Intimations of spring

Year-old orchid rebloomed this week
My year-old orchid, recently reblooming, recently alluded to.

Pre-spring thoughts:

  • This morning over breakfast, I made a list in a notebook of behavioral improvements for the dogs. Eden’s list is notably longer than Pyrrha’s. But Eden has far less emotional and psychological baggage. So, we’ll see how this goes.
  • My hair has gotten very long, and I am interested in lobbing it off. A lot of it, anyway. Curly-headed women have somewhat limited options with haircuts, which I patiently acknowledge, but I am itching for a change, along with the weather.
  • I am reading Gogol’s Dead Souls for the first time and I am so delighted to rediscover how deeply funny he is. His pitch-perfect social sarcasm is thrilling to me.
  • I dreamed last night that I had a baby in a bassinet by my bedside and I kept having to wake up to tend to it. As I did, I was humming a song with the chorus, Motherhood is especially unfair, motherhood is especially unfair… This is perhaps one of the most presciently and grimly realistic dreams I’ve ever had. (Not to mention how plainly revealing of my current lack of desire to procreate.)
  • I watch the iris shoots in the front yard with bated breath, desperately hoping for resurrection. They make me feel like I should reread Louise Glück.
  • It is a blessing to live in a town like this. And also to have found Guion when I did.

And a quote, to kick off the weekend:

Can’t anything be innate? he wanted to know, objecting to my probing into his childhood yet again. Does everything have to be an exfoliation from the minutiae of our miserable childhoods? I happen to love silence, he said. Why do we have to be swamped in narrative? Our lives are consumed in narrative. We daydream and it’s narrative. We fall asleep and dream and more narrative! Every human being we encounter has a story to tell us. So what did I think was so wrong with the pursuit of some occasional surcease of narrative?

Mating, Norman Rush

On feeding the houseplant fever

And how I learned to stop fearing and murdering houseplants.

Orchid no. 4. Birthday gift from @montgomeryjewelry! #inlove #houseplantfever
Orchid no. 4. Gift from Tara and Andrew.

My obsessions come and go and stick with me in various, minute forms. My most enduring obsessions are dogs, and as of last year, plants — specifically houseplants. (As a genetic side note, I inherited my love of dogs from my father, and my love of plants from my mother.)

I killed — either by neglect or by over-attention — every houseplant I had in the first two years of our marriage. Including a spider plant that my boss gave me, with the caveat, “Not even you could kill this plant.” But I did. I was quick to term myself as a person with a brown and/or black thumb.

The maidenhair lives. Miraculously. #houseplantfever
My most finicky plant: The Maidenhair. She will wilt if you even look at her funny.

But then I decided I should actually start learning and caring about these living things, and so I did what I always do: Read all the books! I read every book our public library had on houseplants, and, imagine that, some extra knowledge helped. I am killing far fewer, and I daresay some plants are even thriving under my amateurish attentions.

My plant obsession continues to nearly untenable levels. (I started a houseplant inspiration board on Pinterest. Yes. Oh, my, yes.) Thankfully, some of the plant fever is spreading outdoors. Guion takes care of the practical plants (e.g., vegetables, herbs, hops, fruit trees), and I have taken charge of the ornamental plants (landscaping the front yard, choosing plants). It is a good system.

The main things I’ve learned about houseplants

  1. Get to know the conditions of your home. If you have a very dry home, look for arid-loving plants, e.g., succulents. If you have a humid home, look for ferns and tropical plants. If you’re somewhere in between, like most of us, find those versatile, hard-to-kill specimens that seem to thrive anywhere.
  2. Learn about light. Plants want light in various forms; get to know your plant and what it likes, and get to know your home and what kind of light it offers throughout the day.
  3. Plants die for two reasons, generally: (1) too much or too little light, or (2) too much or too little water. If your plant looks sad, it is probably a light or water situation, or both.
  4. Stay on a schedule. I water (almost) all of my plants on Sunday morning. This, more than anything else, has kept me from killing. Without a consistent watering schedule, I am liable to forget when I watered last, and either overcompensate with water or let the plant dry out and suffer from neglect.

