Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Better, not Older, right? Birthday with Flowers and Grandkids and Breakfast Cake, Not Bad at All!

You may have garnered, from my Instagram feed (widget to the right) that my age is a bigger number today than it was on Monday. My birthday, yesterday, was a lovely day, very busy but really quite lovely, and I thought you might like to see some photos....
An early-morning baby-sitting gig included the delightful surprise of breakfast cake (strawberry and almond, scrumptious!), balloons, streamers, and even -- ta-da! -- Princess tiaras...


And then there was a walk to the community garden where the little ones showed us what's growing in their plot

All the wonderful things to touch and smell and pull and sometimes taste (quick! What did he just put in his mouth, Granddad?!)

If you live in a small flat in a city,  this is a clever way to give your kids a backyard, and also let them see where food comes from -- these two have already feasted on radishes and there was a strawberry reddening on a newly bedded plant (Yes, they resisted the temptation, and I hope any passing raccoons will be as respectful).

I've been trying to reorient myself to life without a garden. As I've mentioned before, we've been fortunate in having lived in a house with a yard since we returned from our honeymoon, 43 years ago this August.  I imagine I'll miss cutting flowers to bring indoors, but perhaps I won't miss my trowel too much and the achey back . .  Seriously, though, among the tactics I'm developing is something I'm thinking of as "gardening with my camera." For example:





I'm also "borrowing" gardens wherever I find them, stopping to smell the roses that bloom generously along sidewalks. These beauties are climbing a heritage building just down the street from a listing we looked at as part of the birthday celebrations. It won't do to get excited about that potential new home yet -- the real estate market in Vancouver right now is such that anything desirable will get multiple offers, everyone of them at least tens of thousands of dollars above the asking price, with the successfuly bids more often 100-250K more. (I know!) But we're getting ready to take the plunge . . .

Now back to daydreaming about a new home (while Pater is back at the old one, packing boxes -- it's his turn, and we're almost done now).   And I'm curious -- how many of you are fortunate enough to have your own garden, and how many of you "borrow" yours, whether just by walking by or through public or private gardens regularly, or occasionally, or by gardening in an allotment that you walk or drive to? And those of you who used to maintain your own garden right out your back door and have given that up for a smaller footprint, how have you found the adjustment? Do you miss getting your hands dirty and filling vases with flowers you've grown yourself,  or is it a relief not to have to do that work anymore? Or is it simply a tradeoff that you were willing to make, taking the loss to gain other benefits?



52 comments:

  1. Nearly 81 now and I've gardened all my adult life from zone 4 to zone 7; I can't imagine life without digging in the dirt. Yes, it does take longer and I am happy now to leave digging holes for shrubs to my (much) younger husband but I must do it. Old fashioned roses scented like nothing else, perennials with long blooming seasons and recently more shrubs. The Judii Viburnum is blooming now here in southern Ontario and the scent fills the neighborhood. I predict you'll at least have pots of blooming lovlies in your new digs. All the best in your search. Barbara from Guelph

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    1. Barbara, you're so lucky that you've been able to continue with gardening -- it's hard for me to imagine not having that option. My grandmother lived in her own home with a garden that she cared for independently until she was 84 or 85, growing almost all the vegetables she ate (and giving anyone within shouting distance with zucchini. My mom gardened until her late 70s and I'm sure it's what kept her going after my dad died. I'd expected to do the same, but I'm now clearly looking for a Plan B. Mmmm, that Viburnum (I'm more familiar with the Carlesii) must be just delicious. . . .

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  2. For a while, I had no garden, but I missed it. Now I have a very small garden, but I enjoy taking photos of other people's gardens as well as my own. I am yet undecided about future gardens. I'd like a slightly bigger garden, but not a large one, but still wonder if I'm up to it.

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    1. You've made a wonderful start, and I suspect you're up to it, and we'll see that garden mature beautifully on your blog over the next few years.

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  3. I have a twenty by twenty back yard, half hard surface, half garden. I'm looking forward to spending more time out there when I retire. One of the reasons I'd consider moving is to have more gardening space, room for fruit trees, a cutting bed and vegetables. I do wonder how long I'd be able to manage the work of a larger yard. But I can't imagine living in a condo or apartment with no connection to the earth, trees and plants.

