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Have you ever looked back at your calendar and wondered at how you ever got everything done while still remaining somewhat sane?


I have…


Oh, I knew ahead of time that it would take a small miracle to get through the 30 days, starting with Halloween.  


At this point, I’d like to apologize for the lack of blog posts, but in my defense, I was lucky to be able to remember to feed my kids (just kidding).


Seldom, have I looked forward to December as a time where I will be less busy, but in comparison to what I’ve done the past month, it should be a breeze.


It all started with our annual Halloween celebration, which is held at our house.



I spent the day making ghosts (half a Twinkie dipped in white chocolate), black spiders (mini chocolate donuts with chocolate dipped pretzel legs) and candy corn rice krispy treats.


The entire family came over for dinner and trick-or-treating, including my granddaughter, Lily, who dressed up as Sleeping Beauty.

Two days later, we had an even larger group of people gather at our house for Lily’s birthday party – she turned 3!


Lily is seriously into princesses, so there was a lot of pink in the room.


I made her a princess cake, which went along with her favorite cake pops.

In the week that followed, I continued my work with a local golf course, where they are removing 30 acres of turf in favor of landscape areas filled with drought tolerant plants.


The areas of turf being removed are largely out of play in this parkland style golf course.  Not all 30 acres are being removed all at once – instead, the grass is being taken out in smaller sections.

While a lot of my time was being spent at the golf course, I spent two days selling handmade items at a large holiday boutique.

Now, I’ve never sold anything at a boutique, but this past summer my mother, who is extremely talented, asked my sister and I to do it with her.  I knew that it would be tough, since November is one of my busiest months since I spend most of my time outdoors consulting on landscapes.  But, I really wanted to do it, so I used some of my down time this summer to make some things.

Xerigraphica air plant in a terrarium
The items we sold were made using sustainable, recycled and/or repurposed items.

Air plants in terrariums were a big hit.

We also had hanging terrariums filled with air plants.  I made bird houses from gourds, many of which we grew in our gardens.

My sister made Christmas ornaments using seed pods from a variety of trees, including these little snowmen made from the seedpods from the Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora) tree.

Texas Mountain Laurel

I also sold basil salt, which quickly sold out.

We sold out of a lot of items and I must admit that I had so much fun.  We’re already planning for next year.

Back in the garden, I was asked to consult on a landscape where a Brazilian Pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) had suddenly died



If you look closely, you’ll notice that the leaves are still on the tree.  Also, two of the Texas sage shrubs, underneath the window, were also starting to die.

The homeowners were understandably concerned. It didn’t take long to diagnose a case of Cotton (Texas) root rot.  The classic signs are plants suddenly dying toward the end of summer and retaining their leaves.

Some plants are more susceptible to root rot and Brazilian peppers top the list.  The solution to this problem is to remove the affected plants and replace them with plants that are resistant to root rot.  Trees that are resistant include desert willow, mesquite and palo verde.


Some of you may remember that we welcomed a new yellow labrador puppy into our family in September.


Polly is growing fast and although she gets into trouble now and then, she is doing great!

Last weekend, was a day that I had long been waiting for…


My second-oldest daughter, Rachele, is expecting her first child – a boy.

She came home from her Navy base to celebrate her birthday and baby shower, which were on the same day.  Rachele had been looking forward to this day when her family and friends would celebrate with her.  

But, the day didn’t go quite as planned…

That morning, I was busy getting the house and food ready for 50+ people when she walked out of her room with tears in her eyes to tell me that she had been up all night being sick to her stomach.

We didn’t have time to cancel, and she was determined to make it through the shower.

It was obvious to all that she didn’t feel well, but she did get through the shower without having to leave.  However, as soon as everyone left, she got sick to her stomach again.  

Needless to say, the rest of the day was spent in bed with a large bowl ;-(

Thankfully, it was only a 24-hour bug and she was up and feeling much better the next day.

Now, you’d think that that was the end of my busy month – but, no…

We were hosting a large family reunion for Thanksgiving just days later!

