Have you ever invited a child outside to help you in the garden? They are naturally curious about the outdoors, and most kids jump at the chance to explore the landscape. That is why, whenever I get the chance, I invite my grandkids to come with me when I’m working outdoors.

However, if you are expecting them to unleash their curiosity on the plants in the garden, when there are rocks nearby, you are apt to be disappointed. Children tend to focus on the rocks scattered throughout the landscape rather than on the lovely, flowering plants nearby.

My grandson, Eric, took the water bowl from our desert tortoise, took my hand shovel and proceeded to fill it up with rocks. 

Several years ago, my granddaughter, Lily, went through the same stage – grabbing rocks and playing with them. That small pile of rocks kept her occupied for a long time while I was planting containers.

I believe that it is the texture of rocks and their weight that attract children. Of course, rocks also make noise when you fill up a metal bowl with them.  

Rocks come in all sizes, and big ones are perfect for climbing on.

The outdoor environment is filled with wonders that children are anxious to discover – including the discovery that water comes out of hoses.

*Do your kids play with rocks? What else do they like to play with outdoors?

Petoskey, Michigan Lighthouse

While spring break is a time where masses of people escape the cold for warmer climates (like Arizona), we decided to do the exact opposite.  We flew out of warm, sunny Phoenix and headed to cold and snowy Michigan.

Now before you start to question my sanity, I have an excellent reason for bundling up and bracing myself for the cold, windy weather.  My daughter and her family call Michigan their home now, and since then, we try to make it out at least twice a year, and spring break just happened to be the best time to do it.

I always look forward to visits to their town of Petoskey, which sits on the shore of Little Traverse Bay.  It is a popular summer destination, and I spent several weeks here last year helping my daughter move into her new house and add new plants to her garden.

It is always fun pulling out my warm weather gear, which seldom gets used at home.  I knit these fingerless mittens a few years ago and rarely have a chance to wear them.

As a Southern California native and Arizona resident, I must admit that I have relatively little experience with cold weather so, it has been fun exploring the landscape and seeing the effects of winter.  Seeing the bay frozen in time where we waded in with our feet last June was exciting.

At the beginning of our week, the temperatures were in the mid 20’s with a brisk wind, and we were excited to see an unexpected snow shower.

I realize that many of you who have lived in areas with cold winters may be rolling your eyes at this point, but for someone who has always lived where winters are mild, the weather has been a novelty.

However, the novelty quickly wore off this morning when I stepped outside, and it was a frigid 16 degrees, and I learned why people start their cars a few minutes before they get in to let them heat up inside.  But, I braved the few steps from the house to the car, and we were off to my granddaughter Lily’s preschool class where I was to give a presentation on the desert and Arizona.

I brought photographs of the animals, cactuses, and flowers of the desert.  The kids were a great audience and seemed especially impressed with the following pictures:

  • The height of a saguaro cactus with people standing at its base 
  • A bird poking its head out of a hole in the saguaro
  • Cactus flowers
  • Aesop – our desert tortoise

I was struck by how different the desert is from the Michigan landscape and felt honored to expand their horizons.

On the way back from pre-school, we were tasked with bringing the classroom pet, ‘Snowball’ the guinea pig home where he will stay with Lily for spring break.  Doing little tasks such as this bring back happy memories of when our kids were little.

We will be home soon, and spring is a busy time for me.  I have new plants coming in the mail (straight from the grower) for me to test in my Arizona garden, I’ll be showcasing two new plants from the folks at Monrovia, and in a couple of weeks, I’ll be traveling again – this time to Savannah, Georgia for a fun project that I’m excited to share with you soon.

*What are you doing for spring break?

Life has been awfully busy lately.  So much so, that it has affected me from doing blogging as regularly as I like to do.  So, I would like to take a little time to let you know what I have been up to this past month.

Work has seen me driving me from one corner of the Phoenix metro area to the other, meeting with clients and helping them to create beautiful outdoor spaces.  In fact, I broke my record for the most landscape consultations in a single month.  Now that the holidays are here, work has slowed down a little.

