Winter Wander-land

Aylas Text

As a work at home mom, I’m used to getting my shorties up in the morning, off to school and home from school. These 4 hours of my day, to quote Charles Dickens, are “the best of times and…the worst of times….” Last week (thankfully before Juno hit the east coast) I was in New Jersey for work. I feel VERY blessed that I have the best job in the world. I feel even more blessed that my kiddos miss me when I am away! Continue reading

Holland Tulip Festival – Veldheer Gardens

Spring in West Michigan is famous for the Holland Tulip Time Festival. While I didn’t make it to the actual festival due to a million hours of soccer and baseball crammed into one weekend, I was able to take in some flowers at Veldheer tulip gardens. Apparently I wasn’t the only one that wanted to take advantage of the (finally) warm weather over Mother’s Day weekend. The farm was shoulder to shoulder in some places.

I will definitely visit Veldheer again next spring, however I’ll stick to a random weekday morning instead of a busy Saturday afternoon!

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So This Happened Over Winter

It’s been a REALLY long winter. According to the calendar spring started last Thursday, but according to my thermometer, that’s a big fat lie. This winter my dog and I gained 8 pounds each, we broke snow and cold records across the state and there are still piles of snow covering my garden. To add insult to injury, it’s snowing right now (again) for the third season in a row. My very insightful son said to me this morning “This would be really pretty if it was November, but now it’s just mean.” As usual, he’s astute, straightforward and right on. I’d like to think he gets that from his mom.

Despite the cold, lack of sunshine and my personal irritability, winter can also be kind of nice. Cold days and being snowed in are good ways to enjoy some (forced) downtime, unless you’re into extreme winter sports and love the snow…which I am not because my favorite outdoor winter activity is going inside. The thought crossed my mind that maybe spring won’t come I embrace winter and the good things that happened. So, here are a few of my favorite winter moments.

Snow and ice can really be quite pretty.

Winter in the Park

Winter walk through the park, before the ice froze.

After the ice storm

After an ice storm, the snow fell.

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Frozen nature is beautiful.

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Ice on Lake Michigan.

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Snowbanks taller than my 2nd grader!

I played A LOT of indoor soccer with a pretty cool group of people. We started off really bad, but now we don’t suck. We aren’t great, but at least we don’t suck and I’ve found my groove and starting scoring some pretty sweet goals. It’s great exercise once you get past the fact that I’m twice the age and ten times less the skill of the other players in our ‘beginner’ league. Ha! Beginner league my arse….I’ve learned soccer players LIE just because they are more concerned about winning. Case in point: scoring a goal with your head, backwards, is NOT a beginner move. It’s been a lot of fun though!

Can't play outside, but playing inside is dangerous! That's a soccer ball imprint on my leg.

Can’t play outside, but playing inside is dangerous! That’s a soccer ball imprint on my leg.

Winter is a great time to visit our local indoor botanical gardens. The humidity feels good and it’s always decorated so nicely.

A trip to the Botanical Gardens was needed!

A trip to the Botanical Gardens was needed!

Watching the water and birds in the warmth of the tropical gardens.

Watching the water and birds in the warmth of the tropical gardens.

I grew amaryllis and paperwhites all winter and had blooms from January up until the first week of March.

Amaryllis Nymph opening up!

Amaryllis Nymph opening up!

Pleasantly surprised by Minerva. My least favorite in photos, it bloomed beyond my expectations.

Pleasantly surprised by Minerva. My least favorite in photos, it bloomed beyond my expectations.

My favorite Amaryllis - Lagoon!

My favorite Amaryllis – Lagoon!

I cooked a lot. Maybe that’s why I gained the 8 pounds (or it was for survival, I needed the extra weight because -14 degrees could kill a thinner person). On top of cooking a lot, we also ate a lot of really yummy food!

Comfort food….simmering bacon jam!

Comfort food….simmering bacon jam!

Warming up with a giant goblet of his favorite caramel salted browie sundae!

Warming up with a giant goblet of his favorite caramel salted browie sundae!

At the end of the day, there was nothing warmer than the fireplace and a plush heating blanket.

London Le Chat warming up in his favorite spot in the house.

London Le Chat warming up in his favorite spot in the house.

What were your favorite winter moments?