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    1. It's amazing, though, what can be done in that much space, especially if you go vertical (there are some wonderful ways to grow vegetables that way as well) -- and such great dwarf or espaliered versions of fruit trees. I'm envious of that vision of retirement, and could easily imagine myself living it. Except. . . ;-)

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  4. I have not had my own garden for 20 years. I had an allotment for about 8 years. This year, Monsieur and I have taken over a small patch in our complex. I look
    at flowers in parks and I like to buy cut bouquets regularly.

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    1. I'm interested in the allotment -- was it in Richmond? I love knowing that you've found ways to garden and/or to enjoy gardens despite living in a condo.

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    2. Yes, there are a number of allotment sites in Richmond. There is also The Sharing Farm, a volunteer organization which grows food for the Food Bank and some of the community meals. There are year-round volunteer opportunities in their greenhouses as well.

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  5. I have a small backyard but the real joy is in having a plot in a community garden (called P-Patches in Seattle). A little digging in the dirt, a few vegetables, many flowers, the camaraderie of fellow gardeners, and especially the satisfaction of creating a beautiful place for everyone in the community to wander through. "Borrowing" gardens is a fine strategy--and encourages those who still want to get their hands dirty to keep at it. An appreciative audience supports all the arts and artisans, no? A fine symbiosis--

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    1. Good to hear, Elle. Most encouraging. I like the social aspect and also the idea of the gardens being visible, available for the public. So many of us do live in small urban spaces that we really need to think about how to stay connected to the earth . . . how might we get ourselves "back to the garden" collectively. . .

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  6. Belated Happy Birthday Mater!

    Re. gardens - we have mainly lived in suburban areas and now have postage stamp-sized yards both back and front. We haven't really done anything with them yet; last year my husband built a deck out back, leaving even less space back there. This summer we will re-do our front lawn (grubs) and put in a flower bed. I think we might go heavy on containers on the deck and front porch. The biggest garden (yard) we have ever had was in small-town Alberta. I even had a small vegetable bed - which very quickly became overrun by zucchini.

    When my dad was still alive, when I was a young girl, we lived in a flat but he had a garden out back. He grew all sorts of vegetables, and we even had a rabbit run with a pet rabbit (and somehow, later on, baby rabbits). (Pretty sure we only started with one rabbit though!)

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    1. You can do so much with container gardening on decks, although I suppose a consideration in your climate is how to protect container plants through the winter.
      The Brits learned the wisdom of those small but productive urban gardens, didn't they (you, if I remember correctly -- I'm somehow assuming your dad was gardening in urban Britain, 70s?). . . And up until a generation ago, most Canadians were connected to a productive food-growing garden by at least one relative . . . My own grandmother lived on a farm until adulthood, and she grew veggies until her last years, often kept chickens (which my mom collected eggs from). I hope my grandkids will get some exposure to that tradition as it's renewed and urbanised. . .

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    2. Yes, 60s really, he died in 1971. The building was low-level, 6 flats in all, in a street of similar. Each building had a 'green' at the back where the laundry would hang and some also had space for gardens. I don't know if I'd call it urban, more suburban, very much on the edge of town, with farmers' fields within walking distance and a good view to a range of hills, the Sidlaws (called the Seedlies in our vernacular!). I guess that your daughter's community garden is what we'd call an allotment - I've seen them in Britain and in Germany.

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    3. I love the image you've sketched in your brief paragraph, Patricia -- it's very rich, you know. . . thank you!

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  7. I love to look at gardens along the way and am always delighted to see the smallest sign of life and beauty in the greyest of places - a potted plant on an inner city balcony and the like. It is about the generosity of creating and sharing something of beauty with those who pass by.

    As for me - smelling the roses is something to which I aspire in my patch. When my garden is looking under control I shall know that my life is in balance. Maybe next year?

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    1. I like your attitude, Ceri, and again, that notion of the generosity of gardeners comes up . . . and oh, I do hope to be able to grow a fragrant rose again. . . Good luck with the control and the balance -- settle for the year after next? ;-)

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  8. Happy birthday Frances and a merry wonderful life in your future new home!
    I have some other green surfaces,beside my courtyard(small one comparing to the last one), arround the city and a lot of problems with finding people to help, and preserve it from other people throwing trash on it,so,as I plan to move in an apartement in a couple of years,I think I wouldn't regret. There are some beautiful balconies with flowers,vegetables,spices,even little trees!
    During the years, we've had garden-vegetable and flowers-,vineyard(my parents hobby) and orchard,but around our house we have only trees,bushes and a little bed of flowers. I have flowers (at the moment violas and little heather bushes) and some spices (basil and sage)on my balcony.
    I have lived all my life in houses (only from my 3.-6. year we had an apartment in a village near Zagreb where my father was a doctor-but for a child in a village, all the gardens were mine)-so who knows? It will be a wise solution and I prepare myself for it. Life goes on......
    I came home yesterday fom ex vineyard with beautiful penies,it really is a great feeling. I admire all of you who have so beautiful gardens
    Community gardens are great solution,not only to be in touch with the nature,especially for children,but to grow whatever you want. We have it here,too
    Dottoressa

