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Fine, I’m a morning person

I have avoided admitting this for a long time. Maybe because almost all my close friends are night owls, or because in my early/mid-twenties I feel like I should be “cooler” than this somehow, but here we are. I’m a morning person. Welp.

To be fair, I’m also a late afternoon person and occasionally a just after dinner person, in that these are the times when I feel the most engaged with and energized about things I’m doing. By 10 p.m., if it’s not done it’s not getting done. After 9 p.m., I am here to relax and/or dwell in my emotions, not do things.

I’ve had a harder time focusing in general lately, but both with work and hobbies I’ve noticed that I tend to do better when I dive into them intentionally, and ideally during times of day that my body is naturally more on board with that sort of thing.

Recently, I started setting aside the first 30 to 60 minutes of my weekdays (after getting ready and before work) for whatever thing I want to do. Sometimes that’s writing or revising, sometimes it’s meditating or reading, sometimes going for a walk. It always involves watering the garden. I don’t necessarily feel “productive” during all of that time, but I do feel like I’m taking care of myself, and cutting out time to slow down a listen to all the things my brain and body are trying to tell me. I don’t use social media, check my email, or watch TV, but those are about the only rules.

When I start the work day, I feel more settled and less frantic. At the end of the work day, I feel less burnt out. It’s not a magic cure-all, but it has made a notable difference in no just individual days but how I feel as the week goes on.

The advice: Set aside intentional time daily (or at least most days) that you can use to center yourself and do things you care about, and choose to not engage with things that are unhelpful during that time.

It definitely doesn’t have to be in the morning if you’re not a morning person, or depending on what your circumstances allow. (For example, my spouse tends to take time to play guitar or unwind with video games after I’ve gone to sleep or when I’m watching TV.) Life is chaotic, and this year hasn’t made navigating adulthood any easier, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself too.

What things have you found helpful during times like this? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

P.S. I’ll have new recipes coming soon, but in the meantime, check out my Twitter thread on favorite tips for chocolate chip cookies!

(Photo is a free stock photo because even when I’m up before sunrise my view ain’t this pretty.)

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All the plants

I am reluctant to admit that I am a restless person. Even more so when I spent >23 hours inside my apartment every single day. But the one time each day that I am guaranteed a little sunshine and the fresh air that eases the tension out of my shoulders is when I am watering my plants.

I love plants. I love learning their names and watching them grow. I love taking care of things and feeling like I’ve accomplished something tangible. I love the lightness and comfort they bring to any space they’re in.

However, I do not have a natural green thumb. As a teen and college student I struggled to keep plants from floundering. So when I moved into my first apartment, I set a goal: Learn to not kill plants.

And I did great! Over a year and a half, a couple of plants struggled, but most stayed content and a few even flourished. I kept a small stand out on the patio and others on the bookshelf by the window. When I moved into my new place, I planned to set up a tiered planter with herbs, and got the plants settled on the new patio and inside the apartment.

Except then I killed like six plants in a row. Air plants! Pothos! ZZ! All the plants that are supposed to be nigh impossible to kill. And it turns out, the inside of my apartment is apparently where plants come to die. Suffice it to say I was really disheartened. I’d worked diligently on getting better at caring for plants and then over the course of several months, I. Kept. On. Killing. Them. All the ones outside seemed to be doing well, but as near as I’ve been able to determine, most of my apartment is so low light that even the “low light” friendly plants will give up and die. Which means my patio has now become the garden. In the interest of saving money and also getting more plants(!) I’ve recently started propagating some basics as well: succulents, spider plants, and pothos. The new journey I just started is creating a large planter to grow tomatoes in (companion planted with some basil), because as much as I like pretty plants, I love being able to eat things I grew!

I’m still definitely a novice, but having something physical and really tangible to care for is so good for me. Since lots of folks are taking time to upgrade their green thumbs as well, I’ve included some tips that I’ve found helpful (or learned the hard way) as well as links to a few Instagram accounts by Black plant enthusiasts that I’ve really been enjoying lately.

What not to do:

  • Buy a plant you have zero idea how to take care of. I have done this, and on occasion I’ve gotten lucky and the plant has done well, but it’s a huge risk. Instead, do some online research before purchasing and/or ask for info about the plant from someone at your local nursery.
  • Overwatering. I’m determined this is the fastest way to kill a plant. And I suck at not doing it because I just want to smother the dang things with love. But seriously, it will kill them. Root rot in particular is super hard to come back from. For most plants (especially beginner plants), wait until you can dig your finger into the soil a little and it’s dry to water, then water thoroughly.
  • Ignore when your plant is trying to tell you something. They’re living creatures, and they’re more lively than we usually give them credit for. Plants will stretch if they need more sun, can burn or wither if they get too much sun, and will droop when they need water, then perk up when they’ve gotten it. If you’re noticing odd behavior in your plant, check the basics and then look it up!
  • Neglect pruning. I’m still learning this one, but if your plant has some dead or super damaged leaves, get rid of them! If they come off when you gently pull you can prune that way, or get a pair of sharp scissors/shears and trim.
    • You can also revive plants this way sometimes! I have a polka-dot plant that was hardcore struggling, so I just cut all the leggy stalks down to little nubs and now it’s grown so many new leaves and flourished!
  • Skip drainage holes. Lots of the pretty pots available don’t have good drainage, and that’s an easy way to drown your plant, or promote pests and rot. The best ways around this are to 1) buy a pot with appropriate drainage, 2) drill drainage holes, or 3) keep the plant in a properly drained pot for watering and then set that pot into another pretty pot for the rest of the time.
  • Repot until you need to. Every time a plant moves areas or is repotted, it can be shocked and needs time to adjust. Try to let a plant adjust to its new home when you purchase it before repotting, and only repot when the plant has gotten too big for its current pot or if there’s an issue with the soil (I had to repot one recently because I’d overwatered and didn’t want the roots to rot).

