Daffodil Days


Inspired by the age old tradition of mothers passing on advice to their daughters, we’ve invited our own mother’s, Barbara Justiz and Beverly Duckworth, to share their wisdom and wit with you on our blog every month. Today we share a post from Beverly… 

 Image via  Gardenista

Image via Gardenista

I love the month of May. The color yellow always springs to mind when I think of this month. Probably because the Welsh hillsides are filled with our National Flower, the daffodil, at this time of year. Such a beautiful bloom! May is also the month of my birth. I always feel stronger, sexier and more grateful as my birthday approaches. So much so, that I wish I could bottle this feeling and carry it with me through the other 11 months of the year!

Gratitude of course can and should be a daily practice. When I’m grateful,  I’m looking out at the horizon, at the wonderful possibilities ahead and I am hopeful. When I’m lacking gratitude, I tend to look down and inwards and as a result, my world gets smaller and becomes all about me.

Even on our low days, we can choose not to stay looking inwards. Who says we can’t stop our day at anytime, take a minute, change our attitude and start all over again? There’s so much magic to be seen, if we simply allow it to enter our day to day. 

I plan to practice shining brightly this month and sharing my light with all I come into contact with. Practice makes perfect… so bring it on June!



P.S. This poem always brings a bit of magic to my day…

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

By William Wordsworth

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:                                 
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,                              
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Mother Wisdom


Barbara Justiz

When I was in 4th grade we learned about the suffragettes and the women’s right-to-vote movement, and I was PISSED. Not at the suffragettes, of course, but at the fact that this inequality existed and that it existed in the not-so-distant past. Nothing in my 9 long years of life experience had suggested that such a thing was even possible. I did not take it well, nor quietly, and my vocalizations earned me a swift trip to the principals office. But this utter shock of mine was testament to the way my mother raised me. I was taught that women are strong, powerful, and, I guess if I am honest, were in fact the superior gender. It was something I was brought up knowing, and to find that there was a time when this was not common knowledge deeply affected me. And this is the narrative I ascribed to that experience for nearly 20 years. But over the past few years, when I really reflected, a deeper and more intimate and personal lesson has begun to occur to me: a lesson about the woman who raised me, and her bravery and courage in the face of impediments, and  the world-view that she passed on to me, her only daughter.

In her mostly male-dominated, stressful, high-powered career, my mother worked hard to ensure a level of abundance and security for her family, an indefatigable drive that began when she was 15 years old, and her father died suddenly, leaving her own mother alone with four children to care for. My mother, in seeing the difficulty and struggle my grandmother went through to provide and to ensure stability for her children, determined to become self-sufficient. She worked her way through school, didn’t shy away from taking on responsibility in her career, and earned the admiration and respect of her peers. Truth be told, as a result of this ambition, for much of my life she was incredibly stressed. She put enormous pressure on herself to never let any aspect of life slip, and to be everything to everyone: a perfect wife, mother, daughter, sister, and employee. She rarely stopped to ask herself what she really wanted, if she was happy, if maybe she needed a nap.

But lately, I am witnessing her go through a renaissance, seeing her release fears, and gravitate to what really inspires her. The pain that she felt from that sudden shock so many years ago, that tremendous impact that influenced so many of her subsequent choices, is loosening its grip. Now talks of greenhouses, opening a restaurant, and cross-country moves are regular. There are new recipes to try every time I go home, daily journaling, and gardening. Watching her transition into a grandmother is monumental; I see a new life emerging for her, a beauty and a happiness that is radiant. As an adult, now with a family of my own, as I try to navigate the uncertainties and stresses of life, I find myself learning from her more now then ever before. She is giving me strength to be brave and to take risks, and is showing by example that there are many acts in life.

Beverly Duckworth

‘You are responsible for your own happiness.’

When I came to my mother with a problem, she would offer me a sweet cup of tea, look me in the eyes with love and support and then clearly state that it was my responsibility to change anything that was making me unhappy. I could not look at people with sadness and expect them to change. I could not complain about a problem and expect it to disappear. I could not admire my joyful friends and expect to catch their happiness like it was contagious. It was my job to find my joy — and it would likely be lifelong effort. I’ve come to realize that not everyone was raised with same level of encouragement for the pursuit of happiness and I am eternally grateful to my mother for impressing on me that not only did I deserve happiness, but it was my duty to create it.

When I was younger, I saw being responsible for my own happiness as a way out of any problem. It gave me control and agency in situations where I felt powerless and sorrowful. It was the boost I needed to gather my courage and leave that job/relationship/class/apartment that was causing me angst and stress.

After graduating college and entering the ‘real world’, I realized that being responsible for my own happiness was about more than freeing myself from the negative influences in my life. It was about my commitment to self care. Slowly but surely, I learned to invest in the big and little things that were good for me. As I embraced self-care, I took more and more responsibility for my own well being and the ways in which I failed to supply myself with the opportunity for happiness.

I’m still discovering the many layers that this lesson has to offer. Most recently, I’ve been inspired by what it teaches me about choice. Sometimes, life throws things at you that you simply cannot escape or change. Hardships that no amount of therapy or exercise or self care will cure. When those things happen, how can I be expected to take charge of my own happiness? When I’m faced with a deep, dark, unchangeable sadness, how can I be held responsible for something as far out of my reach as joy? During these times, I look to my mother and I see just how much I have to learn. I admire how she has taken this mantra to its highest height. How she has taught herself to find joy and value in every moment. How she has instilled in herself the ability to come to each day and choose happiness time and time again.

