making your garden your sanctuary

6 Tips To Making Your Garden Your Sanctuary

Making Your Garden Your Sanctuary

When we first bought our house, there was no garden. There was grass and some trees, but nothing that called me to be outside. I saw that as a challenge – and strongly believed that making your garden your sanctuary would dramatically increase my happiness and decrease my stress.

I was right.

It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Turning your garden into a sanctuary where you can relax surrounded by a little slice of nature is a great way to use your yard that is creative, satisfying and long-lasting. Here are six simple tips to turn your average garden into a sanctuary:

Make Your Garden a Getaway

make your garden your sanctuary lounge

The most important part of making your garden a sanctuary is setting it up as a space that is different from the rest of the home and where you can get away from the things that annoy you or ruin your relaxation inside. For example, if you hate the chaos of toys strewn all over the place inside, make your garden a toy-free zone, or if you go outside to get away from the noise of daily life, do what you can to make your garden a quiet, tranquil space. I love having a space to relax and read a book or just sit and watch the sunset. This is the best way to make your garden your sanctuary.

Erect a Structure

If you live in an area where the weather isn’t always great, it’s a good idea to erect some kind of garden building, preferably as far away from the main house as possible, where you can get some quiet time as you watch the leaves fall and the birds flit from flowers to feeders to birdbath. The Armstrong Steel building company make some very durable buildings which are perfect for this purpose because they’re warm, more waterproof than many other solutions, and very affordable. However, a simple garden pod or even a shed can easily double up as a simple structure, too.

Create Your Own Nook

make your garden your sanctuary lounge

A nice way to get more peace and privacy in the garden is to create your own little nooks by planting shrubs and bushes around a paving or decking area. The plants will help to shield you from prying eyes and muffle noise while looking naturally fabulous and making your garden a lot more beautiful. I decided to make some sort of surprise around every bend in my garden, just to create a bit more happiness.

Install a Fire Pit

There can be few things more tranquil than spending an evening in the garden, huddled around your very own fire, which is why every garden sanctuary should have its own fire pit in place. In northern California our spring, summer and fall evenings are mild, and having a built-in or portable fire pit is such fun! I love putting chairs out on the lawn and having friends and family relax into the evening.

A Water Feature

Water features, like the ones made by the Fountain People, and the sound of running water bring such tranquility and dramatically help make your garden your sanctuary. Water feature, even the most simple of fountains installed close to your seating area, offer just the right ambiance when you need some headspace.

Comfy Furniture

Last, but never least, is comfy furniture. Whether you choose chaise longues, sun loungers, reclining chairs or beanbags, your garden needs to have a wide range of seating available for not just you, but any friends and family who may join you in the garden. A decent sized table where you can eat and drink outdoors in comfort is always essential too. I love mixing and matching furniture and making soft and appealing cushions and pillows to add a little pop of coziness. It’s easy to buy waterproof fabric and recover them from year to year, adding an instant update!

With these features and plenty of beautiful, fragrant flowers in the garden, you’ll easily be on the way to making your garden your sanctuary; I know my garden has given me so much happiness and stress relief, it’s worth every minute! Please share your garden images so I can get more ideas!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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vegetarian awareness week

Vegetarian Awareness Week: My First Live TV Cooking Demo

Did you know the second week in September is Vegetarian Awareness Week? If you’re like me, eating veggies over meat is just a no-brainer; I think the last time I remember actually consuming a red meat burger was during my college years in 1985…

Things have definitely changed since then. I could barely cook back in the 80s, and going out for burgers was an exciting dinner treat on our budget. Just look at me now! Some of my best moments are spent in my garden and kitchen with my kids, cooking and eating as healthy as possible.

vegetarian awareness week

Living in California, having space to grow my own veggies and citrus in my backyard, and easy access to local farmer’s market produce has been such a gift towards healthy eating and cooking. This year we planted San Marzano tomatoes and 30 pepper plants! It seems like there’s always something in season that’s so delicious and full of nutrients that raising my kids on a low meat diet was simple; they’ve become fine cooks and enjoy trying all sorts of seasonal fruits and veggies. To encourage a love of food, one thing I always did when they were little was allowed them to pick out one new fruit or veggie on every grocery shopping trip. This didn’t always result in a new addition to their palate, but it did always result in them trying something new, like it or not.

