Showing up to enjoy the party! (a.k.a. being Present)



Life is full. Our family schedule, although much lighter now than just a few years ago, is still the max we can handle. We are busy! Sometimes it is easy to get lost in the schedule and the busyness and just go through the motions. Really easy. “Wait, how did I get here?!” Ever have that thought? I have. I don’t want to just go through the motions, though, because then I don’t get to “enjoy the party”!

O.K. stretching on this one – a picture to represent enjoying the party?! Lots of parties have cake, right? We can make this work…

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten much better at recognizing when I am present and when I am not being present. There are certainly times when I’m not being present, but I think that for the most part I am pretty good about being present. Yes, even when doing the dishes. 🙂

I think I’ve been really lucky. I enjoy where I live, the work I do, my hobbies, so many things! When I’m doing things I like to do, I find it much easier to be present. I was in Chicago last week for work. I loved every minute of it: listening, smelling, tasting, everything American! I really enjoyed meeting people and hearing where they were from and what they do.

All smiles in Chicago!

My hotel was a short walk from the conference hotel. On one of the days, I recognized that I was smiling with a silly grin on my face as I walked down the street, with the sun shining brightly and causing me to sweat more than I would have liked! But it was such a perfect moment, in Chicago, in the sun, on my walk, with a silly grin.

At the conference, all of the participants received a copy of Amy Cuddy’s newest book called Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to the Biggest Challenges. What perfect timing for me! Although many people have different interpretations of what presence means, I needed a little tap on the shoulder to help me with this one on a professional level. Sometimes I’ve found it difficult to “bring my boldest self” to the table. For me personally, my take-away from this highly recommended book, is to believe in yourself, be prepared, and after that you have to be relaxed (that is the hardest part for me!). When I think of new challenges that have gone well, these elements have been key.

An excellent read! I highly recommend this book.

After the conference, I had the opportunity to visit my parents. I hadn’t seen them in too long. I wanted to go and visit them and just spend time with them. I didn’t want to do anything in particular, which honestly, isn’t like me. Normally, I’d have a list of things I’d want to see or do. I think because of this relaxed state of just being with them, it was a really nice visit. In fact, it was a perfect visit.  (And my Mom made some of my favorite foods!)

Linguine with clams, shrimp, garlic, broccoli, and (shhh, don’t tell anyone, lots of butter). One of my favorite “nobody cooks like Mom” dinners!

We’re from upstate New York, and for too many years my parents dealt with harsh winters with too many snow storms and terrible weather. They are enjoying their well deserved break from all of that in their new location in Florida. They have created a lovely home there, and thoroughly enjoy the good weather. They swim, exercise, and walk on the beach as part of their daily routines, and they love it!

An Egret on the beach, just hanging out and enjoying the nice weather!

I found the beach to be so relaxing. There were so many different varieties of birds, and some of them were quite entertaining to me! I took way too many videos, to my parents’ amusement. Oh and the shells! So many beautiful shells! My mom and I enjoyed walking the beach for hours and collecting shells. I wonder what craft project I’ll make with them? 🙂

A small selection of the shells we collected.

And just like that, it was time to return home. Time to say goodbye to the warm weather, and my parents, and the time away from my typical daily routine. And just like that, I was home, and oh so happy to once again be home.  Because, quite honestly, I am enjoying the party.

My father, especially, loves wearing florescent colors! So we had to take a picture of all of us in our bright colors!

Are you enjoying your party? I hope so! 🙂

In peace,

My parents have some lovely flowers on their balcony. This hibiscus was my favorite!



It all comes down to Personality!


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Morning sunshine gives a warm hue to the hydrangea wreath

Everything we do, and how we choose to do what we do, comes down to our individual personalities. For me, my personality is such that I like to find second uses for things. I don’t like to waste, or get rid of something if it can possibly have a second life. What better way to give a second life to flowers than arranging them in a wreath or a floral arrangement? None, I say! 🙂

This is how I dry my flowers 🙂

Hydrangea are great for drying. It is best to use “mature” blooms, which have a more substantial (papery) feel to them. If they aren’t mature, then the leaves tend to curl. There isn’t anything wrong with curled leaves, I just don’t think they are quite as pretty (although my wreath has some of them, too!)

It all starts with a straw wreath frame and some floral “u” pins.

Wreaths are so easy to make!  In my book, it is essential to have a straw wreath frame, floral “u” pins, and some Spanish moss.  Anything goes for the rest! My hydrangea didn’t flourish this year, due to the drought this summer I presume. So I did get some lovely deep cherry colored blooms from a friend. I traded her zucchini bread for hydrangea blooms, that’s fair isn’t it?

These green colored blooms are hydrangea Incrediball.

