Practicing Patience With Water Propagation

Increase your plant fold for FREE with a bit of time and a pair of scissors

Proof of what a little time and patience can produce.

The only thing more satisfying than buying a new plant is getting a new plant for free. Now there are probably a lot of interesting ways you can get your hands on a free plant, but the easiest way to do so just involves a pair of scissors, water, a glass container, one of your favorite plants and time. Yep, we’re talking about propagation, aka increasing your plant fold using parts of — you guessed it — your plants! While I’m by no means an expert, this post focuses on the tips and tricks I’ve found successful using this method. 

Cuttings pictured are at various growing stages, some started over a year ago.

Although water is just one form propagation, it’s probably the most recommended due to its relative ease and low costs, making it an accessible project for green thumbs of all levels. It’s also one of the better ways to monitor the progress of your growing plant thanks to visible roots peaking through glass containers, or the ability to pull the plant from its receptacle. The main caveat for this method (and propagation in general) is that you’ll need to have some patience. Some plants may start rooting within a few days, while others may take months before you see any signs of growth. There are ways to speed up the process, which we’ll get into in a bit, but even those have their limitations.

Propagating Steps

The plant

To start your propagation project, the first thing you need is an understanding of where to cut your plant. You are looking for plant nodes, which are pimple-like bump that protrude from a plant’s stem. These bumps are pivotal areas where roots, stems and leaves grow out from, and without them, your plant might grow roots, but it won’t sprout new leaves.

Cuts should be made just below the node, and can be found throughout the stem of your plant. The ideal piece should have a good-sized amount of the stem, and remove any leaves that fall below the water line to prevent them from rotting. 



The receptacle

Although glass is preferred, the occasional thick plastic bottle is also a strong option for propagation.

From my personal experience, I’ve found that glass is the way to go for a propagation project. The transparency of a glass bottle, cup or jar allows you to see the progress of the growing roots. Glass also tends to be more durable over time, unlike plastic which can be easily susceptible to cracks and breaks, meaning you can reuse it after your propagation has outgrown it. My favorite glass options are former sparkling water bottles, mason jars, the occasional beer glass thrift store find or repurposing glass candle holders. 

The water  

Depending on where you live, it is highly recommended to use either filtered or distilled water versus tap water. Well water is also a viable option, if you happen to have access to it. Tap water tends to be filled with sediments and various chemicals used for purification that can be too harsh for plants, so it’s best to avoid it.

Regularly change water to ensure that roots are kept fresh.

(Pro tip: Collect rain water if you can. Your plants will love you for it.)

The rooting powder

This is one of the best ways to ensure propagating success. Rooting powder is a relatively inexpensive way to jump start your plant’s growth, and it can be found at most hardware store or plant nurseries. After cutting your section of plant, you simply coat the tip of the plant node with the powder before submerging it in water. While I highly recommend rooting powder for the best possible results, it is not a necessity, as plants are still able to produce roots in water without it.

Cuts should be made just below the node, and can be found throughout the stem of your plant. The ideal piece should have a good-sized amount of the stem, and remove any leaves that fall below the water line to prevent them from rotting. 

All three Monstera Deliciosa plants pictured came from the same mother plant (right).

The patience

The last step in plant propagation is simply patience. Roots can begin to sprout anywhere from a few days to a few months depending on the plant and the growing conditions of your particular microclimate. This means that everything from the season, the amount of sunlight to the level of humidity in your living space can affect how your plant grows. Even though propagating plants takes an indeterminate amount of time, it is the waiting that ultimately makes it so worthwhile. In a world where we’re all so consumed with instant gratification, opportunities that allow us to slow down and actually enjoy the journey are to be cherished. 

Seeing the first signs of new growth is one of the most rewarding parts of propagating.

