Orchid Magic

When I first purchased this orchid it had two burgeoning buds on the end. When the biggest one began to unfold, it seemed to happen quickly. It’s amazing how such an intricate flower could start as such a simple bud.

So I decided to set up a timelapse with my old iphone and see what I could capture.

The below 24 second video represents 26 hours of pictures
I started recording at 5:30pm on Friday
And stopped recording at 7:30pm on Saturday

(I had to adjust the camera once because of the lighting)

And just like that, a beautiful new orchid flower in 24 seconds!

The Colors of Quarantine

One of the smaller home projects I’ve been meaning to get to (thank you, COVID-19 for forcing my hand) is to refresh my home office/library/blog-writing room.

I am firmly in the neutral camp when it comes to the rest of my home but I wanted to add in some color to a room filled with books.

This homemade table is what I use as a desk. I don’t think you could offer me a free $6,000 desk to replace it – it’s the perfect size for me and I love its sturdiness and size. However, I wanted to amp it up a bit.

These Mildliner markers are a daily supply for me. I love them! I use them on various lists, etc. They aren’t an intense marker that will soak through your page and I absolutely love their color sequence. So honestly…I think I based a lot of the room on their presence.

sidenote: I just checked on Amazon and they are about $40. There’s no way I paid $40 for them so maybe it’s just the crazy times we’re in at the moment. I’m sure they sell for less at other times and also at craft stores – so I’m not linking anything here. Just Google them for a better price.

Before I started painting, Scott offered to ‘shore up’ the warped edges, etc. “Nah…I think that’s what I like about it. It’s wonky and imperfect.

Earbuds in. Audiobook on. Paintbrush in hand. By the way…when you’re working on a project while listening to an audiobook, do you ever get back into the aura of the storyline when you see the finished project even months later? Or like…craft projects I’ve worked on while watching the World Series will always remind me of the World Series when I see it.

No? Just me? (Surely not.)

I wanted to paint the desk a combination of blues and greens to go with the plants I have in this space. In the back of our house we have some fantastic windows that get a strong, bright light. Then in this room we have this big window that gets fantastic filtered light. It’s bright – but not quite so harsh as the southern exposure of the backyard. Therefore, my plants are pretty much divided into two sections: those that like it hot and those (…like me…) that like it bright but let’s not go overboard on the sunbeams.

I really like the way it turned out…

The top row of my bookshelves are my fiction books. Those books and only those books are in rainbow order. (The rest are all in genre order…nothing cutesy.) Eventually I think I’d like that back wall to be a bright fuchsia or something. We’ll see…

Can’t stop won’t stop with the rainbows 🌈

Scott built this ‘plant altar’ (I jokingly call it) last year to hold a bunch of my plants. It’s been moved around the house numerous times – but I mostly like it right here under the window, soaking up the sun.

This airplane plant is a lot of fun – it has SOOOO many pups!

This room is impossible to take a picture of and get all its sides, but I think you get the idea. I like the burst of color the desk brings without it being TOO colorful or childlike. It’s calming and cool and it’s forever linked to Corona Quarantine Survival time.

And in the evening when the twinkle lights turn on… it’s a perfectly cozy spot.

What projects are you working on while you’re hunkered down??

Ode to the DNF

As readers, we’ve all experienced the mental pros and cons list we automatically go to when facing a potential DNF (Do No Finish.) It took me quite a few years into adulthood before I would actually NOT finish a book. Finally I reached the point when I realized my time and comfort level was worth more than my commitment to finish a book I wasn’t enjoying or was about topics that made me uneasy. Even still, it takes quite a bit for me to lay a book aside. Many times it’s the pure curiosity of wondering how it ends that keeps my plowing through. 

This book is a Potential DNF as I haven’t 100% made up my mind yet about it. You can see where my book tab is. I’m not quite halfway through. I’ve enjoyed the topic (although a little overdone in the past few years, it feels like. Girl spy during one of the early wars.) I liked this character and it’s based on a real person. 

But it came to a dramatic stop recently when an event in the book was more than I could swallow. It was rough. At the very least, I needed to step away from the book for a bit. I’ve read two light-hearted books since putting a pause on this one. Maybe those lighter reads will buoy me enough to step back into the dark world that this book is currently in. 

The book jumps from present to past so I’m wondering if I just skip to the next section (Part Three), if I’ll be able to catch up on the things I skipped over. The looming question, however, is will I become engrossed in it again only to have another zinger of a plot twist creep up as gross and disturbing as the one I just read??

I’ve been hesitant to use the word ‘triggering’ because I’m not sure the exact definition of it. Does it apply only if it has actually happened to you? As a mom, I am VERY sensitive to things happening to children, even mental anguish. I definitely didn’t used to be that way. I loved reading crazy, scary books as a teen. But I watched the movie Sophie’s Choice when my firstborn was 9 months old and I spent the rest of the evening sitting by his crib and crying. Seriously!, it broke me. So children being hurt – mentally or physically – is a real trigger for me. And that’s where I am in this book. I’m sure many of you have read this and it was no big deal. (The book comes out at the end of month.) But that’s the deal, right? What is triggering for one person is totally fine for another. (And if you have read this book, I’m sure you can probably guess what event stopped me dead in my tracks…)

It’s raining this week in California. Like, a lot. The days are dreary and overcast and that’s to say nothing of the whole Covid-19 situation overtaking our thoughts and moods. So for now, I’m going to stick with other books and hope I don’t forget too much of what I’ve read so far in this book. Maybe I’ll come back to it later (because it really WAS an interesting book.) Just not right now.