My mother spearheaded the family reunion and asked my sisters and I to help her with it. 

I was tasked with making centerpieces using old family photos AND more importantly, making food for 54 people.

Our family started out in California and hasn’t spread very far – we all live in either Arizona, California or Washington.

We gathered together, on the eve before Thanksgiving, for dinner.  My mother didn’t have enough room for 54 people inside her house, so she rented tables and we ate inside the garage.


As I mentioned earlier, I made a lot of food for our reunion, which lasted 3 days.  I traded the busyness of work for working in the kitchen.  I contributed two batches of meatball soup, 4 loaves of artisan bread, 2 batches of toffee bars, 6 loaves of pumpkin bread, 2 carrot cakes and an icebox birthday cake to our reunion.

For our Thanksgiving meal, we searched high and low for a place where we could purchase a hot, Thanksgiving meal.  It wasn’t that easy – grocery stores will provide you with a meal, but you have to pick it up the night before and heat it up on Thanksgiving day.  Same with some restaurants.  But, we did find that Cracker Barrel does provide ‘to-go’ Thanksgiving dinners – it was really delicious!

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And so, that is a brief synopsis of the past 30 days.  I am happy that I survived with my sanity intact – mostly 😉

I hope you enjoyed a very happy Thanksgiving!

I have lots to share with you in the upcoming monthy on a variety of gardening subjects including some really cool garden accessories.  

Do you like to decorate your home with natural objects?  


I do.


Recently, I’ve been busy creating items using things found in nature.  



For example, these may seem like regular pieces of wood from a tree – but what if I told you that they were actually old roots from a cresote bush?


You may not know what a creosote bush is, but if you live in the desert – you’ve seen them.  They are the shrubs scattered throughout the desert.  

The roots that I used for my project came from one of the creosote shrubs in the picture, above.


This creosote shrub was in an area that I was asked to design next to a golf course.  While I kept most of the creosote, I had one removed to make room for new plants.

You can see the pile of creosote roots left over after the shrub was pulled out.  

I came up on these roots after placing the new plants and thought that they would be great for a future project.  They were woody, twisted and had great character.  I loaded them up in my truck and stored them in my side yard until I could find the right project in which to use them.


I decided to pair my old wooden roots with air plants.

My mother, who is extremely creative, introduced me to air plants and I immediately fell in love with their unique shapes.

Air plants are unique in another way in that they do not need soil.  All they need to grow is air, water and a sunny window, which makes them perfect for using in home decorating projects since you don’t have to worry about soil.
You can read more about air plants and how to care for them, here.

So what do you get when you pair air plants with pieces of natural wood?


A very attractive centerpiece that looks great on the coffee table.

I was so excited about how nice it looked that I decided to try using smaller pieces of wood and different air plants.


Because each piece of wood was unique and had been twisted over time by nature, each pairing looked different.


I must admit that I had so much fun playing with different combinations.

So, what am I going to do with so many creosote wood / air plant combinations?

Earlier this year, my mother proposed going together with my sister and create items for the home that are made from natural elements for a large holiday boutique.

My sister and I both agreed and have been working on making different items focused on using natural and/or recycled elements, along with my mother.

Here are just a few of the items we will be selling:

Gourd Bird Houses

My mother and I have both grown gourds in our gardens and transformed them into bird houses and feeders.

Seed pod Christmas ornaments

Can you tell what type of tree/shrub this seed pod comes from?


 If you guessed Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), you’d be right.

My sister has made a variety of Christmas ornaments using seed pods.  I love the idea of transforming natural items and using them to decorate your home for the holidays!

Terrariums with air plants

Do you like terrariums?  I think of them as small worlds enclosed by glass.  There will be quite a few terrariums with air plants, including hanging ones.

Lavender sachets made from antique seed bags.

During a trip to Winona, Minnesota – we bought quite a few old seed bags from antique stores.  My mother, who is an excellent seamstress, made them into sachets, glass cases and aprons.

