Lessons from the Pretty Polka Dot Pink

The Polka Dot Plant. (Hypoestes phyllostachya)

As a general rule, I always suggest people do a quick google search about a plant before they buy it. That way you will know whether or not you can supply what the plant needs: proper lighting, space, etc. But of course occaaaaaaasionally, you just see a plant in the store and want to grab it and bring it home.

Such is the case with this hypoestes. I mean – you had me at pink, right?

After buying it, bringing it home, planting it…I then sat down to add it to my journal of plants that I own. I keep a journal of one-page notes on what each plant prefers for lighting, watering schedule, quirks and even historical data where interesting. I later add notes as a ‘best practices’ for what the plant didn’t like and how (or if) I remedied it.

So it wasn’t until everything was all said and done with this pretty pink plant that I read that one of the downfalls of the hypoestes is their short-lived life. (ugh! head thump!) After a polka dot plant flowers, it will go dormant and then die.

WHYYYYYYYYY?! Why did I bring home a plant with a short shelf life (one or two years max) just to fall in love with it and then have to let it go?!

Just my luck, I moaned, reading the snippet aloud to my husband – complete with a heavy sigh and dramatically rolled eyes!

However…if there’s one thing I have said repeatedly: Plants teach me things. I immediately felt myself detaching from this plant (‘Oh you’re not getting ME to love you! I know you’ll break my heart quicker than others!’) until my meditation practice gave me the old shoulder tap.

Isn’t the whole goal of a meditative practice to live in the now?! Aren’t we to let go of the past and realize we cannot control the future but we can focus, instead, on the here and now?? It seems like such a kitschy comparison but for some reason, it really settled into my thoughts. I’ve spent a few days living with this concept.

You see, I’m someone who finds a writing pen she likes and then buys a whole packet of them on Amazon for fear I’ll run out of the original one I bought and they’ll either be out of stock or – gasp! – no longer making them. I find a pair of jeans that fit perfectly and immediately go back to the store to buy two more. I like to know I have back-up. If you study the enneagram, I am a 5. Fives are constantly balancing their resources. Whether it’s the resource of time or sleep or favored Post-it notes. So a plant with brevity initially made me very uncomfortable.

Until I was reminded in the most circuitous of ways that I simply cannot guarantee any level of ‘resource reserve’ in life.

I breathe in for 6 counts. Hold my breath for 4 counts. Breathe out loudly for 6 counts. I feel the rise and fall of my stomach as breath fills my lungs, then rushes its way out of my mouth. Repeat.

Disappointments are inevitable. Excitement and expectations run furiously through our lives. Our hope is not just in the future. Hope can be found throughout our daily lives. The everyday-ness of living. We take advantage of things we love in the hopes that they will always be available to us. The thought of losing them is paralyzing. But we must bring our minds back to the joys right in front of us. They are plentiful and they are worthy of our appreciation.

I must empty my lungs in order to draw my next breath.

The depletion of one thing allows the new situation to emerge.

Life is a cyclical process. Be it a polka dot pink, an ancient Parisian cathedral, or a mom trying to get the PB&J made fast enough before her crew heads out the door.

Rest in resources unseen. There is Someone refilling our reserves daily, if only we’d stop to notice.

Sideways to Napa – part two

(continued from Part One)

If we saw nothing else but the  countryside along the way, the daytrip would have been worth it (two hours our house.) The grass is a brilliant, neon green right now.

The below picture is a blurry snapshot from the car window as we sped past. But with all the luscious grapes being grown, I’d pick the cactus any day over the eventual wine! 🙂

Working the steep hills with huge, brimmed hats on vs palatial homes sitting up above. It was an interesting contrast.

This bookstore was a dream. Copperfield’s Books. I left with a long list of books to add to my To Buy list. I’m so glad to be connected to Copperfield’s now.

Calistoga was more shop-friendly. Antique shops and knick-knacks. Nearby there is a geyser park and there are natural hot springs mineral spas all around this area of California. To recap: massages, spas, antiques, books and wine. It’s a total package!

I don’t know why but I fell head over heels in love with this adorable travel lodge. It was so cute and neat as a pin. Mid-century greatness. Calistoga Motor Lodge

Matching bicycles for the guests to get around town… So adorable.

