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,
Dana

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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! 🙂

blueberries

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,
Dana

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,
Dana

So many butterflies … of the crochet variety!

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crochet butterfly blanket (with our apple tree and cherry tree in the background)

This sounds a bit of a cliché, but creating a special, unique and personal gift is something that I love to do. There is a young special person in our lives, and I wanted to make her a gift which she would know was made just for her. Although the “perfect” idea did not come to me easily, and I did a lot of searching on-line, I think in the end that I found exactly what I was looking for.  🙂

This is my crochet “butterfly blanket”!  The butterflies are crocheted and are part of the blanket (not appliqué).  But I discovered that although the butterflies were so cute when I made them, the wings were curling up and then they just looked like bunches of yarn.  Perhaps if I blocked them they would stay in place, but instead of doing that, I decided they would look nice embellished with sequins and beads.

the details

Yes, sequins and beads … on every. single. butterfly.  … and there are fifty-five butterflies! I have to admit though, that I really enjoyed this part. I mixed and matched colors and somehow it all came together in a fun way.

more details

As for the colors, lavender, light pink and light blue are the favorite colors of our special little person.  Those colors were the main focus of the blanket, with yellow and raspberry thrown in to add that splash of color. I used my favorite yarn, which is Caron simply soft. They have an amazing range of colors!

my daughter was kind enough to model the full view of the blanket for me

I have to admit that although I used a pattern to create the butterflies, there is no “overall” pattern. (You can see the free on-line MyPicot butterfly pattern here.)  If I were to make this one again, I would definitely do more “before we start” planning. The complete randomness of the butterflies is O.K. by me, but for my daughter who is mathematically minded, it is very unsettling!

a relaxed look

Borders of blankets can be tricky.  I played around with this aspect of the blanket, too. I used the “bangles” pattern from Nicky Epstein’s “Crocheting on the edge” book.  The blanket took on completely different looks with each round of color that I added! But when I completed the blue round, I felt it looked complete.  Phew!  I finished it the day before our special someone’s First Holy Communion!

our little special someone is all smiles with her special blanket!

Thankfully, she smiled when she opened her gift.  (double phew!!)

That’s three blankets in over eight months (I’m a slow crocheter), so now it is time for me to take a tiny break – at least from making blankets!

You will now find me in the garden on a more regular basis 🙂

In peace,
Dana

Spring Reflections

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Queen of the Night Tulip

I love spring! It is so nice to welcome in the warmer weather, the singing birds, and the colorful flowers.  These are such simple pleasures, and all it takes is a conscious effort to stop and make the time to appreciate them. I genuinely LOVE these simple pleasures! This is what I hashtag #beautyallaroundyou.  (Sorry, I can’t help myself!)

cherry blossoms and bluebells

It is also the time when I plan out any changes or additions to the garden.  I add at least a few new things to the garden every year.  I just like to have something new to look forward to!

New additions this year: Tulips Don Quichotte and Mystic van Eijk surrounding viburnum

Apple blossoms from our Arthur Turner (cooking) apple tree and our new tulips surrounding the viburnum

The viburnum in the photo(s) above isn’t new. I had it in a pot for two years.  It was happy for the first year, and then it wanted more attention which I neglected to give it.  So I hoped it would be happier in the ground, and so we planted it at the end of last season, and then added tulip bulbs around it last fall.  The viburnum has lots of little blooms on it, but they are a light green still, whereas when they are in full bloom the flowers will be white.

a nicer view of the colors of tulips Don Quichotte and Mystic van Eijk

I have some (O.K., LOTS of) ideas for additions to the garden.  I have to pace myself though, as it is a lot of work to take care of!  I don’t use any chemicals, so that means there are a lot of weeds to pull!  It also means that there are a lot of weeds I don’t get around to taking out, and that is O.K., too.  I really enjoy working in the garden, but I want to be able to enjoy other activities, too, so I just have to be conscious not to over do it.

Parrot tulips

This garden needs some more tulips!