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    1. Thanks, Dottoressa, for the birthday wishes.
      You are so right about the possibility of beautiful balconies -- I only have to imagine Paris! I hope I might emulate that, at least.
      I love peonies! I can imagine vases full of them in your house -- the colour, the scent! Enjoy!

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  9. I have what's considered a large garden here in the UK but no veg ,My dad was a professional gardener with his own business & as a child I had my own little patch to tend . I love flowers but like them to be in the soil - never buy for the house & only pick them if there is a storm on the way . Hubby does most of the heavy work like lawns & hedges but I prune & weed ( & tell him what goes where !) We are aware of future limitations so a few changes have been made , like less herbaceous & more easy shrubs . Pots round the house are not planted annually & instead have perennials like sedums etc . Yes , still quite a lot of work but , whilst we can do it , it's great exercise & good therapy ( rabbits & slugs can be stressful though ) . When we can't manage it perhaps it can be a wildlife garden ?
    Wendy in York

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    1. Interesting -- I like to bring cut flowers in occasionally and enjoy putting together a bouquet, but there is very much a part of me that can find that superfluous with all the gorgeous blooms outside. Sometimes, I'd prefer to leave them where they are and just enjoy them where they grow.
      I've not bothered much with annuals for years, except those that are willing to seed themselves (nasturtiums just keep bringing their cheery selves back!)
      If we had arranged things differently about 10 or 15 years ago, I could easily imagine aging happily into my 80s in a house with a small garden. I think it's one of the best ways to keep fit and happy -- and I love your idea that eventually you won't mind giving it over to the slugs and rabbits! ;-)

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  10. Hi Mater ...looks like you had a perfect birthday ...that cake looks delicious, one of my favourites! Although I've only had it with cherries not strawberries. Your grandchildren are gorgeous ...great pictures, love the princess tiara!
    We have a reasonable size garden that will need some post retirement tlc. It has lots of trees, some shrubs and paved areas. Definitely needs more colour!! At the moment we just don't seem to have time to do much, other than keep it tidy.
    Rosie

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    1. Thank you, Rosie -- it was a very good day!
      Your garden will wait patiently enough for your retirement, as long as you do that minimum weeding and pruning -- sounds as if you have a solid foundation in place with the trees, shrubs and paving. What fun you'll have adding more colour once you have all that retirement time!

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  11. Hi again! I meant to add that your comment about the raccoons brought back memories of a wonderful day spent in Vancouver! My son and I were cycling hrough Stanley park and along the seafront area towards the beach when suddenly a raccoon dashed across in front of us. My children had toy raccoons when they were little so we were both excited to see a live one!! It was a perfect sunny day ....we loved our stay in Vancouver and hope to return one day :)
    Rosie

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    1. Nuisances though they can be (have had them in the house once! luckily only for a minute, but neighbours have horror stories of cupboard raiding), raccoons are undeniably photogenic -- lovely that your children got to see a creature so exotic to them -- up close and personal! --I'm glad you loved our city. On a sunny day, biking the seawall around the park, it's pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself. . .

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  12. Oh that chubby little hand! How gorgeous! And happy birthday wishes. Yes we have a garden in our current home. Our back garden is plain, quite big, just some trees round the perimeter, and a tall hedge. It is not overlooked, and when the boys were small they could run about with no clothes on in the summer, it was lovely. Our front garden is grass with one big border running round it. I do get pleasure from the garden, but have no true gardening knowledge, though I do plant and prune and potter about. Probably if we ever move from here a garden would not be my top priority. X

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    1. Glad you appreciate that little hand -- I couldn't resist the photo (one of many attempts as he kept shifting).
      I'm so glad I was able to raise the kids in a big yard they could run around in, but I see that my urban grandkids experience other benefits and they do manage to get some time with Nature as well, if not everyday. . . btw, planting and pruning and pottering about is gardening knowledge enough, I'd say, especially if you enjoy it. But I see what you mean about it not being a top priority should you move, and I suppose I'm moving that way myself, although I have been quite an avid gardener for long periods. Changes. . .