I have all of my colors on the table, or hanging on my Flower Tree, and I just dive in.  The hydrangea paniculata ‘Vanille Fraise’ had very small, beautiful blooms this year, but their stems weren’t very strong and most of them broke while pinning them. That was a bummer, as they were really pretty!

Piece by piece the wreath comes together.

I made this one night after work this week. I felt the need to create something! Since I don’t have anything on my crochet hooks, it had to be with dried flowers. I still have loads of lavender around my house, too! (See what I did with that further down the post.) I really enjoy working with my hands, and I’m glad to have such beautiful materials around me to create with.

Ta-dah! This is where my wreath will reside in our kitchen.

Purple, cherry, green, blue, pink: it’s all in there.

Inside lighting doesn’t give the exact coloring.

Nothing beats natural lighting, but then of course there is morning sunshine and evening sunlight, both of which slightly change the coloring again!  You can see for yourself in the following photos.

Bright daylight, but no direct sunlight: This coloring is probably the closest to reality!

This picture has the tiny pink hydrangea paniculata Vanille Fraise.

The dried hyrdrangea is mostly hardy to work with. The green stems are actually doubled-up stems that I have smushed together after taking off brown markings on them. You can really do anything with them (as long as their stems are strong!).

My go-to photo place for wreaths is our playhouse door! This is just for photos as I wouldn’t leave this outside…

Morning sunshine gives a warm hue to the hydrangea wreath

Like I mentioned, I still have loads of lavender “drying” around the house (that I really need to put away!).  I decided to create a simple arrangement, using a magenta colored vase which happens to perfectly match some of my dried roses.  Yes, these little things just get me all excited! First of all, I was able to use a lot of lavender to fill this vase, and secondly, that magenta color is *gorgeous*!

Dried Lavender + Roses = beauty

magenta colored roses and vase

And here is where they will live:

Home sweet home for my vase of lavender + roses.

It’s the little things! I’m glad to give a second life to my flowers, and the lavender and roses really do have a beautiful fragrance.  This is me, this is who I am, and this is my personality.  🙂

What’s your personality like?

In peace,

Our playhouse in the morning sunlight.

September’s beauty is tempered only by the gardening to-do list…


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We are still enjoying warm weather, not quite ready for the chilly days of fall just yet …

September can be such a beautiful month. Although the temperatures tend to dip slightly in August, inevitably, when the kids head back to school in September, the weather turns warm again! We have been lucky to enjoy rather mild weather of late. The garden, having been quite patient all summer while I left it to its own devices, is now demanding that I pay her some attention. I love working in the garden, don’t get me wrong. We were just busy with life!  So little by little, we’ve managed to extend some time and effort to get (some) things done in the garden.

If I could draw your attention to the green leaves along the edge of the railroad ties, those are Bergenia, a deep pink flowering variety, which have spread a bit more than I’d like.

Bergenia flowering in May

These Incrediball hydrangea were a lovely white in August, but turned a rusty brown quite quickly, unfortunately. The Bergenia, on the other hand, have done really well! This was the clump (on the left) before we separated them.

One of the items on our “to-do” list was dividing up plants. I think it is pretty safe to say that Bergenia plants, also known as elephant’s ears due to the foliage, are extremely hardy! These guys are so happy in my garden, and they have just flourished (read: multiplied exponentially!). I wanted to remove a few to prevent them from clumping too much. But before I knew it, my husband had dug them all up! So we’ve spread them out, and moved them around the yard.

The Bergenia plants needed to be separated as they had clumped together.

A little more breathing room after we divided the Bergenia plants (my rusty looking Incrediball hydrangea plant in the background)

Staying in this same bed, my Iris ‘Benton Storrington’ are also quite happy here. My original purchase of two plants has yielded more than a few!

I originally bought two plants and now I have, well, LOTS!

I actually had to move them because they were spreading into one of my hydrangea plants. I’ve simply moved them to the other side of the same bed (hey, if they are happy here, I don’t want to rock the boat!). But first I untangled their roots to separate them. That worked with most of them, while a couple of them had to be cut apart. There was quite a clump!

quite a tangle of roots! This is why you have to separate them!

I forgot to remind my husband that the rhizomes, in order to get exposure to the sun, need to be at the surface, and not buried in the soil. So when I noticed his mistake after he’d planted a few, there was a teeny tiny moment where he just stopped and looked at me, shook his head, and then proceeded to re-plant them, correctly this time. Good thing he’d only done a few! 🙂

A row of freshly planted Iris, and in front of them are freshly planted Bergenia plants.

Iris Benton Storrington – which you can see is growing into the hydrangea!

Iris Benton Storrington

There was one more plant which we divided, another Iris actually, although this time not a bearded variety (so no rhizomes to keep at the surface!). I don’t have any pictures of what the area looks like now. But, here is a picture from before we moved any, when they were in bloom. The perspective is “higher” as I was actually leaning out of my bedroom window (being very careful though!). 🙂

non-bearded Iris

Lots of Iris and Lilacs!

