Halving The Fairy Garden, Doubling Down on Peace

Miniatrue Buddha

Miniature Buddha

The dictionary defines peace in a couple of ways:

“freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility” or “freedom from or the cessation of war or violence.”

My personal mantra for attaining peace is a mixture of what we all learned in kindergarten coupled with the moral philosophy of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Simple, eh?

Yet here we are in a fractious and complicated world, trying to keep our heads up and our eyes open. I struggle finding the balance between remaining informed and drowning in the daily assault of depressing, maddening and unwelcome news.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been mentally planning a miniature peace garden. While it’s true that merely being in the garden is peaceful and uplifting, I wanted something more. I craved a touchstone for my own inner peace.

I started with a miniature Buddha, long a symbol of peace and enlightenment. I discovered my Buddha on a website dedicated to gardening in miniature.

Alyssum, Thyme, Baby Tears, Buddha

Buddha surrounded by sweet Alyssum, Thyme and Baby Tears

I bought a pair of shallow, glazed pots in a soothing green at a local shop.

miniature peace garden

Peace garden on the deck near our front door

Buddha sits under a tree of Lemon Thyme, with Alyssum on each side. I carpeted the rest of the garden in cool Soleirolia soleirolii also known as baby tears. Other than the boulder-sized stones, the rest of the items came from my fairy garden stash.

The cool colors and the lovely honey-scented  Alyssum are a balm to the nerves. As the summer wears on, the Alyssum will fall softly over the edge of the pot.

Across the log bridge you’ll find a small bench at the top of a path, and a few blue glass stones to suggest water.

Miniature Peace Garden

Across the bridge, a cool pond and a bench for quiet reflection

A simpler version of the fairy garden, reduced by half, sits on the wall along the walkway. Our Little Free Library is undergoing some renovations, so the books are temporarily in a purple bin.

Fairy garden and Little Free Library

A smaller fairy garden, moved to the front of the garden; our Little Free Library undergoing a renovation; LFL books are in the purple bin

This small garden brings me moments of peace. I hope visitors will gather a moment’s peace as well during these trying times.

I’m sending hope and light and love out into the world. Without them I’d be lost.

Miniature peace garden at dusk

Miniature peace garden at dusk

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Have Yourself a Fairy Little Christmas

The Clock is Running Down: Four More Days of Halloween Fun

Who knows where this month went. It was here just a moment ago, a freshly turned page on my wall calendar. I think the unseasonably warm weather led me to believe it was still August…or September. Is it really October 28th? Only four more days of Halloween fun.

Just chilling in the wee garden

Just chilling in the wee garden

I had a restless night with so much rattling around in my brain. I got up around 5 am and finished Mike’s costume. We have a party tonight and two more tomorrow. I really cut things close this year. Life doesn’t stop just because I want to play all month-long. That said, I squeezed in a lot.

October 1/2:

I celebrated my birthday weekend in Santa Cruz. It coincided with Mike’s company picnic along the Boardwalk, so we celebrated with work friends, then slipped away for some shopping, dinner, a movie and a night’s stay at Chaminade.  We had lovely weather and a relaxing time.

santa-cruz-weekend-october-2016

All month-long, friends and family treated me to dinner, high tea, a movie, a live show, wonderful cards and thoughtful gifts making me feel just like one of those entitled white men we’re always hearing about. (cough-cough) It’s nice to be pampered, eh?

October 8:

I took a four-hour crafting class with my sister where we created a mixed media Haunted Graveyard. It inspired lots of additional Halloween card making at home. She took me out to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants at Santana Row, then we browsed the glass pumpkins on display.

glass-pumpkins-santana-row

The last of the pumpkins are off the vine. In the end, three different plants produced seven pumpkins. What a generous bounty. I enjoy arranging them in different places around the house, as they await carving day. That makes me smile.

Over the course of this month, I’ve spent hours pruning three vines away from the side yard fence. Up and down the ladder I went, using best practices to remain safe and still favoring my surgical foot. There will be no accidents on my watch! Now that the vines are off the fence, I need to start getting quotes to replace it. Broken boards, dry rot and possible termite damage stayed hidden behind the vines. No wonder I’ve been putting off this big job.

It’s finally done and I have the sore neck, dull tools and blisters to prove it. And since I’m a blogger, I have pictures too. Ha!

pruning-the-side-yard-vines

Vines intertwined in the lattice-work made it tricky to free the tangled mess. That’s Mouse the Cat’s tail exploring the scattered vines.