A beautiful succulent, Euphorbia trigona

A beautiful succulent, Euphorbia trigona

One thing that I enjoy about visiting new clients is that I get to see impressive specimen plants like this Euphorbia trigona that flanked the entry of the Phoenix home.

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This is a truly beautiful succulent that lends a tropical look to the landscape.  It is very frost tender and must be protected when temperatures dip into the 30’s.  I’d say it’s worth the effort for a plant like this.

Coyote

Coyote

Encounters with wildlife happens often during my work.  However, seeing a coyote in the middle of the day is rather rare.  As I was driving home from a consultation, I saw this beautiful coyote walk across the street.  I stopped my car and it stood off to the side of road while I took a few pictures with my phone.

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While I’ve seen a number of coyotes over the years, most often their appearance reflects the hardship of living in the desert.  However, this coyote was the healthiest one that I’ve encountered.

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I think that it enjoyed the attention that I was giving it as it stood still for several seconds before walking off into the desert.

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Christmas is my favorite season of the year.   I enjoy shopping for the perfect gift, decorating the house, baking my favorite desserts, singing along to Christmas music in the car, and rejoicing in the reason for Christmas.

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Earlier this week, we filmed a video segment for our church’s upcoming Christmas Eve services.  We were asked to share the story of our daughter Ruthie’s adoption along with her cousin Sofie.  They were best friends in the orphanage when my sister and her family adopted Sofie back in 2006.  One year later, my husband and I went to China and adopted Ruthie.  So, they are not just best friends, but cousins.

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We taped the video at my sister’s house, which took over 3 hours.  The segment will probably only be 3 – 4 minutes in length, but I can hardly wait to see their story shared and hope that it will inspire others.  I will be sure to share it with all of you at that time.

I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying this holiday season.

 

 

Landscape Renovation Project

Landscape Renovation Project

As a mom, grandmother, and horticulturist, the fall season is a very busy season for me.  Whether I’m busy on the work site, hosting a Halloween party, or helping out my mother as she recuperates from a broken leg – there is never a dull moment.

I thought that I would show you just a snippet of the events of the past few weeks.

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My mother’s orthopedist knows how to decorate his office for Halloween.

Over a month ago, my mother suffered a very badly broken leg that required surgery.  My very active and independent mother has been working hard with physical therapy and her recovery, but still has a few weeks left in a wheelchair.  As a result, my siblings and I have stepped in to help her where we can.  One of my favorite ways to help out is to take her shopping wherever she wants to go.  Of course, it helps that she and I like the same types of stores.  We got into a lot of trouble in Target’s dollar section buying Christmas decorations and gifts last week.

My granddaughter Lily enjoyed talking to our desert tortoise, Aesop, during her visit to Arizona from Michigan.

My granddaughter Lily enjoyed talking to our desert tortoise, Aesop, during her visit to Arizona from Michigan.

Visits from my oldest daughter and her family are always a highlight for us.

My 3-month old grandson, Leo, slept through most of his first visit to Arizona.

My 3-month old grandson, Leo, slept through most of his first visit to Arizona.

Every year on October 31st, my siblings and their kids come over for a fun night of Halloween-themed food and trick-or-treating.  It is so much fun to see the little kids get all dressed up for Halloween, including my grandson, Eric.

Eric dressed up like a 'Minion'

Eric dressed up like a ‘Minion’

While my two youngest kids are almost too old for trick-or-treating, they enjoyed dressing up and going with Eric.

Gracie was a 'bag of ice'

Gracie was a ‘bag of ice’

Kai was a 'computer error code'

Kai was a ‘computer error code’

Life hasn’t slowed down in November, which is the busiest month of the year for me as a horticulturist.

Mountain States Wholesale Nursery

Mountain States Wholesale Nursery

A highlight of this month was a visit to an open house at one of the pre-eminent nurseries of the Southwest.

