How to Trim A Christmas Tree: The Tessa Edition

The vote was unanimous: no breakable ornaments on the Christmas tree this year.

Kitten in Christmas Tree

Those eyes! That face!

Our growing kitten, Tessa could hardly believe her luck. Were we really putting up a tree in the house?

We have an artificial Christmas tree that we set up in our living room the day after Thanksgiving. With the boys home from school and Mike off work, the four-day weekend is the perfect time to trim the tree.

Kitten in Christmas tree

Mike may have needed a bandage after this encounter

kitten in christmas tree

Mike and Tessa exchange looks

Like most kittens, Tessa’s curiosity peaks at the sight of anything new. So after assembling the tree, we let her explore. She wasted no time climbing into the tree for a little adventure. As Mike sat on the floor opening the branches she jumped up, climbed down, rolled around and peered out at me with excited eyes.

two faced kitten in Christmas tree

I’ve got my eye on you

From now on, when I hear the expression “lit up like a Christmas tree” I’ll think of our tiny terror frolicking through the limbs. Who needs lights when you live with Tessa?

Well…we still wanted some lights. Once she lost interest we strung the lights and the boys carefully chose the soft, unbreakable decorations to hang low on the tree. I gave it a second pass, and moved up anything that hung too low. You have to think like a kitten. We unplug the lights when we’re away, and nearly two weeks in, all is well.

kitten in christmas tree

Tessa gymnastics

two faced kitten in christmas tree

She may never come down from the tree

If Tessa’s likeness were a tree ornament, they might look like this.

Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, do you also decorate a tree?

Tessa's back side in the Christmas tree

The End

The End of the Lawn: Our Garden One Year Later

I’m excited to share photos of our garden one year later. We replaced our lawn last November with drought tolerant and California native plants.


November 2015 * Newly planted native garden in front of the house

Not only do these plants survive and thrive on limited water, but they also attract hummingbirds, bees, and other beneficial insects. Those visitors are a boon to any garden.

native garden

November 2016 * Native garden one year later

Salvia and native grasses

Salvia and native grasses

Nepeta and newly sprouted sweet peas

Nepeta and newly sprouted sweet peas

Once established, the plants only need water about once a week. It’s been an exciting step away from the outdated monoculture of suburban lawns to a more bio-diverse garden. As the drought dragged on, I let go of the fantasy of a cottage garden and fully embraced a garden that fits my environment. San Jose averages only 15 inches of rain a year, and virtually no rain throughout the hot summer months.


November 2015 * Newly planted native garden in back of the house

November 2016 * Native garden one year later

November 2016 * Native garden one year later

native garden back of house

2016 Native garden near swing

native garden near patio

2016 * Native garden near patio

Adding a rain catchment system earlier this year meant I could fill a box with tomato plants and water them guilt-free. I’m also enjoying letting things be, which means making sure a weed is a weed before yanking it from the earth. We’ve had a number of self seeded flowers this year including Sweet Peas, Nigella and Mirabilis Jalapa.

Halloween “Postmortem”

We’re exhausted (because we’re not twenty anymore) but boy did we have fun. We attended two Halloween costume parties, back to back.


First Halloween costume party of the season

We were too darn tired for the final party, but missed out on seeing those friends.  On Halloween night we opened the door to over 400 candy-seeking trick-or-treaters.

Halloween Night 2016

Halloween Night 2016 * These two homemade costumes were my favorite of the night. Upper and lower left, our front garden under blue lights. Mike’s pumpkins after dark, lower center

Mike expertly carved four of the seven pumpkins, leaving the two round ones for my first attempt at pumpkin soup. The smallest of the seven is part of my Thanksgiving display.


Spiderman, a Minion, Arching cat on a slate roof, Socks the cat

Our costumes needed explaining at the Friday party (what…you’re a meat pie?) but Saturday’s party was a different story. Pretty much everyone dressed up as either a character from the movie Sweeney Todd, or as someone from the Victorian era.


Our hosts, who are also from the UK, served a variety of traditional meat pies, but included a vegetarian option for yours truly.  They really got everyone in the spirit. We played a few games, danced and Martin gave all the guys a pretend shave, fully embracing his role as host and the deranged barber, Sweeney Todd. Diane dressed as Mrs. Lovett. You’ll see photos of the two of us and other party-goers in the short video clip below.

My lovely host awarded me the prize for best female costume at the second party. I’m pretty sure it was my crazy wig that pushed things over the top.sweeney-todd-party-alys-and-diane


I bumped into this skeleton in the lady’s room. The cheek!

All in all, it’s been a fabulous Halloween season.