Sometimes we feel very lucky when we accidentally fall into a good daytrip. And other times, it seems like God is directing our path… -ha!

Such a beautiful place for a wine tasting, no??

We happened upon Bale Grist Mill – a historic mill built in 1846 by Edward Turner Bale.

This fully restored water-powered grist mill still grinds grain.  Visitors can watch the original set of French Buhr millstones in action when the miller grinds grain into Bale Mill flours and meals. In the late 1800s, Napa Valley farmers brought their grain to the mill where it was placed into the boot of an elevator to be mechanically transported upstairs to be cleaned and sifted by various types of equipment – a technical wonder for the Pioneers. The slow turning of the old grind stones gives the fresh meal a special quality for making cornbread, yellowbread, shortening bread and spoon bread.

I was equally fascinated by the plants growing on the stone wall out front. If I’m not mistaken, I believe those are pilea growing out front (unless their nasturtium – but that’s not the bloom for a nasturtium.)

Notice the telephone pole below. Then the size of the pine tree next to it. Scott noticed it first – we definitely drove away from palm trees and into the huge, straight pines of the Pacific Northwest.

We took a different way home than the way we came (doubling our adventure.) The way home was perfectly encapsulated in the sign below. VERY curvy. Not dangerously, but it kept us on our toes as we wound down and up and down again, around the lake on the other side of the mountain, Lake Berryessa.

Each time we go through a rocky pass, I wish my daughter-in-law, Ryann, was in the car. She’s a geologist and could explain their formations.

What a day. What a day. What a day. We have gone south, west and north now. Our next destination is to go east to Lake Tahoe (we’re waiting for the snow to die down some first.) We have a lot of family coming at the end of May and that’s on the agenda – as is discovering new things at the spots we’ve already visited briefly.

There are ups and downs about being in a new area of the country. But the endless adventures and explorations are certainly a plus. We live in the middle of many different kinds of landscape and culture. Just like all the movies and lore that has gone before it, Napa Valley was a dream-like place filled with wealth and breath-taking scenery. It’s hard to believe some of these places truly exist.

Come visit us soon and we’ll go exploring again together!

Sideways to Napa – part one

It was definitely one of our weirdest decisions. The electrician came in the morning to look at an outlet that wasn’t working properly. We worked on some house projects then did a bit of clean up in the yard. Then – about 1pm we decided it was actually a really nice day for a drive. Where should we go?? How about Napa.

In the car. Google Maps engaged. To Do list left at home. And off we went…

It was a bit of an odd time to go to wine country. The vines haven’t really started growing yet. But because of that, it was interesting to see the old, gnarled trunks – and wonder how many years they have been producing fresh new vines and grapes for our eventual enjoyment.

We were headed to Calistoga, California. I read in my handy-dandy California guide book (that has post-it tabs sticking out all over it) that Calistoga is a quaint little town to visit. So that’s what we plugged into our GPS.

On our way to Calistoga, however, we saw a sign for a Visitor’s Center and wondered if it would give us any additional information. So Scott scooted over some highway lanes and exited…

…into HEAVEN!

We literally had no idea what exit we had pulled off on.

Yountville, California. First of all, for any fellow Chef Geeks out there, this is MECCA for fine dining. If you’re a fan of Chef’s Table on Netflix, you might recognize The French Laundry. Chef Thomas Keller is a renowned chef who has been named Best Chef in America and has two restaurants with 3-star Michelin ratings. (The only American chef with that distinction.) Plus his bakery has a 1-star rating.

I think we drove for quite a few blocks with my hand over my mouth, gasping. When we finally stopped and got out, I almost felt disrespectful taking a picture of this famous restaurant. Many renowned chefs have spent time here, learning under Chef Keller’s instruction then gone on to open their own fine dining restaurants. (Sidenote: after we got back home I googled to see if there were any prices online…knowing there most likely wouldn’t be. But I found multiple sites that simply stated that a meal for two would run no less than $300 a person.)