What to actually do:

  • Research your plants. Not everything that says it’s easy is actually easy, depending on both your experience and your setting. Learn what areas of your home have what kinds of light, pay attention to the temperature and humidity, and choose plants that are well-suited for the environment you’ll be brining them into. Also shop local whenever you can, not only to support local businesses, but because folks at local nurseries will know what grows well in your area!
  • Water in the morning. This isn’t crucial, but most plants prefer it as it lets them soak up what they need before the sun is at its strongest.
  • Get the right tools. My little garden doesn’t need much, but I’ve found that the following are indispensable:
    • Watering can and spray bottle
    • Small, sharp pruning shears
    • Something to kneel on while you work (I use a folded beach towel, but you can also get a gardening mat)
    • Pest deterrents. I occasionally buy ladybugs, and frequently use an organic Neem Oil spray to discourage pests
    • Rubber-tipped bamboo gloves
    • A set of plastic bowls for moving soil around as I repot
    • Spare pots (they’re really handy! And save those nursery ones you move plants out of!)

IMG-2103

  • Start with plants you can handle. My favorite starters are spider plants and pothos, but these are the types of plants I currently have:
    • Succulents (including aloe vera, burro’s tail, and lots of others I can’t name)
    • Pothos (one of my favorites to propagate)
    • Spider plants. I literally don’t think I’ve ever killed one, which is saying something.
    • Marimo moss ball. This is the tank of “plants” (it’s technically an algae), though it’s not very exciting.
    • Polka-dot plant
    • Snake plant
    • Herbs, including:
      • Mint
      • Basil
      • Oregano
      • Rosemary
    • Spinach**
    • Green beans**
    • Tomatoes*
    • Marigolds**
    • Note: For all the ones with an asterisk (*), these are new and very young so I’m still getting my footing in terms of caring for them. The ones with two asterisks I planted from seed.
  • Shop around for good prices. A little research on good plant shops and average prices for certain plants will go a long way — you don’t want to pay more than you have to! (@grownbyliz._ has an affordable plant shop as well as good info on other affordable places.) I buy my basil every year from Trader Joe’s for like $4, and local nurseries can often have some good deals!
  • Move plants around as needed. I’ve reorganized the garden a couple of times in the last few months because things were getting too much or not enough light, and that can often
  • Be willing to experiment. I tried to grow garlic in one of my planter boxes a while ago and it shot up before immediately dying. Oh well! Especially if you’re trying with inexpensive plants, it’s okay to take a few risks.
  • Be okay if a plant dies. I’ve killed a number of plants in the last year, and honestly it just happens sometimes. Some plants also won’t last forever! Basil is the kind of plant that typically won’t last through the winter, so I just go into each year knowing I’ll need to buy more the following spring.

Also a necessary shoutout to my best friend Megan, for enabling my plant journey, always giving me tips (including the accounts I recommended above), and also giving me plants haha.

What plants do you love? Any questions about caring for plants or gardening for beginners? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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A letter for Pride

Today’s post is a bit different than usual. I’d hoped to have it ready earlier in the week, but it does seem fitting in some ways to post it today, the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, which was a watershed moment in LGBTQ+* history, and the remembrance of which served as the spark for the first Pride marches and parades 50 years ago.

There are so many wonderful resources out there for learning about LGBTQ+ history, stories, and perspectives, but because I’m still digging into them myself I’m not going to share any here just yet. Keep an eye out for that in a future post.

Instead, I offer a letter. You may see yourself in one of the passages, or several, and if you do, then I hope you are met with the affirmation and gratitude that was poured into it.

 

My dear friend,

To you who are queer and out… Wow, you’re amazing. The vibrancy and joy you bring to this world is so needed. Knowing you is life-giving, and I for one, am better for it. Thank you for being you.

To you who are queer and not yet out… You matter, just as you are. Who you are is wonderful regardless of who knows. Wading through the unknown is a brave thing, and can be a difficult one. You’re not alone, and your path is up to you.

To you who are still figuring things out… There is still so much time. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You are certainly not alone. No matter what, you are loved.

To you who are an ally… I hope you know how important you are. How much it means to so many to have someone in their corner, a shoulder to lean on, someone to turn to. Thank you for lending strength when it’s needed.

To you who are wanting to learn… There are so, so many stories. I’m so glad you’re here with us. So many folks have done and are doing excellent work on the topic; dig in deep.

To you who are not sure what to think… I’ve been there, and learned how important it is to challenge what you think you know. Just remember that in the end, as with all things, what matters above all else is love is love is love is love.

The world is better when we can each be ourselves, and can love each other as we are.

 

With all my love, and happy Pride, y’all.

 

 

* I use LGBTQ+ in this post as a way to be more inclusive than the common LGBT term, but also want to acknowledge that the full term is LGBTQIAP+, with the last three letters representing those who are intersex, asexual/aromantic, and pansexual, respectively. These identities have long been overlooked and often marginalized by those both within and outside of the queer community, and are every bit as valid.

(Photo is a free stock photo, and a lovely reminder.)

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Anti-racism

There was no post last week because all the pain out in the open has been a lot to process lately, and sometimes breaks are needed to rest and recover. But I also cannot in good conscience remain silent about the effects of racism on the country I live in.

