Posts Tagged ‘FAMILY’

One of the frustrating things about tending your home vegetable plot is when you do everything right: you prepare the soil, plant the seeds, fertilize, water, and tend your plants, and then find them half-eaten by little critters. Pest control is a big issue for gardeners, large-scale and small-scale alike. While it is tempting to use poisons, it does pay to be aware that these products are toxic to the environment. In years past, I used to sprinkle slug slam pellets around my garden. But our gardening tutor told us the pellets contain a neurotoxin that might make it into the food chain. It is safer to use homemade solutions. For slugs, use a “beer trap.” Cut the bottom off a plastic bottle. Fill with beer or Brewer’s Yeast with some warm water added. Partly bury it in the vegetable patch. I put two beer traps down, and they both caught six or more slugs each in the first couple of days. It worked a treat.

For snails, they like to hide in dark, cool places during the day, so make them one! You can create a hidey-hole for them by cutting a v-shaped doorway in a plastic plant pot and setting it upside down in the garden. But make sure you put a rock on top as mine blew away in the first strong wind. Empty the pots regularly and dispose of the snails. Our gardening tutor said one student put his snails in a bag in the freezer. But the problem was his wife found them and had a fit! My mother used to squash them. Euw! It’s up to you. However, why not try a homemade remedy. It’s better for the environment.
When you are starting out as a gardener, it is worthwhile to spend the money on a few quality items that will last you for years. For instance, it is worthwhile to invest in a good trowel and a good spade. Also, spend the money on a good sprayer. Wash all tools and dry them after use. Mud left on a spade will eventually degrade the metal. Wash the spray bottle out thoroughly after use. Leave it with the lid off.

Buy seeds from suppliers online, as they work out a lot cheaper. Here in New Zealand, Kings seeds are a great source. I bought five packets for the same price it would have cost me for two bags from a retail outlet. Always plant them in a seed raising mix. Sieve the potting mix before you use it. Push the seeds into punnets as deep as two of the seeds. Cover with soil. Put your punnets of planted seeds on trays and fill the tray with water, so you are watering from the bottom, not the top. It will prevent you from washing the seeds too deep into the soil. Remember to put a sign on the punnets saying the vegetable variety and date you planted them. If the punnets still have water in them an hour later, throw the rest of the water away. You want the soil to be moist, not wet.
Don’t be tempted to plant a whole packet of seeds. Count them out, just a few at a time, and stagger the planting, so you don’t have all the same vegetables fruiting and needing to be eaten at once. I buy seeds with a friend. We pay half each and split the packets in half. Seeds get old. So it means you don’t have too many to plant, and they are always fresh. It works well for us.

As for the water in your garden, rainwater is best. We have a water tank harvesting rainwater from the roof. Watering during the dry times means using the town supply. This water is full of Chlorine and Flouride and so on. To counteract the detrimental effect of the chemicals, add one drop of humic acid to each gallon of water.
If you’re going away, take a plastic bottle and cut the bottom off. Then drill a few holes near the mouth. Leave the lid on. Fill the bottle and bury it with the lid pointed down near the vegetables. The water will leak out slowly over the days.

If your seeds take longer than three weeks to sprout, they will not grow. But, for those which sprout, let the plants reach a decent size and turn the punnets over on your hand until they come out in your hand. Gently tease the seedlings apart and plant them in your beds far enough apart to have room to grow. Read the back of the seed packet as they will often have information on the space required between plants. Pack the soil up to the first two leaves to be firm. Always handle seedlings by the leaves, not the stalks. Water them in when it’s raining and use very diluted fertilizer tea. To deter the birds from disturbing the seedlings, spread mulch liberally around them. The mulch will retard weeds and retain moisture in the soil, so it’s a win-win. Or put up a homemade scarecrow. And if necessary, you can always use bird netting at least until the vegetables get established.
Happy Gardening. More next time, green thumbs.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Being a parent is tough. The other day, we introduced my delightful three-year-old granddaughter to my friend’s granddaughter, Miss two. It was a wonderful day. The girls dashed about from one activity to another like fleas in a fit. At one point we were watching the kids leap on the trampoline in the backyard. I asked Miss Two’s father, “How are you finding parenthood so far?” He got a far-gone look in his eye and said one word, “Relentless.”
You can tell he’s a poet. That one word. So pithy. Perfect.