Full disclosure: one of the reasons I remember the restaurant from Chef’s Table is that I loved the font of the restaurant title. I guess I’m an even bigger Font Geek than a Chef Geek. -ha!

The sun was SOOOOOO high and bright so taking pictures was a challenge.

But speaking of cool fonts…how about this F O R T Y  F I V E  T E N?! And the amazing white wisteria!

It was fascinating to see sleek, modern wineries as well as old and elegant wineries, all mixed in together. Each were competing for wine tastings and ambiance. One after another after another.

This luxury hotel was jaw-dropping. Wide open art galleries, pristine waitstaff, elegance coming and going. Vintage House – and those black window trimmings…oh my heart.

The wisteria. The phlox. The cherry blossoms. The dogwoods. Everywhere in California – it’s simply been amazing to see spring on the west coast. It is impossible to describe the brilliance and magnitude.

Scott and I were fascinated with these two men…

The man and the baker carrying out bags of bagettes to his car. What’s the story?! I was so curious. Their difference in stature certainly stood out on the cozy sidewalks of this fascinating town.

We weren’t dressed properly for the $300/per meal (…and by ‘dressed correctly’ I mean a checkbook with $600 of disposable loot) but we did have the flakiest, butteriest, delicious’est Michelin-star croissant I’ve ever had at Bouchon Bakery.

Yountville wasn’t necessarily a ‘walk and shop’ type of town. It was filled with luxury everything: hotels, spas, wineries, restaurants. There was a Marketplace area we walked through with a few shops, chocolatiers, cigars and of course – wines.

If you look closely, you can see the bubble above Scott’s head as he counts zeros…

I liked this t-shirt…!

(Is this heaven?!) This side of heaven or the other side – I will be a Vespa owner.

This was a large courtyard that I’m sure is used for events and tastings.

Even the town’s fan-leaf palms didn’t dare have brown-tipped leaves (as are common in all other fan-leaf palms!)

The design of this hotel and spa took my breath away as we drove by on our way into town. As we walked by, we went over to read it’s history…….I shouldn’t have been surprised…

My old alma-mater: USGBC. To receive a LEED Platinum is very difficult. But to do it as a hotel is almost unheard of. It is very difficult for a business like a hotel to prove environmentally sound procedures. Think of the laundry and toiletries alone. So for Bardessono to have achieved the top LEED level is incredible. One of only two hotels in America to have been awarded a Platinum level. Impressive!

And right across the street was this old French Country Inn. Everything about it looked like a cottage tucked away in a the French countryside. Like I said, the old with the new. It was a heady combination and provided lots of visual stimulation overload.

Scott liked this sign in their window stating that in case of an earthquake, this building was not safe to be in.

But at least it’s not a Midwest tornado that we would have to go through this door to the basement. Yikes!

Yountville’s Town Hall…

There were tourists walking all over town – in their linens and flowy skirts. It was like being on a movie set. But along with the tourists were plenty of residents. People out walking their dogs and working in their yards.

Another constant throughout the city (due to the time that we were there…around 4:30pm) were wait staff. Men and women in starched black and white attire. They were getting out of their cars and heading into work. Most of the restaurants were only open for dinner so they were arriving to work to start a busy night. I would like to believe their tips are substantial.

After our jaw-dropping walk through Yountville, we went back to our car to keep driving to our original destination: Calastoga.

(on to the Part Two post…)

It’s a girl!

(I think.)

I’ve been watching the growth and birth of this ruffled-leaf Philodendron Selloum (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) leaf since I first saw its tiny presence on March 17. It took 22 days from my first video to my last time-lapsed video this evening.

Baby and Mama are doing fine. She’s registered at Bergdorf Goodman…

Now it’s time to fully open up and enjoy her new grand duchess life. I’m so proud!!!

Fun side note: I set up my iPhone on a pile of books I had nearby. It took a couple of hours to record the final progression out of her protective sheath. About halfway in I looked closer at the pile of books and realized (with the exception of a few good men) it was a bunch of strong-hearted women who were helping in this birthing process. Something they were fully used to doing – birthing and nurturing and working together to get the job done. Go, girls, go!!