While propagation itself is relatively low maintenance, that doesn’t mean the work stops after the cuttings hit the water. In order to encourage growth through the process, be sure to change the water couple of weeks to keep the roots from sitting in stagnant water, especially as it tends collect dust, bugs and various other particles that float through the air. Also check the roots sporadically for any dead or mushy pieces, gently pruning as needed. As for leaf care, occasionally dusting will enable the plant to photosynthesize properly, ultimately providing your plants with the most nutrients possible.

Propagation is a great way for plant parents to increase their collections through easily accessible means, as well as share their verdant wealth with aspiring plant lovers. I wouldn’t be the plant owner I am today if I weren’t for the gifts of experienced green thumbs ushering in a new world for me. So the next time you’re itching to buy a new plant, or looking to gift one to a love one, grab a pair of scissors and get started on your own propagation project!

Reduce, reuse, recycle AND grow!

Plant Shopping During A Pandemic

How trips for essentials can help you green up your space.

One word can easily sum up the current state of the world: quarantine, due to  the spread of COVID-19 (better known as Coronavirus). Thanks to the pandemic, widespread stay-in-place orders have caused the majority of the population to spend more time in our own homes than we’ve spent in years.

So the cabin fever has been real.

One thing that I’ve found to be extremely helpful as a natural homebody has been houseplants. Although I was an avid plant enthusiast before the pandemic, watching the green friends throughout my apartment continue to thrive while the rest of the world is at a halt has felt especially calming these days. Not to mention cleaner oxygen, improved sleep and all of the other benefits that plants have to offer.

Now I know what you’re thinking…

How can I find plants during a quarantine?

Luckily, your favorite amateur botanist has a a solution, and it’s as easy as making your next essentials run. The plant section of your neighborhood grocery store is often a treasure trove of plant friends ready for a new home.

Plants from Trader Joe’s have some of the cutest pots, IMO.

More and more grocery store chains are beefing up the houseplant offerings in their floral departments, probably due to the growing plant craze gripping millennials like myself. Take a trip to Trader Joe’s and you might find anything from an array of succulents, to lush ferns in cute decorative planters and beautiful orchids, for the more daring plant lover.

Kroger stores carry calla lilies, pothos, fiddle leafs and crotons, just to name drop a few of the plants I’ve seen on my visits. Word on the internet is that some locations have the coveted pilea peperomioides (aka Chinese money plant), but I’ve yet to see one in my neighborhood. Top finds during my Kroger trips have been my dumb cane, and a beautiful scindapsus pictus (satin pothos). It had multiple long trailing vines when I found it, which was perfect for grabbing a few leaves to propagate.

But I love it anyway.
This picture doesn’t to the trailing leaves on this satin pothos justice.

Every now and then, I’ll come across a small, yet solid plant selection at my local Sprouts. But what it lacks in size it makes up for with hidden gems like mini fiddle leaf figs. Tom Thumb is my recent favorite, thanks to it’s close proximity to my job, it’s lush plant selection and it’s helpful staff. The friendly employee helped me pick a healthy zz plant (shoutout to that dumb cane I passed up), and almost talked me into coming back for an air plant on a different trip.

A beautiful air plant purchased from Tom Thumb with a lady bug randomly chilling in the cut.

The national chains aren’t the only ones having all of the fun, either. Here in Texas, outlets such as HEB/Central Market can boast some amazing finds such as moonshine sansevierias, crotons and giant monstera leaves, not to mention a selection of planters and vases that will spruce up any indoor jungle. In addition to houseplants, Central Market also carries herb starter plants year round, for those who want to grow their own pantry staples.

Whether you’re a seasoned green thumb or just getting started, grocery store plant shopping is a great way to break up your quarantine routine. Most stores carry a wide enough variety plants to satisfy an array of tastes and needs. Often times you can find care instructions on the plants, like how much light and water they need. Plus the affordable price points make it a little easier to justify that impulse pothos purchase.

So next time you’re aimlessly wandering through Whole Foods, crossing off items from your list at your favorite local shop, or you have enough time to make a drive to that one grocery store you’ve been curious about, be sure to take a stroll over to the floral section and keep your eye out for the houseplants. You might be amazed at what you can find! 