The above picture shows the bed which has the pink parrot tulips in it. They are near the end of their lives in this picture.  But we have lost some of these tulips over the years, and I really would like to get more for this bed.  The bright pink flowers in front are bergenia and they are doing great!

bergenia in front and parrot tulips in the back

I will be changing around our vegetable/fruit garden a tiny bit.  I have been focusing more on flowers than food, and the garden just needs some adjustments.  It is all part of maintaining a balance.  Here’s a look at some of the fruit that looks great right now in the early stages!

blueberry flowers and a bee

teeny tiny pears

cooking apple (Arthur Turner) blossoms

eating apple blossoms

But my favorite bed at the moment is the one that has our Japanese Maple. It took us nearly three years to realize our Japanese Maple was extremely unhappy (we had different issues with it along the way).  But I think we’ve managed to finally get it right with this tree, as it looks beautiful this year!

side view Japanese Maple garden

I find it peaceful and rejuvenating when I get to spend time in the garden.  Oh, and I also LOVE to take pictures!  Lots and lots and lots of pictures!

Bluebells and Japanese Maple tree

I hope you also get to enjoy some time in the garden! But either way, I hope you enjoyed your visit to my garden. 🙂

In peace,
Dana

The Right Time (Boxwood Planting)

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timing when to plant

My life can feel pretty crazy at times.  So I like to have some order to it, and sometimes that plays out in the garden.  I think boxwood plants, also called box, genus name buxus, are the epitome of orderliness.  Their shapes and lines in the garden can be so pleasing to the eye. They are easy to grow, shapeable, and are perfect for borders.

we have three round shaped boxwood plants on one side of this bed, with hedging on the other

my established boxwood, hedging a bed that is in transition (but at least the hedging looks good!)

They are also easy to propagate.  I like the idea of saving money, so we did a mass propagation last summer by simply taking cuttings and planting them in raised beds. The Royal Horticultural Society website is where I go to ensure I’m on track with my gardening.  You can click here to see their tips on propagation.  We kept the cuttings watered and weeded through the fall and winter.

boxwood cuttings in raised beds (gladiolus in the background)

Now, there are different theories on when to plant out those cuttings. You might decide to wait several years to replant them, or not!  I chose to wait only the one season, and plant them out in what would normally be spring, but what actually turned out to be winter weather.  Fall is another option for planting them.  So honestly, I don’t know how they’ll fare, but they are still looking O.K.

boxwood cuttings (and pumpkin vine) October 2017

A view of our second bed with boxwood hedging which is still filling in, while on the left we have rounded shaped box plants (the newest bed which the box are now planted in is that mess on the far side of this bed)

We spaced the new plants about 12 inches apart.  We have box in two other beds.  One is well established (which is where we took the cuttings from), and the other is still filling in.  Box is slow growing, and easy to shape.  It can grow in full sun, or in shade.

freshly planted boxwood plants

Like I said, it is an easy to grow plant!  There are two important things to remember: young plants shouldn’t be allowed to dry out (not an issue here!), and equally as important is they shouldn’t be allowed to sit in waterlogged soil.  The later could be an issue here in Ireland in winter.  They like to be fed, which I’ll do in the spring, well, now really but I was hoping the weather would improve a bit first.

second bed with boxwood hedging

the first bed where I planted box hedging

Young hedge should be cut back by a third in May to promote full, “bushy” growth. Mature hedging should be trimmed in August. This is also the time to shape topiaries. The difference between May and August trimming is that in May the freshly cut new growth branches are left susceptible to weather damage and diseases. In August the new growth branches are simply stronger (hardened off).  The last grouping, old neglected plants (imagine!), do well with a hard pruning in late May.

our fresh boxwood plantings

Please just ignore this small tree in the corner of the picture above, which needs to be relocated!

some of the David Austin roses in bloom last year – pre box planting

our rose bed filled with David Austin roses now has boxwood hedging

I am looking forward to seeing how this bed fills out with both the roses and the hedging.

Helleborus orientalis Double Ellen Red is a new addition to the Rose bed

I will keep you updated on how the newly planted boxwood fare!  Hopefully, there will be good news to report 🙂

In peace,
Dana

An “Elmer” blanket – because to be yourself is the best way to be!

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One of our favorite children’s books!

