Archive of ‘Life & Home’ category

The Secret Ingredient Your Succulents Need

Succulent Care Tips

How do I keep succulents alive? Help, my succulent is dying! As a succulent garden hobbyist, I get asked questions like these a lot. My own interest in succulents began with one of my very first blog posts, and it intensified when I started my own succulent garden last year. I can’t stop sharing these beauties on Instagram!

Once you start growing succulents, it’s hard to stop! I just bought four tiny cuttings from a neighbor this week. But even though succulents are easy to grow, they aren’t foolproof. Do you have ailing succulents? It’s a myth that you can’t kill a succulent. In fact, it’s unfortunately much easier than you think.

I’ve killed them by underwatering and by overwatering. That’s the tricky part! So first, make sure the issue isn’t either of those things – this post has some advice on that. Sometimes they’ll perk right up with a little water — or try moving them to a sunnier location. If none of those things have helped, keep reading to find out how to fix the soil. It’s so disappointing when a beloved plant fails to thrive, so I want to help you reach succulent success.

Save your ailing succulents

When I was in Oregon for Thanksgiving, my entire family went to the Holiday Market, which is the Eugene Saturday Market that moves indoors for the winter. There are craft booths, music, food and a farmer’s market section. And just to show how popular this market is, I ran into a friend there who was in town visiting family. It’s not a small town, either. So as far as I can tell, the entire city of Eugene was attending the Saturday Market that day because 100% of the people I know in the city were there.

In the farmer’s market section is actually where I learned about this secret ingredient! A vendor was selling succulents and bags of ground up pumice for succulent soil. I bought a small amount of the pumice stone, and more succulents just because. Like I said, it’s hard to stop.

Keep succulents alive with one secret soil ingredient

I don’t know how I went this long without knowing about it, but it turns out that ground pumice is THE key to getting healthy succulents! The plants need well-draining soil, and 1/4 inch size pumice rock amends the soil in the ideal way. The common brand of succulent potting mix, Miracle Gro, does NOT include pumice. It’s also unlikely that pumice is in the soil when you buy a succulent from a store. If you have succulents that aren’t thriving, poor soil might be the culprit. So mix 1/2 pumice and 1/2 soil to make a mixture that your succulents will thrive in. If you want to keep your succulents alive and thriving, I can’t recommend this enough! After I ran out of the pumice from the farmer’s market, I bought a bag at my local garden shop. Of course, you can get it on Amazon either mixed into potting soil or on its own (these are affiliate links).

If you do add pumice to your succulents, do let me know if they perk up! I’ve noticed improvement in succulents within a week of adding pumice. This is an important ingredient to keep succulents alive and I hope it works for you too.

In Praise of Old Books

Appreciating the many uses for old books

I didn’t choose the old book life, the old book life chose me. It all started when I found a monthly community book fair that liquidates its leftover merchandise–for free. I love a good Little Free Library, and this was like a Big Free Library. So I checked it out. There were childrens books, novels, non-fiction, business books, art books, travel guides, even media like VHS tapes (which in case you were wondering, weren’t exactly flying off the shelves).

I gravitated to the shelves of old, vintage and antique books. I started collecting them not for the content (I haven’t even read one yet) but for their visual value. The leather covers, torn and stained. The imprinted letters of the titles and the rough, uneven cut of the discolored pages. Each book is one of a kind, not something that can be ordered on Amazon. Each copy of one of these books could be the last ever in existence, you never know.

So I have a generous collection now–some might say too generous. So here’s how I’m putting them to good use.

Decorate with antique books

These books can be used as a display item, on a mantle or coffee table. They’re more than just books–they’re a little piece of the past. Plus it makes you seem highly cultured to have some distinguished volumes on the shelf to balance out those copies of Bergdorf Blondes and The 4-Hour Body or even How to Build a Car. Not that those are real titles I just saw on the shelf or anything. Hm. Moving on, here are some displayed on the mantle above the fireplace. Right now, the heavy volumes are actually playing a nice role holding up Christmas stockings.

Antique books for event centerpieces

I coordinated a wedding this fall at the James J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul, and the couple used old books to create centerpieces! It went nicely with their Beauty and the Beast theme, with a little Chip teacup perched on top of the books!

Find old, vintage and antique books

In addition to used book sales, I’ve also seen older books pop up in Little Free Libraries from time to time. You just have to be in the right place at the right time. Most of these old books come from people’s personal collections, so hit up estate sales as well.

And of course, my all time favorite online shop for handmade and vintage goods, Etsy! (affiliatel link)

New Year’s Resolutions

Appreciating the decorative value of decades-old books has helped me with my goal of living more Eco-conciously this year. By rescuing these old books from going into the landfill, I also gained something that can’t be bought at the store. So if you’re looking for a sustainability-focused New Year’s Resolution, try this: This year, I will strive to use something already in existence instead of buying new. Even if it’s just once, it’s a fun thing to try.

Other New Year’s Resolutions to check out

I’ve linked up with some other websites to share more ideas for eco-centric New Year’s Resolutions.