October 28/29th:

We’ve been invited to three costume parties this season, but only one with a specific theme: Sweeney Todd. If you’re not familiar with this gruesome musical, you can read about it here. It’s been a penny dreadful serial, a stage musical, and most recently a film starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. We rented the movie to learn more about the characters, and frankly I found it dark and dreary, beginning to end. There are only three female characters, Mrs. Lovett the baker, Sweeney Todd’s young wife shown in brief flashbacks, and later his teenage daughter. Not a lot to choose from. Since I like to mix things up a bit, I decided to dress as the baker, and make my husband into one of her meat pies. They’re not any old pies, by the way. After the barber slits his client’s throat, they’re cooked in the oven and baked into pies. Did I mention how gruesome the story is?

meat-pie-costume-back

Paper bag pattern (my favorite), distressed inks and stains, silver lame fabric covering a pie-shaped piece of foam, distressed fabric and the back side of the pie tin.

meat-pie-costume-front

I cut two circles of tan-colored felt, then sprayed the edges with stain for a distressed (baked) look. I hand-sewed the two pieces together, stuffed with batting and made slits for various gruesome body parts. A bit of theatrical blood adds drama.

I rented my costume from a family owned shop called Natasha’s Attic. They pulled together all the pieces I needed including Victorian era boots, tights, lace gloves and layers of dresses. I love that place and all the wonderfully creative people who work there.  I bought a crazy wig ’cause that’s how I roll, and if I get the makeup just so I’ll be unrecognizable. Stay tuned for pics of both of us in costume.

Of course I had to make time to bewitch the fairy gardens. The succulents loved this summer’s heat, and doubled in size, making the garden look over-grown. Perfect for Halloween! How do I get so lucky?

fairy-garden-over-head

Setting the Scene

overgrown-fairy-garden

It’s a fairy garden jungle

fairy-garden-background

Hollowed trees and gauzy skies (the neighboring tree shed’s its bark in late summer. I picked up a few pieces and saved them for the bewitched fairy garden

fairy-garden-boo

A little fairy garden haunting (tombstones from my son’s long ago Halloween crafts)

tea-in-the-fairy-garden

Come join the ghosts for tea and pumpkin soup (I found the tea set at a craft store for $3)

Happy Halloween!

A Fairy Garden for Elizabeth

I’ve said it before: creating a fairy garden is a shortcut to our inner child. That’s why I jumped at the chance to make one for Elizabeth.

access-ladder-recycled-twigs

This way to the fairy garden

Elizabeth Cassidy is my Pilates instructor. I’ve been taking classes at her studio for nearly a decade. We’re a close-knit group of women, who regularly offer bounty from our gardens, clothes or shoes in search of a new home, references and referrals and the like.

At the end of class one day, she asked if any of us wanted this empty concrete planter.

gray-pot-fairy-garden

Elizabeth’s grey planter

Since no one else wanted it, I offered to make it into a fairy garden for her studio. Oh my gosh I had fun!

I wanted to bring a bit of warmth to the grey pot, so I added a single coat of rust-colored spray paint along the top, bottom and sides.

copper-pot-fairy-garden

I used a single coat of rust-colored spray pain to add warmth

I added recycled packing pellets to the bottom of the pot to reduce its weight and to provide drainage. Then I filled it to the top with plants and soil.

fairy-garden-foam-pellets

Recycled foam pellets lighten the load

I bought assorted succulents at Yamagami’s Nursery one of my favorite garden centers. They’ve been in business since 1948.

Elizabeth has a pink corner in her studio, so the “fire-stick” succulents were the perfect addition. I found the sweetest little ceramic house and copper fence,  also at Yamagami’s to round out the garden.

fairy-garden-outback

Sticks on fire ‘euphorbia’ succulent

I made a fairy cot or lounging bed using a small wooden block from a rubber stamp collection. I added a curved twig for a headboard, covered the bed with moss, and added a wine cork for a pillow. A bit of moss from my garden stash made a nice accent cushion. For an added bit of serendipity, the chocolate wine cork is from a gift Elizabeth gave me a few years ago. It was in my fairy garden stash, waiting for its debut.

elizabeths-fairy-garden-bed-collage

Assembling the fairy cot

fairy-garden-bed-with-cork

A resting cot for the fairies

Once the plants were in the “ground” I laid a cinnamon stick path to the door, then added gravel and other bits of moss here and there.

fairy-garden-details-cinnamon-walkway

Succulents and a cinnamon stick pathway

completed-fairy-garden-for-elizabeth

The long view

Wildfire Updates:

There is good news on the wildfire front!

The Loma Fire I mentioned in An Ominous Autumn Beginning should be fully contained by today. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the 2-week-old wildfire remains 95 percent contained after burning 4,474 acres, destroying 12 homes and 16 outbuildings, and damaging but not destroying one other home. The blaze, which began Sept. 26, is the area’s third largest in the past 15 years, and the latest damage estimate is $15 million.

The Soberanes Fire, mentioned in my post August Doldrums, is 99 percent contained, with full containment expected by Saturday, October 15. The fire started July 22nd from an illegal, unattended campfire. It’s burned 132,127 acres, and destroyed 57 homes and 11 outbuildings. A total of 682 personnel and nine engines remain fighting the fire.  The cost of fighting the fire is currently $236 million, making it the most expensive fire in California history.