It was Oprah who famously said there is no harder job on the planet than parenting. Such sayings stick because they are the truth. My eldest son has had his first child, the aforementioned three-year-old, and recently, I asked him if he had ever thought of having more children. He said, “Hell, no! One’s enough!” The early years of your child’s life are brutal.
Just as you surface from the flat-out breakneck marathon of raising kids from 0-to 10 you hit the teenage years. Their earnest, transparent personalities disappear. They suddenly take on exaggerated swagger and posture. There is a new language delivering words you’ve never heard before. A wrinkly brain is smart. A smooth brain is dumb. If something is “pog” it’s cool. Pog champ is really cool. And, of course, Good RNG means good luck. Everybody knows that.

They sing. That surprised me. I thought the singing would be dropped out of shyness or being self-conscious. But no, the youngest son still sings all day long. He and his friends make random sound effects here, there, and everywhere, apparently sampled from favourite songs and clips on tik tok. Life revolves around phones, social media, and online games.
I miss the early years. The simple years. Suddenly, the enormous capacity of children to focus on playing games and having fun switches on a dime to focusing on their friends. The youngest son told me that his large circle of mates are the most important people in his life, after we, his immediate family, of course. Thanks, son. Lucky save.

Teens at the moment are navigating the minefield of the pandemic on top of the usual rush of hormone-driven behaviours. My boys have friends who get sick and vanish from social life for a while, then they recover, and another wave goes down. The constant communication via devices continues uninterrupted, but the occasional parties and get-togethers to cruise the mall or hang out at one another’s houses have to be temporarily shelved. This translates to teens who are grumpy. Cue the big sigh.
Being a parent means getting to bear witness to these kids growing up. A bittersweet process. Now, my boys tease me ruthlessly about “shrinking” (with old age) as they turn into human giraffes.

The youngest is a lot more emotionally needy as a teen. He requires more listening from me and wants me to explain everything at length in five different ways. He speaks so fast that the words run together in mini avalanches. My grandmother always used to say as long as your kids are talking to you, things are okay. I keep that in mind. Although at the teenage stage, sometimes he talks too much. Everything is exaggerated, and sometimes I get overly anxious. I do my best not to panic about all the potential pitfalls out in the world. At this age as with those that came before, kids want clear boundaries. With the rules in place and by setting a good example, I can be a solid foundation in his life. At the end of the day, that’s all you can do, as well as love them.
Love them relentlessly.
Have you survived raising teenagers? Please send notes!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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90% of parenting is just thinking about when you can lie down again. ~ Phyllis Diller

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2022 has been a bit of a challenge so far. In uncertain times we tend to hark back to basics. Here, in New Zealand, there has been a groundswell of interest in growing-your-own vegetables since 2020 and even more so this year. This has prompted the city council where we live to offer free gardening courses online.
I came to gardening late in life, when I had to take over maintenance of this quarter-acre property after my husband and I parted ways in 2008. Tending the gardens started as a chore and a burden. At first, I could not believe how much work was involved. But in the last 14 years, I have learned to relish every aspect. I love how it gets you outside, communing with nature. It’s become part of my way of life, and for that, I am grateful. Getting your fingers in the dirt and some sweat on the brow is good for the soul.

By the time the pandemic started, I was at the stage of supplementing our diet with homegrown herbs, leafy greens, tomatoes, beans, and this year I grew cucumbers and broccoli for the first time. But our vegetable beds could be providing so much more. This is why I ended up registering for the backyard gardening webinars offered by the council.
I’m halfway through the course at present. It has been excellent, and I’ve already learned a lot. For instance, vegetables need six hours of sun a day (apart from herbs that can stand the shade). And the most important thing to take care of is the soil. Some people advocate the no-dig method. I have since heard this echoed in the other course of webinars I’m attending on soil ecology, which says no-dig is best as the all-important structure and ecology of the soil remains intact. Our tutor, however, recommends digging and turning the fertilizers over into the soil. But he said, either dig or don’t dig it doesn’t make a lot of difference. Both ways produce results.

Our tutor told us about his property. He and his wife had moved there six years ago. When they took over, the ground was mostly clay and swamped in a ground cover that leached any remaining goodness out of the already sub-standard soil.
They removed all the ground covering plants and brought in trailer load after trailer load of compost, simply spreading it over the top of the clay. They did not bother digging it in. Then he and his wife left it until rain and time had reduced the level, and they repeated the process, adding trailer loads of compost. After another year, they set out a few paths to delineate beds and started planting vegetables. Their backyard plot was underway. Six years later, they grow most of their produce in abundance. It was inspiring and a good goal for all of us.