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  13. I'm lucky enough to have 2 gardens -- 1 in London and one on the North Norfolk coast -- and not enough time to properly enjoy either. That is about to change as I retire next week -- so there will no longer be any excuse for the weeds and lack of interesting planting. Oh -- the pressure! And the anticipation.
    Ceri in London

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    1. Ceri, you will have to keep us posted on how wonderful this retirement is, and what you choose to do first. Anticipation.....

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  14. Happy Birthday for yesterday, Frances. Glad you had a wonderful day! We don't have to worry about racoons here, just badgers which are pretty lethal too. We have already downsized to a small garden, although it is quite labour intensive. I love planning how to organise it, but not the back and knee aches that I have now when I overdo it! I do hope you find somewhere to live that you can love, and maybe with room for some pots on a balcony. Good luck with that.

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    1. Thanks, Marianne. I've heard about badgers, and I'm glad we only have raccoons, otters, and mink to contend with (the very occasional rabbit, released from pet-hood, and the gradually encroaching grey squirrel).
      Planning might just be my favourite part of gardening as well, although oddly enough, I rather like weeding. . .

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  15. First of all, a belated Happy Birthday to you, Frances! I celebrated mine last week, so we are both May babies. The best month!
    We have a garden - or are developing a garden at this new-old house. Over our nearly 43 years of marriage we've lived in all sorts of places, including apartments in Europe. Window boxes were my garden, as well as the wonderful city parks that are so much a part of the life of a city dweller in Europe. One could spend the day wandering, reading sitting sipping coffee and watching peacocks. A regular visit to the flower and vegetable markets was another way to get that feeling of having a garden.
    I am looking forward to seeing what you end up with in Vancouver. Soon you will be through the 'hard work' phase and truly into the 'new adventure with fun' phase.

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    1. Both of us with the same flower-of-the-month as well, then (remember those little calendar-books Hallmark used to give away at the drugstore? each month with its flower).
      I'm looking forward to visiting your new-old garden someday. Window boxes as garden, I could do that, right? I love your European suggestions for keeping soil and flowers and vegetable-growing in my life.
      Yes, I'm ready for the next phase myself, and I think it's coming to meet me...

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  16. Frances, as you know we downsized almost two years ago to a strata development. I love watching the gardeners do all the hard work, but I still dabble in pots by my front door and on my deck. I have a small Japanese maple, some grasses, and herbs in large pots right by the front door. There's a gorgeous pale lavender azalea in our front garden, and when I walk up to the grocery store there's a gorgeous coral coloured clematis I enjoy on a fence in the strata next to mine. You've reminded me, I want to get some hanging baskets, but I'll wait until after the crazy May long weekend! Brenda

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    1. Picturing your front door and the communal gardens in your development makes me feel better about wherever we land, Brenda. And there are so many garden scenes we can enjoy without having to wield a trowel or secateurs, it's true. Hanging baskets are well within reach, no matter how small a balcony, but you're right -- don't brave the garden shop crowds 'til after this long weekend!

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  17. Belated Birthday Wishes for a wonderful and exciting year ahead. We do have a garden that I thoroughly enjoy, in spite of the work. We've lived in apartments overseas and I missed having a bit of soil to work. Must be the farmer background in me.
    When we visit Vancouver, I enjoy wandering by those community gardens and peeking in at what people are growing. Best of luck with finding your new housing in Vancouver.

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    1. Thanks Lorrie, it will certainly be a year of new beginnings!
      I know I will also miss gardening, although I'm determined to find some way of substituting. And like you, I'm very intrigued by the community gardens, the private allotment plots, and the even less formal guerrilla gardening. . . (as for the luck, yes, I'll take all I can get, ta!)

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  18. I'm just not sure how I will approach life without a garden. I am very fond of containers - I might be more apt to do that than a community garden.

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    1. I do wonder how my personality would suit a community garden, but I think I'd try if I got the chance. We'll see. . .

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  19. We have a large garden in Devon which I thoroughly enjoy and a very large Edwardian house that goes with it, built in an era when people had maids and gardeners. I can imagine a time when both may become a burden not a joy and then I hope I'll have the courage to take action to change before it deteriorates.
    I don't think I could maintain my mental health without some form of gardening even when I was a pretty wild student living in halls forty years ago I still kept lots of house plants. If I had to live in an apartment with no garden I'd probably start keeping something really fussy like orchids!