What items make you set down a book and not come back? What makes you say, ‘Nope!’? I’d really love to hear your experiences and what trends you see in your own reading life that make you stop and walk away.

 

Sidenote: I have purposefully not mentioned the name of the book or the author’s name, even though you can plainly see it in the picture. I don’t want any search engines to find the title and it get a bad review. I’m not giving it a bad review. Just because something bothers me, doesn’t mean it’s not a good book for anyone. In fact, it’s been an interesting and engaging book. I just need a little space from it for now. Or until it becomes a DNF.

orchids and epiphytes

I have resisted buying orchids for years now. It seems like they would be (another) hard-to-quit addiction.

But I gave in recently and purchased a beautiful white Phalaenopsis and after reading all the specific instructions about how to raise them and keep them blooming…whew! I think one orchid baby is enough for me to handle. I have a great deal of respect for people who collect them. They make quite an impressive display all grouped together.

I haven’t found the exact sweet spot for my orchid yet, I just know I would like for it to hang like it does in its natural habitat, rather than be stalked upright; therefore, I need to find a shelf or high place in the sun. We’ll get there eventually.

Orchids are epiphytes meaning they derive their moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water or from debris accumulating around them. They get nutrients from their roots as well but unlike some plants, epiphytes also get nourishment through their leaves.

I already use Orchid Plant Food Mist on some of my other epiphytes so I was ready to go on supplemental orchid nourishment.

Here are some other common houseplant epiphytes that I use orchid spray on a couple of times a week:

All of my hoyas…

My Pilea (Chinese Money Plant) … which is getting ready to undergo a major propagation surgery

Syngoniums (Arrowhead plant) are all epiphytes

Jade plants…

Philodendrons… give them a quick spray

Even Tillandsia air plants!

Other common houseplants you could use the spray on would be cactus, bromeliads, staghorn ferns, and household ferns.

This orchid spray bottle is getting a big workout! I spray the plants a couple of times a week and they seem to be perfectly happy with the extra bit of love.

Something we alllll could use lately, right??

If you’re curious about what other plants are epiphytes, try googling a list to see if any of your plant roomies are on it. I bet they’d like a fresh spray of nutrient love too!

Welcome!

Our home project this week was to tackle our home’s entryway. I struggled all last year to figure out what would work best in our ‘entry room’.

The front porch is a covered area that has been challenging to decide between plants or furniture. Plus there is a fairly wide ‘wall’ that was screaming for something, but I wasn’t sure what.

And also..the color. This wouldn’t have been my primary choice, but since we rent, painting the outside of the house pushes even me over the limit. I am an avid painter (and re-painter!) inside the house, but I have to draw the line at exterior painting. And that’s okay! The bigger the challenge – the more fun! And I don’t hate this blue-grey color. Not at all. It’s just not a color I’m used to working with.

Let me pull back and give you a wider view…

Here’s our little California 1970’s ranch. We have done VERY little to the front of the house since we do all of our outside living in the backyard. But I wanted to do something with the entry area.

I grabbed a few pots and succulents and went to work.

As an aside: If you are doing a big succulent project, opt for these ‘decorator’ pots filled with succulents that someone else has put together for a grocery store, etc. I bought these at Home Depot or Lowe’s. You don’t have to keep them as is (I didn’t), but buying individual succulents cost about $4-5 each plant. Each of these pots cost $12! Obviously, that’s a MUCH better deal! You can take them apart and arrange them to your taste.

Since these were big pots (a size needed for the entry space) and I was planting succulents with small roots, I threw some nursery pots into the larger pot to take up some space. Why waste the potting soil filling the whole thing?!

Arranging the pots was 99% of the fun. Since these weren’t going to be seen from all sides, I gave them a tall back and worked the succulents from there.

Can you see that gorgeous variegated succulent below?? I put in an agave cactus in the middle and some fun sanseviera cylindrica (variegated ‘snake plants’) in the back…

I moved some of my prayer plant varieties, peperomia and calathea from inside the house to one of the pots. These are somewhat picky plants but like a frustrated mother, I needed them to go play outside for awhile! They’ll like this area because it’s very bright and has a good view of the sky but has no direct sun. Ultimately they will like the humidity this space gets in the summer.

I was going for a big impact with the large double doors, but needed to use plants that didn’t need direct sun, like a tree or ornamental grasses would.

Stage One of this project was going well.

But the open ‘wall’ was still glaring at me.

I found a similar project on a midcentury site online and liked the idea of a) Scott building something to fit the specific dimensions and b) something we could also use for climbing plants.

Stage Two: Scott and I worked over designs and he built this awesome ‘trellis’ / ‘artwork’.

I picked some Sansevieria zeylanica (commonly called Bowstring Hemp) to plant in the white rocks. I love their blue-gray color next to the house. They are a cousin to the Snake Plant (we always called them Mother-in-Law Tongue plants.) And I added a new aloe vera plant.

While it’s definitely shaping up, there are a few other things I want to tick off including (*but not limited to) painting the front doors and frame a magnificent mustard yellow.

The below Kangaroo Paw Fern has been a dreamboat of a plant. I highly recommend them. And ever-so-slowly, the Japanese Aralia – is starting to expand.

I love a fun, unusual, exotic plant. But you really can’t beat a reliable ol’ airplane plant, can you? As soon as it produces a baby, I put them directly back in the pot to fill out the top and keep it full.

Two super awkward situations about this entry way. Imagine, if you will, standing at your kitchen sink, making coffee, staring blankly out the window when suddenly (…I should write that SUDDENLY!…because that’s how quickly it happens…) the postal worker (…ours is a man, so can I say ‘mailman’??…) comes around the corner to drop the mail in the box. An awkward grin is the least of my worries as I pray he didn’t see anything untoward as we stood facing each other through the glass pane. -ha!