Our tutor tends to repeat the message throughout each live webinar to ‘keep adding compost’ to your ground. *Though not all composts are created equal. If you’re buying it, make sure you’re not buying a product derived from tanalized timber, as the chemicals in the wood may still be present, and they will affect your yield. If you’re making your compost, make sure it’s 70% green waste from the garden (clippings, leaves) and 30% food scraps (but avoid meat or cooked food as these encourage rats).
By all accounts, the very best sort of composting system for the backyard gardener is to have worm bins. It’s a great way of recycling kitchen scraps, but no dairy, no meat, no citrus or onions. You put tiger worms in with the scraps and mince/chop all the material going in for them as it breaks down faster. Give the bin a splash of water daily. The water that drains through the main unit is called worm tea. This tea can be diluted part 10 tea to 90 water and distributed via a watering can onto all the plants. You can feed the plants every two weeks but no more than that as it can get too much. Empty the worm bin every 4 – 6 weeks.

To thrive, your plants need compost, sun, water, and protection from the wind. Our tutor recommended putting up windbreak cloth around exposed plots or choosing areas for beds protected from the wind. He also suggested collecting seaweed from the beach after a storm. It makes excellent fertilizer. Dig a trench in your veggie patch to spade depth, place the seaweed in the bottom of the trench and cover it with soil. Then leave it alone.


I am busy making plans for my veggie patches. There is a lot to do, but what rewarding and delicious work! There is too much new-to-me gardening information to write about in one post. Therefore, I will split up my notes. More another day, green thumbs.
Why not have a go and get gardening!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

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In Toastmasters last week, during the spontaneous speaking segment of the meeting called Table Topics, I was asked this question, “How has your life changed in the last two years?” I replied, “There has been a lot more stress. Even after doing meditation and yoga each day, there is still stress. But, the greatest change has been the divisions that have taken place between my family and friends.” Apart from the impacts of illness, death, and chaos around us, the pandemic has also divided communities and families. People have become polarised over powerful feelings one way or the other. There is a lot of rhetoric on both sides. My own family has broken into two camps. Some people aren’t talking to others and are not seeing those on the other side of the fence. My friend group has suffered the same fate. As the classic middle child peacekeeper, I navigate my way down the middle, passing messages between the camps. It appears that stress has altered the normal levels of tolerance friends and family would extend to one another. Instead, people are quick to attack and denounce others as wrong. It’s sad.

Whenever I’m in doubt, I retreat to one of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far in 57 years of life on this planet. I’ve shared this message before, and anyone who has known me the last nine years I’ve been active on social media will have heard it already. Be prepared. I will share it again in the future. It is too valuable to keep to myself.
Let me tell you the story.
About thirty years ago, I was a recruit to Amway. I didn’t last long in the business, but, in the beginning, I was new and shiny-eyed, ever curious to learn more. If you are unfamiliar with Amway, it works on a tier system. As you gain more people in your business (or “down lines”), you earn more money, and by the time you reach “Diamond” level, you earn decent returns and have many down lines all looking up to you as their leader.

Our Diamond leaders were an intelligent, good-looking, older couple. They were articulate and kind. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call them Bob and Sue. I would assume a lot of the teaching and lectures in Amway would take place online these days, but in those days, the meetings happened in person. So we would rock along to school auditoriums and church halls one night a week to hear the various Diamonds and above give talks about building the business.
On Tuesday night, I attended a meeting where my Diamond leaders were speaking. Sue, especially, was glamorous and impeccably dressed, one of those people who has star quality oozing out of her pores. She never goes unnoticed, heads turn. She and I had never spoken in person. I was a mere underling, a newbie so far down the line I had not even signed up a single business prospect. I was starstruck to be in the same room.
The meeting was inspirational, as always. When it finished, I filed out along with everyone else, and somehow, I ended up walking alongside Sue. To my amazement, she started talking to me.

We established I was one of her downlines. We wandered slowly out to the car park. Sue was in full swing, talking about the benefits of the business and the usual speel. Then we faced one another to say our goodbyes. Sue grabbed my hand, and she said, “You know what, honey, if you forget everything else I have told you tonight, it’s fine. There is only one thing I want you to take away. There is one rule I try to follow every day. It’s more important than everything else, even the business.”
I nodded. My focus was on her 100%.
“Whether in your business or in your life, there is only one thing you need to do every day, and that is to SPREAD THE LOVE.”