It won’t take long now for her to look as strong and dark green as her playmates. Sometimes nature is just SO cool…

A Neighborly Hello

(This article contains company references but is not a sponsored post. I am a dedicated customer and paid for all products myself.)

My husband and I recently drove around our new neighborhood, admiring the California spring flowers in our neighbor’s yards. I continue to be absolutely amazed at the magnitude of many plants and the vibrancy of the colors.

I had my camera with me so Scott slowed down or stopped for me to get out and snap a few pictures.

The next day I had an idea:
I sent some of the pictures to Artifact Uprising to get some of their matte-finished, 4×4 prints of my neighbor’s flowers. Artifact Uprising prints are difficult to describe. The paper is almost cardboard-level thick and the photo finish has an artistic quality to it. I have used their prints for many special occasions and this seemed like a good reason to turn to their specific printing quality.

I was excited to receive the photos in the mail this week. I made white cardstock, folded cards to support the photos (which I had printed with a white border – you can opt to not have a border at all.)

I then wrote a quick handwritten note inside, thanking the various neighbors for ‘beautifying the neighborhood’. Scott and I drove the same route, collecting their mailing addresses. I stamped a Paper Source ‘HELLO’ onto the back flap (Paper Source is my favorite stamp maker and I adore their large-flap envelopes) and voila’!, a quick little note thanking our neighbors for their hard work.

Everyone likes for their hard work to be noticed. And can you imagine receiving a card in the mail with a picture of YOUR yard on the front?!

It was such a simple way to lightly introduce ourselves to some of our neighbors – and to do it in a way that makes them feel appreciated.

This process could easily be done with neighbors you already know. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want an unexpected pat on the back! Planning and executing a yard design is challenging and expensive and takes a great deal of patience and a bit of trial and error. I appreciate the time they put into making a beautiful spot of land.

And when you reeeeeeally want to say you care? Don’t forget the washi tape! 🙂

a rainy afternoon

I would love for the following pictures to look as if it was a reading and plant-playing kind of day, but in reality – it was a little nuts.

Our VERY indoor-only cat decided a group of young squirrels was just too much for her to tolerate, and dashed outside as I opened the door to go repot a new plant I’d just bought. She never shows any interest in going outside so we rarely pay much attention to our comings and goings. But today – she was feeling all sorts of courageous and out she went. Long story, short – she eventually made her way back home, cowering and dashing straight underneath the sofa.

All of this while my husband was at the dentist’s office getting a root canal. So you know – just a typical nutso day in the life. Just like everyone has. (Lesson: don’t be fooled by the pictures!)

I did eventually land in this chair for some female spy reading. So that’s always a good way to end a day!

Meanwhile, here are a few new plants to play nicely with the books. This Maranta leuconeura (prayer plant) is finding a nice spot in the afternoon sun in my reading corner. She seems to be a bit of a slacker, however, because she doesn’t do a lot of praying. Or at least unlike other prayer plant varieties I have had – she doesn’t close up as much as they did in the evenings.

That’s okay. I like having a bit of a rebel around.

One thing I’ve learned about prayer plants is that they are very picky about their water (a trait they share with their owner!) The fluoride in tap water can turn their leaf tips brown. I have a process now where I fill up some jugs of water a day or two ahead of my usual watering schedule to let it air out for a number of hours. A lot of the additives they put into tap water will evaporate out before I water my plants. It’s an extra step – but those beautiful leaves are well worth it!

I worried I’d lost my purple oxalis (shamrock plant) during our move to California. It was doing so well, then it started ‘dying back’ after we moved here. I tried her in a few different light situations, but nothing seemed to help. (Not even my ‘This is Your Last Chance’ speech I gave her.)

But about a month ago she started putting out new sprouts and is continuing to do so. She’s on the rebound from her dormant stage – something they go through every couple of years. She’s a good lesson on not giving up on people. (or plants!)

And how about this cutie?! She is a Sweetheart Valentine Waxplant (a Hoya kerri). I bought her online and hope she grows long and proud. I can’t wait to see where she first sprouts her next ‘heart’ leaf! I think she’ll also make a dramatic ‘before and after’ picture eventually. Send me all the hearts, I say!