Isn’t it wonderful how children’s story books are able to teach life lessons in such a fun way? A favorite book of my family is Elmer by David McKee.  The copyright is 1968, and the story still holds its worth today. It is the tale of a patchwork colored elephant who doesn’t like being different than all of the other elephants. He tries to change by acting and looking like everyone else, but he learns along the way that everyone loves him for who he is, and that it is always best to be yourself.  Such a simple, touching story.

19 of the 21 colors used in the blanket (navy and cream are missing)

I wanted to make a special blanket for my daughter’s 18th birthday, for her to take to college next year.  We had been looking at lots of different styles together, but once we had the idea for an Elmer blanket, that was it, the decision was made. I took out our copy of the book and kept it nearby, for nostalgic reasons.  It surprises me how even still, every stage of parenthood is such a gift. I could write so many things to describe how wonderful my daughter is, and how much we love her.  I won’t do that, though! 🙂  I will simply share that she is someone who has always been comfortable being herself.

having fun with granny squares

So this is the story of my creating our own Elmer blanket.  I was lucky to have LOADS of colors to use (21 different colors, actually).  I have no idea where I had all of that yarn stashed (read: hidden)! I’ve learned from previous projects that it is best to use the same type of yarn throughout a project.  My yarn of choice here was Caron Simply Soft.

the pattern is that there isn’t a pattern

The crochet squares are five rounds, which is somewhat large, but a very simple pattern. The center of the square is comprised of a pattern of 4 double crochet to 3 chain stitches, with each round after that increasing by 4, the final row having 20 double crochet to 3 chain stitches.  There are 150 squares, which comfortably covers a single bed.  I crocheted them together using a technique that doesn’t show the stitches on the front. I’d never done this before, so the Little Tin Bird’s tutorial was quite helpful.

 

The ears and tail are “free moving”!

I used gray as the first border color to connect it to our elephant story. Although Elmer would have been patchwork, I crocheted two gray elephants for two corners, again to connect it to our story. The elephant pattern was fantastically easy, as written by Repeat Crafter Me.   The purple border is because my daughter’s favorite color is purple.

a look at the blanket pre-fringe border

The final piece of the blanket is the ball fringe.  I wanted this blanket to be extra special so I went through many, many crochet books, and online sites, looking for the perfect finish.

creating and stuffing the balls

a bit of an operation going on…

I wasn’t sure about the “balls”, and the first one I made was too big.  But with a little tweaking, I figured out a size my daughter would be happy with.  We also decided not to have them at the top/bottom as they might get in the way with sleeping! There are 80 balls, 40 on each length of the blanket.  The ball fringe pattern can be found in Nicky Epstein’s “Crocheting on the Edge” book.

my favorite view of the fringe

What an amazing experience it was making this blanket.  I loved working with all of those gorgeous colors!  The balls were new to me, and fun and easy to make.  Best of all, my daughter loved it start to finish (I consulted with her all along the way).  It was truly a labor of love!

Emer with her Elmer blanket (and her sister kindly helping to hold it up!)

my daughter is happy with her new blanket

 

Sweet dreams

We could all use a reminder of Elmer’s lesson now and again – it is always best to be yourself!

that is me, being my (crazy) self!

In peace,

Dana

 

 

Creative Challenge Baby Blanket

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When it comes to knitting, sewing, and crocheting, my husband’s family are super talented.  We benefitted from that when our babies were born all those years ago, as we didn’t just receive beautiful blankets, but lovely sweaters, too.

Both my husband and son’s aran jumpers were hand made by my husband’s Aunt (October 2004 Manlius, New York)

I did very little crocheting during those years. Funny, I don’t really remember having any free time when the kids were young??? 🙂 But over the past few years I’ve managed to pick up my crochet needle again. The thing is, like everything in life, you can’t just do the same thing over and over again.  You have to either do things differently, or add a challenge lest boredom sets in!