Even then, I could feel the tingle, the reverberation of those words. The moment and the message were profound. They engraved into my memory. I took the message away with me that night, and it completely changed my outlook. I’ve never forgotten it, and I have endeavoured to apply the wisdom in the years since. Whenever in doubt about any situation, big or small, I remember Sue’s advice. Spread the love.
Within the current climate of disintegration, I remember that life lesson again. Have hurtful things been said to me by family and friends? Yes. Have hurtful things been done to me? Yes. Has misunderstanding run rife? Yes. But do I respond in kind? No. Do I stand in my corner pointing fingers, telling others what they should think or how they should behave? No. Do I belittle and demean others for their choices? No. I come back again and again to that shining woman in that dimly-lit car park, throwing the business narrative out the window to impart the most valuable truth in her life.

I think, how can I SPREAD THE LOVE?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” ~ Albert Einstein


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2022 has been a fascinating rollercoaster ride so far. Three weeks ago, the middle son – Samuel – who is nineteen and has a dual diagnosis, Down syndrome, and Autism, began to exhibit certain worrying behaviours: not sleeping, not eating, talking incessantly, flicking light switches on and off, and so on. I existed on little to no sleep. The stress levels were through the roof. I sought professional help, and we ended up seeing a behavioural specialist.
We managed to link Samuel’s behaviour issues to the many changes going on in his life and a simple error on our part of not fully explaining things to him as we went along. Because Sam is non-verbal, we can sometimes forget to include him in the conversations about what is happening in our family. It is easy to overlook that he is affected by every decision we make and therefore needs things explained to him every step of the way.

Frankly, a lot of things have altered lately. Sam’s father decided he would sell his house, intending to move to the countryside. He started renovating the house, and his flatmates moved out. Sam’s younger brother (and best mate) stayed at dad’s house for three weeks, helping him to paint the exterior. All these major events were going on around Sam without his understanding. No wonder he started acting out.

We sat down, and I talked to him about the entire situation, moving house, the renovating, and so on.
The behavioural specialist said until the living setup and routine fully settle down, Sam may continue to exhibit erratic behaviours. “But you understand it now. It’s his way of controlling an uncontrollable situation. Let him do his little things and know that it will eventually pass.”

Heartened, I told various family members and my closest friends about what we had gone through around here for the last three weeks. The general reaction was shock. My sister said, “Tell me while it’s going on, next time. Why don’t you let me support you?” And my friends told me off similarly. One of my oldest buddies said to me today, “You know, it helps to talk about difficult things. That’s what friends are for.”
I hear what they are saying, and I get it. What they don’t understand is this is the way introverts deal with the big stuff. We live through it, figure out the answers (often with the help of professionals), contemplate the circumstances and what we have learned. When we have the issues resolved, we share the carefully considered results.
It doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the offers of help. We do. We do things a little differently from the majority.

According to the site Introvert, Dear, an award-winning community hub:

We introverts make up 30 -50% of the population, and most of us share these characteristics:
We’d rather stay home most nights than go out to one social event after another.
We enjoy quiet, solitary activities like reading, writing, gaming, gardening, or drawing.
We’ll usually choose the company of a few close friends over a wild party.
We do our best work alone.
Many of us will avoid small talk or other unnecessary social interactions.
We usually do our best work alone.

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And, from my personal experience, when the major events take place in our lives, we wish to sort out our business by ourselves first, before we include loved ones.
Apart from irritating my family and friends with this introverted trait, I am happy to report that the worst of the crisis is over. Samuel is sleeping and eating again. So am I. Huzzah! His father and I have made a point of talking with Sam about each new thing. There are fewer erratic behaviours and more of the son we know and love.

Currently, I’m floating in a state of utter relief and bliss. My patience has returned. I can feel my face again. Now, I want to spend time with those around me and talk.

Family and friends of introverts know this. Talking to you after rather than during a crisis does not mean we don’t need you or love you. We need to process our experiences in a private way before we share. Is that okay?
To my fellow introverts, I say: It is essential to honour your real self and what you need for bliss. The world needs more contemplative, calm people. It is fine to be an introvert and do things your way.
Let us celebrate our differences.