This is beyond ridiculous. Black lives matter. Absolutely no person should have to fear for their safety or their life by simply existing. Period. The number of Black people in the United States who have been unjustly killed by police and by white people in the last few months alone should make anyone furious, let alone the long list of those whose names we know — and whose names we don’t — before this.

I want to make it clear that I don’t condone violence. But it is entirely justified to be angry. We should be angry. And the nature of racism and other injustices mean that power will not be handed down to those who are hurting. Direct action is necessary, or we will continue to have more years and decades of the same suffering that we have already allowed to go on for far too long.

I grew up with a lot of privileges, including living in a situation where I didn’t really have to confront this reality unless I wanted to. Part of that is the area I grew up in (which is a whole other conversation on systemic furtherance of injustice), and part of it is because of the color of my skin. I’m biracial and white-passing, and am still learning the depth of what it means to be Black in this country.

I’m no expert. It is very pointedly not my place, both because I still have so much to learn and because it matters deeply that those of us with privilege in a given area elevate the voices of those who are experiencing the issue, not speak over them.

So to that end, below is a list of resources that more qualified folks than me have shared on what you can do to become more aware and educated on the reality of racism in America*, and how to take action. Please note that I haven’t read and/or engaged with all of these materials, but will indicate the ones which I have. If you’re not Black and this isn’t your experience — and especially if you’re white — much of this could be difficult to take in. It has been for me. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself experiencing lots of different emotions as you engage with these works. I encourage you to take time to examine what you’re feeling and why, then keep learning.

Learning resources**

What is anti-racism?

It is acknowledging that racism exists as more than a personal feeling, and committing to continually learning, growing, and fighting injustice. The National Museum of African American History & Culture has an excellent short breakdown of anti-racism and different ways that racism is implemented and perpetuated.

It’s also important to know that anti-racism and all efforts for justice and progress should be a continual part of our lives. This isn’t something that ends once the news cycle moves on or once it’s no longer popular.

Reading

  • Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [have read]
    • There is no time when this letter is not poignant, and I recommend it as a starting point. Dr. King’s legacy is one of nonviolence but also direct action, and his words here are exceptionally clear on the impact of “moderate” stances
  • Strength to Love by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [have read]
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates [have read]
  • An Anti-Racism Reading List” compiled by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How To Be An Antiracist
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas [have read]
    • I recommend this over the movie, though the movie is also good
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Dr. Maya Angelou [have read]
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Native by Kaitlin Curtice
  • Note: Books aren’t linked this time, because right now it would be stellar if you purchased from your local independent bookstore. Here’s how to find an indie bookstore near you, and a list of Black-owned bookstores.

Listening

  • The Danger of a Single Story” TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [have listened]
  • The Liturgists podcast has done a number of helpful episodes:
    • Black and White: Racism in America[have listened]
      • I really, really recommend this one. It’s from 2016 and I first listened to it in 2018, but it’s every bit as relevant today
    • Anti-Racism with Andre Henry[have listened] — more of Andre’s work is linked in the section below
    • For the whole month of February this year, they offered daily mini episodes on how Black history is American history. They’re accessible, and offer some great discussion and reflection [have listened]
  • Code Switch podcast from NPR
  • The Problem with Racial Colorblindness” TEDx Talk by Phil Mazzocco
    • This is a clear, digestible explanation of why saying things like “we’re all just human” or “race doesn’t matter” aren’t helpful. I strongly recommend this one if those phrases resonated with you

Compilations

  • This public Google Doc, titled “Anti-Racism for Beginners,” has a really thorough list of resources that are accessible at a variety of levels
  • Anti-racism resources for white people” is another public Google Doc with accessible info
  • White Homework” by Tori Williams Douglass
    • This page also includes a list of other resources; I recommend looking at all of them
  • Hope & Hard Pills” is a series (including a weekly email newsletter and a podcast) by Andre Henry

Part of being an adult means not avoiding difficult topics, and it means not being passive toward injustice. This is not a journey we ever reach the end of, but it is one that we all have an obligation to work toward. Let’s do the work.

If you want to do something

  • Commit to continually educating yourself on perspectives that are different from your own, and to studying the history of how so many of the realities we see today came to exist.
  • Visit blacklivesmatters.carrd.co to sign petitions, donate to organizations and funds, learn more, and contact local government to urge them to effect change.
  • Amplify Black voices and other marginalized voices when they are speaking about the experiences and urging change. Repost, share, support. This is a time to center the people who the movement is about, not ourselves.
  • Other people have poured so much effort and caring into creating the resources that we are able to learn from. If you learn from someone’s efforts — especially in a time like this — see if you can tangibly thank them in some way, whether that’s through Venmo, Patreon, purchasing and/or promoting their work.
    • (Note that this does not apply to me! If you learned something from this post, I’m so glad; please direct your gratitude toward one of the funds linked in the bullet point above.)
  • Please keep in mind that no one owes you their time or attention, especially folks you don’t have a close relationship with. Learn to gently accept that.
  • If you notice any instance in which someone is threatening or harming someone, using slurs or exhibiting racist (or sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, etc.) behavior, do something. Often calling out the behavior or engaging in a way that (nonviolently) draws the offending person’s attention away from the person they were targeting can get them to stop or go away, but sometimes it’s not enough. If necessary, do what you can to (with their permission) get the person being harmed and yourself away from the threat.
  • Protesting can be dangerous given the outbreaks of violence from multiple sources and the fact we are still in the middle of a global pandemic of a highly transmissible virus. I also recognize that my ability to stay safe at home is itself a privilege not everyone has. So if either you must go out or feel compelled to join protests, here are some resources on staying safe:
    • FOLLOW CDC GUIDELINES. Mask, hand sanitizer, minimize contact with other people. Please, please, we have lost way too many lives already.
    • Tell someone you trust where you are, try to never be alone, and have the proper supplies.
    • Do your research where community-led (especially Black and/or POC-led) organizations are peacefully protesting, and follow their lead rather than fringe organizations. Know when the curfew is and have a plan to be safely inside well before that time passes.
    • More resources can be found here.
  • The King Center (led by Dr. Bernice King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter) is hosting a daily online protest at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT through Monday, June 8. It’s an opportunity to participate and to learn, and the recordings of each one are available to watch afterward.

