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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!)

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  • 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!

Featured

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.)

NaNoWriMo

For those of you that don’t know, I love writing. As a kid, it was rare to find me without a book in my hand, and that spilled over into writing. I used to write a lot of stories, have been semi-regular about journaling since junior high (the photo above is all my journals), and now do this blog, but in college realized that my favorite thing to write is actually poetry. I’m always reticent to tell people that because caring about it deeply makes it feel personal and vulnerable (not things I’m often big on), but I’ve been trying to work on the part of adulting that means being willing to step outside my comfort zone. I’ve also been working on goals.

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Traditionally, writers across a whole lot of the Western hemisphere will all band together to jointly motivate each other, and each person will write an entire novel (or 50,000 words) within the 30 days of November. I have a friend who is participating this year, and asked if I wanted to as well. I didn’t exactly have a budding novel idea on hand, so my friend — who knows my writing well — said I could just write poems instead.

For the record, the last 30 poems I’ve written were done over the course of about 16 months. So 30 in a month felt pretty intimidating. But I wanted to try. And so far, it’s been going well. I’ve written seven poems and one short prose piece, and it’s felt really good. Of course, writing isn’t everybody’s thing, so instead I’m going to break down the process as general goal-setting and accomplishment — useful in any adulting journey.

Step 1: Prep

For me, this meant going through about 5 years’ worth of phrases I had collected, writing them on index cards, and pinning them to a corkboard in my room. I now had 50-something prompts from which to choose, so that ideas would never be a problem. I also set up parameters for myself: one poem per day, any length, any style, and it has to be “done” but not perfect. For any goal, make sure you have the tools and logistics taken care of ahead of time so that you have fewer roadblocks and fewer excuses.

Step 2: Tell someone

Full disclosure, I waited to post about this on the chance it fell through and I didn’t keep up with a poem a day. You don’t have to tell the whole world about your goals from the get-go. But do tell someone, so that they can keep you accountable. I told a few close friends and family, but most importantly one friend offered that we could do the challenge together. Now we keep each other accountable, and get to see/enjoy/improve the other person’s work.

Step 3: Start

It sounds silly, but that is a really big and often scary step. You just have to do it. Getting off the ground is the hard part because you don’t have any momentum yet. But once you start, you’ll start building a practice of working toward your goal, which will make a lot of efforts seem easier.

Step 4: Give yourself some grace

When I started this I thought I was going to write the poem every morning. Turns out, that’s not super practical for me. So I still make sure that I pick a prompt every morning and can think about it throughout the day, but if I don’t have time to write in the morning or feel creatively stuck, I let myself walk away and come back later. And that’s okay, especially since a lot of research has shown that you actually need time away from a problem/project in order to let your subconscious mind work on it.

Step 5: Push through the lows

If you’re just in the drudges of something, keep going. It’s easier said than done, but it’s something you’ll be really proud of when you accomplish your goal. As another example, I’ve been working out a couple mornings a week, and yesterday ran in 41 degrees with asthma and a couple cramps. It sucked. But I did it, and my lungs are (slowly) starting to build up a tolerance to exercise.

Step 6: Be proud of yourself

You don’t have to show or tell what you did to everybody you meet, but tell a couple people who care about you. Be proud that you accomplished the thing you set out to do. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my poems when the month is up, but I do know I’ll be really happy I accomplished the goal.

What goals are you working toward, and how do you stay on track? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

DIY darnedest

Apparently I decided this week was a good time to DYI like, everything. I made rice krispie treat pumpkins, crepes (recipe coming later!), finished crocheting one scarf and started another, made Oreo spiders, and handmade my Halloween costume. I’m not generally the kind of person who gets excited about Pinterest and tries to DIY everything, but I enjoy hands-on projects and they’re often a good way for me to manage stress. So today I’m gonna show you how I made my Halloween costume!

Obviously this isn’t the same sort of life lesson or adulting advice often blog posts usually are, but I am trying to remind myself that being an adult is about having fun and being responsible.