Secondly – is that a laundry vent behind your azaleas, Greta?, you ask. Why yes, yes it is. Welcome to our home. We smell like fresh laundry. Meh. There could be worse things, right??

I think my Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera obliqua) will enjoy dancing up this trellis.

Besides the succulents, all of the plants on the porch love humidity. Watering the white rocks adds humidity to the air. The fact that this is a somewhat enclosed area, the humidity in the air and the heat of California hovers in this small place – making these tropical plants extremely happy. And they get to enjoy it all without the harsh sun rays beating down on them all summer long.

I think we might have a winning combination.

Thank you, again, Scott. Although this project looks relatively easy, there was math involved which is where I get off the boat and leave Scott to figure out the angles on his own.

Another week, another fun project checked off our list!

No greater love than to lay down one’s leaf for another…

I bought this Angel Wing Begonia online last year. It was a plant cutting (non-rooted) and has struggled to ‘take hold’. But it held in there and we have formed a nice plant/caretaker relationship.

March 4 – progress on a new leaf

The original two leaves that I received in July of last year have now given all they could to the re-establishment and have now fallen away. It’s strange how attached to these original leaves I am. I let them stay on as long as they could, giving the last of their nutrients to the new leaves. I woke up one morning this week and noticed this one had finally laid down on the shelf below, unable to give any more.

The growth of the newest leaf has been surprising. I first noticed a new leaf coming in on February 21…

By February 25th, it had begun to unfurl…

The stronger and bigger the new leaf grew, the weaker the old leaf looked. At my age, I was impressed with the lengths we go to give all we have to the next generation. Too schmaltzy? Yeah. But I connected strongly with this leaf. We’ve been working together for the past 8 months to root in water and then to establish a new home in dirt. Finding the right light source has been tricky. Too hot at first and then not enough light. We found our sweet spot about 6 months ago yet all along, she’s been working underground to create these beautiful new leaves.

By March 2 (10 days after I first noticed the new leaf nub), the new leaf was really coming alive.

I’m not sure how long this Angel Wing will be able to live in its current situation alongside a Christmas cactus and an African Milk Tree (whew…who has its own story of woe!)

The balancing act game one must play with begonias is all about the spots. The more light they receive, the more silver spots appear and the underneath red of the leaf becomes more vivid. However, I had it in too hot of a spot at first and the leaves began to fade. I quickly moved it but the leaves were struggling to grow without enough light. We finally found the perfect spot with a lot of bright light and a good view of the sky, but not too much overwhelmingly direct sunlight. It did manage to bloom once last year so I’m excited to see what kind of flowers develop this year.

This was actually sold to me as a Dragon Wing Begonia and for the longest time I was confused about the descriptions of each variety. The Dragon Wing stems arch out and make a beautiful hanging plant. The Angel Wing is more of a cane-like structure with stems growing straight up. I had to double-check with a local nursery owner who confirmed mine was an Angel Wing.

Begonias like moisture and humidity but they do not like soggy feet. They need to be planted in a well-draining soil. Begonias originated in the tropics and grew on the ground in their natural state. They have been referred to as semi-succulents since they hold water in their thick stems.

An important note about all houseplants and one that I will probably refer to often because it made a huge difference in the way I began caring for my plants:

For the sake of ease and general care, growers stick the plant instructions into a plant before you buy it in the store. And perhaps, like me, you google further care instructions for the plant. But as a transplant from the Midwest to California, I am well aware that instructions like ‘full sun’ mean two VERY different things depending on where you live. Full sun in California is deadly for most plants. (Ask me how I know! Yikes.) So the BEST way to find out how to care for a plant is to google the plant’s origin. If the plant is originally found in the rainforests of Brazil, that will tell you something about their water needs, etc. A simple wikipedia search will tell you a lot. But to read a blog (yes, like mine even) that talks about specific plant care needs will only work identically if you live in the same area as the blogger. I try to tell you what works for me as a guide as to how to care for your plant. And of course the best advice of all is to talk to your neighbors or a local nursery. They can give you care instructions based on what has worked for them in their similar growing conditions as you.

Back to my Angel Wing. Along with feeling a bond to ‘the old leaf‘, the analogy of fallen wings does not escape me. Sometimes my wings are polished and new and strong and sometimes, they’re broken and wonky. Once again, plants teaching about life. It’s one of the greatest things I enjoy about working with living, breathing, drinking plant life.

Do you have a begonia you’re growing? What have been your successes or oops’es? I’d love to know about your experiences as well.

Begonias will always have the undercurrent of my growing up years (certainly pre-Me Too Movement) when ‘Hey – nice begonias!’ meant something entirely different…

Big Monstera Tip/Advice

Basically, do this before it gets too late and you end up like me.

(Sounds ominous, doesn’t it??)

A quick backstory…

Our monstera deliciosa was large when we lived in Kansas City. When we moved to California, we knew it couldn’t make the trip in our car so I cut a number of stems from it and placed them in water to root. (And gave the mother plant away.)

About a month and a half later they were rooted enough to add to dirt.

It’s grown quite a bit over the past year and accumulated many aerial roots. Aerial roots are funky looking but serve an important purpose in the tropical forest where the monstera originates. Monstera plants climb up trees like a vine so they naturally seek a ‘dark structure’ to attach themselves to with their aerial roots.

In a home environment, however, the roots merely hang down, searching for something to climb.

My biggest advice to new or upcoming monstera owners, plant your monstera with a pole in the middle from the beginning. I kept ‘meaning to get around to it’ – as the plant continued growing and growing.