Needless to say, I’m glad our rainy season is on the way.

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No Bigger Than Thumbelina

fairy garden jungle

Fairy garden jungle?

Imagine for a moment that you’re no bigger than Thumbelina. You’ve been away for a while, and when you return your garden is overgrown.

Nature’s been kind this year. The longed-for rain finally fell and the earth smiled. Precious seeds pushed up through the dampened soil, welcomed by the warming sun.

curb garden pink flower

They grew healthy and strong. Encouraged by continued rains, seedlings turned into plants. Starter leaves became true leaves and from there they spread. Tiny greens stretched out across the land, filling the once-vacant landscape.

The fairy house still stands, but the garden surrounding it looks more like a forest. The giant gardener who presides over the land retreated for quiet contemplation.

Allowing nature to be her guide, the giant gardener issued a decree:

The land heretofore known as the fairy garden will be given over to the trees and any tiny deer passing by.

fairy garden deer

Foraging in the forest

And it was so.

The giant gardener waved her magic spade and a lake-side, fairy-sized, mossy, watery retreat appeared.

fairy garden lake

Fairy Garden Lakeside Retreat

Verdant moss to tickle the toes blankets the earth. Tiny succulents line the edges for privacy and a break from the wind.

fairy garden chair and lantern

For reading by lamp light

A small chair for reading nestles in the greens, and a hammock is at the ready nearby.

fairy garden hut with canopy

Lots of places to relax, but it’s particularly fragrant under the umbrella

Fairies can cool off in an improvised lake, a ceramic bowl rescued from a nearby thrift shop.

fairy garden ceramic pond

On Fairy Garden Pond

All our welcome in the wee-sized, lake-side fairy garden retreat.

A straw umbrella, made from the shell of an orange and a few strips of raffia give shelter from the hot sun.

fairy garden grass hut

Refreshed from a recent rain

There is, however, a small price of admission: one must possess a child-like imagination and the ability to leave one’s worries at the foot of the tiny ladder below.

fairy garden rope ladder

Leave your troubles at the foot of the ladder

Happy Easter

fairy garden with ceramic bunny

Spring in the fairy garden

easter flowers in ceramic chick

Treasures from the garden

pair of pink cosmos

Pink cosmos with a sunshine center

For those who celebrate, Happy Easter.

Shamrocks in the Fairy Garden, Green Books in the Library

St. Patrick’s Day brings out my inner child. We loved wearing green to school when we were kids and apparently I’ve never outgrown the tradition. Green is my favorite color, so finding the right thing to wear is easy-breezy.

I’m also having fun making Leprechaun mischief in the fairy garden. It’s hard to resist.

Fairy garden house under a net

Those mischievous Leprechauns have tossed a net over the fairy house

fairy garden pot of gold

A pot of gold. Is there a rainbow nearby?

fairy garden fairies on St. Patrick's day

Charming fairies enjoy the shade. They were a gift from my friend Kristi.

fairy garden st. patrick's day

Succulents tend to like dry conditions, but they sure look green after the rain.

Since joining a Facebook group for Little Free Library stewards, I’ve found myself reinvigorated. Stewards in the group have wonderful ideas, among them setting up themes for their library.

I stocked the library with red-colored books for Valentine’s Day, and offered pink and red bookmarks and stickers.

valentine's day litttle free library collage

Last week we celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday, which was a huge hit. When I returned from our weekend away, all but one book found its way into a pair of small hands. One of my neighbors stopped by to tell me that his granddaughter was jumping up and down with excitement over one of the Seuss books. That made my day.

LFL Dr. Seuss

Celebrating Dr. Seuss, born March 2nd

If you don’t know about the Little Free Library movement you can read about it on their site. We opened our LFL two years ago. It continues to receive a warm welcome from the community

This week, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and approaching s*p*r*i*n*g, all the books are green, or green themed. books about gardening, fairy gardening, herb gardening…you get the picture. Once again, stickers and green bookmarks to entice small ones to the library. It’s such good fun.

Little Free Library st. Patrick's day

Little Free Library decked out in green

I’ve been a reader my whole life. As girls we loved our trips to the local library. I came home with the maximum books allowed, devoured all of them, then headed back for more. Having a library card felt special. When my boys came along, reading was a big part of our day. Having this LFL at the curb is a great way to build community around reading and a source of daily joy.

What do you know?

The Little Free Library mission is to:

promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.

The original goal: To build 2,510 Little Free Libraries—as many as Andrew Carnegie—and keep going.

As of January 2016, there are over 36,000 registered Little Free Library book exchanges in all 50 U.S. states and over 70 countries around the world.

Little Free Library: Take a Book, Return a Book