Vegetarian Awareness Week
Making vegetarian tamales – I love cooking with my kids!

Vegetarian Awareness Week is just a perfect opportunity for me to share my love of cooking and healthy eating, and thanks to the folks at Cucina Antica, I have the opportunity to do my first ever live cooking demo on TV! And yes, just a little bit nervous, but honestly knowing that the product I’m sharing is one I use and enjoy makes it easier. You can watch my live demo here. Have you tried Cucina Antica cooking sauces? Cucina Antica sauces are authentic family recipes with no added sugar or preservatives and made with imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes. I love the copious amounts of veggies in each jar, the lack of artificial preservatives and no added sugar, as well as the variety of dishes I can make with each one.

For Vegetarian Awareness Week I’ll be making this yummy recipe for Spaghetti with Sautéed Eggplant – I’m so excited!

 Ingredients:

  • 1 jar Cucina Antica Tomato Basil Sauce
  • 1 lb. Spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 6 baby eggplants
  • 2 tsp. Romano cheese
  • Fresh basil to garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  Preparation:

  1. Slice eggplants into 1/4″ vertical strips. In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil.
  2. Season eggplants with salt and pepper and sauté in oil until just slightly wilted. Set aside.
  3. Prepare spaghetti al dente. Meanwhile, heat Cucina Antica Tomato Basil Sauce.
  4. When pasta is finished, drain and coat with one cup of sauce to prevent noodles from sticking.
  5. Plate pasta and top with eggplant slices. Cover with remaining sauce and top with Romano cheese.
  6. Garnish with basil and serve.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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remind us to be brave reflection

Remind Us How To Be Brave: Poetry From Rosemerry Trommer

Remind Us How To Be Brave:

I discovered these beautiful words to remind us how to be brave on A First Sip.  After this week, the uprising in hate group empowerment, the reactions of our president, and the murder of an innocent woman, many of us are struggling with how to be brave. What does it mean to stand up, to use our voice? How do we speak out against the unspeakable? How do we go back to school, to classrooms, next week and use our position to help kids understand and process and learn to love?

I struggle, as do so many, with the answers to these questions. I wrote about my initial reaction to the hate in Charlottesville here. I hope this poetry and my words not only remind us how to be brave but helps us ACT out our bravery.

One of my most often used reminders in my classroom is that stepping out of our comfort zone is where the magic happens. As an introvert, I find this practice exhausting. I know I need to push myself and others forward, to remind myself of the need for solitude, and to gather momentum from taking risks and being adventurous. That’s one reason I travel to Nicaragua, one reason I write, and one reason I think amazing things happen in my classroom.

remind us to be brave church
Ciudad Dario, Nicaragua

But at the end of the day, I’m weary. I’m spent and retreat into solace. I release the demands into the soil of my garden or the sauces simmering on my stove. I walk in meditation, stopping to notice the bloom beside me or the reflection on the water.

remind us to be brave reflection
Lake Tahoe reflection

To remind us how to be brave, we must slip out of the world we know and into the world of quiet contemplation.

remind us to be brave garden quiet
A quiet moment in my garden.

I hope you enjoy this peaceful poem by Rosemerry Trommer – and remember you have all the power you need right inside.

When her voice is weary
it means it is time to listen.

When her armor is heavy,
it means it is time to be soft,

time to slip out of her certainty
and her battle songs,

time to retreat from the lines
she has drawn, time to unknow

the world she thinks she knows
and to find herself in the world

that knows her. She lets the darkness
penetrate her, it caresses

her universal curves. Her quiet
joins her to an infinite quiet—

she is everything, nothing at once.
She relearns how vulnerability

transforms us in ways
ferocity can not.

