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 It’s been an exciting step away from the outdated monoculture of suburban lawns to a more bio-diverse garden.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.


Ms. California Drought: Costume on the Fly

I’ve been on again, off again with a Halloween costume this year. My foot surgery was tentatively scheduled for October 9th. That would have put the kibosh on the whole month. I eventually landed on a November 4th surgery date, so the costume was back on.

We’re invited to a few parties each year and we always have a blast. The first party was last Saturday so I needed something quick and easy. I like to put together a costume that’s topical and usually make something up.

For the third time in six years, I started with this lettuce-green slip.

Halloween Costume starting point

Thrift store find: lettuce green slip

I bought it at a thrift store several years ago for my Lady Gaga inspired vegetable dress (the year she wore real meat (GAG) to the VMAs.

Lady Gaga Halloween Costume 2010

2010: Lady Gaga inspired vegetable dress

A few years later I used the slip again in my Year of Trash costume. I collected things throughout the year that couldn’t otherwise be recycled and made it into a costume. It really makes you think.

Year of Trash Costume 2011

2011: My Year of Trash Costume (That’s my sister Sharon as a gruesome witch)

Lindy loves raffia

Lindy loved the raffia. She played in it, on it and around it all week

This year, the green slip is the foundation for Ms. California Drought. I found six-foot bundles of raffia on sale at a local craft store and used it to form the dress. I hand stitched the narrow ends to the bodice, then machine stitched the lengths around the waist. I used a few single strands of raffia to sew the loose ends to the dress and to attach my bra the night of the party. I used a length of wide ribbon for the waist and called it a dress.

2015, Halloween Costume ms california drought

2015: Ms. California Drought and her Minion for the night

I used a length of burlap and my rubber stamp letters to print Ms. California Drought on the sash.  I gathered a bunch of dried flowers into a bouquet, used a burlap plant cover for a purse, and within a few hours, my costume was party-ready

Do you celebrate Halloween? Are you dressing up this year?