Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Break!

I know I've been m.i.a. for a little while here… The past two weeks I have been giving midterm exams and helping my students with a variety of projects.

But today I gave my last exam, got through my staff meeting, submitted my midterm grades, and I am ready for SPRING BREAK!

As I mentioned before, Ted and I are headed to a warm, sunny destination, which I cannot identify on the blog at this time. One of our friends that we're traveling with has no idea where we're going, so I don't want to ruin the surprise. Don't worry, I'll tell you all about it when I get back. :)

Fun and sun, here we come!

Today I am tying up loose ends, like buying sunblock and bug spray, dropping the 'kids' off at the kennel, and asking the post office to hold our mail.

Speaking of the kids, here's the latest update:

Minnie LOVES the heat vent. We had baseboard heating in our condo in Boulder, so she is entranced whenever hot air starts blowing out of the floor. She is that cat that will sleep on top of the vent, stealing all the heat for herself.

Here she is, kindly sharing some heat with the rest of us.

Milo is SO happy that the sun is out and the snow has melted (although the temps haven't exactly warmed up). He has gone wild with cabin fever these past two months. Now that he's able to spend more time outside, though, he's a little more likely to kick back on a cloudy day.

Here he is chillaxin' like a champ and showing off his 'mowed' underbelly.

I'm sure I'll have a lot to write about when we come back from vacation. Until then, ta-ta!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Oxford Happy Hour

It's Friday, y'all!

Ted and I have tried out a few different Happy Hour routines since moving to Oxford. We've been graciously welcomed into one happy hour group of University employees that consistently meets every Friday, trying out new locations each week. After attending a few times, though, we've concluded that it's mostly a singles group and we don't exactly fit in…

The last couple of Fridays we've been hanging out with professors in Ted's department. (So nice to be included even though we're not tenured.) ;) Above is a shot from a local gem, Kona Bistro. They have half-priced apps and well-drinks during happy hour - not too shabby - and they have a big front window you can sit in to people-watch.

We actually like Kona Bistro best on Mondays, though. They call it Martini Monday, and they offer a slew of martinis for $3 (along with half-price appetizers). So you can have a martini and a veggie quesadilla for less than $10. Sounds like dinner to me!

Tonight we're headed to another local favorite, the Quarter Barrel. There aren't any real pubs in town, but this one comes the closest with awesome hamburgers and a few good beers. They also do lavash, which is like flatbread pizza. The cheese and bacon one is sprinkled with green onions and drizzled with a balsamic reduction, and it is delicious. I can't wait.

I hope you're also headed off to Happy Hour somewhere! TGIF!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Whoever thought the cats might leave my cactus gardens alone due to pokey spines was wrong. I was one of those people, until I had to scold Minnie for chewing on one of the spinier ones. I think we may not have the most intelligent cats.

Anyway, yesterday I came home to discover that one of my cacti had been decapitated - that is, it's lovely purple flower had been unceremoniously plucked off. Our cats have a similar approach to orchids.

There is, however, some good that has come from this. Since the separated flower was still intact, I thought, "Maybe I can just glue it back on and no one will ever know the difference." As I closely inspected the base of the flower that was still attached to the cactus, I began to suspect that this is, in fact, how the flower came to be part of the cactus in the first place. Both flowers look like they were glued on - albeit deftly - to the tops of my cactus.

Thus began some research into cactus varieties and cactus flowers. Not only did I discover that my suspicions were correct, but I learned a little about my cacti in the process (this is the good part I referred to above). Turns out, this is a common deception. The flowers are called 'straw flowers' and are often attached to cacti with a hot glue gun to attract the attention of the uninformed buyer. Worked on this lady.

The good news is, I can just glue the flower back on. The bad news is, these flowers don't last forever and removing them when they no longer look good is difficult.

During my research I learned that this particular variety of cactus is called a 'Fairy Castle' because it grows all those little offshoots that make it look like a turret-filled castle. The name alone makes this cactus worth owning.

I also learned that the cactus growing next to it is actually a grafted cactus. The top, orange portion is a cactus mutation called a 'Moon Cactus,' and it cannot survive on its own because it lacks chlorophyll (which is why it is orange, red, or pink rather than green). Experienced cactus farmers graft it onto the top of another cactus that does produce chlorophyll; eventually they merge, and the chlorophyll-containing cactus sustains the Moon Cactus.

So, even though my 'cactus flower' was plucked from its perch, turns out not much harm was really done, and I became a little more knowledgeable about cacti as a result.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Winter Blues (and Cat Tails)

The temps have finally perked up enough to go for a walk. And the skies are clear!

Now admit it, you thought this post was going to be about something completely different, didn't you?  :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Plants Toxic to Cats

After yesterday's post about houseplants, my aunt pointed out that some plants are poisonous to pets. So I did a little research to find out which plants to stay away from. I visited many websites, and this one had one of the most extensive lists of plants that can be toxic to cats.

Yeah, it's pretty much every plant in existence.