They are very pretty, and apparently they, too, are very happy as they have spread like crazy! My idea was to separate them and spread them about the yard. But for now, we’ve taken one clump out of the mess and moved it further down the bed, and we moved another clump to the “Center Garden”.

our “Center Garden” is expanded again with the addition of Iris on the right

I am really happy with how our Center Garden is taking shape. I wasn’t sure if I should add anything else to it, but I think the Iris will be really pretty.

Pears, Apples and Sunflowers from our garden

My gardening takes lots of patience while I figure out how to get it just right, and watching as things mature and fill in spaces and provide structure. I LOVE this process! It is so neat to watch the garden throughout the entire year as it changes from one season to the next. I am constantly thinking of “what’s next” in the garden. I have a list in my head of all of the plants I want to add, and changes and additions to the garden. But right now, I am completely happy with exactly how it is, weeds and all! As for the gardening “to-do” list, let’s just say that I am happy that we are making progress!

In peace,

Good Enough


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My veggie / fruit section of the garden

I haven’t written about the garden in a while. I’ve been beating myself up that it isn’t good enough to photograph, or talk about, or inspire.  Not.Good.Enough.  What??? Over the past eight years I’ve created a garden that brings me right to my happy place. How can that not be good enough? Admittedly, five years ago, this same patch of garden looked somewhat different, and perhaps more inspiring:

Purple Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, and squash in my 2013 garden

In fact, when I visited that blog post recently, the garden blew me away! Seriously, have a look. That did NOT help my feelings of inadequacy for my current garden! But so much has changed since then. The biggest change was that four years ago I went back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for 16 years. 16 years! Wow! I was lucky. I loved it. And now I am glad to be back working (outside the home) too… except that means a lot less time for taking care of the garden. It means that my view of what is Good Enough has had to change. And today I am stopping myself from saying it isn’t good enough, to saying it most certainly is Good Enough!

a cluster of our pears – almost ready for picking

our pear tree with a few handfuls of pears

I will focus on the good stuff: Our fruit trees.  We have one pear tree, one “eating apple” tree, and one “cooking apple” tree (Arthur Turner), and they are all filled with fruit this year! I must give credit to my husband for tidying up the base of our trees.  Ideally, the clearing should match the width of the branches, so every year as the tree grows, the clearing should be widened. It had been a few years since this task was done, so it was a big job this year. After all of his digging, he then worked a lot of our compost into the soil.  I think the trees look neat and tidy, and rather pretty if I do say so myself! (although perhaps slightly tilted?!)

funny, my husband doesn’t think this tree is leaning ever so slightly …

Fabulous combination of pretty and delicious!

I don’t have a variety name for the eating apples. They are sweet, and delicious tasting.  The cooking apple variety, Arthur Turner, are not sweet, and definitely need sugar when used. They are usually a greenish yellow color, but this year they have a pink hue.

do you also see the slight tilt on this tree too???

a pink hue to our Arthur Turner cooking apples

This year I planted pumpkins, squash, and sunflowers. As surprising as it is to hear, Ireland experienced a drought this summer. So some things in the garden didn’t quite thrive.  My sunflowers bloomed very early and died very quickly!  I cut off a few large heads, and have dried them to use the seeds next year. The rest are still in the garden for the birds to enjoy.

My daughter was helping me take pictures of my lavender wreath (which is in her hand) when I took this picture of the sunflowers. Kitty also enjoys being in pictures, just not posing for them… Off to the right you can see my leaning gladiolus The Dark Knights. I sense a leaning theme.

A bird eating the seeds from a sunflower

It is worth leaving the dying flowers for the birds to feast on the seeds, even though the plants look unsightly!  I love seeing the birds in the garden. It is worth having the dead plants there just for them 🙂

a common Blue tit sitting on one of my sunflowers

this is what the flower head looks like when you leave it in the garden for the birds to eat – lots of seeds missing!

The pumpkins also had an unusual growing situation this summer. Similar to the sunflowers, they ripened much quicker than usual.  Honestly, it is usually around Thanksgiving time (November) when mine finally turn orange!  This year they turned orange in August…

Four pumpkins completely orange in August…

They have provided a lovely splash of color in the garden, along with the summer squash.  (I stopped picking the squash many weeks ago, but they still provide beautiful color!)

nearly ripe pumpkin … in August!

There are two more pumpkins in the garden, but they have chosen to grow and ripen at the normal rate for us albeit in an unusual place:

this pumpkin is growing in ornamental grass (this was not planted by me!) and will hopefully turn orange right around Halloween 🙂

I tend to be rather hard on myself. When I stop and pay attention, I do of course appreciate that I have worked quite hard to create my happy space of a garden.  “Good Enough” was never an expression I would have accepted years ago.  But now I know that it is much more important to appreciate what is in front of me.  I might need reminders of that every now and again, but I do now accept that Good Enough is Perfect!