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While you may not have heard of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, you have undoubtedly seen plants that they have developed, many which may be in your own garden.  Flowering shrubs such as ‘Valentine’ and ‘Blue Bells’ have their origins in the fields of this nursery as do many of the newest tecoma and desert willow species.

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I spent a fun-filled day with friends and colleagues touring the facilities and getting a sneak peek at their newest plants in production.  The perfect way to cap off our visit was being gifted with a new plant!

Next up on my agenda was overseeing the installation of one of my landscape projects.

Before

BEFORE

My clients, who live in New York City for most of the year, spend their winters and spring in Arizona.  They recently purchased a home with overgrown, excessively pruned shrubs as well as artificial grass with a putting green that they wanted to get rid of.

I initially met with them in April and put together a plan for a landscape that would reflect their style.  Once they came back to Arizona in November, they asked me to come out and oversee the installation.  

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A mixture of pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) and artichoke agave (Agave parryi ‘truncata’) are being planted in the area formerly covered by artificial turf.

Many of the old shrubs were removed as was the fake grass.  Contouring was added to help add height and interest to the formerly flat backyard landscape.


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Matt, is the landscape contractor, who I refer many of my clients too.  He has the uncanny ability to find the biggest, best plants – he holds his sources close to his chest, but as long as my clients are happy, so am I.

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I must admit that I am sorely tempted to grab one of his specimen cactus or succulents for my own garden.

BEFORE

BEFORE

The client wanted an area for a cactus garden.  So, we took out the shrubs in this corner and added cactus.

AFTER

AFTER

The saguaro cactus isn’t in place yet, but soon will be.  Our goal was to add several different types of cactus and succulents that the client liked, including beavertail, candelilla, golden barrel, Moroccan mound, and torch cactus.  An ocotillo anchors the corner and will eventually leaf out and flower, which usually occurs about a year after planting.

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A palo blanco (Acacia willardiana) tree will soften this area without outgrowing this area.

It is so rewarding to be a part of the process of homeowner’s landscape be renovated into a space that will provide them with years of enjoyment.

Despite the busyness this fall season, I am getting excited for the upcoming holiday season.  How about you?  What is keeping you busy this fall?

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*
This is what my mother’s vegetable garden looks like in the middle of winter.  
 
She works hard at growing a variety of vegetables in her two raised beds.  On Wednesday nights, we all gather for dinner at her house and get to enjoy many of the delicious vegetables straight from her garden.   
 
Sadly, her plans for this season’s vegetable garden faced a serious setback.
 
 
My mother fell and broke her leg while cooking dinner with my youngest daughter.  Both bones in her lower leg suffered multiple fractures, and a metal rod had to be inserted down into her tibia.
 
Understandably, she cannot put any weight on her foot for at least two months.  So, while she works hard at physical therapy to gain as much independence as she can – we decided to help out with her garden.
 
 
My kids, along with my nephews, were eager to help with Grandma’s garden.  We stopped by the nursery to pick up broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and leaf lettuce transplants while I brought some carrot and radish seeds from home.
 
Lucky for us, she had already amended her soil with one of my favorite soil amendments – used coffee grounds (from Starbucks).  I added some of my favorite organic vegetable fertilizer for the garden, and we were ready to start planting.
 
 
I instructed the kids on where and how to plant the vegetable transplants in staggered rows.
 
My sister was also watching us and even stepped in to help out, despite the fact that she never gardens.  
 
 
The kids were eager to help out their grandmother, and we all enjoyed out time out in the garden.  
 
I took a few photos to bring back to her at the rehabilitation facility where she is recuperating, to show her what her grandkids had done for her.


My mother is doing well and is working hard at her daily physical therapy sessions so that she can get home as soon as possible.  We visit her daily, and her room has pictures drawn by her grandchildren and cards from friends and family.

On our most recent visit, my grandson discovered the delights of pushing around his grandpa using great-grandma’s wheelchair.  His smile and laughter brightened everyone’s day.
 