An immeasurable thank you to the people who created the works and resources I’ve linked, and who have taken the time and effort to teach me. It’s time to keep learning, and for us as a country to grow up. We need to do better.

If there were any resources I missed or you have questions, please let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. May we each open our eyes and our ears and get our hands in the dirt so that we can all have a better future.

 

 

P.S. This is the post for this week, but I will be continuing to share more resources I come across on Twitter @ohgrowup.

* This post is very United States-centric, only because that is the country I live in and which I have enough knowledge to speak to. However, racism is absolutely not only a U.S. problem. Genocide and policy brutality is not only a U.S. problem. Systemic injustice and casual prejudice is not only a U.S. problem. We’ll only truly solve these issues together.

** Note that these resources mostly focus on anti-Black racism, but that is by no means the only form of racism that exists, though it does have a unique history within the United States. Native American and indigenous peoples, Latinx folks, Asian Americans, and countless immigrants have also faced prejudice and injustice in many forms. Some of the compilations linked above address these demographics as well.

EDIT: Updated Thursday, June 4 with additional resources, noting works I have engaged with since the original posting, small edits to decenter my perspective, and the reminder that this work does not end.

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For the long haul

One set of parents reached a milestone anniversary this week, and after sheltering in place with my husband for more than 2 months, it seemed like time for a relationship post. I am of course not an expert in anyone’s relationship but my own, so take all advice with the appropriate grain of salt, but we have been together almost 7 years and I’ve been fortunate to observe successful relationships that have lasted even longer.

Invest in the other person’s interests. I am not a video games person, but can keep up in conversation about way more games than I would ever be willing to play because I talk to my significant other about their interests, and actually listen and ask questions. If it’s a hobby you’re not interested in doing, it still means a lot that you listen and engage when they want to talk about it or show you something. And this can extend beyond conversation as well. For example, I’ve found a couple of video games that I like, so sometimes we’ll just sit next to each other and talk while we each play our own game. Jump into a TV show the other person enjoys, find a sport you can play together, get super into puzzles. Whatever floats your boat together!

Keep your own interests, and set aside time to not be together. I don’t love guitar the way my spouse does, and he isn’t super into crocheting like I am. We make time most days to do things that we individually want to do and make an effort to make room for each person to have individual plans. This is especially important with friends! It’s awesome if you have a lot of mutual friends, but it’s important that you each have friends you can hang out with without your significant other. Be consistent with other people in your life too.

Find ways to surprise each other. We’ve been together for almost 7 years, and friends for almost a decade, so often it feels like we know almost everything there is to know about the other. But to his credit, this guy still manages to surprise me. The best part is that surprises don’t have to be big to be special; getting off work a little early or picking up a treat they love at the grocery store can be super meaningful simply because it reflects that you’re thinking about each other and wanting to put in effort to show that you care.

Learn how to be mad, and how to make up. Quarantine is challenging even for folks who get along great, and some tension is both inevitable and — depending on how you respond to it — healthy. Like most people, we’ve had a few spats when cooped up in the house for long stretches, and then we talk it through and figure out how to do better next time. I cannot stress how important it has been for us to articulate why we’re upset and how we feel without picking a fight or going after the other person. It doesn’t make conflict magically go away, it just means we can take down our defenses for long enough to work out a solution together. And then when we figure out what we can do better in the future, actually detailing how we intend to do that helps us stick to the plan instead of falling back into the same cycle.

Be affectionate! It’s great when folks in long-term relationships are super comfortable and don’t need to be touchy-feely all the time (especially if you’re around other people), but super simple stuff like holding hands or a smile from across the room can make things feel so much sweeter. It helps the other person feel seen and loved, and especially in a time when a bunch of us are isolated, positive* physical touch is really beneficial for our emotional and mental health.

If you think something nice about the other person, say it. This seems silly, but can make a big difference. If you catch yourself thinking something complimentary, tell them that instead of tucking it away. As well as you might know each other, no one is a mind reader. Out-of-the-blue compliments can make someone’s day, which is obviously even better when it’s someone you care about.

For more relationships info, check out this post on relationships or this post on being long distance. Obviously nothing I covered here is fully comprehensive, but I hope there was something you found helpful. And if you’re not in a romantic relationship, honestly most of this applies to friendships too!

Anything I missed? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

* Positive physical touch meaning touch that is wanted in that moment, welcome, and pleasant rather than painful. Consent is obviously important, but also good to remember that giving your partner a tight hug if they’ve got an injury might not be the way to go.

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Mental Health Awareness

May is mental health awareness month, so I’m going to keep this simple with a list of resources that can help us all take care of our mental (and relatedly, emotional and physical) health a bit better.

(Content warning for this post that there is mention of mental health conditions, as well as self-harm and suicide, with information on where to get help.)

