Thursday, November 19, 2015

Maria's Junior Master Gardener Terrarium

Junior Master Gardening is just one of the many generous and thoughtful after-school and extracurricular programs Maria participates in, this one thanks to Sage Garden. As an added bonus, the class is led by our family friend Karen S, and Maria takes this class with other friends she loves hanging out with... all this to say, Maria loves Junior Master Gardening! And I think she is loving it even more now that she's followed a project from her workbook: Making a Terrarium.

Her Junior Master Gardening book gave general suggestions and tips for assembling a little world, which inspired Maria to look further into the subject, using Pinterest.

Here's Maria's supply list:

A clear container, open or lidded, depending on the plants


Pebbles, and other decorative stones

Potting soil

Small plants, preferably ones that are happy indoors, or in an open terrarium: Succulents are a good choice.

Any little decorative pieces to create a scene or Fairy garden look.

After school Alex, Maria and I went to a local nursery and found glass stones, organic potting soil, a small fern and a tiny cyclamen. At home we had glass containers, sand, leftover pebbles from our aquarium, bark pieces, and our paper clay mushrooms... a fun addition! Using a couple of different tutorials, Maria settled on her plan for layering her sand, pebbles, and soil. She chose a plant suited to a closed terrarium, and had a good time putting everything together, especially affixing the mushrooms and wee gnome to their mossy twig. This morning she observed that her garden already has a water cycle starting, from the condensation in the jar. This simple and charming project was irresistible... so you can understand why I joined Maria in making a second terrarium! My fern is too big to be exactly contained in the glass jar, but I think it will be happy.

Maria would like to make mini-gingerbread houses with friends for her birthday, and I am going to surprise her with a second activity I think she and her friends will enjoy... planting mini-gardens, with more paper clay mushrooms and tiny succulents!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Late Autumn Survival Tips

This is the quintessential and ultimate survival guide for the deep chill of this late autumn season (in Southern California, from a woman who lived through the Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991, in Minnesota... I am pretty much like an expert authority.)

1. Wear socks. Your flip flops are not enough any more. Face it, dude, you need extra layers, so grab your knee highs and work it!

2. Sweaters. Jackets. Parkas. Flannel. Wool. Hoodies. You have them, there, in the back of your closet. Bring 'em out. No shame. We all have to do this, because baby, it's cold outside.

3. Surfing, SUP, boogie boarding... it's cool, and sometimes we don't know when to quit, so if you're still out there, riding the long waves consider getting into a wetsuit. I've been local for forty-eight years, and putting wetsuits on my own children never occurred to me. Not in October, not in November. But my cousin, Gabe, taught me a good thing: Wetsuits make the autumn surf comfortable! Gabe, I cannot thank you enough, Dude!

4. FOOD! If you aren't cooking, then I suggest you follow a local, particularly surfers, because they will lead to where the food is tasty, and plentiful. Knowing where the tortillas are hot, the salsa fresh, and the carnitas are savory is a key skill in surviving inclement weather, and hanger pangs.

5. Favorite food.

6. Comfort food.

7. Healthy food.

8. Sharing food.

Alex and Bambi shared their kitchen skills and made Alton Brown's Whole Pumpkin Pie Soup. It was hot, savory, and delicious.

These greens are for Maria's favorite soup... it involves carrots, leeks, spinach, chard, kale, broccoli, and some cheddar cheese. She calls it Confetti Soup! {Time for a recipe, I know.}

A baguette, some olive oil... and a hot pan. We enjoyed this with bruschetta, artichokes, and hot chocolate.

Café con leche, una concha... comfort and joy.

Last tips, a bonus: Get outside and dance on fallen leaves crunch-crunch-crunch! Meet friends, and share hugs and news, make plans. Sink into a favorite book, a favorite movie, a favorite indulgence. Tell jokes. Light candles. Play.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Layers of Comfort

Autumn. Cold, even windy, with rain. It's really here, and we keep layering for warmth, for comfort. It's so nice... to wear jeans, socks, to shiver when a door opens, to welcome a simmering pot of soup. I guess I've made these remarks already. This year. Last year. But it's so nice. Too nice to ignore, to lovely to diminish. And there's so much compensating to do for all the grousing over our long extended summer. Even repeating my so-happy-it's fall mantra feels like a favorite song, one to sing again, and again.

Yarn is everywhere! In the car, on my lap, beside the bed, on the sofa. I crochet at school, in the parking lot, and between loads of dishes or laundry. I crochet when Geoff and I sneak in a date-breakfast before he heads into work. I've made more shawls, and I am not a smidge bit tired of this pattern, but have only grown to love it more. This time I finished my plain wool shawl with a few rounds of wild homespun wool... all nubby and irregular and warm with colors. I realized I could make little wreaths, like ones I admired as a child... I wondered how those were made, and now I've devised my own little recipe. I'm giving them away. Happy tokens. And I am still making squares for the blanket, and that's making me happy, too. Pretty soon I will finally look-up "blocking" and decide if that's a skill I need to learn.

I check Ada for wool. She grows a fluffy layer under her coarser coat, and I like to think of her as my wooly caterpillar and prognosticator of what sort of winter we are due for. Wet? Cold? Terribly wet and cold? We shall see. Poor Tasha doesn't grow any of that lovely wool, and maybe that's why she likes the rain even less than Ada... which is not at all. Our chickens have made a feathered mess of their molting, and poor Koa looks a fright... missing so many feathers she looks like a shabby duster. I hope they get plump with plumage, very soon. Hazel Nutt, our Ratty Rat, builds a new nest every evening, and only comes out for breakfast. Breakfast and dinner are most favoritest times of day. As for the kitties... they are finding laps, clean laundry piles, quilts, anything slept on, and spots where the sun is warming. It has been remarked that Mister Foo, especially, is practically another species of being in wintery affectionate and obliging. Chango is dear, and snuggly, more than ever, and we dote on him with extra endearments.

Oh! I almost forgot... dryerballs! All over Pinterest, you'll find recipes and prescriptions for these little wool wonders. I made four, and besides being easy to make, I have discovered, already, that they do work very nicely. One in the dryer to replace dryer sheets and softener. No static! Everything nice and soft, and it even reduces the drying time. Wet cotton socks hot and dry in twenty minutes. (Is that fast? I don't know, but it really seemed faster than before.) Anyway, I love ours so much, I am thinking I'll make gifts. If no one thinks they're a fabulous gift for the dryer, then they can try juggling, or give theirs to a cat. Mister Foo thinks they're grand!

For the record, in case I give an impression of too much cheer and fa-lalalala-la, yesterday I had an emotional meltdown over... oh, I forget. I think it was probably many, many little things, stress, low-blood sugar etc. But I felt like kicking things hard, and slamming things harder, and then I sat with my chickens, ate a sandwich, and went around the house and said Sorry and I love you, to everyone. My problems are no smaller, but I think I will recommit to appreciating that although life is neither smooth, nor tidy, (not in my experience, anyway) it is blessed, and full of goodness, and full of opportunities to make it better, and as I am doing my very most sincerest best, I really must not beat myself up, or surrender to defeatist thoughts. Also: Naps. A nap under a favorite quilt can do a world of good.

I am sending out happy tokens, and best wishes... for all the world, peace.