K. I enjoyed lots of time in the garden and with my chickens. I crocheted two projects – a blanket and a sweater, and I got back on track with my fitness. Especially this year, that is more than good enough.

I wish you all the best in 2021! Thank you for visiting my blog, leaving a comment, or hitting the ‘like’ button. I appreciate you!

Stay safe.

In Peace,
Dana

This morning’s view, December 31st, of our playhouse with a light dusting of snow and the sun shining.
Chicken coop sun and snow Dec 31st
While on the other side of the garden this morning, the chickens weren’t sure if they were going to venture out into the white stuff or not!
Dana in newly finished sweater
Just in the nick of time! My goal was to finish this sweater by the end of 2020. It was a long time coming, since I had to completely redo both the front and back as I used American stitches instead of English stitches, and I hadn’t realized it until completing the front (after I’d already finished the back)! No matter, it is done correctly now, and I’m quite happy with it – and glad to have learned my lesson!
Chickens under coop in sunlight
Just a view of my girls under their house.
Kitty cat under bags
This is Kitty, our very spoiled cat. She has been enjoying sleeping on and under paper this Christmas break.
Playhouse with fresh lavender wreath
A look back at the fresh lavender wreath I made. It looks nice on our freshly painted playhouse!
Sunflower arrangement September
I had fun making arrangements this summer.
Rose arrangement
Here’s another floral arrangement I made from our flower garden.
Full view arrangement in sun (1)
I was practicing a carefree, loose approach!
Sunflower full view
I hope to always have sunflowers in the garden.
Hydrangea Vanille Fraise Paniculata Renhy full plant pink in sun
Hydrangea Vanille Fraise Paniculata Renhy in all of its glory!
Roses and Poppies in sunlight
It was definitely the year of the poppy!
Cooked apple pie (1)
It was also the year of the apple. We had so many apples! (and we ate so many apple pies!)
Organic Sweet Pea Tamar Mix full view (1)
My Organic Sweet Pea Tamar Mix bloomed all summer long.
Helenium and daisies
Helenium and daisies – what is not to love?
White lilies closeup in morning sun
White lilies first thing in the morning.
Cormac on playhouse in early summer
You can just barely see him, but my son is on the roof. He and my husband put some shingles on the playhouse roof for me.
LIght pink david austin roses group
Roses were a huge highlight of my garden this year. They are mostly David Austin roses.
Dutch Iris and Teasing Georgia roses in dark
Dutch Iris and Teasing Georgia (David Austin) roses
sunny foggy morning birch trees
My favorite addition to the garden this year: Birch trees!
birch trees
A view of the new birch trees right after they were planted.

Thank you again for visiting! Have a Healthy and Happy New Year! 🙂

Christmas Eve and all is calm

Hi there! Welcome to my blog – and I might even welcome myself back at this stage, since it’s been a while since I’ve written! I’ve just not been in the frame of mind to write. Sometimes I just have to roll with that. It’s nothing new to any of us this year, but I’m feeling the strangeness of 2020 even more now. I’m just accepting that and trying to move on. Let’s talk about Christmas, shall we?

I’ve probably spent more time on social media this year than ever before (anyone else?). I’ve seen some new Christmas trends of really loading up the Christmas tree! Some designers really do a fantastically creative job. But my one take away, especially this year, is that the perfect Christmas looks exactly as you want it to. Anything goes. There is no right way and no wrong way to decorate for Christmas. Wouldn’t it be terribly boring if we all decorated the same way? I prefer that we all do it a bit differently.

Of course, Christmas is not about the decorations. It means different things to different people. Whether you celebrate the birth of Jesus, or you celebrate Santa (or both, or neither), it should be a time of joy and thanksgiving, celebrated with your family. The tremendous loss of life, the inability to be with loved ones, and the loss of livelihood for so many during this pandemic is never far from my mind. This makes our Christmas celebration somewhat somber this year. But still, our family will come together and give thanks as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

I wish all those who celebrate, a Merry Christmas! May you find peace and joy with those you love. Stay safe.