Quick tips

  • Just going for a walk is often a huge mood booster for me when I’m in a funk. If going for a walk is a challenge, then any change of scenery or time I can spend outside still helps.
  • Square breathing. There are a few versions of this technique, but when I’m starting to feel panicky, the one I’ve used most often is the following:
    • Breathe in for a 4-count (slowly)
    • Hold that breath for a 4-count (holding the breath in your belly or toward the base of your chest will feel better than trying to hold it in your mouth or throat)
    • Breathe out for a 4-count (even more slowly)
    • Hold without breath for a 4-count
  • Check in on your physical health. Are you super exhausted? Have you eaten within the last few hours? Had a glass of water? I’ve found that not taking care of myself physically is the fastest way to exacerbate any mental struggles I’m facing, and that once I address those things I usually start to feel better quickly. It doesn’t fix everything by any means, but it’s a necessary part of the process.

To relax

  • Apps like Headspace and Breethe offer meditations and mindfulness exercises that can be a great occasional reset or help build a consistent practice (there are lots of these, but the two listed are ones I’ve used and enjoy*).
    • Note that a lot of the content with both of these apps is paid. If cost is prohibitive, look into whether you can access them for free or a discount (I access Headspace for free through my local library) or you can check out one of the many free options also available online and through apps.
  • I do virtual yoga classes once or twice a week, and have found that the commitment of signing up for an actual class (often with a friend) helps me stick to the plan of taking time to slow down and pay attention to my body for a bit.
  • Find a simple hobby. I’ve been doing a ton of crocheting lately, but also know folks who paint, play an instrument, or have something else that offers a bit of challenge and a bit of comfort, and gives them a way to wind down at the end of the day.
  • It’s hard to hold a candle to listening to music in terms of how much it can take the edge out of negative feelings. Find a playlist or album that’s reliable for you, turn it on, and take a deep breath.

To keep your brain busy

  • Books! I admit that I’ve had a difficult time focusing on reading as much as I would like to, but there is nothing quite like digging into an interesting book. The key here is reading what you want to read, not what you feel like you should be reading.
  • Podcasts are a great alternative to watching something, or if reading a book isn’t quite doing it. There are so many options to choose from out there, so find one that makes you feel good and dive in.
  • Also, movies and TV are not a bad thing! Sometimes it’s good for us to just let our brain follow something else for a while and not fixate on things that might be bothering us. I’ve been watching a lot of sitcoms lately while I crochet, and it’s a nice way to chill after dinner.

To work through it

  • Write it down. I’ve journaled off and on for a long time, and have found that it’s always easier for me to process — and often let go of — something when I put it on paper (or the notes app on my phone). It’s a good way to articulate how you’re feeling with really low risk, and gives those feelings or thoughts an outlet that doesn’t require too much.
  • Talk to a loved one. If you’re just having a rough stretch or an off day, talking to a close friend or family member can be a nice way to process what you’re going through. Just do keep in mind that it should be someone you trust, who listens well, and know that at the end of the day it’s a personal relationship not a strictly therapeutic one.
  • Talk to a counselor/therapist/psychiatrist. Friends and family are awesome, but they’re not trained professionals. If what you’re dealing with is more significant than a couple of weeks (or even if it’s just a really awful few weeks!), talking to a mental health professional is a valid, safe option to help you work through what you’re facing. Mental health professionals can help with seasons of difficulty like grief or high levels of stress, and can help with longer-term mental health struggles like anxiety or depression.
    • Note here that mental health conditions are common, and not something to be ashamed of. 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental health condition each year, and almost half of Americans will deal with one at some point in their life, according to Mental Health America. If you’re concerned about your mental health, the screenings on their website can be a good place to start, followed by contacting your health provider.
  • Content warning (see note above): Of course if you are considering self-harm or suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 or chat the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 911, or go to a nearby hospital. If there is a friend or family member you trust, you can also reach out to that person. You matter, and you are not a burden, and you are worth every tomorrow.

I hope some of the info above offers resources or encouragement for you to take care of your mental health (or support someone else’s), especially in the midst of, well, everything.

Are there any other resources you’ve found helpful? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

 

 

* This post is not sponsored, and I don’t receive any compensation for mentioning any of the resources in this post. They’re just things myself or others I know have genuinely found helpful.

(Photo is a free stock photo, because the lighting was perfect.)

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Recipes: The Great Sourdough Journey

For those of you who know me personally and have already had to deal with me spamming your feed about this, sorry in advance (well, only a little). For those of you who haven’t been privy to this saga, you’re in for a treat. Warning that this is a looooong post, but it’s the easiest method I’ve come across that still has enough info for noobs.

Here’s the tl;dr: I embraced peak quarantine Millennial and made sourdough bread from scratch. It took a while, but it was awesome.

Background

(aka the part to skip if you actually just want the recipe)

On Easter weekend, since we weren’t seeing family, I wanted to make a special meal to have at home. I was planning on making this delicious garden herb loaf that I’ve been making since I was a teenager, but thanks to everyone stress and boredom baking during the pandemic, the store had no yeast. Luckily, they did have bread flour.

I improvised for Easter dinner and made Irish soda bread (a no-rise, dense, very yummy bread that I used to make with my grandpa). But the lack of yeast at the store planted a little seed of well-I’ll-prove-I-don’t-need-you in my head, and I decided to make sourdough starter so that the next weekend I could make my very own bread, store-bought yeast be damned.

Sourdough starter is literally just home-grown yeast in a jar, and once it’s mature can be used to make sourdough bread. It is super simple and not super easy (but also not too hard). Once it’s ready, you can store it a number of ways, and then revive it anytime you want a fresh loaf of homemade bread! Some folks have apparently had their starters for generations.