These are the plants from yesterday's list of 15 Air Purifying Houseplants that can be toxic if ingested by cats or dogs:

  • Heartleaf philodendron
  • Dracaena (of any variety)
  • English ivy
  • Weeping fig
  • Golden pothos
  • Peace lily
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Snake plant

So, are you supposed to go plantless in your home? Of course not. (That's plantless, not pantless - of course you are welcome to go pantless - it's your home!) 

Dracaena marginata
My cats cannot lay off this one.

Apartment Therapy has a list of 10 beautiful houseplants that are safe for cats (and dogs and kids, too, I'm assuming). Do think twice about bringing an orchid into your home if you have cats, though. Maybe it's just my cats, but they love to pick all the flowers off of orchids. And aren't the flowers kind of the whole point of orchids?

The ASPCA also has an option to search non-toxic plants as well as a list of the 17 most toxic plants to pets (three from yesterday's post made the list: Peace lily, Pothos, and English ivy).

If you want the air-purifying power of the 15 plants listed yesterday, but you're worried about your dog or cat eating the plant, this website offers some advice for preventing your cat from eating your houseplants in the first place, as well as tips for keeping your pets from digging in the potted plants (I have had plants ruined this way when our cats were kittens).

You can also try to put your plants in places that your pet can't reach…

Emphasis on 'try'.

Like I said, they can't lay off it.

I hope this is helpful when picking out plants for your home!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

House Plants That Battle Air Pollutants

I recently joined this Urban Jungle Bloggers adventure. It's a network of people who are trying to add greenery to their homes, with a monthly "challenge" to try. Last month's (which I was too late for) was to style one plant 3 different ways. You can Follow the Urban Jungle Bloggers Pinterest board to see some other bloggers' posts about it.

Anyway, it was through the UJB Pinterest board that I came across this post about plants that help remove air pollutants from your home. I'm not going to type out all the information they shared on their post, but the gist of it is: "The air inside your home is more polluted than the air outside your home. So get thee to the nursery and buy some natural air cleansers!" The site then lists the top 15 houseplants that improve air quality, according to NASA.

Sidenote: What the heck is NASA doing researching indoor air quality? Aren't they supposed to be focusing on outer space??

The only thing the list was lacking, I thought, was a picture of each plant so I could pick out the ones I liked before running all over town to buy them. So, I did a little research (emphasis on little) and found a picture of each plant. Now you can pick out the ones you like best; your home's air can be clean and you can have some beautiful greenery to gaze upon.

Without further ado, here's NASA's list (again, what!?) with an added visual component:

Top 15 Houseplants For Improving Air Quality:
Heartleaf philodendron

Elephant ear philodendron
(This grows to be much bigger, by the way.)

Selloum philodendron
(Make sure you've got room for this big boy!)

Cornstalk dracaena
(Is it just me, or does that pot look way too small for that plant?)

Warneckii dracaena

Red-edged dracaena (dracaena marginata)

Janet Craig dracaena
(The full-figured sister of the famous weight-loss plant. Buh-dum, ching!)

English ivy

Spider plant

Weeping fig

Golden pothos

Peace lily

Chinese evergreen

Bamboo or Reed palm

Snake plant

I love that snake plant in the white pot. I think that's the next plant I will be adding to our home. I'd also love to have a tall bamboo plant in our bedroom. We need to add something with height in there. Besides Ted.

I hope someone else finds this little visual guide useful! Happy purifying!

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Forget about details, forget about prep. The cleanse has reminded me that life is all about balance.

Eat a donut for breakfast…

Drink a green smoothie for lunch.

No regrets. Just a happy belly and a happy spirit.

There you have it.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Air Plants - So Cool

Have you heard of air plants yet? I've been seeing them here and there for the past 6 months, so I finally ordered my own to see what all the fuss is about.

This is a $5 variety pack from Etsy. These air plants are pretty tame, but you can get really colorful and crazy ones for only a few more dollars. Each came packaged in its own paper bag, labeled with its name.

I know very little about air plants so far. I know that they don't need soil. They absorb nutrients from the air, I guess, and they only need to be watered sparingly. You can mist them with a spray bottle a couple times a week or soak them for 20 minutes to an hour once a week. Sounds easy enough!

At the same time that I ordered these from Etsy, I ordered some hanging glass orbs from cb2. The orbs are meant for tea lights, but they make excellent little terrariums as well.

The orbs I ordered turned out to be a bit bigger than I was expecting, but at least it will be easy to get the plants in and out of them.

I decided to hang them in our living room window, since the living room is where we spend most of our time and I'll get to show them off when we have guests. The living room also gets the afternoon sun, which I think these little guys will enjoy.

Ooooo it's so fun! I love how they look inside the glass orbs. Kinda like I'm living in some weird apothecary, and these are my exotic healing herbs. Muahahaha!

I'm sure I'll end up moving these around all over the place. They're just too fun to keep in one spot! I have two left over that didn't work in my hanging clump. They'll probably live in the kitchen window sill or get hung against a wall somewhere.

If you're interested in seeing what some other bloggers did with their air plants, you can check out posts here, here, and here.