How do you process the big stuff? By talking it through with folks (extrovert) or talking about it after the fact (introvert)?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” ~ Albert Einstein

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

February 2 question – Is there someone who supported or influenced you that perhaps isn’t around anymore? Anyone, you miss?
I miss my parents. They were my biggest supporters, especially my mother. In the early days, as a writer in my teens, I used to edit my stories, then print out several copies, have them spiral bound, and give them to people. I had given my parents many copies over the years. Ma was my biggest fan, and she kept my handmade books on their bookshelf. Anyone who came over their threshold, be it neighbour, friend, or stranger, Ma would bring out one of my stories and read aloud to them. As a younger, more foolish person, I can remember feeling red-faced and embarrassed at having my early stories paraded in public. But after my parents died, I missed Ma’s earnest, innocent, unerring support more than words can say. It struck me that no one (apart from maybe paid professionals) was ever going to sell my stories every chance they got or with such fervour ever again.

I was very close to my parents and was the only one of four siblings to live at home* for long periods in adulthood. (*see, starving writer). When my parents retired, they shifted to live in a log cabin by the seaside for twenty years of bliss. I would travel down from the city to visit them for a three-day weekend every six weeks. Not once did Ma ever fail to ask how my writing was going. Even after the six mini-strokes that slightly addled her brain. She always asked about my stories and – wonderfully – would sit and listen to the answer with rapt attention. Ma genuinely wanted to know what I was writing. She would ask interesting questions and I loved to fill her in.

Every writer knows that the process of submitting work to publishers and competitions is soul-destroying. If I faltered in my self-belief and began to feel I couldn’t send out another manuscript to a publisher, Ma’s enthusiasm and unfailing belief in my ability would keep me going. She loved my stories and was utterly convinced that it was just a matter of time before someone turned them into bestsellers. Her strength kept me aligned due north.

About twenty years ago, I was unpublished and still entering stories into every competition and awards contest. I submitted the first manuscript in my future trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, titled The Or’in of Tane, to an international “unpublished manuscript” competition. The first prize was the publication, physical copies, and worldwide distribution of the resulting ebook. It was a pretty awesome prize by anyone’s standards. The publisher would contact the shortlisted authors after they chose the final winner. Everyone else would hear bad news within a few days of submission. A month after the deadline passed, I still had not heard from them. I felt tentatively excited. Publisher silence meant my story still had a chance.
But then another month passed, and I still hadn’t heard. I finally emailed the publisher. I found out my story had arrived a day after the deadline. I realized I had made a simple mistake calculating the difference in time zones. Therefore, they had not even considered my manuscript. After all the years of rejections, to think I had potentially crossed the finish line, only to find out I’d failed again, was too much. I fell into a black hole of depression and stayed in a dark place for an entire week.
At the end of that week, the phone rang. I picked it up. “Hello?”
My mother’s voice. No preamble. She said, “The darkest hour comes before the dawn.”
And with those words offered as a lifeline, she pulled me out. I started to weep. While I bawled my eyes out, I could hear Ma saying positive, encouraging, uplifting things. Then I dried my eyes, and we talked. Later, when I got off the phone, I realized my perspective had shifted, and I could move on with my writing life. Ma always knew when to ride in on the white horse.

Both my parents were avid supporters.
When I finally went the Indie route and self-published The Or’in of Tane, it was September 2015. My mother had died in June of that year. She never got to be at my book launch. But my father was there. At the age of 82, he traveled all the way to the city to attend, and in the speeches, he stood up and started his piece with ‘I’m Dad.” He was proud, and I got to feel my parents’ faith in me was vindicated.
By the time I released the second and third books in the trilogy, my father had passed away, too. There were two empty chairs at the launch, which I allocated to my parents because they would have loved to be there. The dedication I gave them on the front page of The Or’in of Tane read, For my parents, who believed in me, no matter what.
I sure do miss them.
What about you. Is there someone who supported or influenced you that perhaps isn’t around anymore? Anyone, you miss?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. ~ Hellen Keller


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Every year around this time I have two mammoth jobs that need to be done. My sons and I bake the massive Christmas Cake, which is a rich fruit cake to feed about sixty-four. We also do the photoshoot of my two young victims sons, whom I make dress up in festive gear at the start of December. Then I pick the best photo from the shoot and make our Christmas card for friends and family. We did the photoshoot this weekend. The boys get a bit grumpy about it these days, which I think is quite cute. I had fun making the cards all day. It’s creative, it’s fun and it involves glitter. What more do you need to know?

