Hope Sprouts Eternal

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Last year’s glass bowl container gardening experiment did not work out, but I refuse to consider it a failure. It was a learning experience: I have learned that I do not garden well with glass containers, no matter how nice they look on Pinterest.

One thing that puzzles me was the stevia (sweet herb) plant–that I did NOT plant in a glass bowl, by the way. It was doing great until I plucked a few leaves to harvest and try. Then the leaves just started drying out and turning brown, until the whole plant died. Is this typical? Do you only get one harvest from a stevia plant? If so, why does nothing I’ve read about growing and harvesting stevia mention this?

Getting to the present, with some local temps into the 70s and 80s already–followed by plunges into the 30s and 40s–I resisted temptation to dig in the soil no more, and have already started my new foray into growing my own food. Don’t you love the smell of fresh soil when you work it with your hands, even gloved hands?

This time I’m using the same organic potting material I used last year, a beautiful terracotta bulb pot, and organic arugula seeds. I’ll thin these sprouts soon, and in a couple weeks, I’ll probably plant a few more in the center of the pot, for a staggered harvest. I may be broke, but, by golly, I’ll have something I can eat!
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DIY Last-minute Valentine

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I got so busy this week, I didn’t get Valentines made for the kids I watch in a church nursery. So, I rummaged around in the art closet and ended up making these from some of the supplies they had on hand. I had such a good response, I decided to share them.

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Supplies:
1 “flipper” style spatula
red and white craft paper or foam
ribbon
permanent marker
glue gun & glue stick
scissors
hole-puncher

1. Use a die-cut machine or scissors to cut out hearts from the red paper or foam. If you cut by hand, you will need to cut out a paper heart the old-fashioned way–fold the paper in half and cut half a heart sharp along the folded edge. Then, once you have that, cut again about 1/4-inch from the outside edge of the heart. This will give you one hollow heart (empty in the middle like a picture frame), and one smaller heart. The church had a die-cut machine I used instead–very fast, and the hearts come out perfect.

2. Use the glue gun to apply glue to the smaller heart, and affix it to the food end of the spatula.

3. Cut a squarish piece of white paper or foam to make a gift tag. Use the hole-puncher (or scissors) to make a small hole on the left side of this tag. Using the permanent marker, write “I flipped for you!” on it. You can sign and date it on the back, if you wish.

4. Loop a piece of ribbon, about 12 to 18 inches long, through the hole in this tag. Add the hollow-cut heart in front of this tag, and then tie both to the handle of the spatula, which should already have a hole in it for hanging. If not, you’ll have to tie the ribbon around the handle, and you may want to secure it with the glue gun as well.

That’s it! You have a cute, homemade Valentine!

P.S. The photo is from my cell phone; sorry–it’s the best I could do.

Spotlight on Cameron Russell’s TED Talk on Being Female and Fearless

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Victoria’s Secret model Cameron Russell recently gave a TED talk that I think fits in well with what Lipstick Commando is all about. Instead of simply railing against the superficiality of the modeling industry like so many others–a wise decision, considering it’s her bread and butter–Russell sends a message to all women about intellectual honesty, humility, and inner strength. Women and men alike may find they have a lot more in common with models than we usually realize.

Click here to view Cameron Russell’s TED talk.

Christmas Light Show

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A local homeowner really likes Christmas. Every year, he keeps making his light display more spectacular, and it includes broadcasting music over his own radio station. Drivers can stop (turn off headlights, please), tune in, and enjoy the synchronized music and light show. Here is a brief sample; sorry for the occasional shakiness and the few cars that went by–they couldn’t be avoided. Also, just as a disclaimer, I don’t know the music or the artists. YouTube was able to identify them and had me electronically acknowledge that I don’t have claim to the copyrights. Well, duh. It’s not like I’m the one broadcasting them over the radio. Anyway, please enjoy!

Click here for video.

Poll for Women: How has wearing a wedding ring affected your professional life/career?

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When my mother recently had out-patient surgery, she had me wear her wedding ring for half a day to keep it safe. Although it didn’t make a difference in my own work (I only taught one class that day, and I don’t think my students noticed), it got me thinking about the ways women who wear a wedding ring are perceived and treated.

Back when I was married, I used to go watch my husband perform in various bands, usually at bars. Far from being a detriment to unwanted male attention, my wedding ring seemed to be (forgive the language) a douche magnet. As a married woman sitting alone at a bar, I was apparently perceived as being interested in a one-night stand. Innocent as I was, I had no idea why strange men kept coming up to me saying strange things, nor did I realize the proper response was to simply ignore them. They also invariably left quickly, leaving me confused: why ask me about interior decoration? I didn’t know anything about carpets and drapes, and in a place like that, who cared if they matched?