Recent acquisitions

I used all of my birthday money on plant-related things. Gran gave me a gift card to Etsy, and I bought this beautiful handmade ceramic hanging planter. I spent an absurd sum at Fifth Season, my houseplant oasis. (Local people: If you are feeling stressed about your life, just go walk around Fifth Season. You will feel better when you leave. And you will probably leave with a plant.)

Plants recently added to the family:

Oh, yeah. And I jumped on the fiddle leaf bandwagon. #houseplantfever
Jumped on the fiddle leaf fig bandwagon.
New houseplants (pothos)
Pothos, to be hung in our bedroom.
New houseplants (million hearts)
Million hearts plant, to be hung in the living room.
New houseplants (jade plants)
Two jade plants for the kitchen table.
New houseplants (haworthia)
Haworthia for my studio.
New houseplants
Succulent for the living room.
New houseplants (English ivy)
English ivy in a basement window.
New houseplants (fittonia)
Fittonia (aka nerve or mosaic plant) in windowsill.
New houseplants
Plants to be hung, along with Guion’s seedlings.

And Windy gave me a magnificent birds’ nest fern (Asplenium nidus) for my birthday, which I haven’t had a chance to photograph yet. So, yes. I think I have reached my limit. For now…

Fifth Season = personal plant heaven. #charlottesville #fifthseason
Bonsai section at Fifth Season.

Heads up: I think bonsai trees are going to be my next obsession. Just wanted to declare that to the world.

Thankful for

Today I am thankful for…
Orchid re-blooms. #orchidpride #houseplantfever

  • Orchid no. 2 re-blooming.

So seductive. #ediebaby #germanshepherd

  • This dog, who makes me laugh.

Date night

  • Date nights with Guion.
  • The fact that English is not a gendered (e.g., romance) language. This makes it a lot easier to be simultaneously politically and grammatically correct.
  • Time to revisit Virginia Woolf (currently re-reading A Haunted House, a tiny collection of short stories).
  • Family group texts.
  • All the money my parents put into my teeth, so that I wouldn’t have to have the smile I was born with, which would have resembled that of a medieval kitchen wench from the British Isles.
  • Weekends with weather that resembles late spring.
  • A kitchen that is a joy (instead of a biohazard) to keep clean.
  • Electric kettles.
  • My calligraphy studio. Such peace in my Room of My Own.
  • Wearing a skirt without heavy tights.
  • Friends who still ask me to do things with them, even though I’ve been neglectful of them for months.
  • How sassy Jesus is in the Gospels.
  • A pen pal who got surprise-married in the snow.
  • Men who identify as feminists.
  • This weird organic face serum (mostly water, aloe vera, and coconut oil) that has made my skin look clearer and better than it has in years.
  • America. No, really, I am.
  • Seeing that your dog (in this case, Pyrrha) loves you for more than just being the Giver of Food.
  • Tea.
  • A great university education.
  • Our church.

What are you thankful for today?

No faith in your own language

Irrationally proud of myself for coaxing this #orchid to re-bloom.
Orchid No. 2 is about to bloom again!

Sunset
Louise Glück

My great happiness
is the sound your voice makes
calling to me even in despair; my sorrow
that I cannot answer you
in speech you accept as mine.

You have no faith in your own language,
So you invest
authority in signs
you cannot read with any accuracy.

And yet your voice reaches me always.
And I answer constantly,
my anger passing
as winter passes. My tenderness
should be apparent to you
in the breeze of the summer evening
and in the words that become
your own response.

I think this poem is about God, but sometimes I think it is about marriage too.

We’ve been married for three-and-a-half years now. Sometimes we don’t listen to each other. Sometimes we forget to pray. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and assess how the other one is genuinely doing. Three-and-a-half years is comparative blip of time, a twitch of an eyelid. Sometimes it feels like ages; sometimes it feels like we’ve only been married for a few days.

We like to ask each other questions at dinner. What kind of restaurant would you be the proprietor of? If you had to spend an entire week with a relative (excepting immediate family), who would it be? What high school friend do you wish you were still in touch with? If you could have any artist write a review of your masterpiece, who would it be and what would they say?

And we listen to each other’s answers, our eyes open, surprised by this person sitting in front of us.

The fermentation master is back in the game. #coldmuch #kombuchaforeveryone
Starting kombucha again.