 

 

 

Bujo 101

A quick guide for aspiring bullet journalers, note-takers, doodlers and everyone in between.

If you’ve followed me on social media long enough, you’ve seen that I have an affinity for bullet journaling and planners.

Forever taking notes on any and everything. I am my father’s daughter.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a love for planners, from the first spiral-bound, Mickey Mouse soft-cover (complete with sticker book) I saved my allowance for in 1998. Ever since then, I’ve had my brain picked by fellow planner-lovers and people looking to better organize their lives.

But my journey into bullet journaling has sparked more inquiries than I’ve ever received on the topic. While it was never a smooth transition, my vulnerability through social media postings has helped me to connect with the bujo community and aspiring journalers in my own sphere of influence, as well as supplying me with encouragement and inspiration along the way.

By no means do I feel as if I’m an expert on bullet journaling, but I hope to use my experiences and love of the art to guide beginners and/or inspire other bujo addicts.

Check out these tips in my mini Bujo 101 guide.
  1. Find your journal.
    This may seem like an obvious first step, but it’s easy to overlook the importance of finding a journal that is right for you. The first book I purchased for my initial journaling attempt barely saw any use. The design — which looked cute online — seemed too busy in person, and felt like a distraction, especially in professional environments. The size was also too large, which made me avoid it in my daily-carry.

    I’m obsessed with the dotted Leuchtturm.

    It took two other tries before I found the right options that worked for me. I started with a Leuchtturm 1917, then eventually purchased a Hobonichi in the A5 size, so that it was convenient enough to carry everywhere. I use the two books simultaneously. The first I use to create my own layouts and flesh-out more abstract ideas. The second, I manage my daily, weekly and monthly schedules (it goes up to six months). Because it is already formatted, I add a bit of creative inspo with motivational quotes and colorful designs.

    The dual-book setup was perfect for me. Consider your personal and professional needs when buying your journal.

     

  2.  Decide on its purpose.
    One of the reasons I moved away from traditional planners is their rigid structures. Some had too many sections I didn’t need, and not enough space where I did need it. Some planners felt too formal when I needed space to keep track of more personal items, or just to brainstorm. With bullet journals, you create your own layouts, but without an idea of what you want to keep track of, this can be too much freedom. Also, if you’re looking to establish more consistency, bullet journals are perfect for creating personalized habit trackers among its numerous possible uses.
  3. Design your layouts.
    Designing your layouts is the step where you get to combine your creative side with the disciplinary measures of step two. Once you have your journal and know what you need to keep track of, designing your layouts ahead of time helps to create structure, and establishes a routine for your journal usage. The limits to your layout designs are your own imagination.Personally, I tend to create layouts for monthly goal tracking and weekly spreads. For daily spreads, it really depends on my mood or what is taking place that day. Weekly layouts are probably my favorite, as my schedule varies on a week-to-week basis. My weekly spreads help me to keep on-task, and ease my anxieties when I’m able to see on-paper just how exactly my week is supposed to pan out.
  4. Color your world. 
    While I’m a big fan of monochrome aesthetics, and the professionalism of black or blue ink only, bujos are the time where I get to play with the range of colors in my pen collection and experiment with the color wheel as a whole. Adding color to my spreads helps to take my tendency to overthink/plan down a notch, by providing an element of liveliness. Color is also a form therapy for me, so using different colors is a way for me to track my moods.