Check the measurements on the packaging to save yourself the time and stress of measuring out (what should be) perfect squares 😉

This baby blanket project was for a very special baby.  Words can’t even describe how welcomed and loved this baby was, even before meeting any of the family!  So I wanted to try something new to make this gift extra-special.  I decided on making a quilt on one side of the blanket while keeping my traditional crochet on the other side.  The main item I wanted for this blanket, though, was the smooth binding that my kids loved to rub along their faces! “How hard could it be to incorporate those three things?” thought she to herself, quite innocently…

a view of the quilted side of the blanket sitting on what was actually my own rocking chair as a child

Well, I have to say that I learned a lot of new things with this project. I won’t give you all of the details, but the first thing was that you need to check the sizing of material when you buy it in cute little packages!  The quilting material was huge and I had to cut it into small squares.  🙂

the material is lovely and soft (albeit rather funny prints!)

I also learned to make sure that I have enough material on *both sides* of the blanket when joining.  On my first attempt to sew the crochet side to the quilt side I wasn’t able to keep them aligned.  I can tell you that only for my husband’s patience and his help taking the binding off, the project just might have been completely changed! {Thank you husband!}

the back of the crochet squares looked kinda neat

This is the part that strains my fingers the most: joining all of the squares together!

After the mess of needing to take the binding off, I needed a new plan.  So I added more squares to the quilt and adjusted the size of the crochet blanket.  Attaching just the binding to the quilt with the sewing machine was so much easier now! Then I hand sewed the crochet portion onto the blanket.  I have to say that I really enjoyed the hand sewing, which I would not have guessed beforehand.

sewing the binding on to the quilted side of the blanket

hand sewing the crochet side onto the quilted side

One day I’d like to improve my sewing skills.  For now though, it’ll just be baby steps with projects like this one.

I can’t miss an opportunity to take a picture of a baby blanket on our family antique potty-chair

As for the teeny tiny little granny squares, I thought they were so cute to make!  The colors are really fun and cheerful.   I used Mango, Sunshine, Robins Egg, Limelight, Soft Pink, and Off-White. The Caron Simply Soft yarn is one of my favorites to work with as it really is so soft and is a really nice weight.

I usually stock up on Caron Simply Soft yarn when I go home to the States 🙂

I love having things from my childhood, like this rocking chair

I really enjoyed making this blanket and trying something new.  There were a few things about it along the way that I just wasn’t sure about, but thankfully as time went on it all worked out and I love it!  And I think our sweet little one likes it too.

A happy little girl!

Here’s to a new year and new challenges!

In peace,
Dana

Because we are all worth it!

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I am usually a frugal gal. Well, I will admit that being frugal most of the time allows me to splash out when the occasion arrises.  I have no problem splashing out on certain things.  It all just depends on the situation.  Last year, I came across this vintage purse and it stopped me in my tracks. I thought, “this is beautiful!”.  As my older daughter’s favorite color is purple, I thought it would be something nice for her to have for really special occasions (her Debs this year, maybe? or a wedding?…). This would be one of those cases where I thought  “it is worth it”!  So under the Christmas tree it went.

a bag created by Cathy White using a vintage handle

It is a vintage bag created by Cathy White. I had the pleasure of meeting Cathy and speaking with her about how she makes the bags. The detail and care that goes into her work is simply amazing.  You can go and see more of Cathy White’s bags here.  While waiting for that special occasion, my daughter has the purse hanging on her bedroom wall with all of her “special memory” items.  It is gorgeous even hanging on a wall!

amazingly detailed

Fast forward to this year, and my other daughter’s Irish dancing school is planning to host a “World’s Ball” to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of their school at the World Championships of Irish dancing (most notably a new World Champion in the boys U16 category!). It is going to be a Black-tie affair.  Time to pull out all of the stops!

In my possession, for the past number of years, is a dress my mother gave to me which she wore when she was much younger.  I have been waiting patiently for the right occasion to wear this beautiful, green velvet, full length dress.  My mother is a bit taller than me, so I had to wear high heels, but otherwise it was a perfect fit!  It looked amazing!