And another cute little succulent I just couldn’t refuse. Worse than ‘that doggy in the window’ – all a succulent has to do is look plump and green and oh-so-tiny and I’m a sucker at their mercy.

I posted this new Pilea glauca the other day on my Instagram account. Her leaves are so delicate. Look cross-eyed at her and she’ll just start dropping leaves. But she’s thick and leggy and ready to do some major spilling this summer!

A Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica) and a ruffled leaf Philodendron selloum – always holding up the veteran army of houseplants around here.

What new plants or flowers have you acquired this spring? They make beautiful decor accents – but in reality, are living, breathing things – surrounding us with all the love and oxygen they can put out. Just the kind of roommates I enjoy. And never – not even once – have they tried to dash outside when I open up the door!

Get back up on the horse, g

It’s been far too long since I have played with paper and glue. It used to be such a huge part of my life, but for various reasons I have let it slip into zero drive.

Perhaps the biggest reason, is that the hobby was once at 100,000% GO, GO, GO! My task now is to find a happy medium. Enough to work out my creative need to play with patterns and textures – as well as memory keeping – but not so much as it takes over my world (and my wallet!)

Therefore, I have resolved to spend more time in ‘my room’ in 2019. Creating and playing for the sake of playing. This is the one room in the house that refuses to answer the question, ‘Is this too much?’ because everything goes. We can always edit later.

Scott and I have been on a few trips around our new state of California. And already I can tell the details are starting to get confusing. So I had the idea to make a California Adventures scrapbook album to document (in a simple and picture-heavy way) when we took the trip, what the take-aways were, etc.

This has been such a monumental move for us – so I want to remember all the new adventures and exploring that we do along the way.

Our first trek outside our home after the rigors of driving to California, scouring places to live, hotel living, finding a home, sending for our boxes, unloading, unpacking, rearranging….whew. We’d been locked to our house and it’s many needs for too long – we needed to get out and go explore.

As it so happened, a big apple festival was in a nearby town. Many people (real estate agents, etc) had told us about this festival in Placerville, California. On a bright, chilly, Fall day – we popped in the car and drove to the foothill mountains to experience it for ourselves. We were annual visitors to the Louisburg Apple Festival in Louisburg, Kansas – so this was our chance to grab some cider donuts and see a new part of the country. and a new apple festival.

I mentioned there were ‘reasons’ I had stopped scrapbooking and one of them was the well-known piece of equipment in papercrafting circles: The Silhouette.

Scott has encouraged me numerous times to buy this cutting machine. It does everything, it seems, and I can easily envision all the projects I could do with it.

But. But,,. There’s one very clear thing I know about myself. And each time I was on the precipice of investing in this $300 machine the little voice inside my head would remind me just HOW MUCH I DETEST details. I hate reading up about technology and reading manuals and………….I just never have trusted myself to invest in something that I know would eventually collect dust on the shelf and guilt in my heart.

I needed some leaves for the Apple Hill layout I was going to do. “Greta”, I said to myself. “You came up in scrapbooking in the 90’s. You are PERFECTLY capable to cut out leaves the good old fashioned way!”

I googled ‘printable leaf templates’. Printed them off. Used the high-tech gadget called Scotch tape and cut them out on the printed papers I had selected. Done and done. The whole thing cost a great deal less than $300.

(As a side note: I am not dissing The Silhouette. It’s an awesome machine. Just not one that I can justify with my own personality faults and tendencies.)

Black and white with splashes of Fall colors. What a win. I am still a big ol’ sucker for sewing on my scrapbook pages, so of course there was a little of that too. This is the ‘title page’ for this particular adventure in October 2018. The rest of the pages are just pocket pages filled with 4×6 pictures and some journaling explanations. Voila. Simple but with a little creative play as well.

I now need to catch up on a few more adventures (trips to Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Salinas and Monterey Beach.) I won’t get them all done before this weekend, but I’ve made a start – and that’s half the battle, right?

This weekend one of our Kansas City friends is coming for a quick visit. If the weather works in our favor, we are planning a daytrip to San Francisco with her as well as a trip to see the redwoods in Arnold, California.

Lots more adventures ahead! Come be a part of one!

g