Lately, I’ve been waking up in the middle of dreams. It is a disorienting experience, and one of the consequences is that the half-finished dream sticks with me throughout the day. Today, for instance, I can’t stop thinking about how Kelsey is going to get all of that molten silver out of her hair, and why it is that Rebecca, my BFF from elementary and middle school, decided to marry a morbidly obese man simply because he wrote her a letter on a piece of yellow notebook paper. When conscious, I had to remind myself, “Kelsey’s hair is OK. Rebecca is already married.” But part of me still thinks that reality is awry.

My fleeting obsessions* in 2013:

  • Ballet
  • Houseplants
  • Fashion
  • Interior design
  • Real estate

(*I define “obsessions” as topics that are suddenly deeply fascinating to me. I then go and read armfuls of books on the subject at the public library and start consuming blogs and websites on said topic, until it eventually ceases to hold my interest. The only two obsessions that have never failed to captivate me are reading and animals, specifically dogs. For the rest of my life, I will be obsessed with books and dogs.)

I wish my obsessions would trend toward more useful things, like personal finance, basic math, the tax code, or local politics. But, alas. I am only interested in the inconsequential.

I’d like to see myself get back into foreign languages, personally. I only practice a little Japanese during my weekly meeting at work, in which I take notes in a mix of hiragana and bad kanji. (I’ve forgotten so much. Gomenasai, sensei.) I’d like to refresh Japanese and take Level I French. I think I’m ruined for other languages, though. I once tried to speak a line of French in front of a French person, and she said, “Hm. Weirdly, your French has an… Asian accent.”

As an extension of one of my 2013 obsessions, I think I’d also like to get obsessed with bonsai.

What do you think I should be obsessed with in 2014?

For Courtney, because she asked.

Oh, hi

These just bloomed
Little mystery flowers in the backyard.

Apparently I forgot about this blog.

I’ve been so absorbed with real life — and the very serious, very important work of dog blogging — that I seem to have lost interest in this little space. I may wander back from time to time.

General Life Updates

  • We have to move out of our weird, happy, little farmhouse–hovel, as the landlords (who really are wonderful humans, let it be said) are putting it on the market. This is very sad, but it might also be very promising, because now we’re thinking about buying a house of our own. Pray for us. We have no idea what we’re doing.
  • Guion got a job!
  • I’ve had this stupid, lingering cold for a week now, which made me miss out on the family camping expedition.
  • We’re taking a hiatus from fostering dogs, because the housing situation is up in the air. This makes me sad, but not as sad as it makes Pyrrha, who really misses having a live-in playmate. I think she’s fundamentally bored with just the two of us humans.
  • I’m re-reading The Sound and the Fury, and guys, I am loving fiction again, after being rather immune to its powers for months and months (thanks a lot, David Foster Wallace; you broke me). I have also learned the secret to Faulkner: SLOW DOWN. To a snail’s pace. And then you shall love him.
  • I’m throwing out most colors in my wardrobe.
  • So OVER the government.

What’s new with you?

Orchid is still blooming
Orchid, still going strong.

Houseplant explosion

So, I went a little crazy with houseplants this weekend. I kind of went wild at Fifth Season. Here are the recent acquisitions:

Snake plant
Snake plant.

SNAKE PLANT
Sansevieria trifasciata

When I read that the snake plant (aka mother-in-law’s tongue) is a virtually indestructible organism, I put it first on my list. Apparently, this striking dude can live with little light and infrequent watering. It also shouldn’t be repotted for at least two to three years. One care guide I read said the most important thing to remember with snake plants is restraint; overwatering will kill it faster than anything else. Here’s to hoping that it will live forever! (I also really love the orange ombre pot I found for it at Fifth Season.)

Golden spike moss
Golden spike moss.

GOLDEN SPIKE MOSS
Selaginella kraussiana “aurea”

I wasn’t planning on acquiring this little guy, but he was so light and green and fresh-looking. Mosses like humidity, of which our little house has plenty, so I hope he will thrive on the console table. Mosses also tend to do well in shallow containers, and we have these beautiful aqua bowls (which Guion finds impractical) that serve the purpose perfectly.

Arboricola luseane
Luseane arboricola (schefflera).

