Featured

Bye, 2020: a reflection

No one will miss you. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Thanks for the memories, even though they absolutely sucked. And every other snide insult that comes to mind.

To address the obvious: This was a hell year. Not a “hell of a year,” but just plain “hell year.” The collective grief and suffering we have endured is truly difficult to comprehend. Most of us didn’t anticipate experiencing this level of compacted, global-scale pain and trauma in our lifetimes. (Not that anyone ever does — the feeling of living through history is, in reality, awful.)

I saw a tweet yesterday that asked, “What is the moment in 2020 broke you?” Each of us has our own list, with some moments exceptionally tragic. Relatively speaking, I got off fairly easy. The days it took to (mostly) recover from the New York Times front page when the U.S. reached 100,000 covid deaths. The horror of continued, unabashed violence executed upon people of color in this country. Waves of grief and fear, of loneliness and helplessness. Empathy so sharp it cut straight to the quick. Nights I cried until I had absolutely no energy left. Days it was all I could do to get up.

Each of those moments was real. But then, so were the moments of joy, and relief, and love. Watching a garden grow from seedlings to harvest. Every quiet breath when a hummingbird paused outside my window. Getting to see my creative work in print and getting paid for it for the first time. The long drives I took for a few deep moments in nature. The full delight in improving someone else’s day. The first hug in the evening after my spouse got home from work. Realizing that certain things are true, even if it took me a while to see them. The work I’ve done for my mental health that I am so proud of, even on the hardest days.

Next year will bring its own hardships, as it always does, but I cling fast to the hope that they may be a little less acute, a little less thunderous, a little less isolating. And I nurture the hope that each moment of good — a hug, a laugh, a warm meal, a deep breath — lasts a little longer and carries us a little further. That we may see beyond our own perspectives and pain, reach far enough toward our neighbor to offer comfort and work toward healing. That we may delight in our differences while striving toward equity and justice. That even in the dead dark of winter, we may remember that none of us is ever truly alone.

Nothing is guaranteed, of course. But we can hope.

So here’s to the new year.

Featured

Survival

Yesterday I woke up with the worst chest pain I have personally experienced. It faded throughout the day, but didn’t fully go away for 24 hours. Thankfully (sort of) it was just due to anxiety, not any more serious health concerns.

But there’s a lesson in there — at least, that’s what I’m hoping.

In the last few years, my body has begun asserting (rather harshly) when I have pushed it beyond its limits. Which, unfortunately, I tend to do once or twice a year. I can no longer do standing room only concerts, I need more sleep than I used to, I have to be extra careful in hot weather. These things feel like limitations, but in reality it’s my body forcing me to get my act together when I have abused its resilience for so long.

I was recently reminded of the importance of asking one’s body what it needs. A nap? A snack? Water? To go for a walk? To curl up under a blanket and ignore the world for a little while? Any given item may not be possible in the moment, but it might be later. And even if not for a while, knowing where your body is at and what it could use provides an opportunity to offer empathy to the cells and sinews keeping you alive.

Because after all, that’s what it’s about, right?

My answer to people who ask how I’m doing lately is “surviving.” Because that really is what it feels like. This year has been positively grueling, and despite there being a number of good things, the difficult ones are a specter the likes of which many of us have never faced before. We grieve. We work long days. We are challenged by emotions. We find a little time for rest. We do it all over again.

I don’t know when things will be better. But I hold onto the hope that they will be, and in the meantime, that together we can keep surviving.

Featured

Anchors

Yesterday I drove 40 minutes each way to sit on the beach alone and read for an hour. I hadn’t seen the ocean in 8 or 9 months, which is the longest I’ve spent away from the water in years, maybe in memory. Just an hour there was like refilling my soul, which the stresses and challenges of everyday life — and this year in particular — had siphoned away bit by bit.

I think everyone has a place like that. A place that is full of enough personal meaning to provide peace the moment you step foot into it, that acts as an anchor when the rest of life feels entirely chaotic.