I hope you have enjoyed the views in my Good Enough garden!

In peace,

There were only a few gladiolus stems this year (due to the drought) but they were still pretty!






Wreath making in the height of Lavender Season


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One of my lavender plants (lavandula angustifolia) nestled between Pittosporum Tom Thumb and Hydrangea Incrediball

I have quite a few lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) plants . They thrive in my yard, and I am quite happy about that! About mid-July, depending on the weather, I start to “harvest” the lavender. I cut it as it just starts to bloom, cutting about 2/3 of the stem (or a bit more). Then, this is the fun part, I lay it on the floor around my house; in my sitting room, in my bedroom, in any free space that I can find, because it is a lot of lavender! I try and lay it flat, to help it to dry out as quickly as possible. A couple of weeks usually does the trick (as long as it isn’t wet when I cut it). Thankfully, we don’t really use the sitting room, so at least it isn’t a problem to use the entire floor of that room!

This one is my favorite lavender plant (Lavandula angustifolia) in bloom

There are a few things I do with the lavender. If I have time when I cut it, I will make lavender wands (the stems must be fresh though, so they don’t break while bending). I also make lavender sachets, which involves taking the lavender off of the stems after they are dried, and then sewing up little pouches. You can click here to read and see more about wands and sachets. But my favorite craft to do with lavender is to make wreaths.

I took apart one of last year’s lavender wreaths. Here’s what came off of it! (Lavender, Rosemary, Roses, Spanish moss)

It is a time when I can be creative, work with my hands and just have fun.  I love it! Depending on the wreath, it takes about two hours to make, give or take. Aside from the plant materials, the main items which I use are: floral straw wreath form, floral “u” pins, and secateurs. I try and use some kind of different plant material every year, and this year I used poppy seed pods, and an artichoke. I made three different wreaths, each a bit different. Here’s a look at what I did!

This is how it begins: a bunch of lavender, and a wreath form!

I start with grabbing a bunch of dried lavender and any other plant materials I’m going to use. The above wreath is only going to have those four roses with the lavender. I attached the roses first and then worked around them, starting on the top right. I tend to work out from the top, first going right half way around, and then working from the top again and going left.

I cut the lavender a bit more than one width of my finger space from the flower.

It can be a tedious task, as it takes many, many bunches of lavender to fill the wreath! The up-side is that the room smells wonderful while working with the lavender!

I love my GelPro classic gel mat, especially when standing on tiles for so long! (I also love my sparkle Birkenstocks)

It takes patience, but it is lovely to see how it fills in and of course the smell is wonderfully relaxing!

One little bunch at a time!

The next wreath had lots more plant material! I didn’t use the artichoke which is in bloom on the table, as it was too big.  I did use a tiny one, though.

The lavender in the center of this wreath is actually from last year. You can see the difference in color when I add the outside layer.

close up of the roses, poppy seed pods, Rosemary and artichoke

It was only after taking the close-up picture above that I realized that the wreath would look better with another layer of lavender. It just looked like it was missing something.

Filling in an outside layer of lavender.

Ah yes, you can see it now, can’t you?  The inside layer is definitely lighter! 🙂 This is where the two plus hours comes in…

The third lavender wreath will have poppy seed pods and roses.

My third lavender wreath had roses and poppy seed pods.  I started at the top left for this one, and placed the roses on the right.

Pinning the roses on.

The roses are also from my garden.  I try and cut as many as possible early in the season so they will be dried enough for the wreaths.  I think I’ve finally decided that it is best to cut them while they are still closed. They will still dry even when opened, but the color stays darker when they are closed.

The poppy seed pods were neat!

I really like the poppy seed pods!  This is my first time using them in a wreath. I know they dry brown, so I’m not sure how it will look in a few weeks time. I’ve also learned NOT to turn the wreath upside down as millions of teeny tiny seeds will go everywhere! 🙂

I LOVE making lavender wreaths! I had to stop at three because I don’t have any more wreath forms and I can’t seem to get my hands on them here!  Please let me know if you see where I can buy them in Ireland!

Plain and simple with LOTS of lavender.

A little bit more than “plain and simple”, but still LOTS of lavender!

Over the top! A lavender wreath with yarrow, roses, poppy seed pods, rosemary, and one globe artichoke. Oh – and LOTS of lavender!

Whatever lavender doesn’t get used in the wreaths will be taken off of the stems and stored in containers to be made into sachets (eventually).  The lavender stays fragrant for a very long time!

There is lavender growing around our playhouse, too!

