Tag Archives: Arizona

DIY Indoor Succulent Garden

When I see succulent plants, it takes me back to my grandparents’ patio garden in Arizona. Growing up in Pennsylvania, cactus and succulents were so different from the plants I was used to seeing every day and they fascinated me.

In the last couple years, succulents have had a bit of a renaissance. They are appearing all over Pinterest boards, West Elm catalogs and as wedding centerpieces. It’s no surprise, really—they are both hardy and lovely. Even someone like me, who can barely keep a basil plant alive, can grow succulents.

Well…sort of.

Four years ago I bought a mini succulent planter at a local flower shop, but since then a couple of the plants have dried up and died. But, a couple of the plants were doing OK and there were a few new sprouts.

Succulents from Home Depot

So, this weekend, I visited Home Depot and bought a few more succulents and set out to create some new planters. I had a glass square vase from the wedding that would make a great planter, as well as a round glass bowl I had picked up at Crate and Barrel. I think I was a little overzealous when I bought the succulents though. As I started to assemble the planters, I realized that the containers were too small to fit all the plants! Luckily I found a Pyrex bowl I didn’t use that often that would work nicely.

Assembling Indoor Succulent Garden


  • Small succulent plants
  • Glass containers (try Michael’s or AC Moore)
  • Small rocks
  • Potting soil (I used Miracle Gro’s Moisture Control soil)
  • Sand
  • River rocks (you can buy these in craft stores)


At the bottom of the planters, add a layer of rocks. I collected these rocks at the beach this summer. Succulents shouldn’t sit in water, so the rocks help drain any excess water. Also in a glass container, the rocks look pretty!

Add soil to the planters, but the soil needs to be well-drained. You can use cactus soil, or make your own. I mixed 2 parts potting soil with 1 part sand.

Next, map out how you want to arrange the plants. Then start planting! After the bigger succulents were planted, I divided the cuttings from my old planter between the new planters.

After you are done planting, spread the river rocks on top of the soil and under the plant leaves. This will help prevent leaf rot. Also, it’s how they grow in the desert.

Place planters in an area that gets 6-8 hours of sun a day. Keep an eye on the plants though. If there is too much sun, the leaves will turn brown. If there isn’t enough light the plants will stretch.

Watering is tricky. For now, I’m going to water once a week and see if it’s too much or too little. In the winter months, when the plants are dormant, they will need to be watered even less often. Allow soil to dry out before watering.

So I think the planters turned out well! Now I have a piece of my grandparents’ garden on my windowsill.

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Dinner Tonight: Mom’s Chili con Carne

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a love affair with Southwestern food and culture. Having family from Arizona, I grew up with tostadas, tacos, tamales and bean burritos as regular meals for dinner. So when the air starts to get a little brisk, I immediately make a big pot of chili.  This recipe is my mother’s recipe, but I’ve modified it a bit over the years. It’s also the first meal I ever learned how to cook!

I took this photo out of the backseat of our car at sunrise in February, 2010.

The key ingredient though? Really good quality chili powder. Not to sound like an infomercial or anything, but anytime I’m in Arizona, I make sure to stop at a local supermarket to pick up a carton of Santa Cruz chili powder. It’s also available online here.

The Santa Cruz Chili Co sign outside their store in Tumacacori, Arizona


Also, it’s taken me awhile to figure out just the right amount of heat is needed in the chili. I made this chili for our Superbowl party two years ago and it was way too spicy for most of our guests. For me, I’ve found that 3 tablespoons of chili powder plus a chipotle pepper adds the right touch of spice, smoke and flavor.

I also highly recommend making this a day ahead. It tastes good the first day but even better the next day after the chili has spent the night in the fridge. This is great for leftovers.

Mom’s Chili con Carne

Serves 6-8


  •  2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ large onion, minced
  • 1-1/2-2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 Qt canned crushed or whole tomatoes
  • 4 cups of dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-4 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 1 canned chipotle chili pepper, minced
  • 1 T adobo sauce
  • 1 green bell pepper


Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until onions turn slightly transparent. Add ground beef cook until beef is browned.

Then add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Then, cover pot, leaving a slight opening for steam, and simmer on low for 1-1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.

Serve with a tortilla and enjoy!

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