As a result, the plant has become very “unruly” looking with leaves falling all over the place and no structure.

Another issue with waiting too long is that the plant was now growing up from the middle, leaving no room for inserting a climbing pole.

It was time to take (belated) action before the spring and summer leaves start growing.

Scott used a cedar piece of wood and affixed chicken wire around it with a staple gun and ordered some sphagnum moss online.

The moss comes in a compact brick.

Once it’s placed in water, it begins to expand and unravel.

We inserted the wet moss into the chicken wire then wrapped the whole pole and moss with fishing wire.

The added benefit to a moss pole is that it will raise the humidity level around the plant. Spraying or watering the moss keeps a’tropical’ humidity around the plant.

Taking the monstera outside, we took the plant and root ball out of the pot and thoroughly rinsed as much dirt off as we could.

Relative to the height of the plant, the roots aren’t that deep.

We carefully removed each section of the plant and laid them out to be re-potted later.

This is NOT the easiest way to grow a monstera! I should have started with a moss pole from the very beginning. Heed my warning! Save yourselves!!!

After assembling the pole, we re-planted the pieces of monstera and carefully wrapped any long aerial roots around the moss pole for them to eventually take hold.

It will take a few weeks for it to fully straighten up. But since the growing season is coming up, it will stretch upwards instead out sprawling out. I’ll do an update to this post in a few months.

Lesson? Give your new monstera a pole to start climbing from the beginning and/or when they’re small. It will grow into a better shape and be in an atmosphere more closely related to its origins.

(And it’s a lot less back breaking!)

Crossing my fingers this will help to refresh this plant. New dirt filled with yummy nutrients and a ‘tree’ for its aerial roots to climb.

Ready for growing season!

This is 55.

Scott and I had a few days off together around my birthday. A double nickel birthday… that seems impossible. My mind completely disagrees.

I have a favorite birthday cake. My mother made it for me and after she was gone, my mother-in-law made it for me for many years. For the last two years, Scott has been making it in California. It is a delicious banana cake with a coffee icing that is to DIE for. We made the whole thing, ate a few pieces, and then froze the rest for future days when all you need is just a little bit of cake.

Thank you Thank you Thank you, Scott… for the love, the calories, and the very fond memories of Mom.

Here are a few highlights from the last few days:

For any of you who are fans of the 2014 movie, Chef, (and all of you should be because it’s such an enjoyable movie) starring Jon Favreau, there is a Netflix series out called, The Chef Show, where Jon Favreau and Chef Roy Choi explore food with renowned chefs. It’s a somewhat unique food show that’s entertaining and very informative. We are big fans here at our house. 

We were recently watching an episode in which they made corn tortillas from scratch. Scott (who has a deep and abiding love for cast iron) was intrigued. Before the show was over he’d ordered a tortilla maker and a few days later we were having one of our favorite roasted salmon fish taco recipes from Ina Garten. The meal – and the corn tortillas! – was delicious. What a fun experiment. 

This is not a good foodie photograph (it was a hurry-up-I-want-to-eat-this kind of photograph) but you get the jest of the taco. Dill, cucumber, avocado, lots of lime juice…like I said, it’s one of our go-to recipes. Fresh and scrumptious.

Scott suggested we go check out an exotic plant store I’d heard about. It’s not a very big place, tucked in behind some buildings, but we spent a solid hour there. Flori-Culture started out as an accompaniment to the orchid society. But then they started growing and swapping unique plants with area botanical gardens and zoos and people started taking notice. They are now known for their unique and rare types of plants (along with their amazing orchid collection, if you’re into that kind of thing.) 

The owner was there and was so gentle with all our questions. He wasn’t demeaning (some plant people can be), and he was thorough in his answers (not to hear himself talk but to truly help us make a decision.) It was a fantastic experience. 

The spores on this plant…amazing.

The below Trichogiottis brachiata was interesting to see how it grafted itself onto a tree. The aerial roots were amazing.

Something cool about the shop: Plants had different colored plant tag stakes stuck in them. If it was a blue tag, that meant it was a mother plant. Some had numerous red tags stuck in them. He explained to us that if you’re interested in a propagated rooting from that plant, you write your name on a tag (phone number and date of request) and stick it in the mother plant. When they can, they take a cutting from the mother plant, root it and when it begins to show growth, they start calling the people on the red tags. So cool, right?! (Okay…cool for plant nerds anyway.) The below plant was one that I stuck a red tag in. 

I have the below plant – a peperomia or Baby Rubber Plant. Mine is smallish and growing straight up in a pot. I saw this one and asked him why theirs was so different. He told me it’s really a ground cover so if I move it to a shallow dish, it will branch out like this one. (Duh! I had no idea. And immediately went home and repotted it.)

I’m not an orchid person but I can certainly appreciate them and the work it takes to get these beautiful blooms.

One of the benefits of living on the west coast and most everyone else I know lives a few hours ahead of me, is that I can wake up on my birthday to a phone filled with birthday messages. It was a nice way to start the day!

I don’t ever recall my birthday being on Ash Wednesday before. And for us, it was also Voting Day. We have been VERY diligent about looking at all the candidates. We’ve waited as long as we could to make the right decision and thoughtfully watched each debate –  and STILL, it was difficult. In fact, I’ve never been so split on who I wanted to vote for in the primaries. There is the added pressure of voting in the California primaries where there are 416 delegates so the pressure was on thick for us. We sat down with coffee and filled out our ballots and dropped them off at the early voting locations. After months of struggling, it was all over. Votes cast.

I couldn’t decide between a few candidates so I did the drop-the-pen-and-see-where-it-lands thing. It landed on Tulsi Gabbard (eyeroll) so I went back to comparing the facts and issues.