I have not harvested all of my lavender, as that wouldn’t be fair to the bees!  No, there is still plenty for them.  I will have to trim those plants later in the season, after the bees are finished with them.

I hope you enjoyed seeing how I create my lavender wreaths!

In peace,

“… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”



Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who happened to have a home in Hyde Park, NY, which is not far from where I’m from, was speaking in his first inaugural address as U.S. President in 1933, in the depths of the depression, when he spoke the words “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.  What a statement of truth. Although, thankfully, I have never had to face anything like the Great Depression, I have found myself thinking from time to time, of this statement about fear, as I conquer little fears in my life.

I was fortunate to be able to bike with my brother during a visit home to the US. We had fun cycling along the greenway in Connecticut.

You might laugh, but one of those little fears of mine was of using clip-on cycling shoes. (I said you might laugh!)  A number of years ago I became interested in triathlons. I trained and competed in a few, and I had a lot of fun doing so. Typically though, when cycling for the distances I was, you’d trade in your sneakers and pedals for special cycling shoes which clip on to special pedals. Of course, being clipped in means that you have to unclip to be able to put your foot on the ground to either balance yourself or get off of the bike. It takes some getting used to, to be able to quickly “free” your foot.  You’d be surprised at how often you’d have to stop suddenly, and put your foot down quickly! If you don’t unclip fast enough, you, and your bike, tip over.

I enjoyed triathlons for a number of years. This was a special bike that I had (and used) for 15 years! (notice the cages on the pedals)

Well, I was afraid of tipping over so I stuck with my sneakers and ordinary pedals … for years (many, many years).  When we moved to Ireland 10 years ago, I stopped cycling for a while. But a few years ago I started again.  Then last year I upgraded my bike, and finally, just a couple of months ago, I decided to upgrade to clip-on shoes.  Even entertaining the idea was huge progress for me!  I was finally leaving my comfort zone. I had the support of my husband, who has become an avid cyclist.  He knew that after I got the hang of them, having the proper cycling shoes would actually help my cycling! Oh I was so stubborn, due to my fear.

My husband and I biked 90 km round trip to Bergerac, while on vacation in France. I tipped over at around 30 km – but I’m still smiling!

The first few cycles with the new shoes went great, but I hadn’t really been tested with a need to quickly un-clip.  That would happen on our vacation, when we were cycling in traffic!  There was, as it usually happens, a need to stop quickly and I was able to un-clip in the nick of time! Let me tell you that my heart was racing!  Well, that worked out O.K.; I managed to not fall over, or get hit by a car!

I loved biking and enjoying this amazing scenery along the coast in France.

There is a little more to this story, though. On another outing while on this same vacation, I managed to actually tip over.  I was really lucky to have it happen the way it did!  We were in the country this time (no traffic!), and I was going really, really slow as we were debating if we were going to turn around at this junction or the next, and as I went to turn, I hadn’t maneuvered properly and as if in slow-motion, I tipped over! Thankfully I didn’t hurt myself, and I learned that you can still un-clip as you are falling. 🙂

We enjoyed cycling along the greenway paths in France.

I’m still super cautious with un-clipping, but I’m so glad that I finally switched over to proper cycling shoes.  They really do make a difference with your cycling!  And it all came down to conquering my fear.

Here we are on a break while biking around our home turf in Annagassan, County Louth.

As I get older, I have become more aware of little fears that have held me back. Little by little, though, I’ve been learning to face them and over come them.  Because if we face what is in front of us, then as FDR said, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”.

My husband and I really enjoy cycling together (my cheeks are really pink from working hard!)

What little fears will you conquer?

In peace,

And this is what all of the fuss was about! Well, sorta. The fuss was really about overcoming a fear, which, although it took years to do, I did overcome. It’s those little things that make us who we are 🙂

End of a Chapter


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In the beginning… Emer and I in 2007 at a swim gala

They say all good things must come to an end.  But maybe instead of it being the “very end”, it is just the end of a chapter? … My daughter and I are just home from the Stuttgart International Swim Fest competition, and with the end of that competition is the end of the season for us.  Since she will be going away to college next year, it also means the end of her swimming with the team.  For the past 8 years I have been coaching with the team while she swam.  But with her leaving, I felt it was the right time to say “good bye” to the team.

My daughter and I at a Sliabh Beagh event in 2015

I swam competitively from the age of 10 all the way through and including in college.  I loved swimming, and being a part of a team, and I was lucky to have had some very good coaches.  Fast forward a few years, and my daughter, at four years of age, asked if she could join the summer swim team! The summer swim team was all about having fun in the water, and she loved it! After our move across the ocean a few years later, her love of swimming continued and we were super fortunate to be introduced to the Sliabh Beagh swimming club (pronounced Sleeve Bay, and named as such after the mountains in the County Monaghan region).