Nadolig Llawen*


Inspired by the age old tradition of mothers passing on advice to their daughters, we’ve invited our own mother’s, Barbara Justiz and Beverly Duckworth, to share their wisdom and wit with you on our blog every month. Today we share a post from Beverly… 

 Image via  Flickr

Image via Flickr

This time every year as I prepare for the holidays and time with friends and family, I find myself picking up a little too much momentum. I notice even my daily actions take on a quicker pace – I run my errands faster, I cancel coffee with friends, I skip yoga classes because I’m too busy. (Too busy to look after myself — never a good idea!!) My heart seems to beat a little faster as I worry about completing all the tasks I’ve set myself.  My head starts to race thinking about everything I need to get done in time. And then I stop. And I ask myself, “in time for what exactly?”.  Surely this is a time for quiet celebration. A time to reflect on the year gone by and have gratitude for the many good things we’ve accomplished and been blessed with. A time to practice being kinder and more mindful of others.  

I like to look for signs, especially when life gets a little crazy. And trust me when I say that it’s been MORE than crazy trying to organize the “Duckworth Family Christmas” this year. Two months ago, the whole plan fell together beautifully: 8 people traveling from Wales and 2 from New York to meet in Austin, Texas. But, that was then! In the past two weeks, everything has changed and the entire trip was up in the air until yesterday!
So this week, as I was driving around the Welsh countryside, trying to make everything come together and asking the Universe for help,  I looked to the side of the road and sitting in this one very green, lush field was an old beaten up caravan (bit like a British RV).  It was totally dilapidated and it had a big sign across the whole side that said “IT IS WHAT IT IS”. Oh, it made me smile! I immediately began to understand: that was my sign! It truly is going to be just what it is! What a relief. I’m not in charge! And with that,  I came back to the present…BEST GIFT EVER!

I hope wherever this festive season finds you, you give yourself this gift.

Merry Christmas (or Nadolig Llawen as we like to say in Wales)



On Wabi-Sabi & Planting Garlic


We are launching a new series on Girl Gift Gather called Mum’s The Word. Inspired by the age old tradition of mothers passing on advice to their daughters, we’ve invited our own mother’s, Barbara Justiz and Beverley Duckworth, to share their wisdom and wit with you on our blog every month. Today we share a post from Barbara… 

Spring is the air – joking! But I was thinking of Spring as my fingers turned frosty, gingerly placing each garlic clove into 4” deep holes spaced 6” apart in my garden. Green shoots will be poking out of the ground in Spring, one of the first signs of that season, along with my crocuses and then daffodils.  

My first experience planting garlic was several years ago. I found a wonderful site, www.keeneorganics.com, and was excited to see all the various types and colors of garlic. But which ones to buy? Early Italian Purple Softneck? Nookta Rose? Inchelium Red? Persian Star?Armenian Sibs? Ist Time Garlic Growers? 2lb, 5lb, 10 lb assorted? I randomly chose some, reluctantly leaving the others behind, still ending up with about 50 heads of garlic. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that you don’t plant the whole head, but rather individual cloves, which meant my garden would have to forego any other vegetables or fruits in order to accommodate all those cloves. No matter, one can never have enough garlic for cooking. I would end up planting some and using the rest.

Lest you think I am fanatically precise, (refer to the 4”/6” measurements, mentioned above) rest assured, I am not.  Many years ago, when first married, plants were our major decorating theme, the green and variegated leaves covered a multitude of weaknesses in our sparsely decorated apartment. I didn’t talk to them, which was highly recommended. I didn’t feed them special food. I can’t remember repotting them as they grew. I did water them, but sometimes they got a tad dry before soaking to make up for the neglect. I do remember my last words to them, as they were relegated to the trash room.  “I’m sorry, but you are no longer decorative, that was your purpose, and now you must go.” I’m not heartless, however. I knew that somewhere in our apartment building my alter ego would snatch that philodendron with the long stem upon which dangled two or three leaves and try to bring it back to life.  

So, back to garlic. That year, I planted the cloves, and carefully marked each type, a few cloves of each. Come Spring, it was a little like Hanzel and Gretel redux, my labels were bleached and unreadable. But we got garlic! 

For the next few years we kept getting garlic, although definitely less and less.This year I was happy with garlic scapes, albeit with some teeny, tiny cloves that were not worth pealing, or roasting. Time to plant again.

This time, I ordered two types of garlic, described as “hardy.”  Similar to my plants, I didn’t spoil my cloves. I didn’t soak them in a concoction of fish emulsion, Maxicrop and baking soda, followed by a warm bath (not over 115 degrees!) of my choice of vodka (like I would waste my precious vodka on a clove), isopropyl alcohol or Tsunami to sterilize my seed. Instead, I channeled Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese word that describes the art of imperfection. I didn’t know there was a word for it when I was tossing my plants out. Had I, I would have been more comfortable doing it, comfortable enough to not even remember to this day that I did the dirty deed. No, perfection would have those hardy heads of garlic still sitting in the box, waiting until I could a) buy all the necessary ingredients and b) actually get around to timing. Instead, they are in the ground, all 44 of them, and I will let nature take its course. The strong cloves will survive, the rest weren’t meant to be. Most important, it was fun instead of a stressful chore. And I always have the Farmer’s Market to appreciate someone else’s garlic growing success. 

Stay tuned…

Barbara J

Get into the Holiday Spirit with us next month at our Holiday Workshop with Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves. We’ll spend an afternoon crafting, chatting and enjoying Holiday treats! Tickets are selling fast so pick yours up now!