Ballots cast, time for a trip to Green Acres Nursery. Scott has been researching composting and I am always up for a plant trip. This particular Green Acres in Rocklin is the last one we haven’t visited (it’s the newest) and might be our current favorite.

I fell in LOVE with these wonky pots. I love their texture and uneven design. They look like they were just pulled off the potters wheel.

The below tree – triangularis – is on my long-term Plant Bucket List. I love the leaves so much.

The Rocklin houseplant area was really nice to walk through and dream.

We stopped by In-N-Out (because California) where this cute employee was standing outside talking to a group of twenty-something’ers. He was really cute to watch.

Then we went to get a hydro massage (some people call it ‘going to the gym’ but let’s be honest…it’s all about the hydro massage bed!) My gym clothes consist of this t-shirt… -ha!

And please don’t hate me for my fanny pack. Honestly – this is a great invention. I’m sold on it. Kangaroos have known the secret all along!

This text message was nice to see pop up on my phone – especially compared to the news alert that came at the same time.

In all honesty, it’s a little eery around here with regard to the coronavirus. Feels like a ticking time bomb, particularly as they keep flying more and more people into the states here in northern California. 

These are a few of the plants I picked up over the last few days. I think I’ve become a Hoya fan. There are so many different types – it’s fun to think about collecting each one. Some refer to those hoya collectors as Hoya Heads. 🙂 I might be heading straight toward that title soon.

At the exotic plant store I bought this Pinguicula moranensis which is a carnivorous plant. The rosettes (its winter dormancy) will flatten out like the lower leaves which have a sticky surface. My plant gnats have numbered days ahead! Once the gnat lands on the leaf, they can’t get off and die and the plant absorbs its nutrients. Do I feel badly for the gnats? Not.one.bit. They are the downfall of having a houseful of plants.

I picked up some more oxalis at Green Acres. I don’t have the green version and it seemed most appropriate for upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. 

A few additional hoyas I added to my beginner ‘collection’…

This one (not yet planted) is called a String Bean Hoya – I know…right??!

My Angel Wing Begonia has started unfolding a new leaf for my birthday 🙂 

And my Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Martin Luther King Jr/Easter cactus is also blooming again.

My cut flower garden has turned over about 3 times now. I’m cutting them as quickly as they’re producing new blooms. It’s been a thrill. I’ve started giving away bouquets to neighbors like people try to get rid of their zucchini and tomatoes! (Speaking of which, Scott also planted some tomatoes, peppers, chives and cilantro this week. Salsa is just around the corner.) 

To wrap up my birthday, we stopped by this hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant we like. Each time we get fortune cookies, we decided beforehand what their messages will apply to. Since it was my birthday, we dedicated them to Greta 2020. -ha.

I’ll gladly take these messages; I identify with them. I love unveiling the mystery…that’s where the fun is.

It was a fun and somewhat laid-back birthday. I deeply appreciated the cards and phonecalls and texts and social media messages. It’s always a great opportunity to stop and think about each person and how important they are to my life. Thank you.

Build Me a Valentine (or three!)

Last year, Scott made us a trashcan box since our kitchen trash has to sit out in the open. We have put it through the workouts since then and it’s held up fabulously. Sooooo (…of course…) I wanted more!

I wanted something similar to the trashcan for our laundry hamper. (By the way, I don’t know why I hate the word ‘hamper’ so much, but I really really do. -ha! No getting around it, though, it’s the best way to describe it for this post. Just know I would never use it in real life.)

We recently rearranged a big closet in our spare bedroom so I wanted to locate the hamper somewhere else. We have a hall area in between our bedrooms but I didn’t want an open hamper out there. Oh what to do, what to do?! (#firstworldproblems) So a trashcan revision was made into a hamper box. (For the record – both the trashcan and the hamper have open backs for plenty of ventilation.)

acs_2717

You know how you get something in your head and it quickly becomes a random obsession? (Oh come on – that can’t just be me…) I now want to fill this glass canister jar with beautifully wrapped soaps. (World Market – I’m looking at you! They have the BEST soaps that are gorgeously wrapped.)

acs_2716

Okay…back to the hamper sitch.

The trashcan box opens at an angle. The actual trashcan inside the box sits on a hinged platform that opens outward. It’s easier to dump trash and makes for an easy emptying of the trashcan too.

But the hamper has a simple door that opens with plenty of headroom for tossing clothes inside. It closes with a magnetic attachment at the door and inside face of the hamper.

I am so happy with it! As with most households, it’s also a nice landing spot for the things that need to be taken to other parts of the house. (Temporary landing spot. – wink, wink)

Hamper box: SUCCESS!

During Scott’s week off last week he finished up the hamper project than started working on a raised garden for my cut flowers.

Last spring he made some raised garden boxes that I used for a pretty display of flowers – similar to a window box. We eventually moved it to the side of the house and this past fall grew vegetables in it. This year, however, I wanted to grow cut flowers as if growing vegetables. In rows – nothing fancy – only used for cutting and bringing inside (or gifting to neighbors!) So I wanted it pretty simple, rustic even. The main thing is that it’s at my height which makes pruning and cutting so much easier. (I’m game for that!)

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Using cedar fencing posts he constructed a box, lined it with weed barrier liner, then ran a sprinkler system to it.

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This particular spot at the back of the house is BRUTAL in the summertime. It gets some pretty harsh southern exposure. But if last year is any guide, the flowers did well in it until the end of May. (We started in February last year too.) My plan is to make this a year-round raised garden, replacing the spring flowers with summertime plants and eventually a fall harvest.