    A small color palette from my pen collection
  5. Make it pop!
    Many avid bullet journalers — myself included — strive for the look and feel of a full journal. One of the best way to accomplish this  (or make it pop, if you will) is by adding different creative elements to the spreads. Things such as post-its, photos, stickers, washi tape and paperclips help with both organizational efforts and adding more of a personal touch to your journal.
  6. Make the time.
    Do you prefer to gather your thoughts first thing in the morning? Do you like to journal as a way to wind down after a long day? The time of day you choose to journal isn’t as important as just making sure you do it. Be mindful of when you have your most quiet moments or opportunities for self-reflection. It doesn’t always have to be some ultra-meditative experience — maybe it’s just a few minutes of doodling ideas during your lunch break. Keep in mind the times that you could actually make the time to write, but don’t beat yourself up if it’s not every day (this is where pre-making layouts does help, though). Everyone eventually establishes their own routine as we go, shaping it around our needs and love of the ever-changing bujo world. 

    My favorite time to journal is during my coffee, obviously.

Seeing so many great bullet journals on Instagram or Pinterest can seem so intimidating when you’re first starting out.

But remember: Everyone starts somewhere. Your favorite social media bujo-ers all had to grow into and with their books, just as you will. Find a journal, stock up on some colorful pens, and have fun.

New Friends In Quiet Places

Working in the service industry, there is a certain ebb and flow you have to get used to. There are points in time where work can be overwhelmingly busy, or times where they’re almost unbareably slow. Those busy times are obvious the best for my wallet, but it’s through the slow times that I’ve had to work not for money, but for peace of mind.

A restaurant’s lull is the best time to get a true feel for its atmosphere.

Although a slow day isn’t the greatest thing for a venture’s bottom line, it can provide you with an opportunity to soak up the true essence of a place unencumbered, and to get to know the people behind the scenes.

Becoming a regular at one of my regular’s bar.

After a long day of dealing with customers, sometimes it’s nice to retreat to a quiet place with people who understand that ebb and flow of the industry. It’s even better when you can become friends with the people there, whom also come to your establishment for that very same reason.

I bought my regular coffee last week, so she bought me tacos.

Connecting with fellow service industry workers has been crucial to surviving some of those long days. Bonding over similar experiences and learning about different aspects of the industry not only helps to improve my day-to-day workings, but has a way of reminding me that I’m human when I feel like a cog in the machine.

 

Trust Your Instincts

If there’s one lesson that is a reoccurring theme in my life, it’s learning to trust my instincts. On the surface, it seems like such a simple concept, but it’s one that’s always been difficult for me to grasp. I realized I often doubt myself not because of what may happen if I’m wrong, but out of a subconscious (and sometimes irritational) fear of being right.

There are many areas in my life where I need to learn to trust my instincts more, but one avenue where I am able to practice the skill is through cooking. Like a lot of other black women, I learned to cook largely without a formal measurement system. Sure, I learned what a cup/tablespoon/teaspoon were in those begging days, but they were mostly just ideas. So many directions were given in the form of a pinch here, a dash there, or simply—and my favorite—eye balling whatever it was. What better way to trust your instincts than relying on the information passed onto you when there are no concrete instructions?

I never realized how important this skill was until I found myself baking for my job. In an attempt to make coffee shop friendly food for all diets, I found a vegan peanut butter cookie recipe that seemed right up my alley. The ingredients were healthy, inexpensive and easy to come by.

The base for my vegan peanut butter cookies is ripe bananas, which helps to cut down on the amount of sugar needed.

Something about the recipe didn’t sit right with me. I’m usually all for simple recipes, but this one was too simple. It made no mention of using any flour, which was off putting for me. I’ve had bad experiences with no bake cookies (thanks to a 9th grade home ec fiasco), and wasn’t quite sure how a flourless cookie recipe would turn out. I contemplated for a second that maybe it was a typo, as all the other recipes listed on this particular site did have flour. But I resolved to try it, reassuring myself that I could tweak it as needed.

R&D for a coffee shop menu only looks simple.

Surely enough, I was right! While the recipe itself tasted fine, the consistency was too sticky for consumption. I ended up adding some flour to the test batch, and came up with a better result that would serve as the basis for my own recipe.

The pendultimate result for my vegan peanut butter cookies.