Flower Drama is Good Drama

Many times when people use the word ‘dramatic’ to describe flowers it’s always in a beautiful way. This is why I like plants and flowers (and my dog and cat) more than I like most people. Flowers bloom dramatically, then they fade away gracefully. People can be dramatically ugly and then they just never go away. It’s enough to make a person want to shove a flower bloom up their nose and hope the beauty rubs off.

I wonder if people get more nasty in the winter months because they have nothing else to do but sit in the house and make up stories in their head that get their giant panties in a bunch. Whew! Now that I have that off my chest, onto the bigger and better winter drama….the blooms I’m surrounded by in my home!

I may live in an arctic tundra right now, but indoors it’s warm, cozy and blooming with life. Enjoy these dramatic beauties. My amaryllis are in full bloom, and so is my heart!

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Blooming Resolutions

The holidays are over and the New Year’s resolutions I didn’t make are holding their own! I’m really, really good at not making New Year’s resolutions. I’m really good at making Sunday night resolutions though, so I think that should count, right? A few Sundays ago I resolved to work on my winter bulb projects and this happened….

amaryllis and paperwhites projectI LOVE indoor winter gardening. By mid-January, I’m tired of the sub-zero, polar vortex air and am ready to smell some dirt! If you’ve never smelled a bulb, I highly recommend you try it before you plant it. It’s the perfect combination of the scent of dirt and potential.

I had a great time planting paperwhites and amaryllis in pots while sipping on my favorite red wine and listening to the Coffee House on Sirius (I had no idea Nine Inch Nails ‘Hurt’ could be converted into an acoustic blend of weirdness).

winter planting projects

I planted some bulbs in soil and some atop stones. A tip about planting on stones…don’t let the bulb sit in the water. The roots will find the water, but if you water it up to the bulb, the bulb could rot.

Here’s what is blooming so far.

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Hello sweetheart! Amaryllis Sweet Nymph starting to open.

I have 3 Nymph bulbs that I am waiting on right now. This little beauty will open up into layers of soft pink petals. I talked about Nymph in a previous blog and I’m finally able to grow it! The Nymph series , a series of 3 colors in pink, white and red, is shorter in stature and has larger, double blooms atop strong stout stems. I think Nymph resembles more of a poinsettia….only with more sparkle and beauty and if your cat eats it he won’t die (an added bonus).

Amaryllis Evergreen - such a unique shape!

Amaryllis Evergreen – such a unique shape!

Amaryllis Evergreen is also a new variety I’m growing this year. You can’t tell from the picture (or maybe you can) but the petals are actually shimmery! ONE Evergreen bulb gave me three stems with SEVEN flowers per stem. I couldn’t believe how many flowers I got and I was even more impressed with the fresh, lime green color.

The paperwhites are emerging slowly and seem to do better in the bathroom so I’m rotating them from my living room to the half bath (as if I didn’t have enough to do…yes, I love my flowers).

Do you grow amaryllis or paperwhites in the winter and have you had any success?

Best Job EVER!

I’m winding down in my hotel room tonight after a pretty mellow day at the Mothership. I telecommute from my home in West Michigan to the garden state of New Jersey. Once every couple of months I get the privilege to come hang out in the office with a pretty awesome group of people.

If you hadn’t heard, a winter storm named Dion gripped the east coast and from what I can tell on TWC, it sent weathermen into a frenzy of pure weather ecstasy and the locals into something close to a national disaster. Where I’m from, we don’t give our snow names. We call them WINTER…but I have to say it’s awfully cute to be part of here.

While Winter Storm Dion was pouring it’s flakes of furry over the course of my work day, I was working on loose ends and had so much fun watching my boss open up stacks of boxes. It was like Christmas morning and we were teenagers criticizing and sometimes giving the nod of approval to various winter blooming amaryllis packages. I have to say….I like ours the best!!!!

Last year my favorite amaryllis was Lagoon (still a huge favorite). This year, I have my eye on this beauty and I cannot wait to grow it! (photo courtesy of Longfield Gardens)

Amaryllis Sweet Nymph

Amaryllis Sweet Nymph

Have you grown amaryllis?

Life Grows On

Does anyone else feel like being thankful was really crammed down our throats this year? It was a weekend blitz of BE THANKFUL OR ELSE! followed by BUY NOW BECAUSE IT WILL BE GONE TUESDAY! I needed to pause and found a quiet place at mass on Sunday night with my daughter. The first Sunday of Advent service was thought provoking and made me seriously consider how I want my life to grow in the coming years. That can be an overwhelming thought when you consider how your personal decisions effect so many other lives. So instead of making a plan, I downloaded pictures while I thought about stuff.

