Thursday, May 18, 2017

Condo Gardening As A Beginner

I was never a gardener. It always seemed too much work. I used to watch my mother garden, and see how she toiled away in the heat and how meticulous she was with her plants and think - wow, that's a lot of dedication for some greenery. So I never picked up gardening as a hobby. When we moved to our own place in a condo, I thought we would never have plants or even do any bit of gardening.

BCCB (which stands for Bangladeshi Canadian - Canadian Bangladeshi) is an organization that I am part of. It has over 20,000 members across its various chapters throughout Canada, and one of the chapters is a local gardening club, and I was on their mailing list.

They were holding an Aloe Vera workshop, and it sounded interesting, so I signed up for it. You attend an hour long workshop where they give you a free (yes, free!) pot, soil and a baby Aloe Vera plant. I attended the workshop, and at the end of the day, I now had a plant without any place to put it on my condo.


So I was intrigued. Let's see if I can keep this plant alive, I thought. I mean, water once a week and leave it alone. Shouldn't be too hard, should it?

So I found a place on top of my souvenirs shelf that received a good amount of sunlight throughout the day, and left the plant there. I would water it once a week as instructed. After some time, I saw one of the leaves wither, but the rest seemed to be fine, and even seemed to be growing. This isn't so bad, I thought. It was actually nice to come home and check on the plant.

Then I saw another workshop by the same BCCB group. They were having a lau workshop. Lau, also known as bottle gourd, or kaddu. Now which Bengali doesn't like bottle gourd? And once again, seeds would be given out free, along with soil and pots.

Can I do this, I thought? I mean, for this I would need a proper garden, eventually. That's what my parents' place was for. So this time both my wife and I signed up for the workshop.

The workshop was certainly interesting. We even learned about plant sex! If we ever meet up in person, ask me about that story. But it was definitely enjoyable. I never realized I could sit and listen to an hour of someone talking about lau and be fascinated by it. So when we came home, we found a sunny spot beside one of our windows, put some boxes there and then out pots, and waited.


For some time, there was nothing. I looked every day, and waited. Suddenly, one evening my wife excitedly called me to the window. The baby plant had emerged!

The growth was soon very rapid. It was amazing to see just how fast this plant could grow from nothing. The way the seedlings turned into a plant reminded me of this verse of Allah.



"So observe the effects of the mercy of Allah - how He gives life to the earth after its lifelessness. Indeed, that [same one] will give life to the dead, and He is over all things competent." Quran, 30:50

The instructions were to keep the soil moist, but not wet or over drenched. We took care of that, and also made sure there was enough sunlight.





It was soon time to be planting them in the soil, but we had to take care of sudden dips in the temperature. Even in May, we had a frost warning early in the month. The temperature during the day was good, but at nights it dipped rapidly. The instructions we got was to wait for Victoria Day or even the last weekend of May to plant these.



Yesterday I saw creeping vines come out of the plant. This was the sign that it is almost ready to planted into a garden, along with a supporting trellis. So that is my next project. Waiting for next weekend so I can plant them into my parents' garden, and then build a trellis for them.


I also bought a small mini rose plant (called a kordana rose). So that is the extent of my mini condo garden right now, all on top of a box by the window sill.


The plan now is to build a proper shelf by that window, and then start growing sprint onions and perhaps even some micro-greens.

Wish me luck this growing season!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

7 Tips on How to Enjoy a Family Vacation

Now that summer is almost here (we have 29 degree weather tomorrow!), it's time to think about vacations. And with kids in tow, here's some ways I found you can completely enjoy a vacation with toddlers and infants.


0. Start rested and excited.

I put this at number 0 as this is something you need to do before your trip. Finish your packing one day (or even days) before, NOT the night before. Take a deep breath and relax, before your trip. And start to read up on things to do or what to see, and get excited! You can even involve your kids in this activity. Before we visited UAE, I saw a few things on YouTube with my son, and some interesting facts about them, so when we were there he could get excited about seeing it in real life.



1. Make the journey enjoyable.

Half the hassle of vacationing with kids is the journey to get to the destination. I shared 7 tips from my experience on how to ease this "pain". Another tip many people share is that don't go too far, but far enough to feel you have gone somewhere. I don't share that view - we have gone halfway across the world with our kids and they have been fine.

2. Rules are meant to be broken on vacation.

Before kids, we always thought we would be the ideal parents: give our kids proper, nutritious food like broccoli, restricting their screen time, making sure they go to bed on time, and so on. Of course, reality means at some times we are just happy if they are eating anything ... ANY THING ... and I don't care if they need an iPad to eat. But, generally, we have SOME rules. No watching TV at this time. Bedtime is strict. Mobile screen devices are restricted, etc.

When it comes to vacations, relax those rules. Kids don't really care if they are in Bali, Miami or Bluffer's Park, Toronto. A beach is a beach. Similarly they are not really interested in the delights of Barcelona's unique architecture. Let them also enjoy they way they want.

3. Travel within your budget.

A family vacation is expensive. Tickets are now not just for two, but more. Kids need their own beds, food. If, on the top of that, you are stressing about money, you won't enjoy your vacation. Unexpected costs come up during trips, like the $15 collectible drinking cup your child HAS to have at Universal Studios. So go somewhere you can afford to.


4. Co-operate with the "Planner" and be flexible.

Any vacation has to have a planner (unless it's just a beach vacation). In my family, I like to plan things and outline a vacation plan. When everyone co-operates with that plan, things go like clockwork. Of course, as planner, I also have to be flexible. I would LOVE it if everyone is up by 815 am and ready to go out by 930 am, but it's not going to happen.

5. You don't have to see everything.

This is something I realized even when we were just a couple. There are always too many things to see and too little time. Highlight the priorities, do what you can, and if you can, leave extra time that is unplanned so you can fill it as you need.


6. Document happy memories.

One of the best ways to make ourselves happy in the present is to recall happy times from the past, so making the effort to take pictures and videos, keep trip books, or gather souvenirs. I collect fridge magnets and souvenirs from every new destination I visit, and take pictures of every thing. I also found out that it's not the perfect picture of the sunset on Miami Beach that you will cherish, but the funny faces your children are making as they are running around on the sand.


7. Recognize your limits (and your kids).

Right now I am planning a vacation for visiting Canada's eastern coast. While it looks on paper that I can do a 8 hour drive every day, I know that once our trip is underway, after 2 hours I would be thinking "are we there yet". Learn from past experiences and recognize your own limits, and realize kids get sleepy or tired before you do. And they are less likely to be tolerant and adjustable.

Happy Vacationing!