My daughter and I at the ball

O.K., so I had the dress, shoes, and bag, but I still needed a shawl.  It was time to get cracking, as of course, I had too many projects going on at the same time.  I haven’t made anything like this before, and I couldn’t find any patterns on-line that were what I wanted. So it was a matter of trial and error.  Lots of error.  🙂

piece by piece it comes together

Crocheting the squares was the easy part.  Crocheting the squares *together* was the tough part.  I call this shawl bespoke because it is a one of a kind (mainly because I’m sure I can’t duplicate it)!

crocheting the squares together was rather tricky

The next process was “blocking” the squares, or in my case, the entire shawl.  This involves wetting it down and pinning it in place to dry.  It helps to keep the shape.  This really does work, especially with this project as it was quite floppy otherwise!

sequins for a bit of sparkle (this pic was taken during “blocking”)

I also added sequins to all of the blue flowers, because sleep wasn’t really necessary at this point.  My family thought I was mad.  But when I was finished, they “got it” and agreed that the sequins added a very fun, sparkly touch!

A vintage purse to match a vintage dress,  on a vintage gal!

Ta-da! Finished! Everything was so worth the effort.  The dress was beautiful (and can I say that it was really comfortable, too?!). The hairdressers completely transformed me. It is still a mystery to me how they do that.  My daughter, the shawl, the bag, everything was just lovely.  We had such a wonderful time at her ball. It was a very special night for us.

worth the effort

The simple message here is that we are all worth it. Splurge on that something special, don’t wait to use those special soaps, creams, candles; use them now! Buy the pretty purse, or dress, or the fancy yarn!

Live life. Be present. Be kind.

Because we are all worth it.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

In peace,
Dana

Nine Eleven, Because we will never forget…

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Artwork from the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, Massachusetts July 2017

This year marks the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11.  It is hard to believe so many years have gone by since that fateful day.  I know exactly where I was, and what I was doing, when life as we knew it suddenly changed forever.

In this part of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza the trees were planted in an orderly fashion in neat rows

This summer I had the chance to visit New York City. I had not been to the 9/11 Memorial, so I wanted to spend some time there. I confess that I was unprepared for my reaction. It was a beautiful sunny day, yet the atmosphere upon entering the plaza was sombre. It was quite emotional, overwhelming, and yet beautiful.  So beautiful.

This part of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza is where the trees were planted in “chaos”

All of the nearly three-thousand names of those who were senselessly taken from us in those attacks are engraved along the rim of the memorial.  I was struck … with sadness. I prayed for them, for us, for everyone.

The memorial pools

nearly three thousand names are engraved in the bronze parapets

The tree lined memorial pools are beautiful and serene.  I walked ever so slowly around them, needing to run my fingers over the names. So many names.

This brought more tears to my eyes …

I couldn’t speak.  I kept my sunglasses on, except to continually wipe my eyes. It was all too much.

A rose is placed upon the victim’s name on their birthday

Seeing the roses broke my heart.  I thought it was touching how each person is remembered on their birthday. Yet the tears flowed.

“Reflecting Absence” was what the architect Michael Arad, along with landscape architect Peter Walker, called their design

It was such an experience.  I felt the weight of so many sad stories. The pools, though, were so beautiful. I cannot explain it but the continually flowing water was so healing to listen to and to see.

The Survivor tree

Then we met a volunteer.  I was still choked up and couldn’t really talk, but I listened.  I listened as he told us the amazing story of the “Survivor Tree”.  This pear tree (or part of it, actually), was found at Ground Zero in October 2001.  It was in a terrible state and severely damaged, but remarkably it showed signs of life.  It was rehabilitated for nine years before being brought back here to the Memorial plaza. The volunteer pointed out to us how you could see the new limbs extending from the damaged stumps.  This tree, in so many ways, represents the determination of a survivor: to beat the odds and then to even go beyond that by thriving.

water flowing over the walls of the 9/11 Memorial pool

I was emotionally drained.  But what I was struck by was that over the course of the 24 hours I had been in New York City, this was yet another experience of a New Yorker being kind, warm and friendly to me.  It filled me with pride to be a New Yorker myself, even though I’m not from NYC.  In these times of uncertainty, it is heartwarming to see genuine kindness in so many people.

the 9/11 Memorial plaza

I hope that if you have the chance to visit New York City that you will make the time to visit this beautiful memorial and to pay tribute to all those innocent victims and national heroes. You can find more information about the Memorial here.  The memorial is located at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan at 180 Greenwich St.  I haven’t mentioned it in this post, but there is also a museum at this site.

May we never forget.

In peace,
Dana