Our 2023 Irish Dancing World Championships experience

Hi there! We’ve happily been an Irish dancing family for the past 18 years, when my son first started dancing at the age of six. All three of our kids have enjoyed it over the years. They have danced in teams (ceili) and solo. Currently, our 19 year old daughter, Cliona, is the only one dancing. The World Championships, of course, is the biggest competition, where people travel from all over the world to compete. Everyone at the World’s must first qualify to be there through regional qualifying competitions. To simply walk on to the World stage is a huge accomplishment!

Cliona on the World stage for her reel.

This year was the first time that Cliona qualified for the World Championships in solo dancing. The event always takes place over Holy Week, rotating between Ireland, the UK, the US and Canada. This year they were held in Montréal, Canada, and what a time we had!

Irish Dancing World Championships in Montreal, Canada.

The World Championships competition is a bit different for the girls, as it is held over two days for each age group, instead of the typical one day for the boys. Cliona’s competition was relatively small with just 105 dancers. They all dance their reel and hornpipe on the first day. Then there is a 50% recall where the top 50% are brought back the second day to dance their reel and hornpipe again. Then there is another recall of the top 2/3. Those dancers then get to dance their set-dance. There are five judges for each dance, and for each round of dancing there are five different judges. So for this competition there would be 25 different judges.

Proud parents with our Irish dancer

So many hurdles to jump through to get to the final results! Our daughter was delighted to get the two recalls and then to have placed 32nd. The caliber of dancers was incredible. We are so proud of her! Admittedly, the first day was quite nerve-racking. It felt like the blanket of stress was lifted once she knew that she recalled for the second day. And that upbeat feeling stayed with her – and us – through the second day, too, as Cliona fully enjoyed the experience.

Cliona getting her first recall medal, with her Aunt and Uncle, and hugging her father after learning that she recalled.

I have to say that everyone we met was so lovely. At this stage, Cliona has been dancing with many of the girls for quite a few years. The recall process is such an ordeal, especially when your friends who are also really good dancers, don’t make it through. I was touched by the kindness and encouragement shown to Cliona by girls who didn’t recall. It was a true showing of sportsmanship. The bottom right picture above shows Cliona getting a hug from her Dad upon finding out she got the first recall. The top picture is of Cliona and her proud Aunt and Uncle. And she was all smiles with me and her first recall medal. 🙂

dancing friends at the World's in Montreal
Friends and fellow dancers from our dance school

We are so proud of how hard our daughter has worked to get to this point. And we’re so thankful to be part of a school, Scoil Rince Móna Ní Rodaigh, that is encouraging, nurturing and supportive, no matter what the outcome is.

Two of our dance teachers: Ciara Lennon and Mona ni Rodaigh with our dancer, Cliona after getting her second recall medal.
Cliona with two of her dance teachers, Ciara and Mona, after the final results

While we were there for the dancing, we did manage to see a bit of Montréal and enjoy time with my brother and sister-in-law. The weather wasn’t quite as hospitable. We had freezing rain, and some cold, gray days, but thankfully we also had some sunny days. We managed to find some wonderful restaurants (Italian, Spanish, Lebanese, and Canadian). I also want to note that we thoroughly enjoyed some freshly made bagels at St. Viateur Bagel Shop – an absolute treat for us as there is nothing like this in Ireland! The weather on our free day was perfect for meandering through ‘Old Montréal’ with its cobblestone streets, markets, and souvenir shops.

collage of family pictures in Montreal
There’s nothing like family! ❤️
Homemade bagels, dinner with family, and at the airport to go to Montreal

We went to Easter mass at the Notre-Dame basilica of Montréal. What a beautiful experience that was, even with the mass being mostly in French.

The Notre-Dame basilica of Montreal
images from within the Notre-Dame basilica of Montreal.