Other points that provide that anchor for me are looking at a clear night sky, taking a walk through a city with nowhere to be, curling up with a book by a warm fire.

In such times as these, nearing the close of a year unlike any most of us have experienced, these anchors means more than ever. With travel limited*, that anchor may have to be a facsimile for a while. For me, taking a walk in a city has been replaced with taking a walk on the paved path behind my apartment.

If you already know you anchor(s), take some time to (safely) make space for them. If you’re not sure what that point is for you, think about when you feel the most content and at peace. We could all use a bit more of that.

What’s your anchor? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

* Please, please take this virus seriously. Don’t travel unless you absolutely must. Stay home whenever you can. Wear a proper face covering when you do go out. Too many people have gotten sick and lost loved ones, including people I know. In the US, it’s less safe now than it’s been at any point since the pandemic hit. Please do everything you can to keep yourself and other safe.

Featured

Just getting by

Hey y’all. I know I haven’t made a post in a while. Admittedly, it’s not the top priority when it feels like the world is on fire and I’m just trying to feed myself and keep my head on straight.

I don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring. Really, none of us do. But more stress and turmoil is almost guaranteed.

So today I just wanted to offer some things that can help when life feels like a lot, maybe even too much, to handle.

(If you haven’t voted yet, do that first! Resources here.)

Cover the basics

Have you slept enough? Have you eaten recently? Had a glass of water? Lowered your shoulders? Unclenched your jaw? It’s the little things, really.

Movies & TV

I have a list of comfort movies and TV that I watch when I need to just feel better. Some of my favorites are listed below, but of course there are treasure troves of streaming services out there.

  • Favorite movies: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Martian, Pride & Prejudice (2005), The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, The Princess Bride
  • Favorite TV: Schitt’s Creek, Brooklyn 99, The Good Place, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Friends

Reading, but make it escapism

I love reading, and usually try to challenge myself to mix in some serious and nonfiction reading between more popcorn fiction picks. But I was recently reading a short story collection that was, how shall we say, not helping. So I put it down for now and picked up a cute rom-com one of my best friends recommended instead. Read something that makes you happy 🙂

Do something with your hands

I go absolutely nuts if I don’t have something to do with my hands. Often that’s just fidgeting, but I also crochet and garden, and even cooking and baking help give my body and mind something to do so I don’t just spiral.

Move

If you can, go for a run, take a walk, or do some yoga — anything that gets your whole body moving and some endorphins flowing.

Breathe

I hate how often I forget this one. You can try a number of techniques, and I’ve found a few especially helpful

  • Square breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, repeat.
  • Belly breathing. Breathe in deeply, filling your whole belly with air, then your chest. Exhale slowly, letting air leave your chest first, and finally your belly. Repeat.
  • Literally just take 10 deep breaths (slowly).

Music

I put together this playlist to help when I’m feeling crappy, especially if I’m anxious. You might have your own playlist or album that you turn to, but there’s a lot of comfort to be found in a familiar melody.

I know all of this isn’t much to offer, but sometimes adulting is just getting by. What helps you out when life gets overwhelming? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and know that you’re not alone in this.

Photo is a free stock photo because, well, this is life right now.

Featured

Recipes: Mediterranean Salad

Yes, I’m back with yet another recipe. Honestly real life has been kicking my butt lately and this is the best I’ve got to offer for the time being.

Before we get started: In between feeding myself, one of the things that’s been most prominent on my mind is the upcoming U.S. election. It’s absolutely crucial that we all exercise our right to vote, and do so responsibly. For all kinds of info and resources, check out this post.