Trusting my instincts in this endeavor was important to me not only because it was my first real attempt at vegan baking, but because of how much I had been struggling with self doubt at the time. Trusting my instincts may always be a weakness of mine, but it’s small victories like these that give me the confidence I need to keep testing, tweaking and trying until I see results.

 

 

Strong & Sweet

One of my favorite coffee drinks is Vietnamese iced coffee (or cà phê sữa đá). For a brief point in time, I even made it for a living.

Vietnamese iced coffee with taro cubes
Boba shops are a great place to get Vietnamese iced coffee because of the variety of add ins.

The key to a good Vietnamese iced coffee is its strength. Vietnamese people have a penchant for the strong stuff. The drink uses Café Du Monde, an iconic dark roasted blend with a pronounced chicory flavor from New Orleans, brewed in what is basically a mini French press (read: cà phê phin) to produce the rocket fuel like substance by the cup. A french press does work wonders though, if you can’t get your hands on the nifty little contraptions.

As much as Americans claim to like “strong” coffee, the Vietnamese are on a whole other level. This is where the sweetened condensed milk comes into play. Depending on where you go determines how sweet/strong the coffee will be–everyone has their go-to ratio of coffee to condensed milk. While I do like a stronger coffee, I’m addicted to the velvety presence that SCM brings to the table.

A recent tip I received from a friend for those looking for a comparable drink at a non-Vietnamese establishment is to order a quad (four shot) espresso with white mocha, and pour over ice. White mocha is essentially lard, therefore very similar to SCM. Both sauces contain a high amount of sugar, so it may not be for the faint at heart, but is perfect for the sweet of tooth.

My favorite Vietnamese restaurant makes a great cup o’ joe.

Even if there are no Vietnamese restaurants in your immediate vicinity, you’ll be happy to know that Vietnamese iced coffee is fairly easy to recreate at home.  I recommend using a 2:1 ratio of coffee to condensed milk, but this can adjusted to your liking. A French press can also be used to make a larger batch for these impending hot summer days.

For those looking to switch up their iced coffee routine, meet your latest addiction.

Kindred Spirits

For as many pictures as I have on my phone that I’ve taken at a coffee shop or restaurant, there are an equal number of times that I’ve put my phone away in embarrassment. And we’ve probably all done it. We caught someone’s glance while we were angling to get that perfect picture, and we became all too aware in that instant just how weird we might’ve looked.

I don’t know how many times I’ve probably lost a great shot to these moments of embarrassment. Especially because I tend to go out alone, I can be ultra-sensitive to the stares of others. But it wasn’t until I started to drive into the skid of being that weirdo always taking pictures that I noticed just how many people relate to this feeling.

Made friends with a fellow natural light chasing soul.

We all hate to be stared at, but we all stare. And these days, that vast majority of us like to take pictures with our phones. You’d be surprised at the connections you can make with others when you recognize these commonalities.

More and more I’ve been able to connect with others on my coffee excursions. These encounters help me to feel more visible on days where I really don’t feel as such. People asking me about what I was doing used to seize me up in enough terror to make me stop wanting to create completely. Now it’s encouraging, because people have started to open up to me about their own creative struggles and aspirations.

Sometimes, I even get recognized at shops by people familiar with my coffee exploits around town. But nothing is better than those moments where I’m able to make new friends, and just geek out over the different reasons we love coffee shops. Taking photos used to just be a way for me to savor the memories from a place. Now it’s become a way to spark conversations, and create new experiences.

 

 

A Counter Culture Cupping

It’s pretty safe to say that a lot of my friends consider me their personal coffee guru. And while I relish in the notion of being one of the most knowledgeable coffee professionals in my loved ones’ lives, I still hardly consider myself an expert.

As the coffee industry continues to evolve, it seems as though you can’t go a day without some new technique, or an improvement on an old one changing the game. Because of this, I’ve come to enjoy learning about all things coffee. I regularly find myself researching pour over methods, or studying the milk steaming techniques of Insta-famous baristas.