On the other side of the coin, I have read professional women who don’t wear rings are able to network with more male colleagues, even when their relationships are strictly professional. I can only guess that in the work sphere, men tend to be looking for more long-lasting relationships. Hooking up with co-workers or business contacts can be extremely hazardous, or so I deduce, as such flings can lead to hurt feelings and a lack of respect, not to mention awkward silences in the break room or during meetings. But since most people spend several hours a day interacting at work with people who have at least that in common, it seems natural that longer-lasting, personal relationships will develop. It’s one reason academics tend to marry other academics: who better to understand the long hours in lesson planning, researching, writing, and grading papers, etc., than someone else who is doing the same thing?

So, what about it, married female readers? Have you noticed any difference in your work life between wearing a ring or not?

Glass Bowl Container Gardening

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Note, Benny: The following blog post was written before the July 25 blog post.

When I started this blog, I decided I would, above all else, not waste readers’ time on useless posts that say or accomplish nothing. Otherwise you’re bored, I’m bored, and nobody gives a rodent’s behind. As Hugh Grant’s character George Wade says in Two Weeks’ Notice (I corrected the apostrophe for them): “It would be impossible to tell you how boring it will be, because (beat) it would be too boring.” So no excuses, no laments about how busy I’ve been, no same-o/lame-o.

Instead, let me tell you about my awesome new kitchen container gardening plants! Oh, yes: not content to go outside in triple-degree heat daily to ice-water my existing container garden plants and make sure they are protected from the maliciously burning sun, I rescued some leftover and bedraggled herb starts from a local store. This local store, which I won’t name (it rhymes with tall heart, all art, and fall start—as well as with all fart, come to think of it) keeps its plants outside. Nothing wrong with this at all—until July hits and we all start withering. No amount of watering by even the most diligent store employees can keep up with the cruel full sun of an Oklahoma summer. Most of the herbs were utterly, inexorably, profoundly dead. As my friend Monkey says, it gives me the sads.

However, I managed to find a few starts that, having the good fortune of being in the back, under the shade of the shelf above, were actually managing to hang on. The flat-leaf parsley (a must for decent tabouli) literally fell apart when I picked it up. The peat pot was soaked so thoroughly in an effort to combat the heat, the plant fell through the bottom. Poor little fella! I scooped it up in one of the store’s plastic sacks and bought it anyway. He had survived that long in less-than ideal conditions, so who was I to condemn him? Plants, like people and cats, just need some love. I also found similarly salvageable rosemary and Greek Oregano. (Mom: what’s the difference between Greek oregano and regular oregano? Me: it has an accent.)

The problem is I do not like most commercial pots, but I love container gardening. Specifically, I do not like commercial pot prices. 20 to 50 dollars for a machine-produced piece of clay pottery, glazed or not, or cast concrete, is ludicrous to me. For that, they should be hand crafted by Lithuanian artisans according to secret techniques handed down over no fewer than 17 generations, or at least by war-refugee amputees who are eking out a living making lopsided, misshapen pots. At least then I could feel like a philanthropist of sorts: yes, this pot cost $30, but my money is going to feed an entire village of orphans in Darfur for a year. I’ll think fondly of the little darlings every time I harvest basil for my spaghetti sauce.

Alas, the one-armed, orphaned third-world potters haven’t been selling their wares around here, or, if they are, they have very poor marketing.

I turned instead to the kitchenware department and selected three 4-quart clear glass bowls, made in the U.S.A., thank you very much, Anchor Hocking! (I forgive you for confusing me in my youth by your name—I never did figure out how one could hock an anchor.) I placed about 3/4-inch of pebbles in the bottom of each pot, then mixed a commercial organic potting mix with perlite for the soil. The results are simply yummy. Usually, herbs just look like plants to me. But since they are in serveware, these make you want to dig right in and eat. Even though they have scarcely had time to grow since I bought them, I have already used some oregano and rosemary in my cooking.

A couple of advisory notes, though, for those wanting to follow suit: when indoors, due to the lack of porosity and drainage, the soil stays damp for a long time. After about 10 days, I had concerns about growing mold, so I moved mine back outdoors. In less than 2 days, they had dried completely, and were ready for more. They are also scalding to the touch, so I can’t move them without gloves. Eventually, I want to get a metal plant cart to hold them. That should help protect them from accidental breakage from acts-of-klutz, as well as adding style and mobility to my container garden.