Now on to the food! The inspiration here was simple: I had ingredients I needed to use. Specifically, fresh organic tomatoes and cucumber from my best friend’s garden. I’ve also been trying to eat more lentils since they’re a great source of iron. Disclaimer: I was 100% winging it with this recipe and honestly didn’t even measure much of it. The good news is it’s a really forgiving recipe, so no need to fret about being exact.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup green lentils*
  • 1 cup couscous* (I had envisioned making this with pearl (Israeli) couscous, but the store was out so I used Moroccan couscous. I think both would work great!)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Feta cheese (I think I used 1/4 cup, but it’s really as much as you want)
  • Bay leaf (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Ground allspice
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper to tasteIMG-2565

* These measurements are for how much it is before cooking it! Both will enlarge once cooked

Instructions:

  1. Dice your cucumber and tomatoes, and set aside. (Pro tip: If your cucumbers are at all bitter, cut off the ends and rub it in a circle on the portion you just cut it away from. A white foamy liquid will seep out, which has most of the bitterness. Wipe or rinse that off and you’re good to go!)
  2. Rinse the lentils thoroughly in cold water (this helps prevent them from making you feel bloated), then add the 1/2 cup of lentils to a small pot with 1 cup of water.
    1. This is where you can add the optional bay leaf if you want! (I think it helps the flavor, but it’s no big if you don’t have it or forget.)
  3. Bring lentils and water (and if using, bay leaf) to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it reaches a boil, cover and reduce heat to a low simmer for 15-20 minutes. (Pro tip: The best way to know when the lentils are done is to try one. Better to have them be a little firm than to get mushy and mealy.)
  4. In another small pot, boil 1 cup water and add a splash of olive oil (about 1tsp.) and a dash of salt.
  5. Stir in the couscous, remove from the heat, and cover.
  6. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then fluff (aka gently stir with a fork or spoon).
  7. Move couscous into a large bowl, and mix in another tsp. or so of olive oil (to help it from clumping).
  8. Strain lentils and rinse with cold water.
  9. Mix lentils, then diced veggies into couscous.IMG-2566
  10. Stir in lemon juice, then salt, pepper, a dash of garlic powder and about 1/4tsp. of allspice. (Pro tip: Go easy on the garlic powder, be liberal with the allspice. It’s the magic ingredient here.) Top or mix in as much feta as desired.
  11. Serve and enjoy!IMG-2569

Costs about $8, makes about 6 servings (more if you’re only having it as a side dish and not a main course).

As always, the cost estimate is rough, especially depending on how inexpensively you can source the product (in my case, free). Also I’d intended to serve this cold, but the first time because the couscous was warm it was a bit warm and really nice that way as well! I’ve been keeping the leftovers in the fridge and eating it as an easy cold lunch.

What else would you like to see on the blog? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. Go vote!

Featured

Recipes: Casa Roma

Y’all this recipe is one of the few good things to come out of quarantine. Most of the recipes I’ve posted on here have been ones I’ve picked up elsewhere, but this one is an original. Early in the days of our everlasting stay-at-home order, my spouse and I were having fun experimenting with some new recipes, and one day, he wanted to freestyle it. This is the result, and it is no joke my favorite pasta recipe ever. (And that’s coming from someone who freaking loves pasta.)

The name is an homage to it being a sort of Italian-inspired meal, a house recipe, and the Roma tomatoes that become the key to its success. I hope you like it as much as we do!

Ingredients:

  • 1lb. (1 box) linguine (as always, you can use other shapes, but this complements the sauce best)
  • 1.5–2 cups finely diced onion (recommend white or yellow onion)
  • 2 finely diced Roma tomatoes
  • 5ish garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5oz. pancetta (or more if you want! Small pancetta works best for it to get crunchy)
  • 1 cup dry white wine (Pro tip: Pick something you also enjoy drinking since you’ll still have most of the bottle left!)
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Olive oil
  • 4tbsp. butter
  • Salt, pepper, and red chili pepper flakes
  • At least 1 cup fresh-grated Parmesan
  • Thinly sliced fresh basil (technically this is optional, but honestly it shouldn’t be — I recommend ~2tbsp. per serving)IMG-2348

Instructions:

