Ten-Minute Zen

DIY cactus dish garden
"The obstacle is your reality; the sand is your peace." 

Thorny obstacle. Peace surrounding it. Focus on the Peace.
Sounds very Christian to me!

"Zen" is not a term I use in any spiritual sense because I'm in an exclusive relationship with Jesus, but I just love the little "zen" sand garden SweetPea pinned a couple of weeks ago.  I like to doodle (and fingerweave, embroider, and knead dough) because the repetitious mindlessness of the activity is very relaxing. With apologies to whatever zen really means, here's all I mean by it:  relaxing.  In this case, the word applies to both drawing in sand and making the garden.

Bonus: the end product also looks pretty darned cool on the coffee table. (Even G-man says so, and that's saying something.)

I didn't realize the pin led to a link for an etsy shop photo until today, or I might have gone there first to buy one. In the end, I wanted something bigger and well, plainer, for my living room table anyway. When SweetPea makes the longed-for move to a dorm, I have Wendi's delightful shop bookmarked. She can have a bright dish garden to liven up her space.

Until then, we can share this little sweetie, for about $12 and 10 minutes of work. (Wendi's aren't much more expensive. Though smaller, her dishes are very nice...check out her shop!)


  • One tiny cactus (a succulent would do, too)
  • craft sand (Wal-mart has white. Hobby Lobby has all the fancy colors.)
  • glass dish (a 12" "floating candle" dish from Wal-Mart)
  • felt or cork circles (make your own or buy some)
  • small square of clear plastic wrap from the kitchen
  • scoop of cactus soil
  • bottom of a quart take-out container from your favorite Chinese place
  • "wand" of some sort
1. Transplant cactus into a wide, flat container so the roots can spread. You want it flat so it can lurk beneath the sand deeper than you'll draw.
DIY cactus dish garden
(Today I saw that Wendi seems to set the cactus into dirt and top with a thick layer of sand. Whichever you choose, you want to discourage the wand from stirring the dirt into the sand.)

2. Sprinkle a little sand over the top of the soil  (camoflage!) and wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap, loosely.
DIY cactus dish garden

3. Add felt circles to the bowl so you can "swoosh" the bowl around to clear a design without scratching the table you spent hours staining and finishing.
DIY cactus dish garden
Be sure to brush any excess sand off the felt before first use!

4. Scoop sand around the cactus.
DIY cactus dish garden

5. Gently shake to level sand.
DIY cactus dish garden
Spray some glass cleaner on a paper towel and gently 
wipe the glass to remove dust.

6. Find or make a wand...and draw!
DIY cactus dish garden

About the wand...I sanded down the point on one of my "pillow stuffing tools" (the dowels that come free in bags of fiberfill) 
for the wand I used here.  

A plain old Bic stick pen wrote well on the first shot, above.

As a distraction from an overcast day at the end of a stressful week (oldest started college, picking out a car, behind on housework AND writing assignments), spending a few minutes putting this together  (and a little longer writing about it) was a pretty zen activity in itself.  

In fact, I can't stop playing with it. See?!
DIY cactus dish garden

If you make one, I'd love to see  yours!

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