The Sliabh Beagh Aqua Sprint squad after winning their 2012 final

It was at a swim gala in the early days with the club that I was talking with one of the “senior” parents on the team, when the topic of coaching came up. During the conversation she asked if I’d be interested in coaching with the club.  Honestly, I’d never thought about coaching before then.  Also, I wasn’t sure what it would be like coaching the youngest squad!  But I went through the coaching courses, as well as licensing, and pardon the pun, I then dove right in! I was very lucky, the kids were great, the parents were supportive, and our coaching team was excellent. I have learned so much over the past 8 years!

The Sliabh Beagh Aqua Sprint squad after winning the 2014 finals (I think I am calling for someone to join in the picture…)

My younger daughter joined the team as well.  I stayed with the younger squad while she was swimming with them, and then moved up the squads as my girls did.  My girls were receptive to my coaching, and never minded when I was in their squad, and I’d go so far as to say they liked it.  🙂

My two girls at the National Aquatic Center in Dublin for a swim competition

I was a tiny bit surprised how much I enjoyed coaching. I mean, I loved coaching. It was so much fun helping the kids to achieve their best, and watching their improvements along the way.  I’d have to say that I was persistent with my kids, until they were finally able to maintain the changes/improvements in their strokes.  I learned that you can’t coach everyone the same.  That can be a little tricky when you have lanes filled with kids, but I think over the years I managed to figure it out.  My favorite expression from our head-coach (he has LOTS of expressions) is that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  I’ve used that countless times, not just with the kids, but with myself.  It takes time to make changes, and make things happen.

My daughter and I at Division II swimming competition in Limerick 2014

I’ve coached a lot of kids, and I’ve seen kids with natural talent, kids with a huge passion for swimming, and kids with an incredible work ethic. There were, too, the kids who were just in it for fun, and that’s O.K., too.  I think what sticks in my head most is that every little thing counts, and when you focus on all of those little things (one at a time!), you can achieve your goals. It takes time, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but with persistence, it is possible. That mindset is completely applicable to everything in life!

Sliabh Beagh swim club, swimmers, parents and coaches in Eindhoven 2017

Our family has really enjoyed being a part of this team.  Everyone, from swimmers to parents, to coaches, has been great to work with. Three years ago they started a new tradition of attending an international swim competition near the end of the season.  That has been one of the major highlights for so many of our swimmers and parents! For some, that is the end of their season and they really end it on a high!  We’ve been to Stuttgart, Germany twice and Eindhoven, The Netherlands once.  All three trips were so much fun for everyone!

The Stuttgart International Swim Fest opening ceremony in Germany 2016

Swimming outdoors, for our Irish team, was so much fun! My younger daughter and I at the Stuttgart International swim fest 2016

It is bittersweet, stopping coaching for now.  I still love it, but our team practices at 5:45 A.M., and it is a 40 minute drive for me.  That equates to an insanely early start to the day!  It sounds a bit crazy to non-swimmers, but to swimmers who understand the dedication that is necessary, and getting in those minimum two hours of practice a day, this is our reality.  And since my younger daughter had to stop swimming last year for medical reasons, I won’t have anyone swimming with the team.  So for now, I think a little break would be nice.

My daughter and I in Eindhoven at the International Invitational Swimming Competition 2017

It is wonderful to see the kids continue on and swim in college, too.  Our goal as coaches is to develop Long Term Athlete Development and encourage “Swimming for Life”.  We want to keep kids swimming into old age!  We’re not interested in quick rises to the top and then burnout, which can happen so easily in this sport.

My daughter and I on our way to Stuttgart 2018

Sliabh Beagh ASC – swimmers and coaches, Stuttgart International Swim Fest 2018

I was very lucky. We were part of a team where the swimmers benefited hugely from the way the team nurtures the overall well-being of each swimmer.  They nurture good team-mates, and character, in addition to helping to build top-class athletes. This stemmed from the team’s founders, head coach Eamon and his wife Ita.

I have learned so much from our head-coach Eamon and I had a lot of fun with my Aqua Sprint co-coach Linda!

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to coach such great kids along side some great coaches and an amazing support team.  I appreciate how wonderful it is to be able to do something you LOVE!

Our team secretary, Claire, who does more for our team than any one human being could possibly do!!!

And just like that, the chapter is finished …  Thank you so much for the wonderful memories,  Sliabh Beagh ASC.  It truly has been a gift.

In Peace,

The Importance of Friends


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Now that’s a funny title for a gardening blog, isn’t it? But as I was gathering the pictures of my Iris plant which I was going to write about for this blog post, I was brought back to when I bought the plant and who I was with: my gardening girlfriends.