We also discovered the most photographed piece of public art in Montréal, The Illuminated Crowd by Raymond Mason, which is located at McGill College Avenue. This was so intriguing. I must share the description of the sculpture:

A crowd has gathered, facing a light, an illumination brought about by a fire, an event, an ideology – or an ideal. The strong light casts shadows, and as the light moves toward the back and diminishes, the mood degenerates; rowdiness, disorder and violence occur, showing the fragile nature of man. Illumination, hope, involvement, hilarity, irritation, fear, illness, violence, murder and death – the flow of man’s emotion through space.

The Illuminated Crowd, Raymond Mason
The Illumination sculpture by Raymond Mason

It was nice to get out and explore the city, and on such a sunny day!

family pictures around Montreal

What a lovely experience it was, to watch our daughter compete in the World Championships. It was such a pleasure to see her shine! Better still to have family there, with us! We’re so thankful that my brother and sister-in-law made the trip to support Cliona. And we all were able to enjoy Montréal as well! 🙂

Cormac with his World Champion first place globe for u16 ceili dancing and Cliona with her 3rd place globe for u13 ceili dancing

The above picture is a throwback to 2014 when my son’s under 16 mixed ceili team won the World Championships in London (That was amazing!) and Cliona’s under 13 mixed ceili team placed third! This picture was taken when we brought the globes home to show the family over Easter.

Here’s to more fun adventures in Irish dancing. 🙂

In Peace,

The joy when someone touches your heart

Hi there, and welcome to my blog! Today would be the 100th birthday of my dear friend Monsignor James McCloskey. Although he passed away November 25th, 2017, he is still sorely missed. Monsignor, or Father Jim as he referred to himself, was someone who connected with people wherever he went. I am thankful that we formed a very special bond over the nearly 20 years that we knew each other.

What made Monsignor special? I think it was his desire to lift people up, and to share with everyone his love of Jesus. He always greeted you with a compliment. Always! And he always finished the conversation with a joke. I don’t know how he remembered all of his jokes, because he had so many that he would tell!

I think that through his many years of living life, and being very close to those he loved, he gained an invaluable insight into people, relationships, and life itself. I learned to never underestimate his knowledge in areas where I wouldn’t think he’d have much experience (like teens, for example). He had walked with so many people before me, on their journey through the toddler years, the teen years, marriage, loss – all aspects of life! Truly, he’d been through it all, felt their pain, enjoyed their happiness, and supported them through their loss.

My loss. My sister died suddenly when I was 33 years old, and she was 35. It was the most difficult time of my life. I was numb most of the time. But when I’d go to church and kneel to pray, it was like the floodgates would open. The tears flowed whenever I was in church, despite my being able to hold it together everywhere else, which distressed me even more. Monsignor was so kind to me, and told me it was perfectly O.K. to cry in church, in God’s home, as it was where I was most comfortable to do so. Of course there wasn’t a separate church life and ‘regular life’, it was all one Christian life, where he effortlessly reached out to those in need.

Monsignor was very proud of his Irish heritage, and I think he was excited for us when we moved to Ireland. We still kept in touch after the move. In fact, if Monsignor hadn’t heard from me in a while, he’d either send me an email or call me on the phone ‘just to make sure we’re all doing O.K.’! My visits back to see him were very special. We’d usually go to breakfast after he said morning mass (he had a devoted congregation who adored him and his homilies), always to eat, talk and share.

We (my husband and I) were so fortunate to have visited with him just a few months before he passed away. We had a lovely visit! As always, he was in great spirits and we enjoyed each other’s company. It was shortly after that visit when his health really began to decline. We continued to speak on the telephone over the next few months. His spirits remained high and he was completely at peace. On one of our last phone calls, he told me he’d always be with me, that he’s just changing address.

I’m so thankful that Monsignor was my friend and mentor for so many years, looking out for me, guiding me, and supporting me. I miss him. But I’m grateful to have his love in my heart. Until we meet again, Happy Birthday Monsignor. ❤️

In Peace,

Monsignor and Dana

This was on our last visit, the summer of 2017. Monsignor was, as always, in great form and full of chat and a great listener.

Páraic, Monsignor and Dana

My husband joined me on this visit. Monsignor always had a joke to tell!

Monsignor James McCloskey, Dana and Cliona for Cliona's Christening

Monsignor James McCloskey celebrated Cliona’s Christening.

