Raising orchids, or not killing two of them

After more than a year, three perfect blooms!

It’s more satisfying to be surrounded by flowers than to be surrounded by a roomful of expensive things. Flowers give back in ways that tug at your heart and bring a smile to your face. Expensive things will only mirror the money you could have saved instead.

 
Orchids are among the flowers that melt my heart. I’ve always loved them from afar and admired them at florist shops but never bought any. They are inspiring to look at; I’ve even painted them. They’re also quite expensive and rumor always has it, they are very difficult to maintain and keep happy.
 
A year ago, near Christmas time, Home Depot was selling a few orchids that were practically dead for only $4. That’s very cheap for an orchid. Since they were on their death-bed anyway, I felt confident that it could only go uphill. So I bought two.
 
Neither had any flowers, just their naked stems. I had no idea what they would look like! I also didn’t have the first clue about orchid care. They live in small wood chips, not dirt. They don’t really have roots and according to their tag, they only eat two ice cubes a week. So I started quizzing people who were buying orchids about how they keep theirs alive and also googled variations of “orchid care” until I felt a bit more confident.
 
Generally I kill house plants. This fact concerned me about venturing into orchid rearing. I closely followed the directions I found: I trimmed them just above their nodes (encourages more flowers), watered them with special orchid food (they like acidic food) and put them near a window – but not direct sun, they don’t like that. I felt weird feeding them ice cubes, but did anyway. I watched and observed them and nothing happened. But their long leaves stayed healthy and a darkish green, so in spite of occasionally forgetting to water them, they were happy! Then finally, one started to bud!
 
They were relocated to a south-facing window sill and watched like a hawk. I became very concerned with consistently watering them because there were buds! After a YEAR they were FINALLY starting to bud! I couldn’t wait to see what color they would be! About a week ago before work (that’s the first of their daily scrutiny) one bud looked quite poofy so I knew that it was only a matter of time. After work (the second time) I went and checked on it and it had bloomed!!! I was very excited. This little guy took more than a year to produce a perfect white bloom with a touch of buttery yellow. Now there are three blooms and several other buds.
 
As for my other orchid, he was in worse shape when I bought him. The stems were completely dried up and dead so I had to cut them at the base (I think that was the thing to do). Progress with that one is steady though, there are quite a few new stems starting to shoot upwards. I will remain patient for him.
 
Things I’ve learned about raising orchids is they’re not nearly as difficult as I thought they would be. I no longer water them with ice cubes. They also like to have a fan on them at night, lucky for them, so do I. They require their caregiver to possess a good deal of patience because these little blooms take at least six months to bloom again. I think if they hadn’t been practically dead when I rescued them, they would have bloomed sooner. Next time!
 
Interesting: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/09/orchids/pollan-text would you consider orchids to be deceptive to get what they want or “nature’s version of the inflatable love doll?”

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Valentine’s Day Today, Half Off Heart Candy Tomorrow

Valentine’s Day!

Finally, they've improved the taste of the heart candies!

A day for me to wear obnoxious amounts of red and pink in the name of being festive. It’s a day of unchecked chocolate consumption. A day for excessively expensive jewelry and discounted flowers at Meijer. Forget the roses – look at all the other pretty bouquets! Oh yeah, and for those who have a significant other, it’s also a day of exchanging sweet sentiments.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to all of the coupled-up types – I hope you thought of something more creative than a restaurant tonight. And a Happy Valentine’s Day to all my fellow singles. : )

A Valentine for you!

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Chicago, Good Food and Fancy Olive Oil

This weekend found me wandering through Chicago with my friend, Jen. Such a wonderful little winter escape, and it wasn’t even cold enough to break out the long underwear under our jeans!

Jen and I both like good food and restaurants but after a few failed attempts at securing a reservation later than 5 p.m., we left our dinner fate in the hands of the concierge at our hotel, the Wyndham. So a seafood restaurant it was! My favorite! We ate at Devon Seafood Grill. Who knew such amazing sea scallops and lobsters could be served in this part of the U.S.?! I would love to find a restaurant like that in the Metro Detroit area.

Good food and new things are probably one of my favorite things about traveling. I would love to eat my way around the world. I definitely would have to bring my running shoes or make sure my trips involved a lot of walking to avoid transforming myself into a giant blob.

As Jen and I browsed through the shops along Michigan Avenue we happened upon this wonderful little store called Ta-Ze. Ta-Ze sold only olive oils, vinegars and olives. We went inside.

Olive oils are not created equal. Although this I already knew. In Europe, I was in love with the different olive oils the nicer restaurants had. Some were so light and almost fruity while others were heavier with a nutty taste. The flavors were wonderful. The man working at Ta-Ze was of course an expert and so an olive oil lesson and tasting began!

Olive Oil

Made from hand-picked Turkish olives. I wonder how long this will last me...

In the end, I chose a medium-flavored olive oil with a $30 price tag. Completely worth it. Usually I am one of those sale shopper types, but there are some things I will splurge on. High quality ingredients are one of them. My little delicious blend was probably mid-range for price, there were some for much more. One day those will be mine!

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The Storm Before the Move: Sorting, Packing, Not Crying in a Corner

In less than one month I will be moving. In less than one month all of my things need to be sorted, downsized and then finally, packed. All this before the act of moving can begin. So what this means, (although not sure why I didn’t realize this sooner) is that moving starts waaaay before the last box has been loaded.
 
Perched at edge of my move, I’m starting to seriously reevaluate what I had previously considered to be the difficult parts of moving. I can’t give a fully informed report on this matter since I have yet to actually move my things to a new location, but will go ahead and prematurely say that preparing to move is the most difficult part. In fact, I would venture to say that it’s quickly proving to be the most challenging task I’ve tried to chip away at. And chip, and chip… It has included going through the stuff I have accumulated and then making those hard decisions: keep it? get rid of it? Each choice carefully weighed for far too long until something that feels like dread swallows me up until all I can do is stare out the window. 
 