  1. Chop onion and tomato (I usually cut the basil while the sauce is finishing up, but you can do it here as well).IMG-2350
  2. Cook pancetta in olive oil (this can get smoky, so use that above-stove fan if you have it!)
  3. Drain the oil out of the pancetta.
  4. Melt the butter in a large saucepan.
  5. Add in onion, then the pancetta, garlic, and spices (amount of seasoning is up to you, but I’d again recommend not skimping on the red chili pepper flakes to bring in some complexity).IMG-2346
  6. Start boiling the water.
  7. Once the onions are cooked — they should be translucent and giving off a nice aroma — add in the cup of wine (and pour a glass for yourself if you haven’t already).
  8. Add pasta into pot of boiling water.
  9. Simmer until the wine reduces by about half, then add in 1/3 cup heavy cream and diced tomatoes. (Pro tip: This step needs to cook for ~5 minutes to help the tomatoes break down and bring out their sweetness.)IMG-2352
  10. Drain pasta, but reserve a small amount of pasta water. This is for adding into your sauce to help it stick to the pasta. We usually use just a splash, sometimes more if the sauce is runny.
  11. Take the sauce off the heat and mix in about 1/3 cup of cheese, then mix in the pasta.
  12. Add in basil, and top with more cheese as desired.
  13. Serve and enjoy!IMG-2354

Costs about $20, makes makes 4–5 servings.

Heads up that the cost estimate is super rough since we typically have a lot of the ingredients on hand and the basil is always from my garden. Also note that I typically use wine that’s $3–$10 per bottle — you really don’t need anything expensive for cooking (like, ever) and Trader Joe’s has some delicious cheap options.

Just like the amatriciana recipe, this goes excellently with homemade sourdough. (You may notice a lot of ingredients and steps overlap between the two pasta recipes, but their flavor profiles end up totally different.)

What other recipes or topics would you like to see on the blog? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

P.S. If you make this recipe, let me know how you liked it!

Featured

Recipes: Amatriciana

Welcome to your new favorite tomato sauce. Now that I finally remembered to take pictures, I have a new recipe for y’all! This is a slightly personalized version of a classic amatriciana, aka hearty pasta deliciousness.

Ingredients:

  • 1lb. (1 box) fettucine (the wide noodles are ideal for the sauce, but you could use any noodle if you feel strongly. Except angel hair because that’s objectively the worst pasta shape.)
  • 5oz. pancetta
  • 1.5–2 cups finely diced onion (recommend white or yellow onion)
  • 5–8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt, pepper, and red chili pepper flakes
  • At least 1/2 cup fresh-grated Romano cheese
  • At least 3/4 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

  1. Chop onion.
  2. Cook pancetta in olive oil (~2tbsp. should be plenty). Note that this can get smoky, so use an above-stove fan if you have it!IMG-2323
  3. Drain some of the oil out of the pancetta (don’t drain it all! You’ll want it to meld the flavors for the next step).
  4. Move into a large saucepan, and add the onion, garlic, and spices (you may want to add a little more olive oil here as well). Pro tip: The amount of spices you use is a matter of taste, but I recommend not skimping on the red chili pepper flakes; they bring a needed complexity and a hint of heat to the final sauce.IMG-2326
  5. Cook until onions are translucent, then add crushed tomatoes.IMG-2328
  6. In a large pot, start boiling water for pasta.
  7. Simmer the sauce for 20ish minutes, stirring occasionally (if you neglect the stirring, it will bubble and get tomato all around your stove area…)IMG-2330
  8. Once water is boiling, cook the pasta.
  9. Drain the pasta, but reserve a small amount of pasta water. This is for adding into your sauce to help it stick to the pasta. We usually use just a splash, sometimes up to 1/4 cup if the sauce is runny.
  10. Take the sauce off the heat and mix in about 1/4 cup of cheese, then stir in the pasta. (The extra cheese is to top it off.)
  11. Serve and enjoy!IMG-2332

Costs about $10, makes 4–5 servings.

