Relinquish the reins

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Is it time to relinquish the reins?  For over 30 years our family vacations have had my husband as the driver and me as the planner, navigator, and organizer.  That changed recently when my family travelled to New York City from Ottawa for my niece’s wedding.  Our eldest son drove and his fiancèe was the navigator for the entire drive.  Our son also planned our (extensive) walking tour throughout Manhattan including subway connections to and from the home we rented in Brooklyn for the weekend.  All I did was choose and book the house through Airbnb and offer a few suggestions from the back seat when the directions on the GPS differed from the printed directions from Google maps.

Our family vacations are getting less frequent due to the fact that our three sons have grown into (wonderful) adults with commitments and plans of their own. For this reason, these vacations have become increasingly special to us as parents. Needless to say, three whole days of hanging out with my favorite people made me a happy woman.

So, are we ready to relinquish the reins?  You bet, in a New York minute!

A weekend in New York City

This past weekend my family travelled to New York City for my niece’s wedding.  We left Ottawa before the sun came up Friday morning and arrived at the townhome I had rented through AIRBNB a little over seven hours later. As there were six of us staying together, it was less expensive to rent a home than to book several hotel rooms.  I chose a place in the Park Slope neighbourhood of Brooklyn so we could walk to and from the wedding and still have access to subway lines for site seeing in Manhattan.  Once we got over the fact that we were staying in a stranger’s home, and past the tricky door lock, we all loved the coziness of the typical New York BROWNSTONE home and would use the service again.  Use this link for your Airbnb travel discount

 

I had prepaid for an overnight, covered parking spot for my son’s oversized truck with ParkWhiz for the weekend, but when he tried to park his truck, he was told they had no room for him.  After speaking to several people at that lot and another lot the company recommended, we were told that my original payment would be refunded if he paid for the new spot.  I still have yet to see a refund on my visa statement, but have contacted the company and was told (very good response time) that my refund will take a few more business days to process.  The bottom line is we did get parked and did not have to worry about further parking issues or driving in the city.

After unloading our luggage and a quick change out of our travel clothes, we headed to Manhattan via subway to take in some New York sights.  The architecture of the sky scraping buildings is magnificent. The clear blue sky as a backdrop was perfect for picture taking.  I especially loved the combination and contrast of the new with the very old…

 

My eldest son had mapped out our journey and we walked for miles and miles, trying to see everything in Manhattan.  We visited New York’s harbor, aka Battery Park, to view the Brooklyn bridge and the Statue of Liberty, strolled down Wall Street, to the ground zero site, through Tribeca, Greenwich Village, Times Square and Rockefeller Center…

 

Throughout our travels, we picked out and snapped pictures of many iconic landmarks and familiar (from TV) sites including Trump tower, Tiffany’s, Madison Square Garden, NBC’s news room, and Rockefeller Center …

 

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring of all the sights we saw, at least to my family, was the memorial site for the victims of the 9-11 tragedy where family members place flowers on the names of their lost loved ones on their birthdays.  It is incredibly beautiful; heart warming and sad at the same time.  The large, white, bird-like building in the last two pictures is the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, an architectural masterpiece

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Believe it or not, we took all of the above (and more, as I know I forgot to mention a few hot spots we visited) in Friday afternoon and evening, then headed back to Brooklyn on the subway.  Saturday morning we were able to walk through a beautifully verdant Central Park (at least a small portion of it) before it was time to get ready for the wedding…

 

The wedding we attended was beautiful, and lots of fun.  I have not seen my brother for several years; reconnecting with him was awesome and long overdue.  My parents had six children and fifteen grandchildren, but as they are currently living all over the USA and Canada, rarely (never) are they all in one spot at the same time.  Having four of us siblings and ten of “the cousins” (as they now call themselves) present at this event was nothing short of miraculous, but very touching.  At one point I overheard the cousins reminiscing about and toasting/roasting their beloved grandpa (my father).  They barely remember their grandma (my mother) as she died many years ago when they were all very young.

