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Thank You…

07.15.14

I got a last minute travel invitation last week from family who had excellent timing to know when we needed a break from our current daily life.  Had a chance to escape this weekend with some nice scenery and a good book (Anne’s House of Dreams — book 5 in the Anne of Green Gables Series).  I made friends with a chipmunk.  I took some time to reconnect with nature, family, and myself.  I took time that was completely “unplugged” from cell service and wi-fi.

I returned home more relaxed (aside from those moments itching my dozen and a half bug bites all over my legs).  I returned home refreshed and with a clearer mind.  I returned home with a renewed love of books and sitting outside to read them.  I returned home eeeever so slightly tan (WOO!), and most importantly, I returned home from sharing a great experience with my husband who (I hope) has had a similar period of relaxation.

So, although life has proven to be turbulent all around us – I’m proud of how we’re staying as grounded as we can, and still respecting/supporting each other in the process. I’m thankful for the family and friends who are helping us along the way. I came across this post a week or so ago, and am feeling that it’s applicable today as mark and I continue to problem-solve our way through our current situation of job hunting and what not…

Thank You Messages for your Everyday Prince Charming

 

And this photo of my weekend reading spot will be closeby for when I need a reminder to chill out, and ‘reset’.  =)

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All summer, I’ve been staring at empty gardening pots.  They’ve been convenient when needing to move and transplant various plants, but aside from that…. they’re so empty and sad looking!  One pot in particular has had me stumped for awhile…It’s a fairly modern looking concrete planter, and for the longest time, I didn’t know what to put in it – until now.

A fairy garden!

So….What is a Fairy Garden?

Fairy gardens (or ‘miniature gardens’, as some like to call them), are small-scale ecosystems designed with both living plants, hardscapes (rocks, stones), water and other accessories designed to give the illusion of a tiny green-covered, colorful world – perfect for a fairy!

Do I Have to Believe in Fairies to Build One?

Nope!  That’s the best part.  There are SO many kinds of miniature gardens.  Some people love the idea of fairies or gnomes living in tiny trees.  Others enjoy a simple ‘reading nook’ or ‘creek-side picnic’ or  ‘tea time’ atmosphere.  Still others lean towards birds and other small creatures as the central focus of their designs.  It’s completely up to you!

Great! Where do I Start?

The first choice you’ll have to make is where to build your garden.  Ideally, it should be in a relatively safe/undisturbed area of your yard or house – especially if you’ll be using lots of trinkets or accessories.  Protect your garden from lawnmowers and other yard-hazards!  Many people choose a safe ‘nook’ area underneath a tree, a small garden bed close to the house, or even an indoor/outdoor container.  Others get creative and build miniature gardens in hanging pots, wheelbarrows or red wagons!

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What else do I need to know?

Once you have identified a location for your garden, start with a sketch or take a stick and etch in the dirt a general layout of plants, pathways, furniture, or whatever else you want to include.  Once you have that decided — purchase and install your plants.  Depending on your chosen location, small groundcover, short, tiny flowers and small shrub-like (think bonzai) plantings are great.  Play around with the accessories and find your inner child.  These gardens are meant for playtime! =)

 

Now that you have a general idea of fairy gardens, let’s explore the one I put together in a small concrete planter!

My location:

This is the planter.  I took a photo of it with my hand in front so that I could more easily determine scale when purchasing plants.  I knew that something roughly the size of my hand would fill just over half the planter.  (Excuse my poor iphone ‘sunny day’ photo skills. I was in a rush and too excited to go flower shopping!)

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The Research/Design Phase:

I looked at a TON of examples and photos prior to heading out shopping.  I wanted to answer 2 key questions:

  1. What do I want the overall look to be?  Bridge over river to bench?  Tiny gnome garden?  Fairy reading spot? House? Something else?

  2. What plants should I buy to fit the ‘elements’ of trees, bushes, flowers, pathways, etc that will keep some sort of continuity with the small scale idea.

To be honest, a simple google image search for “fairy garden” is probably the best bet.  There are literally thousands of ideas in all shapes and sizes. I took note of what there was in common with my favorite designs.  Simple accessories (nothing too fabricated or fake looking), groundcover (I LOVE the ones with covered moss and what not!), small pops of color, and lots of variation in texture.

Expert Challenge:  DIY accessories!  In case you’re feeling extra adventurous: http://www.pinterest.com/clk2244/fairy-gardens-~-diy-pieces/

The Shopping Phase!

I stopped by 2 garden shops/nurseries, and one craft store.  I found all the elements I wanted:  small groundcover, short flowers with tiny blooms, succulents (to add texture), a small chair, items for a pathway, and accessories.

I didn’t really know what direction the accessories were going to take.  I looked around for dollhouse furniture, fairy garden accessories (one of the garden shops I was at had a whole section of that stuff! Most of it was just a tad bit too big for my planter though.), scrapbook materials, etc.  I found a wire trellis and gardening tools that matched the scale of the chair pretty well – so I went with those.  I decided to create a pathway out of small black rocks and mosaic tiles. Towards the end of my shopping trip I found a small white fence that was too adorable to pass up.  Taking inventory of my loot, I realized that I was building a sort of reading/gardening nook — how cute!