The Gardening Gals Gang on our “getaway to the UK” in 2017

This got me thinking about the friendship I share with these special women, and how important that is to me. There is a small group of us, all brought together by Susan. We enjoy each other’s company and we especially enjoy anything and everything related to gardening. When we first started getting together, we would tour our own gardens and share our plants. We’ve moved on to exploring other well known gardens both in Ireland and in the UK. Last year we ventured over to England to Chipping Campden, and visited the gardens at Hidcote and Kiftsgate.  But it was on one of our ‘Irish outings’ when I purchased my ‘Benton Storrington’ Iris.  We were in Wexford visiting the beautiful Bay Garden, when we then stopped by the Camolin Potting Shed, which is a great place to find more unusual items for your garden.

Iris ‘Benton Storrington’

We had a wonderful day out at the Bay Garden.  Our chat is never just about gardening, but about all facets of life! I’m sure we solved all of the world’s problems that day! Not only that, we were also rather successful on our quest for some special plants.

the Gardening Gals plant purchases in Wexford 2016

I can feel my spirits lift when I am around good friends, it is so wonderful. Sometimes life gets too busy, and we might only have time for quick notes on the computer, which is O.K. short term. But nothing beats a good ol’ chat – either in person or on the phone! It is just good for the soul.

Iris ‘Benton Storrington’

It is tough to find time to nurture relationships, especially when our lives are a little too jam packed with activities.  I am quite guilty of being involved in too many things sometimes!  But thankfully, I have good friends who are patient and always there for me when I show up 🙂

Iris ‘Benton Storrington’

It is a little funny, too, that a lot of the flowers I’ve planted in my garden have connections to the people in my life. I simply love flowers and plants and trees, so if I associate one with you, that means I really like you!

Iris ‘Benton Storrington’

Just a quick word about the Iris which this post was about: I wanted to add a bearded iris to our garden, but was looking for the right color. Having only a picture to go on, I decided to give this one a shot. I planted my two rhizomes in April 2016 and this year is the first year I have blooms.  It not only bloomed, it more than doubled in size. Unfortunately, it spread in the direction of one of my hydrangea, and was mostly hidden after it flowered.  I will have to move it to a more open space, where the rhizomes can continue to be exposed to the sun.

Iris ‘Beton Storrington’ – a teeny tiny bit inside the hydrangea…

I have a love of flowers, and because of that I like to learn about them as I go along. After our iris bloomed I did some research on the name. The history is rather interesting!  Cedric Morris, an artist and plantsman, bred the Benton iris, raising thousands of this bearded variety from seed. The name comes from the area in which Cedric lived: Benton End, in Suffolk. This all took place between 1934 and 1960.  Years later, Sarah Cook, a head gardener at Sissinghurst Castle garden, made it her mission to bring this collection of iris “back to life”, for which she has had amazing success. She teamed up with Howard Nurseries and achieved a Gold for their display at the Chelsea Flower Show 2015! These iris are known in particular for their subtle and delicate colors and markings. If you’d like to learn more you can visit The Big Delve website or for some amazing pictures of fields of the iris visit Gap Gardens website.

I’m glad for this lovely addition to my garden.  But really, more important than my new flower, the bottom line is to take time to nurture those friendships!

Which flower are you associated with? 🙂

In peace,

In my tasty June Garden


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allium purple sensation is now “finished” in the garden

When it comes to the garden there are changes going on all of the time.  Just like in life, time moves forward whether we are ready or not!  The garden has moved from showing off spring flowers on to growing our fruit and veggies and showing off some early summer flowers. We live in County Louth, and although other parts of the country have had rain, it has missed us for the good part of 4 weeks.  I can really see and feel the dryness in the garden.

A very dry veggie and fruit garden

Look at that grass! Granted, we don’t pay any attention to the grass other than mowing it (probably too short, I might add), but it is usually *green* and not yellow.  Anyway, this is an early June look at our pumpkin and zucchini (courgette) plants, along with our blueberry and strawberry plants, and our pear tree.

organic zucchini (courgette)

The organic zucchini plant was given to me in May.  Actually, I did a little bit of a swap, and traded sunflowers for zucchini.  It is great to find someone who grows organically and likes to share! We mixed in a good amount of our compost when we planted them.

organic pumpkin plant

The picture above is of one of my pumpkin plants.  Pumpkins LOVE compost.  We worked in as much compost as we could into this bed.  The seed for this plant is actually from the pumpkins I grew in 2016.  While I did try to grow from last year’s seeds, they didn’t produce anything.  So I then tried the seeds from the previous year, and “Bob’s your Uncle” – they grew! 🙂


The blueberry plants are overladen with berries this year and the berries are growing to a nice size!  I am still trying to figure out if my soil has enough acidity for blueberries, as some years they do well and some they don’t. I’ve given them lots of my compost early on in the season, and I’ve kept them watered during this dry spell.  We’ll see how it ends up!

green strawberries

The strawberries are still *very* green, and not very big.  They, too, were lucky recipients of our compost (there is never enough compost, so I have to pick and choose which plants get it!).  I’ve also made sure to water them, so again, I’m hopeful that over the next week or two we’ll get some nice color in them (and a little bit more growth!).

baby pears in early June (strawberry beds in the background)

Our pear tree is doing well again this year.  It is only in the past few years that it has produced fruit, but boy was it worth the wait!  These guys are teeny tiny right now, and only the width of a small finger.