Monsignor and Cliona as a toddler

Monsignor was a hands-on priest, who simply connected with us. Here he is with Cliona as a baby.

Cliona and Monsignor at a church event

Monsignor was always around for church events, to say hello to everyone, but especially the little ones (this was probably a breakfast). Here he is with Cliona.

Dana and Monsignor

This was on one of my visits home, at our mutual friend, Lisa’s house.

Dana, Monsignor and Lisa

This is me, Monsignor and Lisa on an earlier visit home. Don’t you love Monsignor’s bib? 🙂

Immaculate Conception Church staff, Fayetteville, NY

This is some of the wonderful staff at Immaculate Conception Parish in Fayetteville, New York, along with Monsignor James McCloskey. It’s the wonderful people of a parish who make the parish life what it is. I’m so thankful to have been part of such a loving and giving community.

Monsignor in his garden

This little garden area was special because Monsignor could enjoy this view while in his sitting room, and he could also enjoy the birdsong, which he so loved.

The feature photo is of Immaculate Conception Parish’s grotto where the statue of the Blessed Mary is. Mary was very special to Monsignor, and I think it is fitting here.

Such a wonderful, full life to celebrate! 🙂

The changeable month of March

Hi there, and welcome to my blog! What a month it has been. We’ve seen some beautiful sunny and mild days as well as some very cold and dreary days. My mood has been influenced by this changeable weather: high spirits when the sun was out and low spirits when the howling winds and dark clouds took over. I’m thankful that I was able to get some work done in the garden and able to enjoy that time. This year I am also attempting to grow some flowers from seed. Fingers crossed that they all take! Oh! And I am excited about a garden clean-up project we are doing, too!

So, the garden clean-up project is the area to the side of our playhouse. When we first moved here, we built a bunch of raised beds and planted some fruit trees in this area. It was fabulous! I made an attempt to create stone pathways, but they never quite came together right. Then we moved the apple trees because they were too close together. A few years after that, and the Beech hedges grew to their full height and added too much shade for strawberries and vegetables to grow. And finally, the weeds just plain took over. I’ve learned a lot over that time, and we are now going to re-do that area. We decided to completely clear the area due to the terrible state it was in. That is the point where we are now! I’ll let you know as we progress. I cannot wait to get the new beds set-up!

As for the rest of the garden, I think it is ready for the season ahead! I’ve planted some summer bulbs (and still have some more to plant!). Most of those are going in pots this year. I simply had that in mind when I ordered them. We still haven’t mowed the lawn yet, and usually this would bother me. But I’m changing my mind on this, and I’m not in a hurry to have it done. I used to feel like it was a terrible reflection on the garden when we had long grass. How silly! Something else I realized recently. Three of my hellebores didn’t bloom this year. Two of them didn’t even show their leaves until very late in the season, never mind flower! The funny thing is, I felt that this was somehow due to my poor gardening skills. What?! I hadn’t done anything differently – they just didn’t come up until very late in the season. But I had internalized their not blooming, that somehow it was my fault. I was glad to recognize that, so I could correct my mindset. I’m not a terrible gardener. Sometimes, things just don’t grow. 🙂

Life is funny, and I’m still learning. Thank God! I hope you are keeping safe and well and are also still learning!

In Peace,

Let’s try this again! This will have beds for vegetables, annual flowers and strawberries. This time, we’ll put ground cover material down to help to prevent weeds (I think I might add cardboard, too, since we have a bunch of it).

Nothing says ‘It’s March’ in Ireland better than daffodils and shamrock!

Springtime flowers are blooming! This is a Pulmonaria with purple and pink flowers and spotted leaves. It looks lovely with daffodils, which are growing next to them.

This area with the tulips was one of my clean-up jobs this month! I didn’t tidy it up very well last year and it was not in good shape. I cleared it just in time for this beautiful day!

I like these Mr. Fokker anemone and purple hyacinth together.

This pink hyacinth is probably my favorite flower at the moment, and beautifully fragrant!

