Adventures of an Aspiring Plant Lady: One Down

I've been thinking all morning about how to incorporate an unwanted thyme/time pun into the opening of this post, but after all I could come up with was "my thyme has passed" I thought it best to just dive right in.

But indeed it has. In the midst of a move uptown and a week out of town my thyme plant has perished. I've also lost a succulent (mostly because I forgot it was in the windowsill of my bathroom...), have inherited a dying house plant (species TBD), and have been gifted an herb garden of basil, spearmint, oregano, rosemary, and thyme (we meet again).

Over the past couple of weeks, as I've tried desperately to keep my little green roommates alive, I have learned a few things. And by learned I mean confirmed what every single blog post about plant care already tells you. So here it goes.

  1. Proper pruning is paramount. They say regularly pruning - cutting back a few leaves and stems to promote growth - will result in a more luscious, full herb garden. And they're right (surprise!). Basil, in particular, requires frequent pruning in order to prevent the plant from getting too leggy. To prune, cut or pinch the stem just above a pair of leaves, once the herb is at least two or three inches tall; in just a few days you'll notice two new pairs of leaves sprouting from just below where you cut, creating a fuller, more plentiful plant. It's magical. Use the fresh cut leaves in pasta sauces or herb butters (recipe here), or dry them so they last a bit longer.
  2. We all know plants need plenty of water, sunlight, and Nat King Cole to stay happy and healthy. But I never realized just how much sunlight (or Nat King Cole, tbh) was necessary. My kitchen window is north-facing which means it gets weaker sunlight than windows facing south, east, and west. Although at first I didn't think this was such a big deal, I started to notice certain herbs in the center of the pot reaching their precious little stems out and up to get as much sun as they could. Poor little guys. Since it's summer I've been able to cheat a bit by illegally placing the herb garden on my fire escape (hope none of you are with the NY housing dept.) but come November I'll have to figure out a plan B.
  3. Unlike contemporary spinal surgeries, spearmint is highly invasive. I inherited a dying houseplant when I moved to my new apartment; it was wilted and brown as it sat, pathetically, on the kitchen counter, so I moved it to the fire escape and treated it to a bit of fertilizer and a gulp of water and, I'm happy to report, it's doing quite well. It also has a new roommate. Last week as I was pulling out a few browning leaves I noticed two spearmint plants growing very aggressively from the pot where there was nothing but dirt before (pictured below). Turns out mint has a habit of inviting itself over for dinner and taking a nap on the couch, whether you like it or not. I'll either be repotting the mint or making myself a Whiskey Smash; will keep you posted.

I'm waiting until I'm more confident in my abilities as a plant mom to head down to The Sill and pick up this little trio. For now, I'm taking in all that I can in the hopes that I'll be able to keep my herbs and succulents alive for a long thyme (I'm sorry).

No You Don't Need to Clean Your Apartment (and Other Tips For the procrasting Writer)

As a writer, there's nothing better than actually wanting to write: to have a thought or a direction, to sit down at your computer (or typewriter if you're going to be that guy), and start typing furiously, the words spilling onto the page with a grace and finesse even Kate Middleton would envy.

But, if we're being honest here, that almost never happens. Instead, you end up staring at a blank screen for several minutes until you remember that you should probably alphabetize your books because they're getting out of order. And you only have a few apples left so you should most definitely run out to the store to pick up a couple more. 

I think everyone who writes anything has those moments of feeling uninspired, tired, or just plain over it. Unfortunately when you're up against an impending deadline the whole waiting-to-write-until-you're-in-the-zone thing isn't always possible, and learning to write when you just really don't feel like it is really quite a struggle. 

In the perfect example of seemingly-productive procrastination, while trying to write a screenplay this past weekend I, instead, came up with a list of dos and don'ts for writing up against a deadline. From someone who is wonderful at coming up with well-timed excuses, here you go:

Dos and Don'ts for the Procastinating Writer (An Autobiography):

  1. Just do it (I realize this isn't super helpful, but it's probably the #1 rule of writing things). I know how terrible it is to spend an hour writing something and only have several clunky, awkward phrases to show for it. But just get through that and you're on track to actually coming up with those interesting thoughts we all know are in there somewhere.
  2. Don't watch an episode of The Office (or read New Yorker magazine, or watch Manhattan for the third time this week, etc.). "But I'm researching!" you might proclaim. "I'm studying this film so that I can have a better understanding of story structure, character development, and dramatic irony." That's all well and good, but by episode 12 of The Office that's a much more difficult case to make. You're fooling no one with your Netflix binge, get back to work.
  3. You don't need to clean your apartment, you and I both know that. You did the dishes this morning and took out the trash after lunch. Since when do you scrub the toilet anyway? Since you had a deadline coming up in Screenwriting class...
  4. We know you love Grandma, but now's not the time to give her a call. It's 3am for goodness sake, the woman's asleep. I'm absolutely an advocate for keeping in touch with your wonderful family but using your older sibling or your father as a form of procrastination? How dare you.
  5. Do drink lots of water. I'm no scientist, but in my experience of attempting to pull all-nighters or sit still for 6 hours to finish an assignment, water has always been there for me (how sentimental). Coffee won't keep you awake any more than someone standing behind your desk shaking you for a few hours will, and energy drinks just make you crave Bugels or Corn Nuts or some other strange snack from the only open convenience store. Water is your friend (and if you want to look extra cool drop a few lemon halves and fresh raspberries into your Nalgene and everyone will think you're on some kind of trendy Beyonce detox diet).

Also don't write a blog post...I'm getting back to work now, I promise.