Green Sustainable Resolutions

Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions

DIY New Years Resolutions

Zero Waste Home

16 Ways to Save Money Every Month 

12 Sustainable Goals for the New Year

Gnome for the Holidays

Gnome holiday decorGnome Holiday Decor

Hey Elf on the Shelf, you’ve been replaced. It’s all about gnomes now.

As I asked on twitter, how did gnomes suddenly become a Christmas thing? Do the elves know about this? Are they cool with it?

Not that I’m complaining. I love gnomes. I love gnomes so much that they were the topic of my first magazine (more on that backstory here). In Kindergarten when the teacher asked us to name a word starting with G, I said “gnome,” because it was my favorite word, but she wouldn’t accept it because it didn’t have a G sound and she didn’t want to confuse a classroom of kids who couldn’t read yet. I obviously never fully recovered from this incident, though it was great early preparation for having my work rejected and edited.

If you’re ready to embrace all things gnome, silent G included, here are my favorite ways to decorate with gnomes this season.

Gnome holiday sweaters

Gnomes are now an option for tacky Christmas sweaters–bonus points if it has a clever pun. 10/10 would wear this in public. I’ve bought not one but two gnome-themed holiday sweaters this year because gnomes are my spirit animal. Spirit animals plural? I really should get this grammar thing down. I’m a professional.

 

Gnome tree ornaments

These natural-material gnome ornaments would look so cute on any tree. This year I participated in my first ornament exchange with other alumnae from my sorority around the U.S. I didn’t include any gnome ornaments, but now I’m thinking maybe I should have.

Gnomes in the home

Need a holiday pillow? There’s a gnome item for that, too.

A gnome door

Repurpose fairy garden items from the spring to make a gnome door in your house to add to the magic.

Do gnomes belong in the festivities this year or is it strictly for elves? You decide!

A Mini Cheese Plate for Fall

Thanks to Babybel for sponsoring this post. Without tiny, tiny cheese wheels I would not have been inspired to make this whimsical cheese plate!

Fun fall snacking

I tweeted about cheese recently without thinking too much about it, and almost instantly it became one of my most-liked tweets ever. People really like cheese. And when it comes wrapped in wax like a miniature cheese wheel, it’s easy to like it even more. Babybel cheese even got its own Halloween costumes this year:

Make a miniature cheese plate

I thought about all the recipes I could create for this post. I thought about delicious pizza or a decadent sandwich melt. Then I remembered the night I was babysitting two toddlers, and I sliced their Babybel cheese into miniature cheese wedges. And I realized that I could NOT pass up the chance to share my miniature cheese tray with you!

Ingredients

Here’s what it includes:

Babybel cheese, sliced into wedges with a sharp knife

Small chips or crackers

Raspberries from the garden (they’re pretty small so they fit in well!)

The center of a Kale plant

If you don’t have all these things, feel free to improvise with whatever you can think of! Small cookies, grapes, baby carrots…so many possibilities. Isn’t it so cute?

For snacking and entertaining

Maybe you’re wondering what the point of a tiny cheese tray is! Well, it’s a fun snack for kids. It’s a fun snack for adults. If you add a bunch more cheese to the tray, it’s perfect to bring to parties. Cheese gives people something nutritious to snack on right away while they’re waiting for dinner to be served, so I’ve found it’s a fantastic party appetizer. It’s nice to have healthy snacks around at home and at parties during the holidays.

Check out these other amazingly cute snacking ideas to try with your cheese, too!

The individual rounds are perfect for grab-and-go snacks when you have a sports event or are packing a lunch! Who has time to slice a brick of cheese, anyway? One friend even says they taste good frozen, but I have yet to test this theory!

Find Babybel (100% cheese made with real milk) in the refrigerator section at Target, where there are deals this month! It comes in regular, light and more flavors.

Are you a cheese fan? Share your favorite cheese or cheesy food in the comments!


4 Simple Ways to Decorate with Squash and Gourds

Eco holiday decorating

Every year I seem to have a few more squash from the garden than I know what to do with! They end up inside as decorations, which is okay with me. After all, nothing says fall like a bowl of heirloom squash and petite gourds on the counter. It’s an eco-friendly and incredibly easy way to bring a little autumn to any house.

An easy to make fall centerpiece

One thing I love doing with squash is making a centerpiece, as seen above! You can add votive candles and pinecones if you wish, or just use the pretty fruit itself. Decorating, done.

A variation of that, below, is to set the fruit on some pine branches, eucalyptus or other greenery.

Painted pumpkins

This was a fun, easy DIY. Just add metallic paint and glitter to a small gourd for a little shine around the holidays. This will render it inedible though, so save your best pie pumpkins for glitter-free decorating.

Put a bow on it

I had this beautiful black watch plaid ribbon, which totally seemed like fall! So I tied it on the stem of a squash and a little decoration was born.

Outdoor fall decorating

Spruce up the front step with a little display of your squash crop. It’s seasonal, decorative, and totally eco-friendly.

Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite way to display fall’s garden harvest.

I originally published these photos on Midwest Living.

Check that site out for more fall decorating ideas and see what my fellow bloggers have planned for holiday decor, including:

Here’s how to have a minimalist Christmas

How to cure your own olives

Mason jar recipes

Holiday garden gifts

Make a holiday sign with scrap wood

 

 

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