The Installation

I came home from the stores, and sat down with everything I had purchased.  To be honest, I was a bit nervous!  I had no real plan in place other than a general idea of what I thought I liked.  I wasn’t sure if it would fit, or look good at all.  I put on some music, sat on the front porch, and got to work.  I quickly found out that gardening gloves were NOT going to work with all the tiny pieces… so this is definitely a ‘get your hands dirty’ kind of job.  I cleaned out the top layer of moss and debris in the planter (I kept a couple tiny pieces of moss to re-plant in the garden).  From there, I turned and re-filled the pot with better soil.  Then, I started with the larger pieces – the yellow and purple flowers.  The best thing to do is to remove the flowers from their travel containers, and separate as much dirt as you can without destroying the roots too badly.  Seeing as things are supposed to be tiny, large clumps of plants aren’t really conducive to a fairy garden.  I tried my best to separate the yellow flowers.  The purple flowers were easier, and I set aside a small sprig to use later.

After the 2 main pieces went in, I manipulated the dirt in the pot to create the landscape.  I placed the chair in for reference, and then planted the succulents – again, breaking apart the clumps as I went.  Groundcover went in next, and I cut a small hole in the middle of it for the sprig of purple flowers and wire trellis.  With all the main elements in place, I pressed down the soil, made my final adjustments, and started on the pathway.  This is probably the worst element of my design.  The mosaic tiles are small, and probably won’t stay very well.  In hindsight (and I might still do this), gluing them to a tiny cardboard piece or other stable surface might prove to be a better option.  I can then semi-bury the surface so only the tiles show.

After the pathway, I stuck in the fence, garden tools and called it a day!

 

Even my husband said the final result is sort of adorable…
Not bad for a day’s work!
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Confession:  I LOVE ICE CREAM.

 

Frozen Yogurt, Custard, Gelato, Froyo, whatever you want to call it — i’ll eat it.  I can appreciate a wide range of flavors, too — although I do become a bit of a snob when it comes to Vanilla.  Plain vanilla?  Why bother.  French Vanilla?  Great for smoothies and other mix-ables and food.  Vanilla Bean?  Straight up delicious any way you want it (especially in shamrock shakes).  When it comes to an ice cream flavor to enjoy by itself, I’m confronted with favorites like cookie dough, mocha chip, cherry panda paws, and of course – cherry garcia.  My current front-runner.

On one of our central NY trips a few summers ago, we stopped at a gelato place, and Mark tried their Amaretto flavor. It was hands down one of the best things we’ve tried.  However, since it is so rare of a find, I hardly consider it a consistent ‘favorite’.

Anyway, Mark and I were out buying a dessert for Father’s day, and I happened to see a freezer case filled with ice cream in the middle of this pastry shop.  Confused, I walked over.  It was full of locally-made ice cream!  My eyes immediately found one flavor in particular (to be honest, I can’t even tell you what else was in that case).  Amaretto Chocolate Cherry.

I repeat. Amaretto Chocolate Cherry.  Like, Cherry Garcia or Cherry Panda Paws….with Amaretto ice cream.  In one container. Together. I tried my best to talk Mark into buying some, especially when I saw the “limited edition” label.  But, we left without indulging my 5-year old excited self.

A few days later, we hit our low point with lack-of-job-offer news, broken ipad, and whatever else.  I came home one day and after our usual greeting/hug, I moped around until I decided to just go curl in a ball on the couch for a little bit.  Mark kissed my forehead and said he had to run an errand. He came home with Amaretto Chocolate Cherry!  He handed me the small container and said “I’ll go get you a spoon”.  Laughing, I asked if he wanted any, and he replied “That’s yours. I bought my own” (See why I love this man?!).

I found out that his ‘errand’ was to go directly back to the pastry shop, and grab the ice cream.  Apparently a sales girl asked him if he needed any help finding something.

“No, I”m all set — just those” (Points to ice cream).  “It’s an emergency”.

“An emergency? I’ve never heard of a situation where ice cream is an emergency”

“My wife is having a bad day”

“Ahh, I see.”

(I’m sorry, but I’m not sure how a grown woman has never heard of a situation where ice cream is an emergency…I’m honestly confused by this.)

 

You might think I’m a bit nuts for writing an entire entry about the day Mark went to buy me Amaretto Chocolate Cherry ice cream.  But honestly?  It was THAT good. Perfect Amaretto flavor, with bits of chocolate and chunks of real cherries.  Absolutely perfect.  So, I guess this is my “something to write home about” entry.  The best part?  They sell this stuff all over the area.  Curious?  Visit Lake Effect Artisan Ice cream and have your own ice cream adventure!  Try my favorite, or pick one of your own =)
Also…. Lake Effect? Please find a way for Amaretto Chocolate Cherry to make it’s way into the regular flavor rotation.  I might need again it in the future.  Please and thank you.

http://www.lakeeffecticecream.com/