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Time for one more project: a potting bench!

We mulled this one over numerous times. It took on various different forms until we finally combined two plans into one.

For the past 3 years we have slowly added to our outdoor furniture from IKEA. It’s all from the same line: APPLARO. (IKEA and their Swedish-named products -ha!)

The below picture shows two ‘wall units’ that you can add shelves to or a fold-out table, etc. It’s a very useful, modular patio system.

We decided to use two of the panels as a backdrop to a potting bench. I use whatever surface I can get to when I repot plants, propagate plants for sale, and general yard gardening. So I was VERY excited about this project! (Not that I wasn’t excited about the others too!)

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Scott found some workbench plans online that he liked as a guide but then he tweaked them to fit our specific wants.

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(Don’t judge the messy garage. Or please…DO shame us into getting this ‘secret’ part of our house FINALLY organized and cleared out!! A definite spring project!) Meanwhile, the potting bench project was coming along nicely.

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The next decision was staining. (WHYYYYYYY do I make things SO complicated by over-thinking such small decisions.) Basically, I want it to look like I found an old, abandoned warehouse where this decades old potting bench was covered with a huge dust cloth and VOILA’!, I find a perfectly useable, vintage potting bench.

But alas…… instead, I have to let nature do its dirty work on freshly made furniture. (Impatience is a noose around my neck! -ha!)

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After a few trial spots with different stains: gray, light brown, should-I-just-paint-it-white, etc., we decided to go with a dark stain to seal in the wood from the elements but that would (hopefully) get a little beat up over time until it’s the perfect “old” looking potting bench I envision.

Meanwhile – look how fantastically it turned out! I’m so happy with it!! Scott did an excellent job.

Let me assure you, however…

…even though I zhuzhed it up…

…that’s only for the picture. I plan on using this thing AS a potting bench – not a photoshoot opportunity!

But for now…I mean…I had to do a little bit of prop useage.

WHAT A WEEK!! Lots of projects envisioned, executed and finished! Scott has a lot of fun with the building part of the creative process (and he gets VERY creative with it. He usually takes plans several steps further to make sure things are SUPER safe and will withstand heavy usage. And many times he makes up the plans himself.) And I certainly love the dreaming up part of the process. But I think the BEST fun of all is sitting down together beforehand and hashing out all the details. There is a lot of “…like this?” and “no…that won’t work” and the occasional “just MAKE it work!“comments. Of course all of these items can be purchased somewhere. But making it fit exactly what we want is so much more fun for us at this point in our lives. There is plenty of frustration to be sure, but the fun of it is beyond measure. Each project is a true joint effort. And that, I believe, is what Scott and I do best.

Honest Abe

In December I met some friends at this coffeehouse – a first for all of us. The chai latte is good, but what drew me in was their clever play on the street on which the coffeehouse rests: Lincoln Street (in Roseville, California.)

Fourscore Coffee House is filled with old desks and comfortable sofas, tables and chairs tucked in along the windows and beyond.

This is a misleading picture of Abe. It’s actually a large mural on the wall – no doubt for selfies galore.

Scott and I packed up our laptops and books and headed here last week to have a “Family Meeting” about our gardening projects and expectations for the Spring. People huddled together, conversations exploding all around us.

I laid out my case of what I wanted to accomplish and what projects I was hoping he could build for me. I had my gardening bible, complete with tabs and more tabs!

We talked and hashed out plans. We each compromised. We dreamed big. We talked logistically. Home projects are our jam. I love to dream big and Scott usually is able to deliver the dream right out of his workshop garage. (The perfect combination!)

As we got up to leave, I noticed a cool neon sign on the wall behind us and took a picture of it. It wasn’t until I was thumbing through my phone pictures later that I realized the awesomeness of the sign! Fourscore and flowers – exactly what we were there to discuss!

Kismet, no??!

Scott and I have dreamed some big dreams together in coffeeshops all over the United States. Our first date was in a coffeeshop in Columbia, Missouri where we sat together playing cards and getting to know each other. Many conversations have crossed small bistro tables and steaming cups of coffee. Many of the projects realized. Some of them dreamt just for fun.

On the way home we stopped by our favorite garden center, Green Acres Nursery and Supply. We bundled up against the bitingly cold wind and walked around their outdoor flowers and spring plants. Our beds aren’t ready for planting yet – but man oh man is it fun to dream about the season to come. Especially when it’s next to my very favorite partner in project dreaming!

Paradise and Growth

I broke down last week and bought a ‘California requirement’. Or at least it seems to be a requirement when living in California. But first a quick backstory.

When we lived in Kansas City I bought a Giant Bird of Paradise at our local Walmart. While ‘giant’ is in the name, this houseplant was not overly large. [As a sidenote: I try to go to places like Walmart or hardware stores very early in the Spring to buy houseplants or flowers. They’ve been recently delivered from the nurseries are in good shape and much less expensive than independent nurseries. However, once the plants have been there for more than a month, you’re inviting problems by shopping at ‘non-nursery’ stores for your plants. Garden centers are aware of each plant’s specific watering and light requirements as opposed to a Walmart employee standing with a watering hose, drowning every plant. Or setting a sensitive plant out in the sun to shrivel and die. The worst, is that these two specific conditions (incorrect watering and sun-exposure) open up the plant to disease and bugs. No disrespect to Walmart – they have sensibly-priced toilet paper and dishwashing pods. But Walmart employees are not well-versed in plant care. That’s a money-making side hustle for Walmart – not their primary purpose.] All of that sidenote said, I bought a beautiful houseplant for $25.

When we lived in our sun-drenched, tall-ceiling’ed loft downtown, my Bird of Paradise flourished. Oh man – I loved that plant!