In Peace,
Dana

Blue sky playhouse and garden
This was one of those perfectly sunny, blue sky mornings after a heavy frost.
Pink sunset December 23
December’s beautiful sunrises have been matched by the most magical sunsets.
4 chickens with the morning sunlight
Here are my girls (Rose, Daisy, Iris and Sweet Pea) on a frosty morning as the sun slowly rises.
Hand made Christmas wreath with purple flowers
I made this wreath earlier this month. The greenery and the dried purple statice flowers are all from my garden. It was an easy and fun project!
garlic growing up through frosty soil
My garlic is pushing through! Frost is good for it (they say it gives it better flavor). It is always fun to have something growing in the garden!
Christmas ornaments
A few of my favorite ornaments: I’ve had the handpainted egg for years and it is so special to me. The candles, as you can see, have never been lit. We bought them when we lived in Zurich, Switzerland. I like how they look on the tree, especially with our red bows. We also have several Holy Family ornaments.
Christmas ornaments
Some more of my favorite ornaments: The other side of the hand painted egg! The real cotton angel was given to me by a very special friend. We’ve been friends since we were 11! Can you see the ribbon in the background? I like how the design incorporates a winding tree that is covered with shiny red berries.
Christmas tree lit
It isn’t big, but it is perfect for us!
Lindt chocolates advent calendar
Some of the goodies from our Lindt Advent Calendar.
Crochet Christmas tree
I crocheted this Christmas tree a few years ago. I then sewed the little beads on (they look like snow, right?). I finished it off by stringing and knotting the bells onto thread. I apparently had lots of extra time that year… It sure is one of a kind!
the family
We’ve had some lovely family time! Here we are in Carlingford after a walk.
Carlingford near greenway
Gorgeous views along our walk in Carlingford.
Abies Koreana with Christmas balls
This is our real live outdoor Christmas tree – an Abies Koreana which we’ve decorated with lights and large silver Christmas balls.
Chicken coop frosty sunny morning
This is one of my favorite morning views!
Frosty playhouse scene
Who doesn’t love a blue sky?
Mom in the Garden selfie
This was the day of my work Christmas Zoom party. We actually had a lot of fun! I’m wearing the required Christmas jumper 🙂 This is a very subtle update on my ‘no hair color since March’ look. On the left is indoor lighting, on the right is natural lighting (albeit in my car).

And that’s a wrap! Merry Christmas! Blessings to you!

A garden to be thankful for

Hello there! Welcome to my blog, where today I’m all about gratitude. Don’t get me wrong, I practice being grateful on a regular basis. But today, I went out to the garden not too hopeful that I’d find much to make an arrangement with. Boy was I mistaken! It just made me appreciate all of the weird and quirky stuff that I have – that might not look all that neat and tidy in the garden – but is lovely to have all the same.

My family and I moved to Ireland 12 years ago, and we usually celebrate Thanksgiving on either the weekend before or after the actual American Thanksgiving. This year, with my daughter having exams the week of Thanksgiving, we celebrated this weekend. I’m lucky as my husband is a very good cook, and enjoys cooking special dinners like this. So that leaves cleaning to me (with help from the kids). It’s not a bad deal. 🙂 It’s even better still, when I start my ‘cleaning’ by making a flower arrangement!

I can critically say that this is not my best arrangement. There was too much going on. But I really wanted to use everything I’d gathered, so I decided to leave it. Here’s my critique: The ornamental grass has neat curls at the ends, which I love, but I’m not sure if it comes across well. The striking, black stemmed bamboo is somewhat lost in the middle, and perhaps too tall. The Rosemary is a bit too ‘out-there’, while the lovely red dogwood branches can’t fully be seen (but they do tie in nicely with the hesperanthus, when you can see them). Lot’s of ‘imperfection’!

Now for the positives: The amount of red hesperanthus (also known as schizostylis, or kaffir lily) is fantastic! I never would have imagined that I had that much in the garden, when I’d taken cuttings a few times already. The purple Mr. Fokker anemone were completely closed up when I cut them in the garden – the perfect time to use them. It was lucky to have so many that are at just the right stage. I have lots and lots of invasive ivy, but it sure is pretty! I find it to be an excellent filler plant. There were 3 daisies in the garden, so I figured why not bring them in, too? The back of the arrangement has two small stems of golden yarrow. Lastly, there are pink David Austin roses, which thankfully had long stems.

Despite my strong critique, I do really like it! It’s very visible in our hallway, where everyone can enjoy it. Mostly, I’m thankful to be able to go out into the yard and gather up something that can be arranged for decoration! I find it really relaxing and enjoyable. After this, I had no problem with getting all of my cleaning done!