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon* distilled water**
  • ~5lb.* of bread flour***
  • Salt

* These estimates are super rough and likely slightly more than what you will need, but because the process is so lengthy and I didn’t keep a pristine log of feedings

** You can also use filtered water, boiled water, or leave tap water out overnight if truly necessary. But don’t use straight tap water, as the chlorine and other stuff in the water can kill those good lil yeasties.

** All-purpose, whole wheat, or rye can also be used. Literally whatever you have, though many say a “heartier” flour — aka not all-purpose or baking — is best for getting sourdough starter going.

The Journey

Disclaimers:

  • Costs about $5, makes 1 round loaf of bread 10″-12″ in diameter.
  • I’m not labeling this part instructions like I typically do because there are not only a ton of opinions out there about what methods are ideal, but yeast is a living thing and your setting may affect the details of this process. Throughout, I’ll offer ways that I addressed some of those challenges as they cropped up.
  • As always, Google is your friend and I’m not any sort of magical sourdough expert. This is literally my first time, but it was fun and kept my brain occupied during so much time inside.

Day 1

(Sunday evening)

  1. I did a bunch of research, and settled on this starter recipe.
  2. Found a decent-sized jar with clear sides.
    1. In my case, it was a cleaned out macadamia-nut container, but later I upgraded to a 1-gallon glass jar that I ordered just for my new starter. As long as it can hold 4 cups or so, you’ll have enough room.
  3. Mixed 3/4 cup warm distilled water with 1 cup bread flour until fully incorporated.
    1. Pro tip: Add the water in first whenever you feed so you’ll be less likely to have unincorporated chunks of flour, or flour stuck to the bottom of the container.
  4. Covered jar and left it overnight. The lid should not be airtight, and most folks will tell you to just cover it loosely, but I found that if I *mostly* tightened it but not all the way, that encouraged the most growth. Play around with it and see what work for you.

A note about temperature: I didn’t discover this until day 2, but the ideal ambient temperature for yeast to grow is in the mid-to-high 70s (Fahrenheit). My apartment tends to be quite a bit cooler this time of year (high 60s), so I helped keep the little yeast babies warm by putting them on a microwaved heating pack, and then re-warming that every few hours when I remembered. You can also put it in a warmer spot of the house or in the (turned off!) oven with the light on, but it should stay out of direct sunlight. If you can’t keep it warmer that’s okay, just know it might take longer for your starter to mature and it you may not see as much rising.IMG-1565

Day 2

(Monday morning)

  1. I discovered the temperature thing (see above), and ordered a more conducive jar.
  2. “Fed” the starter:
    1. Stirred the starter and removed about half from the jar.*
    2. Added in 3/4 cup warm distilled water and 1 cup bread flour.
    3. Stirred until fully incorporated, and covered jar.
  3. Left for ~24 hours.

* You don’t have to throw away what you take out of the starter! This is called discard, and can be composted or used in other recipes (though you may not want to cook with your discard from the first 1-2 days). My favorite recipe to make with starter discard are these biscuits — solely because they are easy and use the most discard for the least flour.

Day 3

(Tuesday morning)

My starter rose and bubbled on day 2, but most of that had receded by day 3. Often initial rising is due to bacteria and not yeast, so just let it be and stick to the schedule. No need to worry.

  1. Fed the starter (see details above).
  2. Left for ~24 hours.IMG-1566

Day 4

(Wednesday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~24 hours.
    1. Pro tip: I used a dry-erase marker to start marking the starter’s level on the outside of the jar when I fed it, so then I could more accurately note any rising throughout the day.IMG-1601

Day 5

(Thursday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~12 hours.
    1. Pro tip: I discovered that if you stir it at about the 12-hour mark (or halfway between feedings), this encourages rising and yeast growth. I didn’t need to continue doing it the whole time, but it really seemed to help on days 5-6.
  3. Left for ~12 hours.

Day 6

(Friday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~24 hours, with occasional stirring.

Day 7

(Saturday morning)

  1. The starter had been foaming and bubbling nicely, and sort of passed the float test*, so I knew it was almost ready.
  2. Here is where I got risky folks. Instead of discarding half like usual, I stirred the starter a bunch and fed it double (1.5 cups water, 2 cups flour). Honestly I would not recommend this step unless you want a whole lot of starter on your hands, but for what it’s worth, it did work.
    1. Pro tip: You only need 1/4 cup of starter to make a loaf of bread, so you really don’t need a ton of starter on hand unless you want to either give some away or make a crap ton of bread.
  3. Left for ~12 hours, with no stirring. My starter rose exponentially during this time, so I just let it do its thing and tried not to mess with it (hence no stirring).