Our return trip to Ottawa from NYC seemed longer (it always does, doesn’t it?) than the journey to get there.  The trip took us over bridges, through tunnels, scenic neighbourhoods and lots of traffic, eventually winding through the mountain ranges towards the Canadian border, where we were met with a delay on the 401 due to an earlier accident.  Back to reality!

 

My father’s birthday is today; I know he heard his grandchildrens’ toasts and their plans to stay in touch and get together more often.  I could feel my parents’ presence that whole day; I know they were smiling down on the wedding and their family.

 

 

 

Favourite perennials and annuals this summer

Even though our summer was hot and sunny with very little rain, most of the perennials and annuals in my and my clients’ gardens were beautiful here in zone 5.  Here are a few of my favourites…

 

Although we are currently well into September, many of these continue to bloom.  The peach colored shrub rose, for example, has been blooming all summer in a pot on my back deck with lots of buds, promising even more blooms

Lily trees

For the past three years I have purchased lily tree bulbs in bulk to sell to my clients.  Whatever bulbs I do not sell and plant in my clients’ gardens, I plant in my own.  Every year there seems to be a new variety available in the lily tree bulbs.  The first season the plant grows to about three feet tall, the second year to about four feet tall and the third year over six feet tall.  Last year’s oldest plant had 16 blooms on it!  Here are a few recent pictures of the lily trees in my gardens…

 

 

I’m sure you agree, they are gorgeous!

 

How and when to water your garden and lawn

In drought conditions like we have been experiencing here in the Ottawa (and most of Ontario) area, it is important that you know how and when to water your garden and lawns if you feel you must do so.

  • water plants in your garden at ground level, at the base of the plants.  Don’t spray the leaves of plants.  The hot sun will burn the wet foliage. (see pictures below)
  • water early in the morning or just before sunset so the water does not evaporate as quickly as it leaves your hose.
  • water well less frequently.  A long soak every few days is much better than a quick daily spray.  This encourages deep roots for your plants (and lawns too)
  • don’t forget to water your trees too.  Let water drip from a hose at the base of the tree for an hour when no rainfall is received for 4 or 5 hot days.
  • remember, lawns will recover, but many plants and trees will not

Drought conditions in Eastern Ontario

On a recent trip along the 401 between Ottawa and Kingston in Eastern Ontario, I could not help but notice the toll that the drought conditions have taken on the trees.  Usually beautiful, lush green against the magnificent limestone rock cuts, many of the deciduous trees are currently a toasted, brown color.  The rocks absorb the heat from the sun making the high temperatures that much more dangerous for the trees.  The rocky landscape is not able to retain the limited moisture we have had from rain…

 

 

Even though this was mid-August, it looked more like October when the leaves have changed color and are about to fall.  Although we have had more rain this past week, I don’t think these poor trees will recover.

How to repair burnt lawns

If your lawn is burnt like mine is, late summer or early fall is the best time to repair it.  MARK CULLEN, a Canadian garden expert, has the following advice on the best way to make those repairs:

  • Spread Mark’s Choice Lawn Soil (found at Home Hardware stores) over the area you wish to re-seed, 2 cm. thick
  • Rake smooth
  • Broadcast Golfgreen lawn seed [Canadian for our lawns: 0% weed seeds] by hand
  • Rake smooth to incorporate into the soil.
  • Step on it or roll it with a roller 1/3 full of water. 
  • Water it every day that you do not receive any rain until established.  Do NOT let the seedlings dry out!  It is best to water first thing in the morning or in the evening.

 

I am willing to give his advice a try since my lawn looks terrible in its burnt condition.  I have tried overseeding (adding soil and seed to an existing lawn) before, but always end up with more weeds (left picture) than grass (right picture).

 I am not sure whether the weed seeds are in the soil or grass seed I choose, but I know they are in the MULCH  I have used recently.  Hopefully, I will be more impressed with Mark’s choice of products.