We had a lovely, and delicious, Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for! And on that list is most definitely my garden, and those who like to read my blog about it! Thank you!!!

In Peace,
Dana

finished arrangement November 29 inside pic
The finished arrangement.
Flower arrangement
The finished arrangement, outside (in sunlight).
Mr Fokker anemone, Hesperanthus and David Austin Roses
A close up of the Hesperanthus (Schizostylis), Mr. Fokker Anemone, David Austin roses and ivy.
The back of the arrangement
This is the back of the arrangement. I believe this is Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’, with Daisies and Hesperanthus.

Tapping the top of container for flower arranging
It isn’t very pretty, how I tape up the container, but it does work to help to hold stems in place. I also had some marbles in the bottom of the container.
bunches of flowers before beginning arrangement
This is what I started with!
Irish Robin
This little Robin followed me around the garden as I cut flowers!
Anemone Nov 29th arrangement
I love the little details of the ivy and the anemone.
November flower arrangement
This is the best picture for seeing the red branches of the dogwood.
Flower arrangement
The ivy on the left, in front, had a natural curve in it that I think is wonderful!
flower arrangement
This is my favorite part of the arrangement – this burst of color.
flower arrangement outside
Outside view
inside flower arrangement
Home.

What do you think? A bit too wild? It’s fun to play and learn! Take care, and stay safe! 🙂

Raising Chickens: What I’ve learned so far

Hi there! Welcome to my blog, where this week I’m just going to gush all about my chickens! I figured that after getting chickens a year and a half ago, I could share with you what I’ve learned so far. It truly has been a joy raising chickens.

I’m not exactly sure why, but when we moved to Ireland I decided that I wanted to have chickens. It took a little bit longer than anticipated, but about 10 years later I did get my chickens. Good things come to those who wait, right? 🙂 I wasn’t interested in hatching eggs and the work involved in that aspect, so I purchased chickens that were almost ready to start laying, which for these girls was around 23 weeks old. Another way to know if they are ready to start laying eggs is if their comb and wattle are developed. The farmer suggested that if I took them right before they are due to start laying, the transition would go smoother. If I waited to take them until after they started laying, they would most likely stop laying until they were fully settled in.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do about a chicken run – a place for them to walk about and stay safe – for our four chickens. Their hen house, which I think is really cute, had an enclosure that, even with the extension, was rather small. We started letting them out of their house to roam our yard. I can tell you that once you start doing that, they will not want to stop! They stayed in our yard for the first 3 months or so. But then they started roaming to our neighboring fields. Every day they would go wandering through the fields and every night they would make their way home and go into their house to sleep. But when the fields were being harvested, and grain was left on the roads after falling from trailers, our chickens would stay in the road to eat the grain. Sadly, we lost two chickens this way. It was a tough lesson, but it was the impetus we needed to get our run made.

Ideally, a safe run has covering, which ours does not. Someday I do hope to get covering, but for now the girls can take cover under the hedge, or under their house. We have fencing on the back side of our hedge, so they can’t get out and hopefully no predator can get in. For us, our main concern is that they are enclosed in their house every single night. It is above the ground, with a sliding door closure, so hopefully they are safe from predators. Their house has a window for ventilation, and two nesting boxes. I can tell you that the chickens are not supposed to sleep in the nest boxes – mainly because they poo all night long and then the nest is a mess for their eggs in the morning. Our first batch of chickens did not originally sleep in the nesting boxes. They started this bad habit in the winter when it was just the two of them, and since I felt badly about there only being two, I didn’t try to stop them from doing this. Then, when we added the two new girls the following spring, they all slept in the nest boxes! It is more work for me to clean it out every morning, but that is ok. The house is easier to clean as the tray below the perches slides out and just takes a quick wipe to clean. I use straw in the nest boxes, so it is a bit precarious getting the poo out among the straw (TMI?).

The girls have two watering containers – one under the house and one in their run. They have a food container under their house, and I also throw their layer pellets in the grass, as they like to eat it that way. I rarely give them ‘treats’ as it is better for them to eat their pellet food than ‘treats’. But having said that, they do love fish skins! There is also a container of crushed oyster shells, which they eat on a daily basis. This helps to ensure that their egg shells are strong. They don’t eat to bulk up and stay warm. The process of them eating actually helps them to keep warm. I also have to wonder if they enjoy each other’s warmth when they sleep together in the nest boxes. Smarty chickens.