Meanwhile, back at the vegetable garden.

 

 
I came back to check on the newly planted vegetables.  Most were doing quite well, but I did see a few plants with telltale holes in their leaves.
 
 
I discovered the culprit nearby.  Cutworms are caterpillars that eat holes in leafy vegetables as well as ‘cut’ off young vegetable transplants at their base. 
 
  
The cutworms did kill some of the newly transplanted broccoli, but most of the leafy greens were fine other than a few holes in the leaves.
 
I brought my favorite organic pesticide, BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), which kills the caterpillars.  I like to use Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz in my own garden, which helps keep the caterpillars at bay.
 
 
I sprayed all the vegetables, taking care to spray both top and underneath the leaves.  
 
BT can be reapplied every 7 – 10 days until the caterpillars are gone.  
 
**Note; it can be hard to find BT in your local big box store or even some nurseries.  However, you can find it offered online from garden supply companies and Amazon (affiliate link).
 

Have you planted any vegetables this season?  What are your favorites?

In today’s post, I’d like to share with you a very special day that we spent with our youngest daughter, Gracie.


For those of you who have followed me for a while, you will have read about Gracie’s story and how we adopted her from China back in 2003.


She was one and a half years old when she was adopted and had a sweet smile and a club foot.


Gracie brought instant joy into our lives and despite having a clunky cast on her foot and leg as her foot was being straightened, she always had a smile ready for us.  She rejoiced at belonging to a family for the very first time her short little life.


Three months after flying home from China, Gracie underwent surgery to repair her club foot.  

While her foot healed quickly, we soon came to realize that Gracie was suffering some delays in her development.  At first, we thought it was from her time spent in an orphanage.  However, later we learned that she had autism, or more specifically, Asperger’s, which is a high-functioning form of autism.

Gracie is now 14 years old and as you can imagine, life hasn’t always been easy for Gracie (or us), but on most days, she brings us joy and a smile.

This past weekend, we were able to take part in a special event in Gracie’s life.

She was set to participate in a Special Olympics event representing her school.


The day was set to be a hot one with record-breaking temperatures, but it was still lovely outside while sitting in the stands waiting for the events to begin.  


Only in Arizona are you equally as likely to bring an umbrella for a hot, sunny day as you are for a wet and rainy one 😉


The kids were all gathered off to the side of the field, enjoying the shade of the trees while awaiting their turn.  Gracie’s teachers were there along with other classmates who were to participate in the event.

There were also ‘typical’ kids who were there representing their teams as well and we waited while they competed until it was time for the Special Olympics portion of the event to take place.


Of course, waiting can also make you more nervous and Gracie wasn’t sure if she could do it.  Her events were scheduled to be the 100-meter dash and the long jump.  The problem was, she didn’t want to do the long jump.

Those of you who are parents of teenagers know that it can be hard to reason with your teen, but when they have autism, it is even harder as the regular arguments and persuasions don’t work. 

I wish that her dad and I could take credit for figuring out a way to inspire her to do the long jump but Gracie figured out a way for us to motivate her – promise to buy her a box of ‘Cookie Crisp’ cereal afterward.

At this point, I should mention that we rarely give our kids what we call ‘sugar cereals’, which are filled with empty calories and don’t fill you up.  But, I happily promised to drive to the store and buy her a box right after the race if she was brave enough to do the long jump – her school team was depending on her.

She also wanted a medal very badly.  So, I said that if she didn’t get a medal, I would make her one, to which Gracie said, “But you’ll have to buy spray paint, a circle-piece of wood and ribbon.”  At this point, I told her that I would be happy to make her the coolest medal I was capable of for her to wear.


Our son, Kai, also came to cheer Gracie on.  I love this photo that I was able to get of them – they rarely stand this close to teach other – ha, ha.