Here’s a great contrast in weather! The picture above, on the left was taken on quite a dull gray day, while the picture on the right was taken on a lovely and sunny day! The Aubrieta is not in full bloom just yet, but it is getting there.

Here are some of the seeds that I’m growing. These are Coleus. Fingers crossed that I continue to take care of them properly!

The two flower pots in front of the hen house are still looking really well. Those tete a tete daffodils have been blooming for a few weeks now. It was so worth getting them to add a bit of cheer!

It certainly feels like anything is possible when the sky is blue! We did some more planting in this birch tree bed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the spring update! Take care! 🙂

Rejuvenating the soul with a weekend in the garden

Hello, and welcome to my blog! It is no secret that I have been struggling with this latest lockdown here in Ireland. I understand why we need it, I’ve just found it much harder to adjust this time. I am very happy to say that this weekend I felt an actual lifting of my spirits as I worked away in the garden over two beautiful days. My pace is slow and steady, which is good enough for me. I’ve also been practicing my mantra of ‘every little bit helps’. So over the past week I’ve managed to get a bunch of little things done around the garden, all from spending just a short amount of time doing small jobs. Of course it all adds up!

So what’s happening in the garden? I think the biggest job I’ve completed is pruning the roses. I struggle with this job only because I need to be ruthless and just get the job done, and I tend to over think it. I haven’t appreciated how many rose plants I’ve collected, until pruning them all this year! I have to say that I was more ruthless than ever before, so hopefully they’ll appreciate that. According to the gardening program I’ve been watching on Instagram, called Gardening Conversations, (I think I’ve mentioned it previously), you can do a hard prune every three to five years. Their advice was to get your worst enemy to prune your roses – to get the ‘hard prune’ that you hate to do! 🙂

Another big job we’ve been working on is creating a new flower bed. I had some sod removed back in November when we had our birch trees planted, and then my husband finished removing the rest of the sod last week. The bed looks really good because we (read: my husband) then added a very thick layer of our compost on top. There’s a good 4 inches of compost along with lots of worms. I can’t wait to get some plants in there! It will be a partly sunny garden, as I wanted a bed with some shade. Stay tuned to see what plants we pick!

Speaking of adding new plants: there are a couple of new Hellebore plants which I’ve welcomed into my garden recently. They are from Altamont Gardens, in Carlow. I’ve been meaning to visit Altamont for years! Sadly, I’ll have to wait a bit longer due to the lockdown. They were selling some of their plants via Instagram, though, and I’m delighted with the two I now have.

The other little jobs I’ve been doing have been part of my winter clean up. I’ve cut down dead fennel, aster, and sedum stems. I’ve also started to do some weeding. I want to spread more compost in the beds and I’d prefer to have most of the weeds gone before I do that. I want to feed the soil, not the weeds!

I’m so thankful that the days are brighter, well into the evening. It makes such a difference to my mood, and allows me some garden time after work!

I hope you are doing well and that you are enjoying the extended daylight, too!

In Peace,

collage of 2 hellebore plants
collage of 2 hellebore plants

I’m starting with the pictures with my two new hellebores, which I think are very pretty. They are Harvington Double Apricots and Harvington Double Reds. The Apricot flower can look a pale yellow as well as the apricot hue. The Double Reds seem more of a burgundy/pink color than red to me. I think they fit in perfectly! They are planted in the new ‘birch trees bed’ among the iris.

collage of hellebore flowers

Here are some of my other hellebore plants. The newest one is the Helleborus ‘Anemone Picotee’ which has purple veins on the petals (the three corner pictures). The Center picture is Winter Sunshine, and the top left corner is the SP Frilly Isabelle. The other pictures are from plants that were given to me, and I don’t have their names. They all add some lovely color to the garden at this time of year.

pruned roses
hard prune of roses

There was a progression with the roses. It took me a few days to completely prune one plant as each time I’d take off a bit more, and a bit more, and a bit more! I am happy with the hard prune that I eventually ended up with. I hope the plants are happy, too! 🙂

Pruned roses and pink anemone

Here’s another look at the roses, but I took the picture because of this single, bright pink anemone. Isn’t that color something?