I haven’t asked for help…yet. But so far, I’ve managed to soldier on, one tote at a time. It’s actually quite impressive that I’ve been able to shed so much. Also impressive is how much I’ve been able to shed and STILL I have so much. My new place isn’t that big so I have no choice but to get rid of things and you know what, it’s a nice feeling. It’s nice to not be weighted down by stuff. My goal is me minus half of everything I own. I began to mobilize in November, which back then still meant months and months of time…weird how that gap can shrink so quickly…
 
But I have tips! Yes – me! Weird, I know, but it seems weirder to not include some type of wisdom in a post like this. My tips are in step format, maybe that’s weirder?
 
Step One
Ok, so it starts with really taking a hard look at all the junk you have and how it just sits in the basement, or where ever your junk sits. Your first thought will be, why do I still have all this/how did I get so much. Well I will tell you, since it’s in the basement where you never see it, you forget you have all the notebooks from every single college class you ever took, and the corresponding worksheets – oh what’s this – why it’s the matching text book! But WHY?!?!? Because after the semester you put them in a “to sort” box and then nearly a decade went by… This scenario can be used for just about everything. But why still have it…well, for me, I thought about going through all those mystery boxes a bunch of times, but there’s always something more pressing to accomplish… I mean come on, if it’s not hurting anyone or anything on a shelf, then why do anything with it? Until you have to do something with it. And now it’s manifesting as some kind of basement-dwelling monster.
 
Step Two
So with the problem clearly identified and shame of unchecked accumulation subsided, a deadline needs to be set. That’s the method that has worked for me because my jobs have always had deadlines. So it seemed like a good idea to impose a deadline on myself.
 
Step Three
Here’s the part that involves actually doing something. I set my mind on going through one box/tote/shelf at a time. Starting small and the amazing part about that is one often turns into three or four. My favorite accomplishment is paring down three totes into just one!
 
So that’s pretty much all I’ve got, and I’d say that it’s basically common sense; it’s better to break a big job into manageable bites!  
 
Next up: serious packing. Eek.
 
basement junk

So here is an example of what can't go with me when I move, which means I need to get rid of it. Yes, that's an upside down saddle. No, the trophies are not mine - they are my brother's - who has moved and seemed to have "forgot" some stuff ; )

 
 
 

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Year of the Rabbit

Xin nian kuai le!
 
My friend Lisa is living in Shanghai right now and said the celebration was quite the experience. Lots of fireworks yesterday and today. She said the roads were filled ankle-deep with firework debris. It sounds like a lot of colorful fun. Who doesn’t love fireworks and carrying on!?

This is my favorite Year of the Rabbit poster. Not sure what it says though and even if my computer supported Chinese characters, you can't really copy and paste from a picture...

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Blizzards, Groundhogs and Nonsensical Weather Reporters

Shovel time

Clearing snow, being silly, it's been a nice day : )

I’m feeling skeptic. I think weather reporters have an ulterior goal, and that’s to drum-up an irrational dose of fear.

This isn’t the first time local weather reports detailed frantic predictions of certain death-by-snow. If I hear the term “snowmageddon” one more time, you will see my violent side. Just an FYI. Anyway, an end of the world blizzard was supposed to begin yesterday at 7 p.m. and continue blizzarding until 7 p.m. today. Twelve inches AT LEAST were promised.

Meijer, and every other grocery store for that matter, were packed for the last two days as people prepared to be trapped in their homes, where burning of the furniture would inevitably be required to stay alive.

While some prepared in fear, I waited with glee at the edge of my seat. I love winter. I love snow. And I haven’t had a good blizzard in a long, long time.

To shorten this story, I will fast forward to this morning when I woke up to a snowy morning. But there wasn’t 12 inches. Maybe six. I mean, it was good, but it wasn’t exactly what the news reporters had been hysterically reporting for the past two days. 

Which brings me to my point, weather reporters need to tone it down. My first-ever post on here was weather-related and back then, over the summer, the reporters told us we would all die from a treacherous thunderstorm. Yeah, I know, I’m exaggerating (a little). But is it responsible reporting to stir up an entire population for the sake of ratings? I think not.

Meanwhile, in Punxsutawney, Penn. a groundhog named Phil saw his shadow. I completely forgot about Groundhog Day until I looked at my calendar this evening. According to Phil, who didn’t see his shadow, we will have an early spring!!

In the last 123 years (nine of which weren’t documented) the groundhog, which is also a woodchuck, failed to see his shadow only 16 times. According to this very legitimate-seeming website http://www.stormfax.com/ghogday.htm Phil has been accurate 39 percent of the time with his shadow/no shadow predictions.

At any rate, it was nice to stay home and catch up on doing nothing all day. I did watch a lot of news, a lot of the Egypt uprising coverage…interesting times, I can’t seem to take my eyes off the coverage.

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Why Type What You Can Write

My writing

Here are some photos from the cities.

Park in Warsaw

Ujazdowski Park, Warsaw

Warsaw

A different vantage of Warsaw

Warsaw building

A little eery at night

Streets

Gamla stan, Stockholm

Water

Icy Baltic

waterway

Stockholm does a good job of looking like a postcard

Skaters
View of the ice skaters from Stallmästaregården Restaurang

There are so many more and I would love to show them all, but this will be the last post about my trip. I mean, I may revisit, but for now, it’s getting a rest. I could easily write about it all day, but I don’t want to be boring to anyone! So on to new topics : )

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