If you’ve ever spent time with people with autism, you may have noticed the blunt and honest ways they phrase things.  One of Gracie’s classmates noticed Kai standing next to Gracie and exclaimed excitedly, “Gracie, your brother, Kai, is here.”  To which Gracie replied, “Uh, I know…. he’s standing right next to me.”

The first event that Gracie was to participate in wasn’t the 100-meter dash as previously scheduled.  That event was cancelled and her team needed her to fill in the space of a missing team member for the 400-meter relay race.  Since that would entail Gracie running 100-meters, that would work.


She was nervous about dropping the baton, but she grabbed it and began running.


So far, so good. 


Go, Gracie!


Almost ready for the hand-off!


The hand-off went off without a hitch except that Gracie got a stomachache from all the excitement and running as she walked with her math teacher and coach to toward the rest of her team. 

After the race was over, the teams were asked to gather around the medal podium.


Guess who got a medal for helping her team come in second place?


Yeah!  That’s my girl!

All the kids who participated in the Special Olympics relay race received medals, but Gracie’s team did get second place, which made her feel extra special.


I guess I won’t have to make her a wooden medal now.

Next, it was off to the long jump, and hopefully, a box of ‘Cookie Crisp’ cereal afterward.


Gracie waited patiently for her turn and then pumped her arms very fast (for extra energy, she said) before taking off running.


And she takes off…


This is Gracie’s favorite photo since it looks like she is flying.


Nice landing!


As you can see, this was a very memorable day for both Gracie and us.  Being a teenager is hard enough without having autism.  When you pair that with the challenges that they face everyday trying to fit into a world whose rules and social norms don’t make sense, then you get an idea of what a momentous occasion this was for her.
Gracie wore her medal to church yesterday and it warmed my heart to see members of our congregation come up to hug and congratulate her.

**Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to read Gracie’s story.  It is an honor being her mom and sharing her story with you!

If you would like to see Gracie’s long jump video, I’ve posted it below.  You can read Gracie’s adoption story, here.


This year, the anniversary of a very important date in our family’s life quietly snuck up on us.


Exactly 11 years ago in a hotel lobby in China, my life was changed when our son Kai, was first placed in my arms.

He was 2 1/2 years old and wasn’t sure what to think about me at first.  But, by the next morning he was calling me “mama” and was following me around our hotel room.

The first photo we ever saw of Kai, which captured our hearts.

Kai wasn’t our first child adopted from China, he was the second.  However, he was and still is our only son.



Our two oldest daughters came with us on this journey to China as well as Gracie who was excited to have someone her own size to play with.


We spent 2 weeks in China completing the adoption paperwork, which was filled with touring the sights as well as enjoying our newest family member.


My husband was fast learning that little boys take wrestling more seriously than little girls do.


Kai spent the first year of his life in an orphanage and then the next 18 months in a foster home.


It was obvious to us that he had been well cared for.


Our Chinese guide saw us through the maze of paperwork as well as showed us around some beautiful places in China.  We traveled in January and it was cold!


We took some time to visit the orphanage where Kai grew up and say “thank you” to the nannies who helped raise him.


As we neared the end of our trip, we paused to take this family photo before we left to fly home.  Little did we know that we would be back to adopt again 2 1/2 years later.


After a long flight home, we stepped off the plane and into the arms of family who were anxious to welcome the newest member of our family.

Our first day home was spent with Gracie showing Kai some of her favorite things to play with – a yard stick and a wooden spoon 😉

The age difference between these two is only 6 months (Gracie is the oldest) and it’s funny to see how much taller that she used to be.  Now, Kai towers over her.  

Kai had some severe special needs involving his feet, hip and hands.  He has been through countless surgeries and doctor office visits.  But through it all, he has shown us how resilient he is and the joy that he finds wherever he goes.

I can hardly imagine life without him.


Kai and Gracie still get along (most of the time) and he knows what she loves most for Christmas – ‘sugar’ cereal and chocolate.

So, “Happy Gotcha Day” to my wonderful son! We will enjoy your favorite dinner and dessert tonight 🙂

**If you would like to learn more about Kai’s incredible journey along with the other challenges that he has faced, you can click here.  