collage of compost and freshly dug bed

Here’s a look at our compost and the newly dug up bed. The pallets which are the walls for our compost structure, have seen better days. This summer I’ll have to decide on a new place to have our compost, so the plan is to fix the structure then. The compost we’re using now is a year old (the pile on the far right).

view of garden at front gate

I cleaned this bed up over the weekend. The Pittosporum, Tom Thumb, in the right corner, adds wonderful texture. The lavender next to it looks much nicer when it is in bloom! The burgundy colored plant that lines both sides of the bed is Bergenia. The flowers of this variety of Bergenia are very bright pink. Otherwise there isn’t a lot going on in this bed at the moment!

Full rainbow garden view

This bed is ready for some more compost. I have a few new plants in here, which I can’t wait to see!

henhouse with flowers

I’ve added some flowers to the front of the girls’ house. I can look out onto their house and run while in our kitchen and this way I can see the flowers more often than I could when they were on the back porch. I always enjoy seeing flowers, so this is a win/win for me!

close up picture of hen

The chickens are so curious and will get very close to my phone when I’m taking pictures. It isn’t so easy to get good shots because they never stay still! I like this one, though. I can’t remember which hen this is, and I tell them apart by looking at their back feathers, so we’ll just have to guess! (My guess is Iris.)

Thank you so much for visiting! I hope you are keeping well, and safe. Take care! 🙂

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,

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,

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! 🙂

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,

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! 🙂

Creative fun designing a Hydrangea Wreath

Hi there! You are very welcome to my blog. September is a great month, don’t you think? You can feel a distinct change in the air with the start of fall, or as oft happens to the kids on their return to school – it turns into a beautiful Indian summer! September is also when I like to get creative with dried mophead hydrangeas.

Mophead Hydrangeas dry really well – when you cut them at the right time. Even after all of these years, I’m still learning! The flowers/stems have to be sturdy. If they are young they will wither and the flowers don’t look as nice. I hang mine upside down, because that is easiest for me. I’ve had flowers dry while in a vase, too.

I used a 17 inch straw wreath frame, and this time I used floral wire as well as floral ‘u’ pins to attach the flowers. It is simply a case of covering the frame with flowers, one at a time. Surprisingly, the flowers are forgiving and you can squish them together, or squish one in here or there to fill in gaps. This frame is bigger than I usually use, and the shape ‘got away from me’! I have three rows of flowers going around the frame, instead of my usual two. It was a funny shape when I finished the first time! I realized after I’d hung it on the door that it wasn’t quite right. I just squished in some more flowers here and there and it is more or less a decent shape now. I can get away with that because: 1. It is just for me, and 2. that’s what you get with hand made!

These wreaths really aren’t difficult to make, as long as you have the materials. I have to say that some of the flowers I used were somewhat shrivelled, but when they are all mixed in I think they look O.K.. 🙂

I hope that your September is going well. Any creative plans?

In Peace,

basket of hydrangea
It all starts with cuttings from the garden.
basket of hydrangea full garden view
The colors are pink, purple and a bluey-green, but they mostly dried the bluey-green!
hydrangea collage
They sure were beautiful when I cut them!
Hydrangea Wreath beginning
It all starts with everything on the table! I had the dried flowers in laundry baskets. Like I said, they are pretty forgiving 🙂

In the picture above you can see the floral wire I used for half of the wreath. It is in the middle of the wreath. I wrapped it around the stem and then around the wreath, and then again around the flower (that part wasn’t fun). It then became more difficult than helpful to me, so I switched to the floral U pins. I have some pictures in this blog post of the floral U pins as they are used.