* The float test is just to take a spoonful of starter and drop it in some water. If it floats, that means your starter is mature and ready to use. Mine floated for a minute or two before sinking.IMG-1615

(Saturday evening)

  1. Reserved 1/4 cup starter in a large bowl.
  2. Fed the starter.
  3. Let it rise for ~45 minutes, then popped it in the fridge to go into hibernation mode.
    1. For more details on starter storage, skip to “Day 9 & Beyond” below.
  4. This is where the BREADMAKING begins! I settled on this recipe because it was easy, and used the most starter for the least flour (it’s a trend with me haha).
  5. Made the bread dough (steps 1-2 in the recipe linked above):
    1. Mixed 1.5 cups plus 1tbsp warm distilled water into the 1/4 cup of starter I had set aside.
    2. Gently mixed in 1.5tsp salt and 4 cups plus 2tbsp flour until formed a decent dough, then gently packed together.
    3. Covered with a damp cloth and let rest for 1 hour.
    4. Gently worked dough into a ball, and placed back into bowl. Covered with (newly dampened) cloth and let rest overnight.IMG-1617

Day 8

(Sunday morning)

  1. Kneaded the dough and did a second rise (steps 3-4 in the recipe above):
    1. Gently put the dough onto a floured cutting board, then folded down the top and turned it 90 degrees, repeating for all four sides
      1. Pro tip: The recipe I used has great pictures and a video for this bit.
    2. Let rest for 10 minutes while put a clean dishcloth into a bowl and dusted it with flour.
    3. Gently flipped over the dough and repeat the fold-and-turn process from Step 1a.
    4. Compressed and shaped into a ball (a bench knife/bench scraper really comes in handy here).
    5. Placed into lined bowl with the recently folded side facing up, then covered (I just folded over the dishcloth because it was pretty large) and refrigerated for a few hours (anywhere between 1 and 6 hours is fine).IMG-1618

(Sunday afternoon)

  1. Prepped and baked the bread (steps 4-7 in the recipe above):
    1. Preheated oven to 500˚F, and took dough out of fridge.
    2. Cut a large sheet of parchment paper and placed it over the bowl holding the dough, then flipped it upside down to plop the dough out.
    3. Gently floured the dough, then used a paring knife to score it.
      1. Pro tip: This is the cool part where you cut the bread so it can expand as it bakes. You can cut any design you want, but be sure your incisions are about 1/4” deep so that it cuts into the dough far enough to expand properly (only some of mine were right).
    4. Picked up the loaf using the parchment, and placed inside a Dutch oven. I think you can use other pots, but this is what the recipe asked for and I have one, so not totally sure!IMG-1624
    5. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and placed in the oven, immediately reducing the heat to 450˚F.
    6. Baked covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
    7. Removed from pot and placed the parchment (with the loaf on it obviously) directly on the rack, and baked for 10 more minutes.
      1. Pro tip: My oven runs a little warm and I wish I’d only baked it for 5 here. The bottom of the loaf was a little crispier than I would have preferred.
    8. Removed from oven and let cool for about 1 hour (don’t worry, it will still be warm at this point!)
    9. Took photos, of course.IMG-1627IMG-1635
    10. Sliced into that bad boy, put some butter on it, and ate significantly more than necessary.
      1. Pro tip: Just store what you haven’t used yet in a plastic bag, and squeeze the air out of it. This keeps it fresh and avoids it drying out.

Day 9 & Beyond

  1. Enjoyed daily bread (for 2 people, this lasted us about 4 days including Sunday)!
  2. Left the starter in the fridge just chilling, until
    1. I want to make more bread! Which means it’s time to revive the starter.
    2. Day 12 (Thursday evening), I pulled the jar out of the fridge and let it warm up (on a heating pack like before) for a few hours, marking its levels when I first pulled it out of the fridge and as it rose.
    3. It rose, then started receding within about 4 hours, so I split it and fed it.
      1. I also put it into a clean jar here because I had an extra, but that isn’t strictly necessary.
    4. I’ll continue to feed for 1-2 days until the starter seems happy and ready, then repeat the recipe to make another loaf of bread!
  3. When leaving the starter in the fridge, it only needs to be fed about once per week. You should be able to take it out, let it come to room temp for 45 minutes or an hour, feed, let it rise for 45 minutes to an hour again, then pop it back in the fridge.
  4. My starter is pretty new and I plan to bake about 1 loaf per week so I’ll be feeding more often, but there are also long-term storage options like drying and crumbling it.

Misc. Tips

  • Here is the link to the starter recipe I used again, and to the bread recipe.
  • This site also has a butt ton of info and is good for learning about sourdough/troubleshooting, though it’s a little too precise for my patience level. Also check out this page and this page.
  • If you’re saving discard, mark the container with what day it’s from so you know what’s fresh and what’s maybe not so much.
  • If your starter isn’t really rising, no worries. Give it up to 24 hours, then split and feed it anyways
  • If your starter is rising, sweet! Keep an eye on that bad boy and once it starts to recede (sink back down), that’s when you know it’s hungry. Time to feed (even if it’s been less than 24 hours).
  • If you’re concerned about any other aspects of your starter, just google it. There are lots of helpful sites, forums, etc. including r/sourdough on Reddit.

I know that was an insanely long post, so thank you and props if you actually read the whole thing.

What new recipes have you been trying out lately? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and stay safe!

Featured

A different kind of winter

Last weekend I spent a lot of time thinking. Specifically, I was thinking about Easter and spring and all of the ideas that come with those events. The meanings we’ve tied to them are a lot to reckon with.

A lot of it gets painted over with cartoon bunnies and pastel everything, but the roots go much deeper. Spring, and for those who celebrate, Easter, are times of rebirth and new things. But that newness necessarily comes from death and cold and darkness.

And so many of us have spent too long trying to gloss over that bit instead of greeting it face to face. There is a certain grief, in winter.

Now, as we’re in a time of year where new growth is supposed to emerge, the whole world has been thrust into an unforeseen grief of a different sort. Lives lost, loved ones missed, loneliness and anxiety often settling in. It’s quiet, and it’s brutal. And we don’t really know when the spring will come.

I have been finding solace in little places, like the hummingbird feeders outside my windows, and the feeling of tiredness in my hands after physical work. But the difficult times seep in when sometimes I don’t expect it. Like last night when, after trying for a while to scoot it outside, my husband killed a wasp that got stuck between our sliding glass doors. I don’t much care for wasps and wasn’t the one who killed it, but I still grieved its death when freedom seemed so close.