Beans are weighed in for the beginning stages of the cupping.

But one of my favorite coffee training methods has always been cupping. For y’all who don’t don’t know, a cupping is the step in coffee production where roasters, buyers and baristas taste for all of the flavor variables in a bean.

This is where all that talk of different “flavor notes” comes from. And if you’re thinking to yourself that this sounds oddly similar to a wine tasting, then you’ve hit it right on the nose. Wine and coffee actually come from the same family, so advanced cuppings will use the same Le Nez (French for ‘the nose’) as sommeliers.After having a conversation with the trainers for one of my barista jobs, she was more than happy to help me further my coffee education.

36 aromas are found in coffee.

So one Wednesday morning, she came by the shop with three types of Counter Culture beans for us to cup. The first two were coffees that we regularly use at the shop, the Apollo and Urcunina. Apollo is an Ethiopian Halo Bariti varietal that we use for the espresso. As an espresso, the coffee is full-bodied that is floral forward with a sweet aftertaste. In the cupping, the bean presented its more citrusy and acidic elements, showing how well-rounded the flavor of the coffee truly is.

Urcunina, our regular drip coffee feature, possessed a lot of the flavor elements that makes Colombian coffee the preferred choice among daily drinkers. The combination of Bourbon, Mbirizi and Jackson varietals makes for a heavy, almost syrupy body. The caramel, dark chocolate and toasty flavor notes that are reminiscent of cereal show why it is a great breakfast coffee choice. The last of the coffees was a literal mouthful, the Buziraguhindwa, or Buzi for short. The Burundi bean brought me back to the days of working for a roaster, with its light-bodied wheat and berry undertones.

The cupping brought back a lot of old memories of my beginning days of working with coffee, while teaching me plenty of new aspects of the industry I’ve grown to love over the years. And despite the caffeine tolerance I’ve so proudly worked to build over my years of working in coffee, cuppings will always be my kryptonite. There’s something about coffee in its purest form that can make someone like me shake like a percolator.

As much as I love coffee, even I’ll admit that there are some days where the amount of changing information in the industry can be frustrating. But it’s in times like that where corny clichés about loving what you do making work seem less like work, ultimately rings true.

Portrait of me and coffee training by Kathy Alta.

Off Days Are For Coffee

You’d think with how much I handle coffee on a daily basis, it’d be the last thing I’d want on my off days. Truth be told, I don’t even brew the stuff at home. There are days where I don’t even drink coffee at work, as to not invite the shakes or uncontrolled caffeine binging back into my life.

Coffee and creating by Brie Banks

Life as a coffeeslut has been all about balance, finding the right times to drink coffee for its intended purpose — to stay awake, or to simply enjoy it. So I look forward to those off days where I can pull up to a shop, and live life on the other side of the bar. Going from pusher to patron means I can admire the subtle nuances of the craft, and what different shops have to offer.

Sometimes it can be an educational experience, which is always appreciated in the quest for constant improvement. The best times are when I can truly immerse myself in a shop’s vibe. Coffee shop aesthetics are one of the things that drew me to the culture in the first place. Natural lighting fills the darkest corners to create comfortable spaces.  Ambient, soulful music entwines with the sound of grinders in ways that are relaxing, yet lively.

And then there’s the smell…

It’s rare that I get to enjoy the smell of coffee — you’d be surprised at how dull the scent becomes once you’re surrounded by it all the time, but that first whiff upon entering another shop is one of my favorite sensory experiences.

But my favorite thing about coffee shops has always been the communal function of it. Coffee shops are one of the few spaces we have left where people from all walks of life gatherand exist, more or less peacefully. It’s a place to work, avoid work, to meet up with friends, or simply be alone. For an introverted person like me, coffee shops allow me to be social without being social. I can spend time with someone or alone, and still feel tethered to the world in some way.

Coffee just happens to sweeten the deal.

A toast to Monday.