Some of you may remember me sharing about my oldest daughter moving to a small town in Michigan back in early September – “Goodbye Arizona, Hello Michigan”



It was so hard to see them go, but at the same time, I was excited for their new future as they left to join my son-in-law who just started a new job as a professor at a college in Petoskey, Michigan.

The very next day, as my husband and I booked a flight for Michigan in November.  I must admit that planning a trip within a few months of their leaving helped me to deal their absence more easily.

As November approached, I began to count down the days until we would see them again.


Our flight left on an early Friday morning and would take us to the city of Grand Rapids.


From there, we rented a car for the 3-hour drive up to Petoskey, which is located at the “tip of the mitt” as the locals like to say.

Along the way, we spotted a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant.  Now this is a place where both my husband and I spent a lot of time (separately) visiting while children growing up in Arizona and California.  Sadly, they have all but disappeared in those states, but they are still quite popular in Michigan.

So, we stopped off for dinner where we both enjoyed our favorite meals from our past.


As we sat eating our dinner, snow began to fall.  It was at this point that the fact that we weren’t local was painfully obvious as we couldn’t stop looking and talking about the snow.

We pulled into Petoskey just before 8:00 pm and Brittney, Lily & Jeff were waiting outside for us, bundled in their jackets.

It was so wonderful to be close enough to hug them all again and I could hardly wait for the next day to begin.


Our first stop was at Meijier’s, which is very large grocery store chain in the Midwest.  Lily was excited to share her coffee drink with me.  She said that it was better than Starbucks because they put sprinkles on their drinks.

We then bought some groceries.  My job was to make her a birthday cake and we also took her birthday shopping.



Next, we drove to Northern Central Michigan College, where my son-in-law now teaches.  Lily loves to visit her dad at work.



It was so nice seeing his office, classroom and how happy he was after working so many years for his PhD.

Whenever we are traveling, I love to eat at restaurants that are different than what are at home.  We ate dinner at a local pizza and sandwich restaurant where I was introduced to ‘grinders’.


Grinders are basically Italian subs that are often served alongside pizza.  All I can say, is that were delicious!

The next morning, we were awakened early by the appearance of our granddaughter Lily, by our bedside who then got into bed with us and snuggled for a half hour before we all woke up.  I must confess, that was one of my favorite moments of our entire trip.


Little Traverse Bay.


The next morning, we decided to set out for the picturesque downtown area of Petoskey, which is consistently rated in the “Top 10 Best Small Towns of America”.  



While the walk was a short one (3 blocks), we found time to pick dandelions and blow the seeds.




The downtown area is quaint and filled with a variety of shops, restaurants and other businesses. We passed the local park with its gazebo, a lovely church with its tall steeple and gas lights and shop windows being decorated with garlands made of fresh evergreens.
You can read more about our visit to the downtown area in my previous post “A Small Town Visit and Holiday Traditions”. 





After doing some Christmas shopping the local bookstore, general store and fudge shop, we made our way back home.



While Lily took her nap, my husband and I took a mini-road trip to visit the other small towns close by before getting ready for our ‘big date’.



We had a date with our very sweet granddaughter, Lily, while her parents went on their own grown-up date.

Our restaurant of choice was ‘Roast & Toast’, which I had eaten at the year before on a prior visit to Petoskey.  Lily thought that the cups and plates stuck to the outside of the window were pretty cool – the purple coffee cup was her favorite 😉



Lily was a delightful dinner partner.





We had a table located in a little alcove.


It turned out that the seat was perfect for lying on while eating your dinner.

*Believe it or not, I had no problem with Lily lying down eating her dinner.  In fact, I thought it was rather cute.  But, I would NEVER allow my own kids to do that, which let me to an epiphany that many grandparents experience – your standards you set for your children vs. your grandchildren are completely different, which makes it much easier to be a grandparent than a parent!