LUSEANE ARBORICOLA (SCHEFFLERA)

Also known as an umbrella plant, this guy is in the schefflera family and is most popular among bonsai enthusiasts. It is apparently easy to grow and doesn’t have many finicky requirements to grow. I have it sitting on top of our wardrobe in our bedroom. I want to keep an eye on this one, however, for fear that it may not get enough light throughout the day.

Succulent
Succulent in studio.
Succulent trio
Succulent trio on table.
Succulent close up
Succulent.

SUCCULENTS

I really love succulents. They always look so healthy and happy to me. I kept a few alive for a while last year, but then I neglected them and they shriveled up. So, they aren’t entirely no-maintenance plants. Again, overwatering is a great sin. I am a little concerned about drainage for these dudes and may need to repot the larger one in the bowl, for fear that there aren’t enough small rocks in there.

Thanks to the instructions from this great website on succulents, I am also attempting to propagate succulents from leaf cuttings.

First attempt at succulent propagation
First attempt to propagate succulents.

Looking forward to seeing if this will be successful!

Lemon tree
Meyer lemon tree. (We have since bought a proper stand for it, which will allow for drainage.)

MEYER LEMON TREE
Citrus × meyeri

I have been wanting a lemon tree for a while, and we finally decided to get on. The lemon tree will reside in the living room, where I believe it will get a nice amount of bright light (without being too hot or direct). I still need to read more about how to encourage them to propagate and how to handle the blooms, but I am particularly looking forward to nurturing this guy. Have you ever tried to grow citrus indoors?

Orchid (phal)
Moth orchid.
Orchid closeup
Moth orchid.

MOTH ORCHID
Phalaenopsis

I have always loved orchids; I can rarely pass them up. I got this spotted beauty from Trader Joe’s actually. Orchids are one of the few plants I have had success with in the past. Granddad once gave me one that I was able to keep a live for a year and get to rebloom. It died after the second blooming, but I am hoping to try my luck again. The orchid lives in the bathroom, because of its great love for humidity.

Geranium and seedlings
Citronella geranium and Guion’s seedlings.
Citronella geranium
Citronella geranium.

CITRONELLA GERANIUM
Citrosa geranium

I was suckered into buying this citronella-scented geranium, which fits nicely on the table in the sunroom. I also love how very difficult it is to kill geraniums. I have kept them alive, with very little attention, for months at a time.

So. Now. Let the research begin! I have a lot to learn about indoor gardening and houseplant propagation.

Monday Snax

Mallory walking down the aisle. Didn't she look exquisite?
Us!

This weekend, we enjoyed the beautiful wedding of our friends Michael and Mallory, who tied the knot at James Monroe’s gorgeous estate, Ash Lawn-Highland. Photos on Flickr! Warmest congratulations to Michael and Mallory!

Snax with an enormous wedge of watermelon:

God Caught Backing Multiple GOP Candidates for President. Haha. God needs to make up His mind; it’s getting confusing. (Daily Intel)

The Hyena and Other Men. These photos are mind-blowing. Photographer Pieter Hugo became interested in a group of Nigerian men who capture hyenas and then keep muzzled on huge chains. Why? Not really sure. My best guess is because these animals are TERRIFYING to look at. These photos are astonishing. I also recently learned that hyenas are not from the canid family; rather, they are more closely related to cats. So bizarre. (Pieter Hugo)

Whales Have Regional Dialects. Yet another reason to be totally in love with whales, especially the idea of whales. (Broken Secrets)

DIY Wedding Hair: Chestnut Bun. I don’t know if this would work with curly hair, but I’m inclined to try it. (A Cup of Jo)

Flowers A-Z: O Is for Orchid. I love orchids so much. They’re the only plant that I seem able to keep alive for an extended period of time. I’m inspired to buy another one from the Charlottesville farmers’ market to put in our bathroom. (Design Sponge)

Interview with Christiane Lemieux about Her Book Undecorate. I really like the idea of this book. I would really like to have it on our coffee table. (Bloesem)

A Tribute to N&O Copy Editors and Page Designers. The Raleigh newspaper, the News and Observer, closed its local copy desk this past week. A sad day in journalism. (The Editor’s Desk)

Bundle of Joy. A+ on the execution, fellas. (Young Me, Now Me)

Forest Spirit. Moss-covered trees are always so enchanting and eerie. (The Lighthouse Keeper)