No need to worry, I promise this won’t turn into a DIY blog, but it’s fun to actually do something for the holiday for once since most years I’m pretty low-effort about it. And sometimes, adulting is about being excited over just finishing a project. I knew I wanted to be Rey from Star Wars, but the costumes I found to buy were a) not super cheap and b) kind of lame. So I decided to make mine.

Materials:

  • 1 cream t-shirt, 2 dark brown t-shirts
  • small burlap pouch
  • 2 men’s belts
  • tan tablecloth
  • closet rod (found in my garage)
  • tan cargo pants (I already owned these)
  • black combat boots (I already owned these)
  • pieces of my brother’s lightsaber, borrowed with permission

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DIY supplies:

  • sewing machine, brown and tan thread
  • grey spray paint
  • silver duct tape
  • superglue
  • good scissors
  • safety pins

What I did:

  1. Bought the t-shirts and burlap pouch on clearance at a craft store, and the belts and tablecloth at Goodwill. The total cost was about $20, which is all I paid for the costume.
  2. Cut strips out of one of the brown shirts to tie the belts together on one side, and to cover the visible buckle so it didn’t stand out as much, both by wrapping the fabric tightly and tucking the loose end in.
  3. Cut a large rectangle of brown t-shirt fabric slightly wider and 2.5x as long as the burlap pouch, and sewed it together before putting the pouch inside.
  4. Cut another small strip of brown t-shirt and cut a hole in the back of the pouch to fasten it to the lower belt (the other side of it fastened with the loop the burlap pouch already had, and the pouch itself covered the buckle).
  5. Cut the sleeves of the cream t-shirt into basically cap sleeves, and cut a long, thin triangle out of the neckline to create a small slit.
  6. Cut the sleeve off one of the brown t-shirts and wrapped it around my wrist twice to make the cuff. (Note: The only thing I have sewed to this point is the pouch — everything else is cutting and wrapping because hems are a pain and for knit fabric you can get away without them.)IMG_4706
  7. The next big endeavor was making the long cross-body wrap Rey wears. I cut three 12-inch wide, 6-foot long sections out of the tablecloth, sewed them into one long piece, and then ironed and hemmed the whole thing. (I later hand-sewed small ruches into the portions that sit on my shoulders to better reflect what Rey’s actual outfit looks like. If I was doing this over again and had more money, I would have bought several yards of a gauzier material to save myself the hassle of hemming and get a more authentic look.)
  8. The arm wraps were 4.5-inch wide, 6-foot long sections of the tablecloth, also ironed and hemmed.
  9. Originally I hadn’t planned on making her staff, but my stepdad found an old closet hanging rod in the garage that was the perfect height, so I spray-painted it grey before adding pieces of my brother’s lightsaber on with duct tape (super high tech, I know). I then cut the leftover sleeves from the cream shirt into long strips and wrapped them around the staff for the hand grips, and superglued the ends.
  10. The strap for the staff was made from six long strips cut from the second brown t-shirt. I glued two together at a time to make three even longer strips, braided it all, and tied it around the staff.IMG_4719
  11. My hair is curly, so I straightened it before putting it into Rey’s three buns — being sure to leave a few wisps out like she does.
  12. When actually putting the costume on, I used safety pins to fasten the long cross-body wrap to my shirt on both of my shoulders, as well as at the top and bottom of each arm wrap. And voilà!

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I ended up being most proud of the staff, and was stoked that my hair (mostly) behaved for the buns. It was fairly comfortable, and the only part that didn’t want to stay put were the arm wraps, which I re-wrapped a couple of times throughout the evening. Of course this could have been made more authentic to the film, but for the money and effort (I think it ended up being about 8 hours) I was willing to put in, I was really happy with the result.

Of course, thanks to my family for the help in putting it together, my best friend for helping me with hair and pictures, and my Grandma Peggy for teaching me most of my sewing skills. What is your favorite DIY project you’ve done? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy Halloween!