The downtown area came alive in the evening with the gas light lit up with their festive greenery and Christmas lights.



The next day, we spent some time at home.  I found myself enjoying the view from the living room windows, where the you could just see Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan out of the window through the trees.



Wildlife was abundant around the house including brightly colored blue jays, cardinals, black & brown squirrels and deer.



Of course, Flynn, their dog was there to chase those wild animals away 😉



Lily and I spent time playin with her new ‘My Little Pony’ toy, that squirted out play-doh.



Her papa showed his love for Lily by playing dolls with her for over an hour at the kitchen table.

It was so nice to completely unplug from our busy lives and just sit back and enjoy the simple pleasures.  I helped my daughter with her first knitting project and even found myself coloring a page in her new ‘adult’ coloring book, which was surprisingly enjoyable and relaxing.

After cooking dinner for the family, I set to work making Lily’s birthday cake with her help.


She wanted an orange cake with hot pink frosting and sprinkles.



And that is exactly what she got.

After we left the next day for our trip home, I reflected on how fortunate we were to have been able to spend time with our daughter and her precious family.  Thankfully, we only have to wait a few more weeks until Christmas until they come to our house for a long visit!

**Thank you for allowing me to share a glimpse with ou into an important part of my life 🙂

Does the arrival of fall have you outdoors viewing colorful foliage while outfitted in boots and a scarf?


Probably not if you live in the desert Southwest.  However, my mind has been focused on these things as my daughter and her family are settling into their new home in Michigan.

Collecting colorful leaves to send to Grandma (me) in Arizona. 

Back in early September, I shared with you that my oldest daughter and her family were moving to the tip of Michigan to a town called Petoskey.  Since then, they have been exploring their new home and the large number of differences betwen their new home town compared to the Arizona one that they left.


Their first few days, while waiting for the moving truck with their furniture to arrive, was spent at the beach.


Being a few blocks away from water is definitely a new, yet welcome experience.  


Lake Michigan is beautiful!

Flynn, enjoying the lush green grass.

One block from their home is the Winter Park, where residents go to sled down hills and ice skate on the outdoor rink.


My granddaughter, Lily, found some nice flowers still growing there in early September.
Wherever Lily goes, her favorite pal, Tigger, isn’t too far away 😉


Now that October has arrived, there is a nip in the air and fall clothes are making an appearance.

Lily was very excited to wear her new scarf that her other grandma had knitted for her.


With cooler weather, rain often follows, so shopping for rain boots was necessary.

In fact, shopping for a whole lot of cold-weather clothes is important for these Arizona natives.  My daughter has received lots of helpful advice from fellow preschool moms on what type of clothes to get.


Exploring the town of Petoskey has been a fun adventure as well including the college where my son-in-law now teaches at.


On a recent outing, they went up the ski lift where they could see the turning leaves at the top of the hill.  Instead of taking the ski lift back down, they hiked down the hill.

Enjoying donuts at the local donut shop.

Like most young kids, Lily has embraced her new surroundings, enjoying every new adventure.


My mother recently visited them and helped to decorate their new home.  Of course, Lily’s favorite part when great-grandma made her a ‘My Little Pony’ blanket.

Lily modeling her ‘My Little Pony’ Halloween outfit.

We do miss them, but we stay in almost constant contact via texts, phone calls, Facebook and Skype, which helps us stay involved in their lives.

Lily’s preschool class watching the local high school band practice (Lily is 3rd from the left, wearing a navy blue jacket, standing next to the teacher.

Lily recently started preschool and loves it.  She has two best friends and looks forward to going each day.

The preschool is just down the road from the local high school and recently heard the high school band practicing, so they took an impromptu field trip down the street where they could sit and watch them practice.

View down the street from their house.

Next month, my husband and I will fly out to visit for a few days.  I am already counting down the weeks.

Petoskey is a picturesque, small town that is well worth visiting – I was fortunate enough to visit in summer of 2014, long before we knew that my daughter and her family would end up there.