Despite how busy and long the weekend was, I’m glad I got to spend time with these crazies. We had fun, spiked with little bit of family drama (why can’t everyone just get along)?! I am blessed knowing that no matter what direction my life goes, this group will always be my roots, keep me grounded and help me grow along the way.

WE LAUGHED!

Cousins laughing over deviled eggs.

Cousins laughing over deviled eggs.

WE DROOLED…. (okay, maybe only Maggie drooled)

Mmmm....turkey.....

Mmmm….turkey…..

WE DRANK! (I may have drank a lot)

Spiked hot carmel apple cider

Spiked hot carmel apple cider

OH MY…..we ate this. A whole lot of this.

Golden roasted turkey

Golden roasted turkey

We just hung out. :) Maggie and my dad did a lot of this when they weren’t in the kitchen looking for ‘just a taste.’

Grandpa and Maggie chilling out

Grandpa and Maggie chilling out – they take this very seriously as you can see.

We searched for the perfect tree….

On a tree hunt!

On a tree hunt!

WE FOUND IT!

The three best blessings in my life

The three best blessings in my life

We decorated it.

Oh! Christmas Tree!

Oh! Christmas Tree!

I hope however you spent the holidays, you lived in the moment, filled your bellies with food and your souls with laughter.

Worst Blogger Ever

Hi, my name is Marlene and I’m the world’s worst blogger. I think there should be an award for Worst Blogger Ever and it should come in the form of fermented grapes. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my blog. I think about topics all the time and say to the other voices in my head “I should totally write about that!” to which I respond “YES! You should!” to which I respond again, “I’ll do that tomorrow.”

Tomorrow’s list very rarely ever gets done and I cannot believe I let my blog’s one year birthday go by without so much as a smash cake to celebrate. I thought about it though. I know…shocking to think about the blog and do nothing about it. I realize this is a theme in my life….There never seems to be enough time to do the things I love to do for ME. There’s always another volunteer obligation, another load of laundry, another errand to run, another activity to drive my kids to. I know I need to be more aware of the things that are important to me and only me. I am going to thin out my excess baggage so that I can more fully enjoy the things I love. I know this will take time because I didn’t get this busy overnight. I’ve done it over years and I’m prepared to face what my life is if I’m not filling it with busyness.

This morning I stumbled across Brian Gardner’s blog post, Packing Light and Unloading the Excess baggage in Your Life. Sometimes someone can write something so fresh that it gives your soul the boost of oxygen it needs. That happened to me this morning and I thought about my kids, my unfinished fall garden projects and my blog. I started this blog with the intention of writing about all things I love that grow. I intend to keep it blooming.

Here’s a visual recap of the moments that made my heart bloom over the past couple of months. I’m moving on from from feeling guilty about not updating my blog and I’m going to make more room for writing, gardening and growing my children.

Summer was GREAT. Hot days by the pool, gardens in full bloom, warm nights, sun-kissed skin and bright skies.

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Summer birthday, summer beauty!

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Summer color in full bloom

Fall was fun! Cooler days, fall bloomers, Halloween, practicing for orchestra concerts and of course planting my bulbs in anticipation for spring.

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I have no idea where the sunflowers in my garden came from, but this rogue bloom brightened up this busy bees day and mine!

halloween decor

Cornstalks, mums and dried liatris from my garden are a great way to make Halloween decorations a little stylish.

cute witch

Cutest. Witch. Ever.

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He doesn’t sound like a dying cat! I’m truly impressed with my little violinist.

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One landscape bed and 500 bulbs later. Multiply that by 5 and that’s how much bulb planting I did this fall.

Winter is on it’s way, I can feel it in the air (and duh, it is the end of November…I’m just saying it now FEELS like winter). The first frost was beautiful! My daughter calls it frosting and I’ve never had the heart to correct her because it’s incredibly cute. I hope when she’s 20 she still calls it frosting!

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‘Frosting’ looks so pretty on dahlias.

raspberry bushes frost

Frosty raspberry leaves.

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IMG_1888Any tips on balancing life with taking care of your own soul are welcome!