Reading glass cases made from antique seed bags.

‘Sparkly’ white Christmas seed pod ornaments
My sister has made a variety of Christmas ornaments using seed pods.  I love the idea of transforming natural items and using them to decorate your home for the holidays!

Basil Salt

I love using basil salt on my favorite Italian dishes.  The basil came straight from my garden 🙂

Mini air plants on antique wooden spools

Seed Bombs
Have you heard of seed bombs?  I wrote about this fun garden trend last year.  I first saw these at the Sustainability Festival last year.
 *Can you tell that they are wrapped in ‘recycled’ packaging?

Air plants mounted on driftwood sitting on top of wooden plants ready for hanging.

My mother and I collected much of the driftwood during our trip to Lake Michigan this summer.


In addition to what I’ve shown you above, we will have aprons, totes made from seed bags, terrariums made from light bulbs and fairy garden houses made from wood and moss.

Our goal was to create items using natural and/or recycled items. 

If you live in the greater Phoenix area, we would love to see you!  

We will be selling our natural items at the Believe Boutique, which is a large holiday boutique with over 125 vendors.  It is being held at Cornerstone Church in Chandler, Arizona on Friday, November 7th from 4:00 – 9:00 and again on Saturday, the 8th from 10:00 to 3:00.

**We’ll be located in the main lobby in the ‘Sustain’ booth.  I’d love to meet you, if you have time to stop by!

Do you have a birdhouse in your garden?  Is it decorative or do have there ever been birds taking up residence inside?


This is a story about the birdhouses on the family farm, including one that has an unusual function.


Double S Farms is five minutes down the road from our house and is where my youngest sister and her family live along with my mother.


I am over at the farm at least once a week – usually for the weekly dinner that my mother cooks for our entire clan.  It is a special time when I get to spend time with my siblings, their spouses and kids.  We get to catch up with each other’s lives and get to enjoy delicious food, cooked by my mother, Pastor Farmer. 
(My mother is a retired pastor who loves growing food on their small farm).


The backyard is dotted with numerous trees including apple, kumquat, almond, pecan, peach, apricto, plum, orange, lemon and grapefruit.  But, I always seem to find myself strolling by my mother’s raised vegetable beds to see what she is growing.

This past week, she was excited to show me her newest birdhouse.

Now, my mother has is a collector and has passed that gene along to her oldest daughter (me).  One of her collections consists of birdhouses.  Over the years, she has pared this collection of aviary homes down.  But there is still a small collection of birdhouses in her garden…


I love this birdhouse, which is purely decorative.  But, the chickens seem to find it a nice perch back when it stood in the chicken yard…


Now it sits with in the fenced-in vegetable garden area.


The gardens are now fenced in because the netting was not enough to keep the chickens out – including ‘Francie’ my sister’s naked-neck chicken (yes, her neck is supposed to be featherless).


If you look closely behind the first birdhouse, you will see one that looks like the ‘Tin Man’s head’ from the Wizard of Oz. 


Like the other birdhouse, it is also decorative.  I remember being with her when she bought it at a roadside nursery just outside of Carmel, Indiana during our Midwest road trip.

There are many nesting sites around Double S Farms and the birdhouse below, is one of them.


This birdhouse hangs from the Mesquite tree.  It is made from a gourd that I grew, dried and then made into a birdhouse for her.  I love this gourd birdhouse and have one in my own garden.

Well, now to the unusual birdhouse…


It doesn’t look all that unusual at first glance.

But, what this birdhouse is hiding is not a nest, but my mother’s hand tools that she uses for her vegetable garden.

They are easily accessible and are always on hand when she needs to harvest vegetables, remove weeds, etc.

She came up with this idea herself and just loves it.  The birdhouse was bought at our local Ace Hardware store and the top lifts up, making it easy to access her tools.

What types of birdhouses do you have in your garden?  


Are they decorative or have you had birds set up house in any of them?