This picture is of our pears in September 2017 (they were delicious!)

another look back at our fall garden of September 2017 with sunflowers, pumpkins, pears, and blueberry plants which have pretty red leaves

a full bed of sunflowers early June 2018

I have tried a new location for sunflowers this year.  I’ve alternated garlic and potatoes in this bed over the past few years, so it was time for a change.  We apparently didn’t dig up all of the spuds last year, as there are some growing up between the sunflowers…  These lovely plants are all grown from my sunflower seeds from last year. My father-in-law kindly started them for me in his greenhouse.  They have really shot up over the past number of weeks, and look to be quite happy!

You have to be sure not to wait too long to collect the sunflower seeds as the birds LOVE them and will clean out the entire flower heads before you know it! (sunflower from our garden Fall 2017)

I really should write a post just on compost, because it is so beneficial!  I’ll put that on my to-do list.  Here’s a look at our “summer” compost heap:

Compost heap (top layer is all new season grass) with a fab overhang of Elder trees!

Underneath all of the new grass is aged compost from last season

It is worth digging the good stuff out from underneath the grass!

I have a separate tumbler for food compost, but I think I will leave that picture for another post!  Thankfully, no one can really see our compost heap, and the sight of it certainly doesn’t bother me given how good it is for the garden!  But I really don’t want to end with pictures of my compost.  I’m going to first show you a picture of tulips and our Hawthorn trees when they were beautifully in bloom with white flowers.  This year I really think the flowers came and went too quickly!  And then I’m going to end with a picture of an early summer plant (peony).

Queen of the Night tulips with a backdrop of Hawthorn trees in flower

Paeonia Bowl of Beauty – all four pictures are different flowers but from the same plant

I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of my June garden. Anything tasty or pretty growing in yours?

In peace,

The charm of Lilacs


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a view of our garden in May

The wonderful thing about moving into a home which doesn’t have a garden plan, is being able to create one yourself!  When we moved here, our home had some lovely lavender plants in one section near the house, but otherwise it was all grass.  It has been an eight year “work in progress” project, and it honestly still is a “work in progress”, but I’ve been able to add so many of my favorite things, including lots of lilac!

Syringa v. Beauty of Moscow sitting in a very small Irish Pottery milk jug

For all of the years I have lived in and visited Ireland, May traditionally has the most wonderful weather with warm temperatures and sunny blue skies.  This year was no exception, and the weather was a perfect backdrop for the lilac shrubs we planted a few years ago.  I love the scent of lilacs! Unlike lavender, where you need to brush against the plant to enjoy the scent in the garden, Lilacs are fragrant all of the time after their flowers bloom.

Syringa vulgaris ‘Andenken an Ludwig Spaeth’ has a deep wine color

Syringa vulgaris Ludwig Spaeth early in May in evening sunlight

I have five varieties of lilacs. Our first lilac was a pink variety called Beauty of Moscow.  The buds are a light pink and then when it blooms the flowers are white.

the flower buds of the Syringa vulgaris ‘Beauty of Moscow’ are light pink and when they bloom the flowers are white

The lilacs have taken a few years to settle in. The only extra care I give them is adding my compost to the soil around them.  This year the shrubs are the most floriferous.  It has been worth the wait!

Syringa v. ‘Sensation’, ‘Andenken an Ludwig Spaeth’ and ‘Charles Joly’

I’m not sure if I can pick one as my favorite, but I *really* like the variety ‘Sensation’.  It is the smallest of the tree-like shrubs, growing at a slower pace, but none the less, it also looked very well this year.

Syringa vulgaris ‘Sensation’

If you are looking for a small, extremely slow growing lilac shrub with huge bang for your buck in the fragrance category, then I would suggest Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’, pictured below.  This little shrub was planted 6 years ago! Although small, the fragrance is mighty!

Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’

The flowers are quite delicate.

close-up of Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’

My least photographed lilac is the Syringa v. ‘Charles Joly’. It just seems a tiny bit messy to me!

Syringa vulgaris ‘Charles Joly’

I have so enjoyed watching as these shrubs come into flower and bloom, and of course I’ve enjoyed their wonderful scent.

Watching (and smelling) these shrubs has been such a lovely way to transition from spring into summer!

I hope your weather has been as agreeable!

In peace,