My Very Good, Candy-Free, Feeling-loved Day

The Case of the Shrinking Bloggers

The Case of the Shrinking Bloggers

What an amazing day. For starters, I woke up to this:

Wishing Dear Alys a Very Happy Birthday !

Here’s something you may not know if you’re new to blogging. You will get to know wonderful friends all over the world. If you’re really lucky, you’ll even meet up with a few of them. Then, if all the good karma you ever saved up is on your side, you’ll become the best of friends. True that, I’ve made a life long friend in Alys. She’s optimistic and generous in spirit, caring and adorable in every way and my biggest cheerleader.

Please help me to wish Alys a Very Happy Birthday and enjoy the high-lights of our get-together’s over the last two years.

You can view the rest of her post and watch the highlight reel at Boomdeeadda.

I wept tears of joy and gratitude as the lovely music and memories played on. Thank you, Boomdee from the bottom of my heart. What a treat!

Lovely birthday wishes in the form of blog comments, texts, greeting cards and Facebook posts have kept me beaming all day. Just five minutes ago the UPS driver arrived with a gorgeous arrangement of flowers from my dear friend Laura. They smell divine.

roses and mums

Stunning and fragrant roses and mums

In the spirit of Halloween, I received a mystery gift with an unsigned card: a lovely pot of lavender hand cream. I’m pretty sure I know the giver, but I’ll confirm with the sender: Lavender Abbey of Carterton, New Zealand. Thank you!

I used to keep quiet about my birthday, but once social media came along, the jig was up. Now I embrace it.

No-Candy Countdown:

Throughout October, I’m keeping track of the candy I **don’t** eat.  I’m going to enjoy all the things I love about October while continuing to lose the extra pounds.  It’s day two and I’m in the all clear. We’re celebrating my birthday this evening with a small ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins. It’s a family tradition. The calendar says fall, but the thermometer says 94 degrees (35C) . Friday’s forecast: 100 degrees.

Under-the-sea Costume Updates:

In addition to carving pumpkins this year, my husband Mike is also dressing up for Halloween party season. I’ll be a sea gardener and he’ll be a guardian of the sea.  We purchased the foundation for his costume at Natasha’s Attic. Now it’s my job to make it sea-worthy.

Pumpkins on Parade

Special thanks to my most recent blog follower, Maria Damitz. She tossed out the first suggestion for pumpkin-dress up month on yesterday’s blog, NEWS FLASH! Halloween Takes Over Gardening Blog

Maria said:

You are adorable! I love this blog and love Halloween. We’re doing a pirate theme this year; kind of common, but inspired by friend who is dressing up with family as pirates at Disney World now, so if you could do a pirate pumpkin that would be fun to see. Going to do one or so myself!

Maria, this one’s for you.

pumpkin pirate

Pumpkin Pirate

4th of July Flowers

4th of July Bin

4th of July Bin

I’ll use any excuse to decorate so I headed to my favorite nursery on Tuesday and picked up some red, white and bluish flowers for the garden.

I replanted the curb-side pot, spruced it up with goodies from the 4th of July bin and used the extras for the fairy garden.  We’re cooling our jets during the mid-day sun, but will join the block party shortly.

If you celebrate the 4th, may you have a fun and festive day.  If it’s just another day on the calendar, I hope you are simply enjoying life in your corner of the world.

Celebratory Planter

Celebratory Planter

Small Vinvyl Bag from the Holiday Bin
Small Vinyl Bag from the Holiday Bin

Fairy Garden: Ready to Celebrate

Fairy Garden: Ready to Celebrate

The Joyful Gardener Turns 12

Harvesting his first watermelon

My cheerful, insightful, smart and creative son turns 12 today.  As an infant we joked that he was born with the “happy gene” as he soaked up his surroundings with a positive, mellow and inquisitive outlook.  His tantrums were few, even at two.  When he fell, his cries lasted a few seconds.  My son was joy, personified.

As it turns out, he was also born with the “gardening gene.”  Sure he liked the toy aisle at Target, but the seeds were his favorite.   We came home with many a packet of sunflower, pumpkin and carrot seeds, full of optimism and good spirit.  His grandfather would be proud.  During the Santa years, I mail-ordered his pumpkin seeds so they looked just a little different from the seeds we bought in town.  The jig is up, but the pumpkin-seeds-in-the stocking tradition lives on.

Here are a few pics of my joyful gardener over the years.

The first watermelon

Starting his garden

Reading to his pumpkin plants to help them grow

A little music never hurts either

11, years, 364 days old

Happy birthday, M!