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But we knew when we moved to California that we couldn’t take it with us so I gave her to my sister and it’s SO happy and content at her house. It’s tropical vibe is perfect.

My thought was that I would simply buy a new Paradise plant when we moved to our new home across country. What I didn’t know was that a $25 Giant Bird of Paradise doesn’t exist in California! Oh there are plenty around but the starting price is usually $100. So I’ve put off getting a new one, waiting for the perfect sale or situation.

Meantime…there are a plethora of the smaller versions of the Bird of Paradise plant. The smaller versions bloom and are most well-known to people. They’re exotic and tropical and…I’ve never really loved their blooms. [insert shock and awe] Florists love to use the blooms in arrangements and weddings have been saturated with Bird of Paradise blooms for years. To me, however, they look like inverted shrimp. You know when you bend your cooked shrimp backwards and all the legs pop up (…stomach turn…), that’s what these blooms have always looked like to me.

Here are some pictures from online:

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I know it’s a rather twisted way of looking at something others see as so delicately beautiful, but you know how it is when something gets stuck in your head.

Then I recently heard that the ‘bird’ aspect of the bloom is not what I expected either. I’ve always loosely seen the flower as a bird’s head with a plume of feathers on top and a big beak from the flowering shell. (You see that, right? I’m not crazy?) But in actuality, the shell part of the bloom has nothing to do with the ‘bird’ aspect. What I saw as the plume of feathers is actually the birds taking off for flight.

I can see that, too. And it made the bloom a lot prettier to me. A beautiful flock of birds getting ready to take flight in delicate ascension. Like a group of butterfly wings. (I feel like it’s similar to one of those trick posters at the mall: What do YOU see in this group of dots? Jesus? Or a pineapple?)

You get my point. I am seeing the bloom a little differently now.

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So there we were in Home Depot last week. I was overlooking the blooming Bird of Paradise and concentrating on shrubs when Scott brought one over to me. “Hey!, this looks like our Bird of Paradise we had in KC. I’m buying it!!”

“Whoa, whoa, buddy. Wait a sec. That’s one of those shrimp-inverted Bird of Paradise.”

“I don’t care. It’s mine. I’m buying it.” (He gets that way sometimes.)

Furthermore, he put the one he was holding back down and picked up 2 or 3 other ones, inspecting them carefully. I mean…you gotta love a man that is that picky about plants, right?? Sure enough – he selected one with a newly unfolding leaf. AND, it’s a white flower, not the rather sharp orange color.

$19 for a new beginning. A flowering plant that is so prevalent it seems like a California requirement to own one. And so now we do. It may never bloom inside our home (and yes, I’m secretly okay with that) but the leaves are beauty enough. And if it does bloom, I will see it as a group of exquisitely gentle birds, breaking forth and taking flight.

Much like we did when we made this cross-country big move.

And that makes me love them all the more.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this pothos I started training to climb the side of this pantry. The below picture was taken right after I started it in August 2019. I used clear Command Strip hooks, mounted to the wall, then tucked the branch into the hook. I’ve tried to ‘tuck’ near a leaf so the the leaf kind of covers the plastic hook.

And then October 2019 is below. The branches are starting to reach the bell. The biggest thing for me is that the plant is still thriving at the base (keeping very full) and the leaves are still growing upward. You can see in the original picture that I have some ‘bald spots’ on a couple of the branches to the left which is why I decided to try it as a climber. When they’re climbing upward, all the branches are being exposed to more light as opposed to laying on top of each other, draping over the edge of a pot. So those bare spots will remain. No matter how you display your pothos (hanging or climbing) you need to watch for spaces between each leaf. If there is a large area of branch with no leaves on it, that means it’s not getting enough sunlight. If that happens, it’s a great place to cut it and propagate it (which I usually propagate them back into the original plant to make it fuller.)

That said, besides the original bald places, the branches have been growing with plenty of leaf growth in small sections indicating the plant is happy with the light it’s receiving.

Then I took another picture last week. First of all, I’m out of Command Strip hooks and need more because the branches are falling over themselves with nothing to hold onto the wall with. And secondly – can you believe it’s grown this much in about 5 months?! This has been a very fun project to experiment with. Pothos are forever patient with you so they were a good plant to play with for this project.

I’m starting to see many new leaves on a number of my plants around the house. It makes me anxious for Spring since they must sense it’s right around the corner! Every summer I wonder which plants are going to be the rockstars that year. Who will grow the tallest? Most times I turn around and suddenly realize they’ve outgrown their pots in what seems overnight. (Not too unlike a growing kid and their shoes! -ha!)

What big plans do you have for your garden this year? Flower beds? New houseplants? What’s on your Green Agenda??

My 2020 Unread Book Project

It seems every year I go through the same mental tennis match: ‘Do you REALLY want to set resolutions and goals for January 1? They’re always fraught with so much pressure.’ There is something about a goal set on a random Tuesday that holds more promise of completion for me.

That said, I have decided to participate in a bookstagram challenge for 2020. It’s simply to read more of the books you already have on hand.

While the premise of this challenge originally seemed like a very good idea, I began to see it as something a little more meaningful. As with each new year, I want to make strides in personal growth, namely by reducing the amount of things that activate my tendencies toward addictive behavior. As with many bookish people, it is hard to resist the newest, latest, greatest, trendiest new book on the market. I’m as bad as the next person about falling into that trap, thereby ignoring all of the wonderful books that are sitting right next to my reading chair, waiting to be picked up.