We have 4 Rhode Island Red hybrids, which are the best egg layers. They do not disappoint, and we get one egg a day from each of them. One of our girls, Rose, will sometimes not lay an egg. Twice when she didn’t lay an egg, she became ‘egg bound’ (when the egg gets stuck). It was easy to spot that she wasn’t doing well. They almost always stay together throughout the day, and on those two occasions, she stayed away from the others, and hid under the hedge. Both times I took her into our house overnight and gave her some special attention. Thankfully, she was fine both times and was able to pass her egg. It can be fatal if they don’t. The next morning I put her back with the others and you’d never know she wasn’t well the day before!

The other issue I’ve had to deal with is bullying. In the first group, the main bully was killed, and poor Daisy was finally free of her. But when the second two girls arrived, Rose stepped up to be the bully and Iris has received the brunt of most of her antics. What does she do? She will peck Iris on the head for no reason, she’ll jump on her back and peck her, or she’ll chase her from the food or water dish. The ‘pecking order’ is well established, and the younger ones won’t stand up for themselves or fight back. If it was constant, I would separate the bully from the group. For now, I try and keep an eye on them and make sure that Iris is safe.

I really enjoyed when the girls were free range. They would follow us around in the garden. They seem to be curious creatures and always wanted to know what we were doing – even in the house! Funny enough, Daisy had managed to figure out how to fly out of the run. She’d done it about 5 or so times before the new girls arrived. She only ever flew out when we were home, which is quite lucky for us. Rose never managed to fly out. But since the new girls arrived this past spring, Daisy has not flown out a single time. Maybe she was just looking for some more company? 🙂

I’m so glad to have the chickens as pets. They are quite manageable. They are lovely to watch, and honestly, fresh eggs are the best! They are quite sweet to listen to, as well.

I hope you are keeping well. We’re coming up to Thanksgiving in the States. It is tough being far away from friends and family, especially around the holidays. If you celebrate it, I want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving! Stay safe and healthy.

In Peace,
Dana

hen house sunny morning November
A beautiful morning in the country.
chicken in the house
A view of the inside of the hen house.
Henhouse enclosure
A view under the hen house. The girls will either go here or under the hedge when it is raining hard. They don’t really mind a light rain.
sleeping chickens
Nap time! (at least for three of them)
Chickens hiding from sun
This is where they go to get some shade (or under the hedge).
chickens and their run
They have a lot of space to walk around.
four hens in the turtle
They usually stay together.
chickens at the compost
Free ranging at the compost.
two chicken bums
Is there anything more fluffy than this?
two young hens
The two new hens (the comb and wattle aren’t fully developed).
Young hens house
We separated the young hens for about a week, to keep them safe from the older hens. We possibly should have done this for 2 weeks.
two and two chickens
In the early days, the two young hens kept apart from the two older hens.
two old together two young
The two on the left are the older chickens (lighter coloring).
Three hens in nest box
Now, they’ll all mix in together!
Rose and Daisy at the door
Rose and Daisy would ‘knock’ at the door to come in!
hens and pheasant
The girls were not impressed with their male visitor.
Daisy on the fence
Daisy hasn’t flown out of the run since the new hens arrived this past spring.
rose and her two eggs
This time that Rose was egg bound, she ended up passing a normal sized egg and a very large soft shelled egg, in one night! No wonder she was uncomfortable.
three in one eggs
They usually lay their eggs all in one nest. This was unusual to see one on the right.
egghouse
This is my egg house. I pencil the date on the eggs to keep track, but they are usually eaten within a few days.
all sized eggs
This was before my egg house – you can see all different sized eggs! The younger hens lay smaller eggs.
poached eggs and quinoa
It’s not all about poached eggs on toast! Quinoa with poached eggs and dressing is delicious, too!
chicken under house
It is relaxing to just watch them.
two girls under hedge
Here is a younger hen on the left and an older one on the right, resting.
two older chickens resting
The two older hens resting together. You’ll notice that most pictures are of them resting! It’s much harder to capture good pictures of them on the go!
handfull of eggs
It’s not just about the eggs, but the eggs sure are a wonderful part of raising chickens!