It will be cold in November when we visit, but nowhere near the frigid temps that they will experience in winter – last winter it got down to -35 degrees.

I must admit that I have been living vicariously through my daughter as she is undergoing new experiences of living in a more temperate climate than this California native and now Arizona resident has ever had.

Thank you for allowing me to share the latest chapter in our family’s life 🙂

Goodbyes are always hard.


Today, I had to say goodbye to both my daughter and granddaughter as they start their new lives in Michigan along with my son-in-law.



My daughter is an Arizona native and this is the beginning of a wonderful adventure for her and her young family.


The past 3 weeks have been a whirlwind of packing, saying goodbye to her students at the local  high school where she is was a history teacher.

So why are they moving to Michigan – a place that my daughter has never visited before?

My son-in-law was hired as a professor at Northern Central Michigan College in Petoskey, which sits near the top of the ‘mitten’ of Michigan.

He had to leave quickly to get settled in before the new semester began, leaving my daughter to get everything packed up.


Moving day was exciting for my granddaughter, Lily who watched as the movers took everything that was near and dear to her and put it in a big truck.

After standing for awhile, she pulled out a chair to sit and watch all the activity until it was time to load up the chair she was sitting on.


Her grandpa and I did our best to keep her occupied with all of the changes going on.

The best part of this entire process was that they moved in with us for several days while my daughter finished her last week teaching.


We helped Lily keep in touch with her dad by texting him pictures that she drew for him.

With all the changes, Lily very well for a 3-year old girl whose world is going through a momentous change.  

Our last week together was spent reading favorite books together, including “Goodnight Moon”, which I always read to her before her nap.  I gave her new one to take to Michigan.



A date at our favorite McDonald’s was a must-do before they left.

This morning, we got up early and drove to them to the Phoenix airport for their flight.  This was to be Lily’s first time on an airplane and she was excited.


This was the moment that I dreaded…saying goodbye to my daughter and Lily.

I realize that I have been incredibly blessed to have always had them living close by.


From being there the day Lily was born 3 1/2 years ago, seeing her take her first steps, wiping away her tears and enjoying her sunny presence twice a week when I would babysit her – there will be a hole that is hard to fill.


Lily has also been my gardening buddy.


From helping take care of the herb container we made for her mom…


To watching her collect wildflowers for her ‘flower collection’ that she keeps in her jewelry box – I will miss her love for flowers.


So, how am I doing after bidding goodbye to my oldest daughter and Lily?

After hugging them “goodbye” at the airport, I was doing pretty good – in fact I was rather proud of myself…no tears were shed.

That is until we were shopping at Costco a short time later and I saw a grandmother with her granddaughter and I completely broke down, making a spectable of myself.  Shoppers were probably wondering what it was at the meat counter that was making me so sad.

I regained control of myself, but then we passed by the bank that my daughter used to work at years ago and the tears started up again.

And then we passed by Lily’s favorite McDonald’s on our way home – and so it goes…

So, while my mother and grandmother’s heart is sad, it is also happy for them and their new adventure in beautiful Michigan.


As I mentioned before, they are moving the picturesque town of Petoskey.

Coincidentally, I visited Petoskey just last year along with my mother on one of our annual road trips.


It sits right on the water’s edge of Lake Michigan.


The gardens are beautiful and I look forward to visiting them as often as I can – hopefully this fall.

There will be new adventures to be had discovering this new area.  I can hardly wait to help them create their new Michigan garden in the future.


As I write this, I am looking at Lily’s little work space next to my desk.


On it is her latest coloring page alongside her much-loved crayons.  She would often sit next to me and “work with Grandma” while I wrote garden articles or worked on my latest landscape design.


I’ll put them away for awhile where they will wait for her to come back and visit – hopefully at Christmas.
Thank you for spending a few moments out of your day allowing me to share what’s on my heart.  I already feel better 🙂

**How about you?  Do your family members live close by or far away?  How often are you able to visit?