She is her own fertile seed.
She is her own desert rain.

She’s her own cocoon, her own inner cave.
Sometimes it takes the darkness

to remind us how to be brave.

~ Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Words are the spark that ignites my soul. I am a collector of language in all forms, believing the extraordinary beauty of the written word must be shared.

These monthly posts, inspired by another’s words, are my gifts of beauty and spirit, shared with love.

xoxo, Jennifer

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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The Gods Are Here, In This Almost Empty Nest

“The Gods Are Here”

This is no mountain

But a house,

No rock of solitude

But a family chair,

No wilds

But life appearing

As life anywhere domesticated,

Yet I know the gods are here,

And that if I touch them

I will arise

And take majesty into the kitchen.”

Jean Toomer

The Gods are here, in this almost empty nest of mine.

Hovering over my family, my son frequently ticks off the months left he has until his birthday, the day he officially becomes an ‘adult’.

There’s less than four left; we anticipate with a mix of excitement and uncertainty. He for the former, me for the latter. More than some I know, less than others.

Yesterday he announced there were seven months before he would know officially where he’s spending his college years. Unofficially, he’s hoping for a location 2, 467 miles from home. Exactly. Yes, I checked.

The Gods are here, in this home. I surround myself with their comfort.

We watch “Blackish” together. It’s one of our few remaining ‘things’ we do, just the two of us.  That, and gardening. For anyone out there with a teenage son, you understand the joy of having a ‘thing’ to do together. For most days, we parallel, a mix of school and jobs and eating and homework. We say good morning and goodnight, and as ‘life anywhere domesticated’, we have our own strange daily routine. It works ok. I find myself forever on the end of wanting more, but swelling with pride as he feels his footing in wanting and doing more for himself.

A few weeks ago, “Blackish” hit home with their episode about their oldest child receiving college acceptances and struggling with a decision of the heart v. head. It’s the kind of struggle I’m all too familiar with these days: how hard to tug on the line, how much slack to release. How to truly sit with the situation in front of me and decide where I fit, how I respond, when I share my opinion and when I just listen.

“This is no mountain, but a house”, I remind myself. This is “no rock of solitude”, but a “family chair” to sink into. These are the small moments of life that slip in and out sometimes without notice, sometimes with great emotion surfacing at the most strange and inopportune times. This is my job, as a mother, to remember that it is my place to create the soft place to land, the cushion to spring into and out of and to trust the solid foundation that brought us this far. This is ‘life appearing’ whether I like it or not, despite my protests and preparations. This is my holy place, our landing space, our creation. I can trust in the sturdiness of our structure. I can close my eyes and remember the majesty of their first words and milestones. I breathe in the scent of their baby soft skin, fresh from the bath. I hear the whispers and the whimpers, the laughter and the squeals of excitement. I remember it all even when I didn’t think I would need to.

gods are here empty nest garden

I will arise, I am confident. I will take majesty, just as it has been given to me in all the extraordinary, ordinary moments spent gathered in this kitchen, this garden, this home.

I know the gods are here, in this almost empty nest. I will touch them here, I am confident. Here, rooted in this family, this place, this home, this life appearing and disappearing in front of me.

Related articles:

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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gardening shovel

Tired Of Gardening? You’re Doing It Wrong!

No surprise if you follow my Instagram – I love gardening.

gardening shovel

source

Nothing better than gardening!

There’s nothing better in life than a warm summer’s evening in a beautiful garden that you have created yourself. But many people miss out on this incredible experience and opportunity because they feel that gardening is just too much hard work. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Sure, gardening takes a little sweat and elbow grease every now and again, but the truth is if you are slaving away in your garden, you are doing it all wrong. Here are my tips for making gardening an easier – and far more enjoyable – experience.

Feed Your Soil!