Lyz Lenz wrote an exceptionally poignant article about Holy Saturday and “sitting with the broken pieces.” And in this weird time where the world is hurting, we are all grieving, and the weather marching toward spring seems so deeply incongruous, I am trying to just sit with pain and the worry and let it be instead of forcing it away, knowing that in time it may grow into something new.

I wrote the piece below on Saturday, trying to let all of these ideas just be in my head and in my body, without insisting on any resolution.

Today I spend hours on my patio, on my knees. I am repotting all my plants. Some are root-bound and placed in larger pots. Some have soil that has become too densely packed from watering, or have even rotted. Some do not like being forced from their homes and their steady little lives, and will take time to recover. I fill an empty planter bed with soil. I mix in fertilizer, and I water. It is slow work even on a small garden. It is clean, fresh air and rich, heavy earth.

It is mourning, and it is hope. It is all I can offer today in a universe of mysteries, that when we are suffering and when nothing has gone as we expected, we are still here. That the echoes of death and life are all around us, whether tomorrow turns the tide or not. And it starts to make sense that we plant flowers each year, knowing they will fade and eventually need to be planted again.

So to simply be, today, in everything that means, is enough.

I hope this offered something helpful in the midst of a very strange time. Feel free to leave a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and may peace settle in a little deeper for you today.

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That’s enough

It probably goes without saying that this is an exceptionally strange, difficult, and unique time across the world right now. You’ve probably been oversaturated with constant news updates and tips for social distancing, sanitizing, and working from home. All I’ll say is that I hope you’re staying home whenever possible, and keeping yourself and others safe and healthy.

We’re simultaneously all in unique situations, and all together in this.

But it can be easy to either feel paralyzed amid all the goings-on or to feel pressured into some flurry of productivity as we try to stay home as much as possible.

Personally, I’ve been working from home for the last 2 weeks and while I’ve been mostly managing to keep up with that, it’s been tough to get much in the way of household labor done. My husband is a champ and doing extra chores since he’s currently working fewer hours than me, but sometimes I still find myself slipping into wondering if I’m doing enough.

And that kind of thinking — at least when it’s about simple chores and to-do list items — is quite frankly ridiculous. For all the things I am getting done, I also spend a fair amount of time looking out the window at all the birds that have been enjoying the sunshine and feeders on our patio. I sometimes play a game on my phone or let myself zone out thinking about whatever comes to mind. It feels indulgent at times, but also needed.

So while I remain impressed by all the folks who are able to get inordinate amounts of things done during this time, none of us ought to be beholden to set even higher standards for ourselves. Whatever you are able to do, whatever your heart and body are nudging that they need you to do or not to, that’s enough.

Leave a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup with anything you’d like to see on the blog or that would be helpful, especially during this time. Thanks for reading, and be well.

 

P.S. I am trying to reserve some of my energy each day and week to offer kindnesses where I can. Some of these are gestures for loved ones, some for dear causes, and some are on a broader scale. If you do have the means to help other folks out during this time, this list has some excellent resources and ways to do so.

(Photo is a free stock photo, and quite captures the space I’d like to create for a while.)

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Making it

We’re less than halfway through March and I feel like I’ve lived half a year over the last couple months. Work is still slammed (though I’m daring to hope I’m almost at the end of it), and things are starting to slip through the cracks.

Healthy eating has been difficult to keep up with, I keep forgetting what day it is, and it’s difficult to get up in the morning. I’m burnt out. And to top it all off, as of about 6 p.m. yesterday I will be working from home at least through Monday (which I personally do not enjoy), and I was up and online at 6:30 a.m. today because there is *that much* to do.

I’ve been working very hard to take care of my mental health amidst all this. One of the little joys that helps me do that is making things. This is, of course, a very broad hobby concept *but* that’s part of what I like about it!

Things I have enjoyed making recently:

  • Let’s be real, I always enjoy making food. But it’s a great joint activity for my husband and I to do together, and one we can still fit in on occasion even when we’re both busy. We’ve made a number of new recipes in the last few weeks, and I busted out my favorite crepes recipe this last weekend. Plus, y’know, you get to eat whatever you made at the end!
  • Notice how there’s a post this week? (jk, sort of) I have been trying to write a little more, because it helps me process how I’m feeling. That comes in a few forms for me, and I’ve been making sure to submit some of my older work for publication as well.
  • Okay, so you don’t really make crochet, but you do make things by crocheting. And I realize I sound like an old lady with these hobbies, but I am the kind of person whose hands need to be doing something practically at all times, so a little flurry of motion with a hook and some yarn is right up my alley. (Before you ask, I tried knitting and entirely lack the coordination.) I just finished the blanket I’d been working on for — I kid you not — more than a year, and am starting a new basket pattern because, well, I love baskets.
  • I have also been “making” time to sleep and relax, time to exercise, and making myself get off social media when it’s stopped being helpful. I’ve admittedly enjoyed some of these ones a bit less, but also know they’re good for me.

That’s my spiel for today. Make something! Memories, a new craft, an old hobby. The world is a more than a little out of whack right now, and it’s important to find pockets of something you enjoy doing. Specifically, creating something new is a great way to counter all the pain we can’t always avoid.

What do you enjoy making? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

P.S. See my mini thread on some tips for staying healthy and clean during this, well, pandemic.

(Photo is a free stock photo because my hobbies are not that aesthetic haha.)