Of course this applies to many areas of my life. I thoroughly enjoy Instagram. The other bookish and plant-loving people I have connected with over there has meant a great deal to me. Some of them becoming authentic online friends. But Facebook? Not so much anymore. I often find myself frustrated and spending an endless amount of time scrolling, scrolling, scrolling through stuff I’m not even really paying attention to. And so for 2020, I am going to attempt to give up Facebook – an unnecessary amount of time that pulls at my addictive behavior.

Lord help me, I am certainly not saying social media is bad. I love it for its many little pleasures and inspiration. But my relationship with Facebook has changed drastically over the years and I think it’s time that we attempt to go our separate ways. The now trendy phrase, Does this bring me joy?, is something I’m asking myself about many of my habits as I head into a new year. A new decade!

This project is being spearheaded by Whitney of The Unread Shelf. She has challenged us to take a good look at our unread books on our own bookshelves and select specific ones that we would like to read in the upcoming year. These won’t necessarily be the only books we read in 2020, but they are books on which we’ve put a higher priority.

I felt a connection with this unread project and asked myself why does this excite me? Why does this make sense to me? I think it’s because using what I already have and what I already own seems to be stepping away from the addiction of needing to have the very latest thing people are talking about. I have a wealth of depth sitting untapped in my very own space. So I think the challenge to read my own unread books will serve a dual purpose. If not more.

What I am not committing to, however, is not buying any books in 2020. (I’m not a masochist. -ha!) But I am going to set some personal goals of reading a certain number of unread books before I can even think about buying a new book (or even reserving books at the library – a.k.a.: new-to-me books.)

In many areas of my life, I am looking forward to discovering what I already have.

I selected each of these books for a particular reason:

Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female With the Mass Media by Susan J. Douglas
Truth: (gulp) I was one of those obnoxious people who, while in grad school…back in the room where the textbooks are…picked up this book and added it to my class textbooks even though it wasn’t on the list or even from a class I was taking. (aaaack!) I know, I know. Every professor hates it when students do this. They’ve ordered the correct amount of books needed for their class and suddenly they don’t have enough books to go around. It was me! I’m willing to come out about it now. (But can you blame me?!) Doesn’t the tagline sound fascinating?? How has the trajectory of women’s lives been affected by what we see in movies, tv or (and especially) in commercials? This book has been on my bookshelf for FAR too long.

…And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
Oh my word…I am completely intimidated by this book. I need to overcome my fear of its size.

One of my best and dearest friends, Jenny, threw her very book-loving daughter, Katie, a book party when she turned 16 years old. It was the greatest idea. Each attendee (adults and kids) brought a book that has been significant to them as a gift for Katie. Can you even imagine?! At the end of the party she had a huge pile of books. (Can I get a party like that at my age??)

Anyway, this was one of the books. Here’s a section from the Amazon description of it: about a group of women in the fictional town of Waynesboro, Ohio who begin a woman’s literary club, which evolves through the years into a significant community service organization in the town. The novel, which looks at the club as it changes throughout the years, spans decades in the lives of the women involved in the club, between 1868 and 1932.

I mean. It sounds fantastic, right? I need to conquer it. Maybe I’ll break it up over the course of the year. Hmmm…

Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin
I very much enjoy early American history. I am a bit jealous of well-known author, Goodwin, for her concentrated expertise on Abraham Lincoln. Wouldn’t it be incredible to be an expert about one particular subject?

One of the monthly challenges that Whitney has laid out for us is to read an unread book we own that was gifted to us by someone. This book fits that bill. My father went to see Goodwin last year and sent me a signed copy of this book. So this year it goes into my must-reads for the year.

Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868 by Cokie Roberts
Again, early American history and also – it’s Cokie Roberts.

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn
This book represents a specific challenge for me. When I was a teenage reader, I loved to read scary books. Amityville Horror and Flowers in the Attic for example. But then adulthood and parenthood TOTALLY changed that and I became a bigtime chicken! -ha. And yet, every time I pick up a ‘scary’ (to me) book like The Girl in the Train – I absolutely love it! I flip the pages faster and faster and love the raised heartbeat of a (somewhat) scary novel. I need to force myself to read them more often. So this Book of the Month novel I’ve had for almost a year needs to be tackled in 2020! You can do scary things, Greta!!

Mariana by Monica Dickens
I have a number of Persephone Classics books on my shelves and yes, mostly, because they have absolutely beautiful covers! Maybe I ought to give them a try as an actual book???

From the Amazon blurb: Monica Dickens, the great granddaughter of Charles Dickens, published Mariana in 1940 when she was only twenty-four years old. A bestseller in its time, Mariana is the often-comical story of a typical English girl growing up in the 1930s.

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois
Again, this has been on my shelves since grad school (but yes, this was an actual required book for one of my classes.) As with many required reading books, you quickly blow through them, looking for whatever you need to accomplish for the class assignment. I’d like to go back and actually read this classic.

The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol F. Karlsen
It’s a weird subject but one I’ve found interesting in the past. The basis of the book is that the practice of ‘calling out witches’ during the Salem Witch Trials (and so many more!) in many ways defined how it is we see women in society. Subjugated and easily manipulated. How much of a deficit did this cause in the fight for women’s rights?

The last block of books are some of the best books written about Writing and Creativity. I look at them and wonder how much I could learn from these great masters of storytelling and prose:

Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield
Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver
The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
On Writing by Stephen King

I’m not going to lie, it seems like a daunting task. But it’s daunting because these books are so important to me. I will count this reading year successful if I can incorporate these Unreads into the other books that come my way in 2020. As always, the biggest goal: to read more, expand my mind, increase my vocabulary and always, always have a little more fun in the towns and situations I’ll find myself in through the pages of a well-crafted book.