First of all, if you want to see your garden grow magnificently, you need to give it the right nutrients. So many people complain about never achieving the perfect lawn, or always experiencing plants die, but the truth is that by testing your soil’s pH levels you will be able to introduce the right minerals and nutrients. Then it’s a simple case of adding some compost every now and again. Finally, it’s worth pointing out that good-quality soil means you won’t have to add fertilizer every other week.

Go Slow Release

Of course, every garden could do with some fertilizer every now and again, but to make your life easier, try using slow release fertilizers. Just make sure that you use organic products, rather than synthetic fertilizers, which can impact the quality of your soil and kill off nutrients. Time released fertilizers, and water polymers are also easy to use, and you only need to lay them when you start planting shrubs, flowers, or grasses.

gardening swing

source

Invest in the Right Equipment

It’s not much of a surprise that people hate gardening if the tools they use are not up to scratch. Blunt garden shears, poor quality lawnmowers, a broken wheelbarrow – they can all add up to a frustrating and tiring experience. My advice is to spend some time looking around for better tools and consider spending a little extra on high-quality garden gear. Garden There’s good lists of garden equipment from Mowers Online and other online websites, so do some research and head down to your local garden center with your checkbook. It will make a world of difference to your enjoyment of gardening, make it a lot easier for you, and, ultimately, will give you a better garden finish for less work.

Plan Your Garden

A few weekends of hard work will mean an easier experience in the future. So, put aside some time to sort out your yard, beginning with a good plan. Sketch out your ideal garden and think about what type of plants you want to have in it. It’s a good idea to educate yourself about the types of plant that thrive when together, and need similar maintenance. It will save you a lot of time when it comes to watering, feeding, and caring for your garden if you plan your plants, shrubs, and flowerbeds appropriately. Some plants will love being out in the sun, so target open areas of the backyard that have no cover for these, while others thrive in the shade. There will be an element of difference when it comes to caring for plants, of course, but the heavy maintenance chores like watering and deadheading should all be grouped together to make your life easier.

Install Raised Beds

Part of the problem with unruly gardens is that they have no defined borders. It means that plants will spread over the seasons, and you will end up losing control. Your best bet is to invest some time and energy to creating raised beds. Not only are they much easier to control, but by raising your beds up six inches or so, you will find the work is far less backbreaking than it was before.

gardening daisies

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Go For Perennials

Perennial plants are easy to look after and are hardy, robust, and keep coming back. If you want the most comfortable gardening experience while still retaining a nice look, ensure that the majority of your plants are perennial Consider plants like Sedums and Astilbes which look fantastic all through the flowering season, and need little attention no matter what the weather.

Lay Down Mulch

Putting mulch down is a cheap way of helping your soil retain moisture all through the warm seasons, as well as keeping your plant roots nice and cool – which is essential if you want to keep your plants from dying. Mulch is also a great way of providing a professional looking finish to your raised bed and bordered areas. Not only that, of course, but mulch helps you control weeds by blocking them from life-giving light, and acts as a natural soil fertilizer to give your plants the nutrients they need. In short, one day of laying down some mulch in the right areas can mean no more weeding, and much less fertilizing.

Employ the ‘No Dig’ Method

Want to know one of the best ways of looking after your plants? Fix your soil and leave it – permanently. When you think about how plants grow in the wild, it makes perfect sense. The soil in the wild is never tended to, and if the structure remains undisturbed plants of all kinds will still flourish. Excellent news for the lazy gardener, right? However, there is an important thing to consider if you want to use the no dig method. You won’t be able to bring in plants that don’t usually grow in your local area, and importing ‘foreign’ plants from other countries will certainly be a no go. That said, it’s a great chance to learn more about your location’s natural plant life and an easy way of looking after your garden without all the hard work!

OK, so there you have it – as you can see, gardening doesn’t have to be a tough grind. Pick up the right equipment, choose the right plants, and spend a few weekends laying some groundwork, and gardening becomes an easy – and enjoyable – activity. Getting started at this time of year is a perfect time, too, so no more excuses! Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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