When I first started this blog, my middle son – who was born with Down Syndrome – featured by himself on the card. Three years later, his little brother came along and the pair got to feature on the next family card and so it has gone on.

Here is how you can make your family greeting card for next-to-nothing.

Once you have your photo, reduce it to a small size. Figure out how many people you are making cards for. Print out the photos on regular A4 paper and cut them out.

Take cheap Christmas cards (I bought ours from the thrift store) and cut them down in size. I use the same “guides” for the layers which I made myself out of cardboard, so they are all the same dimensions. Start with a guide for the size of the card. On Christmas Day each year, I save the interesting pieces of wrapping paper and iron them towards the following year’s cards. Make a guide for the interesting saved paper, or any fun paper you like, as your next layer. It must be smaller than the card and larger than the photo.

Now you have the items you need for your cards: a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible), the rectangles of saved wrapping paper, and a stack of your cut-out photos.

My next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix” which is a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product where you are. The fibres come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper then iron on a low heat until the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly material. I cut out small rectangles of Hot Fix, one for each of my cards.

Begin construction by gluing the saved wrapping paper to the card, at the same time trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one end extends.

Then glue the photo on the top.

*Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile weights on top.

The best part is adding the embellishments! It is time to decorate the front of each card with glitter and crystals and stickers to your heart’s delight.

Inside each card, I include a surprise, usually gift tags, or I also have a set of miniature antique postcards which I bought in a thrift store once, and I’ll include a couple of those with each one. Match your card as closely as possible to the size of the envelope. It looks better that way. Write a special message inside each card and post it to family and friends.
It’s homemade. It’s personal. It’s crafty fun. What’s not to love?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


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The other day, upon entering our garage, a bee zoomed towards me. It circled, flying towards me again and again. I thought, what odd behaviour. Two days later, we caught three bees inside the house. Odd. Then, I was weeding when I heard buzzing and looked up. There were hundreds of bees flying in and out of our chimney!
It turns out, I learned later, that the first oddly-acting bee was the “scout,” sent to find a new location for the swarm.
The bees’ new home was in our chimney stack.

Cue the frantic Google search. The first beekeeper I spoke to expressed dismay. “Chimneys are particularly difficult,” she said. “We may not be able to remove the bees from there. You may have to call the exterminator.” I said, “I don’t want to harm the bees.” She asked, in all seriousness, “Could you live with them?” I didn’t have to think about it. I quickly replied, “NO.”
I love bees. But if there is such a thing as too many, then this was that situation.
The beekeeper recommended The Bee Club. I contacted their website. The next day, a nice older gentleman arrived. It was like seeing the cavalry coming in. I was so pleased to see him, let’s call him Don.

Don walked in armed with a bee suit, handheld smoker, a ladder, and believe it or not, a vacuum cleaner which he had attached to a clear plastic box.
I told him about the lady asking if we could live with the swarm. Don said, “That’s not a good idea. The honey and the wax attract vermin. The hive will grow until it’s too big for the chimney. After the swarm departs the hive will die, attracting more vermin. And once you’ve had wax in your chimney, it attracts more scouts because the bees smell the wax.”
Happy days. Not.
Don took one look up and said, “I don’t know if I can do it. That’s a tall chimney, and I have to be able to see down into it.”
Oh boy! I was “thinking the right thoughts” over that one.

Don looked up again. He said if I had a ladder, he could climb onto the roof then put his ladder against the upper stack. I brought ours out of the garage. Gamely, he went up to our rickety old ladder. From the roof, Don set up his collapsible one against the stack and was able to get high enough to look inside. Lifting the metal plate that sealed the stack, he peeked underneath. “Okay, this might be possible.”
Thank you!
We handed him all his equipment under strict instructions to only hold the smoker by the bellows as it is hot. Then we stood back to watch the show.
First, Don used his smoker, burning a mixture of humus material and pine needles. He puffed under the lid and around the chimney top. He lifted the lid slowly. “This hasn’t been here long. Maybe two days at most. They haven’t made any wax.”
Whew. What a relief.