 

More than useless

I was going to put up a cool post on travel today (don’t worry, it’s coming later), but honestly I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Why? Because I’ve felt like a genuinely crappy adult this week.

Monday morning I found a spider in my sock and, being really afraid of spiders, totally freaked. A rock hit my windshield on the way back from work and cracked it, so that had to get replaced. I was looking through job openings and found an entry level position that I would be a pretty good fit for — except they want a minimum 10 years experience. A friend invited me to her wedding and I don’t know if I’ll be able to go. And frankly, getting out of bed has been difficult.

My life isn’t that bad. It isn’t even bad. I have no need to substantially fear for my safety or basic needs, I have a job and people who care about me. Of course there are silver linings. But that doesn’t make the clouds suddenly not grey.

I really, really wish I had a good response to this. In 5 days or 5 months or 5 years I might. But right now I just know that tomorrow is worth it, and that (as much as saying it makes me uncomfortable) I’m worth it. For the record, so are you.

When you feel overwhelmed or like you keep screwing up, or just completely and thoroughly meh, here is my list of things that help:

  • Drink water
  • Have a snack
  • Journal/pray
  • Take a shower
  • Write my way out
  • Tactile hobbies (coloring, cleaning, crocheting, etc.)
  • Tell someone I feel down — this gets it out of my head and out where I can understand it better
  • Go outside (walking is especially helpful)
  • Read a familiar book
  • Listen to music (I have playlists for this, but I highly recommend “More Than Useless” by Relient K)
  • Ask someone to sit close or for a hug
  • Watch a small bit of TV
  • Cook or bake something

Sometimes being an adult — or even being a human — sucks. If you’re stuck in a slump, try making your own list and using it to help make crappy days better. If it’s more than a slump and you’ve been feeling not yourself for several weeks or longer, consider talking to a mental health professional. A very significant thank you to my dear friend Kami for the list this is based on, and for reminding me to adjust it to what works best for me.

What have you found most helpful in getting through difficult stretches? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and remember that you’re probably better at this whole adulting thing than you feel.

It’s okay to like the cool thing

Confession time: I just this week listened to the Hamilton soundtrack all the way through. Heinous, I know. Late to the party, very. (In case you were wondering, I adored it and thought it completely lived up to the hype.) In my defense, I haven’t been entirely ignorant of it and at least got to it before those books that have been sitting on my “to-read” shelf since I was 16. I hadn’t been avoiding Hamilton because it’s so popular, but if I’m being completely honest it’s mass popularity wasn’t a motivator.

The alternative crowd — in all its various incarnations — has long spurned whatever’s popular simply for its popularity. Every age group has that crowd, but it seems to be a loud one among emerging adults (especially thanks to the hipsters). And there is some wisdom in that we should never like or do something just because it’s popular; lemming isn’t an attractive look on anybody.

But the hipster refrain that we shouldn’t like anything once it’s “cool” is tired, and honestly sucks the fun out of stuff. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean you should be hesitant to enjoy it, whether it’s entertainment, fashion, tech, or whatever. So order your pumpkin spice latte. Use your Snapchat filter. Admit that you love that one movie that has all the hype.

And then flip it around.

Just because something isn’t cool, doesn’t mean you should feel bad about enjoying it. I am a gigantic space nerd. Like, huge. The end of the Cassini probe made me tear up, I have spent 7+ hours in an observatory by myself, I follow NASA on all social media, and I can explain the aurora borealis in way more detail than you might expect for someone who didn’t study STEM.

The best part is it doesn’t matter whether it’s popular, because I love it. So your favorite band is super obscure and basically no one within a 300-mile radius has heard of them? Cool. So you do that unpopular hobby in your free time because it’s a good way for you to wind down? Awesome. Embrace the things that matter to you, especially if they make you (and hopefully the world around you) a better place.

What are some of your favorite things that you don’t talk about often? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. I hope this made you feel a little lighter today, and good luck adulting!