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    1. There is definitely a link between gardening and mental health! I know my mother's helped her stave off encroaching cognitive impairment -- or at least work off the frustration that accompanied that. I do wish society would catch up with changing demographics and provide more seniors' housing that included gardening possibilities.

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  20. That looked like a lovely birthday. I approve of cake for breakfast to celebrate - if the Italians can eat cake with their first coffee, then off we go! Re gardens. I have a tiny enclosed patio, a south-facing suntrap. My neighbour planted a wisteria about ten years ago and it has now stretched itself beautifully across all three of our houses, flowering lavishly as I speak across my kitchen window. I am a haphazard and self-taught gardener who experiments with growing stuff in pots. Lilac trees, an olive tree with flowers and fruit (this far north!), a philadelphus, jasminoides, buddleia and sundy bulbs in winter. Anything that self-seeds gets a chance to survive and my aquilegia are tremendous. The little poppies that come up every year are great favourites. Bamboo thrives. It is all rather messy and untidy but it looks so happy and lush. My Christmas tree is enjoying a bucket of water at present. That said, there is nothing I enjoy more than looking at other people's gardens and stopping to smell any roses I meet along the way.

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    1. I don't often do cake for breakfast, but I happily acknowledge its merits, and if not on a birthday, then when?!
      Your tiny patio sounds perfect, and I'm sure I could be quite content with that -- really? olives on your tree? in northern England? -- Messy and happy and lush would be a lovely goal, really!

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    2. The olive tree was a birthday present from my husband some years ago. At first it lived in our large, light-filled front hall but seemed a bit sad so, one summer, I moved it outside. You could almost hear it cheer. I brought it in for the winter when it promptly dropped its leaves and sulked. Figuring that olives are very hardy, I put it out again in the snow and cold of January. It has never looked back. Every year it is covered in tiny flowers and now there are regular olives, getting bigger each year. All the sites I have looked at say this is not possible. The tree ignores them.

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  21. Belated birthday greetings Frances! Just in from picking some herbs on my condo patio. Downsizing the gardens was not as hard as I thought; after years of gardening, I realized I love the many different shapes and colours of foliage almost as much as I love flowers, so just planted trees in pots and put out herbs for picking.

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    1. Wise plantings, I'd say -- foliage is so calming, and it's infinitely varied, much harder to purchase, in variety, than flowers. I'll keep this in mind. And the herbs. absolutely!

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  22. Belated birthday wishes!

    I have a notorious black thumb and am usually gone for large chunks of the summer for research so I don't garden. I do love the borrowed garden and am looking through strolling through some flower gardens in Europe again soon!

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    1. Thanks, R!
      Just as well for you that you're not a passionate gardener, given where you're living now, although I'm sure there are surprisingly great gardens in Alaska. Still, there must be particular challenges. What a change Madrid's heat and urban density must be for you each summer!

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  23. Happy birthday! Sorry, I'm late again.
    I was out of a garden for two years while my landlord tried to take it away from me. I had to go to court to get it back, and now I am amazed (and grateful) to see how many plants have survived two summers of destruction and neglect. When I move out of this place I will probably do with a balcony, perhaps with a share of a community garden. But that is only part of the truth: there will always be the garden by the lake, I could naver give that up.
    I read your instagram feed this morning. You are being radical - oh dear. Here's hoping it is all for the best.

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    1. Never any need to apologise, Eleonore, and thank you for the birthday greetings.
      I'm so glad you got your garden back and that it will be recoverable, albeit with some work. And lucky you, with that garden by the lake. . .
      Yes, I am being radical, and I'm anxious about it but have already seen its liberating potential (will explain more in a future post, but letting go so concretely freed me to look differently at potential homes and focus on other important elements).

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  24. Your photos are improving all the time - which is amazing because they started out so gorgeous to begin with. You ARE gardening with your camera. And I didn't realize, for some reason, that you have the same birthday as one of my best friends (also from Vancouver Island - Comox - how coincidental is that?). Best of luck with the real estate situation. I've seen many friends go through the same thing in another inflated market, TO. Honestly, moving in Mtl must be a joy :-) - until the winter, that is. Just remember that your perfect new location is waiting for you to find it. Once you do, all of the pieces will fall into place. So many peeps "lose" the first few bids, only to realize that it took those experiences to refine their needs and emerging desires.

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    1. Aw, thank you!
      And love that I have a birthday twin on the island who's a bestie of yours.
      Yes, the market is goofy -- even beyond To, unbelievably! But I'm taking your advice to heart, and trying to be a bit zen about the offer we're making this week. . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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