Don lifted the lid, and hanging beneath it was a cluster of bees, somehow hanging together. I imagine they were surrounding the queen, keeping her safe. We onlookers gasped. By holding the plate above his plastic box, Don gave it a sudden bang on the side of the box, and all the bees fell in as one. He put the lid over the top, and he had bagged the queen and most of the workers. It was amazing.
Then Don switched on his magic vacuum and started vacuuming bees out of our chimney to join the others in the plastic box. After five or so minutes, he said, “I could keep on vacuuming two hundred more bees, but if I do, the ones in the box will asphyxiate.” So he sprayed fly spray inside to kill the bees remaining and laid a concrete block over the hole.

Don had rescued most of the swarm, even the queen. He had rid our chimney of bees. Thank goodness. And all of this is voluntary work for a man in his golden years. Wow.
What was he going to do with our bees? Don told me he was taking them to a new beekeeper who lived nearby.
I got an email from him yesterday, and he said our bee swarm is settling in nicely to their warm hive. We should expect a jar of honey in our mailbox soon. Happy days.
When I put this story on Facebook, I got quite a few responses from friends who had had similar dramas happen with bees and wasps on their properties. Have you ever had trouble with beehives or wasp nests? What did you do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aesop


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Do you have a garden bed that is in a difficult spot in your garden? Our rockery in the backyard is in a challenging position. Located behind the house, it offers drought and flood and full shadow for most of the day. Previously, we had had a dragon tree in the rockery and a young native tree that was already much too large. The job of transforming the rockery became my “lockdown project.” Change it. I would. And, here’s what I did.
The first casualty was the young tree. With the potential to grow into a grand chieftain, I removed it from the rockery, leaving a long oval-shaped dry bed featuring a lone dragon tree at one end and a spindly sapling at the other. The proposition of making this awkward bed into ‘something’ was daunting. With gardening, you have to attempt to forecast into the future how plants will grow and envisage the potential outcome. In the end, you throw the dice and leave it up to nature. Who dares, wins, right?

I started by simply clearing the weeds and scraping off years of detritus to reduce the bed to a blank canvas. The old bricks which had formed the edging had sunk into the ground over time, nearly disappearing in the mud. I dug these out, cleaning them as I went. Then I packed soil around the edges of the bed, putting the bricks back on top, thereby lifting the edging clear.
There are a few ways to go about laying the foundations of a garden bed. You can plant intensely and not worry about weeds. Or you can set down weed matting, adding bark. Or you can do what the landscapers do, lay a layer of bark at least 400 mm deep so the weeds can not grow.

In the case of the rockery, when I tried to lift the top layer of weed matting, I discovered another, even older layer of matting much farther down. So rather than excavating, I opted to leave the matting in place. If you use a weed mat, you will need to add blood and bone to the soil to correct the PH balance of the soil before adding the mat and the bark on top. So I treated every plant with a good dose of blood and bone mixed in with the potting mix.
My father built the rockery wall out of bluestone in the early 1960s. He needed a retaining wall to create a flatter area in our sloping back garden. The wall was higher than it is now, but over the years, the top tier of bluestone had been robbed out and used elsewhere.

One of my first jobs was to hunt out the rogue bluestones from every corner of the property. Then I lay the stones across the bed to create a stepping stone path, imagining my grandchildren hopping from stone to stone one day.
The rockery is a raised bed. Therefore, it’s helpful to use drought-tolerant plants. Cacti and succulents are ideal. Being situated in the lee of the house, I also needed plants that could handle shade. Ask at your local garden centre for suitable plants for the conditions in your bed. In our case, I planted a line of Buxus hedge trees, which are hardy. Along the front of the rockery bed, I dug in yellow grasses for colour and contrast.
To square off with the lone dragon tree in one corner, I moved my ponytail palm from the front bed into the rockery. Being at the other end of the bed to the lone dragon tree, it makes sense. Huzzah!

Then I planted a dwarf apricot tree. My sister donated a hydrangea, and I planted a few of my mother’s orchids. If you choose to plant an orchid, use the proper potting mix (similar to bark). They do well in the shade.
I still had a gnarly stump in the rockery and an unwieldy section of the tree trunk that was too big to cut with a chainsaw. In the case of immovable obstacles, why not turn them into features? Beneath the dragon tree, I set the section of the trunk upright. Then I turned both the stump and the trunk into wood sculptures by decorating them with my father’s aerophytes (air plants) and rocks.