Thanks so much for visiting! I hope you enjoyed my little chicken story. Take care! 🙂

‘Little moments’ from the Garden

Hello there! You are very welcome to my blog. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve managed to take some ‘blue sky’ pictures. When you live in Ireland, you learn to really appreciate those blue sky days! I think that it is true, that a blue sky really does lift your spirits. You can see below that I have also thrown in some ‘gray sky’ pictures, so you can see for yourself the difference a blue sky makes.

Most mornings I start my day with a walk – after the chickens are fed and their house is cleaned! I love walking, especially first thing in the morning. It really wakes me up, and gets me going. Walking in the country provides beautiful scenery (and also a lot of mud on my shoes). I then take a walk around the garden (this helps to clean my shoes!) – making mental notes of what needs to be done. But I also get to enjoy seeing and listening to the birds in the garden. I don’t spend a lot of time doing this, because I have to ‘get to work’, but just enough time to appreciate all that nature has to offer us in our little ‘neck of the woods’. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see I usually post a view of my garden and my chickens on my morning stories. 🙂

As for the garden, I did a very late transplanting of some bearded Iris. Iris Benton Storrington have done amazingly well in my yard, and this is the second time that I have divided and transplanted them. The first time was two years ago in September (as it should be done then) and they did great. We’ll see how they do this time as I’ve not only transplanted them late, I have added them under the birch trees in a newly formed bed. It’ll just be a case of wait and see.

The garden is definitely shifting to its winter mode. The leaves are slowly falling off of the trees, and most of the plants are nearly finished blooming. I surprised myself with being able to make an arrangement of flowers from the garden this weekend, though! That is probably my favorite activity to do – creating arrangements with flowers from the garden. This is why I am always adding new and interesting plants.

The last of our apples were picked this week. I’m not sure how we will get through all of those apples, but we’re going to try! My daughter made (a few times this fall, actually) some delicious apple turnovers, which were such a treat. I’m always on the lookout for apple recipes that call for LOTS of apples! Do you have any?

I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to get out into the garden to get our fall jobs done. Even just ‘being’ in the garden is lovely, especially with all of the birds that have come to visit us now. I love seeing our birch trees standing so majestically as the sun shines on them first thing in the morning. And I love seeing my chickens seemingly so happy. Haha! This makes me think of the song ‘My favorite things’ by Julie Andrews!

I hope you are keeping well, and having lots of blue sky days! Please stay safe and healthy.

In Peace,
Dana

Heaven Scent Magnolia last leaf
The very last leaf on our Heaven Scent Magnolia tree
Last cooking apple
The very last apple on our ‘cooking apple’ tree
Cherry Tree last of the leaves
Our Cherry tree with a blue sky!
Cherry tree gray sky
Same Cherry tree, but with a gray sky!
birch trees with bearded iris
This was a big job of digging up two sites of bearded iris, dividing them and then transplanting them. My husband was a HUGE help and did most of the work!
Iris Benton Storrington single flower
Iris Benton Storrington

But look at that bearded iris! Isn’t it beautiful? I can’t wait to see them in the summer!

Viburnum opulus Roseum November
Some very pretty coloring on our Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’!
Mushrooms in the yard November
There’s always some interesting mushrooms in the yard. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing!
Flowers from the Garden in hand November 14
A handful of flowers from the garden! Shasta Daisy, bergenia leaves, pink and red hesperanthus (or schizostylis / kaffir lily), Erysimum ‘Super Bowl’ Mauve, Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’, Fountain Grass Pennisetum Advena Rubrum, Pittosporum Tom Thumb, and one snapdragon.
Flowers from the garden November 14 in hand
Flowers from the Garden November 14
And here’s what I created!
Mr Fokker aubrieta frosty morn November
This was taken on a frost morning. The Mr Fokker anemone are still blooming, and the Aubrieta have started blooming again. Glad to know that they weren’t killed off with the very dry spring which we had.
apple turnover
Emer’s apple turnovers were super delicious, especially hot out of the oven. We are so thankful that our kids enjoy cooking and baking!
David Austin Roses dark pink NOVEMBER
There are still some blooms on our roses, although the wind has been working extra hard to knock them off…
sunny foggy morning birch trees
I took this picture on what had been a foggy morning.
mystic sky November garden
I like this photo for the fall feel and the mystic looking sky
4 chickens November
‘The Girls’ also known as Iris, Sweet Pea, Daisy and Rose.

Thanks for stopping by! Take care!

Blue sky play house with back hills
The latest fall view of our playhouse and the surrounding fields (and one of my favorite pictures).