Note that this recipe goes exceptionally well with a slice of fresh sourdough! This is a pretty straightforward recipe, and doesn’t take too long. My significant other and I love cooking it together, but it’s also simple enough that one could totally handle it solo. 

What other recipes would you like to see? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

Featured

Embodiment

A thing that I have been working on — and slowly making progress with — is listening to my body. So much of our culture sends a message that your body is something inherently bad, something to be changed, somehow separate from who you are. The domination of the conscious mind as our conception of self has haunted Western thought since the Enlightenment.

Combine that with my personality tendencies and some of the specific circumstances I grew up in, and I’ve often found it rather difficult not only to listen to my body, but to trust it. In the past, I have ignored, punished, and disbelieved my body to the point of burnout and getting miserably sick. As I’ve gotten older, if I push it too far my body will quite forcefully assert its need for rest, and pronounce limitations that I’m reluctant to accept (for example, I can no longer do standing room only concerts).

There is a concept called “embodiment” that basically posits that you are your body, and living well means being present in and attentive to your body.

Some things I’ve been doing to practice embodiment:

  • Listening for when to eat and when to stop. One of the best lessons I learned growing up was to stop eating when I got full. Not that I never ignored this and stuffed my face anyways, but for the most part I stop eating when I get full, even if that means leftovers (which are very common for me). The bit that, historically, I have been less great about, is eating when I’m hungry. Maybe I don’t feel like going through the effort of getting/preparing food or use the excuse that I’m busy, but I push myself to the point of hanger or an upset stomach way too often.
  • Moving when I feel antsy. I am a hugely fidgety person — like I specifically buy pens that I can absentmindedly disassemble and reassemble during the workday — and letting myself fidget helps me focus and process things better. If it’s more than a fidget, I’ll sometimes get up from wherever I am inevitably sitting and walking or bouncing on my toes for a few minutes.
  • Exercising semi-regularly. I do not pretend to be a fitness god here, people. I do like 1-2 yoga classes a week, maybe go for a walk, and sometimes play tennis. But even that little bit makes a huge difference.
  • Asking my body what it’s feeling. This sounds ridiculous, but dude it works. Sometimes I’ll just feel… weird, or will be feeling a certain way and not know why. Taking a moment to actively listen and feel whatever you’re feeling, to notice the sensations and what emotions or needs they might be tied to.
  • Rest. Like literally lay down. Now that I have surrendered to my morning person ways, my bedtime is early y’all. I sometimes lay down for 5 to 15 minutes in the afternoon to recharge before resuming my day. This can also mean letting a couple chores wait until tomorrow and relaxing with a good book or movie!
  • Meditating & mindfulness. I am super novice at this, but I typically do a short meditation on weekday mornings, and find that the practice is really helpful. In terms of mindfulness, I’ve been putting extra effort toward noticing and enjoying tangible things, like fresh air on a hike or the taste of warm buttered bread.
  • Adapting. Like I mentioned above, there’s stuff my body has just decided is not for me, like concerts where my twentysomething butt doesn’t have a seat. I need more sleep than my significant other, which means sometimes I miss out on stuff. I use tools and medicine like my inhaler when I need to. And sometimes those things can be frustrating, but leaning into them means that I end up feeling way better.
  • On that note, being intentional in the way I think about my body. It’s not just a skin suit, it’s me. It’s not bad or weak, I’m probably just tired. Specifically, framing it as being thankful for the ways that my body takes care of me helps me be more loving and thoughtful to care for it.

In light of recent and ongoing events, I would challenge you to think about what actions you can take to join the effort of caring for and protecting Black and brown bodies. We live in a world and a society that is built upon systems designed to harm and to exploit, and our neighbor’s body and spirit are just as precious as our own. My post on anti-racism offers some starting points if you’d find them helpful.

What are your experiences with embodiment? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because I’m running late this week, y’all.)

Featured

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.)

Featured

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!