The last stage of the transformation was to spread bark in between the plants and the stones. I think it looks great. Yesterday, my three-year-old granddaughter came over to visit. When we took a walk in “Nana’s garden,” she automatically dashed over and hopped from stone to stone across the rockery bed. It was a wonderful moment.
I hope you have gained some inspiration for your difficult garden beds. Let me know your stories.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

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When traumatic events happen, you deal with them as best you can. Times goes on. You assume the event is safely in the past. Then, you enter a situation that is similar to the traumatic event and have a panic attack. This is what happened to me this week, and it took me by surprise.
In some cases, life-changing experiences can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a mental illness triggered by peak levels of distress. It can be treated and brought under control with help from a doctor, therapy, and professional guidance. A good friend lived through the big earthquake that rocked Christchurch in 2011. Diagnosed with PTSD, she suffers recurrent nightmares and over-reacts when she hears loud noises.

In my case, what I went through this week was not PTSD but a flashback. A flashback is when you feel drawn back into the traumatic experience as if it is happening all over again.
This week, the youngest son was scheduled for an adenectomy and to have grommets inserted. Surgery is a last resort in my book. But in my son’s case, the specialist believed that his oversized adenoids were causing the loss of hearing in his left ear and inability to breathe through his nose. So it had to be done.
We sat in the hospital waiting room and worked on our crossword, chatting and laughing.
A nurse said, “We’re ready for you now. Follow me.” We followed her along the winding corridors through a pair of heavy blue doors. As the nurse and my son stepped aside, I got my first sight of the room. I took in the surgeons, the anesthetists, the nurses, all in masks and gowns, the skinny operating table, the machines, and the lights. My stomach immediately dropped sickeningly. My skin prickled with goosebumps, and my heart was pounding. I was freaking out. But I couldn’t show it. My son needed me, and I had to be strong for him.

It was scarily like that other time, in August 2010, when he was five years old, and we followed a nurse into a stark white operating theatre. I was straight back there. No time had elapsed in between. In 2010, I looked at my little boy, and I looked at that operating table and felt as if I would throw up with fear, knowing my baby was about to undergo a heart bypass and open-heart surgery.

However, as a parent, you are the captain of the ship. Captains don’t get to freak out. Your job is to stay at the helm until the bitter end.

I had to be calm that day in 2010 and smile for my son. I murmured, “You’re okay, mama loves you,” when he fought the gas mask, and the doctors made me lie on him until the anesthetic took effect and he went limp beneath me.

On Tuesday morning this week, I walked into that operating room, took one glimpse, and stepped back ten years to the scariest time of my life. On Tuesday, my son was only undergoing a minor medical procedure. Yet, I was staring into the white light and hearing angels as if his life was on the line.

As a mature adult today, I have lots of tools to help me weather the storms of life. Whenever something stressful happens, I calm down with meditation, affirmations, yoga, and breathing techniques. But for the private panic attack, I suffered in that hospital room this week, none of my tools helped. I was physically reliving the helpless terror I felt in that other theatre room. According to Rothschild, ‘A flashback can mimic the real thing because it provokes a similar level of stress in the body. The same hormones course through your veins as did at the time of the actual trauma, setting your heart pounding and preparing your muscles and other body systems to react as they did at the time.’

That describes my panic attack perfectly. I stayed with my son until he had fallen unconscious. In the waiting room, I did the only thing I could do. I rang my family and talked to people who cared, and it helped so much.

*According to the site, Trauma Recovery, here are some ideas for managing the situation if you get stuck in a flashback:
NAME the experience as a flashback (example- this is a memory, NOT a recurrence of the actual event)
Use LANGUAGE that categorizes the flashbacks as a “memory” (example- I was attacked, rather than I am being attacked)
Use the SENSES to GROUND self in your CURRENT environment:
Name what you see, feel, hear, smell, etc.
Rub hands together
Touch, feel the chair that is supporting you
Wiggle your toes
Favourite colour- find three things in the room that are “blue”
Name the date, month, year, season
Count backward from 100
Use an object as a grounding tool
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I’ve kept a note of these points in case any of my loved ones need escorting into theatre in the future.
Have you ever suffered a private panic attack or a flashback? What did you do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating
Yvette Carol
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“I have laid my son on an OR table and kissed him as he fell asleep. I have handed him to a surgeon knowing they would stop his heart and prayed it would beat again. I am a Heart mum.” ~ Suzanne White

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