Hydrangea Wreath wire closeup
A peek at the wire.
Hydrangea Wreath a bit done
It was after this point that I switched to using the floral U pins.
Hydrangea Wreath half finished
Here you can see the start of my funny shaped wreath…
Dried FRESH lavender wreath September 2020
This is the lavender wreath I made this summer from fresh lavender (not dried). It is now well dried, but I think it looks nice. This is the kitchen door I always have a wreath hanging from! I had to take this wreath down to hang my hydrangea wreath.
Hydrange wreath vs 1
OK, so I hung it on the door and realized it needed some more shaping! 🙂
Side view inside hydrangea wreath
Closeup view
Hydrangea Wreath full view
Hydrangea Wreath side view outside
Another side view
Hydrangea Wreath + my daughter
My daughter was a good sport about holding it for photos and helping to take photos.
Dana + Hydrangea wreath
She looks a lot like me, doesn’t she?

Thank you for stopping by. Take care and stay safe!

Be the Change and Say His Name #GeorgeFloyd

Heart shaped roseHello, You are very welcome to my blog.

A lot has been weighing on my mind over the past number of days, specifically the topic of racism, and the horrific death in the U.S. of George Floyd, his death caused by the police. I can’t make sense of it, or the countless times this has already happened to people of color. What I find eye opening are the personal stories of what ‘every day life’ is like for people who simply aren’t white. Have you read their stories? Eye opening is one way to phrase it, scary is another, unacceptable is another. People who cannot live their lives without extreme caution of how they are perceived by others, namely the police. Where the simple fact of being a man of color makes you threatening. A life where injustice is the accepted norm by those carrying out the injustices – with no repercussions.

How has this gone on for so long? We are all equal, and yet clearly we are not all treated as equal. But this time, this time seems to have triggered a response from not just those in the U.S., but the world. This time it has gone too far. Although we’ve been told before, now it seems to be sinking in, what it *really* means to be a person of color in America.

The conversations need to start at home. How we treat one another, how we speak of others, how we act towards those who aren’t part of our ‘inner circle’ – these are all ways in which the next generation learns how to behave. They will see and learn from us. If we sit on the sidelines and do and say nothing, they will learn from that, too.

It is my hope that this collective outrage will finally bring about the changes that are long overdue. This isn’t about politics, it is about right and wrong. The Obama Foundation website has numerous ways for Americans to get involved. Have a look here.

I have not lost hope that there is good in the world. We’ve seen it all week long – the peaceful protests, the community clean-ups, some police joining in the protests. Change is possible. It has taken too long, but it can and must happen now.

Because #BlackLivesMatter .

In Peace,

Reflections on Oxford dictionary’s Word of the Year 2018 – Toxic


Honestly, I don’t usually pay attention to the “word of the year”, but this year’s winning word, toxic, caught my attention. To me, it relays such a negative feeling about the year as a whole.

I’m writing this in December, where for the entire month we prepare for Christmas. We are filled with the Christmas spirit, singing Christmas songs, decorating every nook, and there is simply a wonderful feeling of joy and anticipation in the air! But the reality is that “Toxic” was the word of the year…

Nativity Scene

One of our larger Nativity scenes

According to the Oxford Dictionary website, “the Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance.”

stained glass nativity scene

One of my favorites, an antique, stained glass nativity scene

They further explain that, “in 2018, toxic added many strings to its poisoned bow becoming an intoxicating descriptor for the year’s most talked about topics. It is the sheer scope of its application, as found by our research, that made toxic the stand-out choice for the Word of the Year title.”

We have many Nativity scenes of all sizes. This one is only a few inches high.

When I hear the word “toxic” my mind is filled … with images of poison! I don’t want to expand on the many uses of toxic. (Hence, I have filled this post with pictures of what Christmas looks like in our home!) Instead, I’d like to propose that we make 2019 a year filled with positivity. We can even start right in our own gardens! Ditch the chemicals and go organic. Start composting to reuse your kitchen and garden “waste”. It all starts with small changes that we all can make. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Nativity Scene

A rustic, handmade star lighting a Nativity Scene

Stepping out of the garden, I hope we will all be a little more kind; Not just to those we know, but to those whose stories we know nothing about.

And hopefully, by this time next year, the “word of the year” will be one reflecting something positive.

Christmas decorations

Christmas decorations can be found everywhere in our home!

Wishing you much Peace, Joy, and Happiness for 2019 and always,


Peace, Joy and Love